People like to remark on our house. It’s unusual, for our neighborhood, especially since the addition.
“Say, you’d know,” a young woman said once, passing by. “What did this use to be? A house?”
We might have gone a little overboard on our addition. We were young. But the new parts were only a few years old at that point, and already our house was shrouded in mystery. As most are. Unless you’ve scooped up a historical house built by a 19th-century lumber baron, you probably don’t know much about your house, even it it’s not that old. Somebody once knew all the answers, but their knowledge has vaporized. Like a virus without a host, it just died out.
That’s why it was so much fun to meet Mrs. Kraxberger soon after we bought the place.
We knew the Kraxbergers lived here. We still got some Kraxberger junk mail, and the neighbor lady said it was the Kraxberger place. You don’t forget a name like Kraxberger. Tiny Mrs. Kraxberger was chauffeured here by a bored and sullen grand-nephew “to visit the old place,” and we’d invited her in.
All we knew about our house was it was built in 1926 in a plat called Foxchase Addition. Wrong, said Mrs. K. It was a one-room house her father built around 1906, and added onto later, finally getting dormers on the second floor in 1926. The kids, she said, lived in a tent in the front yard until there was room for them. Her father had never built anything before, she said, with some pride.
At this point, Dave had been drilling judiciously at likely points in the kitchen wall, looking for studs. Some were inches apart, some yards apart. When he couldn’t find a pattern to the construction, he took a SkilSaw to the whole wall in search of studs. Or it might have been a chainsaw, which would have better suited his mood at the time. The windows were truly “hung:” nothing supported them underneath. Wasn’t too much later he noticed the dog’s ball rolled toward the center of the house from every direction. He went into the basement and came up horrified. Evidently Mrs. Kraxberger’s father had decided to put stairs to the basement inside as an afterthought. He’d cut them in but didn’t support the joists afterwards, which were just hanging out, open-ended, with two stories of house on top of them. Dave got some lumber and went to work. The wallpaper ripped as he jacked up the house; there was a vertical displacement of nearly six inches.
So it is a tribute to Dave’s finer qualities, which include courtesy and respect for his elders as well as building skills, that he merely smiled, if rigidly, when Mrs. Kraxberger said that her father didn’t know anything about construction.
|Not Miss Jane
Well, we never got the photographs she said she might have had, and when, fifteen years later, the internet became a thing, I decided to try to find out more about our house. It would be nice to put a name to the gentleman responsible for vexing my husband, which is usually my job. It wouldn’t be Kraxberger; that was his daughter’s married name. I didn’t get too far. Until recently.
The old address of our house, before the Great Renumbering, was 1072 E. 29th Avenue N. If you put that address into the googles, you get one good hit. Miss Jane Farrelly, of that address, is listed as a member of the Mazamas in 1918. The Great Librarian–see previous post–confirmed that a Farrelly was the principle, or possibly only, resident of our house in the 1930 directory.
A Mazama! In order to be a member of the Mazamas, a mountaineering club which lent its name to the massive volcano that blew up 7700 years ago and left Crater Lake behind, you have to have bagged at least one major glaciated peak. The club was founded in 1894 and welcomed women from the outset, which was highly unusual at the time. Miss Jane Farrelly probably started by climbing nearby Mt. Hood. In a dress.
|Devil’s Punch Bowl
There’s a bit more online about Miss Jane: her obituary. She had moved to Alaska Territory and worked in Skagway and Juneau before landing in Fairbanks, surrounded by mountains. I am already, at this point, in love with Miss Jane Farrelly, and have mentally placed her on top of Mt. McKinley, her ice axe raised in victory, but Denali records indicate that between 1930 and 1941 only nine people attempted to summit and four succeeded, all in 1932. But I’m giving her all the other mountains. In fact, Social Notes in the local papers refer to her as one of the “hiking girls” who climbed to Devil’s Punch Bowl in Skagway. Unfortunately she developed a heart ailment and died at age 46, a day after arriving in Portland by steamer from Anchorage. She died in the home of her sister. Mrs. Florence Farrelly Kraxberger.