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Main Street working on ‘historic’ grant

Victor Johnson has a vision for the old Herbring House on Fourth Street that includes residential units and a café.

Photo by Jesse Burkhardt
Victor Johnson has a vision for the old Herbring House on Fourth Street that includes residential units and a café.


History is alive at the historic Herbring House, shown here in the late 1890s. The house was built in 1864, during the Civil War.

The Dalles Main Street will soon learn whether a grant the organization applied for in mid-March will bring funds to help in the “preservation and adaptive reuse” of the historic Herbring House at 313 W. Fourth Street in The Dalles.

Victor Johnson, a native of The Dalles, said he purchased the Herbring House property in October 2015, and has a vision for how it can be repurposed. He is working to convert the old house into a mixed-use building with three residential units and a commercial area with a café and ice cream shop — while at the same time maintaining the house’s historic character.

The combination of uses is one reason why Johnson believes the grant will be awarded for the project.

“Our application covers a lot of bases,” Johnson explained. “It’s historic preservation; it’s also housing, which is desperately needed in The Dalles; and it’s job creation. This is going to be my gift to The Dalles.”

According to Johnson, they asked for close to the maximum grant amount of $100,000 to renovate the structure and help to realize his dream.

“That would be enough to do the façade work and basically take care of any structural issues and interior rehab, except for the downstairs,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he has three goals for the project: Restore the building and grounds to serve for the next 150 years; redevelop the property for modern uses; and establish the space as the heart of The Dalles for community, connection and culture.

If the grant comes through, Johnson believes most of the work could be completed by June 1, 2018.

Jeremiah Paulsen, executive director of The Dalles Main Street, said the application was for an Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant, and he is confident the project will win funding.

“At the beginning of May, hopefully, we’ll have an official answer,” said Paulsen. “Absolutely, I’m looking forward to the news we won some funds.”

Johnson pointed out that the house was built in 1864, while the Civil War was raging across the nation.

“Abraham Lincoln was president when this house was built,” Johnson said. “That’s pretty amazing history.”

Johnson said he has selected what he termed a “placeholder” name for the coffee shop for permitting purposes.

“The Dalles Coffee Company is our placeholder name,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t believe no one had taken that name.”

The grant program Johnson and Paulsen applied for is open only to communities that participate in the Oregon Main Street Network, of which The Dalles is a member. The grants, which are administered through the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, can be used to acquire, rehabilitate, and construct buildings on properties designated in downtown areas that will serve business district revitalization efforts.

“This is the first year this grant has been available to Oregon Main Street organizations,” said Paulsen. “There is a reserve of nearly $2.5 million to be awarded, with a cap on $100,000 for each project selected. A program requirement states that 50 percent of the funds must be awarded to rural areas.”

While the grant is essential to help jumpstart the project, Johnson said he has already been doing a lot of work on the house and even if the grant falls through, he’ll keep it going.

“We’d start right away, but actually we haven’t ever stopped,” Johnson said. “We work to make it better every day. My main job is to make every dollar stretch to two or three.”

Johnson said he is proud his project has been nominated for the grant.

“I’m also grateful for incredible community support and appreciate the willingness of local agencies and departments to help this vision become a reality,” Johnson said. “It feels like a time of change for The Dalles, and it’s vital to preserve our historic property and breathe new life into the downtown.”


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