The City purchased the Iron Worker's Cottage in 2003 to preserve one of the last remaining examples of factory worker housing in Oregon and the last survivor of Cottages that were built in Lake Oswego. The Cottage is estimated to have been built in the 1870s or 1880s as one of the several small wooden residences to house workers of the Oswego Iron Company.
The Cottage was designated as a City Landmark in 1989, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, is included as a stop on the City’s Iron Heritage Trail, and is designated as an archeological site by the State Historic Preservation Office.
In 2011 the City embarked on a three-phased project to restore the Cottage based on a preservation plan that was completed in 2008. The project is being funded by Hotel-Motel taxes, and a $30,000 historic preservation grant that was received in 2011. The work to date has included stabilizing the foundation and lower walls, repairing the exterior siding, adding insulation, replacing windows and porches, replacing the roof and repairing the chimney, and improving the drainage. The final work this year is the interior improvements such as the floor restoration and handicap (ADA) accessibility, kitchen and bathroom remodel, landscaping, and parking.
In 2012 a taskforce of citizen stakeholders was formed to help the City Council determine the future use for the Cottage. The taskforce’s report and recommendation and the Council’s direction was to keep the Cottage under City ownership and solicit proposals for an organization to lease a portion of the Cottage and to maintain and operate the facility, including management of a public meeting space and exhibit areas.
In 2016, the City Council approved leasing the Cottage to the Lake Oswego Preservation Society.
The first phase of the project required stabilization measures for the Cottage's substructure and lower walls and footings, siding repairs, insulation, and painting. The Cottage was constructed by a technique called vertical plank construction which means there is no frame, walled insulation, or modern foundation. As a result, the structure was deteriorating mostly due to moisture intrusion at the lower walls. During this phase improvements were also made to the site's drainage to address the water intrusion issue.
The second phase of the project focused on restoring some of the Cottage's original features. The project involved replacing the front and rear porches, new doors including ADA accessibility, replacing the roof, and repairing the brick chimney. In addition, none original windows in the back of the building were removed, and the the modern vinyl window in the living room was replaced with a insulated glass wood window that is similar to the other historic windows. New wood storm windows were also fabricated.
The project concluded with interior improvements and remaining exterior modifications to make the building suited for habitation. The final phase involved restoring the original wood floor, improving ADA accessibility, remodeling the kitchen and bathroom, adding electrical and plumbing modernization, and interior painting and other finishes. The exterior site work added parking in the rear of the property, a sidewalk along the front, and a brick walkway around the building, and new fences and lighting.
The Lake Oswego Preservation Society moved into the space in January 2017.
In March 2015, a Request for Proposals was issued seeking proposals for a qualified organization to lease a portion of the Cottage and manage a public meeting and exhibit space. The City received one response from the Lake Oswego Preservation Society. The proposal was evaluated by a committee that included a member from the Historic Resources Advisory Board, two City Councilors, and staff. The committee negotiated a draft lease with the Preservation Society that was approved by the City Council following the successful approval of a conditional use permit.
The conditional use was required because the Cottage property is zoned as R-DD. An "institutional use" is allowed as a conditional use in the zone. The proposed use is for the Preservation Society, a local non-profit, to operate the Cottage as a public exhibit and meeting space with ancillary office uses and activities related to their mission. As part of the conditional use, the City will construct additional improvements such as parking in the back of the property and extending a sidewalk from the west along the front of the property.
The Development Review Commission held a public hearing on the proposed conditional use on July 18, 2016. The Commission approved the conditional use permit on August 15. View the materials for the CUP process here.
The City Council approved the lease agreement with the Preservation Society on September 6.