Sears house is Bayview bound
June 25, 2008 · Updated 12:32 PM
"CelebrationAn Open House will be held on Sunday, Oct. 29, 4-8 p.m. at Bayview Road and Marshview Avenue to celebrate the completion of the first phase of restoration of Bayview Corner.After three years perched on blocks at the entrance to the Greenbank Farm, the house that wouldn't go away is about to hit the road. Greenbank Farm executive officer Shirley Hendricson announced Sunday that the decaying 1912 Sears kit house, which has been an uninviting landmark at the publicly-owned farm since it was set there by the Department of Transportation in 1997, is soon bound for Bayview. There it will become part of an ongoing corner restoration project which includes the historic Bayview Cash Store, farmers market and community hall.The rather ramshackle, mossy-roofed farmhouse is expected to be moved this week and will ultimately sit across Bayview Road from the Bayview Community Hall. Hendricson said the relocation is a good thing for a house which has avoided destruction many times.Somehow we wanted to have the house restored and enjoyed by the island community, she said. We wanted it to go to a good home.Once at the Bayview site, the house will be restored to historical accuracy as much as possible, according to Mary Ann Mansfield, operations manager for Bayview Corner, LLC, the group headed by South Whidbey philanthropist Nancy Nordhoff.Besides becoming publicly accessible, possible plans call for the house to generate its own power with the use of a windmill. In the near future it will be joined on the same side of the road by a newly constructed round Shaker-style building which will house the bicycle store currently operating at the Bayview Cash Store site.It will be some kind of tourist facility. Exactly what, we're not sure yet. Everything has happened very quickly, said Mansfield.The entire deal between the farm and Bayview Corner, LLC, has come together within just the last couple weeks after three years of frustrating dead ends trying to get the house saved, sited and restored.TROUBLED PASTThe house was stranded on the farm's property by the Department of Transportation in 1997 after the Island County Historical Society convinced the department that the house had historical value and should not be demolished for a highway widening project.At the time, Historical Society officials believed that the department would put the house back on a foundation and hook it to new water and electric utilities once a permanent site was found. But delays in identifying a site and lack of money to do a proper restoration caused the department to take the money set aside for its relocation and redirect it into other projects. Greenbank Farm managers gave the Historical Society two deadlines for removing the house. Many considered it to be an ugly deterrent to potential farm visitors and a constant reminder that progress at the farm has been slow. Both deadlines came and went. Eventually neither the Department of Transportation nor the Historical Society claimed any ownership whatsoever of the house.By default we became the caretakers of the future of that house, said Hendricson.There was semi-serious talk about using it for a fire department training exercise or a large-scale weenie roast, but no one wanted to take the responsibility of destroying a potentially historic structure. Only about 100,000 kit homes were sold through the Sears and Roebuck catalogue nationwide between 1908 and 1940 and few remain. Homes like the Greenbank house were originally sold for around $400. It will likely take several thousand dollars to make it usable again.At first, Hendricson said the farm's board was willing to have the Sears house placed closer to the other farm buildings but after funding dried up the mood changed. We really need to direct all our attention to our existing buildings, she said. Most of the farm's classic barns and farmhouses are in dire need of repair so the Sears house had a very low priority. Ultimately the board told Hendricson to find any way to get the house moved. She said several people came forward but either backed out after learning the cost of moving and restoration or they wanted to use it as a private residence.To have it end up as a publicly accessible building is about the best we could hope for, said Hendricson.A HOME AWAY FROM HOME?Not everyone is happy that the house is being relocated. Greenbank resident Sally Jacobson said said so much public effort has gone into protecting the Sears house that it's a shame it can't remain part of the local landscape near where it was originally built. I don't like seeing our spirit go to Bayview, she said. Jacobson insists there were still untapped funding options that could have been explored. Hendricson, however, said farm officials had tried every one they could think of.Mansfield said it will likely take six months to a year to complete the Sears house restoration. The house is in pretty bad shape with holes in the floor and bricks tumbling from the chimney.It is literally going to have to be strapped together to get it down here, she said.Nevertheless, Mansfield said they are thrilled to have it. She said Nordhoff is very interested in saving old homes from destruction and relocating them for public use or for affordable housing.Both Hendricson and Mansfield added that they hope bringing a little of Greenbank history to the southern part of the island will help erase some of the public perception that there is a dividing line separating North and South Whidbey.In addition to the Sears house and bike store, future work at Bayview Corner includes adding a large septic system and composting toilets, restoring the second floor of the Cash Store and establishing an artist/design center Mansfield said. "