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John Rast House restored to former glory, now open to guests

Michael and Cherri Herrman spent nearly a year fixing up one of the oldest homes in Roseburg. Now they are hoping to share the history behind their home with the community.

In August 2019, the couple bought what is known as the John Rast House, a home built around 1875 by John George Rast in the gothic revival style, on 236 SE Stephens St. in Roseburg.

“We wanted to retire,” Cherri Herrman said. “My husband is an electrical contractor and I worked in corrections, and we wanted to do something different.”

It was the home to four generations of the same family. John Rast didn’t have any sons and the daughter who continued living in the home married a man with the last name Kidder. Three generations of Kidders lived in the home, which is why sometimes the home is referred to as the John Rast/Kidder House.

The house had been empty for 20 years before it was put on the market.

“I guess the house was full of antiques and things that the daughter couldn’t take,” Cherri Herrman said. “She was an only child and she could only take so much. She left everything else, so when people came in they were stealing things and selling things for money, for survival. The neighbors cleaned it out, it was this high (Herrman lifted her hand about 6 inches from the ground) with garbage everywhere.”

The Herrmans started by leveling the home in December 2019, and by January, they started working inside the home.

In all, Cherri Herrman estimates they spent about $350,000 restoring the home.

“The house really started to fall apart and it had been empty for 20 years, homeless people had been in and out,” she said. “But we decided to take it on and it wasn’t an easy task at times. We had so many obstacles.”

There were some unexpected expenses, but also some hidden treasures. Paintings found in the boiler room were restored by an Ashland artist and now displayed in the parlor, the chandelier in the parlor is also original, stone from the brewery that used to be on the property was found buried on the property and fashioned into a bench and stepping stones for the garden.

A room in the home has been turned into a museum about the family, which displays some of the treasures found during the restoration and photos from the family.

“We found an 1893 50-cent piece in the wall,” Herrman said. “We found letters, an Abraham Lincoln stamp in mint condition because it had not seen daylight in many, many years.”

Herrman said the room that houses the museum was largely untouched during the remodel so that people could see the original colors and materials in the home.

The home is located in the Roseburg Downtown Historic District, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and can be found in the Oregon Historic Sites Database and is a Heritage Landmark in Roseburg.

Because of its historical significance, the Herrmans not only decided to restore the outside, but they also restored much of the inside rather than remodel an update. The house has many built-in cabinets, steep stairs to get to the second floor and original tiles in the bathroom and kitchen.

“We believe in preservation,” Cherri Herrman said. “We fell in love with the history of them home and the family. It’s been in the same family for generations and we’re in touch with family members and they’re providing us with a lot of information about the family history.”

When John Rast built the home it was surrounded by acres of farmland that stretched all the way to where the Douglas County Courthouse stands today.

Rast worked in farming, learned the trade of a brewer and eventually purchased a flour mill.

Rast was born in Switzerland in May 1838 and immigrated to St. Louis in the 1840s with his family. He was educated in the public schools of St. Louis and came to Oregon in 1853 with his mother, after his father’s death.

Herrman pointed out that some of the European influences can be seen in the way he built the home, such as a soapstone fireplace in the parlor.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, only one room will be rented out at a time. However, the hope is to start renting out all three of the bedrooms once the pandemic subsides.

For more information or to schedule a visit, go to johnrasthouse.com, or contact Cherri Herrman at 541-218-1220 or cherriherrman@msn.com.

Douglas County COVID-19 deaths reach 25

A 25th Douglas County resident has died of COVID-19.

The Douglas County COVID-19 Response team reported on Monday that an 89-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease Nov. 18 and died Nov. 26.

The team received confirmation of the man’s death on Monday. No additional information was released about the man.

This was the sixth COVID-19 death reported by the county since Friday.

Sixteen new COVID-19 cases were reported Monday, bringing the county’s total since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,090.

Twenty county patients are hospitalized with the illness, 17 locally and three out of the area.

The Douglas Public Health Network is supporting 509 people who are either in isolation because they have the disease or quarantine because they have been in contact with an infected person.

Statewide, 12 more Oregonians have died of COVID-19. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,331 new cases.

Those numbers bring the state’s death toll to 1,045 and its total cases to 85,788.

Those who died included a 37-year-old Multnomah County man who tested positive Nov. 27 and died two days later at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. He had no underlying conditions.

The remaining deaths ranged in age from 50 to 93. Statewide, 565 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 and 120 of those are in intensive care unit beds.

Business owners have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit applications for aid from the Federal CARES Act Coronavirus Business Relief Fund.

Locally, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners has been authorized to give out just under $1.5 million from the relief fund in business grants.

The money will be distributed through the nonprofit Coos Curry Douglas Business Development Corporation, under contract with the county. Grant amounts will range from $5,000 to $75,000.

Hospitality businesses, restaurants with no drive-up option and gyms are eligible. Businesses must have 100 or fewer employees to qualify and be headquartered in Oregon and located in Douglas County.

Businesses must demonstrate a one-month decline in sales of 25% or more between March 1 and Nov. 30 as compared to the same time period in 2019.

Applications are available at ccdbusiness.org or co.douglas.or.us.

Additional information is available through CCD at info@ccdbusiness.org or call 541-672-6728 or contact Douglas County at dcinfo@co.douglas.or.us or call 541-672-3311.

COVID-19 case counts, test positivity rate drop in Douglas County; most schools to remain in distance learning

COVID-19 case counts and test positivity rate went down during the last two-week period, but are not low enough for schools to begin transitioning back to on-site learning.

The Oregon Health Authority released the latest data Monday, which will be used by individual schools and the Oregon Department of Education to determine what educational model schools fall in; On-Site, On-Site and Distance Learning, Transition or Distance Learning.

Douglas County falls squarely in the Distance Learning category with 238.8 cases per 100,000 people over the two-week period ending Dec. 5. Some schools decided to stay open under the state’s Safe Harbor Clause, which allowed schools that opened to in-person education before Oct. 30 to remain open until Jan. 4 regardless of the metrics.

Any large county with more than 200 cases per 100,000 people or a test positivity above 10% in a two-week period falls under the Distance Learning model. The test positivity rate in Douglas County was 5% for the previous 14-day period.

Schools that have closed to on-site instruction, will be able to return elementary school students — up to sixth grade — back to school when the case rate drops below 100 cases per 100,000 people for a two-week period, which would be the On-Site and Distance Learning model.

All students can return to school under the On-Site and Distance Learning model once elementary schools have successfully remained open for four weeks with limited transmission of COVID-19 in the school environment, or once there are less than 50 cases per 100,000 people in a two-week period.

Each school will be able to make its own decision regarding reopening, although they should consult with local public health authorities.

Schools that have closed due to rising case numbers, can start planning for a transition back to the classroom once there are 200 or less cases per 100,000. Douglas County has exceeded 200 cases per 100,000 people for two-week periods, for the past four consecutive weeks.