Lifestyle

Bainbridge house is one of a kind

The century-old house overlooking Manzanita Bay has had its share of illustrious owners. - Colleen Adams Photo
The century-old house overlooking Manzanita Bay has had its share of illustrious owners.
— image credit: Colleen Adams Photo

By JOHN SAYER

For the Review

Some people might call Barbara and Richard Ramsey’s house a mansion – but they wouldn’t.

“I’d use ‘farmhouse,’” Barbara Ramsey said. “Most people call it a mansion, but to me, it’s just very comfortable.”

Comfortable is how the house feels when you come inside. Even under the last week’s snowfall, it still feels warm and inviting.

Statues of angels, candles and other Christmas decorations join a perfectly cone-shaped tree in the living room.

One back hallway has an entire wall dedicated to a bulletin board with pictures of the Ramseys’ children and relatives pinned to it. They don’t even ask you to take off your shoes when you come in.

Still, the century-old estate has the distinctive opulence of a bygone era.

It has been owned by two families that made their mark on American history: the son of George Westinghouse, a pioneer of the electricity industry, and the son of Charles Lindbergh, the famed aviator, both raised their families in this three-story home.

They left their mark on the house, too, with features such as intricate carvings on the walls, custom-made columns and servants’ quarters above the kitchen.

The view is nothing to scoff at either: take a peek out one of the west-facing windows and you will be greeted by Manzanita Bay and (assuming it’s a clear day) the Olympics.

“There is just something substantial about this home. It’s not like walking into a home that was built today or even 20 years ago,” Richard Ramsey said.

It’s quite the farmhouse, and one that the Ramseys have decided to put on the market. The current asking price: $6.35 million.

The estate, which Barbara Ramsey said has twice set the record for the most expensive home ever sold on the island, is being sold at a time when the real estate market and home values nationwide are declining.

Bainbridge Island is no different. After declining in the second half of 2007, home sales on Bainbridge have stabilized at a lower plane, Windermere broker Jim Laws said.

Home sales are about half of what they were 18 months ago.

Data from Windermere Bainbridge shows that 304 homes were sold on Bainbridge in 2007. Only 156 were sold between January and October 2008.

Still, the Ramseys are not discouraged.

“People that are looking at $6 million or $7 million homes are not as affected by the economy as someone who’s even looking at a $2 million house,” Barbara Ramsey said.

Barbara said she feels high-priced homes are still moving.She can look out her window across Manzanita Bay and see a house that sold last April for $4.3 million.

Not everyone thinks the Ramseys’ home is immune from the downturn. Laws said it’s a tough time to be both a seller and a buyer – in any price range. Buyers face difficulty getting financing to buy a home, and sellers face a shrinking pool of people willing to risk buying a home in this market.

He also said there is an inherent difficulty in selling an expensive home, regardless of the market.

“The more expensive you get, the fewer buyers you are dealing with,” Laws said.

It’s not uncommon for a high-end home to be on the market for years before selling.

Colleen Adams, the Remax agent who is selling the Ramseys’ home, recalled one multi-million dollar home that stayed on the market for four years before selling.

The Ramseys first came upon the red house overlooking Manzanita Bay in 1996. It had been unoccupied for a year and was in need of a facelift. They started renting it while they searched for another home but quickly fell in love with it.

Fast forward 12 years: they’ve spent around a half-million dollars upgrading the house and its systems, from replacing the old water heater and installing a generator, to rebuilding the garage and converting an office into a wine cellar. They feel a sense of responsibility to take care of the house given its history and craftsmanship.

“It’s been our career for the last 12 years,” Barbara Ramsey said.

She said she can’t choose a buyer who has the same sense of history and respect. But in her opinion, you can’t live here and not develop one.

“It gets under your skin,” she said. “You realize how special a property it is. I mean, they don’t make them like this anymore. Period. The woodwork, the carvings, the huge baseboards, they just don’t do that anymore.”

For more on the history of the Ramseys’ house see

"Historic house of many names."

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