Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Building Modern Eugene

A Lecture Series at the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House

(photo courtesy of the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House)

Sara Palmer, Executive Director of the historic Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, informed me about an intriguing new lecture series to be hosted by the facility this spring. The series, entitled Building Modern Eugene, is tailor-made for architectural history buffs.

The Shelton-McMurphey-Johnson House has been a landmark in Eugene for more than a century; it’s a fitting venue for a series of talks about Eugene’s historic buildings. Although many changes have been made over the years, the house–with its carved and turned exterior woodwork, polygonal tower, ornate open porches, and large bay windows–remains Eugene’s most elaborate example of late-Victorian Queen Anne Revival style architecture.

I’m grateful to Sara for allowing me to directly quote the following description from the website. I look forward to attending several of the lectures and hope to see many SW Oregon Architect readers there:

Building Modern Eugene
How did Eugene become the city it is today, and how does that shared history support our dreams – and reinforce our fears – about where our community will go in the future?

Since the state legislature’s 2007 decision requiring Eugene and Springfield to develop separate urban growth plans and boundaries, the subject of how to cope with growth has been a subject of immediate concern in the southern Willamette Valley. Is growth inevitable, and if so, where can it best be accommodated? How do we reconcile projected growth with our region’s famous environmental ideals? Can the historic character of our neighborhoods be preserved – and how can we decide what the character of a neighborhood is? Will longstanding issues around redevelopment be resolved, and should government or private business take the lead?

The City of Eugene has responded to the need to develop its own plan for the future by creating a process called Envision Eugene. Beginning in April 2010, Envision Eugene has brought together community members representing a range of constituencies, working to help the city can get past its troubled and contentious land-use policymaking history to develop a shared vision of how Eugene should look in the coming decades.

The goal of the Building Modern Eugene lecture series is to supply some critical historical context: looking at what motivated the choices that have been made in past years to help move our community toward a better understanding of our future possibilities.

Lectures will be held at the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, 303 Willamette Street at Third and Pearl, on alternating Wednesday evenings at 6:30 p.m. during March, April, and May 2011. We ask for your contribution of $5 or more per person to support this and our other educational programs.

Participating Experts:

March 23: Richard Williams and Grant Seder
Mr. Williams and Mr. Seder are retired architects. Mr. Williams is the author of Style and Vernacular: A Guide to the Architecture of Lane County, Oregon (1983), which remains the standard reference on local architectural history. Mr. Seder designed a number of buildings in our area, including the 1960 Lew Williams Chevrolet dealership, recently nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, which is at the center of ongoing community discussions about historic preservation and community redevelopment in the Walnut Station area near the University of Oregon campus. Mr. Williams and Mr. Seder will be speaking about building in the Eugene area in the years after WWII.

April 6: Otto Poticha
Mr. Poticha is a noted local architect and member of the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts faculty, and a longtime critic of urban development and redevelopment as practiced in Eugene. Mr. Poticha will speak on “Eugene: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”

April 20: Joe Barthlow
Mr. Barthlow has spent years researching and restoring his Cliff May-designed modern home north of the Willamette River in the Cal Young neighborhood. Mr. Barthlow will be speaking about post-war domestic architecture in Eugene and the hands-on experience of restoring a modern home.

May 4: Brian Obie
Mr. Obie operates the 5th Street Public Market, a downtown Eugene retail institution for over 30 years. The market is a prominent example of the adaptive reuse of a historic building and has been part of the effort to redevelop downtown Eugene. Mr. Obie will be speaking on downtown redevelopment and economic history.

May 18: Karen Seidel and Judi Horstmann
Ms. Seidel has been involved with local demographic and historical projects for many years, including multiple terms on the Eugene Historic Review Board. Ms. Horstmann retired from the University of Oregon. As part of a Fairmount Neighborhood Association group, the two have been working on an archival research and oral history project about Fairmount Neighborhood history, whose goal is to build community by connecting past land use, transportation and cultural heritage to current potential for sustaining character of the neighborhood.

The "Castle on the Hill" (photo courtesy of the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House)

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