Make the McKenzie Connection!

NewsArk - March 23

News from 1999

From the May 19, 1999 edition of McKenzie River Reflections

Start of a mini building boom?

Victorian village grows by the roadside

WALTERVILLE: A world of fantasy is taking shape. In it is a gray Dutch Colonial. On either side stands a white farmhouse and a yellow Salt Box. They’re all the handiwork of Murl Ming, a Grants Pass carpenter who’s bringing grins to the faces of everyone who stops to look at these small-scale versions of the real thing.

The closer you look, the more you see. All the windows use beveled glass. Some wear “teardrop” siding. From the side, the roof of the Salt Box is slightly concave, the result of applying Murl’s “Skillsaw art” to its rafters.

The little houses are built on a scale of 4 inches to the foot, which allows adults to gain access to their interiors. Often there’s a loft inside that owners like to use as a quiet getaway.

The cost of a house can range from $2,500 to $7,000 depending on how elaborate the project. Murl says he’s built log houses, forts, granny houses, and a copy of “John Boy” Walton’s home. His plans for the future include making a version of the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” and a complete western town.

“It’s great, like being a kid again and getting paid for it,” Murl says. “Everybody’s happy. I can’t say that with big houses I never had an unhappy customer.”

Murl spent 30 years as a carpenter. Two years ago he got the idea of building a miniature from the scraps of an old house he’d torn down. Putting a sign on it for $1,200 generated over 50 phone inquiries. Immediately, he recalls, it snowballed. Since then he’s sold 48.

These aren’t just dollhouses. Generally, it takes two men two weeks to build a house. They’re priced around $25 per square foot, about 1/4 the cost of a full-size home. Some customers like to buy a finished interior, which can add another $2,000 to the final price. Others prefer to do those projects on their own, adding sheetrock walls, electricity, and even plumbing.

There aren’t any nail guns in Murl’s M&K Construction shop. Nor are there any construction blueprints. Each house is different, coming together in the builder’s mind. Murl says he often drives around the older parts of town, looking at house designs and searching for ones that appeal to him. Sometimes he’ll take a photo to nail on the wall and reference when he builds his own version.

When they’re done he puts them on display. Model houses next to I-5 at Rice Hill have generated most of his sales. He’s also had them at Gray’s Garden Center in Springfield, where Ann Robson found her lighthouse. He hopes putting them at the McKenzie Tea Trader will generate interest from visitors to the scenic McKenzie Valley.

Oftentimes, he notes, busy travelers will call him as they pass by the model homes. “They’re busy, driving to meetings or on trips, see a house and have to have one. They’ll call and leave a message telling me to get back to them in a week, or a month - whenever they plan to be back.”

Perhaps one of his best compliments came from a couple who’d stumbled across them one night. Homeless, they took shelter inside, leaving him a note. “Thank you for the wonderful buildings,” they wrote. “We’d love to have one but we have no money and have puppies we have to take care of.”

Boaters facing long wait for new landing

Commissioners voted 3-1 for general funding

EUGENE: Boaters may be using Ike’s Landing on Leaburg Lake for another year. Last Wednesday the Lane County Board of Commissioners voted to back away from a Park’s Division recommendation for a replacement site. Instead, they chose to ask the state Marine Board for grant dollars to build a new ramp “somewhere” in the mid-River area.

During a short public comment period the board heard from nearby residents who said they’d rather see a ramp constructed across from the Old McKenzie Fish Hatchery. River users were also on hand to tell the board they supported the park's plan to build a ramp west of the Goodpasture covered bridge.

Voting for asking the state for site non-specific funding were commissioners Peter Sorenson, Bill Dwyer and Bobby Green. Opposed was Anna Morrison. East Lane County Commissioner Cindy Weeldreyer was not at the session but provided a memo detailing her support for the Parks proposal.

In her dissent, Morrison said the Marine Board will be receiving more detailed requests from all around Oregon. The approach taken “would be a waste of time,” she said. “We won’t get any money.”

Sorenson felt an opportunity was being presented to “keep the process moving” by continuing county staff’s contacts with the community. In making the motion for generalized funding, he also stipulated that a recently created task force for site selection be kept in place.

Green said if nothing else, the action allowed the county to “get a shoe in the process.” He wasn’t, however, in favor of putting off a decision forever. “If we can’t get community consensus I would ask the staff to walk away from it. We need to talk about the merits and get the emotions out of it.” Green advised that as a choice for a new ramp is being discussed people need to “think about the needs of all of Lane County. I didn’t hear anybody here say a boat landing wasn’t needed.”

On Friday, ODOT officials indicated they have been discussing how to keep the old landing at Ike’s open a little longer. Issuance of a one-year-only permit depends on whether an adjacent property owner will allow parking on their property.

 

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