An Afternoon at Philip Foster Farm National Historic Site

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by DKP

Mitchell and I performed a condition assessment at Philip Foster Farm in Eagle Creek, Oregon, the end of July.  Philip and Mary Charlotte Foster sailed around Cape Horn and landed in Oregon in 1843.  They established a store and farm in Oregon City, and eventually developed, along with Sam Barlow, a road around Mount Hood for arriving wagon trains.  This became Barlow Road, and the farm sits on its modern location.  Philip Foster’s interesting history is tied to John McLoughlin, Francis Pettygrove, and Asa Lovejoy, all founders of various parts of Oregon and Portland.

I love going to house museums.  I love the pride locals take in their history, and the volunteerism that helps save our history.  Philip Foster Farm is operated by the Jacknife-Zion-Horseheaven Society.  Those three words said together, if you pause to listen to them, have to make you wonder at the story behind the name of the society!

We entered the property through the back door, but I want to take you through the front door.  You open the gate and walk through the garden, above, and up into the porch, below.  Even though it is the height of summer, the huge elms and sugar maples create a cool zone around the home.   On the right, below, is the lilac tree Mary Charlotte Foster brought with her from Maine in 1843, around Cape Horn.  It was first planted in their home in Oregon City, and moved it five times before it was planted in its current location in 1883.

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We are stepping into the Parlor, which is where the Eastlake chairs are located.   The chairs are unusual in that the original horsehair show cover is still on them, and on the second one, below, you can see the original gimp trim.  I imagine John and Marguerite McLoughlin sitting on some of these furnishings.

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Black horsehair was considered elegant, and since they had very thick stiff clothing, and layers of petticoats, they were unaware of how very scratchy it was!  We did our assessment while a tour group asked us questions; I photographed and Mitchell assessed the chairs by feeling and listening to their interiors.  Mitchell is the Upholstery Whisperer. . .   he can tell you much from the sound of the innards!

The cost of keeping history alive is high, with reparation and upkeep on a property.  We will do our part to assist them with the tools they need to raise monies to conserve the Eastlakes through donations, grants and bake sales.  Every little bit helps!  We will write the condition assessment, and along with an estimate they will have the tools necessary to apply for funding to preserve at least two of the wonderful old chairs.

The parlor houses some pretty pieces, including the square grand Steinway & Sons, and a Kimball reed organ.

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The desk above has the Wells Fargo stamp on the back, and is a rugged piece.  I imagine the stories it might tell.  Today, it is covered in dainty items because this week they had a Garden Party where they exhibited many items the family wore, including wedding attire.

This museum is hands-on, and folks are encouraged to touch some of the items, such as  the early version of a Stereoscope, above.  Joanne Broadhurst, Collections Chair,  and I discussed the idea of a hands-on museum versus strict policies about no touching.  Many preservationists are proponents of the no-touch rule; however, no touching also keeps many visitors with young children away.  The Farm has many items that are touchable, and is a good place to bring kids to learn about history.  Event days in the summer are all about participation: garden parties, cook-offs and cider squeezes!

The bedroom just off the parlor has a sweet quilt, below.  Can you find your name?

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I love the clock at the bottom, above.

The dining room and kitchen are adjacent, and my eye went to the corner pie safe. I love the perforated tin pattern on these old simple pieces.

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A look back before I leave, as the sun is low in the hills.

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Stepping onto the back porch from the kitchen, I decide to tour the grounds, which are quite beautiful.  Several trees are huge, and the box elder beetles were in record numbers.

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The shed houses several vehicles, including a U.S. Mail carriage.

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It is time to leave, and as I walk toward the old barn I can see no cars, no modern items of any kind; a look back at the house allows me a glimpse into what it might have been at the turn of the century!  Mary Foster also planted the huge sugar maple, which she brought with her along with the lilac on what must have been an exciting and long arduous journey from Maine; it provides cool in the summer, and must have also reminded her of her birthplace.

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About MPFConservation

We are a conservation and restoration firm located in the Pacific Northwest, specializing in objects: furniture, but also other objects; wood, stone or metal furniture or objects; lacquered and painted furniture or objects; traditional finishes on furniture or objects; quilts, beaded objects, and some textile reparation and interior architectural elements, such as leather or upholstered walls. When you think about conservation, equate it to restoring the furniture or object the best way possible for the history, life and value of the object. We are fully qualified to perform museum-tectbook treatments, but also flexible enough to work with private clients to allow for daily use of objects. We work West of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, and once in a while venture beyond the West for specific treatments. Kate and Mitchell Powell are partners in work and in life; we each have our specialties in work and in our marriage. Mitchell is the cat charmer in both! To see our work visit our official website: http://www.mpfconservation.com
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