Commander's house back at site of old Oregon fort

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Perched atop the first story of what originally was a two-story house, workers on Thursday lined up the rafters as the house's second story, 30,000 pounds of roof and metal I-beams, dangled over their heads.

When a crane operator carefully lowered the roof so that the girders lined up perfectly, the workers began power hammering new boards to the two ends, tacking the two floors together board-by-board.

And so it came to pass that the historic Commander's House at Fort Hoskins stood, once again, in one piece on its original plot.

Down below and a safe distance away, a small group of people watched as years of research, planning and fundraising came to fruition.

"It's just in remarkable shape, and the fact that it was never significantly altered is probably more amazing than anything," said Oregon State University archaeologist David Brauner, who has researched and excavated the Fort Hoskins site since the mid-1970s. "I just can't describe the feeling when this thing got back on the original site — it's just amazing."

The pre-Civil War structure was home to Capt. Christopher Colon Auger, the first commander of Fort Hoskins. The fort was erected in 1856 in what is now Kings Valley to monitor and protect the newly established Coast Indian Reservation.

But in 1869 or 1870, the building was moved to Pedee, and that's where it stood until October.

The crew transported the house in two parts to Fort Hoskins on Oct. 21 to avert the expense of taking power lines down along the journey from Pedee, about eight miles away.

Last week, the ground floor was placed on a foundation. Rain and the resulting mud delayed bringing out the crane and assembling the house until Thursday.

It took a few hours to move the crane to the site and prepare it to lift the roof. Attaching the roof itself took another couple of hours. The crew plans to pull out the steel I-beams and close it in.

Returning the house to its original site is just the beginning, Brauner said. He plans to work with a historical architect to help determine the construction techniques and design elements to restore it back to its pre-Civil War era condition.

"We'll be doing the architectural history of the building, that's the detective work, inside and outside," he said.

The house's kitchen wing will be stored at the Benton County Public Works yard until it can be correctly reattached in the next summer or two. Behind the wallboard in the kitchen wing, Brauner has gotten a glimpse into the original architecture of the house.

"The original green painted walls are all there, so when we took the Sheetrock off, we could see the outline of where windows and doors were, where they took the molding of the doors when they remodeled it," Brauner said. "You can see the outline of the original 1850s molding. It's a ton of information on how to help us restore the building."

Benton County obtained the Fort Hoskins property in 1991, but no structures from the original fort remained on the site.

"I've worked on Fort Hoskins so long that every time I come down here I'm walking into the fort — it's all in my mind," Brauner said. "But to the casual visitor, they're looking at a bunch of grass and signage. Well, now there's a real tangible part of the pre-Civil War and Civil War standing here."

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Information from: Gazette-Times, http://www.gtconnect.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press