The Atavista House was originally named the Brown Farmhouse. The house of John and Amelia (Spaulding) Brown, descendents of the pioneer settlers of Brownsville, was built in the Italian Villa Style in 1876. It was later named Atavista Farm in 1958. The house was a result of financial success of John Brown (son of Hugh Leper Brown for whom the town of Brownsville is named to honor). It serves as an indication of the greater wealth the second generation acquired through farming and commerce.
The typical qualities of the Italian Villa Style reveal an interest on the part of frontier settlers to follow the current fashion. More importantly, The Atavista house is the only house remaining which is associated with the founding family of the community.
The farm property has enjoyed continuity of use. The higher slopes of the Willamette Valley were settled first, because the the bottom land along the river were subject to flooding. The land surrounding Atavista Farm was well drained, lying above the South Bank of the Calapooia River, (a tributary of the Willamette). The Hugh L, Brown donation land claim of 640 acres has since been subdivided, but the parcel accompanying the Atavista House embraces 65 acres. The farm passed from the Browns to an Illinois native named Samuelson, whose family operated it from 1911 to 1958. Acquisition of access to irrigation water from the Calapooia in the early 1960's resulted in the cultivation of pole beans, hay, cattle, and a conifer nursery as regular output of the farm. The present owners Terry and Sharon McCoy make use of the property for an events and wedding venue.
There's a wooden gazebo situated on the west side of the main lawn. It wasn't an original part of the house, but was a portico at the H.D. Young House in Albany, Oregon. The Young House is long gone, but the portico was salvaged and altered to form a gazebo.
After the present owners of the property acquired the house in 1958, Interior modifications were made to accommodate contemporary living.
From 1911 to 1958 the Atavista House was used for residential family living, but over that time things seriously needed upgrades and repairs. In this instance, it was a lucky occurrence for it meant that the original character of the house remained as it should be. The remodeling of the house from 1958 through the 1970's was concerned with preserving the original contents of the structure. As a result, minimal visual changes were made to create a comfortable contemporary dwelling. Neutral heating (forced air), wiring, new plumbing, insulation, storm windows, and new gutters were installed or repaired, as part of the practical changes made to ensure the survival of the house.
The house stands on a foundation of a sawn rectangular limestone slabs, that were quarried south of Brownsville. The construction of the house is standard wood frame utilizing 2X6 studs.
In 1959 the house was completely painted white, for reasons of maintenance. From 1911 until 1958 no maintenance was done to the house, and most of the earlier paint weathered away. Residual paint on the north facade indicates that it was once painted gray with a dark green and black trim.
The Atavista house was placed on the National Historic Registry in 1978.