Mattress on the floor, acetate on the windows, schlepping clothes to the Laundromat, ah—the joys of moving. After 20 years in their last home in Southern California, prepping for its sale and weeding out extraneous possessions was an arduous three-month process for homeowners Jim and Michelle Brown. But here they were in glorious Portland, unpacking boxes into their new home, eager for their cooler, kinder climate. Trouble was, the temp was 90-plus and indoors, even more stifling; welcome to Oregon.
Their new 1952 brick ranch house is in the Eastmoreland neighborhood of SE Portland, roughly 10 square blocks of ’20s Tudor Revivals, Cape Cods, Dutch Colonials and the occasional postwar ranch infill like theirs, mostly on corner lots. They loved the location near Reed College, the homey tree-lined streets and the plus of finding a traditional ranch recently buffed up for resale sans granite kitchen and big-box bath.
One day, a knock on the door turned out to be Ray and Mary Niehaus, the longtime owners dropping by to say hello. They’d sold the previous summer to someone in the neighborhood on the first day the house was listed and had been keeping tabs on the her renovations. “The buyer said she always walked past taking her son to Duniway School and she really admired the house,” Ray said. They had been perplexed that the new owner didn’t want to know the quirky details—what the second light switch in the coat closet was for and why it was a good idea to have a stopper in the bar sink when you ran the dishwasher.
But they seemed happy to meet them and relieved to find they thought the three-bedroom, two-bath house was just great. From them they learned that the lot was a Victory Garden during World War II and that it was first owned by Anna and Harry Rubenstein, while the buff brick house next door housed sister-in-law Sophie Rubenstein. The Niehauses bought the home in 1973 for a hair under $37,000, raised their three children and lived here for 35 years before moving to a retirement complex.
They told them that they both had grown up in SE Portland in a “humble, humble part of town” in Mary’s words. “One of my boyfriends and I came to visit a home in Eastmoreland and my eyes got this big,” Mary said, remembering her high school days. “I never thought I could live in such a beautiful area; a lot of people felt that way when we lived here. We fell in love with this house.”
The bones weren’t the only thing that were up for sale. Check back in for part 2 to see which pieces of furniture the Niehauses kept from the previous owners…and which they couldn’t wait to toss!