Sunday, December 23, 2012

December AIA-SWO Chapter Meeting Recap

The Shelton McMurphey Johnson House (photo credit: unknown)
The 2012 AIA-SWO Holiday Party took place this past Wednesday at the historic Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, which has overlooked Eugene from its perch on the south flank of Skinner’s Butte since 1888. Dozens of chapter members and friends shunned the damp chill outside to instead share each others’ good company, enjoy tasty food and drink, and celebrate the holiday season within the warm confines of the venerable “Castle on the Hill.” 

It really is the most wonderful time of the year. We look forward to our seasonal traditions in part because they are comforting and strengthen the bonds we share. They celebrate peace and nostalgia. The rituals of our holidays are meaningful, reminding us of our past, of who we are, and where we came from. 

AIA-SWO Holiday Party revelers (my photo)

The Shelton McMurphey Johnson House is a symbol of Eugene’s past, a rare and authentic testament to times gone by in a community that too often has rushed to abandon its architectural legacy. We’re fortunate the City of Eugene now owns and maintains this landmark, preserving it for future generations to appreciate. Dedicated members of the non-profit Shelton McMurphey Johnson Associates serve as the facility’s caretakers. 

With its carved and turned exterior woodwork, polygonal tower, ornate open porches, and large bay windows, the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House is Eugene’s most elaborate and prominent example of late-Victorian Queen Anne Revival architecture. It offers visitors an opportunity to step back in time and learn about its architecture and the culture of the community within which Dr. T.W. Shelton chose to build a home for his family. 

The SMJ website features a comprehensive video history about the house, as well as informative essays about the families who called it home, its architectural features, and the gardens and landscape that surround it.

Highly detailed scale model of the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House on display in the home's attic (my photo)

I find the home’s scale deceptive, as its interior feels much bigger than you would expect to discover when approaching it from immediately outside (the house does appear imposing when viewed from an intermediate distance). Twelve-foot high ceilings contribute to this effect, as do the spacious rooms arranged throughout the structure’s three levels of living space (two stories and an attic). A fine collection of period furnishings and interpretive displays complements the interiors and further provide a glimpse of late-nineteenth century life in Eugene. 

The Shelton McMurphey Johnson House is open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and weekends 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children, with a discount for AAA members, seniors, and students. The house is located at 303 Willamette Street, with vehicular access behind Ya-Po-Ah Terrace off the intersection of Third and Pearl in Eugene. If you haven’t already done so, you owe yourself a visit to this exceptional piece of historic architecture.

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2012 AIA-SWO president Kurt Albrecht, AIA (center left in red shirt) offers his holiday wishes and thanks chapter volunteers (my photo)

The 2012 AIA-SWO Holiday Party was an opportunity for 2012 AIA-SWO president Kurt Albrecht, AIA to recognize the many members, associate members, and affiliates who served on chapter committees, particularly those "super volunteers" who helped make this past year such a successful one. Kurt also handed the reins of the presidency to Will Dixon, AIA. Will has already made his mark as the driving force behind securing the Octagon as AIA-SWO's new headquarters. We'll all look forward to more great things to come in 2013.

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