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It all started 15 years ago when the Stevenses acquired a shell of a house on the Island City strip and had it transported to their four acres off Buchanan Lane. That’s when their labor of love began — and labor it was.
For years Scott collected old red bricks from demolition projects around the La Grande area. He can remember the exact number and location of each scavenged group of bricks and recounts every tale with the relish of a treasure hunter.
An electrician by trade, Scott started his stash from discarded bricks of homes he worked on. Each day brought news of potential caches. The Boise Cascade smoke stack, the old middle school, the former Observer building, a Boy Scout project and a deposit down by the riverside all became part of the house that “Jack” built (more about him later).
Features unique to the brick’s point of origin can be observed as one circles the home.
“That brick is from the Boise Cascade smoke stack. See the char marks?” Scott points out. Used brick is more expensive than new because of the character of the wear — a fact that makes Scott’s collection more valuable to him and Debra as time passes and the effort it took to retrieve them seem so worthwhile.
Faithfully Scott brought home newly discovered bricks in his work van. He would scour and clean them until his hands bled then place them on pallets, brick by brick. All the while, he and Debra still lived in their mobile home by the freeway.
Scott recalls Debra’s weariness one winter and desire to move into their newly situated abode. Intuitively, he decided to move everything they owned from the trailer into their “new” home while Debra was out of town for a few days. It was Christmas Eve and there was no plumbing, heat or electricity. He tenderly strung a temporary light over the Porta-Potty in the garage and counted the minutes until her return. Debra’s response energized him for the tedious tasks that lay ahead.
Scott spent a few years in construction in Arizona and had seen resorts rise out of nothing. He visualized their finished home whenever he looked out the window at the dusty, bare landscape and endless stacks of pallets. Debra on the other hand was not so optimistic and struggled with despair.
Each year brought progress as Scott did the best he could to bolster Debra’s spirits by surprising her with some project completion each time she was away.
Finally after 10 years the brick count reached 30,000. Slowly the dream would become reality with the help of a master brick mason, Jack Lewis of Joseph. They gave him artistic license and he set about building the beauty that is their home. Scott did a lot of the prep work per Jack’s direction and saved money by doing the clean-up each day.
The savings from the “free” bricks allowed Scott and Debra Stevens to hire KT Landscaping of La Grande to build a wrap-around paver block patio that envelopes the home and complements the old red bricks. - Photos/TONI BURTON
Every day for six summers Jack would make the 89-mile trek from Joseph to Island City to apply his craft. Masonry patterns such as corbel, saw tooth, soldier’s course and herringbone became familiar terms as the masterpiece took shape.
The savings from the “free” bricks allowed Scott and Debra to hire KT Landscaping of La Grande to build a wrap-around paver block patio that envelopes the home and complements the old red brick perfectly. There are as many square feet outside as inside the home affording the luxury of seasonal extended living.
Scott built planters and terraces around the house and winding pathways through the backyard. Debra filled them with end-of-the-season, discounted and nearly dead plants, shrubs and perennials, the nurturing of which refreshed her soul. It allowed her to reflect on her joy rather than the aches and pains and mental suffering that had become constant companions.
Today their property is in what they jokingly refer to as its 15th phase (one for each year). Nearly all the grounds are lavishly landscaped and copious blooms cascade from the planters. Debra says that their place is a testimony of what can be accomplished with a dream, resourcefulness, a lot of patience and … the love of a devoted man.