Effort to save historic houses

On tribal property across the Deschutes River from the reservation are a pair of houses of architectural and historic interest. These are the Wilson homes, built in the mid 1940s.

Robert Wilson operated the mill in the early years of the enterprise. He commissioned the construction of the houses, at the time located on private property. Robert Wilson lived in one of the houses, and his brother Charles in the other.

The significance of these structures is the architect: The Wilsons commissioned Pietro Belluschi to design the buildings.

Belluschi was an Italian architect who moved to Portland after the First World War. He became a leader in the Modern Movement in architecture during the mid Twentieth Century. The Wilson homes are prime examples of this style.

Belluschi designed these single-story flat-roofed buildings about the time he designed the renowned Commonwealth Building in Portland, one of the first glass box towers ever built.

Clearly, the Wilson homes are of historic and architectural significance. Unfortunately, the buildings are in need of improvement and renovation. The Robert Wilson house in particular is in poor condition, with a leaky roof.

Chief operations officer Alyssa Macy, and Branch of Natural Resources general manager Bobby Brunoe have been in contact with the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, hoping to find a means to save the Wilson homes. Portland architect Peter Meijer has also been talking with the Historic Preservation Office about the structures.

Jason Allen is an Historic Preservation Specialist with the Oregon Historic Preservation Office. Mr. Allen said his office is prepared to help nominate the Wilson homes as Historic Buildings.

As the buildings are on tribal trust land, the Historic Preservation Office would prepare the nomination and forward the information to the tribes, who could then submit the nomination to the National Park Service.

Listing the buildings as Historic would not in itself generate renovation funding, though listing would open the way to securing the needed funding. The most urgent work would be the roof of the Robert Wilson house. Being flat, the roof has been susceptible to damage due to snow and rain.

If the buildings are restored, they could become a revenue generating program of the tribes. The buildings are located on the river, nearby to a popular hiking trail. The buildings could be rented out as vacation destinations.