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Rorick House, 1850

Rorick House (Moody House), 1850
300 West 13th Street, The Dalles, Oregon 97058

National Register of Historic Places
Building owned and operated as a museum by the Wasco County Historical Society.


The house became a historic landmark in 1979 and achieved registry as a national Historic Place in 1980.
Precise information about origin is scarce but the Moody House, now called the Rorick House, is known to have been built by a noncommissioned officer from the U.S. Army post at The Dalles. The house served as the Sergeant's Quarters. The year was about 1850, so the military station was at that time called Camp Drum, succeeded by Fort Drum which in turn became Fort Dalles in 1853.

Materials for the original two rooms included sawn planks of 3" x 18" dimension and hand-hewn beams, with board and batten construction. The builder chose a natural basalt site and used no artificial foundation, so floor levels were uneven, the east end being three inches higher than the west end.

The house is several blocks from the Fort's Surgeon's Quarters at 500 West 15th and Garrison St., now the site for the Fort Dalles Museum.

After the federal government offered the fort properties for sale in 1884, Malcolm A. Moody acquired the old residence as rental property and in 1900 had a fireplace installed, using massive blocks of stone from the old fort's bakery. Moody, prominent as a mayor of The Dalles and as congressman from this district, is credited with having convinced Teddy Roosevelt of the need for The Dalles-Celilo Canal that in 1915 eliminated the portage around the Narrows and Celilo Falls east of The Dalles.

An engineer for the old Columbia River Highway occupied the house during the construction period, adding the part that became the dining room. Expansion continued with addition in 1915 of a bathroom, utility room and dressing room.

Moody, who died in 1925, bequeathed the house to the widely known Lang sisters, Anne and Elizabeth (Bessie), the talented daughters of wool merchant Thomas Lang, with each of whom Malcolm was said to have been successively in unrequited love. The elder sister, Anne, ardently served Red Cross and relief work, became chief clerk and receiver for the U.S. Land Office in The Dalles and was national vice-president of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR thereafter named a scholarship in her honor.

Eck and Mae Rorick

Bessie had her own fine attributes, also engaging in charitable activities, and being employed in the transshipping office of Zenas F. Moody, Malcolm's father and at one time Oregon's governor. The sisters lived their lives together in the house Malcolm built for them at 115 West 4th Street, never occupying the Rorick House, which stood empty until 1929 when newlyweds Estell (Eck) and Mae Rorick purchased it. The Roricks added a second bedroom in 1933 and while doing so, found wall insulation consisting of New York Times newspapers dated 1850. They enlarged the tiny kitchen in the early 1950s and added the second family room fireplace, hewing as closely as possible to the original architectural style.

Eck was born in 1897 at Dallesport, Washington, across the river from The Dalles and Mae was born in 1902 in Gresham, the Portland suburb. He served as a flight instructor in World War I, was a graduate of Oregon State College (as was Mae), entered the grocery business here and eventually managed the State Employment office in The Dalles. But his source of greatest notoriety was music. He assembled orchestras both while in college and later in The Dalles. A pianist, Eck is said to have played only on the black keys and in the key of F, a peculiarity he shared with Irving Berlin.

Eck Rorick and the Music Monsters

Eck told of many odd experiences in WWI aviation and is said to have become a pilot before he even learned how to drive a car.

Mae received a bachelor's degree in home economics in 1923 and took post-graduate work as well, especially in the field of art. She is responsible for the tole work that is a distinguishing characteristic of the house. Mae taught home ec at The Dalles High School during much of her career, served several years as women's editor of The Dalles Chronicle and for a time had her own helpful hints program on local radio station KODL. She died on September 9 of 1986, a year in which she sustained a hip fracture. Eck lived until September 11, 1991, spending his last years in a retirement home.

Mae Rorick's tole painting adorns the kitchen cabinets

The Wasco County Historical Society came into possession of the house and the adjoining two park-like lots September 18, 1992, and almost immediately took steps to ensure preservation and integrity. Surprisingly, the only major repair necessary was replacement of the rotted floor that had served in the second bedroom since 1933. The house became a historic landmark in 1979 and achieved registry as a national Historic Place in 1980.

Source: Wasco County Historical Society

Wasco County Historical Society
300 W. 13th St., The Dalles, OR 97058

The Wasco County Historical Society meets the first Monday of the month at the Rorick House, 300 W. 13th St., in The Dalles. The public is welcome to attend meetings, which include a short 15-30 minute talk on a topic of local history. Wasco County Historical Society also organizes field trips to tour sites of historical interest in the local area..


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