The E. B. Fellows House is one of many residences built throughout western Oregon in the mid-nineteenth century that were inspired by the cottages Andrew Jackson Downing published in his two major architectural books, Cottage Residences (1842) and The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Built in 1867, the Fellows House is located in Canemah, one of the two early settlements near the Willamette Falls: to the northeast was Oregon City, platted on the basalt ledges below the falls, while the community of Canemah was immediately above the falls virtually touching the larger Oregon City (and today absorbed into it). Canemah was built on the site of a native Kalapooya village called kanim, meaning “boat or canoe place,” and in the nineteenth century it became home to numerous engineers, steamboat builders, and captains. Their residences, built close to the riverbanks, were subject to disastrous floods; none survive today. Those, like E.B. Fellows, who built their houses further back on higher ground along what would later become McLoughlin Boulevard, remain as a vestige of that era.
Fellows was an engineer and steamboat owner and operator, and around 1867 his shipping success allowed him to build one of the largest examples of a Downingesque Gothic Revival residence in Oregon City. It is the only example of such a house in Canemah, though another nearby house for steamboat captain John Cochrane was embellished with scroll-sawn curvilinear barge boards. The Fellows House, in contrast, is closer to the published Downing models, with a tall gable roof punctuated by a centered steep cross gable with a tall pointed arch or lancet French door that opens to the roof of the entrance porch. Few of the mid-century Oregon Gothic Revival houses had elaborate carved or scroll-cut barge boards running up the edges of their tall, narrow cross gables, and they are absent here as well. Another significant deviation from Downing’s prototype was the wood frame construction with horizontal lap siding instead of masonry walls or wood construction with vertical board-and-batten siding.
The exterior of the Fellows House survives nearly intact although the interior was adapted in the later twentieth century to serve as a bed and breakfast. Today, the building is used for commercial purposes on its main and second levels and is part of the Canemah Historic District.
City of Oregon City, Oregon. Dutch Camp: McLoughlin Historic District Neighborhood Walking Tour. Oregon City, 1982.
Roth, Leland M., et al. Building at the End of the Oregon Trail. Tour Guide, Eighteenth Annual Meeting of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, Portland, Oregon, June 11-14, 1997.