During the Christmas holidays of 1956, my son Charlie, his father and I stayed in the Red Cottage. At that time, it was owned by my grandfather who, at age 80 was “in his dotage” as the family said, and was being cared for by my aunt Mona in the white house across from the church where he had lived since 1902. Charlie was seven months old and had come to Oysterville to pay his respects to his great-grandfather. I have a picture him being tenderly held in Papa’s arms.
I think it was felt that it would be less confusing for Papa if we stayed in the cottage across the way. It was not yet red and, as I remember, we just called it “the old courthouse” for it had served that purpose back in the 1860s before the two-story courthouse was built in 1875. I do have a photo of the cottage as it looked when we stayed there – the outside, of course. We didn’t often think to take pictures of interiors in those days.
What I do remember of the inside is that it had a chemical toilet in the hallway outside the bedroom and a pitcher pump affixed to the kitchen sink. The house was not plumbed. I don’t remember if it had electricity, but I doubt it. I imagine we more-or-less camped there and spent most of the daytime hours visiting neighbors and showing off our new baby. I do remember that we ate at Papa’s every night – lots of pot roast. Mona was big on pot roast.
Twenty years later, Willard and Louise Espy bought the cottage and painted it red. They spent some weeks during the summer of 1976 ‘making improvements.’ Here is what he wrote to his friend Dr. Dorothy Page:
22 July, 1976
Dear Doctor Dorothy,
…We had a marvelous time at Oysterville. The family owns a tiny cottage, built in 1860 – the oldest house in Oysterville, and certainly one of the oldest in that part of the state; it served for a time as county courthouse – and we are remodeling it – though that is perhaps too big-sounding a word – to make an occasional retreat. It had a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and two tiny bedrooms. A year ago we knocked out the partition between the living room and one of the bedrooms, creating an L-shaped study-living room. We installed a sizable fireplace in the south wall, and put up bookshelves – too many, I’m afraid; there is space for more than 1,000 books, and so far we have found only about 100 that we felt like sparing from the New York apartment. We also exchanged the single window before my desk for a double one, tempting me irresistibly to look out across the fields and bay when I should be writing.
This year we spent virtually our whole stay at Oysterville painting spackling, puttying, laying carpets, and the like. All that remains to be done in terms of basic changes is to double another window (over the eating area), knock a French door into the west wall of the living room, and add a deck out back so that we can enjoy the afternoon sun in privacy. The furniture is only left-overs now, but we’ll change that gradually, as we can afford to. We’ve already picked up a rather nice sideboard, 1890 Vintage, in Seattle…
I haven’t been inside the Red Cottage for many years and I imagine it is quite different now. As they say, “Change happens…”