TLC from THPRD helped restore Jenkins Estate’s rustic charm
A centennial celebration of Jenkins Estate will be held Sunday, Aug. 26, from noon to 4 p.m.
The free public event will include tours of the buildings and gardens, refreshments, welcoming remarks and a ceremonial tree planting made possible by a grant from the Oregon Roadside Council.
“Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins," portrayed by local history buffs James and Ginnette Neal, will entertain guests with conversation about their lives among the wealthy upper class in the early and mid-20th century.
The Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District is recognizing a historic milestone this month -- 100 years since Ralph and Belle Ainsworth Jenkins purchased, for $7,000, a 68-acre site on the northwest slope of Aloha’s Cooper Mountain.
The Jenkins Estate, owned and operated by THPRD the past 37 years, provides visitors a glimpse of the early 20th century genteel lifestyle.
“By restoring and maintaining the Estate and its buildings, THPRD has preserved a small piece of a bygone era,” said Lynda Myers, Jenkins Estate supervisor. “Visitors always mention the tranquility and beauty of the Estate. Walking the grounds, a person can feel miles away from civilization and the cares of everyday life.”
With manicured gardens and a collection of historic buildings -- including a seven-bedroom Main House the Jenkinses built to emulate a royal English hunting lodge -- Jenkins Estate today looks much the way it did when Belle Ainsworth Jenkins (the youngest daughter of steamboat magnate J.C. Ainsworth) hosted lavish galas on the property.
The restoration almost never happened
After the death of Belle Jenkins in 1963, the Estate was acquired by the Franklin Service Corporation. The company’s plans to build a subdivision were thwarted by an inability to get water and sewer services to the property.
In 1975, THPRD purchased the property for $525,000. Former THPRD General Manager Howard M. Terpenning is credited with “discovering” the property for the Park District a decade earlier, when visiting the Estate at the behest of a concerned local environmentalist who heard chain saws on the property.
With the purchase of Jenkins Estate came the difficult task of restoring deteriorating grounds and buildings, which had been mostly neglected since Mrs. Jenkins’ passing.
The Park District rallied naturalists, architects, volunteers and other advocates for the restoration and formed an advisory committee to oversee the process. A history of the district penned by founder Elsie Stuhr singles out upwards of 30 people and nearly a dozen clubs and societies that were instrumental in the effort -- herself included.
“Several times I took my pruning shears there and trimmed a bit as I walked around,” Stuhr wrote.
Jerry Burgess joined the Park District in 1979. Now THPRD’s capital project manager, he was a member of a maintenance crew that headed to Jenkins Estate every fall for years to complete renovation efforts.
Burgess fondly recalls days spent painting rooms, planting rhododendrons, and replacing rotting floor boards.
“It was fun for us to go there and feel what it must have been like to live there,” Burgess recalled. “It was really serene. There were times when we’d get up there and it was starting to snow, and the grass would be white. We’d sing Christmas carols.”
There was much discussion about the possible uses for the buildings, including conversion of the Stable into an art center. The site’s emergence as one of the Beaverton area’s premier wedding sites happened organically, Myers said. The Park District initially let people conduct weddings at the site for free.
The site has since enriched hundreds of wedding days. It also hosts numerous business meetings and other community events annually.
Burgess himself married at Jenkins Estate in 1987. His daughter continued the family tradition in 2009.
“I love that place and I always will,” he said. “I loved working there. I could walk everywhere there now and remember routing a sign or planting a rhododendron. I have a lot of happy memories there.”
# # #
The Jenkins Estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Self-guided tours are available year-round for patrons to enjoy the gardens, perennial borders, wildflower meadows and water features. The Estate is also the site of Camp Rivendale, a day camp providing recreational opportunities to at-risk youth and individuals with disabilities or behavioral challenges. For more information, visit our Jenkins Estate page or call 503/629-6355.