Posts Tagged ‘Oysterville National Historic District’

The fourth wonder? Probably.

Friday, September 11th, 2020

Buddy Holly

Nyel and I were working outside yesterday on our rhododendron project — I was clipping, Nyel was bagging.  I had gone around to the other side of the fence and was walking to a spot where I could toss some clippings in Nyel’s direction when I turned and saw an unfamiliar looking man walking step-for-step a few yards behind me.   He was carrying a big shiny something-or-other (turned out to be a camera) and, when I stopped, he kept coming.  No mask.  It felt uncomfortable.

“You don’t remember me do you?” he said.  ” I visited you and your husband when he was in the hospital.” and he told me his name.  “Julian Frank.” Unfamiliar.

“Do you remember Julian, Nyel?” I asked.  And Nyel, in his wheelchair on the other side of fence and rhodies said, “No.”

Route 66

The visitor seemed surprised to see Nyel there, but it didn’t slow him down. He proceeded to tell me (not us) how he had gotten a rental car (some spiffy kind with an even spiffier engine) in order to see the Buddy Holly crash site.  “Why?” I asked.  “Was it around here?”  He said, “Don’t you know who Buddy Holly is?” and went on to tell me (not us) about his trip to Iowa, his stop to see the bridges of Madison County, his drive on Route 66, how he couldn’t get away from an old lady at a museum along the way, etc. etc. etc.  He didn’t say how Oysterville fit in.

“How did you find travelling?” I asked.  “Did you stay in motels or …?”

“It was fine.  No one in Iowa wears masks.  Me neither.  I’m a Viet Nam vet and ain’t no way anyone’s going to make me wear a mask.”

“Fine, just stay far away from me,” I said. And I backed up a few more steps.

“It’s a hoax, you know,” was his retort.

“No, it’s not, but believe what you want.  Just stay away from me,” I repeated.  And off he went.  All-in-all, a very unsatisfactory conversation.  And why in the world was he in Oysterville, anyway?  Not only unsatisfactory.  Sorta creepy.

Church and ‘Parsonage’ in Oysterville

I looked up Julian Frank on FB.  Unsatisfactory.  Then, I Googled him.  First thing that came up: “Julian Andrew Frank.  Classification:  Mass Murderer.  Status: Dead.”  More than creepy.

“Good to know that Oysterville’s right up there with Buddy, Route 66, and those bridges,” Nyel said.  “I guess we’re the fourth of the seven wonders of the world.”  Yes.  Always good to know.

 

 

We didn’t hear the scream.

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

A Peter Janke Photograph

When something dire happens, thoughts often fly off to an entirely irrelevant situation.  Or yesterday, in my case irreverent.  “Did anyone hear the crash?” I wondered.  “Or was it one of those ‘when a tree falls in the woods and nobody’s there… ‘ situations?”

We came upon the horror of the downed Monterey Cypress as we headed home from the post office.  Property owners Anne and Jim were there, each on a cell phone, Jim in the lane and Anne in their yard, both screened by the huge needled branches that were where they were never meant to be.  The trunk of the tree was sheared in two, revealing a rotten core that not even the arborists knew was there.

“It happened yesterday,” Ann said.  They had come from Portland and were making arrangements.  “We’ll have it taken down to the ground,” she said, matter-of-factly – with the familiar tone of competent people dealing with an emergency.  I knew her heart was breaking, as was mine.  We’ve known that Monterey Cypress and its neighbors all of our lives.  They are as much a part of the village as the oldest of the buildings, defining its streetscape and giving visual testimony to the feeling of nurture that Oysterville seems to provide.

November 14, 2017

They are also a tangible reminder of our close, historic connection to California.  As any schoolchild can figure out, Oysterville’s founding in 1854 was based upon the abundance of oysters in Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay, right at the village doorstep. Espy and Clark came here on the search for oysters and immediately became a part of the “Shoalwater Bay Trade” – the principal oyster source in the 1850s and 1860s for the burgeoning San Francisco market.

Many of the early settlers came here directly from San Francisco and their descendants live here still – Wachsmuths, Nelsons, Espys, Andrews all had early connections with California.  Charlotte Jacobs, a descendant of the Oysterville Andrews Family has told us that the Monterey Cypress trees were brought here as seedlings from California  in the early 1900s by her great-great uncle Tom Andrews.  Brought, perhaps, on one of the old oyster schooners as ballast.

On the Corner of Division Street and Territory Road

Although there is no documentation for Charlotte’s story, there is little doubt that it is true.  The trees are, indeed, Monterey Cypress, native to the central coast of California where some have reached the venerable age of 2,000 years – this despite the strong winds which stunt their growth, distort their silhouettes, and give them a flat-topped appearance.  Here, in Oysterville, they grow taller and bigger around, approaching the forty meter height and two-and-a-half meter circumference that is possible in ideal growing conditions.

I wanted to wrap my arms around that jagged, remaining tree trunk yesterday.  I wanted to say how sorry I was and how much I will miss the stately protection it had given us all these years.  I wanted to scream, too, and in fact, I did.  It’s just that neither of our screams was heard.

At It Again in Oysterville

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Wrong House for Sale?

I almost fell for it, myself, this time.  It looked pretty official and I know the owners have become a bit disenchanted with the village these past several years.  FOR SALE, the sign in front of their house said.  But the last time I talked with them, they said, “No way.  Not even a glimmering thought on the horizon.”

Hampson House For Sale

And then I realized that it was a sign that had been moved a few dozen feet from where it has been sitting for some time – in front of the property next door.  The Sneaky Sign Mover of Oysterville is at it again!

Kepner House for Sale

As far as I know, the Sign Mover’s primary interest centers on the various real estate signboards that have recently proliferated in the village.  Twice, we were the unwitting midnight recipients of such ‘yard art.’  As in the current situation, the house next door to us was/is for sale and the sign had been pulled out of the ground and stuck into the grassy, graveled area right in front of our place. It’s a bit of a chore to do that – requires some muscle.    Both times it happened when Nyel was hospitalized and we were, therefore, out of town.  We never saw it – not even a picture – but several people told us about it and a couple of others reported that they had returned the sign to its proper location.

Hausler House for Sale

We assume the intended ‘message’ was that we should move.  Either that or someone is confusing trickery with stupidity.  I’ve heard tales of the boys in town moving outhouses around at Halloween. But that was back in my mother’s day, a century ago.  I’m sure the adults were disgusted but probably chalked it up to ‘boys will be boys.’  It’s hard to forgive the present-day sign scammer so readily.

I wonder if such sign-moving happens in other areas of the Peninsula and if the realty companies even know about it. Further, I wonder if they would have any recourse.  Probably not.   I almost hope the  targeted homeowner doesn’t know, either.  I was glad I heard about our house being ‘for sale’ after the fact. Even so, it’s an uncomfortable feeling. Especially in a little village like this one where we all know one another and take pride in our shared sense of place.   Or so I’d like to think.

A Salute to the First Forty!

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

At The ‘Y’

In January 1977, an organizational meeting for the Oysterville Restoration Foundation was held at the Stoner House, then owned by Jim and Meg Donaldson.  Every property owner in the newly created Oysterville National Historic District “in residence at the time” was in attendance.  That, in itself, must have been a historic occurrence!  I doubt if all of us residents have ever been present and accounted for at any single meeting (or other event) since that stellar occasion!

The purpose of that meeting was to establish an organization that “could raise money, accept donations, and guide restoration of the National Historic District.”  There must have been great enthusiasm, for not only did they elect members to the Board of Trustees, but they also elected a full slate of officers, only one of whom (my dad, Wm W. Little!) was also a trustee.   Though most of those first volunteers have now gone on to their Greater Reward, I salute them here in the name of history and posterity.  They did a great thing!

Historic Oysterville Church

Trustees:
Chris Freshley
Helen Heckes
Pat Lantz
Dale Espy Little
William W. Little

Officers:
President – Jim Donaldson
Vice President Ruby Andrews Danowitz
Second Vice President – Dee Dutchuck
Third Vice President – Bob Kemmer
Secretary-Treasurer – Wm. W. Little
Assistant Secretary-Treasurer – Meg Donaldson
Auditor – Ted Holway

I must say, these days we are hard pressed to find five volunteers to serve as trustees and, for the same reason, we long ago settled into the pattern of having trustees do double duty as officers of the Foundation. I understand that other organizations have similar difficulties.  But in 1977— five trustees and seven officers!  My oh my!  And second and even third vices?  Lordy me!

ORF Logo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Today marked the 40th Annual Membership of the Foundation.  It was a red-letter day for me – off the Board after three consecutive three-year terms, to say nothing of the number of other terms served since the early eighties.  They say. “never say never” but I’m pretty sure I’ll not be on the Board again.  However, I intend to be enthusiastically clapping and cheering from the sidelines from now on.

Small House With A Huge History

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

The Little Red Cottage

I don’t think the Red Cottage is the smallest house in town.  Probably that distinction goes to the Hausler place at the southwest corner of Oysterville and Territory Roads.  But, now that the Nelson and Captain Stream houses have been enlarged, I think the Red Cottage (once known as the Munson House or the Munson Store) is probably the smallest of the historic structures remaining in the village.

Perhaps it’s because I know that little cottage so well that I feel it has one of the most significant histories in town.  For starters, it’s the oldest.  It was built in 1863 (perhaps as early as 1857) by Captain Joel Munson with the help of his brothers-in-law, Byron and Nathan Kimball.  The Kimball boys and their sister Sophia Kimball Munson had survived the infamous Whitman Massacre back in 1847.  (Their older sister, Susan Kimball Wirt, lived across the street with husband August Wirt.)

And if the connection to the Whitman Massacre isn’t historic enough, Joel Munson, himself, was a man of considerable distinction.  From 1865 to 1877 he served as Lightkeeper at the Cape Disappointment Light Station.  Early in his posting, the bark Industry wrecked near the Cape with a loss of seventeen lives.  Munson, greatly disturbed that there had not been a lifesaving craft available to the lightkeepers, raised money for a lifesaving boat and, later, helped establish a lifesaving station at Cape Disappointment.

Joel Munson

Captain Munson’s money-raising efforts in the cause of lifesaving had centered around his expertise as a fiddler.  He organized two dances in Astoria, charging $2.50 per person, to raise over $200.  Apparently, he also made fiddles.  Years later in her autobiography, Bethenia Owens-Adair had these reminiscences about the Captain:

Mr. Munson might well be called a ‘diamond in the rough.’ He had a big heart, a hilarious, jovial disposition, and loved good company and a good social time.  He was a tall, broad-shouldered, powerfully-built man, with a large, square head. He was a natural musician, and loved the violin on which he could play by the hour, day or night, and never tire. I have heard him say, ‘I believe I could play in my sleep if I tried.’ I have seen him play and laugh and talk at the same time, never missing a note or losing time or expression…

   Mr. Munson manufactured a number of violins, some of which were valuable. One of these he made from a piece of hardwood which he found several feet below the surface while digging a drain in a swamp near the lighthouse. No hardwood grows anywhere near that vicinity, and this fragment must have drifted ashore long years before and had been covered with [the] debris, it may be, of a century.

Bethenia, herself, stayed for some time with the Munsons in Oysterville in their little cottage.  She first came as a young woman – a friend of Sophia Munson’s – and was keen to get an education.  She attended the Oysterville School for a term, came back a few years later to teach there, went on to continue her education and become Oregon’s first female doctor.  I see her story as another historic association with the Red Cottage!

Sign on the Red Cottage

All these historic connections, of course, were well ahead of the Red Cottage’s best known claim to fame – serving as the first Pacific County Courthouse from 1866 to 1875.  And, my personal favorite Red Cottage note of importance – its ownership from 1974 to 1997 by the man who painted it red, my uncle and distinguished author, Willard Espy!

September 8th – An Oysterville Day!

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Bud Goulter

Bud Goulter

Two weeks from today – on September 8th – two potentially historic events are scheduled to happen.  Both concern Oysterville.  One will occur right here in town, and the other will take place around the bay and up the Willapa River at South Bend. And, as is so often the case, we want to attend both.  For once it looks like we actually can!

Scheduled for ten o’clock that morning is the first of the 2016 Fall Schoolhouse Lecture Series.  Bud Goulter is scheduled to talk.  The theme for this series is “Local Lore” which gives him a wide frame of reference.  As far as I know, Bud is the oldest of Oysterville’s ‘old-timers.’  His memory is sharp and his stories are fascinating.  It’s bound to be a morning to remember and we have every intention of being there – sitting front-and-center, as they say.

Notice

Notice

Secondly, according to an official looking sign posted in front of the W.D. Taylor house, the first of the Oysterville Design Review hearings under the newly revised Section 20 of Ordinance #162 will be held at one o’clock that afternoon in South Bend.  We are eager to see how the Review process will work with a Hearing Examiner replacing the Oysterville Design Review Board.  We will make every effort to attend.

All in all, it should be a memorable Thursday for Oysterville – a day for looking backward through the eyes of our most venerable neighbor and a day for catching a forward glimpse at a new planning era for the National Historic District.  A visit to the past and the future all in one day!  Outstanding!

…you be the judge!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Chinook Observer Editorial 8/3/2016

Chinook Observer Editorial 8/3/2016

As far as I can tell, this week’s Chinook Observer contains more mentions of Oysterville than have ever occurred in any single past issue.  Beginning with an article about Oysterville Sea Farms (“Judge delivers clear win to Driscoll in land-use case”) and an editorial (“Preservation still possible in Oysterville”) followed by a number of letters to the editor and even a guest column, our little village is certainly in the spotlight.

In one way or another, they all have to do with legal process.  And, as we all know, once you get involved in that can of worms, reason and logic seem to fly out the window right along with facts and other pertinent information.  As Shakespeare wrote back in 1597 in King Henry VI, Part II:  “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”  (And, wouldn’t you know – lawyers have been arguing over what he meant by that ever since!)

Maybe the controversy in Oysterville boils down to semantics.  The headline “O’ville design guidelines wouldn’t withstand legal test” summarizes what a Gig Harbor attorney wrote in her guest column on the subject.  I don’t know much about the law, but I do understand something about the English language.  It seems to me that “guidelines” and “laws” are totally different.

Oysterville Design Guidelines

Oysterville Design Guidelines

According to my old copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary  a guideline is “an indication or outline of policy or conduct”; a law is “a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or firmly recognized as binding or enforced by a commanding authority.”

Furthermore, synonyms for law are listed as “rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, and canon.” Guidelines ain’t in it!   In other words, guidelines are used to guide – which, to the best of my knowledge, is how the Oysterville Design Review Board utilized the Oysterville Design Review Guidelines for almost forty years.  I think Robert Freed’s letter (page A7) of explanation is the most cogent of all the opinions expressed.  In particular, I suggest you read his next-to-last paragraph which begins: “Design review guidelines are intentionally prepared with ‘gray areas’…

But to quote yet another of those common knowledge things, “You can’t fight city hall”… or in our case, the various boards, agencies, and departments of Pacific County.  In that regard, I wish the Observer would have an investigative reporter take on yet one more of those expressions that have become so prominent in twenty-first century parlance:  “Follow the money.”

A Reason for Rejoicing

Thursday, July 21st, 2016
Porch Roof, John Crellin House, 2015

Porch Roof, John Crellin House, 2012

Lately, there have been few reasons for collective celebrating here in Oysterville but, as of a few days ago, you could almost feel the whole town jumping up and down for joy!  The roofers have arrived and are swarming atop the John Crellin House.  It is, indeed, reason to rejoice!

The house was built in 1867 – not the oldest house in Oysterville and not unchanged over the years.  But it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the twelve “Primary” historic structures in the village.  Of those designated buildings, only eleven remain, and two of that number have been changed so much since the nomination in 1976 as to be unrecognizable.  We feared that the John Crellin House would soon disappear entirely.

Roofers at the John Crellin House, Juky 2016

Roofers at the John Crellin House, July 2016

I don’t think there is a single resident who has not expressed dismay over the last half-dozen years at the condition of the venerable old house.  We have talked among ourselves, tried to come up with solutions to the problem and have tried to put private ownership in context with a publicly acclaimed Historic District. Some of us have talked with the absentee owners and commiserated with them over their personal circumstances – horrific situations which have caused the appearance of ‘benign neglect’ of their place.

John Crellin House, 2009

John Crellin House, 2009

And now, at a time of confusion and angst for Oysterville as we try to foresee a future without our Design Review Board, help for the old house has arrived!  I can’t think of anything better for lifting village spirits and helping us all look on that elusive ‘bright side’ in the midst of anxious times!  Even our house seems pleased!

Ours is the Tom Crellin House – built in 1867 using the same plans by the younger brother of John.  As I look back upon the history of both houses, I can’t help but think “there but for the grace of God” goes our place.  Or any of the other old structures in town.  Surely, in addition to the town’s  current residents, there must be relief and joy among all of Oysterville’s ancestors. Once again things are looking up in the village!

In times of stress…

Saturday, September 19th, 2015
Helen & Harry Espy,1947 by Hilda Cole Espy

The H.A. Espys,1947 by Hilda Cole Espy

In all likelihood, it’s living in her house and among many of her treasures that I feel so close to my grandmother, even though she died in 1954 shortly after I had begun college. For special dinner parties, when I set the table with her china and crystal and silverware, I can’t help but think about all the times she must have done the same thing. Conversely, in times of stress I often wonder what she might have done in a similar situation.

Just now with all the angst in the village surrounding our relationship with the County, I idly wondered what was going on in this household a hundred years ago. I took a look in my Dear Medora book and found that on this very date a century ago my grandmother had written this letter to her eldest daughter.

Mrdora, 1916

Mrdora, 1916

Oysterville
Sunday, September 19, 1915
Medora:

            Is there any place you could get a suit not to exceed twenty-five dollars and charge it? We cannot pay more than this, and want you to get it as much cheaper as possible. Do be careful. Don’t buy one the scale that you got your shoes. Six dollars was dreadful. This would get two or even three pair for the rest of the family. There is a saying that nothing is so bad but what it can be worse, but I verily believe the worst stage has reached us financially. We don’t know from day to day how things may turn. However, I know there will come a time when we can make up to you for this skimping.
Papa says he wants you to make better marks during this your senior year. Send for your application blank right away to enter Stanford.
Hastily, Mama

Unfortunately, the time that they could make up for the “skimping” never came. Not in Medora’s lifetime, anyway. She died less than four months later, a few days past her 17th birthday – suddenly, in her sleep, of a cerebral hemorrhage. According to my mother and her siblings, my grandmother never completely recovered from Medora’s death. She was a devoted and loving mother to each of her remaining five children but, they said, there was always an air of melancholy about her. My mother was certain that my grandmother could never come to grips with the things that had been left unsaid and undone or, contrariwise, with the expectations and demands she had made upon Medora as ‘the oldest.’

Charlie, 2011

Charlie, 2011

I don’t know that any of these thoughts helped me out directly with regard to the current happenings in Oysterville. But, thinking about my grandmother’s grief and its enduring aftermath does make me reassess (once again) the things I think are important. With that thought in mind, I called my son. We had a long chat about all manner of things and, especially, about the village and its struggles. After all, his relationship with Oysterville will outlast mine and I can only hope that it is a stress-free one – probably not very different from every mother’s wish for her child, no matter in what regard.

Pretty in Pink? Impertinent in Print?

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
W.D. Taylor House, 1969

W.D. Taylor House, 1969

For a week, we’ve been watching the façade of our neighbor Bradley’s house change day-by-day to a subtle pearly pink – not what I would think of as a “traditional” or “historic” color for the exterior of a house in Oysterville. In fact, I’ve been wondering what builder and original owner Will Taylor would think. Will and his wife moved to town and built the house back in 1870. Will was a stagecoach driver and Adelaide was the town midwife.

The house has had many owners since then. In my childhood, Tommy and Irene Nelson lived there and had their oyster cannery out in back. In the 1980s, Rose Espy Glynn, a very distant relative from Pennsylvania, bought the house and more recently Gwen Newton and Nancy Lloyd owned it. I can’t speak for Tommy and Irene but I do know that the more recent owners ‘had work done’ on the house. It’s what you do with structures that are still among us after a hundred years.

The "Shack" Bradley Bought

The “Shack” Bradley Bought

So, when I read Bradley’s Guest Column in today’s Observer, I was a bit surprised to see that he referred to the house as a “shack.” His precise words were “By the time that I overpaid for my historic Oysterville shack in 2009…” Wow! I was ‘sore amazed’ as they say. I have never ever thought of the Taylor House as a “shack.” But, thought I, maybe my thinking is skewed, so I looked up the definition of “shack” in my Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (the hard cover, five-pound version.)

“Shack (back-formation from English dialect shackly rickety, 1878) 1. HUT. SHANTY 2. a room or similar enclosed structure for a particular person or use (a guard shack).”

Real Estate Poster, 2008

Real Estate Poster, 2008

Neither the first nor second definition applies, as far as I can see. Not to this good-sized structure that has stood for almost 150 years. Nope. Hardly a shack. But, I have no professional credentials and, as he clearly points out in his guest column, Bradley does: “I have a five-year professional degree in landscape architecture from UW College of Architecture and Urban Planning.”

That he also uses the column to snipe at his fellow-Oysterville residents (including me) is not very surprising. He’s been doing that in person since the day he moved in and it might be what he does best, even though his carefully stated credentials and experience are in an altogether different line of endeavor. “Oh, that’s just Bradley being Bradley” is the usual response when he lets fly. But what did really annoy me was his characterization of the readers of my Observer column as “potentially pitchfork and torch-bearing grannies storming the Pacific County Courthouse.” Wow! Where did THAT come from?

W.D. Taylor House, September 16, 2015

W.D. Taylor House, September 16, 2015

In today’s column, he also cites his extensive experience with matters such as our Oysterville Design Review Process. Which brings me back to his choice of exterior paint color. “Exterior repainting, if the coloring is different than what currently exists on the structure,” according to Ordinance 162, Section 20, requires “Administrative Approval” through the Oysterville design review process. It is up to the homeowner to apply for that approval. As of yesterday, Bradley had not done so, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain.

Perhaps if Will Taylor and the rest of the pioneers could read Bradley’s flamboyant remarks in today’s paper, they’d understand a bit more about his choice of color for his house. Perhaps the rest of us will, too. Pretty in pink? Or pretty is as pretty does?