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Robert Galvin

Walter Wood never had it so good

Even up close and personal, the old gal holds her own considering she’s weathered 148 Southern Oregon summers and winters, and other demeaning affronts to try to take her down.

The Old Wood (singular, no “s”) House has reigned outstanding in the field along Highway 62 in Eagle Point since 1870, while exposing weathered flanks before a parade of camera jockeys and artists of varying skills. This old house survived vandals, rafter-rattling storms, and detractors in public service labeling her “an eyesore that should be torn down.”

Yet Marvin Wood’s (Walter Wood’s father) humble dwelling appears better than ever, thanks to the tireless efforts of Skip Geear and many others with the Woodhouse Preservation Group. They’ve worked hard to make the structure safe, while preserving authenticity.

It’s been more than 40 years since I stood across the highway and lined up the 1970s version of the house in my viewfinder, with a recluse overstuffed chair on the porch and Mount Pitt, or rather, Mount McLoughlin, stationed behind. I sold matted and framed copies at local craft shows, while wondering if the next big storm would be her last. Everyone wanted a picture of the crumbling edifice included in their travelogue, but no one came to her rescue until 2001, when a few people decided she was worth their time.

Recently I seized the opportunity to draw near and enter into the history behind the mystery of this well known icon of the upper Rogue area. Julie Thompson of the Guardians of the Eagle Point Museum asked if I would be interested in helping at their booth during the Wood House Vintage Fair. I’d checked a box somewhere a long time back saying I’d be happy to help on occasion, but something always kept me from a Wood House event.

Finally, that Saturday my calendar read clear. I’ve driven by it for more than 35 years, in rainstorms and heat waves, through former atrocious egg ranch smells and bonnie fresh spring afternoons. I fairly jumped at the chance to see the inside of the place and finally taste cookies baked by the Cookie Lady using an authentic wood-burning stove inside.

I arrived to a buzz of activity from about 60 vendor booths playing back-up to the Wood House tour. These wares were not gimmicky trinkets, but quality goods and food trucks. Music drifted out from Walter’s front porch and the aroma of chocolate chip cookies (delicious, I tell you) drifted out the door of the kitchen. I wondered if Marvin and Walter drifted about as well, and if they ever envisioned entertaining such a crowd.

For all the gawking, I nearly forgot I’d come to labor for the Guardians, so I did my best to hawk a few raffle tickets and calendars to passersby. But possibly the highlight of the day came when I introduced myself to Judson Parsons, owner of the property and philanthropist who rents two acres of land to the WPG for $1 a year. Twelve years ago, he and his wife, Diana Gardener, purchased the 38 surrounding acres, making affordable the continuing survival of the Wood House. Then I sold him a calendar.

Visit the website at www.oldwoodhouse.org for the entire scoop, photos of the interior, and schedule of future events — Harvest Fair Oct. 6-7, and Halloween Open House Oct. 27. But you don’t have to wait until fall for a tour. Just fill out the contact form on their site to set it up.

If the WPG had $10 for every person who’s stopped to snap a shutter or lift a brush, (yes, I did) it would go far in preserving this relic of the past, since work is all volunteer and the maintenance budget small. Come to think of it, that’s the price of a Wood House calendar. But to see Walter in his bathtub, you’ll have to have a look for yourselves.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com.

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