Oregon’s Most Famous Mime Built a Hobbit House in West Linn
Its nine domes stand like little cocoons in the midst of the forest. Nearby, a wooden tree house, sized for adults, looms over a pond. The man responsible for this surreal home was an internationally trained mime.
There’s nothing not weird about the Hobbit House.
Born in Holland, Francisco “Frans” Reynders got his start studying in Paris with Étienne Decroux, widely considered the father of modern French mime. In 1967, Reynders moved to Portland for a theater teaching stint at Lewis & Clark College before launching the Oregon Mime Theatre with two trusted students. At its peak, the OMT boasted a global drawing power, and Reynders celebrated his success in 1972 by putting down roots, spending the next six years building a dream home.
His “hobbit house” is in West Linn, with dome-shaped rooms orbited by trees and a sweet little creek. Reynders was also an accomplished set and costume designer, having spent more than a decade building New York stages. The sweeping rooms seem to embrace its occupants. Considering the shortage of flat wall surfaces upon which to hang art, the eye travels upward to ceiling portholes, stained glass panels, and murals. In a space both cozy and open, it’s easy to imagine throwing an amazing party, even if the guests aren’t all barefoot, three-foot-high treasure seekers.
Outside the foam and rubber exterior, the tree house and patio offer a natural playground. Reynders erected a Quonset hut near the house to serve as a workshop for the elaborate sets he created for ballets, plays, and the OMT. A dragon still hovers from the hut’s rafters, a reminder of the imaginative spirit behind the house’s creation. Reynders died in 1996; the current owner put the house up for sale this year for $609,000. As of press time there were no buyers—expected or unexpected.