Camas officials considering $229K contract to shore up historic Pittock-Leadbetter House

City Council also may vote to demolish city-owned home on nearby ‘Rose property’

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The historically significant Pittock-Leadbetter House sits off Northeast Leadbetter Road in Camas on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Camas officials will soon decide the fate of two city-owned homes, including one that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

City staff told officials earlier this month that the historically significant Pittock-Leadbetter House, the 3,700-square-foot Queen Anne style home built in by Oregonian newspaper publisher Henry L. Pittock in 1901, and located at 114 N.E. Leadbetter Road on the northeast side of Lacamas Lake, is in desperate need of structural repair.

“The focus is to … keep it standing upright and give us many years until we can figure out what we’re going to do with this house,” Camas Operations Manager Will Noonan told Camas City Council members earlier this month, during the Council’s Feb. 5 workshop.

Noonan said the suggested repairs, which will cost the City $229,344, will “make the exterior of the home, commonly referred to as the Leadbetter house, “structurally sound for many years to come.”

Council members will consider approving the repair contract with Halbert Construction Services during the consent agenda portion of the Council’s next meeting Tuesday, Feb. 20.

“These improvements should make the exterior and structural components of this house in a condition to last many years into the future while maintaining the historical value and aesthetic charm this unique property has for the City,” Noonan told Council members.

Funds for the repairs are included in the City’s 2023-24 budget and were held over from the City’s 2019 general obligation bond, Noonan said.

The City purchased the Leadbetter house and adjacent “Mills family property” for $2.5 million in 2019, and said the purchase was part of Camas’ Legacy Lands program to preserve hundreds of acres of open space along the north shore of Lacamas Lake from future development.

Though City officials have not yet decided what they will do with the historic Leadbetter House, Noonan said the structural repairs are critical to keeping the home in good shape regardless of future uses.

The contract with Halbert Construction Services would replace five failing porch columns, rotten decking supports and boards along the front of the home, reglaze some of the single-paned leaded-glass windows and take care of other, smaller exterior repairs.

“Additionally, Halbert will take the proposed improvements to the Historic Preservation Committee for approval,” Noonan said, adding that city staff had selected Halbert partially because of the company’s track record restoring historic properties in Clark County.

“They have done the Slocum House and work on Officer’s Row,” Noonan told the Council. “They are well-versed in presenting in front of the Historical Registry Committee and will take care of that for us.”

Camas Public Works Director Steve Wall said he has heard from people in the community who thought the repairs were connected to a long-term use for the property, but said that is not the case.

“This is about stabilization,” Wall said. “This is all exterior (work). In the future, if and when we decide what to do with it, there will be other improvements needed. But that future-use discussion is separate from this.”

Councilwoman Jennifer Senescu said she believes the historic home would be better under private, not public, control.

“I would love to see that privatized and brought back to its glory,” Senescu said of the Leadbetter House during the Council’s Feb. 5 workshop. “It will cost a lot of money for the City to bring it back to its glory.”

City staff say 1980s ‘Rose property’ house should be demolished

Council members also will soon make a decision about how they want to proceed with another City-owned home located on the north shore of Lacamas Lake that also is in need of repair.

“The city of Camas purchased the … 55-acre Rose property in 2020,” Noonan reminded Council members during their Feb. 5 workshop. “Staff had multiple conversations with Council to review several options for utilizing the existing house that was lived in by the Rose family prior to purchase by the City.”

Though Council members had considered repairing the 1980s home and possibly using it for staff purposes, Noonan said “the house would need significant upgrades and remodeling to be put into condition as a rental or as some sort of office use for City staff.”

Instead, City staff have recommended that the house be demolished.

“The home has been vacant since the City purchased it in 2020,” Wall told Council members in November 2022. “We do go and mow around the house and barns … and public works (staff) inspects it once a week for security and maintenance needs.”

However, Wall said, “any time you have a vacant structure with nobody using it, it tends to deteriorate quickly, and a couple storms … have taken their toll.”

The 55-acre Rose property, which the City bought for $12.5 million in 2020, included the house, built in 1981, as well as a storage bay built in 2000, a 6,900-square-foot horse arena built in 1995, and a covered horse barn built in the 1950s, Wall said.

Noonan told Council members this month that the outbuildings are in good shape.

“We’re keeping the barns,” Noonan said. “One is a former horse-training arena. It’s nice. And huge.”

The house, however, is in need of repair and has asbestos inside of it, Noonan said.

“The house would need significant upgrades and remodeling to be put into condition as a rental or as some sort of office use for City staff. It has been determined the best step forward is to demolish the house,” Noonan stated in his staff report to the Council.

The cost of the demolition, including sales tax, will be $155,912. City staff have proposed entering into a contract with SDB Contracting Service for the demolition work.

“The scope of work includes demolition of the house and (hauling) off all material, including the concrete basement.”

If approved by the Council as part of the consent agenda during the Council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 20, Noonan said the contractors also will “perform a full asbestos abatement per a City-provided investigation report,” backfill the hole from the home’s existing basement with dirt and topsoil, and cut and cap the water and sewer lines.

Noonan described the remainder of the Rose property as “a jewel” in the City’s property asset portfolio.

“It is really stunning and unique,” Noonan said of the tree-filled property.

Councilman Tim Hein added that he had toured the Leadbetter and Rose properties “about a year and a half ago,” and said it was beneficial to see the properties and get an idea of why the City had purchased them.

“They’re diamonds in the rough, but are something I’d like to revisit again,” Hein said, adding that he would like to have a discussion about what the City would like to do with both properties in the future.

“We have some really cool properties that need some vision and a plan behind them, or they’ll end up in this place of stagnation, which would be really unfortunate,” Hein said.