I have always intended to keep a house hunting journal, but that never has come to be (until now in web form). And sadly, enough time has passed that even though the moments of discovery are clear, the details of the day and the how and why of ending up in these town have often been lost. As have in many cases the month, or even the year of finding the houses. I had always thought I was taking "now" photos of the house, but as the years pass, I have come to realize that "now" becomes inaccurate quite quickly.
So the subject of today is the hunt for a lovely home of which I had a photo postcard in St. Helens, Oregon. It was October of 2000 and my friend Karen and I had been to a postcard show in Portland. And, if I'm not mistaken, this was a postcard I had found at that show. Handwritten on the back of the postcard was, "Residence of Mr. + Mrs. George H. Shinn, St. Helens, Oregon Erected Autumn of 1914 Conrad Wyss, Architect and Builder." That is a great amount of information and more than is on most cards I find. St. Helens is a town of 10,000 people along the Columbia River north and west of Portland. I was living in Tillamook at the time and a trip though back home through St. Helens would have made a 1 1/2 hour trip into a 3 hour trip, so I really don't know if that was the only house we were looking for that afternoon. Anyway, I do remember that the sun was going down pretty quickly and we had absolutely no idea where in St. Helens this house was. We turned off the highway, down into downtown St. Helens. We headed East along one of the main streets (can't remember which one) looking for the house. When we could go no further, we turned on South 1st Street and within a block or two had spotted the house looking almost exactly as it did 85 years earlier in the postcard! It was starting to get dark and we circled around to get another look. It was at a point where the land started to slope down to the Columbia and South 1st Street was split with southbound traffic running along a road ten feet or so above the northbound traffic. I went up to the upper road to take the picture, set my camera on the rock wall to steady it for the long exposure I would need to get a good photo in the fading light and even though I am a very amateur photographer, I really liked the result:
As you can see, the door was open, so Karen and I approached the house and shared the photo with the homeowners--a very nice couple who had lived in the home for many years. They were excited to see the photo and I later sent them a copy of it. When I set out to find a home like this, I don't know if it is still standing or whether or not it has been remodeled beyond recognition. And very rarely am I lucky enough to just drive right up to it so quickly--that was a good day!