JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Great-granddaughter visits family mansion

MARY LOUISE OLSON wasn’t a quitter.

At the age of 15, after her brothers were lost at sea, she emigrated from Malmo, Sweden, to the United States.

Coming west, she lived with an aunt at Anderson Lake until she married Carl Olson, a homesteader who lived in a Swedish enclave called Burnt Hill in the foothills south of Sequim.

But one day, Mary Louise’s patience with pioneer life hit the wall.

“She got sick of it,” Chris Emerson said. “She packed up the kids, hitched up the mule and went into town.

“My great-grandfather followed her.”

Emerson is the great-granddaughter of Carl and Mary Louise Olson, who moved from a cabin in the woods to a Victorian mansion they bought at a tax auction in Port Townsend around 1900.

Last Friday, Emerson, who lives in Seattle, was in town for the Victorian Society’s Northwest Chapter’s Holiday Homes Tour and stopped by the house, now known as the Old Consulate Inn, to visit Mary Ann DeLong, the current owner.

Gifts go home

Emerson also brought two gifts that are literally house presents: an Irish lace collar that crossed the Atlantic with Mary Louise and a cup, saucer and dessert plate that she painted by hand.

The china was Emerson’s third gift. Last summer, she brought DeLong a table that had once been in the house.

“It really belongs here,” Emerson said.

That’s because the table, oak with turned legs, is oversized, and so it matches the scale of the other Victorian furniture in the house.

But when Emerson’s great-grandparents bought it at the turn of the century, the three-story house was just an empty shell.

Containing 6,000 square feet of unfinished interior, it was the dream of Frank W. Hastings, son of town founders Loren and Lucinda Hastings.

The Hastings family had lived in a cabin on the beach with a sail as a makeshift roof patch their first winter, DeLong said, but prospered with the town, building commercial and residential structures that remain in the family.

Frank started his house in 1889, DeLong said, but when his fortunes ebbed with the economic tide in the 1890s, he ended up living in three downstairs rooms.

He also didn’t pay taxes for seven years, so the house went up for auction at the turn of the century.

Carl Olson bought it for $2,600.

“There were only two bidders,” DeLong said. “The other was a lumber dealer. He was going to tear it down for the lumber.”

According to records, there was $10,000 of lumber in the house, DeLong said, noting that Hastings wouldn’t give Olson the blueprints because the new owner got it so cheap.

So Olson hired a carpenter, and the family finished the house the best they could, Emerson said.

Olson family home

Her grandmother, Hilma, was the oldest child and didn’t speak English until she was 7 years old, probably learning it in school after coming to Port Townsend.

Emerson remembers her grandmother showing her a photograph of the house with the three children SEmD Hilma, younger sister Margaret Cecelia and brother Dewey SEmD standing in front.

“I ask her what it was like to live there,” Emerson said. “She said, ‘We worked our heads off.'”

That’s because Carl, who prospected for gold in Alaska and speculated on land in Sequim and Hood Canal, made and lost several fortunes.

When his fortunes were at a low ebb, Emerson said, the family took in boarders.

The most famous one was “Mr. Duddenhausen,” the vice consul to Germany, who gave the house its name.

An anti-slavery advocate, August Duddenhausen, whose father was a Prussian army officer, came to the United States and fought in the Civil War, losing a leg.

He received the appointment from President Ulysses S. Grant for the consul post, DeLong said, which Duddenhausen conducted out of the Olsons’ house from 1908 to 1911.

“He was there 18 months over a three-year period,” DeLong said.

DeLong also has a second piece of the furniture that the Olsons owned at the time, a china hutch/desk that came with the house.

She plans to display the hand-painted china in it, she said, and either frame the collar or display it in the hutch.

Emerson and her husband have their own 1890-era Victorian house, complete with tower, on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.

The recipients of many family heirlooms, the couple are “downsizing in place,” she said, with an eye to reducing the burden on their son, who will inherit the collection.

So the oak table has returned home and is now against the front wall in the parlor.

But it originally probably sat in the middle of the room with a kerosene lamp on it, Emerson said.

It would have also held the family Bible and a photograph album, she said, and as such would have served as the media center of the house.

“I think it’s lovely she wants it back here again,” DeLong said.

Although raised in Seattle, Emerson said she considers Port Angeles her spiritual home, as she was born there and spent a lot of time visiting her grandparents there.

Her grandfather was Roy Jensen, vice president of Port Angeles’ First National Bank.

Emerson’s mother, Betty Jensen, was the Port Angeles Evening News’ only reporter during World War II, covering everything from sports to Forks.

Emerson remembers her mother laughing about covering football games and how she used to ride the roads of the West End in the blackout.

Betty married Benjamin Emerson, who was stationed with the Coast Guard on Ediz Hook during the war.

Current owners

DeLong, who also comes of pioneer stock, was in grade school then, but she remembers the war and helping her grandmother, Sybil Winters Pike, make soap that would “clean you right up” SEmD i.e., remove your skin along with the dirt.

DeLong and her husband bought the Old Consulate Inn in 2000, a century after the Olsons, from Rob and Joanna Jackson, had turned it into a bed-and-breakfast they operated for 20 years.

Before that, Jim and Donna Daubenberger raised their family there, DeLong said.

DeLong’s son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Sue, and their three girls live in the house now, which is still a bed-and-breakfast.

“When we first walked in, the girls said, ‘Can we have Christmas here?’ and we did,” DeLong said.

Every December, the family puts on Victorian teas in the house, which is filled with items that have stories to tell.

This year, the teas will be held Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18 and 19.

For more information, visit www.oldconsulateinn.com or phone 360-385-6753 or 800-300-6753.

A photograph of Emerson’s Victorian house is on her blog, defthome.com, where she writes about applying technology to housekeeping, a daunting task in Victorian times.

But she still uses the nickel steel skillet that Mary Louise cooked with, both in the homestead in the hills and the kitchen of a Victorian mansion.

________

Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail jjackson@olypen.com.

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