SEASIDE - When Gardner Gilmore looks around his grandparents' cabin, he sees his family gathered at the dining room table eating his grandmother's homemade clam chowder. 

Or he sees his grandfather collecting rainwater in pots and pans on the second floor. (His grandfather mistakenly believed that wood, left wet, will swell and seal its own holes.)

Gilmore's parents drove from Boulder, Colo., to Seaside every summer.

Gardner's boyhood was filled with picnics on the beach. "Summer and fall could be so hot in Colorado," he recalls. "It sounds funny, but the cool rain ... it is just so pleasant in many ways."

Historical significance

Ryland and Eva McClung purchased three wooded lots next to the beach in 1903.

They pitched a white canvas tent among the dunes in a subdivision, called Grimes' Grove, north of Broadway Avenue. Their tent, complete with broad wood planks, an oriental rug, cabinetry, cookware, and chairs and tables, served as temporary shelter in early years.

The McClungs lived in Portland; Ryland owned the American Laundry Co. Seaside became the family's getaway.

Around 1905, they ordered a Sears, Roebuck & Co. kit-house that was shipped by rail from Chicago. They called the simple cabin "Elemere," an acronym using the first letters of each McClung family member. The name stuck - as did the feeling of a family retreat.

Ryland held onto the house during the Great Depression, investing only enough to cover its taxes. Consequently, the cabin's starkness became part of its character.

For instance, heat is provided today by electric space heaters, a living room fireplace and a wood-fired kitchen stove.

A simple life

"It's fun to sit around the fireplace, without a television or big stereo," says Gilmore. "You can talk to your family without distractions. It's very enjoyable in that way."

Discomfort is minimal ... even considering the fact that the toilet is in an unheated space on the back porch. Middle-of-the-night trips can be chilly, says Gilmore, but, "We got used to it. It may not be comfortable for others."

Challenges

The cabin, despite its antiquated features, is not inexpensive to own. Preventing water from entering the house has been Gilmore's biggest challenge. It often enters through window frames during high windstorms.

Part of the issue stems from the building's structural system. Called "plank construction," the walls are made without studs. Vertical planks are wrapped with exterior shingles or clapboard on one side and interior tongue-and-groove on the other.

Window frames thus do not always seal well. On the other hand, the wispy structure flexes easily and weathers storms well.

Renovations

Updates to the cabin have included a new roof by Jarvis Roofing in 1993.

Ernie Moore replaced termite-eaten posts in the foundation, leveled the sagging house and re-constructed a rotten back porch. He also replaced the front upper windows, restoring them from their misguided, sliding aluminum counter parts.

And Gilmore is pleased that the tub now has a shower and a unit in the basement heats its water. "My grandmother used to heat water on the kitchen stove and pour boiling water into the tub," he says. "But by the time the tub was filled, the water was cold again."

Preservation

The unique character of the comfortably worn cabin cannot be overstated:

• No interior woodwork has ever been painted

• The rooms stand in their original configuration

• Kitchen cabinets remain and the original wood-fired kitchen stove is still functional

• Ceiling-hung electrical lights are scarce

• Curtains and other fabrics appear early, as does the furniture. Remarkably, a calendar from 1948 still graces a bedroom wall.

Elemere's value is also in the memories surrounding it. "It is very sentimental, being here," Gilmore says. "I'm glad it hasn't been modernized; I like the old feel."

(For more information about renovating an old home or commercial building, contact the Lower Columbia Preservation Society in downtown Astoria in the historic Hobson Building at 1170 Commercial St., No. 210. Or visit www.lcpsweb.org.)

 

  

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