ONCE AGAIN NO one responded to the February picture from the past.
It was the Van Ness Resort on Marine Drive in Sequim and the photo was taken in 1956.
I called Judy Stipe from the Sequim Museum and Arts Center and she drove out to locate the resort.
She also sent me contact information and photos of the resort as it stands today.
Thanks to the information I received from Missy Rief — who along with her husband, Tom, is the current owner of the resort — I now know the buildings are named the Juan de Fuca Cottages.
Apparently that name has been around since 1916 when they were built.
Rief stated that in 1851, the first settlers came to New Dungeness to take up claims, to clear land and plant crops.
They came on sailing ships around Cape Horn, anchoring in Dungeness Bay.
She said, “Some days I stand at the bluff’s edge and just imagine those huge schooners at anchor out there.
“White sails billowing in the breeze, tall masts standing firm and ropes creaking against the wooden hulls. Rowboats ferrying settlers, cows, food and farm tools to shore.
“The settlers had to clear the land and where the cottages are today, meant cutting down what we would call ‘old growth’ fir trees.
“They grew right up to the bluff’s edge. After the trees were felled, they were rolled right over the bank to the beach and floated out to waiting vessels to eventually be taken to San Francisco as lumber for buildings.
“Early farmers then grew fabulous crops, especially potatoes, in the bottomlands of the now named Dungeness River.”
Rief went on to say she is not exactly sure who settled this parcel of land, as ownership changed hands quite often depending on gambling stakes, health and the desire to move on.
It is on record as part of the original Thornton Donation Claim.
She also stated that in 1889 the Methodist church had a traveling minister by the name of the Rev A.J. McNemee who moved to Dungeness as the center of his circuit.
A 16-foot-by-16-foot church building was built from trees of the land right here at the cottages and still stands today as the laundry barn, the building farthest south and east of the property.
The little church at Dungeness was supposedly used for three years and was abandoned in 1892 when the town moved east of the river (by 3 Crabs Road) because the Inner Bay was filling with silt and the big sailing ships could no longer anchor at the base of Cline Spit.
The Juan de Fuca Cottages were built in 1916 with some other buildings added in 1945.
Rumor has it they were painted black and could be rented by the hour.
According to information provided by Rief, “During the 1950s, the waterfront area was built to include a working boat launch with crane and dock to moor a boat.
“The property had 14 cottages and an owner’s house.
“Young guests could waterski from the dock and out around the Bay, as well as catch crabs in pots, and fish on lines from their boats.”
Rief also provided dates showing ownership, although she is not sure it is totally accurate as it was passed to her by previous owners and she did not verify it.
A 1905 record shows W.E. Burnside selling the property to Jay Gould.
In 1946, Becker and Graham are listed as owners.
Following are listed owners with their years. Long, 1946-1954; Paget, 1954 to 1955; Van Ness, 1955-1959; Van Bibber, 1959-1971; Wybrow, 1971-1976; Judd, 1976-1980; Young, 1980-1983; Ramus, 1983-2006; and finally Rief, 2006 to present.
Apparently during 1955-59, when the Van Ness’ owned the resort, the name was changed to the Van Ness Resort.
The last two owners have remodeled extensively and the cottages are very lovely now.
There are six cottages and six hotel suites that all have gorgeous views of Dungeness Bay.
In May 2006, the Riefs purchased the cottages and continued the vision as set by Shiela Ramus in the 1980s.
The cottages now have such amenities as full modern kitchens, including in-sink dishwashers, whirlpool bugs, cable TV, some fireplaces, and bathrobes and slippers.
At present they have kayak rentals on site to explore Dungeness Bay, the Wildlife Refuge and the New Dungeness Bay Lighthouse.
You also can rent a bicycle and explore the farmlands, lavender fields or the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The cottages don’t look much like they did in 1956, but the view of Dungeness Bay probably hasn’t changed much throughout the years.
Alice Alexander is a Clallam County historian, author, and a descendent of an Elwha Valley pioneer family. She is a recipient of a 2014 Clallam County Heritage Awards. She can be reached at [email protected].