Posted on 08 April 2012.
Joyce and Tad (Frederic) Lhamon bought their Port Madison home in 1970, exactly 100 years after it was first built by a Port Madison Mill sea captain named John Farnum who transported monthly shipments of lumber from the Port Madison Mill to Pacific ports. Since their purchase of the home, the Lhamons have been dedicated to its upkeep, modernizing it enough to make it liveable but not so much as to destroy its historical character.
Because of their dedication to preserving its history, the home is one of five buildings newly added to the Bainbridge Island Historical registry. The others are the Bucklin House (also in Port Madison), the Lynwood Center, Bay Hay and Feed in Rolling Bay, and the Bartel Fire Station at Fort Ward.
Captain Farnum's ship "The Tidal Wave." With this ship, Farnum held the record for sailing to San Francisco and back. He also used it to deliver lumber to China.
Historic Preservation on Bainbridge
Joyce, who is also a board member of the Historic Preservation Commission, tells me that our city has a single ordinance for promoting the preservation of historic properties. This ordinance enabled Bainbridge Island to become in 2004 a Certified Local Government (CLG) under a program managed by the National Park Service and the Washington State Office of Historic Preservation, making Bainbridge eligible for grants and opportunities offered by the state and federal governments. The Historic Preservation Commission, which was created through the certification, provides owners of historic properties with technical assistance and maintains the register of historic properties. The owner of an historic property must approve its placement on the registry. The commission reviews any Bainbridge Island applications to the National Historic register.
Although the local registry doesn’t guarantee preservation, it is the best protection available, says Joyce. I asked her what being on the registry does for a home if it doesn’t guarantee preservation. She said that owners of historic homes on the register are given special recognition for their preservation efforts. They also must go through the Historic Preservation Commission to make permitted changes. The City of Bainbridge Island cannot issue a permit to those properties unless the HPC approves. But a homeowner could simply decide to remove a property from the register.
Removal would take away certain tax benefits. During a ten-year special tax valuation period, substantial improvements made to a historic property are not reflected in property taxes as long as the owners (1) maintain the property in good condition, (2) obtain approval from the HPC before making any improvements, and, if the structure is not visible from a public right of way, (3) make the home available for public view once a year.
Removal also takes away potential discounts from local businesses. Ace Hardware, Bainbridge Island Plumbing, Island Floors, Probuild, Rolling Bay Electric, and Winslow Paint Company all offer discounts on labor or materials related to building preservation.
Our local Register of Historic Places now lists 23 locations. The HPC says that structures that are more than 50 years old and are associated with Bainbridge Island’s history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or cultural heritage are worthy of consideration.
The Farnum House
The Farnum House
Historical character comes at a price. Joyce told me that she and her husband were young at the time of the purchase and had no idea what they were getting into.
The Farnum house originally had external wiring, meaning that all wiring was on the outside of the interior walls where it could be seen. The kitchen was lit by a bulb hanging from a wire. Surrounding the plate where the bulb was attached to the ceiling were outlets for plugging in the kitchen appliances, which was not the most attractive or most convenient setup. Rewiring the home was one of the modernizations the Lhamons decided to pursue.
Original paned window
The house was originally heated by several fireplaces including one upstairs. The Lhamons closed off the upstairs fireplace and added a furnace to heat the home. They also made some changes to the plumbing, which had all been centered on the first floor along one wall, and added a a bathroom to the upstairs. In their preservation efforts, they removed five garbage cans of paint from the floors and insulated the home.
One year, they made the mistake of opening the windows, which had been painted shut. They quickly learned that the single-paned windows were a significant entry point for cold air, so they contacted Puget Sound Energy for help. PSE was able to connect them with a manufacturer of storm windows that would fit over the original paned windows without obscuring them. So they solved the problem of heat loss with a fix that didn’t alter the historic character of the home.
Because historical home preservation is such specialized work, when the Lhamons visit Port Gamble and see someone working on the historic homes there, they stop to collect the worker’s business card so they can call when they need someone to work on their home.
On a whim, and because they didn’t have furniture of their own, the Lhamons bought the home furnished from its second owners, the Cameron family. Much of the furniture in the home today feels in keeping with the home’s historical character. For example, a hardbacked chair in the living room is the 13th juror’s chair from the original Kitsap County courthouse, which used to be known as Slaughter County and was based in Port Madison.
Bay Hay and Feed
The Bucklin Home
The Lhamons own another house in the list of five new additions to the registry. The Bucklin home sits adjacent to the Farnum home but sports a Washington Avenue address. Nathan Bucklin, who was a supervisor at the mill, and his family once lived in a home that used to exist right next to the Farnum home, but after his wife died, Bucklin married the woman he had hired to care for his children and built for them the home that still sits farther up the hill, on the other end of the property.
The Bucklin house once served as a busy laundry and service center for the Port Madison Mill and shipyard. According to Fredi Perry’s Port Madison Washington Territory 1854–1889, Bucklin’s home was the first in Kitsap County to have plaster walls, the first to have a piano, and the second with a bathtub.
It still sits on its original foundation and, according to Joyce, appears to be almost totally unchanged.
Bay Hay and Feed
Bay Hay and Feed
Bay Hay and Feed occupies a 100-year old building, the original home of Rodal’s Central Store, and has carried on the business of merchandising, uninterrupted since the Rodal days when goods were delivered by wheelbarrow before passable roads were built. Howard Block and Ce-Ann Parker purchased the business in 1979.
Lynwood Center Building
The Lynwood Center Building was built in 1926 by Edna and Emanuel Olsen as a Tudor-style shopping village that originally housed a grocery, butcher shop, hardware and variety stores, and a restaurant. Bainbridge Island’s first talking movie theater opened there in 1936 and is still screening movies today. Steve Romein and Ty Cramer purchased Lynwood Center in 2009. They made substantial renovations to the second floor and center building while maintaining the builings’ historic architecture. In recognition of their contributions to historic preservation on Bainbridge Island, Romein and Cramer were presented with the Blakely Award in 2011.
Fort Ward Firehouse
Fort Ward Firehouse
The Fort Ward Firehouse, which dates from 1912, remains one of the few original structures from the turn-of-the-century U.S. Army Coastal Artillery Corps construction. It was eventually converted into a residence.
Preservation of the Island’s Historical Buildings
Joyce told me that one of the benefits of the re-do of the sewage system along Winslow Way is that, because Federal money was involved, the city was required to conduct an investigation of the buildings on the streetfront. In the process, it was discovered that all the buildings along Winslow Way, from Erickson to Madison, are of the same post-war historical period, between 1940 and 1955. Although this may not be the most charming of historical periods in terms of architecture, Joyce told me that the look of Winslow Way is unique because of this historical consistency, and it is an important part of what gives our town its flavor and character.
The HPC wants to help preserve this flavor and character. Joyce said that “The main job of the HPC is the education of citizens to appreciate and value historic treasures we have on the Island so they won’t be lost for future generations.” Talking with Joyce gave me a taste of some of that education. I learned about Port Madison Mill and its eventual economic downfall. That’s when Captain Farnum moved to Seattle and ran what was known as the “Pest House” or poor house there. One day, the original owner of Joyce’s home, maybe missing his life at sea, filled his pockets with rocks and walked off a dock. Joyce said that Dexter Horton Bank took over the Mill property when it ran aground financially. They platted it and built spec houses with the goal of turning it into a summer community. The vision of that community was never realized, but some of those spec houses exist still in the neighborhood, relatively unchanged, and their legacy creates a yet-enduring glimpse of what used to be the important county seat, the once-thriving community of Port Madison.
Photos by Sarah Lane and Julie Hall.