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History at home: Fall City’s 108-year-old Moore House gets new era
Moonbeam and Sunshine flew the coop. The beer-drinking bear has long since departed. The families have come and gone, even the trees have aged and fallen. But Fall City’s historic Moore House is still here, better than ever in 2012. Much of the credit for that is due to Irene Pike.
For the last nine years, Irene, a longtime Fall City resident, has been giving the 108-year-old Moore home a new lease on life.
The Moore House has been in the Parmelee-Anderson-Pike family since the 1940s. Irene spent part of her childhood here, and so did her children. Now grown, they’ve been helping her restore the house to its rightful place as one of Fall City’s historic treasures.
Leading a tour of the building, Irene starts in the living room, where the dusty, tarp-covered piano contrasts with the clean new wallpaper, a floral pattern in purple, her daughter Kris’s favorite color.
Irene and Kris chose the pattern, and Kris’s sensibilities are apparent here as elsewhere.
“We didn’t want it too vintage,” Irene says. “But not too modern, either.”
Kris will soon move in, as the third generation of her family to live in the King County landmark.
The Moore home has been in Irene’s family longer than anyone else’s. At this point, some locals have started referring to it as the Parmelee house. But the original name is still official.
Fall City sawmill worker and entrepreneur Charlie Moore bought the lot in 1905, for $40, and built the house of lumber from the Preston Mill.
The building’s timber, board-and-batten construction is unique. The home is one of the best-preserved early houses in King County, according to the Fall City Historical Society, and is a rare surviving example of vertical plank work instead of studs.
It may be a century old, but “now it’s completely strong, because it’s been completely sheeted, new siding, foundation, roof. It’s one of the strongest buildings in Fall City,” Irene said.
Charles and his wife Minnie operated a restaurant on River Street—the future Redmond-Fall City Road—that started as the Olympia Bar and later became a series of confectionaries. Charles loved animals, owning a pair of skunks, oppossums which may have been the first in the state, and a pet bear cub. According to Fall City Historical Society accounts, that bear would follow Minnie around and hold on to her dress. Eventually, the bear grew too big to handle, and was given to one of Fall City’s saloons. Legend says the bear drank beer with the best of the local crowd until he got too mean, and had to go.
A 1912 photo shows Charlie and Minnie Moore with their family, in front of their home. Lifetime Valley resident Charles Alva “Chuck” Moore was born in that house in 1907. He lived more than a century and was a Fall City Days grand marshal in 2008.
According to the Fall City Neighbors newsletter, the Moore house was bought by different people in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.
It was probably in 1944 when Irene’s mother arranged to buy the 40-year-old place. A single mother, widowed when Irene’s father passed away when she was 7, Elizabeth Parmelee had already had to make a quick move to a new home in an old house a year or so prior. Life was hard.
“We lived on welfare,” Irene remembered. “They didn’t give you enough to survive on.”
Mrs. Parmelee managed to scrape together $1,000 to buy the Moore House, which became her home for more than 40 years, and a center for her family and daughter Irene’s, who returned to stay here during their life’s journeys.
Irene was in the sixth grade when they moved in. In those days, there was no inside bathroom. A long porch led to the root cellar. In 1950, a brother enclosed that porch, turning it into a kitchen, now the house’s utility room. The original kitchen is now going over to culinary purposes again, part of a complete remodel that’s touched almost every aspect of this place.
There are still echoes of the past here, and a promise of continuity for the future.
Touring the house, Pike stops to inspect a rickety wooden chair—her grandfather’s, rescued from his ranch on the Carnation road, unvarnished and showing its age. She spends a few minutes arranging its slats, piecing it back together on its place of honor on the front stoop.
“I haven’t got the heart to throw it away,” Irene says.
It’s the same way with this house, which was left to her in 1987. Restoring this place is a legacy and duty to the late Elizabeth Parmelee.
“It was always her dream to get a new foundation, to get it fixed up,” Irene said. “It never happened. She’d be so happy to see how this house looks now.”
Perhaps someone less attached to the Moore House might have sold it off and never gone to all this trouble. But Irene wouldn’t think of it.
“I felt it was my duty to fix it up and make it livable,” she said.
In 2003, Irene set out to rehabilitate the building. Enlisting several of her children, Irene methodically worked on every aspect of the project, using financial help from the county and 4Culture. The most recent grant was a $10,000 4Culture grant to repair the windows.
In May, Irene received a John D. Spellman historic preservation award from King County, recognizing her for her family’s rehabilitation of the home.
It’s still a work in progress, but Kris will probably be settling in in a matter of months.
Irene ticks off what’s needed now, like the new window moldings from Seattle, or the sconces for the front porch. A purple-painted bathroom is coming together, though it’s hard to find period hardware.
Irene delightedly shows off the new tile for the entry, and the custom work needed for the stairs leading down to the front doors.
“The stairway is my pride and joy,” she said.
Upstairs, the dormer is pretty much finished, complete with an antique sewing machine. It’ll be a nice place for Kris to read, her mother says.
“This was my room,” says Irene, showing off its small cubby and freshly papered walls. Original beams are visible along one wall, but missing is the closet rod that held the clothes of her youth, and her older sister.
“She got married and moved away, I got the bigger room,” Pike said. “I never spent any time in here except to sleep.”
As children, “it was great living in Fall City.” Irene used to have plenty of parties, and the occasional game of spin the bottle, as a teen—”We were good kids,” she says.
Irene’s old room will now be daughter Kris’s room. Kris has her memories, too, mostly of grandmother, Elizabeth, but also from when she lived here. Kris recalls the time her brothers played a joke, throwing nightcrawlers in her window. The pie cherry tree out front is long gone, where the children used to often climb, and often get into trouble. So are the two half-tame pet ducks, Moonbeam and Sunshine, who battened on the slugs in the backyard, then left for good years later when the family decided it was time to let them go on the Snoqualmie River.
A piece of the old concrete foundation still sits outside. It’s a planter now, filled by Kris with foxglove, iris and plenty of purple pansies.
“It really doesn’t look any different than it did,” remarked Irene, gazing at the house’s white walls and green trim from the side lawn. “That’s the color I trimmed it in when I painted it, years and years ago… in my 30s.”
Photos Courtesy FC Historical Society
Above, the Charlie Moore family and home in 1905.