MAY 13, 2003
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 601 and H.R. 733, similar bills that would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to acquire the McLoughlin House National Historic Site in Oregon City, Oregon, for inclusion in the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in the state of Washington. H.R. 733 passed the House on April 8, 2003.
The Department supports both S. 601 and H.R. 733, if amended in accordance with this statement. We believe that the McLoughlin House National Historic Site, which is currently an affiliated area of the National Park System, would be an appropriate addition to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, but we think that the legislation should be clarified with respect to the name change that would need to be made to the McLoughlin House if it is acquired by the National Park Service.
The McLoughlin House is located in Oregon City, Oregon, southeast of Portland, along the dramatic Willamette River Falls. It was the home Dr. John McLoughlin built and lived in from 1847, after his retirement from the Hudson's Bay Company's operations at Fort Vancouver, until his death in 1857.
John McLoughlin is one of Oregon's most revered historical figures. Known as the "Father of Oregon," he played a major role in the transformation of Oregon Country from British-controlled fur-trapping territory to United States-controlled agricultural settlement lands in the early to mid 19th Century. Born in Quebec, McLoughlin moved west, became involved in the fur trade, and came to preside over the vast territory claimed by Hudson's Bay Company and its operations headquartered at Fort Vancouver, in what would become the state of Washington. McLoughlin served as Chief Factor of Fort Vancouver from 1825 until 1845, and under his leadership the fort became the center of political, cultural, and commercial activities in the Pacific Northwest. He was instrumental in maintaining peace between Great Britain, which claimed the territory, and the settlers who came to Oregon Country from the United States, and the Native American tribes in the region.
As the fur trade declined and American settlers began arriving to settle in Oregon Country in large numbers, McLoughlin turned his attention to providing aid and supplies to them. These migrants had reached the end of their arduous journeys along the Oregon Trail, and many were sick, starving and ill-equipped to begin a new life. He aided them despite the Hudson's Bay Company's policy of discouraging agricultural settlement in the region.
When McLoughlin retired from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1845, he bought land he had claimed for the company across the Columbia River, in Oregon City, which was beginning to emerge as a center of industry and commerce. He built an elegant home where he and his wife Marguerite continued to help new settlers in need. Because of McLoughlin's generosity, his house became known as the "house of many beds." After becoming a U.S. citizen in 1851, McLoughlin became Mayor of Oregon City and increased his acts of philanthropy throughout the region.
The McLoughlin House has retained its historic integrity as one of the earliest examples of its architectural style in the Pacific Northwest. It was moved from its original location elsewhere in Oregon City nearly a century ago because of industrial encroachment and now sits on land McLoughlin donated to Oregon City. The McLoughlin House National Historic Site, which also includes the home of Dr. Forbes Barclay, an associate of McLoughlin's, serves as a focal point for education and tourism in the Portland area and is used to teach students about the early European settlement of the Pacific Northwest. The site continues the story that begins at Fort Vancouver of the settling of Oregon Country facilitated by John McLoughlin.
The McLoughlin House was designated a national historic site in 1941 by the
Department of the Interior, making it the first such site in the western United
States. That same year, the Department entered into a cooperative agreement
with the McLoughlin Memorial Association, which had owned and managed the site
since 1909, for operation of the home. In 1966, the responsibility for providing
assistance to the site was delegated to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
The house and grounds maintenance, as well as curatorial assistance, at the
McLouglin House is currently provided by staff at Fort Vancouver.
Although we are unaware of any formal action that designated the McLoughlin House an affiliated area of the National Park System, the National Park Service has considered this site one of its affiliated areas for many years because of the 1941 designation and cooperative agreement. Affiliated areas are significant properties that are neither federally owned nor directly administered by the National Park Service but which receive technical or financial aid from the National Park Service. Some have been designated as affiliated areas by Congress; others, like the McLoughlin House, have been designated national historic sites by the Secretary of the Interior under the authority of the Historic Sites Act of 1935.
As part of the General Management Plan revision for Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, the National Park Service studied the possibility of adding the McLoughlin House National Historic Site to Fort Vancouver and found that because of the strong thematic connection to the fort and the feasibility of managing this unit, it would be an appropriate addition. There is broad support for this action. The proposal to add the McLoughlin House to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was generated during public scoping meetings on the General Management Plan held in Oregon City. Support is also evident from the comments the National Park Service received earlier this year during the public comment period on the Draft General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. We expect to finalize the revised General Management Plan by the end of this year.
If S. 601 or H.R. 733 is enacted and funds are made available for acquisition of the McLoughlin House, the National Park Service would acquire the site and the contents of the McLoughlin House and Barclay House. The estimated acquisition cost of the historic site real property is $445,000. The furnishings and artifacts from the two houses, estimated to be worth more than $200,000, would be donated to the National Park Service by the McLoughlin Historical Association. Oregon City, which owns the land used for the McLoughlin House site, would donate a permanent easement to the National Park Service in order to provide the Service with the access needed for the management, protection, and public use of the site. A proposal for this donation, incidentally, was approved through a 2001 referendum supported by more than 80 percent of the Oregon City voters. We estimate that operation and maintenance of the site would add $285,000 to Fort Vancouver's approximately $1 million annual operation and maintenance costs, an increase of about 28 percent.
The McLoughlin Memorial Association would continue to play an important role at the McLoughlin House site. The Association plans to use most of the proceeds from the sale of the house, not including a small portion needed to pay off debt, to establish an endowment fund to assist in the long-term preservation of the site and development of educational programs throughout the Portland/Vancouver region. The Association also plans to pursue private-sector support for educational programming, site preservation, and other activities to support the site.
While we support the intent of both bills, we recommend amending the legislation to ensure that once the McLoughlin House National Historic Site is added to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, the McLoughlin House no longer has "national historic site" in its title. We are concerned that without a clarification in the language, we would be creating a national historic site within a national historic site. Along with the clarifying language, we would like the legislation to reference a revised map for the McLoughlin House. We would be pleased to work with the committee to amend the bill's language.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my testimony. I would be glad to answer any questions
that you may have.