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Historic Home Meets Sorry Fate

Bill Moore’s heart was in the right place when he tried to save a century-old house steeped in Winslow’s shipbuilding history.

But even a well-placed heart has to stand aside when the wrecking ball swings.

“Now it’s a footnote to history,” Moore said Thursday standing next to the heaps of shredded wood, busted brick and crumpled tin that were once a stately two-story house overlooking Ferncliff Avenue. “It was one of the first houses in Winslow and the general manager of the Hall Brothers Shipyard lived in it. I think it’s a real loss of the island’s history.”

By order of the city and Kitsap County Superior Court, Moore had to either tear down the 110-year old Cave House or move it to another location. The building’s “footprint” exceeded that allowed under the parcel’s zoning, and the house overstayed its temporary welcome, according to city planners.

But Moore still contends the city gave its permission before he spent almost $55,000 to move the old house about 300 feet from its original foundation at the corner of Hawley Way and Ferncliff, where it was in the way of the 180-unit Harbor Square development.

Moving the house again wasn’t a financially viable option, the 38-year island resident said, so the house sat on blocks for nearly three years awaiting someone willing to take it off Moore’s hands.

“I’m disappointed because I thought it really fit with the neighborhood,” Moore said. “It’s an old, single-family residence. But the city says it’s too big and doesn’t fit (zoning). But over there, there’s really a high-density condo going up across the street.

“The island’s really changing. I hope it’s not all for the worse.”

The Cave House was built in 1895 for the family of Robert Cave, the first general manager of Hall Brothers Shipyard.

The house later served as a dance studio before Washington Development announced it would demolish it to make way for the large mixed-use project, which later became Harbor Square.

Moore agreed to move the home to his nearby parcel which also features the Sanders Sisters Boarding House, built in 1905 to house Hall Brothers workers.

“I wanted to keep the Cave House in Winslow, next to another building that was historically related,” he said.

City officials say they permitted Moore to store the house on the property for 90 days, barring him from settling there because of zoning rules.

“It was always a temporary set-up,” said senior planner Bob Katai. “We encouraged retention (of the house) when the Harbor Square development was clearing their site. That’s why we allowed a temporary, 90-day time for him to move and keep it on his property, which then went to two and a half years with appeals and going to court. That’s pretty lenient.”

Moore appealed the decision, but a Superior Court earlier this year backed the city.

“I knew it was a long-shot,” Moore said. “The regulatory authorities say they support preservation, but the reality is they make it really difficult. There’s not much political hospitality in the city to make this work.”

The city’s new Historical Preservation Com­mission backed the home’s preservation, but took no further steps to save it.

“I wish we were more involved,” said commission member Linda Costello. “But there was a tendency to not become involved since (legal issues) were involved.”

Costello estimates that about 80 buildings of potential historical significance have been torn down in the last year.

Costello said some considered the Cave House as “the dream cottage” for its simple design and because it reflected the prevailing local style of home construction in the late 1800s.

“I really wanted it saved because someone stepped up and it cost him so much,” she said. “I think that was great. The final say for historic preservation is up to the city, but I think they can make allowances if they chose. I don’t understand why they didn’t do that.”

Moore has long offered the house for free to anyone willing to move it, but only a handful of people showed any interest.

He allowed some people to salvage interior wood, and donated its hand-carved fireplace mantel to a member of the Cave family.

Moore’s total expenses in his failed effort to save the structure, which included moving costs, legal fees and the final demolition, swelled to just under $100,000.

“I worked on this for a long time and I spent all this money,” he said. “Now I’ve basically got an empty lot to show for it.”

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