Exploring the Eastside is an occasional series spotlighting the Eastside's special places. If you have a suggestion, call us at 425-453-2130...

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Exploring the Eastside is an occasional series spotlighting the Eastside’s special places. If you have a suggestion, call us at 425-453-2130 or send it to east@seattletimes.com

The Dougherty House in Duvall contained four bedrooms upstairs, one bathroom downstairs and eight kids — probably everywhere. Mathematically, that added up to a full house, probably with a line outside the bathroom door.

Add to that a herd of cows needing to be milked twice a day and 800 fruit trees in the apple and prune orchards that needed tending. To make a little extra money, Kate Dougherty also boarded eight loggers in a small bunkhouse outside her back door. And in her spare time, she ran the Duvall Post Office from her front hall.

Today, Dougherty family’s front parlor contains a fainting couch.

Tove Burhen, president of the Duvall Historical Society, doesn’t believe Dougherty had much free time to recline.

“There were too many things to do,” Burhen said. “Just doing the laundry took all day when you used a washboard, tub and a hand wringer.”

Although they didn’t do laundry by hand, Duvall Historical Society volunteers worked just as hard saving the Dougherty family’s 1888 farmhouse from the bulldozers of development and the ravages of neglect. For more than a decade, Burhen, her husband, Ray, and others restored, rebuilt, reroofed and repainted the house, removed blackberry vines that threatened to overtake the farm buildings, and negotiated with King County, the city of Duvall and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle to save the property.

Leo Dougherty, Kate’s last surviving son, sold the family’s remaining 40 acres and the house in 1977 to the archdiocese as a future church site. After his death in 1983, his surviving relatives assumed the house would be torn down, so they stripped it of furniture and light fixtures. About the only things left behind were a few pots and pans and a clawfoot bathtub.

But longtime Duvall residents had higher hopes. They wanted to buy part of the property and the house to preserve as a museum.

In 1996, after more than a decade of work, historical society members, King County, Duvall and the archdiocese struck a deal. The city secured more than 20 acres for a park and an acre that contains the house and outbuildings. That site was designated a county landmark.

Its close brush with development wasn’t the first crisis for the Dougherty House.

James O’Leary built it as a home for his would-be bride in 1888, on a homestead closer to the Snoqualmie River. After she changed her mind about marrying, O’Leary never lived in the house. John and Kate Dougherty purchased the house and 160 acres and moved their then three children into it in 1889.

To get to the property from their Seattle home, the family traveled north to Everett, where they bought tickets on a paddlewheel boat that carried them inland. In that era, shallow-draft paddlewheelers were the trucks and trains of the Snoqualmie Valley, carrying freight and passengers as far upstream as Fall City.

John and Kate Dougherty had five more children before he died in 1903. Kate worked the farm and raised her children, and like other Duvall residents welcomed the advent of the railroad in the early 1900s.

Many of the town buildings were moved east, from the riverside to the hillside. On April 15, 1910, horses hauled the Dougherty home, atop rolling logs, to its present site.

If Kate helped select the spot, she picked wisely. The north windows offer a view of the lush valley and, on clear days, Mount Baker. Just west of her house, when the trees downhill were smaller, would have been a view of the river. Partway down the hill was an old cemetery, but the water table was so high that as quickly as a grave was dug, it filled with water. By 1910, when the Dougherty home was set upon its new foundation, most of the bodies had been moved to a new cemetery on Novelty Hill.

The Doughertys were well-liked and involved in the Duvall area. Kate and several of her children were members and leaders in the Grange. They participated in community celebrations. They opened their home to fellow Catholics, celebrating Mass in their parlor when a traveling priest was available. One daughter became a Catholic nun.

Three sons, John, Leo and James, stayed on the farm after Kate died in 1936. Joe was a member of the town literary society, and James was in the Duvall Brass Band. Leo served in World War I.

Most of them hunted and fished. For years, a bearskin rug lay on the floor in the house. Joe enjoyed telling visitors that he met the bear before it was a rug. He shot the creature when it chased him through the pasture. Joe was the dapper son; he rarely missed a dance.

John, a brilliant student who passed the exam for a Rhodes scholarship in 1915, was an outstanding athlete in college and became a Catholic priest.

While the family was interesting, the home itself was important because it is one of the few local examples of what a farmhouse was like in the early 20th century.

Preserving it wasn’t easy.

Limited by a shoestring budget typical of most small historical societies, dedicated volunteers poured sweat equity into refurbishing the building. For every few gains, there has been a loss — such as the historical barn that collapsed from neglect. The milk house and milk parlor were nearly destroyed by horses because of a broken fence. Early on, vandals seemed intent upon destroying things faster than the group could fix them. Today, there’s a security system, the house is furnished and the group is ready to refurbish the bunkhouse and the milking shed.

One volunteer who lives nearby has restored the front yard. Flowers, similar to Kate Dougherty’s beloved roses, hollyhocks, wisteria and mums, line flower beds. A new heating system helps control the temperature — a necessity for the display of antiques such as the old crib, brass bed, beaded dress, chamber pots and old quilts in the upstairs bedrooms and the historical pictures on the walls.

Each Sunday, volunteers from the Duvall Historical Society delight in giving tours of the farmhouse and sharing their dreams for continued restoration of the Dougherty farm.

“We could always use more volunteers, because our membership is getting older,” Tove Burhen said. “And we need more money.”

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com


Dougherty farmstead

Where: 26524 N.E. Cherry Valley Road, Duvall

Hours: 1-4 p.m. Sundays through September, or by appointment

Traveler’s tip: Free admission. The main floor is accessible to handicapped visitors.

More information: Tove Burhen, 425-788-1266