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

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!