The John & Laura Helstrom Residence
Today I got to do one of the things I love best about my job. I was lucky enough to list a historic home in one of the three nationally registered historic districts in Astoria. This is really one of the best parts of the job. Sure, new construction is fun but older homes tell a story and this one is no exception.
In 2005, the Shively-McClure Historic District became part of the national register. One of three such districts in the city of Astoria known mainly for historic homes is also referred to as “Church Hill” (There are 9 churches in this district). Prominent local architect John E. Wicks designed more houses in Astoria than any other single architect and is responsible for more than 40 houses in the Shively-McClure district alone. This includes the John and Laura Helstrom residence located at 1491 Jerome. John Helstrom was a prominent Astoria builder and stonemason. John emigrated from Sweden and arrived in Astoria in 1916 where he began his career as a brick mason. Helstrom is credited with building the ONG Armory, Astoria High School as well as 30 other residences besides his own.
On the historic resource survey form supplied to us by the current owners we found many interesting historical facts. This form was filled out by John Goodenberger; local historian, architectural buff, and consultant for the Columbia-Pacific Preservation Guild. According to John, this house “is a rare example of brick residential construction in Astoria and is one of finest examples of ‘Tudor/English Cottage” in the city. We decided that there would be no better person to educate us than John himself. I have read many of his articles in the Cumtux Journal and other local periodicals but never had the pleasure of meeting him in person until this morning. John seemed as excited as we were by how intact the home is and of its uniqueness. Mr. Goodenberger was in possession of Wicks’ day book and so was able to look back and tell us whom the subcontrators were and answer questions as to originality of certain features. While the home is of the Tudor style it has a few wonderful Arts & Crafts and Art Deco touches. I think John was most surprised and pleased with the living room fireplace and main bathroom. The period fireplace is built of rich earth toned Mission tile, topped by a heavy mantel. The Art Deco bathroom on the main floor is comprised of the most beautiful golden yellow tile extensively used on the walls, floors, shower, tub surround, and mirror.
Part of what makes this home really stand out in a town full of historic homes is the material it was built from. I can think of only 3 brick residences in all of Astoria, there are probably more, but that’s still a pretty small piece of the pie. Not only is this home made of bricks, but it’s a special type of brick called a Clinker. Clinker bricks used to be the cast-offs as they were scorched and had discolorations.
I’ve always admired this home (and I’m finding out many others in town feel the same). It’s so unique and situated on a corner lot, it has always caught my eye. The list of unique historic details are endless with this property, it’s definitely worth viewing in person! We are fortunate to have such a well preserved architectural treasure here in Astoria. - Jen Hillard Broker
Contact Jen at 503.791.3078 | Email Jen
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