A historic Craftsman-style house in downtown Bend is being renovated to its original early 1900s design when it was the home to one of city’s most influential couples. George Palmer Putnam, an early owner and publisher of The Bulletin and Bend mayor, built the home in 1911 for his bride, Dorothy Binney Putnam, heiress to the Crayola crayon fortune who spent her time in Bend leading efforts in the suffrage movement.
The couple lived in the home at 606 Congress St. until 1919, when they left Bend for New York. Putnam later divorced Binney Putnam and married famed aviator Amelia Earhart, who never came to Bend.
“George was the one who put his heart and soul into it, and our goal is to get it back to the way that he would have seen it when he and his wife were there,” said Dan Winey, a California architect, who bought the home in 2019 and is overseeing the renovation.
Winey, 68, a partner at the San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler, plans to invest $2 million in the renovation, after buying the 3,000-square-foot home for $1.15 million. He wants to use only original materials, such as vintage windows and light fixtures.
Winey said he has a passion for restoring old buildings and sees the historical value in the Putnam house, which has sat mostly vacant for several years. Recently, the house was used for visitors through the vacation rental service Airbnb, Winey said.
“The idea is to bring it back to beyond its original glory,” Winey said. “At the time, it was an expensive home, but by today’s standards it needs a lot of structural upgrades and a lot of other improvements.”
Completely restoring the Putnam house will take more than a year to complete, Winey said. He is starting with constructing a new lava rock foundation, which has required lifting the house 10-feet off the ground.
In addition, Winey plans to remove a back porch that was added in the 1940s and remove and replace a brick chimney. The Bend Landmarks Commission has approved the initial work.
“This particular property has gone through 50 years of neglect and deferred maintenance,” Winey told the landmarks commission in October. “There is a very significant shift and a lot of settling on the first and second floor.”
Cynthia Putnam, the granddaughter of George and Dorothy Putnam, said she is thrilled with the renovation plans. The 70-year-old retired English teacher from southeast Florida visited the home in 1997 and in 2017.
“I’m just so pleased they chose this house to renovate because they appreciate the history behind it,” Putnam said in a phone call.
Putnam believes her grandparents would be honored to know their first home together is still standing today. Putnam never knew her grandfather, who died the year she was born, but she knows how much Bend meant to him.
Putnam appreciates how the city remembers her grandfather for all he accomplished, rather than how he is remembered nationally as the widower to Amelia Earhart.
“I can’t emphasize enough what a wonderful, pleasant way Bend, Oregon presents George Palmer Putnam,” she said. “It’s unlike anywhere else. He was an extraordinary man, especially for the West.”
Many books and movies about Earhart, who disappeared on a flight across the Pacific Ocean July 2, 1937, depict Putnam in a negative light, as someone who used Earhart for his own personal gain, his granddaughter said.
But she reminds people that her grandfather is the one who hand-picked Earhart to become the first woman aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
“It was his success that made her the icon that she is to this day,” Putnam said.
As for all the theories surrounding Earhart’s mysterious disappearance, Putnam has a simple explanation.
“It’s not sexy to say she ran out of gas and fell in the ocean and died,” she said. “That’s not sensational. That doesn’t sell. But that’s what happened.”
Earhart did not know Putnam when he was in Bend. She never visited his home on Congress Street.
It was Putnam’s influence as a newspaper publisher, mayor and town promoter that led to his house being listed in 1998 on the National Register of Historic Places.
“His desire to do good helped shape the growing town of Bend during the first part of the twentieth century,” reads the application for the national register.
Once the Putnam house is restored, Winey and his wife plan to move in and retire.
Winey said the house will be his last project, after a long career of architecture work around the world.
He sees the house as a challenge and a property that can be a jewel in Bend.
“If you were a builder and looking at it, you would say tear it down,” Winey said. “But that’s not why we bought it. We bought it because it’s special and it means a lot to the neighborhood.”