Historic home ‘rescued’

Kristin Von Kreisler’s Eagle Place home sits on a high bank above Eagle Harbor. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Kristin Von Kreisler’s Eagle Place home sits on a high bank above Eagle Harbor.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

The Eagle Place residence is an early applicant for listing on historic register.

Even with the century-old house’s sagging frame, peeling paint and 8-foot tidal wave of blackberry brambles, Kristin Von Kreisler knew she’d been struck with love at first sight.

“It looked like it could use a good hug,” the four-year island resident said. “I only saw it from the outside. Even before I went inside, I had decided I wanted it. It’s like a living thing.”

Von Kreisler’s home on Eagle Place just north of the ferry terminal will live on with a little help, she hopes, from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and its new status as a register of historic buildings.

Established in 2001, the commission recently earned designation as a Certified Local Government. As a CLG, the group can provide technical assistance to historic property owners and include them on a local register of historic properties with the approval of the owner. 

The commission will also review any Bainbridge applications to the National Historic Register. The status allows the commission to work with the county to offer tax incentives for improvements on historic properties. Bainbridge is the first community in Kitsap County to earn the designation and only the 25th in the state.

Von Kreisler and her husband John Bomben are one of three households to begin the process of applying for the register.

Von Kreisler, who worked as a staff writer for Reader’s Digest and has penned four books, including “The Compassion of Animals,” is compiling historical data and oral histories about her home to present to the commission.

Placement on the register requires that a building be at least 50 years old, is associated with people, or events significant to island history or represents a unique architecture or design.

On a high bank above Eagle Harbor, Von Kreisler’s home was constructed in the late 1880s as the residence of the Winslow area’s first postmistress, Cynthia Williams.

Von Kreisler is only the third owner, with a boat builder living at the home for years before her purchase. The house underwent many remodels, with a new kitchen tacked to the rear and portions of the front porch walled into the living room.

Von Kreisler hopes to continue work on the house, repairing its sagging foundation and making cosmetic improvements, and wants her fixes to trace historical themes.

“It’s my dream to fix this house,” she said. “I lie awake at night trying to figure things out, planning and scheming.

“I want it to be very much like it was. (The registry) will make everything official and will allow me to work with the commission. I’ll get advice and input so I do it right.”

The commission is composed of seven members, some of whom have backgrounds in historical architecture.

Commission member and architect Sandy Burke said the house is worth preserving.

“It’s very typical of its time,” she said. “It’s plain, not fancy and never was.”

But plain doesn’t mean historically insignificant, she said. More ornate homes are typically drawn from pattern books, whereas simple homes like Von Kreisler’s better represent the region.

“It’s the plain buildings that more often use local materials, local designs and are made for the local weather,” she said. “They are the ones that are closest to the people.”

The commission has partnered with the Bainbridge Island Historical Society, which has already compiled an inventory of 150 historic buildings.

“We’re looking forward to working with the commission on this great project,” said Erica Varga, director of the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. “People will now have an incentive to preserve the integrity of our community’s history.”

Von Kreisler, who has spent a lifetime writing about and rescuing distressed animals, said her instincts kicked in when she saw a piece of history in need of help.

“It hadn’t been loved in many years,” she said. “It was looking a little pitiful and it immediately drew the rescuer out in me.

“People would stop by on the street and ask if I was going to tear it down. When I said no, they thought I was a little cuckoo. But I think it’s a crime to see people ripping down old buildings like this. I often think about the lives lived here, the births and the deaths. You can feel a lot in this house.”

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