Birth of the Museum

Minthorn House in 1947
Minthorn House in 1947

The Hoover-Minthorn House Museum was the Newberg home of Dr. Henry John Minthorn. Its primary significance is as the boyhood home of Herbert Hoover, 31st president of the United States, where Hoover lived with his uncle and the Minthorn family after he had been orphaned. The house was built in 1881 by Jesse Edwards who sold it to the Minthorns in 1885. Edwards is also significant to the history of Newberg as Edwards laid out streets at its east end and encouraged Quakers to settle in Newberg.

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

Dedication of the Museum on Herbert Hoover's 81st Birthday, August 10, 1955. Photo by Les Ordeman, courtesy of The Oregonian
Dedication of the Museum on Herbert Hoover’s 81st Birthday, August 10, 1955. Photo by Les Ordeman, courtesy of The Oregonian

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 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. Restoration to return the house to its original state was planned and money was raised through the early 1950s. 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 Hoover-Minthorn House Museum at the 1955 Dedication
The Hoover-Minthorn House Museum in 1955, after restoration.

The restoration followed 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. They also consulted with the carpenter, L.S. Skene, during reconstruction.

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 walks 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.

The late Senator Mark Hatfield, Herbert Hoover, and Oregon Governor Elmo Smith. Photo by Les Ordeman, courtesy of The Oregonian
The late Senator Mark Hatfield, Herbert Hoover, and Oregon Governor Elmo Smith. Photo by Les Ordeman, courtesy of The Oregonian

Original wallpaper was found under many over layers which has been given to the George Fox University archives. The original pattern was used to identify similar modern papers which were selected for the restoration. The potbellied stove in the master bedroom is found on the premises and is thought to date to the Minthorns’ occupancy. The kitchen queen, in the kitchen, is another piece of furniture found on the property.

The original furniture in Hoover’s bedroom was given by the Oregon Historical Society. The master bedroom furniture, similar in style to the pieces in Hoover’s bedroom, and the pie closet in the dining room were purchased from the Collinson home in West Woodburn, near Newberg. This furniture was appropriate to the Museum time frame because the Collinson home was also built in 1881. The stove in the dining room and the cook stove in the kitchen date from the 1880s. The dining room table belonged to Joel Palmer who first came to Oregon in about 1845 and later lived in Dayton, Oregon. Funds for the original restoration of the house were provided by various Oregon historical groups. Among them, The Oregon Society, Daughters of the American Revolution provided funding for the parlor, and The Oregon Society, Sons of the American Revolution funded the dining room.

Visitors to the Hoover-Minthorn House Museum on opening day, August 10, 1955. Photo by Les Ordeman, courtesy of The Oregonian
Visitors to the Hoover-Minthorn House Museum on opening day, August 10, 1955. Photo by Les Ordeman, courtesy of The Oregonian

The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Oregon provided funding for the garden from the time that the Museum opened. Elizabeth Lord of Salem, Oregon whose mother, Juliet Montague Lord, was a founding member of the Oregon Colonial Dames, designed a plan for the garden. She was assisted by her friend and partner, Edith Schryver.

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.

Burt Brown Barker (1873-1969)

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

Burt Brown Barker met Herbert Hoover when both were boys in Salem. Both attended Miss Jennie Gray’s Sunday school class at the Presbyterian Church. Barker studied at Willamette University and enrolled at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1897. He taught briefly at McMinnville (now Linfield) College and returned to school. In 1901, he graduated from Harvard University with a law degree. At the age of 55, Barker retired from law, returned to Oregon, and embarked on a life of public service. He was Vice-President of public relations for the University of Oregon and Emeritus Vice-President when he died. He served as a director of the First National Bank of Oregon for over 30 years. He was president of the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Guild and a trustee of the Catlin School, and served in leadership roles for many other organizations.

Barker’s particular contributions were in the area of history. He wrote numerous volumes on the role of Dr. John McLoughlin in the development of the Oregon country.

He twice served as the president of the Oregon Historical Society. His special interest in preserving historic sites led him to play a leadership role in restoring and preserving the McLoughlin House in Oregon City, the Fort Clatsop National Monument, the Statuary Hall Project, the Salem Parsonage, and the Ox Barn Museum at Aurora, Oregon. In addition, he was active in the Lewis and Clark Sesqui-Centennial, the Territorial Centennial, and the Oregon Centennial.

The restoration of the Hoover-Minthorn House Museum was a labor of love and at the top of Barker’s historical interests. He personally oversaw all aspects of transforming this house into a museum. He also planned and participated in the dedication of the museum on Hoover’s 81st birthday, August 10, 1955.

The schedule of speakers is listed in the dedication program and copied below

Dedication of the Hoover-Minthorn House Museum
August 10, 1955

Dr. Burt Bown Barker, President, Herbert Hoover Foundation, presiding
Invocation Dr. Levi T. Pennington
Music Star Spangled Banner
Miss Priscilla Doble
Welcome Hon. George Layman,
Mayor of Newberg
Greetings Hon. Elmo Smith,
Acting Governor, State of Oregon
Dedication of Herbert Hoover Park Scott Leavitt,
Newberg City Park Commissioner
Dedication of Herbert Hoover Boulevard M.K. McIver,
Oregon State Highway Commissioner
Music, God Bless America Mr. Richard Zeller
Introduction of the Honorable Herbert Hoover Hon. Douglas McKay,
Secretary of Interior
Address The Honorable Herbert Hoover
Dedication of the Herbert Hoover Home Dr. Burt Brown Barker
Benediction Milo Ross, President, George Fox College
Opening of the Herbert Hoover Home and Inspection by the Public

Herbert Hoover Quotes During the 1955 Dedication

“When I arrived on the Oregon scene she [his aunt] was busy with my girl cousins: making, the winter store of pears butter, from pears which grew prolifically in this yard. I had never eaten a pear before as my family circumstances in the Midwest did not permit that exotic luxury. She showed me how to stir the kettle and indicated that I had to keep going without any stops. But at the same time she said, ‘Thee can eat all the pears thee likes.’ I liked the idea, and I liked it too much. And then, she tucked a sick, small boy into bed. I ceased to eat pears — for a while.”

* * * *

“This is a time and place of stimulated affections and recollections. In this cottage and orchard, with its cherries, its apples and its pears, I spent formative years of my boyhood. Here I roamed the primitive forests with their carpets of flowers, their ferns, their never forgettable fragrance. Here were no legal limits on the fish you could catch. No warden demanded to see your license. From those impressions on Oregon boys comes always the call to return to her again and again, I have omitted any reference to my boyhood contacts with poison oak — that is not part of the call.”

* * * *

“My activities hereabouts did not make any great transformation of human society. But something else does warrant the restoration of this cottage. That is expressed in the plaque you have put upon it. ‘This house was the Home of Dr. Henry John Minthorn, a beloved physician in this Community.’ I am honored to be mentioned on the plaque. What you have done here is to pay tribute to all the pioneering country doctors of our Nation. There are thousands of cottages in this land which should be marked with plaques recalling their devotion.”

* * * *

“Here alone are the open windows through which pour the sunlight of the human spirit. Here alone, even with all its defects, is human dignity not a dream but an accomplishment. These ideals of freedom and religious faith guarantee there will be no decline and fall of American civilization.”

Herbert Hoover, August 10, 1955