I feel inexpressibly happy having gotten through the memories of two difficult years (1992 and 1993) and at last getting back to my own domain. Thanks to watching Ryan Gainey’s video, Creating the Romantic Garden, I had realized that I absolutely MUST have my own home and garden again. When he said he had his garden because he CHOSE to have it, I knew I had to take charge of my life again. So I called Lesley Brophy, local realtor, in May of 1994 and said that I was ready to sell my Seattle house and buy down here.
She said: “I have the perfect house in Ilwaco to show you.” I said, “I don’t want to look at anything in Ilwaco; I hate Ilwaco!” (which at the time had few of the charming amenities that the town now has). She said, “At least come look at it; it’s made of stone and has a pond.” I could not resist the word “pond” so off we went. It must have been May, as the rhododendrons along the dirt road that led to the house were in bloom. This photo shows Marjo in the upper window; she, along with her spouse John, were renting the house at the time.
We barely glanced in the house before walking down through the yard, a 50X100 foot double lot. In the little natural spring fed pond, a frog sat on a log. “I’ll take it!” I said, meaning the frog, the pond, and the little house.
The small wooden house was interestingly placed atop a stone foundation, which created a basement with three daylight sides. The basement was a little daunting as it was full of stuff, but had big doors and some lovely windows, including this unfinished cathedral style window frame.
Robert commented that the plumbing left something to be desired; you had to duck to get under these pipes which were running from the kitchen sink and the tub.
We had not wanted to be horrible new owners and evict the tenants, but in July, John and Marjo moved out to live in the innkeeper’s quarters at the Inn at Ilwaco (now Inn at Harbour Village) so we suddenly found the house was ours to move into. Here it is…empty…and shockingly tiny. I wondered, of course, “What have I done?” (Below: The stairs go up to a small loft where you can stand only in the center.)
The kitchen was in an odd place. Robert immediately had the brainstorm of moving it into the smaller room that you can see glowing in the window light to the right of the refrigerator. All he did was take those basement water hoses that were tied to the ceiling and swing them over to the other room, moved the fixtures, and we had a newly placed kitchen and a larger living room.
The previous owners, Cheri Jones and Will Galloway, gave us their old photos of how the house came to its present spot. It had been an old fishing shack down in the boatyard area, which they bought and moved to their lot. You can see the cottage, with Will riding on the roof, being moved (just over the long roof of our neighbour’s house) up 2nd SW to our dirt road.
Here it is coming up the dirt road (Spring Street). Lower left corner shows the trailer Will and Cheri had lived in till the house arrived. And look, what a view, which is by now totally blocked by trees. You can see Jessie’s fish plant in red and the boats of the harbour.
Will and Cheri had put the house on the foundation that Cheri built with her experience from building stone walls for the forest service, and then they built a boat in which they sailed away. In this long shed they constructed the boat. You can see the dormer on the house is new.
Here is the beautiful boat that Will and Cheri sailed away in. They stop at various ports to work awhile, and then sail some more.
Now I had to face a huge wrench: selling my house in Seattle, which I had bought after my Grandma, Gladys Corrine Walker, died. I had a lifetime of memories there. I grew up in that house as she had a small day care center and I was one of the several children she cared for from the time I was 6 months old till I was 12. And later, it had been mine from age 25 to 38….and I loved it. But it had to go; maintaining a second home from over three hours a way was not something I could do.
My grandmother loved her little red house so much that she made a cake depicting it. Her return address labels said “The Little Red House.”
and, as I had shared before, her house rug…
The house in my Gram’s day with the table set for a dinner party with her Blue Onion China and her beloved china cabinet behind her. All the flowers in that bouquet would have come from her garden.
Above, background: the big hibiscus tree that my grandmother decorated at Christmas.
What would Gram think of my selling? By now, my longtime housemate Wilum had moved out and my remaining tenants, Matthew and Paisely, wanted to buy a house, and if they couldn’t buy mine, they were going to move. And I felt that perhaps Robert would at last be happy if we had an easier life without a mortgage.
I had loved the house, too. I was downscaling from an 850 square foot Craftsman Bungalow with 10 foot ceilings and an attic and half basement to a 360 square foot fishing shack with a small loft and interesting but very damp basement. Here is my Seattle living room in 1989…before I painted all the woodwork the cobalt blue, green and purple combination I had learned from my old girlfriend, Anne:
Until I removed the new house’s propane stove in 2005, I would not even have room for my favourite little table (here shown back when Chris and Wilum lived with me):
My grandmother had put flowered wallpaper on the ceilings, shown below with some Christmas decor.
Below: A corner of my Seattle kitchen with built in cabinet…There was even room for a table in the kitchen and beyond the arch was a breakfast nook which I had turned into my office. I fondly called it a “no bedroom house” because one bedroom was just a back porch lean-to, one you had to walk through to reach the bathroom and included the stairs to the attic, and Wilum’s attic room was so low ceilinged that he could not stand up in it.
I had a whole room for my books (and the ladder-stairs to Wilum’s attic). (Below, before I painted all the trim green, blue, and purple).
I also had to deal with giving up Seattle:
I knew that if I sold my house, I would be unlikely to ever be able to afford to buy back into the city.
So….I did it. I let it go. We sold my house to Matthew and Paisley at somewhat of a lower price so that they could afford it, but doing so changed the dynamic of our casual friendship (I think it made me seem rich) and between that and poignant sentiment, I never visited the house again. I have Google-earthed it to remind myself that larger houses have gone up around it, thus changing the private nature of its back garden. (I also learned years later that the lot was only 3000 square feet. No wonder it seemed to small…it was extra tiny.
And here it is, in 2012, the middle house with the red roof. You can see it still has the parking strip garden, and the downhill neighbours now have a parking strip garden, too. The wisteria has climbed all over the house. And in the back yard, by the alley (where a big vehicle is at the moment of the photo), I see a new little shed. There’s a wood stove chimney in the roof, and the neighbour on the left side still has the big deck. But far worse, the neighbours on the downhill side have expanded their house (which used to be the same size and exact configuration of mine) so that it hugely takes up their whole back yard, thus removing much of the privacy of what used to be mine. I have no regrets.