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Deconstructed house has a story its owner wants to hear

4:42 pm July 8th, 2013

Meryl Bernstein has a a mystery she hopes somebody can help her solve.
Years ago, Bernstein bought the dismantled pieces of a log home, or cabin, that was deconstructed and removed from its original site in the Eatonville area. The structure is believed to be be more than 100 years old. She plans to have it rebuilt in Thurston County and then live in it.
But first, she’s trying to learn the history of the old house. She notes, “I conducted an exhaustive search for its history so that I would not damage its historical significance, if any, when rebuilding.”
She doesn’t have all the answers, though, and she hopes a story about her project in The Dispatch will jog the memories of readers who can tell her about the house. She can reached by e-mail at skipka@gmail.com.
The Dispatch: What do you know about the history of the house?
Bernstein: I just contacted a neighbor who used to live next to the property, and he recalls being told the Skellys – the owner/occupants from 1979 to 1997 – got the cabin from the former St. Regis timber company on Golden Road, which I believe now is 352nd Street. He was sure they relocated, remodeled and rebuilt it. It’s a good lead, though not verified. I still need to go back to the origins of the building – a hundred years ago or more.
The Dispatch: How far along are you in your research and the reconstruction project?
Bernstein: I am currently in the planning stages of attempting reconstruction, finally, for late summer. But having recently run into several historians, they have urged me to revisit the search for the building’s history. They’ve given me some useful research tips, such as starting from the original homestead records instead of the prior owner, who I never could track down.
Dispatch: Where are you having the home reconstructed?
Bernstein: It will be my personal residence in rural Tenino in Thurston County, down the road from Millersylvania State Park.
Dispatch: Why was the house deconstructed by Habitat for Humanity? I thought they only are involved with building homes.
Bernstein: The property went into foreclosure, and Pierce County Responds contracted with a demolition and disposal company to clear the land for resale. The place had turned into a dump. The man in charge of doing so, Charlie Maxwell, took one look at the building and decided against it. At that time in 2003, Habitat for Humanity had a small salvage and deconstruction business combined with their ReStore, which I think was experimental. They’ve had resale stores for a number of years. Mr. Maxwell found them and contracted with them to deconstruct the building. I think he provided the funding, as well. When I saw the dismantled building in their warehouse, the chimney bricks had been sold off separately. Everything else that was salvaged came with the logs, but there wasn’t a whole lot more. The deconstruction business separated from Habitat soon after and then went out of business altogether.
The Dispatch: What else can you tell us about the house? 
Bernstein: it’s a work of craftsmanship. It’s a hand-hewn, old-growth western red cedar, dovetail log home, with three interior walls that notch into the exterior walls, and cedar pegs staggered throughout. The timbers are five and a half to six inches wide by 10 to 17 inches high. The Pierce county assessor’s record for 2003 had the year built as 1909, but I’ve been told by the historians that the year-built date was noted as the same year the county commenced recordkeeping if the building already existed.

This is how a house on Thomas Road near Eatonville looked while being deconstructed in 2003. Its new owner hopes someone can tell her about its history. (Courtesy photo)

This is how a house on Thomas Road near Eatonville looked while being deconstructed in 2003. Its new owner hopes someone can tell her about its history. (Courtesy photo)

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