June 28, 2014 in Region

Cat overrun threatened historic home

Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A cat occupies a deck at a historic home now owned by Gordon and Lynn Forbes in Oakland, Ore., on June 19.
(Full-size photo)

OAKLAND, Ore. – A house built in 1888 that caused a stink in a Douglas County town when it was abandoned and dozens of feral cats had the run of the property now has a new owner committed to restoring it.

The home was built by Oakland’s founder, Alonzo F. Brown, a farmer from the East Coast who sold the land that would become the town about 15 miles north of Roseburg along Interstate 5. It has about 900 residents.

The Roseburg News-Review describes the house as a four-bedroom, three-bathroom Italianate place that has seen additions, including one in a gazebo style.

The last human occupants left town after a foreclosure in 2012, and as many as 60 cats took over, living around and under the house and prompting a debate in town over what is and isn’t a pet.

Residents began coming to City Council meetings to complain about the smell. Mayor Bette Keehley and members of the City Council weighed options such as tracking down neglectful pet owners and designating feral cats as wild animals so they could be trapped.

Cat advocate Diane Smith provided the felines more than 10 pounds of food a day and went to work trapping and putting them up for adoption. Most are gone.

The new owners have been removing floorboards, digging dirt from under the house and running ozone generators night and day to get rid of the smell.

“We’re fortunate the cats were never actually in the house,” said Gordon Forbes, a property manager from the Umpqua area who bought the place with his wife, Lynn, for $111,107.

In 1986, photographer Kenneth Naversen visited the house while working on a book, “West Coast Victorians.”

Naversen said he found during research that Brown had sold 6,000 acres in the Oakland vicinity to the Oregon and California Railroad.

“He would have made out like a bandit, so he could have built this fancy house.”

Forbes said the restoration will satisfy the requirements of Oakland’s Historic Preservation Commission.

“We recognize we’re merely stewards of the house,” he said. “Once a house becomes a certain age, you become a steward. We want it to be around for another 125 years.”

The house is one of 95 historic residences in Oakland, which itself consists mainly of a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The house’s “bones” are sound, Forbes said, but the work will be done slowly to avoid a “remuddle … I’m going to be going to Lowe’s every day for years.”

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