Posts Tagged ‘Oysterville National Historic District’

In Oysterville, it’s the Year of the R…

Tuesday, March 7th, 2023

Red House Roof Project

In many places of the world, this is the Year of the Rabbit — specifically the Water Rabbit.  The sign of Rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture and 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope.

In Oysterville, it appears to be the Year of the Roof.  As we speak, there is a roofing crew at the Red House removing shingles and applying acres of blue tarp.  Large bundles of cedar shingles await their turn at covering the 1872 home of our great-grandfather, R.H. Espy.  I know he’s smiling down and applauding for his Red House Greats — especially for David, Chief of Operations among the RH cousins.

Both the Red House and the Oysterville Church are sporting spiffy new chimneys, too — at least from the roofline up.  The chimney on my lower roof is on the schedule to be repaired next week (God willing an’ the creek don’t rise).  That will be the third old structure in recent months to sport a newer, safer, skyline.

New Chimney – Just like the old!

Meanwhile, all the residents of the National Historic District have been discussing, examining and answering surveys about the use of modern “alternative” materials when building or repairing their homes.  As it has become increasingly difficult to get traditional materials (old growth cedar shingles, for instance) historic sites all over the United States — even Historic Williamsburg — are approving alternative look-alike materials.  The Oysteville Restoration Foundation is hoping to approach the County with a proposal for changing the ordinance that specifies such matters for Oysterville.  Stay tuned.

So, next time you visit the village, I invite you to look up and admire the recent improvements to the health and safety of our old buildings!  Long may they endure!

It’s been a long time since…

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

“Willows Road Speeders Should Slow Down” said the heading in one of today’s Letters to the Editor in the Chinook Observer.  “Yes,” I thought.  “And so should speeders on every other road on the Peninsula.”  And then I read about the writer’s cat and I thought, ” I’m so sorry.” And “There but for the grace of god…”

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any law enforcement presence stopping speeders on the Peninsula.  I think about that every single time I pick up my mail at the Oysterville Post Office.  In case you haven’t visited there recently (or ever), I might mention that it is snugged up against the eastern side of Davis Hill — right at the bottom.  There is no way for drivers to see the cars parked there until they crest the hill.  By then it’s too late.

It’s not a very big hill and for years there was little traffic coming or going over it.  But now that Surfside has come into it’s own, cars and trucks speed over it regularly. Those of us backing out of the P.O. parking area cannot see who is coming toward us from the west — not until it would be way too late.  Presumably, “they” could swerve into the oncoming lane of traffic to avoid us, but only IF nothing was in that lane headed west.  It is scary to the max.

The speed limit signs say “25.”  No one reads them.  Or if they do, the number doesn’t compute.  My personal vote would be for speed bumps — big ones — on the west side of the hill.  I imagine that will happen some day.  I only hope it happens before it’s too late.

Spires, Inspirations and Aspirations

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

The 1892 Spire Handoff, April 30, 2021

The closest thing Oysterville has to a museum is “Tucker’s Arcade” which you probably know is a work in progress.  Probably always will be.  Tucker is a collector, after all, and an eclectic one at that.  There is never an end in sight to interesting possibilities.

Meanwhile… for years our Back Forty has been the repository for many Oysterville-related items — paintings by known and unknown artists (especially of the church), old photographs and letters and documents from or to or concerning old Oysterville residents and, almost anything church-related that needs storage for “a while.”

Perhaps the church connection dates back to the 1892 construction of the church by my great-grandfather — the same year that he purchased this house to be used as a parsonage.  Somehow, the house has been collecting odd bits and pieces ever since.  For years before the church had heat, the little pump organ spent every winter here in the house.  Votive candles left over from weddings and vases from vespers and extra reflectors from the (now) non-existent kerosene lanterns all wait against the day they will be needed.  And that is to say nothing of the many boxes of walking tours that await distribution once the church can be opened to the public again — an ongoing responsibility for whoever lives here, it seems.

Doubly in-spire-ing! September 2012

As Nyel and I begin our Big Cleanout Project, we think about these things.  Some items  will eventually go back to the church but some… we’re not sure.  So it is with the 1892 church spire.  When it was replaced in 1980 during the Church Restoration project, the old one came to our house and, in lieu of an Oysterville museum, here it has stayed.  Waiting.  In 1912, the current spire (made by Ossie Steiner and, actually, just a little bit bigger than the original) came down for re-painting.  Tucker and I had our pictures taken with the new and the old spires and Tucker said something like, “If you ever decide you need to get rid of this original spire…”

So it was that, last night, Nyel and I turned over that historic piece of Oysterville to Tucker.  He says he has the perfect place for it in his Arcade.  “But what we really need in Oysterville is a museum,” he said.  We couldn’t agree more.  Even though we love and adore the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and have great respect for the all-encompassing history archived at the Pacific County Historical Society Museum, it would be nice if Oysterville had a little place of its own.  You know — an inside space to reflect the history of the Historic Oysterville and the National Historic District (which is a museum, of sorts, all on its own.)

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

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

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.



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.”