Homes on the prairie

"Photo: Isaak and Micah Einterz, with Ginger, the family dog, sit on the stairs of the old Jenne house which their family is planning to restore to its former Victorian glory.June Vigor/staff reporterIt isn't a little house on the prairie.The 92-year old Ed Jenne house is a very big house on Ebey's Prairie, an imposing Victorian farmhouse that was quite a showpiece when it was built.It will be on show again on Saturday, Aug. 5, as part of the Island County Historical Society's annual Prairie Home Tour which raises funds for the society and the Island County Historical Museum in Coupeville.The house, built by early settler and farmer Ed Jenne, is now owned by Fran Einterz and Joyce Peterson. The Einterz family bought it and the 139 acres of prairie land around it in March of this year. Their aim is to make sure both house and land remain as they are, protected as a slice of Whidbey Island's history. It was a stretch for the family to buy such a big piece of property, Einterz said, but they felt it was vital for someone to do it.Our object was to preserve the agricultural land and the prairie, he said. We knew that was important. But the house was a surprise.Although it was lived in from the time it was built until nine months ago, the house is a rarity - a Victorian home that has hardly been changed inside or out, except for the addition of plumbing and electricity. Almost everything is original, Peterson said. That includes the dramatic stairway in the large entrance hall, the old fireplace, paneling and picture rails, big heavy windows in their original wooden frames, a walk-in pantry, china cupboards, sliding doors and doorframes, and a wonderful old attic full of odd spaces under the gables. Outside, a small summer kitchen, a fine barn, granary and shop are also much as they were when Jenne built the house and all the outbuildings from a barge-load of lumber that cost him $5,000.The house and outbuildings will be open to the public as they are, Peterson said. The family, including sons Isaak, 14, and Micah, 12, has been hard at work clearing the buildings of years and years of accumulated stuff. They haven't started the work of restoration yet, which means that visitors can have the fun of exploring an empty old house full of the echoes and shadows of an earlier time, and perhaps spying a pair of great horned owls in the barn.Tour visitors are welcome to explore the grounds, Einterz said, and to wander in the gardens which are filled with trees, lilacs, an enormous English laurel, a towering privet hedge and more, all as old as the house and surrounded by a towering privet hedge. Bring your walking shoes and follow some of the trails through the woods and across the ag land, he said. It's a wondrous spot. Take the tourSaturday, Aug. 5, is the day of the annual Island County Historical Society Prairie Home Tour. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours begin at the Historical Society Museum at the corner of Alexander and Front streets in Coupeville. Tea and refreshments will be served. Tickets: $15. For reservations, call 678-3310. Tickets will also be available at the museum on the day. This year's tour will open the doors to five prairie homes. Two are old and three are new houses designed to blend into their surroundings.They include: * The historic Fred Nuttall house on Ninth Street in Coupeville, home of the first rural mail carrier in central Whidbey. The recently remodeled house has a lovely garden.* The Ed Jenne homestead on Ebey's Prairie. (See story.)* A new Coupeville home on Alexander Street built in Colonial style, which blends in well with the town's historic neighborhoods. * A new home at the head of Penn Cove, built in the style of a traditional farmhouse.* An architect designed modern-style home overlooking Ebey's Prairie, built to blend into the prairie landscape. This home has won an environmental award. "

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