Those who have recently driven by the historic Caples House, located at 1925 1st Street in Columbia City, may have noticed something strange. The nearly 150-year old house is now airborne by six feet and is held in place by wooden beams. The reason being is that the house will be getting a modern, sturdy concrete foundation within the next few weeks.
“It is showing signs of damage because it didn’t have a proper foundation,” Rebecca Taylor, State Regent of the Oregon State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (OSSDAR) said.
According to Taylor, the list of damage resulting from a lack of a sturdy foundation to the historic house is extensive. The problems include damage on the south wall that will threaten the integrity of the historical artifacts inside the house, warping and water leakage, as well as gaps around the frames around doors and windows, resulting in a lack of proper insulation.
Artifacts inside the house are remnants from the house’s history, and most were once the property of the Caples family, who occupied the house continuously from 1870 to 1959, according to Taylor. Dr. Charles Green Caples, who migrated across the Oregon Trail as a boy, built the two-story home in 1870. He studied medicine in Portland and eventually established his own practice.
Some of the artifacts include the doctor’s medical equipment, children’s toys from the area, Native American artifacts, a grand piano in the parlor room, paintings and wall hangings, according to Taylor.
“Many of the items came on the Oregon Trail. They didn’t all belong to the Caples, but they were there, and we house them there,” Taylor said.
The house and its property were willed to the OSSDAR as a museum in 1959 by Dr. Caples’ daughter, Dell Caples Houghton. Part of the mission of the OSSDAR and the DAR in general is historical preservation, Taylor explained.
The original bid to fund all of the repairs was $180,000, but through fundraising over the last five years, the group was able to raise $150,000, which will get the project started, but not completed, Taylor said. The only item that will not be completed will be the front porch, so after the house is lowered, they will not be able to complete the front porch until more funds can be raised.
OSSDAR has received small grants from Oregon Parks and Recreation, which will assist with the south wall of the house. The grants are specifically through the Oregon Parks and Recreation Heritage Program and the historic preservation fund grant, Taylor explained.
“But most of the funds have come from DAR members and community supporters through donations,” Taylor said.
The contractor in charge of the work is Arciform, which specializes in historic preservation of old buildings. Another contractor, Oxbo, Inc. based out of Scappoose, which specializes in oversize and overweight transportation and rigging services, lifted the building, and will be in charge of lowering the building when the concrete foundation is poured.
Overall, Taylor said she is excited about the project.
“We love the fact that our local neighbors are driving by and taking pictures,” Taylor said. “It’s not too often you get to see a building hoisted in the air. They’re welcome to drive by and visit like that, but we can’t give any tours.”
The house is part of a larger complex, which includes the Knapp Center which people can rent out for events like weddings. On the property there is also an original tool shed, full of authentic tools from that period. Next to the shed is a children’s museum full of toys and a doll collection from the time period. There is also a tea cottage which is open every Friday for tea from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. which are still ongoing even when the house is awaiting its concrete foundation, Taylor said.
There are also other exciting events coming up, including the Holiday Bazaar, which will take place Nov. 16 and 17, which will be in the Knapp Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Another event coming up will be the 150th anniversary of Caples House on Aug. 1, 2020, which will be an old-fashioned celebration of food and music and games.
If anyone has any questions about renting the space for meetings or receptions, they can call Cindy Phillips at (503) 397-5390.