Archive for the ‘The Tom Crellin/H.A. Espy House’ Category

Excitement Mounts in Oysterville!

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Tom Crellin House – Built in 1869

Sometimes, I have really good ideas!  I’m not sure I can claim that having a celebration of our house’s 150th was solely “my” idea, but I do take full credit for asking volunteers from the Community Historians group give house tours that day.  I promised a training session for potential docents and a “cheat sheet” with the highlights of the house history outlined for them.

Papa’s Rolltop Desk

I was so gratified that enough people volunteered ‘to cover the waterfront’, so to speak, and the training sessions are going exceedingly well!  On the day of Our Grand Affair, tours will be limited to groups of eight.  Two docents will accompany each group through the house for a half-hour of information and stories and a walk-through the last 150 years of Oysterville life.

In the Pink Bedroom

Party participants can sign up for one of the six tours (yes, sadly, only six!) at a table situated near the front door — the original front door on the east side of the house.  The tours will begin every fifteen minutes from 2:15 to 3:30.  That will give time for everyone to be out of the house for the Cannon Salute at 4:00 to be followed by the final Musical Extravaganza and debut of a song by Starla and Cate Gable in honor of the house!!!  Yay!

“How many people do you expect?” is the question everybody asks.  We keep saying, “About 200” even though we have not received that many RSVPs yet.  We hope that all of our friends and acquaintances out in the community will come to help us celebrate this grand old domicile!  Sweets and bubbly, lawn games, music, house tours, and a cannon salute!  What could be more fun on a late September Sunday?  Our house will feel special, indeed, as well she should at the venerable age of 150!


House of Chairs

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Wicker Chair

When the things that surround you have ‘always’ been there, you don’t really give them much thought.  Maybe that’s not the case with the artwork, but certainly it’s true of the furniture.  Especially if ‘always’ is really and truly always – like since you were born.  That’s the way it has been for me in this house.

And then, one day, a friend said to me: “I  think of your place as a house of chairs. You have so many and they all seem to have a story.”  I thought about that and had to concede that she had a point.  We truly do have a ‘chair collection’ here.

Probably the oldest ones are the wicker chairs – part of the furniture that my grandmother brought to the house in 1902.  The family moved here from California (where wicker was totally appropriate) and, since their stay was only to be for a few years until Grandpa Espy died, why not bring the most easily transported of their household goods?   They brought a living room “suite” most of which is in the North Bedroom upstairs and whether or not wicker is suitable in the northwest, I always think of those graceful pieces as a breath of fresh air.

The Billy Chair

Then there is the ‘Billy Chair’ in the library, identifiable by the medallions on its ears which was a trademark, according to my mom, of the Billy Brothers.  I always thought “whoever they were” when she said their name but have learned recently that they were furniture makers in Ilwaco – probably in the late nineteenth century.  (So maybe the wicker chairs aren’t the oldest in the house, after all.)

Another piece from about the same period is the lovely oak chair with the caned seat – “The Parson’s Chair” we call it.  It was given to mom by Dorothy Yeatman in the early 1970s.  Dorothy had lived in here when she was a little girl in the days that the house was still the parsonage for the Baptist Church across the street.  Her father, Reverend Yeatman, served as pastor from 1898 to 1901, and Dorothy remembered him always sitting in that particular chair when he wrote his sermons.  She said the chair belonged here in the house where it was most used.

Reverend Yeatman’s Chair

The two captain’s chairs I associate with my grandfather.  In the ’40s and ’50s when I remember him, he often sat in one of them at his desk – reading the paper or working on his correspondence, a cup of lukewarm coffee close at hand.  We have two of them and used to use them for extra seating on Friday nights but Tucker is leery about their stability… He’s probably right.  A couple of the stretchers are missing or no longer fit properly… another “project” on Nyel’s long list.

And those are just a few, so I guess my friend was right in her characterization of the house.  I think I’ll just sit back in one of these chairs for a while and imagine the people they have supported and the conversations they’ve witnessed over the years – a nice rainy day activity, don’t you think?

Upstairs in Our House

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Killer Stairs

I love the upstairs in our house.  But, for the last few years, I don’t love the killer stairs I must climb to get there.  I think the biggest reason for my lack of ascension (just to the upper story, not to heaven) is arthritically related.  That and the fact that my Aunt (by marriage) Cleo fell down these very stairs when she was twenty years younger than I – due to a breaking hip Dr. Campiche said.  That thought is frightening, even though Cleo survived.

But when I do go up – to get guest rooms ready for visitors, mostly – I do love it.  There are four bedrooms up there, all very different from one another, and over my 80+ years, each has been “mine” at one time or another.  No matter how much time passes, I still feel the age and circumstances of my occupancy of that particular room.

In the Little Room

The Little Room on the northwest side is the first one I remember.  It was my room from the time of my first visit here to my Granny and Papa’s in 1938.  My clearest memory of it was of waking up crying and my grandmother coming in and making everything all right.  I think I had wet the bed – a circumstance that had not happened to me, apparently, for some time, and I was frightened and disoriented until Granny came to the rescue.  Interestingly, I don’t remember the trauma as much as I remember my grandmother’s warm embrace and soothing murmurs.

Next door to the south is the Pink Room.  It was mine throughout my teenage years whenever I was in Oysterville.  The summer before my sophomore year in high school my best friend Joanne and I came up from California to work at Dorothy Elliott’s Camp Willapa.  We spent our ‘time off’ here in Oysterville and shared that room.  As I remember, we took full advantage (maybe only once) of the fact that we could get out by climbing down the roof and onto the top of our boyfriends’ Model A.  Neither Joanne nor I could ever remember how we got back into the house.  Not a good room for teenagers!

View from the East Bedrooms

The room always called the “North Room” is on the east side of the house and has a view to the north and a balcony to the east – a balcony from which there is a fabulous view of the bay.  It’s the biggest bedroom and, these days I think of it as my son Charlie’s room, but it is also the first choice for guests.  It’s the bedroom that I was ‘assigned’ by my Aunt Mona when I first came to Oysterville with a husband but my main memory of it is that it was in the desk of that room that I first found my aunt Medora’s diary.  I was 12, and as I look back on that discovery, I believe it was the beginning of my interest in family history and in the history of this area, in general.

Florence Sewing Machine – Patented 1850

Finally, there is the “Master Bedroom” with its magnificent east-facing view.  It belonged, in turn, to my grandparents, to my parents, and then to Nyel and me.  (When the stairs got too much for  each generation, we each in our turn moved to the downstairs bedroom which was originally the parlor.)  Now that Master Bedroom it is furnished with twin beds on the theory that when we have a full house, there are people who might share a room, if not a bed.

Except for those twin beds, all of the rooms upstairs still contain their original furniture, right down to old-fashioned springs and mattresses on two of the beds.  No one ever complains, nor do they mention any inconvenience about the tiny bathroom which is central to all the bedrooms and has been somewhat modernized with each generation.  And, distinctive to the connecting hallway are the transoms above each bedroom door – the 1869 answer to nighttime air circulation, I suppose.  The only other memorable feature of the upstairs is that, according to some, our resident ghost hangs out there.  Keep those transoms closed, I say!  More might be circulating than air.

Does being “one of the oldest” count?

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Tom Crellin House, 1869  (Our House)

Our house is not the oldest in Washington, or even in Oysterville.  It’s in the oneofthe category – and you can think of that word oneofthe as similar to wannabe in pronunciation but not necessarily in definition.  In Washington, the oldest house (most likely) is the John R. Jackson House on the Jackson Highway in Lewis County.  It was built in 1850, reconstructed in 1915, and now is part of a State Park.  In Oysterville, the Munson House (once called the “Red Cottage” but recently painted gray) was built in 1863 and the John Crellin House, once the twin of ours, was built in 1867 – both older than ours.

John R. Jackson House, 1850

The Tom Crellin House (ours) was built in 1869 and has been in the Espy family since 1892.  And when I say “in the family” I mean that in every sense – fanciful and otherwise.  These walls do talk to us – their scars and patches have recorded many stories from long ago.  We also know that the house is happiest when there are parties and concerts and events here – the house loves people.  And, it is also abundantly clear that this old place requires about the same investment in upkeep each year as keeping a kid in an Ivy League College or an elderly relative in an upscale living facility.  We consider the house a beloved family member.

John Crellin House, 1867

So it is that we are beginning to consider what to do next year to commemorate her 150th birthday.  We are pretty sure it will be a party of some kind.  Maybe something involving house tours.  Maybe a birthday party in combination with the establishment of some kind of long-term care package for the house – a non-profit foundation or society to keep the house intact for another 150 years. That’s been suggested as we have struggled to find a solution to the house’s future.

The Little Red Cottage. 1863

Or maybe there’s a better idea.  It bears some consideration… and soon.  One of the things about getting older, whether you are a person or a house – each year goes by more quickly than the last.  And there’s also that “best laid plans” thing…  So, I guess the first question to be asked is would anybody come to a birthday party for this old house?  If not, there’s no point in ordering the champagne.

By the time you are 149… !

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Work In Progress

Even though we have been waiting eagerly for the painter to begin working on our house, seeing the leprous west façade as I returned home from erranding yesterday was a bit of a shock.  All I could think of was that old joke: “When you get to be forty, it’s patch…patch…patch.  By the time you are sixty, it’s PatchPatchPatchPatchPatch.”

Our house was built in 1869, so it stands to reason that it needs constant TLC.  Being 149 is nothing to sneeze at, even for a house.  And especially in our northwest coastal climate.  There is always something.  This year it’s painting parts of the west and south sides – the worst parts.  Which are actually the major parts of those particular sides.

More Work in Progress

Yesterday was pressure-wash-and-scrape day.  And, it was a day of reckoning because that’s the time when whatever is happening underneath the old paint comes to light. The siding on this house is redwood lumber from California.  It came up as ballast on an oyster schooner back in the early days and has lasted as well and as long as it has because redwood is quite impervious to bugs and rot.  But nothing lasts forever and a few problem areas were discovered. YIKES!

Once the house and its owners recover from this current trauma, I think we will begin planning a 150th Birthday Party.  I’m not exactly sure how one gives a party for a house or for any 150-year-old, for that matter.  Right now, my thought is that it should involve a big donation basket in preparation for the next 150 years!  Or… maybe just a cake.

Like A Steel Trap!

Friday, January 5th, 2018

H.A. Espy (r.) circa 1902 (no house extension to north)

Our house didn’t always extend north along Territory Road the way it does now, but I can’t remember when the garage and “work room” were added on.  I think when I was very young, there was an enclosed woodshed with a dirt floor just beyond the kitchen door.  I have a vague memory of my grandfather chopping kindling there (for my grandmother’s wood cookstove?) and I remember, also dimly, that one winter we’d get a whiff of skunk from the Mama and six babies that lived out there behind the woodpile.

“They were always very polite,” my grandmother would recall.  “They never caused us any problems and we were happy to offer them some shelter.”  I don’t know if I’d feel that welcoming.  Just the other day, we set out a few mouse traps in that area after seeing some ‘evidence’ that little furry creatures had nibbled through the bag of chicken feed.  Of course, nowadays, that’s the laundry room and pantry with access out to the kitchen garden to the east; the roller door on the street side is seldom used.

Espy House, 1925 (Note rain barrels on roof as well as extension to north)

Old photos show that a garage was added north of the woodshed — probably in the twenties, and I think it was probably in the fifties that the whole area was given a cement floor and was extended to become a storage room as well as a garage.  When my folks moved in, my dad was still manufacturing plastic souvenirs and soap dishes (marketed to CostPlus and other stores in CA and, locally, to Marsh’s Free Museum) and that area became his work space.  Hence, the name “work room” though my mother and her siblings would continue to call the entire enclosure to the north of the kitchen, “the woodshed.”  Some habits never change.

We just call it “The Back Forty” and, mostly, try to ignore it.  Except in a fit of organizing.  Like yesterday.  We decided to start with the accumulation of dishes, appliances, vases, candles (yes! an entire shelf!), baskets, pots and pans – you name it!  Mostly household detritus that seems to multiply of its own accord.  In a Good Will purge, we filled a couple of cardboard boxes before we decided to call it quits.  “Tomorrow is another day,” we said.

Our House, by Marta, 2018

In the process, we found three items that we don’t recognize.  Not ours.  Not my folks/.  Not my grandparents’.  I didn’t have a clue but Nyel had a name to go with each:  the spoon from Sandy, the plate from Patricia, and the little pitcher from Jon and Pat.  Brought, perhaps, for a potluck or a party and not retrieved.  I took pictures of each and sent them to the suspects.  Two of the three have answered and report that Nyel is absolutely right.  The man has a mind like a steel trap!  If only he’d been part of our lives in the twenties and the fifties, we could figure out when the woodshed moved north!