They had two hard choices: Either demolish the 1920s farmhouse with its laundry list of needs or keep it and build out the 1,200-square-foot golden-age charmer. For Ezra Ross and his wife, Kristen, the decision tugged between heart and head, and eventually, the outcome became a calculated combination of both.
The property, located just 2 miles east of downtown Bend, dates back to Alexander Drake, the City of Bend’s founder, who first owned the site in October 1905 as part of his Pilot Butte Development Company. Drake’s vision for the region formed platted streets and neighborhoods and brought the first irrigation canals in Central Oregon. By 1920, Bend’s population grew from just 500 to more than 5,400, and added water, eventually hydroelectricity, more people and businesses. Farmhouses like the Ezra's followed.
The farmhouse and its 60-acre mixed pasture and high desert land was later owned by Ezra’s grandfather, Clyde Purcell, for more than 45 years. He ran cattle and worked the heirloom garden until his grandson, Ezra Ross, bought the home and 20 acres in 2016. Since Ezra was a boy he knew he would one day buy some of the land and home for his family.
Ross grew up spending summers cleaning home construction sites with his father and grandfather, who owned Clyde Purcell General Contracting. He found ways to insert himself on the jobs, learning the art of building a stairwell or how to properly cut and stack a roof, or about lighting and furniture with his mother, Brenda Grigsby, who was an interior designer. Ezra continues the family legacy today as a custom home builder, craftsman and owner of Bend-based Ross Built Homes.
Probably the most difficult job would be renovating the home to be his own. The farmhouse project began in 2016 after historic levels of snow fell on Bend and will be completed by late 2018. Much of the heavy work is done.
Ezra first lifted the entire home to pour a new foundation and then added a vaulted kitchen ceiling using leftover wood from the house’s siding. He expanded the second level’s rooms to include a kid’s play area, built traditional double-hung farmhouse windows throughout the home and opened up a grand front porch with 12-foot-tall beams. Many of the farmhouse’s original doors, cedar siding, dormers and the main living area remain.
Giant, ancient cottonwoods line the quarter-mile gravel drive, and apple and pear trees branch out across the side yard. Old barns, fences, and outbuildings dot the land. On a regular day, you’ll find Kristen speeding across the place on her four-wheeler to change irrigation lines for the cattle leased to the land.
“I want people to come here and think that I didn’t touch a thing,” Ezra says. “It should feel and look almost the same as when it was built.”
It’s taken years of work, risk, and out-of-pocket expense to save this Bend farmhouse, and Ross and his contractors have worked on the property between his other home-building jobs. By winter, Kristen and their three kids will be enjoying the coveted coziness of country living near town.
“I’m never leaving,” Ezra chuckles. “I’ll be buried out back in a box by the trees.”