JB and Catherine

This home embodies not only the signature Brookford look, but also has many features added by the home’s original owner. While JB and Catherine have made the house their own, they have chosen to keep many design details intact, celebrating the mid-century esthetic.

As JB explained, “It is rare to find a house that is both a time-capsule (in the right sense from an architectural and design standpoint) and which has been thoughtfully modified by people who clearly respected and understood the potential of their home.”

As we toured the home with JB he told us how the family had arrived in Brookford and how they were drawn in by it’s classic daylight ranch style. 

"We came to Portland from McMinnville and before McMinnville we were living in Matthews, North Carolina where I was a tenured Shakespeare professor at a nearby small college and Catherine was a psychologist doing wilderness therapy in the Asheville area. We had two small children at the time and we were commuting back and forth to Oregon frequently to visit family. We decided to make the move and left our jobs, sold our house, and headed west. 

When we moved to Portland, we wanted a house on the westside within easy reach of our work. We did not want to be in any kind of new housing development, “mcmansion,” etc. nor did we want to live in sprawling places like Beaverton. We wanted a mid-century ranch house and looked at quite a few around Raleigh Hills, Multnomah Village, and West Slope."

"Our realtor told us about the house in Brookford and mentioned that the seller had just taken it off the market. When we saw it, we were only able to walk the grounds and peek in the windows but we were practically sold right then. We loved the neighborhood from the original carved wood “Brookford” signs on Hamilton Street to the consistency of the house designs to the varied and mature flora that creates a perfect backdrop. So when we were able to see inside the house and it looked just right for us, we didn’t hesitate."

"I like to think of our house as “The Wildfong House” not only because Ed and Gwen Wildfong were the original owners back to 1959 but also because the family made so many personal touches to it without really ever changing the original house." 

"Nothing has been remodeled, wood trim was never painted, the brick fireplaces  never altered, the original pink GE cooktop and range still work great (knock on wood!), the original GE solid state intercom system is still in nearly every room and on the back deck. Ed was a weekend craftsman in addition to being a vice president at Portland General Electric. He built some precise, durable, and innovative features to maximize space in the house. In three bedrooms, he built wood desk/dresser units that span the length of a wall and were designed to fit under the window molding."

"In the basement shop, he built a very solid workbench made of reclaimed telephone pole cross-supports. Above the back deck, he mounted a pair of very large speakers pulled from a 1950s hi-fi system. We have our own vintage audio system connected to the speakers and they are great for backyard parties!"

"There are two rooms in the basement that I use for creative endeavors. There is a windowless “man-cave” chock full of guitars, amplifiers, keyboards as well as my vinyl record and vintage cassette walkman collections." 

"In recent months, I have been writing songs about Oregon history. My five and seven year-old sons have been helping me out. There’s a song about DB Cooper called “Flaps at Fifteen Degrees,” a song called “The Exploding Whale” about the 1970 exploding whale incident in Florence, Oregon, a song about the history of Portland’s bridges called “Portland Has 12 Bridges,” and a song about the 1894 Portland flood called “High Water Mark” among others. I have written about a dozen songs for this project and hope to have a demo recording done soon." 

"Adjacent to the music room is an office where I write. In addition to teaching writing at Portland Community College, I write and give public talks on Portland history. My speciality area is mid-twentieth century crime history and I co-authored a book on the subject titled Portland on the Take (History Press, 2014) with Portland historian JD Chandler.

  Oregonian Headline Dec 26, 1958

Oregonian Headline Dec 26, 1958

I am currently working on a book about a Northeast Portland family who disappeared in the Columbia River Gorge in 1958. It is one of Oregon’s most enduring unsolved mysteries and I became drawn to the story after finding a stack of Oregon Journal newspapers above the water heater in the garage of our 1958 McMinnville ranch home. 

Through a series of serendipitous encounters, I obtained a wealth of first-hand and never-before publicized information about the case including police reports from several agencies, materials and photos belonging to the Martins, journalists’ notes and photographs, and the personal notebooks and files of Multnomah County Sheriff’s Detective Walter E. Graven. 

Always convinced that the case was a homicide rather than an accident, Detective Graven worked tirelessly during the investigation (and throughout the rest of his career) to pursue the truth. However, he faced real resistance from his superiors to bring this information to light.  As a trail left behind after his 1988 death to guide future researchers, Graven’s materials provide fascinating insight into the question of what happened to the Martins and why this could not be revealed in mid-twentieth century Portland."

"I am also part of a group called “Stumptown Stories” that gives monthly public history talks (first Tuesdays) at the Jack London Bar in the basement of the soon-to-be closed Rialto pool hall. We are in the process of finding a new venue once the place closes in December."

Backyard.jpg

"Our backyard is .4 acres and largely wild with a small creek flowing through it. There is a path leading down toward the creek and the Wildfongs installed lights along the walkway, including several discretely embedded in tree stumps and logs. As one can imagine, there are plenty of adventure opportunities for young kids back there and ours love to run around and explore along the creek and through the foliage. One day we might pursue the opportunity to certify our yard as a backyard habitat."

"In the future, we have a few modest renovation plans for our home. These include a new roof (likely replacing the shake roof with composite), adding several small skylights to brighten the bathrooms, a new deck, and cork flooring in the spacious daylight basement."

"Brookford is already recognized locally as a cherished neighborhood and additional families drawn to the neighborhood for its schools are really helping to rejuvenate the feel of the place. There is already some evidence of new business development along the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway below Brookford (most notably IBU Restaurant) and Hillsdale is an attractive local draw for residents as well. Moreover, as the original developers were well aware, the easy proximity over the hill to downtown Portland allows Brookford families to find a perfect balance between urban access and woodsy family-friendly retreat. There will always be an appeal for this balance between two worlds."


D. Larson, editor