Birth of the Museum

The Origins of the House

 Early Newberg citizen Jesse Edwards built the house in 1881 in a style typical of rural American homes of the late nineteenth century. It has Italianate details in the trim under the eaves. Edwards sold the house to Laura and John Minthorn in 1885 when the Minthorns moved to Newberg so that   Dr. Minthorn could serve as the first superintendent of the Friends Pacific Academy. Typical of many deeds in Newberg at that time, the deed stipulated that if alcohol was found on the premises, the deed reverted to the grantor. Herbert Hoover lived in the home with the Minthorns from 1885 to 1888. In 1888, the Minthorns moved to Salem and sold the house. Hoover moved to Salem with them.

The Newberg house was altered in the early 1900s and may have been used as a rooming house. In 1947, one of Hoover’s boyhood friends, Burt Brown Barker, organized a foundation to restore the house and turn it into a museum in honor of Hoover.

Making of the Museum

The house was restored by the Herbert Hoover Foundation, a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the State of Oregon in 1947.

The original incorporators, officers, and directors of the foundation stayed in office and managed the business of the foundation, including the purchase of the house, the purchase of the adjoining house for the caretaker, and the restoration and re-furnishing of the museum. These officers and directors included: Burt Brown Barker, president; Irene Gerlinger, Vice-President; Hervey Hoskins, Secretary; F.C. Colcord, Treasurer; and Levi T. Pennington, Emmet Gulley, and Laura Paulson, directors.

The house was purchased and restored with funds given by friends of Herbert Hoover. 

The house’s reconstructed floor plan follows the footprint shown on Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from 1890, 1902, and 1905. The footprint changed by the 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance map. The new floor plan was also constructed based on floor plans remembered by Hoover and Bertha May and Lillian Nicholson, whose father, Milton Nicholson, purchased the home from Dr. Minthorn in 1887. Nicholson did not alter the house during the time of his occupancy. The two daughters made drawings of the way that they remembered the house. Restoration to return the house to its original state was planned and money was raised through the early 1950s. The Herbert Hoover Foundation also consulted with the carpenter, L.S. Skene, during reconstruction. Restoration of the house was completed in 1955. An 1892 house adjacent to the museum was purchased to house a caretaker, and a garage was built on this neighboring property.

The major alterations were relocating the stairway leading to the second floor, rebuilding the kitchen which had been destroyed, and building a small bathroom under the stairs. The woodshed was moved to its original location and reroofed. The back porch, well-house, picket fences, and walls were rebuilt. The original front porch had been incorporated into the house and was opened up to serve as a porch again. A glassed-in cupola that had been put atop the house was removed.

In 1981, the Colonial Dames took over ownership and operation of the museum. In a re-dedication ceremony on October 11, 1981, George H. Layman, secretary of the Herbert Hoover Foundation of Oregon, transferred the deed to the Colonial Dames and entrusted the group with the future care and upkeep of the museum. The foundation was continued as an adjunct organization in an advisory capacity and to expand the Hoover collection at George Fox University before it was dissolved on February 3, 1983.

The Friends of the Hoover-Minthorn House Museum continued to provide support to the Museum through 2015.

Herbert Hoover at the Museum

Hoover came to Newberg on August 10, 1955, his 81st birthday, to dedicate the house as a museum.

When Hoover dedicated the house as a museum, he sat in one of the original Minthorn family rocking chairs to look at the stereopticon and Pennington family Bible on the table. These items are still in the parlor near where they were when Hoover visited.

In 1956, the Oregon Medical Society commissioned prominent Portland artist and portraitist Sydney Bell to paint Dr. Minthorn’s portrait. It was dedicated on August 10, 1956, and hangs in the parlor over a settee that was originally the Pacific Friends Academy.

The Hoover and Minthorn families have generously contributed to the furnishings and collection in the Museum. Among the items are a fishing creel and a fly fishing rod that Hoover used to fish with as an adult. Since he frequently fished in Oregon, he may have used the creel and rod when fishing Oregon rivers. The creel and rod are in Hoover’s boyhood bedroom upstairs.

The Hoover-Minthorn House Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Great American Treasures. 

Herbert Hoover with his boyhood friend Burt Brown Barker by the pear tree. Photo by Les Ordeman, courtesy of The Oregonian