Small Stilt House Restoration on Puget Sound

Before the development of the freeway system, the main mode of transportation on Puget Sound was a series of privately owned ferries collectively known as the ‘Mosquito Fleet‘. The community of Fragaria was built at this time around a ferry stop that served the farmers and families of Kitsap County in Washington State. The famed steamship ‘Virginia V‘ harbored at Fragaria at this time and a small community of tiny cabins were built around what was then the ticket/post office and general store. Most of the houses were built on piers to take advantage of the terrain, known as ‘stilt houses’ Fragaria is one of a handful of remaining communities around Puget Sound built with this method.

This is guest post by Joel Lee.

We stumbled on this area almost by accident as our search for property near our home in Seattle led us on weekend excursions driving through the countryside. With our very limited budget we knew we were going to have to think creatively and work hard for whatever we found so we started our search with very open minds. We were imaging a secluded parcel of land somewhere that we could park our vintage travel trailer, or maybe an old barn or industrial building we could convert into some sort of a loft.

It was with this creative spirit that my wife stumbled upon a small 1923 stilt house in Fragaria that had gone into foreclosure. It had been neglected over the years and needed many urgent repairs, the previous occupant had stripped it of anything of value including everything from the light fixtures to outlet covers. The last major overhaul the house had gone through was in 1950 and even those mid-century updates were showing their age.

On the positive side it was less than an hour from our home including a short ferry ride from Seattle. The 1950’s remodel had opened it up and made the 672 square feet feel much larger than it actually is. Although it needed some immediate structural work it had great bones including walls, ceilings and floors all made from thick clear Douglas-fir planks. But best of all is its location right on the water, at high tide it feels more like a houseboat as Puget Sound rolls right under our feet. Almost daily we see seals and sea otters playing off our porch not to mention the possibility of fishing and crabbing without leaving our front deck and all of this being so close to Seattle that we never lose sight of the Space Needle.

We are attempting a historically respectful and environmentally friendly restoration on a very tight budget so we have been learning to be patient and creative. Most of the appliances and fixtures are from estate sales, salvage yards and Craigslist. Some of the kitchen cabinets were repaired or replaced using recycled crates and even the window and door trim is made from reclaimed wood. We have done most of the work ourselves along with help from friends and family and a house working co-op we developed with friends affectionately known as ‘Barn Raising Group’ in which we exchange labor on each others houses.

On the interior we are embracing the mid-century modern aesthetics of the 1950 remodel by installing vintage fixtures and keeping the simple open design that was developed at that time. A Craigslist find of bright orange modern freestanding fireplace has become a focal point of the main room as well as heating the house in winter. Creatively recycled materials along with simple modern aesthetics are being combined to make a cozy, functional and cost effective beach home on Puget Sound.

Joel Lee is a creative tinkerer living in Seattle WA.

If are in the Pacific Northwest take a trip to see the small stilt houses on Fragaria.


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    hey…i am looking at buying a similar fireplace for our home. we live in a place where the electricity can go out for longer periods of time, and so as much as i would LOVE to have a mid century style free standing fireplace, i’m not sure if it will put out enough heat as a “traditional” stove can do with a closing glass door. We also have small children and i worry about the screen closure vs glass. Can you elaborate on how quickly it heats your home, and how big your home is? i’ve been researching that information and can’t seem to find out what i need.

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