A home with history

Tonya Graham walks quickly through the rounded doorway of her newly finished home telling people as she walks by that the barbeque is ready for food.

Today is the day this family celebrates moving into their first house as a family, and for the children their first house in America they can call their own.

For the past two years, Graham and her four Haitian children have been painting, landscaping and refinishing this historical house they moved from Medford to Ashland. Their goal: To make it look like home.

"I really like the idea of moving a house and using recycled materials, and I love the history of it," Graham said. "We were able to hold on to a piece of Rogue Valley history and to live in a place that is unique and interesting."

Graham didn't know the extensive history of the house she had bought as is through an ad in the paper. With the help of a flatbed trailer, Graham hauled the house from its spot near the Medford Airport to her lot on Mae Street in Ashland and had not been able to find anything out about the house before meeting Earl Warren.

Warren is an 84-year-old Medford resident and a longtime worker at the Medford Airport. He and his family have lived in this same historical house beginning in 1948, paying only $45 for rent each month.

"It was just a stroke of good fortune that we had the opportunity to live in that home," Warren said. "I remember riding by it on my bike when I was a boy and it was brand-new. It's just a magnificent home."

According to Warren, the house was built in the early 1930s by a man from Minnesota who wanted a sturdy Spanish-style home like he grew up with in the Midwest. When no one in the area wanted to build a house like what he had in mind, the Minnesota man called his brother, a construction worker back in Minnesota, and had the house built there and sent out to Oregon in large pieces.

The two-story house was built over a full basement, making a three-story structure with stucco interior, archways for the doors and a fireplace. It also had toilets both upstairs and downstairs.

"That was luxury back then," Warren said. "It was a wonderful place to live; the kids absolutely loved it."

Through the years it served various purposes, from an officers club in World War II to airport employee housing after the war, but eventually stood empty. In 2005 the land around the airport was being cleared for new hotels and services so the house was put up for sale.

Graham bought the house to prepare for the arrival of her adopted children from Haiti in 2005.

"I knew I needed to get ready and get a house for them," Graham said. "It's the first house we have owned as a family."

As friends and family gather with the Graham's to celebrate this moment in their life, Sophonie, 11, comes up and envelopes her mother in a hug.

"I painted the ceiling like the sky," she said. "It's pretty cool."

With the swooping roof and arched doorways, the house looks like a cottage from Hansel and Gretel or Rumpelstiltskin settled neatly on Mae Street. A passer-by would have a hard time telling that the house wasn't built there.

"They just did a remarkable job moving that house all the way out to Ashland without disturbing the architecture," Warren said. "I was afraid the city was going to tear it down. But they never did and I am glad to see it never went to waste."

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