- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

LEBANON, Ore. (AP) - The recent clearing of a grove of Douglas fir trees has revealed to the public a long-hidden home with a stone façade on Brewster Road that looks much like an ivy-covered Irish cottage.

But to 91-year-old Gordon Wallace of Corvallis, the real magic of the property isn’t that it looks like something out of a Hobbit movie, but the memories he has growing up there during the Great Depression.

It was where his parents built a life for their young family, raising chickens, a goat, ponies and cows, and where he played with his brother Cedric along the banks of the South Santiam River before it shifted.

“We had a goat named Jasmine,” Wallace said. “Jasmine didn’t like me and I didn’t like Jasmine. Several times we went round and round an old wooden stump after each other.”

Interest in the mostly forgotten cottage has piqued in recent weeks because some dead trees are being removed, opening the 100-acre property to the view of passers-by.

“My father, Glen, was from Lebanon and bought the property in 1922,” Wallace said. “He and my mother, Esther, married in 1923 and built the house. In those days, people kept adding on to their houses as they could and that was the case with my parents.”

Wallace’s father had served in WWI and experienced trench warfare.

“The doctors told him he wouldn’t live a year after his discharge, but he outlived them,” Wallace said.

Gordon was born in 1924 and Cedric, who has passed away, in 1927.

The original home was wooden framed and sided, but as Gordon and Cedric grew and began playing along the river bank, their mother found a unique way to keep track of them.

“She would walk along the river and pick up rocks that pleased her and pile them up,” Wallace said. “It was really just a way to keep track of us and our friends.”

To move the rocks up the steep embankment, Wallace’s mother created her own saddle bags using two pairs of overalls hooked to each other.

“She would put them on our horse, Carby, and he would carry them to the house, unless they got too heavy,” Wallace said. “Then he lost interest.”

Wallace estimated his mother began adding the stone façade about 1930.

He said the home featured windows composed of several small panes, low ceilings and relatively short and narrow doors.

“My mother liked low ceilings for some reason,” he said.

The small window panes were practical and easily replaced, he said.

That’s because the boys’ rough housing often ended with a rock flying through one of them.

“One time, a neighbor boy had gone to Sunday School and heard the story about David and Goliath,” Wallace said. “He told my brother about the sling shot and Cedric made one. When he tried to use it, the rock went through three panes of glass at the same time due to the way they were folded open.”

Wallace said his mother refused to replace window panes until after the summer months because she didn’t want to replace the same pane more than once.

The house has five rooms on the first floor and two bedrooms and a sleeping porch on the second story. Looking inside through a broken window, it’s easy to see the built-in book shelves that remain in the living room.

Wallace started engineering school at Oregon Agricultural College, but enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 during WWII.

“I started off in a program to train engineers and doctors, but the Germans were hitting us hard in Italy and they ended that program. I was transferred to the 78th Infantry Division and was at the Battle of the Bulge.”

Cedric graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and made a career of military service, returning with his family to the cottage only for summer vacations.

Wallace went back to college after his military discharge and became a civil engineer, starting his career in southern California.

The family moved to Lebanon in 1957 and to Corvallis in 1971.

He continues to work as an engineering consultant on both residential and commercial construction projects.

He and his wife, Gloria, 88, have one daughter, Jane Caldwell, who also lives in Corvallis.

“We lived in Lebanon until I was 13, so I remember spending a lot of time at the home with my grandparents while I was growing up,” Caldwell said. “It was the hub of our family get-togethers. My cousins would come in the summers and we had a great time. Dad built me a tree house in the pasture, but it’s gone now.”

Caldwell added that her grandfather used to say that “my grandmother kept collecting rocks so he put them on the house in self-defense.”

Caldwell said there also used to be a stone enclosure that housed the old Mt. Hope school bell.

A workshop about 50 yards from the main house is also covered in stone.

A caretaker lives in a trailer on the property, but the family spends virtually no time there.

Glen Wallace died in the 1960s and Esther Wallace lived until she was almost 100 years old, passing away in 1984.

Ownership of the property went to the two brothers. After Cedric passed away, his half of the property went to his two daughters, who live in Portland.

Wallace said he doesn’t know what’s going to become of the property, but vandalism over the years has been extensive.

But it takes little imagination to envision the cottage as it was, and to hear the joyful laughter of two young boys frolicking along the river banks nearby.

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The original story can be found on the Albany Democrat-Herald’s website: http://bit.ly/1K7MKSW

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Information from: Albany Democrat-Herald, http://www.dhonline.com

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