The Andrew Franklin & Ruth Lillian Lowes House
710 North Molalla Avenue
1949 - 1954
By Gail J. McCormick
The Andrew Franklin & Ruth Lillian Lowes House is located at 710 North Molalla Avenue in Molalla, Oregon. Built in 1949, this house is the newest building on our list of historical buildings. Since it is over fifty years old and an exceptional example of a particular architectural style it should qualify as a historic landmark. Oregon City architect Daniel Riggs Huntington designed the house in the popular American Ranch style. The 11,000 square foot home sits on 1.8 acres, seven blocks from the heart of town. The house was built with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a large living room paneled in korina wood and a music room. The basement of 4,330 square feet had a large lounge and rumpus room, both with fireplaces. A maid’s room and study were over the garage. The house remains much the same today and is in excellent condition. The Lowes enjoyed entertaining and often had the Boy and Girl Scout troops and other youth groups over to socialize. Today, the house is privately owned.
Andrew Franklin Lowes
Andrew Franklin Lowes was born January 10, 1904, at Rainy River, Ontario, Canada. His parents were Christopher Wesley Lowes and Annabelle McDonald Lowes. During his early years in Canada, he worked in the lumber industry. He usually signed his signature as A. Frank Lowes but people called him "Frank". Frank immigrated to the United States sometime between 1920 and 1926. Along with him he brought his love for the forests and the lumber industry. In 1928, he married Ruth Lillian Hall at Portland, Oregon. They had one child, Shirley Ann.
Frank's life story epitomizes characters in Horatio Alger novels. In 1926, Frank came to Portland and worked for the West Oregon Lumber Company at Linnton, Oregon. In 1933, he moved to Molalla and took on the job of manager of the Molalla Lumber Yard. In 1935, he borrowed the money to buy a local tavern. He called his tavern "Frank's Place". It was located in the building that now houses the Sundowner Tavern. Frank's tavern was very popular with the loggers and lumbermen in the community. He made the tavern pay for itself by working from 6 A. M. until midnight each day. During this time, he also acted as a buyer of timber for several mills in Oregon at "two-bits" a thousand.
In 1939, the opportunity arose for Frank to buy a small sawmill in Molalla. He called it "A. F. Lowes Lumber Company". He continued to operate Frank's Place until 1952. At the sawmill, Frank had a hard working crew so he kept making improvements. In 1939, World War II started and the lumber business boomed. A. F. Lowes Lumber Company went into full production.
In July, 1945, on a Sunday morning, a repair welder started a fire that completely destroyed Frank’s sawmill in 30 minutes. Standing near the smoldering ruins, Frank made the statement that he would rebuild the mill if everyone would help clean up the mess. The logging crew also stayed on. They hauled the extra logs to the Willamette where they were sold. It was not too long before they built a cold deck for the opening of the new mill. Local man, Francis Shilts was a head rig sawyer and had been with Frank since he cut his first log. Another local man, Art Dunrude, logging superintendent, had felled the first tree. Everyone wanted to keep the mill going.
By 1951, A. F. Lowes Lumber Company had 250 employees. They had new modern equipment such as a $50,000 carriage that gave each log a pressure wash bath to protect the saws from rock and gravel. The carriage then lifted the logs unto the head rig saw. From there it moved on to an electrically operated roller that moved it to a $20,000 edger. This edger could cut any timber up to 12" by 72". From there the lumber moved to the green chain to be sorted and ready for shipment or to go to the planing mill. Four transport trucks delivered the lumber to local retailers and the Port of Portland. The sawmill operated two shifts a day until 1951 when they went to three shifts a day.
You could find Frank at his mill office from 7 a.m. on and his door was always open. He was very well liked in the community. Frank served as President of the Molalla Buckeroo, for two consecutive terms. It is largely due to his public relations efforts that the Buckeroo Rodeo became so famous.
On Friday, May 28, 1954, Frank's life came to a tragic end. On the previous Monday, he was driving his car when he hit a loaded log truck at an intersection of a private logging road and a public highway near Molalla. He lived for five days but never regained consciousness. He was 49 years old. For another eight years, the sawmill continued under the direction of Frank’s wife, Ruth, with Ray Moran as General Manager. Due to the economy, the sawmill discontinued operations in September of 1962. The A. F. Lowes Lumber Company was located across Main Street from the Bi Mart. Ruth Lowes passed away in 1965 in Clackamas County.
“A. Frank Lowes”, by Don Mills, Sunday Journal Magazine, August 26, 1951
“A. Frank Lowes”, History Mystery, Molalla Pioneer, December 21, 2016
“Frank Lowes”, Obituary, Oregon City Enterprise, May 30, 1954
“Molalla’s Lumberman Began As Laborer”, Enterprise Courier, May 30, 1954
“Ray Moran Named Manager of Lowes Lumber Company”, Molalla Pioneer, June 10, 1954
“Sorrowing Friends Attend Lowes Services”, Molalla Pioneer, June 3, 1954
© Gail J. McCormick, 2018