Slow work — keeping some of our history

In encountering one of my earlier blogs, where I was able to import some blog posts from other of my blogs, I discovered that I no longer know the log in information for the email accompanying that particular blog.  Oh no, it has some of our history from the time we lived in our great old house in Bay Center, WA, on Willapa Bay.  Not wanting to lose the information, I have been painstakingly bringing each blog post to this account employing a copy/paste method.  I’m not at all sure what the finished product looks like to others, looks okay to me each time I view the finished posting.   Idea though is for me to preserve a bit of the enthusiasm, sadness, and historical bits from the postings at my ‘former’ blog.  Thanks for your patience, and understanding as I plod through …


Quarter Sawn and Petrified wood for floors in this house!

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Part 1 of this story and phase;

Our neighbor, who grew up in this fishing village of Bay Center, stops by from time to time when we are working outside and shares some stories with us about the old days in this community. We know then, that he was a child growing up when the second P.O. (previous owner) of this house lived here and their son was growing up. So our neighbor knows the son who inherited this old place. Son wasn’t able to keep it and it was sold out from under him (sounds more like almost ‘stolen’). Son lived his entire life with his parents, and then his mother when the parents divorced late in life. Son was what would be called in this day and age perhaps somewhat developmentally challenged.

We invited neighbor in to take a look at the house and tell us what he remembers about it back in the day – in it’s more original condition. Neighbor, btw, is rather shy, and it has taken a few years to build up a neighborly over the fence relationship with him, so we are happy to learn the bits and pieces he is willing to share of the old history of this community. Remembering that he himself was a child when he visited P.O. son, and he tells us they were infrequent visits inside this house, he does remember some things about the layout. Neighbor has an interesting adult life history, and is a commercial oyster farmer, knows about boats, the Bay and the River and knows that P.O. was a barge/boat builder so knows a bit about construction back in that day.

All this is lead up to explain how we learned about the wood floors in our house. Well at least the stairs and upstairs flooring. Since I tore out the decades old 70s era brown shag carpet that covered the stairs and upstairs hall flooring, we are left with some major clean up and I still haven’t come up with a decision for how to go; try to restore via sand and stain; paint and forget it or some other variances on either of those plans. After giving our neighbor a tour, I have renewed respect for the wood flooring.

He explains that it is ‘quarter sawn’ wood. What’s that we ask. Wellllll, he says…. and explains that back in those days they cut the hardwood trees, sank them in the mud to let them cure (harden – petrify) and then took them to be sawed for use in building homes, boats, floors, etc.. This process of ‘quarter sawn’, he explains was considered wasteful since a quarter sawn strip of lumber has no knotholes and is cut in a particular way with the grain of the wood. The process then leaves behind waste pieces of wood. After the wood is given it’s mud bath, it has become so hardened that it broke too many saws and in time sawmills refused to cut this kind of wood.

Wow! So guess this wood ain’t going anywhere and will probably last another lifetime. Neighbor showed us how to look down the wood planks and notice the grain and no knotholes of any kind the entire length. We did and we noticed what he was pointing out, which we wouldn’t have noticed or appreciated if he hadn’t shared (with almost a reverence) the nature of the quarter sawn wood process.

He also explained how the nails had to be driven in a most certain way on an angle so as not to split the wood down it’s length. Well, guess if they could get nails hammered in, the wood can’t be too petrified, or perhaps so petrified, it splits? I don’t know, just trying to understand based on neighbor’s explanation. He said, btw, that to this day he knows where some of those trees are still sunk in mud, but he’s not telling where. Guess he’ll go to his grave knowing where they are and not telling.

Part 2 of this story and phase;

Recently, we were invited to give a presentation at a conference in the Eastern part of our state, so we made the 7 hour drive and met up with a colleague who had rented a B&B place to stay for couple of nights. Okay – sounds sweet, eh? The Eastern part of our state is primarily agriculture so it is miles and miles of scenery that can be plateaus of the Columbia Basin, rolling hills of the Palouse, the fruit orchards of the Yakima area, and flat scrub brush in areas located in the neighborhood of Hanford Nuclear Plant. Thus, there are a lot of generational family farmers (and I’d guess a fair amount of new ‘corporate’ farms).

As it turns out, we got a bit lost trying to locate the B & B. Not lost as in lost in the city, but lost on an old country lane that went from pavement to gravel to no outlet, with only a few fairly run down and delapidated houses along the way. I was feeling fairly insecure that if one of these houses was to be the B & B, I was going to have a shaky night and we might need to look for a hotel in town. Husband made a call to the owners, got directions and then got us on the right road to the B & B. It was still a country road, that went from pavement to gravel, and there were few and far between old farmhouses. But we found ‘our’ farmhouse, rented out at B & B by the owners, who were Professors at the University and also ‘worked’ the land, so it was called a working farmhouse B & B. The owners, btw, don’t live at the farmhouse, and have a place in town, or maybe they stay in town when the house is rented out, I’m not sure how that works.
But, here is what does work. It is an old farmhouse – and I like what the owners have done with it, partly restored, partly rehabbed and the decor is pretty much strictly antiques and collectibles so it retains a feel of a farmhouse in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Except for the kitchen which retains it’s 1970s upgrade….too bad, but it was a big kitchen and with a few restorations or reworking it, could quickly lose it’s 1970s identity.
One of the magazines on the coffee table was a big hardback book with lots of great photos about Architecture of Old Farmhouses. I was fascinated and gobbling up the information. It seems that back in the day, what could have started as a humble one or two room dwelling would be added onto as family demands (and family prosperity) grew. So architecturally the style of the day might be added to the style of yesteryear, thereby compromising the definitiveness of architectural style. And ‘saltbox’ style became quite popular but is not in itself a ‘style’ as much as it points to an add on to the existing structure thereby altering the roof line.
Well, there you go – our house then, doesn’t really don’t have any kind of singular architectural style, could be in the classification of a farmhouse, but not exactly, and I tend to call it more the style of the homes of the martimers who lived and fished here. Mr. Bachau, who added elegance to the straightforward style, sheaved the sharp ends at each corner of the roof, added a turret/cupola to the upstairs level, and added bump out bay windows to the street side of the house and the back kitchen. It appears the kitchen is a bump out from the house (an added bump out kitchen was not uncommon, per our neighbor, to the houses built here way back when).
Sheaving the ends of the roof line, our neighbor explained was done to reduce the rotting of the corner ends from the moisture, rains and sea storms that roll in off the Bay, off the Pacific Ocean. I had shown him the photos I have of the original house and the roof line is pitched at both ends. Which is why he explained what he explained about shearing the roofline corners.

After the Bachau’s lived their lives in this house, and she died, and Son inherited the house and wound up ‘selling’ it to the next owner. The house was what is called pier and block, and had no basement. Next P.O. dug out a basement under the house, bricked up the basement and poured a concrete floor, and added a carport where once were the two beautiful bay windows Mr. Bachau added to the house. We learned that owner lived about 20 years in the house (or less but much longer than we had been given to understand).

He sold it and now the next P.O. added a bump out to the bumped out kitchen, and a bump out on pier and block (no basement) to create a main floor bathroom. Incidentally, the original house had no bathroom, had an outhouse, and the main floor bathroom had to be plumbed, there was no upstairs bathroom and the last P.O. created a room and had plumbing done for upstairs bathroom.

Definitely then, this house fits the definitions of what constitutes an old farmhouse to the degree that the book I was reading defined architecture styles passing along through the generations. But our great old house no longer has it’s front porch. A situation I hope to remedy and have a front porch built and added, because I want the old rocking chairs and to be able to sit out on the porch.

What else I learned from reading the book (and looking at the photos) was that some homeowners prefer to restore elements of their house to it’s original architecture, ie, primitive stairways with high risers, architectural columns, beadboarded walls, heavy wood paneling (no, not the 70s stuff), panel doors, ah, memory fails me here, but the list is lengthy. And glory be, I found a photo of an exact staircase bannister as is in our house. It seems that is a deliberate design, how it curves at the top of the stairs. Also that the newel post at the bottom of the stairs is by design Greek Gothic and all I’ve ever thought was that is was primitive in look.

Enough of a post, and some of our next projects I’m considering are to remove the plasterboard that was put up on the walls as part of second owners ‘rehab’ to get back to original plank walls — maybe, as I need to do a bit more research before we start tearing out plasterboard. I can see from some of the original closets that were not rehabbed or upgraded the wallpaper (which is linen btw) and a tear shows the plank walls behind the wallpaper.

Our trip to the Eastern part of the state then brought me home with fresh ideas, renewed love for our old house, and while we went to give a presentation on an entirely different matter, I came home with renewed mental energy to look at this house with fresh eyes or new perspective of it’s valued old history.


Buying the Old House as of November 2002

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We bought the Old house, November 2002. Built in 1886 as a Saltbox style home, in a fishing village on peninsula in the center of Willapa Bay, the village was named Bay Center.

The home was originally built and owned by Miller family; their daughter married Harry Bochau, who was a barge builder. Harry began reconstruction projects on the house to add an upstairs cupola that did not previously exist. He added two sets of bay windows to the main floor living and dining areas. His wife, pleased with the changes called the house her ‘chateau’ and it became known in the community as the Bochau Chateau. We are assured by the old timers who still are alive here and know the history back to the Bochau family, that the wood and beams used in the construction of the house are without flaw, without knot holes, and would be an enviable commodity should the house be torn down. We wanted to give the house a name, and came up with Ruger’s Bay Tower House in Bay Center.

The Bochau family lived their entire lives in the house, and it passed down to their son, who unfortunately was not able to retain possession of the house. The house was originally built on the style of post and board without foundation or basement, without inside bathroom, and without inside water. Purchased by a local enterpreneur, who dug out a basement and built a brick foundation, using brick from the high school torn down in neighboring town. It seems he had enough brick to also build a brick fence around front, and sides of the house.

There came two more owners afterwards and during that period of history, the lower level of the cupola was added, the kitchen expanded, an additional add on to create a bathroom on the main floor and a bathroom upstairs, running water, electrical rewiring up to code, a deck was added and later a room was built, bumping out from the main house structure onto what was the deck area. The back porch was surrounded by rough-in structure to shield from the pacific winds and serves as an enclosed porch now. Additional bay windows came along with the various construction add-on’s, so that the house now has 13 different bay window areas on three levels.

By the time we came along and bought the house in Nov 2002, the house could be described as unusual – unique – interesting, or some might politely say ‘it’s different’. The house was among featured drawings by Earl Thollander in book ‘Backroads of Washington’.

We have some ideas of our own to add to this quaint house and look forward to the years ahead living in this great old house in this quiet little fishing village of Bay Center, on Willapa Bay, of the Pacific ocean, with gentle seasonal coastal breezes along with the fierce winter wind and rainstorms. We live in an area where tsunami signs are posted road signs….let’s hope no tsunamis in the near future for us.