Light from 35 windows pours into the historic Gaarde House, highlighting the handcrafted details of the 1922 bungalow. The original red-and-brown bricks surrounding the fireplace glimmer with golden flecks—and look deceptively new. Handcrafted molding lines each room, and upon closer inspection, the eye can see the occasional variation in the carving, giving each piece character. In the bathroom, the original cast-iron tub with detailed clawed feet commands attention as the room’s predominate feature.
“Our mission was to save the house,” says Mary Soberg. “Our passion was to respect and restore it.”
Mary and Ron Soberg purchased the historic Craftsman-style bungalow in 1989 from the city of Tigard. The Sobergs are only the home’s second occupants. One of Tigard’s founding families —Hans and Hilma Gaarde—built the four-bedroom home in 1922 for their family, which included their son Richard and daughter Estelle.
The Sobergs still have the original hand-drafted blueprints for the bungalow outlined by Hans and his cousin, who worked together to built the home. The blueprints show several modern-day conveniences for the 1920s. The laundry chute and kitchen dumbwaiter eliminated the need to heave laundry or stored goods up and down stairs. The home offered running water, which was still considered a luxury for many at the time.
Yet, as the Sobergs can tell you, the Gaarde family made this house a home, which functioned as a place for family and friends.
“They were very much part of the community,” says Ron. “We got to know Estelle and hear how the house was the center of community life.”
The Gaarde children and their friends would use the top-floor landing as a mini dance hall with a gramophone pouring out music. Hilma often played the piano from her music room on the main floor for family or guests. Outside, everyone enjoyed the year-round blooms that framed the home in seasonal colors.
“Hilma was known to be an excellent gardener,” says Mary, who shares that the family would even grow and sell garlic at local farmer’s markets, which paid for the property taxes.
The Sobergs had always admired the historic Gaarde home and jumped on the opportunity to buy it.
“Growing up, I lived in a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It sparked my love for older homes,” says Ron, who has an architectural degree and worked as a flooring contractor for many years. “I’ve put floors into many new homes, but they haven’t had the time to develop character like this historic home.”
Explaining more about Craftsman bungalows like the Gaarde house, Ron describes it as the updated middle-class version of a Victorian home. “They are often one or two stories, and they were very common from 1905 on,” says Ron. “Think of it as a grandma-and-grandpa-type home from that era.”
The homes often feature handcrafted wooden sections nestled next to stucco, bricks, stone, and shingles. Like the Gaarde home, stout pillars and open porches help define Craftsman bungalows. Ron references the famous Greene brothers who helped lead the new wave of Craftsman design at the turn of the century.
This deep historical understanding and appreciation helped Ron and Mary rescue, restore, and maintain this historic gem. When they purchased the home in 1989, the area was growing and the home needed to move. To keep the home on its namesake street, the couple purchased property from a local church, built new foundations for the home and garage, and hired specialized contractors to relocate the home.
After relocating the buildings, Ron and Mary focused on renovations that preserved and honored (not altered) the home’s historic integrity. When the kitchen needed new flooring, they installed a bamboo that complemented the home’s original oak floors. The original doors, windows, and several original light fixtures are still in the home.
The Sobergs have even left the home’s worn qualities that demonstrate the evidence of family life. Dents are visible on the bulkhead over the stairs. Behind one interior door, a faint outline of the long-replaced telephone is visible on the lath-and-plaster walls.
“We did add a dishwasher,” says Mary with a smile. “Talking with Estelle later, she said her mom would have loved to have one.”
In the 60-plus years the Gaardes lived in the house, they left the basement unfinished. Ron and Mary finished the basement, adding some modern features, including a full bathroom with shower, laundry and sewing room, and an office.
Within the last year, the couple focused on protecting the home’s exterior. They worked with local business operator Mark Powers of Mark Powers Painting Inc. His crew meticulously prepared the original wood siding and carefully repainted every section. “Mark was very in tune with the requirements of an older home,” says Ron. “He has the feeling and understanding to help properly maintain it.”
To capture their desire to maintain the home, Mary references a poem by Joyce Kilmer, “The House With Nobody In It.” The poem reads:
“Now a new home standing empty … Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, … . But there’s nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.
But a house that has done what a house should do, a house that has sheltered life, That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife … Is the saddest sight, when it’s left alone … For I can’t help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.”
For Ron and Mary, maintaining the Gaarde house extends beyond a hobby, it is a desire to honor the home’s history and original family—its heart as a historic home.