Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Relocation of Houses in 1964

[The following was written by Robert Sylwester.]

In 1964 Concordia decided to build the new Music Building on the site of the three east Faculty Lane homes (Sylwester, Klammer, Stelmachowicz). This would have meant that the three families (of 7, 4, and 3 children) would have had to move into large faculty homes elsewhere -- and none of appropriate size were available.

Tom Langevin was Concordia's president, and Werner Klammer was sufficiently imaginative to suggest to us and Tom that if Concordia would give us the houses, we would move them to a five acre lot about a half mile north on Columbia that the three families would purchase. Concordia would thus not have to pay to demolish the houses, and it would also solve the thorny problem of relocating the three families.

Werner Klammer was the key to our 1964 move from Faculty Lane to Columbia Avenue. Neither Mike Stelmachowicz nor I had the imagination and practical smarts to negotiate the move of the three houses with Concordia, the property owner, the city, the movers, the builders, and whoever else was involved. It was Werner all the way, and Mike and I just went along with whatever he suggested.

President Tom Langevin was also instrumental in expediting the complexities -- and probably breathed a huge sigh of relief that Concordia no longer had to provide housing for three large faculty families. In retrospect, it was a wonderful beautifully orchestrated idea that has left an enduring historical community legacy, and it sparked the fine housing development that occurred north of the 1960's Seward.

When local builders determined that the houses were still in excellent condition (2X6 studs that ran from the base through the second floor) and could be moved without damage to the houses and streets, we settled on paying Concordia $200 for each of the houses (because the college couldn't legally give them away). We divided the 5 acres into three lots of 1.5+ acres plus a street easement -- and a street now separates the former Sylwester/Stelmachowicz houses.

This project wouldn't have been possible without Werner Klammer's knowledge of building, and his wheeler/dealer skills. Neither Mike Stelmachowicz or I would have been able to do all the background work with Concordia, the city, and the owner of the land to pull off what was a very good deal for everyone involved.

Our late 19th Century house (we think 1896) had historic status. It was known simply as The House At The End Of The Lane. It had been the home of Concordia's first president, and later the long time residence of Concordia's most famous and beloved professor, Henry Koenig (a bachelor). We thus decided to renovate it as an historical site. We fortuitously discovered the original plans for the house in Concordia's archives, and hired a Lincoln architect who specialized in renovations to return the house to its original plan. It had been frequently (and inappropriately) remodeled over the years. Our house was placed in the middle of the three houses, and the architect turned it sideways (the kitchen and entry facing Columbia) to increase its visibility, and the general attractiveness of the project. The entire project cost us about $25,000.

When we moved to Eugene, Oregon, we sold our home to the family of Concordia prof Bill Heinicke, and they later sold it to the family of Marvin and Shirley Bergman (two Concordia profs), who continue to live in it -- and absolutely love it. They have maintained its historical integrity, and it's always the star of any local charity tour of decorated homes. The house is now about 113 years old and still in good structural shape. The Bergmans have also developed a large beautiful yard that built on what we began -- and have not sold off any of the 1.5 acre lot (as have the owners of the other two houses). The trees we planted are still there, as are the vegetable garden plots we established. The back of the house facing the beautiful garden/orchard area has a lot of grass.

We feel that we three families did a wonderful thing for Concordia and the community by moving the houses out to an area that was simply farmland at the time. What we did by this was to spark a later housing development in that area, and since our houses were so striking in their development, the area is now an upscale housing area.

Whenever Seward has some kind of parade of homes to raise money for something, they now always include our house in it, and it's the biggest draw. At Christmas last year, 500 people toured the house.

So we left a nice little bit of ourselves in Seward and Concordia when we moved to Eugene and the University of Oregon.

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