Woman urged to sell historic Astoria mansion

ASTORIA, Ore. — A descendant of the once-prominent Flavel family of Astoria is reportedly mulling whether to sell the rundown family mansion, which the city is getting ready to put into foreclosure.

Last year, inspectors found the unoccupied building crammed with newspapers and magazines 3 feet high and curiosities such as a `50s-era swimsuit hanging in a bathroom, a 1979 IRS tax notice and the remains of a dog in a freezer.

A lawyer for Mary Louise Flavel has sent word she can’t afford to fix the house but is considering options, and the lawyer is urging her to sell it, the Daily Astorian reported.

The city has levied $1.4 million in fines on the mansion and two family commercial buildings.

The paper has reported Flavel lives in Portland. Her forbearers include the first bar pilot to help guide ocean-going vessels across the Columbia River bar and two bank presidents. The family fled in 1990 after one of the bank presidents, her father, was convicted of assault. Harry M. Flavel was accused of stabbing a man in a confrontation over speeding.

The building sat for years, an object of mystery to Astoria residents. Calvin Trillin wrote about the family for the New Yorker in 1993.

After the city intervened last year, city inspectors judged the building could be salvaged and had it boarded up and the vegetation cut back to guard against fire. Then authorities began proceedings, but got no response from Flavel. She didn’t show up at a hearing in December.

On Monday, Municipal Judge Kris Kaino entered a judgment for the city but said he had a hard time imposing the $5.6 million in fines sought against the mansion and two family commercial properties.

“Let’s be frank,” he said, “she’s not going to pay it.”

He reduced the fines to $1.4 million and asked city Attorney Blair Henningsgaard: “Is foreclosure the purpose of this?”

“I think that will have to be the next step, yes,” Henningsgaard said.

Afterward, the city reported getting an email from Flavel’s attorney, Gary Blacklidge, who said his elderly client is too frail to get to Astoria.

Blacklidge said she’s considering her options and, “Since she does not have access to sufficient funds to remedy the violations, I am urging her to try to sell the properties ‘as is’ to a buyer who is willing to renovate the properties and cure the violations, if such a buyer can be found.”

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Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com

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