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Falling in my lap

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Sometimes stories just seem to fall from the sky, right into my lap.

Last Saturday I was driving up 5th street in Wenatchee and drove past what looked like an interesting photograph. I couldn't stop then but kept it in the back of my mind and later in the day was able to return and begin photographing the demolition of a house across from the college.

While I was making pictures, waiting for one of the people to be positioned in a coved doorway, one of the three people who were working on the house came across the street and began a conversation with me. It turned out that she was taking the house apart bit by bit and hauling it to her property near Chelan where she was reassembling it. She said she had fallen in love with the house some 30 years ago as a student at the college.

My original idea of an interesting photograph with a small, descriptive caption underneath was immediately scrapped and I began interviewing her for a more detailed story. Here's the photograph I made and a photograph Chrys Fine took before she started the demolition.

And the resulting story:

WENATCHEE — The little green house at 1355 Fifth St. has held a place in this college neighborhood for over 75 years, From a residence of 490 square feet in 1936, it would be expanded twice, in 1952 and 1972, growing to nearly 2,000 square feet. For Chrys Fine, a beginning architecture student taking classes across the street at Wenatchee Valley College in 1980, the house had a certain charm. With its sweeping, concave roof, and arched doorways, the storybook cottage style home attracted her attention and she often dreamed about living in a place like that. She wrote a class paper using the house as the location for a story in her creative writing class. “I had leprechauns running all through that house,” she says. Because college funding fell short, her ambition of becoming an architect drifted away and she began a 14-year career as a machinist at the Wenatchee Alcoa plant. And in 1996, she opened a dog kennel service in Navarre Coulee south of Chelan. But even though she didn’t have the degree, her interest in house styles and specifically the home on Fifth Street never left her. On trips to Wenatchee to visit relatives, she would take glances of the home across from the college. Then last January, she noticed a sign in front of the house. It said that construction would soon begin on a commercial building on the lot where that small house stood. With a couple of quick calls, she was able to find the owner of the property and talk her way into removing the building before it would be demolished. She already owned property and a trailer home where she lived near Chelan but the house was too big to move on a state road. So she hired contractor John Moler to cut it up into sections and excavator Pat Moore who hauled it in a couple of loads on a flat bed trailer up to the Navarre Coulee to her property, work that began six weeks ago. Moler, with RPM Construction in Manson, built the foundation and is reassembling the original 490 square feet of the house. One of the most notable finds in the house, beyond the newspapers from the early 1930s stuffed in the walls for insulation, was a box of love letters Fine discovered in the attic. They were dated in 1936 and addressed to the original owner’s daughter who has since passed away. But Fine was able to find the owner’s granddaughter, living in Lacey, who accepted the box through a cousin. Fine estimates it will take her two years to completely restore the house and furnishing to its original state, including appliances and paint — white with green trim. By this time next year, Fine hopes to be at least living in the house she was enthralled with as a college student. “This is my dream home,” she says.