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Friday, October 19, 2012

Could Hawthorne houses be saved as archeological objects?

An alert reader suggests (only half-kiddingly, we think) that the impending destruction of two century-old houses on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland might be prevented if the horrified neighbors invoke the state's archeological protection laws. What? Would that theory fly? What would it take -- somebody discovering dinosaur bones in the yard?

Heck, no. In Oregon, artifacts can be considered archeological treasures even if they're only 75 years old. Seventy-five years! Don't look now, people, but that's 1947 1937. By that standard, an early Frank Sinatra Bing Crosby record might be considered a protected artifact. Hey, maybe the houses themselves could qualify as archeological objects!

Here's the legalese. It's a little bit of a stretch, but our reader may be on to something here:

358.920 Prohibited conduct. (1)(a) A person may not excavate, injure, destroy or alter an archaeological site or object or remove an archaeological object located on public or private lands in Oregon unless that activity is authorized by a permit issued under ORS 390.235...

358.905 *** (a) "Archaeological object" means an object that:

(A) Is at least 75 years old;

(B) Is part of the physical record of an indigenous or other culture found in the state or waters of the state; and

(C) Is material remains of past human life or activity that are of archaeological significance including, but not limited to, monuments, symbols, tools, facilities, technological by-products and dietary byproducts....

(c)(A) "Archaeological site" means a geographic locality in Oregon, including but not limited to submerged and submersible lands and the bed of the sea within the state’s jurisdiction, that contains archaeological objects and the contextual associations of the archaeological objects with:

(i) Each other; or

(ii) Biotic or geological remains or deposits.

(B) Examples of archaeological sites described in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph include but are not limited to shipwrecks, lithic quarries, house pit villages, camps, burials, lithic scatters, homesteads and townsites.

If these provisions are triggered, the developer who wants to tear down those houses would have to get a permit from the state -- apparently from the state parks department, even though the prohibition extends to private lands. A permit would probably take a while. At least it would buy some time for the neighbors to try to find another site for the houses. Let's hope Buckman goes for it, if for nothing else than the entertainment value.

Comments (17)

Oops...I think you meant 1937!
Anyway now that! long ago if you are as old as I am.

Jack, you are a brilliant blogger and most astute guy. You have some short comings with math however. I was born in 1947 and I am only 65 years old. Please don’t take those ten years away from me.

Come, now: surely the statute refers to objects that were seventy-five years old at the time of its enactment, or maybe even at the time the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

What does "archaeological significance" mean? I'll have to look at the legislative history. The hearing tapes would be interesting.

So, would the houses qualify as archeological artifacts? They seem to meet the criteria listed.

About the only redeeming aspect of having so many laws, statutes, etc. is that somewhere one can find a loop hole for their point of view.

Since government and all their pols and bureaucrats are so quick to pull out some enforcement action contrary to the public's interest, we should return the favor. And many times over.

Speaking of archeological artifacts, Adrian Belew sums it up here:


Great lyrics. What an incredible talent. I guess Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey" works too.

Subsections (A), (B) and (C) are conjoined with an "and," which means that it has to be "part of the physical record of an indigenous or other culture found in the state or waters of the state." 100-year old houses on Hawthorne are not likely part of the physical record of an indigenous or other culture. And statutory construction would not allow interpretation of "other culture" to including "the Hawthorne Blvd" culture, as it would make subsection (B) have no real meaning.

That sounds right. The two houses are definitely artifacts from the PreHipsterian epoch, dating at least back before the Katzian Era. I'd recommend getting a palaeontologist out there and look for non-ironic vinyl albums and glasses that have lenses in them, just to prove their ancient heritage.

Those angels dance around on the head of the pin called "significance." It's a subjective decision, a matter of opinion, not empirical fact. Experts can establish "significance" or the lack of it, with the same ease or ardor. Another example of how bureaucracy subverts civilization and humanity. And so it goes. Next!

Good ridicule & satire here, esp. PDXLifer & Texas Triffid Ranch -- thank Bog!

100-year old houses on Hawthorne are not likely part of the physical record of an indigenous or other culture.

Are you saying Portland had no culture in 1937? You are wrong.

If "other culture" means "any culture" or "culture," then the term would be legally meaningless. Which is why you can bet that "indigenous or other culture" will be construed so that "other" is akin to "indigenous," i.e. it's not just "the people who were living here in the early 1900s.
I know, killjoy lawyer.

Where are the Occupiers when you need them? It's practically their neighborhood.

Oh, this would benefit proprietors of various for-profit businesses... no good.

you can bet that "indigenous or other culture" will be construed so that "other" is akin to "indigenous,"

Really? The word "other" means "other," not "same."

Jonathan, you are really tiresome. See ya 'round.

I think the houses themselves wouldn't qualify for archaeological protection, because they're still in service: they aren't "remains" of something that used to be in service. However, lots of other things would qualify as relics of a bygone age: paved-over streetcar tracks, wooden-pipe sewer lines, the park reservoirs (once they're drained), and the Arlington Club.

The statute requires that there be "remains of past human life or activity." Surely all the people who first occupied the houses are dead, and there are probably old fixtures in the house that are no longer in use. Or wallpaper under paint. Or lath and plaster under drywall.

Not to mention the possibility of an old tool, used to build the houses, out under the yard, for example.

Of course, one Indian arrowhead and it's Katy-bar-the-bulldozer.

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