Newspaper article International New York Times

Putting Their Stamp on Portland

Newspaper article International New York Times

Putting Their Stamp on Portland

Article excerpt

A couple found an ideal new home in their renovated 1915 Craftsman-style cottage in Portland, Oregon.

Portland, Oregon

When Karen Gilliam and Sara Van Beckum began renovating their home in Portland, which once served as the local branch library, they weren't planning to live there full time. The couple, who are voice-over artists, were based in New York City and intended to split their time between New York and Oregon.

But after a few months of bicoastal living, they felt themselves pulled toward the West Coast. A superstitious person might say that a larger force intervened -- possibly even a supernatural one.

It may have begun when they met their neighbors, who describe themselves as "intuitive readers," or clairvoyants.

"They said the ghost of a librarian lives in our house," Ms. Gilliam recalled. "One told us: 'There she is under the archway now. She has a bun and gray hair, but she's really happy with what you did with the house."'

Of course, it didn't hurt that Ms. Gilliam, who is now 45 and grew up in a nearby suburb, had spent 23 years in New York and was ready to return. "New York was really fun in my 20s, because you're up for it," she said. "In my 30s, I started throwing money at problems to make life easier: taking cabs instead of carrying groceries for 20 blocks. But it's not sustainable."

It also helped that Ms. Van Beckum, a Milwaukee native who is 42, found the prospect of a freestanding house on a tree-lined street so appealing after years of living in an apartment. (So did their Chihuahua-miniature Pinscher mix, Biggie Smalls.)

It was Ms. Gilliam's father, Dennis Gilliam, who discovered the building, a 1915 Craftsman-style cottage that had also been used as an evangelical church. When she expressed interest in the house, he and her mother offered to give Ms. Gilliam her inheritance early so she could buy it.

The 1,500-square-foot structure was basically one large volume with no kitchen or bedrooms -- although there was a bathroom and a basement with a dirt floor. …

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