On Aug. 17, a fire took the house at 1324 E Main Street, and with it a slice of Cottage Grove history.
“It was a real pretty house,” said owner Carol Rogers. “And nobody likes to lose a house like that – that has some history to it.”
On the morning of the fire, South Lane County Fire and Rescue had four alarms in 10 minutes, two of which were medical emergencies and had to be addressed before attending to the Rogers’ fire.
“They did a great job, actually,” Rogers said.
In a short time, however, the old wood of the house provided a fast fuel for the flames and nearly the entire structure was consumed. Fortunately, no one was injured and the owners’ neighboring business, Rogers and Sons, was relatively unsinged.
The event ended the stately presence of the iconic house, which Rogers believes was initially built around 1910.
“I think most people liked it because it was an older house right on Main Street,” she said. “There’s not a lot of old houses on Main Street on this end.”
The loss of the house is part of a steady decrease in residences along E Main Street, a process which started in the 1970s when the city began rezoning land parcels along the corridor to commercial classifications. The Rogers’ parcel was rezoned only a few years ago and, like other residences which remained on strip, was grandfathered in.
City code allows nonconforming structures to remain as long as they are not destroyed more than 60 percent, otherwise any new construction must meet current zoning standards. As the Rogers’ house was almost completely destroyed by the fire, rebuilding their home was met with legal obstacles.
In Cottage Grove, residential housing is still allowed in commercial zones, however they must be behind or above a business.
“The first 25 feet of whatever structure is on the property has to be a commercial use and then you can have as much residential as you want,” said City Planner Amanda Ferguson. “Which in the end is what they decided to do.”
Currently, the Rogers plan to build a triplex near the back of the property and place a sideways-facing commercial structure up front. The designs were not drawn with any historical themes in mind.
Though she would have liked to have seen a reconstruction of her old house, insurance and zoning issues prevented this from happening.
“The city’s actually been great about doing this,” said Rogers. “They tried to figure out ways to do it. The way it was zoned, it just wasn’t going to work out.”
Ferguson said the city was interested in helping with restoration.
“We had a lot of conversations about how well a zone change could actually go there,” she said. “I would have loved to have seen them rebuild that house. I don’t think that was ever in the cards, though.”
One option included making a change to the city’s Comprehensive Plan map, rezoning the land to medium-density residential. This would have allowed for a reconstruction of the house, but also caused “spot zoning,” in which a single parcel would be surrounded by land of a completely different classification. Such practices are generally frowned upon by the State of Oregon and a special case would have had to have been argued.
“We probably could have gone down and raised a big fuss,” Rogers said. “We don’t really like doing that, though.”
Another option was to attach a newly constructed house to their existing commercial business next door with something as simple as a breezeway, though the Rogers have now considered selling that piece of land as it is a separate parcel.
“So we came up with a lot of options for them, and this is the one they chose,” Ferguson said.
Whether or not the current Rogers and Sons parcel will be sold is still up in the air.
“As of right now, it might be,” Rogers said. “We still don’t really know what we’re doing.”
Whatever the case, the project will see the land once home to the iconic house completely leveled to make way for its newer, modern chapter.