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Bend PD: Arsonist set several fires in historic McCann House


(Update: Adding historian comments on tales of hauntings)

Several fires were started by an apparent arsonist at the historic, more than century-old Thomas McCann House south of downtown Bend on Friday morning but were out when the owner arrived and called police, officials said.

Police and firefighters responded shortly after 10 a.m. to the residence at 440 NW Congress Street, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Police Sgt. Robert Jones said the owner, Sanjay Dholakia , called to report the fire, saying remodeling had been underway and the home was full of smoke when he arrived at 10 a.m.

Officers found several spots in the home where fires had been intentionally started, but the owner said they all were out when he arrived, the sergeant said.

“Based on evidence at the scene, it appears that the fires were started intentionally,” Jones said in a news release, noting that police and fire investigators are continuing their work.

Jones told NewsChannel 21 the arsonist’s entry point is unknown at this time.

Anyone with information in the matter was asked to call Bend police at 541-693-6911.

Deschutes County’s online property tax records indicate Dholakia and his wife bought the home in April from U.S. Bank for $998,000 in a “lender distress short sale.”

The assessor’s latest report showed the structure is worth $579,210 and the land $1.78 million, for a total real market value of $2.36 million and maximum assessed value of $759,540.

The McCann House is also known as the general manager’s house for the Shevlin-Hixon Lumber Co, a ccording to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form. It is a 5,500-square-foot, 2 ½-story Georgian Revival-style house built in 1915 and designed by prominent Portland architect David Lewis.

“It is significant as a unique example of a traditional, architect-designed structure in what was in 1915 the small, isolated pioneer town of Bend,” the site states.

“Its significance lies also in its association with the Shevlin-Hixon Lumber Company, whose mill provided the economic base for the town. The house was built by the Shevlin-Hixon Lumber Company for Thomas McCann, the vice-president and general manager of the Bend mill.”

According to a Halloween 2015 posting on the blog Hack Bend, the McCann House was on a list of Bend’s haunted places. It mentioned a legend that several families living there over the years had died or suffered some other tragedy, including a detailed report in the book “Ghost Stories of Oregon.”

Kelly Cannon-Miller, executive director of the Des Chutes Historical Society, said the “stories that we have been told here at the historical society have always centered on a woman figure being present, and lights being turned off or on.

“We’ve also had former owners say that they never experienced any hauntings,” she said. “As always, hauntings are incredibly difficult to prove. The staff has not researched if any one actually passed away in the house, as is sometimes told.”

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