Some of you know the whole History of the Malcom McDonald Estate and Mansion. Most of you know part of it or very little. Well the grand Estate has had quite a 108 year run and now it is safely in the hands of the City of Hillsboro and the Parks Department for the Public Benefit. Therefore I want to openly support the home via the people and groups in the Region who supported this journey receiving their due. The Oregon Heritage Awards are handed out for great results like this. My letter explaining our my view and the position I have is attached. I hope you will all support this effort.
22870 NW Alder Street
Hillsboro, Oregon 97124
To: Kuri Gill – Oregon Heritage
RE: McDonald House – Mansion – Oregon Heritage Excellence Award
To whom is may conern;
It is my belief that the work of several groups and people that led to the City of Hillsboro Aquiring the Malcom McDonald House should be considered as a whole for an Oregon Heritage Excellence Award.
For me this was a personal quest that started when I was 8 and first went into the home as a young caddy at the Orenco Woods Golf Course. The History of the place as the estate of the Oregin Nursery Company Founder, Malcom McDonald, called on me then- almost whispered to me to honor it and respect it. As a boy I knew the home well. As a young man I watched as a few golf pros lived in it- a perk they got for working for the Elks Lodge who onwed the property for many decades..
Later in life I saw it decline and change and I moved away. When I came back 15 years ago I was pleased to see the grand beauty being used for indigent young mothers and pregnant women in need of care. This paid Homage to the beauty of such a home.
As a kid we all knew it was the home of the Founder of our little burnt out town. We, as barefoot dirt poor rail-road rats, marveled at it and heard many stories of hauntings and salacious times held there. We were in awe and afraid of something so big and so unthinkable – could that really have been a home?
When the opportunity came to organize with my neighbors and oppose the 300 plus lots proposed for the site in thw mid 2000’s I was all in. Bonnie Kooken and Jim Lubischer of Orenco Neiyughborhood Organizations and others met at our home in the Old Orenco Drug Store more then once to plan our attack. That led to an appeal and although Jim did the heavy lifting many of the Orenco town-folk rose up to help. A lot of what we were fighting was the burial or the entombment of the McDonald Mansion which that plan was set to do as it was to be hidden behind and within dozens of vinyl clad boxes.
The fact that the home was so prominent on the land and set in such a way to look down upon and across the people and homes of Orenco was something that has always rung out across the land. How could we, the little people both past and present, exist if such a place could be taken from us?
Big questions for me anyway. Change, not the good kind had come to the Shire.
When the economy tanked in 2007 and 2008 and the project had not moved ahead even though it had been approved I quietly celebrated. When Venture Properties gave the property around the McDonald House back to US Bank I knew as an broker I had to act. There was a chance, ever so small, that I could find a way to get the property into the hands of the public. That led to countless phone calls over several years before I would finally be given an opportunity to act. With the help of the Trust for Public Land, Metro, the City of HIllsboro, and the neighbors we were able to get the land back to the public. It was not easy but it worked.
Once the land was legally into the hands of Metro and the City negotiations fell quiickly into place for the Hillsboro Elks Lodge to sell the property to the City re-marrying the McDonald House and he surrounding lands forever again as one.
The day we did the ground breaking we had grade school kids from Orenco Elementary (the new school that repalced the original school that was built when the McDonald House was) marching and playing music as we all assembled on the lawn next to the home. All was good in the world. As we gathered two bald eagles flew by and landed on a distant Tree watching over us.
I wondered if that was Malcom McDonald and his partner Arhcibald McGilll, the founders of Orenco, and if they approved?
As we left I sighed- looking at the smiling faces of all who had helped and wondered if life could ever feel more complete- more real – more meaningful. Walking off I spun near the old Orenco Apple and looked at the home- its massive roof lines and porches and eaves looking back at me. It was happy too and it was in its place- returning to its greatness. Big things like it, important things, often fall. It was not going to. Not then and hopefully not ever.
Greatness from the past must stand to show the future what is possible.
That to me is the reason that every single person that worked on every aspect of the McDonald House being saved deserves to be mentioned and the preservation of the house desreves to win the Oregon Heritage Excellence Award!
This is big- not an insignificant thing by any test.
I want to thank everyone- especially those that made the purchase and acquisition possible. Only a few of them really know what it means to people like me.
Orenco & Hillsboro, Oregon