Acquiring a vacant country store in a tiny town, platted near a railroad siding from yesteryear, gave general contractor Gary Neumann an opportunity to do a project he’d mused about.
He’d even saved pieces for his unusual home years before discovering it.
“I guess I’d always been interested in the idea of taking a commercial property and converting it to a residence,” says Neumann, 70.
“And I found that it’s a really beautiful place,” he adds of Palisades, whose sole road in and out is lined with hay fields and livestock pasture.
Turns out there was no legal alternative but to make the store his home.
Neumann bought it and two adjacent parcels in 2007, thinking he could build on one of them. But the small building and its surrounds are located in a 100-year flood zone of the mighty Moses Coulee — a geologically storied corridor flanked by dramatic basalt cliffs and outcroppings — so Douglas County does not allow new construction there.
Located not far from Palisades’ elementary school, the former store, hotel, and post office — it’s had a few different lives — was constructed as a two-story building around 1915. It burned down in the mid-1930s and was rebuilt in Western false front style as a single-level store with a post office, which operated through the late-1970s.
Neumann moved in during 2010, and just two years ago completed the interior. He worked part time, occasionally hiring subcontractors, to make the old building habitable.
It was a little overwhelming to decide what and when to tackle, he says.
“The ceiling is original. I stripped everything else down to two-by-fours.”
He redid old wiring and plumbed the building for the very first time, putting in a kitchen and bathroom.
A set of Douglas fir kitchen cabinets he’d stored for two decades set the scheme for most of the interior. Neumann used the same wood for windows, floors and wainscoting.
Only subtle size and design variations give away the fact the old sash-style windows Neumann collected throughout Washington and refinished are not original. So, too, with historic doorknobs he found at “a little salvage yard.”
It’s a slow and quiet life, now — perhaps dramatically different from the scene so many decades ago.
Walking outside on a hot summer evening, Neumann gestures northeast where the railroad once came to town.
“I can just see it — people getting out and getting a room,” he says.