Wisdom House, Baker City and Eastern Oregon
Eastern Oregon Photographer's perspective:
Driving on I-84 from LaGrande to Baker, the sky was glorious.
My first memory of Baker City I was four and upstairs in my great-grandfather's house. My mom was putting on a fancy coat, and a gorgeous cream colored antique settee was beside me. It was dark and we were getting ready to take the early morning train to Portland. Life was very different in the late 50's. Formal, simple, peaceful.
It was one of hundreds of memories for me, as we came to my mom's grandfathers' home (The Wisdom House, circa 1878) to visit her unmarried Aunts (Loy and Mabel) at least 2-3 times a year. The only other close relatives they had was a nephew who lived in Gary Indiana, and they rarely could make the long trip.
We occasionally had Christmas there and always skied at Anthony Lakes at least every other year.
I loved Anthony Lakes because even though it only had 1 chair lift, it was never crowded, had great snow and the friendliest people. It was "off the grid" so to speak. If you look a the map of Oregon, at about 2 o'clock you will see North Powder & Haines,
just west of that is the tiny road up to the ski area. I had last stayed in the home in 1979 when Great Aunt Loy was in a nursing home and not looking so well. Her mind was still sharp, but her body was failing her.
After she died, my mom distributed the antiques among us and sold the home. I never went back until my mom died. In 2004, my 3 brothers and I along with my 2 kids (Sherri couldn't make the long 7 hour drive-it was too much for her), my sister-in-law and niece and nephew all went back to put her ashes in the Wisdom family plot. We visited the family homestead, but no-one was home and it was falling apart and in desperate need of not just paint, but some structural help as well. It was quite a sad ending to my memories.
About a month after Sherri (my wife of 35 years), suddenly passed away in June, my brother got an email wanting to know if he was related to John Wisdom of Baker. When he said he was, the person told us they needed a relatives permission to reprint one of Loy's books and told him that the house is now fixed up and is a vacation rental. When we contacted the new owner, she was overjoyed and invited us to come and stay in our old house.
Knowing I couldn't emotionally have Christmas here, we jumped at this gift from God and made plans to spend 5 nights from Dec 21-26 at the Wisdom House. It was marvelous. Veronica had fixed everything up so nicely, plus decorated it for Christmas-so it was a very special time to have all my family with me during this difficult transition at a place that held many fond memories from my past.
Not much had changed-except for the furnishings of course. The bedroom Jeff (my younger brother) and I stayed in upstairs was now a bathroom (which makes sense),
the old sink upstairs was removed, the sleeping porch was reconverted to an open balcony, and the wall separating the kitchen from the then dining room, was removed with the new dining room now in the old living room.
A reporter from the Baker City Herald even interviewed us for an article they published just after Christmas.
One thing Baker City (always a population of 10,000 it seems), has over places in western Oregon is its historic buildings. It seems like photographers who like taking pictures of old buildings in Eugene have a hard time, because we've destroyed our old courthouses, city halls, schools, grand halls, businesses and many historic homes. It seems like our appreciation for historic properties are in our minds' eye, but not in reality of what we are actually doing. I saw more grand historic buildings in Baker city than what Lane and Linn counties can offer. Here is Baker's City Hall:
On our way home, we HAD to stop at Burgerville in the Dalles and Multnomah Falls. But Brrrrr.
Here is a short video I made with some of my other favorite images:
Eastern Oregon Photographer's perspective