Local log house honored for historic and architectural value

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

The Nelson-Parker House is full of great stories, including bootleggers and blueberry farmers.

The house in unincorporated Woodinville, now owned by Paul and Judy Thomas, has been named to the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique architecture and its ties to the settlement of the Sammamish River region.

interiorhousePaul and Judy Thomas, the current owners of the historic Nelson-Parker House, divided the spacious upper floor into multiple rooms. (Photo by Briana Gerdeman)Tax documents date the construction of the log house to 1896, but Paul Thomas, a believer in oral history, says he was told when he bought it that it was built in 1876.

For the Thomases, who have owned the house for more than 40 years, the house’s history was a big factor in buying it.
“I like old things. I was a history teacher for 10 years,” Paul Thomas said, adding, “My oldest friend says I live in the past, and I do. It’s better than the present.”

The vertical log construction makes the building highly unusual, said Julie Koler, preservation officer for King County. The nearest similar building is in Colorado.

“It’s an unusual type of log construction that’s associated with Northern Europeans,” Koler explained.
The cedar plank construction incorporates both vertical and horizontal planks and uses keyed notching, a rare method of joining planks.

“It’s still so intact….Those logs are in great condition,” Koler said. “A lot of those log houses in the West, because of the weather, they tend to deteriorate.”

ThomasThe Nelson-Parker House, now owned by Paul and Judy Thomas, dates back to at least the 1890s and was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. (Courtesy photo)There are few log cabins or houses on the National Register, said State Architectural Historian Michael Houser, and only three other log houses designated as landmarks in King County, Koler said. However, the others in King County are smaller and used more common construction methods.

In addition to the unusual architecture, the house is valuable because it tells the story of the many families who have called it home.

According to the registration form with the National Register, the 146.7-acre property was originally part of a homestead claim by Moses and Catherine Lovee, who claimed it in 1883, and must have had some kind of dwelling built by 1891 to “prove up” on the claim.

A Swedish family, the Nelsons, bought the property in 1892 and built the house that still stands today. The wife, Matilda, continued to live there with her four children after her husband, N.E., deserted the family and moved to Alaska.
In the early 1900s, the Parker family bought the house and lived there until 1916. Eleanor Parker Wiggins recalls living there as a child and being friends with the Nelson children. Her father renovated the house, adding windows and doors and partitioning the one-room, two-story house into several rooms. The Parkers sold meat, dairy and produce in Woodinville and Seattle, and sold timber.

Later, the Parkers rented the house and farm to a series of tenants, including some who were caught using the property for bootlegging during Prohibition.

Another long-term tenant in the 1930s was the Motomatsu family, a Japanese family who farmed the land, selling vegetables at Pike Place Market. At the time, enough Japanese families lived in the area to support a Japanese language school on Saturdays at the Hollywood Schoolhouse in Woodinville.

Little is known about C.A. Shinstrom, who bought the property in 1941, but the subsequent owners, Hope and Howard Munn, improved the house after buying the property in 1946. The Munns added a concrete foundation, a front porch, a fireplace in the living room and new windows.

The Munns planted blueberry bushes in the late 1940s or early 1950s, and later subdivided the property and sold that land to Warren and Marsha Otteson. The Ottesons named their farm the Cottage Lake Blueberry Farm, and harvested 60 tons of blueberries in their best year, but eventually sold their property. The blueberry farm property is now owned by King County Parks.

In the 1970s, the Munns sold the house and 3.6 acres to the Howard family, who sold it to the Paul and Judy Thomas. The Thomases, who named the house “Julabo” — a Swedish word meaning “home of happiness and singing” — have added to its history.

Paul founded one of the state’s first wineries in 1979 and produced up to 3,000 bottles of wine per year in the house’s cellar before moving his winery to a commercial space.

The Thomases also raised chickens, goats and sheep, and Judy, an artist trained in weaving, used the wool for her art.
The Thomases did major renovations in the early 1990s, dividing the upstairs into rooms, redoing the fireplace and installing new custom windows. They also raised their two children in the house.

Listing buildings on the National Register serves to formally document the buildings and raise their public profile, but doesn’t have many tangible benefits for the homeowners, Houser said — most do it for the “bragging rights.”
“Just the fact that they had it designated speaks to their stewardship,” Koler said of the Thomases.

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