Restoration and preservation of the John McLoughlin House, dating from 1846, advanced in several ways during the New Deal era. The Civil Works Administration (CWA) funded local architects to document the house in 1934 as part of the first Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Over the course of several years, CWA and Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers provided the labor for house restoration efforts and landscape improvements at its site on Center Street. Public Works Administration (PWA) funds supported the effort as well. Subsequently, the Secretary of the Interior designated the McLoughlin House a National Heritage Site on February 19, 1941, making it the first national historic site west of the Rocky Mountains.
Dr. John McLoughlin, chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company’s Fort Vancouver, claimed two square miles of land in the area in 1829, platted the town of Oregon City in 1842, and retired to his home there in 1846. He resided in the house until his death in 1857 and his family remained in it until 1867. Honoring his role in the Oregon Territory and the development of Oregon City, the McLoughlin Memorial Association moved his house from the town’s lower level to city park property in 1909. After saving the house from destruction, the Association assumed responsibility for the property and operated it as a house museum.
As noted above, local architects documented the McLoughlin House as part of the National Park Service’s first Historic American Buildings Survey in 1933-34. The criteria established for documentation focused on Oregon’s early settlement era and thus the McLoughlin House was significant among the approximately fifty houses included in the survey.
The McLoughlin Memorial Association recognized an opportunity to use federal funds to undertake a significant restoration effort and a request to the PWA was submitted. Local architect Glen Stanton applied his knowledge of early settler house construction to develop a plan for restoration. In part that involved “de-modernizing” the wooden, Georgian-style house, including the removal of a bathroom, wooden porches, and interior hardware. A new stone foundation and flagstone porch were built, and wooden floors were replaced. This work was completed between 1933 and 1938. In addition to work on the house itself, the site was tied into the WPA work on the McLoughlin Promenade particularly with the addition of the Singer Steps.
While the McLoughlin House has been a National Historic Site since 1941, the National Park Service only assumed primary authority for its maintenance and operation in 2003. The McLoughlin House is identified as the McLoughlin House Unit of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
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Brewster, Nan (1938) "Faces and Places," Sunday Oregonian. November 27, 1938. p. 48.
"Complete List of Applications for Oregon PWA Projects," Oregonian. September 7, 1935.
"CWA Workers Will Rebuild Famed House," Sunday Oregonian. March 18, 1934. p. 5.
"The Home of Dr. John McLoughlin, Oregon City," The Oregon History Project. https://www.oregonhistoryproject.org/articles/historical-records/home-of-dr-john-mcloughlin-oregon-city/#.YQ8Ao_KSlPY (Accessed August 7, 2021).
The McLoughlin House Unit - Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. https://www.nps.gov/places/mcloughlin-house.htm
National Park Service: Cultural Landscapes Inventory 2017; McLoughlin House Unit, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/Cultural%20Resources%20Report%20McLoughlin%20House.pdf (Accessed August 7, 2021).
Project originally submitted by Judith T Kenny on August 7, 2021.
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