Three years ago, Diana Marmon started surfing the Internet for an affordable historic house. The Seattleite and her husband, Jerry, didn't know where their new home would be; they only knew they wanted a shared project for their retirement"¦and a setting for their Americana art and furniture.
Enter a stucco home in one of Medford's historic neighborhoods. Designed in 1928 by Frank Clark for local businessman Oscar Alenderfer, the 3,125 square foot, Spanish Colonial Revival-style house was charming, but in serious disrepair.
Serving as mayor of Medford from 1924 to 1928, socialite and local businessman Oscar Alenderfer was a high-profile client for Rogue Valley architect Frank Clark.
When Alenderfer approached Clark, he stated his desires for a "proper residence" in which he could entertain his social, civic and business acquaintances, says Diana Marmon.
Marmon is a cultural anthropologist who, along with husband Jerry, has been restoring the Medford house Clark built for Alenderfer in 1928.
"To meet his needs, Clark chose a Spanish Colonial Revival style, which accounts for the spacious dining and living rooms, the 10-foot-high ceilings and the many windows," Marmon says.
The 3,125-square-foot, two-story stucco house with wrought-iron railings, tile roof and exterior spiral staircase was built by Medford contractor Larkin Reynolds. Alenderfer and his wife, Ian, entertained lavishly while living there until the businessman went bankrupt in the 1930s, after which he moved to a house on North Ivy Street.
The home is located in the South Oakdale Historic District, which is one of Medford's oldest intact neighborhoods. Forty-three, single-family homes, 22 multiple family homes, a church, rectory, public school, law offices and medical practices all date from the 1880s to the late 1920s.
"It was a mess when we bought it, with no yard, rotting windows and a door to nowhere upstairs that had once opened onto an exterior staircase," says Diana.
For the past three years, the Marmons have painstakingly restored the home, unearthing several details that showcase the structure's unique character.
"It's basically Arts & Crafts in a Mission style, but Clark wanted something different in this house," Diana says of the unusually pitched doorways at the entry and through the rest of the three-bedroom, two-bath home.
The front entry holds a long, low, antique cabinet displaying vintage promotional items from Oregon businesses. Here, also, is a tall metal tree, sculpted by Ashland artist Bryan Pancheau. The work inspired the Marmons to commission Pancheau to build iron window and door railings and a circular staircase that all match the home's original design.
"We started out with more of an artistic flair, but because we wanted to stay within the general flavor of the house, period and location, it became more traditional," says the sculptor of the exterior staircase leading from the side yard to a second-story sun porch. The installation was recognized by the Southern Oregon Historical Society as the "most accurate improvement of the year."
Off the front entry is a small guest room (now decorated in patchwork and white wicker) that once served as servant's quarters.
The living room, floored in the original oak, introduces a vintage barrister holding rows of pre-Prohibition whisky jugs, wooden, Mission-style furniture and an antique upright piano. The room is painted dark green with cream crown moulding and everything is positioned around the terra cotta tile-accented fireplace.
"What I find interesting, is that you can see the tiles were hand-cut; they're not all the same size," Jerry says of the fireplace surround.
An arched niche over the fireplace displays an intricate, one-piece tile. Unusual duck head-shaped brass sconces on either side match the pendant light in the tiny telephone room next to the side entry. This cunning space features a small shuttered window, thought to be a bar window through which drinks may have been surreptitiously passed to the adjoining dining room during Prohibition.
French doors from the hallway and side porch saturate the large dining room in sunlight. Dark burgundy walls with white trim and an Arts and Crafts chandelier frame an eclectic grouping of American Indian art, vintage Rogue Valley business calendars and a wooden shadowbox filled with itty-bitty antiques.
More collectibles (circa 1928) add period heft to the kitchen, where the Marmons repaired water damage by replacing the floor with original Italian tiles salvaged from the garage. A brick inlay anchors the small island, and the original cabinets were given their Mission flavor by removing gingerbread-style trim and oiling them. Copper surrounds over the stove and sink are etched with gingko tree designs chosen by the Marmons from an Arts and Crafts design book.
Yellow walls, decorative tiles and Mexican pottery add Spanish zip to a cozy little breakfast nook.
One of the home's most novel features is its "summer kitchen," where the Marmons have added a 1927 General Electric refrigerator, 1935 Hotpoint electric stove, Hoover kitchenette and walls full of fruit labels and vintage cream pitchers.
French doors lead into the library. "We decided to make it look like a barber shop so the room has a more masculine feel that fits with Jerry's collection of American ginger beer bottles," says Diana. A barber chair, a red and white striped barber pole and shelves of vintage jars, strops and boxes add period whimsy to Jerry's bottles, all from the 1920s.
Past the library is a welcoming sun porch, accessible to the side yard by Pancheau's staircase. A daybed and small café table with chairs beckon afternoon naps and lattés.
And, what was once a nursery attached to the master bath has transformed into a home gym.
The Marmons look fondly around their restored home, personalized by a lifetime of collectibles. "There's always something to do around here," Diana says. "But the house isn't so much about us as it is about Medford — and the work keeps us from sitting around staring at each other."