Last week, filmmakers used a variety of sites in Astoria for the creation of a movie, "The Ring II."
One of the featured buildings is a house on the southwest corner of 10th Street and Jerome Avenue. The structure was used as the home of the film's main character.
The building, which locals and visitors refer to as "The Ring II" house, has a history which goes back long before Hollywood discovered Astoria. The first resident of the house was Irving Jeffers whose family ties stretch back to the beginnings of Clatsop county.
In 1915, Irving and Robina Jeffers purchased a spec house at 1015 10th St. from Francis Harley - a full-time con man and part-time mayor of Astoria. Harley built for the common man using pre-designed house plans adapted for Astoria's hillside by local architect Andrew D. Gendron. The Jeffers' house was one of the first houses constructed in this venture.
Irving Jeffers was the grandson of Joseph J. Jeffers. Joseph was a plasterer. Born in Washington D.C., Joseph traveled to many communities as a tradesman before settling for several years in Iowa. He, his wife Sarah and their children crossed the Great Plains in 1847 with Capt. Joseph Meeker. Residing first in Oregon City, they moved to Astoria in 1850 and took a donation land claim on the Lewis and Clark River.
Instead of becoming a farmer, Joseph continued his trade as a master plasterer, working on buildings in both Astoria and Portland. He was most commonly known as "Judge Jeffers," filling prominent roles in social and political affairs throughout the area. Joseph was twice elected to the Oregon Legislature on the Democratic ticket.
Joseph's son, Elijah, assumed care of the family farm. Beginning in 1859, Elijah cultivated one of the best dairy and stock-raising farms in this section of the county. In 1871, Elijah married Jane Hess - an Iowa native who arrived in 1866 after traversing the Isthmus of Panama with her father Jacob Hess. Elijah and Jane had seven children, two of which were boys. Their sons Irving and John planned a development which still bears the family name.
In 1918, Irving Jeffers, of the Oregon Baking Co., and John Jeffers, of the Sunflower Dairy announced a newly platted addition to Astoria. Located on a portion of their family homestead, Jeffers Gardens, or "Little Gardens of Eden" as it was called in promotional ads, was available for home building, industry or investment. A. E. Bennett Co., real estate agents, tantalized potential clients with bargain basement prices. It claimed an entire acre of the "finest bottom land in the world" was no more expensive than one residential lot in Astoria.
Fresh developments near the Jeffers Gardens area broadened its appeal. A paved highway and the new Youngs Bay bridge meant the gardens were a short, 10 minute drive from the city proper. The paving of a highway from Miles Crossing to Netel Grange made future development possibilities seem endless.
In 1919, J.A. Guilliam constructed the first house in Jeffers Gardens; within a year, 14 families had constructed homes. Among them was local tailor Kristian Wuori, who purchased three acres and had two cows, chickens and a garden. Harold Helligso, a bricklayer, also built a house, grew oats five feet high and cultivated peas, beans, cabbage and cucumbers. The most successful gardener was Charles Ehlandt, a truck farmer. Charles purchased one-and-one-half acres from which he produced 100 sacks of peas, more than 24 dozen carrots, 100 sacks of potatoes plus staple truck crops. Within a matter of months, he netted $1,500 - which was more than he paid to purchase the land.
In the meantime, Irving Jeffers managed his bakery, then incorporated Oregon Dixie Baking Co., in 1923 with Charles E. Foster and Robert "Dixie" Moore. Details of Irving's personal life are vague. His son Fred lived in Kalama, Wash., while his daughter Helen moved to Seattle. Irving's wife, Robina, was not listed as a survivor in his 1929 obituary. Her demise is not listed in the Oregon Death Index, so it is assumed she died elsewhere, perhaps at the home of one of her children or divorced and remarried before his death.
The Jeffers house was briefly occupied by Edison and Lillian Downing. Edison incorporated Downing Bakeries with Jesse Bennett and Gilbert Edelman. Around 1930, the Jeffers house was purchased by Capt. Andrew and Gertrude Langkilde. Capt. Langkilde was a bar pilot, his wife Gertrude was president of the Daughters of the Nile.
Setting sailIn 1940, Capt. Langkilde constructed a 58-foot schooner, Manitou, and launched it from Lindstrom Boat Shop in Alderbrook. Several months later, the Astoria Evening Budget reported he stopped by Astoria while voyaging between British Columbia and the South Seas. About that time, the Langkildes sold the house to Arthur and Freda Bell. Arthur was a dispatcher, then assistant operating manager, for Knappton Towboat Co. The Bells maintained the house through 1946.
Understanding the history of this house is useful. Through all the glimmer and gloss of a major motion picture, the Jeffers residence, like all of Astoria, retains an authenticity of which many communities can only dream - grounded in big ideas of common people. And that is something for which we can all be proud.
John E. Goodenberger is a historic building consultant who lives in Astoria.