Free. It’s tough to get more affordable than that. But free is rarely actually free.
In La Center, Washington, where the Lewis River runs into the Columbia, a 2,700-square-foot, three-story house needs a new home. Unfortunately, it can’t stay where it’s been for the last century and more—but fortunately, the history isn’t the only thing valuable about it.
It was built in 1889, back in a time when shutters were for shuttering windows and not just nailed to the siding as decoration. It would be quaint to consider it a farmhouse, but it was a lumber baron’s summer home. Olaf Aagaard owned the mills that supported our region’s railroads, and he and his family needed to get away from the busy life in Portland.
Now, thanks to logistics, pragmatism, and regulations, the owners have to get rid of a big block of history before they can move onto other projects. Preservation and historical societies don’t have the funds and a place to put it. Rather than knock it down, the owners decided to make it available for free to someone who can move it and give it a good home.
Whether as a home or a museum piece, it has some quintessential elements from the time. It was built well, and probably with lumber that was tight-grained and thick. The baseboards are ten inches tall. Twelve-foot ceilings in the parlor room were for style, but also to help keep the room cool on hot days by giving the hot air a place to rise to. A galley kitchen was big enough to feed all the occupants of the four bedroom house, which probably involved a lot of sharing.
The top floor is apparently one big bedroom, a grand place for a master suite, or a marvelous rumpus room for a bunch of kids. The three fireplaces aren’t ornamental, and probably add to the weight. An excellent root cellar is classic for the times, but the basement, understandably, stays where it is.
The owners have two years to find a solution, and that time that can go by quickly as people try to figure out how to secure, lift, move, and replant a museum piece all at once or in pieces.
Free? Sort of. Valuable? Definitely.
- 4517 NE 379th St, La Center [WA Trust]