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

Eeper Weeper Chimney Sweeper

Friday, March 17th, 2023

From a children’s nursery rhyme site:

Eeper Weeper, chimney sweeper,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her.
Had another, didn’t love her,
Up the chimney he did shove her.

Eeper Weeper is a morbid old traditional nursery rhyme that has fallen out of use in recent times as its content (a chimney sweeper killing his second wife and hiding her body) is not considered child-friendly anymore. It is questionable why it ever was considered a nursery rhyme worth singing to children.  [Doncha think the “anymore” is the weirdest word in this paragraph?]

I found it when I was looking for rhymes about chimneys — just for fun.  But, as I expected and now know for sure, there aren’t any except for those about sweeps.   Chimney sweeps, or climbing boys as they were often called, was a harsh profession to be in and most likely one that would severely cut your life short. Those employed were often orphans or from impoverished backgrounds, sold into the job by their parents.

How glad I am the chimney sweeps of today have proper tools, protective clothing and all the necessary safety gear to handle a messy job with finesse.  But most of all, how thankful I am to have a nice new chimney (from the roof up) and to know that with proper maintenance, it should last several lifetimes beyond me!

“And what about our other chimney?” I asked as they were finishing up yesterday.  “At least another five years for it,” they agreed.  Oh my!  I do hope so!  Chimneys are nothing to be sneezed at, price-wise!

I do wish I could include a photo of our spiffy new chimney but… if it ain’t one thing it’s another.  For whatever reason (and with cell phone cameras and computer programs, who knows) I cannot get any of my photos from there to here.  Maddening…   So if you’re in the area, look up as you drive by!  It’s impressive!

Feeling “very much accomplished”

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

Our Library and Living Room

Cleaning this house is not a small chore, but it is one I usually enjoy.  I do a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning twice a year — once before Thanksgiving and once before Easter.  The downstairs (not including kitchen, bathrooms or my office) typically takes five days.  Upstairs just a day.

I have to admit that the “Covid Ennui” caused me to skip last Spring’s cleaning entirely.  It weighed on me but not heavily enough that I scurried around and caught up with myself.  Nope.  Skipped it entirely.  Which meant that last week when I began my Fall Endeavors, it took even longer.

BUT, NEWS FLASH… the downstairs is shiny bright.  Silver and crystal polished and sudsed; every surface dusted, waxed, and refurbished; pillows plumped and doilies wash and starched.  As my mother’s older sister Medora (1899-1916) wrote in her diary about something else entirely, “I feel very much accomplished.”

Cinderella At Work

It would be lovely if I could say with certainty that the afterglow from my achievements would waft me upstairs and through the rooms above.  We will see.  Somehow, with no plans for occupants over the holidays, my motivation is somewhat lacking.  On the other hand, this would be a good time to take Cinderella-the-Robot-Vacuum upstairs and introduce her to a whole new floor plan…

Wow!  I never thought I’d see the day when I’d find inspiration in AI.  Scarey.


Front Row Seats To A Peak Performance!

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Looking Up Up Up!

The swallows have been back at our house for a month or so but, for the first time in years, they are building their nests in new places.  They did scope out their old haunts —  six or seven of them above the eastside kitchen window and in every upper corner of the once-upon-a-time back porch.  They stuck up their beaks at all of them, apparently eschewing the fact that most swallows return to the same colony generation after generation, with 44 percent of pairs reoccupying the same nest.  Studies show that a good nest may be used for 10-15 years by a series of different pairs.

Granted, last year’s used (and reused ad infinitum) nests have been gone since late last fall — the final sacrifice made to benefit our summer house-painting project.  Over the years, nest disappearance has occurred here periodically and the swallows, seemingly undeterred, have rebuilt in exactly the same spots.  Not this year.  Perhaps it has to do with social distancing.

Precarious Perch

So far, two nests are completed — one just under the west peak of the roof, tucked under the eaves and up so high it’s hard to see; the other impossibly constructed at the bend in a drainpipe coming from the gutter under the eaves on the south side of the house.  In both cases, Mom and Pop Swallow seem a bit smug.  “Try and raze our place this time!” they seem to say as they swoop back and forth.

There was one aborted attempt to rebuild atop the window frame on our porch.  I think it was the drainpipe couple.  I really hope so.  Their current choice is so much better, all the way around.  No mess for us groundlings to deal with and, hopefully, a softer, not a lethal, landing should one of the babies plunge earthward.  (Last year, we found a fledgling on the porch — perhaps a victim of overconfidence about being ready to fly.)

The Church Colony Begins

As for the church — despite efforts by the Oysterville Restoration Foundation to discourage the swallows, they are back in force.  The activity has been unceasing as they have flown back and forth, back and forth, building their nests under the sloping eaves.  They are cliff swallows — cousins to the barn swallows across the street here, at our place.

Their sturdy mud nests (each made with up to 1,000 mud pellets!) have a small, round opening so eggs and babies will be protected against predators.  Watching the parents fly, unerringly and at top speed, in to feed their babies is a sight to behold.

Whether we are inside or out, we have front row seats to the best show in town!  Facing prolonged sheltering isn’t half so bad with such ongoing entertainment (and education) in store!  Let’s hear it for the birds!  And especially the swallows!


A Pair, A Spare, The Devil, & The Details

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

One of the distinctive characteristics of our old house is its “gingerbread” — defined as “those elaborately detailed embellishments  specifically used by American designers in the late 1860s and ’70s.”   This place, built in 1869, fits that niche perfectly.

Aging gracefully house-wise is much the same as with the rest of us.  Lots of attention to details is required.  Thank goodness, the noticing is not left to me!  I am the master of myopia when it comes to keeping track, paying attention, and finding the experts needed to do what is necessary.  Nyel is the hero in that department!

Years ago, a big chunk of the gingerbread on the wesr side of the house was actually falling to pieces.  Our go-to guy then was Bob Bredfield — his attention to detail and his ingenuity in recreating long-forgotten construction techniques were legendary.  He took down the chunk of gingerbread and copied it perfectly — twice.  That was at Nyel’s request, knowing full-well we’d need that extra piece someday.  Fortunately, someday has not yet arrived.

The latest in the gingerbread maintenance program are the finials that used to top the four supporting posts for the east balcony railing.  Gone!  One by one they have come loose from their moorings and fallen off.  Some time ago, Nyel-the-hero noticed one hiding in a garden bed and rescued it.  It wasn’t until Jay Short painted the east side of the house last summer that we realized there are no finials in situ anymore.

Cousins Cheryl and Virg to the rescue.  When they visited on Valentine weekend, Virg took the finial Nyel had saved.  He had access to a big chunk of cedar from a friend’s logging operation, and their neighbor in Lacey enjoys woodworking.  Not long ago, Cheryl sent me a picture of the results — three beautiful new finials!  Virg plans to prime the new ones and then they’ll send them to us for the final coat and installation!  Yay!

I haven’t yet mentioned to Nyel that I’ve been thinking about the shutters that this house used to have —  before storm windows. I wonder what it would take to replicate them…


Humbled, Delighted, Honored!

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

Each Christmas since he and Carol were married, Tucker has designed and made the Christmas cards which they then send to friends and relatives.  Often, there is a story inside the card — sometimes related to the image, sometimes not.  This is year 50 and we were delighted to see our house as the card’s subject and the story about an event which happened here during the Christmas season almost a century ago!

A Few of Tucker’s Christmas Cards (and ornaments!)

Here is what Tucker said:
Our card this year is the fiftieth handmade card that we’ve sent out for Christmas since our marriage in 1970.  The card depicts our neighbors, Nyel and Sydney Stevens’ house, built in 1869.  The house is made completely of wood and is one of the oldest houses in the state.  It has survived the stormy, wet coastal environment of southwest Washington.  A big “birthday” party was held in September with over two hundred guests enjoying house tours, musical bands, and the firing of the cannon.  Our German cousins, Manfred and Ute Marx, joined the festivities.  Ute played a special “welcome” signal on her hunting horn to start the event.  It was fantastic.

H.A. Espy House (and tree) 1939 — WPA Photo, Librarry of Congress

I noticed how the house and the Oysterville church appeared almost side by side from the yard where the party took place.  It reminded me of a visit I had with Sydney’s uncle, Willard Espy, in August of 1995.  He told me about the wonderful quality of the seaborne air and the magical light specific to Oysterville.  He told me the story of his Christmas tree in 1922 when he was about twelve years old.  They had found a nicely shaped live spruce tree, dug it up, and took it home like a guest for the holidays.  After Christmas, the tree was planted in the extreme southwest corner of the property and over the years the tree had grown four feet wide near the base of the trunk and fifty to sixty feet high.  I think the church could still be seen from the yard but with all the branches, I’m not sure.  The tree eventually became a danger to people as well as the old house and was cut down but a new little spruce tree has taken seed and  has risen forty-five inches from the top of the old stump.  The renewal of life brings hope.

Merry Christmas!  Tucker and Carol Wachsmuth

I know that Willard and Edwin and my mother — all of whom participated in the digging up and replanting of that tree — would feel as honored as we do that it was the focus of the 50th card!  Wow!

“This is why we never get anything done.”

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

“Oysterville – 1968

Bill Bailey (via his sister-in-law, Barbara) gave our house a gift on the occasion of its 150th birthday — an 8×10 black and white photograph titled “Oysterville – 1968.”  The picture was taken from the north and shows our house and adjacent pasture, as well as a peek at the W.D. Taylor house, most of the church, and part of the Wachsmuth house on the corner of School Street and Territory Road.

I’ve looked at it a lot — trying to sort out memory from what is documented here.  In fact, this morning Nyel and I spent a good thirty minutes looking with a magnifying glass to determine exactly what was partially hidden by the trees.  An earlier, smaller addition that housed the woodshed and garage is what we finally determined.

It was about that time that Nyel said, “This is why we never get anything done around here!”  Well, I guess looking at a fifty-year-old picture of a house he’s only known for thirty-five years could be considered a time-waster.  But, for me, seeing the field to the north that was used in my girlhood to pasture neighbors’ horses was hardly a time-waster.  (And who was that old horse anyway?  I think it was too late to have been the Holway family’s Prince.) And that TV antenna!  Oh my!  I wonder why it never came down during a storm.  Or why didn’t it take the whole roof off with it.  And, for all its size, the reception was pitiful.

That the church steeple was boarded up then was no surprise, though.  I think it was closed against leaks in the early fifties or maybe even in the forties and stayed that way until the church was restored in 1980.  But I had forgotten about the windows on the north side of the Sunday School  Room also being boarded up.  I wonder if the other windows were closed off as well.  And I don’t remember all the trees in the area that was once my grandfather’s vegetable garden — just to the northwest of the house.  Were they fruit trees of some kind?

Papa in His Garden, 1948

I’m sure that other people will see things in the photograph that I missed… unless they are too busy getting something “done.”  Humpf!

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.