After a years-long renovation process, the Caples House Museum Complex, located at 1925 1st Street in Columbia City, is nearly ready to reopen.
The house, which turns 150 this year, has had restoration efforts in the works for a while in preparation for the anniversary, according to Chair of the Caples House Building and Grounds Committee Kelly Wiggins.
Those renovations included installing a foundation for the house, which was built without one, in order to prevent a host of damages to the building. The Chronicle reported on the construction efforts in September of last year, when the house was raised six feet off the ground in order to install the foundation.
While a large grand reopening was in the works, the museum will have to have a much softer reopening in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Wiggins said.
“We had planned a very large 150th celebration for August 1. It was going to be very large, very grand, with music, city leaders, all the contractors that have worked on the project. We had to cancel that, which was incredibly disappointing,” Wiggins said.
The new date for reopening is Saturday, Sept. 12. Because of the pandemic, the museum will not be able to resume its normal hours, according to Wiggins. While the museum is usually open for tours from Friday through Sunday, the new hours will be only Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wiggins said.
Before the renovations, the museum offered not only tours, but also served as a venue for events such as weddings. Right now, Wiggins said the museum is just focused on getting back open in order to make up for lost revenue, and then they can focus on extending hours and booking events.
According to information from the Caples House Museum Complex, the house is also known as the Dr. Charles G. and Lucinda McBride Caples Farmstead, the namesake of a couple who emigrated across the Oregon Trail when they were children and married in Oregon in 1855. Dr. Charles Caples was the first physician in Columbia County. He built his home in 1870.
In 1959, the Caples’ daughter, Dell Caples Houghton, gifted the Oregon State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (OSSDAR) the house as use for a museum. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
Renovations were funded primarily by donations, either from members of the public or OSSDAR members, private, anonymous donations, and a few grants, according to Wiggins.
When the project began, they received a quote of $180,000 to complete the work, according to Wiggins. They were able to raise $150,000 through fundraisers, events and community donations. The State Historic Preservation Heritage Program grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department also gave the project $8,000.
The old family home has different family artifacts and pieces inside, as well as a kitchen, parlor, bedrooms, a tool shed adjacent to the house which features tools used by the Caples family and others from the time period, and a children’s museum, which has different doll collections and toy collections.
For now, the museum has canceled all scheduled events as they try to determine what the space capacity is, according to Wiggins. She said they may revisit opening in September or October when they figure out their capacity.
“We’ve had a lot of inquiries for weddings for next year. We’ll have to start looking for how we’re going to do that, hoping that this pandemic doesn’t continue affecting everyone as it is now,” Wiggins said.