Tina Reuwsaat, associate curator of collections for SOHS, says the society is unsure if a porch on Hanley Farm is structurally safe. A fundraiser is underway to raise money to restore the historic piece. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore

Trouble on the Doorstep

CENTRAL POINT — Time has been a tough tenant on the grand entryway to the historic house at Hanley Farm.

Dry rot above ground coupled with burrowing rodents attacking the underpinnings has prompted the Southern Oregon Historical Society to close off the 1875-circa porch and start a fund drive to restore the structure to its former glory. SOHS owns and operates the more than 150-year-old picturesque farm.

"We're not sure if it is structurally safe or not, but we don't want to take any chances so we closed it off," explained Tina Reuwsaat, associate curator of collections for SOHS.

"It is going to be a problem with our docents not being able to take the tours through the front door this year," she added of the annual summer tours which begin June 4. "We will reroute the tours through either a side or back door until we raise the money for the porch."

The first step in the fundraising already has been taken in the form of a challenge grant by Jacksonville residents Warren and Sheila Straus, who have offered to match up to $2,000 in donations. The Straus family roots go back to 1860 when the family settled in Eagle Point.

"It seems like Hanley Farm is unique in Southern Oregon, in terms of its use as an educational facility," said Warren, a retired school teacher, in a prepared statement. "There are no other properties like this that are open to the public. It's our job to maintain this property for future generations."

The Straus donation is being made in honor of family matriarch Dorotha Straus Knox, who died last year.

Estimates vary on the repair costs after routine maintenance earlier this year revealed the damage. A best-case scenario would be no more than $15,000, according to SOHS officials.

"The big issue is the second floor balcony, and we don't know if that is structurally sound," Reuwsaat said, adding restoring both levels could exceed the $15,000 estimate. "But we won't know until we start tearing into it whether we have to rebuild the entire porch."

The exploratory check found significant dry rot and other problems on the lower section, she observed.

"If the whole thing needs to be dismantled, shored up to meet current codes and reassembled, that would cost more," she said. "We would keep as much as the architectural element, even the trim, as we could."

Support beams on the floor of the porch probably came from the 1857 barn on the property, she said.

"That barn was moved at one time," she explained, noting the beams were likely from that move. "Being thrifty as they were, they would have reused the material."

The porch represents classic federal revival style popular in that era, she said, noting it was designed and built into the front section of the house.

The entryway to the two-story home was important when the house was built, she said.

"In the Victorian period, this would have been the grand statement," said Reuwsaat who has a degree in the history of American decorative art from the Smithsonian Institution.

"Inside the foyer, the first interior space the public would see would have been the fanciest part of the house," she added. "Then they would have the formal parlor which had the most expensive furniture and wallpaper in it."

Another informal parlor would have been used for family use, she noted.

While the house is in relatively good shape for its years, the entryway has been exposed to the elements, she said.

"From 1875 to 2011, that's a lot of years," she said. "We're not quite sure what the construction system is underneath these box pillars. We don't know if there are support beams inside or it is just hollow."

A preservation carpenter has been lined up to do the work, she said.

Hanley Farm is at 1053 Hanley Road, between Jacksonville and Central Point.

Michael F. Hanley originally bought the original 636-acre farm in the 1850s from newly minted Central Point homesteaders. Parts of it were sold over the years until it was reduced to 37 acres. That portion was deeded to SOHS in the 1980s by Mary Hanley, the last descendant of the Hanley family to live on the land.

For more information about the farm, SOHS or to make a contribution to the porch restoration, call 541-773-6536 or visit

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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