Saturday, December 6, 2014

This Old House at Christmas

This Sunday we are opening up our house to strangers.

No snow yet, but the Christmas wreaths are up.
We don't do that often. It has been our refuge from the wide world for more than 20 years. Cozy in the winter storms and howling winds. 

This year, however, we have been asked to be part of the historic Christmas homes tour.

It all starts with a Finnish Christmas Concert at the historic Deep River Evangelical Lutheran Church on December 7th at 1:30 pm. Donations go the upkeep of this historic church. Following it is a Tour of Homes sponsored by the Finnish-American Folk Festival Tickets are $5/person and can be purchased at the church, Hair Villa, Finn Ware, and Radio Shack. We also have maps and can take donations at the house if you want to start the tour from this end. 

Our house is known as the Elsie Torpa place by locals. Amy grew up just across the fields always called it Elsie’s and remembered coming to visit and having cookies in the welcoming kitchen.

The land was first patented under the Homestead act in February 1877 by Hans P Nadresen. It is not clear, based on our limited research, what improvements he made to the property. His claim included the uplands on the other side of the state route 4 -- which was not built until the 1920s -- as well as the fields totaling 146 acres.  

We attempted to research the property in the 1990s, but records from Wahkiakum county are currently located in Olympia. Some county records have been lost to a fire. We are always looking for more information about the previous owners and history of our home. I have searched the archives for a historic picture of our home, but haven't been able to find one.

We believe the house was built in about 1917 based on the increase in tax values at that time. A few years before a young man married one of the Rosburg girls and the property was split off from the larger Rosburg holding. The property tax records increased between 1916 and 1917 and the construction of a house is noted. There was also a round roofed barn for the dairy. When we removed the original cedar siding two years ago, we found cigarette papers dated 1918.  

Many have told us over the years that the house was a “Sears house.” These were house kits that could be ordered right out of the Sears catalog and delivered to your property -- but you had to put together the pre-measured lumber yourself. While the house is similar to some of the Sears kits of the era, the abundance of mills and lumber at the time makes me think it was likely built of local materials. The cedar siding came from the Grays River Shingle Co. and the house is all built of straight grained Douglas Fir. That said, the quality of the craftsmanship is high.

The Durrah family had the property for a time, before Elmer and Elsie purchased the house in the 1940s. Henry Nelson bought the property with the house from the Torpa family in the about 1990. His daughter Amy Nelson married Ed Hunt in 1992 at the Grays River covered bridge. We moved into the house in 1993 and purchased the house -- split off from the pasture -- in 1995.

The house was unremodled, but needed major upgrades to the electrical, plumbing, windows and insulation when the purchased by the Hunts. Over the past 20 years Amy and Ed have slowly restored and revived the old house.  I did all of the plumbing and light fixtures himself. Amy spent many nights tirelessly stripping layers of paint from the beautiful wood trim and floors in the living room and dining room. I
built the fireplace mantle behind the Jotul 404 wood cook stove.

We welcome visitors and anyone who can help us learn more about this house.

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