Time is right to preserve an important piece of island history | MEANDERLINE

E. L. and Clara Franks House, 1920. - Photo courtesy of Anne Franks Hanto
E. L. and Clara Franks House, 1920.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Anne Franks Hanto

Ever want to run a historic bed-and-breakfast? Here’s your chance!

How important is it for us to preserve the E. L. & Clara Franks Residence (1913) that most know as Bainbridge Island’s Captain’s House B&B? And who or how shall we do it? We may not have much time to decide!

This week, a local real estate agent (whose family has resided here for four generations) posted on Multiple Listing Services details of the offer to sell this very historic residence in Winslow’s maritime district.

It was home of the man whose vision in 1900 foresaw that the main transportation corridor between Seattle and the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas had to be via Eagle Harbor. He bet that it would when he and friends launched Eagle Harbor Transportation Co. in 1903. Its fleet of steamboats began the route that in time became the “single most heavily trafficked ferry run in the nation” and one of our state’s top two tourist destinations.

“It’s one of the best local examples of a Craftsman bungalow,” say architects about the residence.

A chorus joins them who love its stonework – porch, pillars, foundations and chimney. Some locals say the stones came from ship ballast, some say from strawberry fields.

The side-gabled roof has the characteristic bungalow curve out over the porch and this bungalow has a rare perpendicular gabled wing. The shake roof’s flat dormers look like wings giving the appearance of a heron lift-off.

Stories accompany its lilac hedge; flower gardens; walnut, holly, cherry and other fruit trees. Clara Franks is in them.

Historic photos show 5-gallon, bamboo-wrapped shoyu or soy sauce barrels used as porch planters. These bring to mind stories of how Chief Franks during World War II kept the family valuables for one old Japanese farmer named “Johnny” and how the farmer never forgot his neighbor’s kindness.

There are never-ending sea stories of “Ebbie”, Chief Franks, the feisty little farmer who loved steam engines, learned his trade on the West Coast and ended his career at 88 as popular iconic dockmaster to the first car ferries here, directing traffic and keeping the coal stove burning in the passenger waiting room on the dock.

The Island has a long history of providing shelter and welcoming visitors.

Over a century ago, “the first Bainbridge Boom” (ca. 1880-1925) found five hotels (Pleasant Beach, Port Blakely, Manitou Park, Port Madison and Winslow). Bunk and cook houses assisted mill workers. Boarding houses served Winslow shipyard workers.

In more recent years, “resorts” (Hamilton’s and Fosters’ at Fletcher Bay, Furuya’s at Crystal Springs, another at Point White, Schuyler’s for nudists at Murden Cove), many “camps” (Yeomalt’s YWCA and Camp Hopkins, Maryknoll near Sportsman Club), and two recent village motels have served diverse Island guests. But few have publicly welcomed visitors into their homes.

At Crystal Springs, after Mr. Furuya, one of the West Coast’s wealthiest businessmen, lost everything during the Great Depression, his neighbor, Capt. Gazzam faced a similar crisis.

His daughter, Ruth, had a way to save her family. She booted them out of their large home and into the barn. For the summer she transformed Gazzam House into a successful seasonal B&B. Bunny Cameron was one of the first and best year-round B&B’s in the historic Beck House at West Blakely.

The next best guest host was Meg Hagemann, who lived at the historic Franks bungalow for 37 years. That is as long as the veteran mariner and his wife. And ferries still land 4-1/2 blocks away - one of our state’s top two tourist destinations, right up there with Mount Rainier.

At its last meeting, our Historic Preservation Commission was scheduled to review a nomination to list Franks House on the Island’s Historic Register.

In recent weeks, commissioners inspected it and found it sound. A report and much information about the property is available from the HP Commission, the State Office of Historic Preservation (reference inventoried property #18-91); and the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

The Captain’s House’s retiring “Captain Meg” smiles recalling the fun she had for years welcoming guests from our global Island to Bainbridge Island’s parlor. It is her fondest dream, and preservationists’, too, to keep the bungalow blossoming and the welcome mat out.

And how much fun would it be to see a new owner preserving it for its centennial in 2013.

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