A History of the Charles and Martha Brown House
1902 to 1928
Charles Brown (1867-1925) came to Stayton with his family from Indiana in 1883. His father, Leander, purchased the Stayton sawmill, and son Charles, from age 17, took an active role in improving and operating the mill. He was a skilled millwright and builder with inventive talents. In 1894, he obtained a patent for an improved hydraulic motor which was favorably reviewed in The Scientific American . After 1883, Lee Brown and Sons sawmill became the major industry in town, and in 1902, when Charles E. Brown was thirty-six years old, and arguably one of Stayton’s most skilled carpenters, he designed and built a grand Queen Anne house for his family on the corner of First and High Street next to the Salem Ditch in Stayton. There, he and his wife, Martha Staiger Brown, raised their three children — Lee, Giles and Ruth. It was an elegant residence, “one of the finest in the county” according to an article in the December 19, 1903 edition of the Stayton Mail .
Charles had built several other houses in Stayton, but none were as elaborate, or unusual, as this one. The house was one of the first in Stayton to have indoor plumbing and electrical wiring designed and built in during construction. Mr. Brown built in a radiant heating system with hot water pipes concealed behind the baseboards on both floor levels. In the cellar a finely crafted “fruit room” was filled each year with sustenance from the garden. Although those unique amenities are defunct today, fine woodwork still adorns most of the rooms; the living room and parlor show exceptional craftsmanship in ornate moldings and architectural detail. He and his family moved into the house in December 1903. The previous year The Brown’s sawmill sawed nearly two million board feet and produced moldings, casings and boxes.
In 1914, Charles sold his interest in the sawmill and built a machine shop nearby which eventually became a wool batt and bedding plant. After his death in September of 1925, Martha and her three children were partners in the reorganized Western Batt and Bedding, and the Brown family contributed successfully to operation of the “Batt Factory” for over 20 years. Martha and her eldest son, Lee, directed operations, and she became somewhat famous for supplying sleeping bags to the expeditions of the famous explorer, travel writer and radio broadcaster, Lowell Thomas.
Martha continued to live in the house for three years after Charles’ death in September 1925, and she added a sleeping porch on the north side of the house above the dining room.
1928 to 1938
Alice Kendrick and her husband rented the house from Martha, who had moved into a house on the neighboring block. Mrs. Kendrick was a Registered Nurse and they remodeled again, building additions to the house and operating Stayton’s first hospital there. In 1930, the one story curved porch on the southwest corner of the house was replaced with a two story addition which included a concrete-floored operating room above; rooms were built above the original kitchen and pantry. A laundry for the hospital was constructed around this time just west of the house. In August 1934, Mrs. Kendrick finally purchased the house and planned to “re-open” the hospital. Many local babies were born in the house.
1938 to 1946
The Kendrick Family used the home for their personal residence and expanded Martha’s sleeping porch into a “living room” supported on three posts in the manner of a porte cochere.
1946 to 1948
John and Leola Nightingale purchased the house from the Kendrick family, and purportedly ran a boarding house there. Their daughter, Beatrice, was paraplegic and so a wheelchair ramp was built to the north porch of the house under the “living room” for her and her husband, Fred Camp.
Wendel and Kathryn Weddle, owners of Weddle Funeral Home, purchased the home. The Weddles continued to remodel the house , somewhat extensively, adding an apartment upstairs, an enclosed exterior stairway on the front of the house and a modern kitchen. The Weddle children continued to live in the house, continuing its 20th Century improvements and taking good care of the house and yard.
The house was purchased by Larry and Denise Huntley who planned to restore it. They removed the stairway from the front of the house and made some progress toward restoration, but their efforts waned and they moved out. The house then stood empty for about ten years.
2000 to 2016
Just over a hundred years after the Queen Anne landmark was built by the local sawmill owner, the house was abandoned and became a neglected and a decaying eyesore.
In 2001, realizing that it could be a valuable community resource, Santiam Heritage Foundation was formed and purchased the derelict house from Stayton Cooperative Telephone Cooperative.
The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (#02000949) in 2002, and the following year the unsympathetic 1930s additions were demolished, and a temporary roof built over the first story wing. Over six tons of rotten remodeling materials and concrete were recycled. Also that year, significant funding was awarded through State and private grants, and restoration began.
In 2004, the second story roof, its yankee gutter system and fern-bedecked cornices were restored and replicated. The following year damaged and missing sections of foundation were restored. The first story roof was rebuilt to meet code in 2005-06; missing window frames and sashes were reproduced, and broken etched glass panels were replicated and installed. Next, the north bay window and porch restoration began.
The most visible and impressive architectural element of the house: the elegant and complicated wraparound porch, was measured and removed. This phase required a new, very complicated section to be built between two original sections of the porch. This new section was a riot of angles and not only had to meet up exactly with the two original ends; it had to be built to accept some of the original architectural elements. It also had to be built at exact elevations so the standing gutter would flow appropriately, which meant that new 6×6 turned columns had to be of varying heights. Replacement 7/8’’ decking, new framing and architectural millwork are now complete.
Because of its complex and unusual construction and rare architectural details, restoration requires careful attention to the 1903 construction methods and materials, while also adhering to modern building codes. For example, the original stacked shale foundation, found under several historic Stayton houses, was carefully repaired in kind, but the west wing roof had to be engineered and built to meet Marion County Building Code standards.
Skilled restoration carpenters, millwrights and volunteers had restored and replicated the original one-of-a-kind moldings and Victorian trim, double-hung windows, and architectural details, which were originally milled at the Brown family sawmill.
The exterior of the house is now complete, and work has begun inside to adapt the house for community use. The two front parlors and dining room are now complete as is the kitchen . The first floor hallways are nearing completion and water closet will receive refurbishment as soon as funding is secured.
The Brown House in the News:
-Learn more about the Brown House in this article featured in the Our Town newspaper.