Abandoned West Hills house with ‘defund the police’ and graffiti painted on crumbling walls is not a teardown
Updated: Sep. 12, 2021, 8:30 a.m. | Published: Sep. 10, 2021, 10:28 a.m.10
Portland fixer-upper is not a tear down By Janet Eastman | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Neighbors predicted the future for a vacant, vandalized two-story house in Southwest Portland: The 94-year-old dwelling, with windows boarded up and “defund the police” and graffiti spray-painted on crumbling walls, would be torn down and a new residence to match others in the upscale area would finally take its place.
Then they saw what happened. The property, less than a mile from Washington Park, was listed for sale at $400,000 on Nov. 4, 2020.
Two days later, the asking price jumped to $499,900, which was still a deep discount in the Arlington Heights neighborhood, where the median sale price is around $1 million, according to the online real estate marketplace Redfin.
After six days on the market, an offer was accepted and the property sold Nov. 20 for $627,500.
More surprising than a structure filled with decades of debris changing hands in two weeks and for 57% over the original asking price: The new owner, John McCulloch of McCulloch Construction, will not demolish the rundown Colonial Revival-style house.
McCulloch, who has work over three decades on more than 1,000 restoration projects and has saved 20 historic houses from being razed, has the ability to look past peeling paint, moss and saplings growing on the roof, and architectural eyesores to see the hidden jewels.
Despite owner neglect, followed by damage by vandals and squatters, some original oak millwork has survived.
Other viable vestiges of the home’s once-decorative past will be restored and the entire property is being renovated.
McCulloch and his crew have already transformed the view from Southwest Fairview Boulevard. The team dug out blackberry brambles and other weeds and wild trees that overran the lot enough to obscure the house.
“It was like Sleeping Beauty’s castle,” surrounded by thorns, he said.
The basement has been cleared of what McCulloch called “an unusual collection of canned goods stored over the eons.”
The plan: Have a bedroom suite with a fireplace, maybe a marble floor, and other living spaces on the lower level.
Dormers have been added to the roof to draw in natural light and increase the height of the attic.
On the main level, a two-sided fireplace will be visible from the living room and breakfast room, and twin offices with closets could be used as bedrooms. Three more bedrooms will be on the second level.
“It will just be so nice,” McCulloch said of the property with an up-and-down history, including 40 years of deterioration.
‘Rare Arlington Heights fixer’
The forlorn, Colonial Revival-style house sits on a 3,920-square-foot lot.
Real estate broker Tim Shannon of Tim Shannon Realty marketed the property in November with this description: “Rare Arlington Heights fixer. Sold together with additional vacant building lot. Upside potential for builder/investor/rehabber.”
Several builders, developers and contractors expressed interest, and the neighbors were happy that something was finally being done about the distressed property, Shannon said at the time.
The house, unoccupied by its owners for about 20 years, was in foreclosure for nonpayment of property taxes as well as unpaid fines and reimbursing the City of Portland for boarding up the home and evicting people with no legal right to live there, according to public records.
After selling two other properties that were also part of the deceased owners’ trust, $330,000 paid off the debt and the property was listed for sale, said Shannon.
McCulloch posted on his website: “We visited this magnet for crime when it came on the market. Throngs of house flippers blithered on their phones about fast returns as they walked through every room. We knew that we were the only ones who would take this dilapidated place and elevate it far beyond what it had been, to lift it to the level of art.”
He thinks an effective way to save older homes is to make them attractive and useful for today’s living.
The foundation has hosted events to raise money and awareness for preservation projects at the 1912 Giltner Mansion, a Dutch Colonial Revival in Northeast Portland’s Irvington neighborhood that McCulloch renovated.
“Portland is changing so fast we are losing our sense of place and history,” said McCulloch, who was honored by the Lake Oswego Preservation Society for his restoration of a 1910 Arts and Crafts bungalow designed by architect Joseph Jacobberger.
His goal for the Colonial Revival-style house in Arlington Heights: To have the community see this historic house, which could have been lost forever, as “a bulwark of hope and beauty.”