A surprise inside: Cracker Factory turned in two [**Gallery**]

PORT TOWNSEND — Four years ago, Phyllis Day was lying on the couch reading the newspaper at her home on Dabob Bay near Quilcene.

An artist, Day had injured her back three months before and was still recuperating.

But what she saw advertised in the newspaper got her up and moving: an historic brick building for sale in downtown Port Townsend for a price she thought was a misprint.

“I had been looking for a building for 10 years,” Day said.

“I called the real estate agent and said, ‘I haven’t driven a car for three months, but I’m coming down to see it.’”

What Day drove into town to see was the Cracker Factory, a three-story building tucked in a courtyard behind the Eisenbeis Building on Water Street.

Built in 1888, the building had originally been a bakery where Charles Eisenbeis, the town’s first mayor, made hardtack and biscuits for ships’ stores.

What Day and spouse Richard Grandy have crafted after a four years of renovation: a unique blend of townhouse, art studio and reception space for concerts and exhibits.

“We totally redid the building, down to the studs,” Day said. “It was a lot of work.”

All three floors are open space, with no interior walls except for the entry hall and bathrooms.

The ground floor is a reception space, which can be opened to the courtyard by two carriage doors that Grandy built from old doors.

Day envisions using the room, which has a large entry hall and handicapped-accessible bathroom, for jazz concerts, art exhibits and other community events.

She uses the second floor as her art studio and plans to offer art workshops with gourmet lunches in the adjacent kitchen, matched to a theme like French or Italian landscape painting.

The upper floor is their retreat: a sitting area with limestone fireplace, bedroom and bath.

The space can also be used to house visiting art teachers and chefs.

But when they first toured the building, it was a moldy, smelly mess.

“Nothing had been done to it for 30 years,” Day said.

“It had once been used for apartments. The stairway went right up middle of the building. It divided the space on every level in an awkward way.”

The Cracker Factory also had been used for storage by Paula and Albert Amell, who bought it and the buildings front and back in 1977.

The Amells ran Olympic Hardware and Furniture in the Eisenbeis Building, which faces Water Street, selling hardware on the main floor and furniture on the floor above.

They also owned the hotel facing Washington Street.

When Albert Amell died in 2003 and the property was sold, the new owners turned the Water Street building into condominiums, eventually divesting themselves of the hotel and putting the Cracker Factory on the market in 2007.

Buying the building and fixing it up was feasible, Day said, because they could do much of the work themselves.

“I knew where it was, what it was, and that it was pretty bad,” she said.

“I knew we had the ability to restore it.”

Day is an interior decorator by trade. Grandy is a tile, marble and stone contractor with construction experience.

He installed the fir floors in the main rooms, the tile in the entry way and bathrooms and the marble countertops in the kitchen, creating an apron sink to match.

He also installed fir panelling on the additional interior walls, leaving the interior perimeter walls the original brick.

“We thought they were painted white,” Day said. “When we started cleaning, we found out it was flour.”

The couple also retained one of the Cracker Factory’s original fixtures, a long, narrow black cast-iron wall oven.

They added a gas range and stacked refrigerator and freezer drawers to retain the building’s vintage look.

They also used old doors in the entry that had been in the old hotel, as were the plumbing fixtures for the downstairs bathroom, buying reproduction hardware and lighting from Vintage Hardware in Port Townsend.

Day plans offer art classes in the studio under the name “Art in the Loft at the Cracker Factory.”

“This is my dream — to have a place to paint and to teach painting,” Day said.

Day said it’s been a long haul from the day she saw the advertisement for sale and drove into town to see a building.

When the couple bought it, she assured the previous owner that she was going to share the building with the community.

She also wanted to give the local economy a boost by bringing people to Port Townsend, and in the process, get herself off the couch.

“I knew I didn’t want to stay home and be bored,” Day said.

“I wanted to do something.”


Jennifer Jackson is a free-lance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend. To contact her, phone 360-379-5688 or email jjackson@olypen.com.

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