The First Street Foursquare: Goin’ Semi-Rural in the Pacific Northwest.

Watercolor of First Street House


By Russell Neyman.

My new home in Washington is the perfect blend of scenery, vintage architecture, and proximity to transportation. It feels rural, but I will be close to everything I need. I’m really excited about the move, and should land about Christmastime. My household items will arrive a few days afterwards, so I should be fully functional by about New Year’s eve. You’re welcome to visit.

The structrue is a traditional “foursquare” design, which means is is roughly a two-store cube, forty feet on a side, with a symetrical pyramid-shaped roof. It is located at the Northern edge of the harbor of the same name, which was at one point known as Colby, Washington. The street was once known as First Street from when the city founders optimistically thought there would be scores of streets lined up to the west. Needless to say, there is no Second Street, so nowadays the house sits on a small avenue known as Cole Loop.

The place just feels like it has a history that goes long before there were paved roads nearby. More than one “tin lizzy” and, before that, horsedrawn carriage passed through during this house’s lifetime, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find a few horseshoes hidden on the property. If you look around the inlets and rocky beaches, you can see faint signs of old piers and docks. The mailing address is, technically, Port Orchard, but you wouldn’t know that you’re part of a “city” of nine-thousand people by standing on my front porch.

There once was a small city, Colby, here, but barely a trace remains. It was built in the early 1880’s but withered away as progress passed it by, finally yielding to the wrecking ball in the 1960’s. Only my new home and three or four others remain, all private residences.

Blake Island is right there
off my front porch–
475 acres of raw beauty,
camping, and history
reachable by rowboat.

I have a view of Blake Island, Downtown Seattle, and various parts of the expansive Southern Puget Sound. I’m less than two miles from the Southworth ferry, and the Bremerton ferry is just across from the town of Port Orchard. My lot includes a beach below the front porch, and Roy can simply bring his boat down and drop an anchor to visit, since that would probably be just as quick as driving.


This is a classic house design that can be found in all regions of America. The overbuilt balcony, however, was added in the 1970's and is an intrusion to the house's beautiful lines.

This is a classic house design that can be found in all regions of America. The overbuilt balcony, however, was added in the 1970's and is an intrusion to the house's beautiful lines.

There are two or three major state parks and forests within walking distance, plus some raw wilderness. I can’t wait to row or motor over to Blake Island State Park and explore the Northwest Indian artifacts and historic sites there. You could call the relatively narrow channel of water that lies between Blake and the house “my moat,” if you wanted to. Slightly less than 500 acres and just two miles from my front door, it was the ancestrial home of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes, and currently has fishing and camping. Skipping over with a sleeping bag and tent will be a must, and I’ll do it first thing when the weather turns fair. Old Port Orchard, just around the point to the north, has some interesting antique stores and turn-of-the-century buildings worth looking at, too. Manchester State Park, a day-use hiking, fishing, and picnicing area, is about two miles to the north, adjacent to Rich Passage.

A view of the house as it appeared in 1908

A view of First Street (now Cole Loop) with the Foursquare House, center, as it appeared in 1908. Click to enlarge.

The house itself is quite old — built in 1905 before indoor plumbing and electricity — with hardwood floors and paneled walls. Two of the four bedrooms are small, but large enough for guest beds.  For those smartalecs in the crowd, yes indoor plumbing and a shower have been added. Barbeque and seating on the back deck and about five fruit trees. Lots and lots of sloped lawns. Most important, I will have a full, dedicated workshop for my woodworking uphill from the main house! That, too, has a view. I’ve been invited to join a couple of woodworking guilds, organizations that simply don’t exist in Southern California.

A place this old must have had a storied past. A passing pedestrian offered a brief comment about the house’s darker days, muttering something about gunshots, stabbings, and durnken brawls. I wonder what stories the walls will tell? I’ll try to find out more, and pass it along.

The day I visited for the first time it was snowing, so the photographs I’ve included here looks quite chilly and wet, but one suspects that there will be great sunrises with coffee served on the front porch swing in the Spring and Summer. Yes, there is a large space for an RV right above the slope to the waterline.

 At top of the page is a view of the house taken from water’s edge, translated into a watercolor image. Above, another enchanced view from the porch looking Eastward, with Blake Island visible in the fog, Seattle is about 35 minutes away by ferry.

While all this sounds incredibly remote, there are modern conveniences nearby. Just four miles inland is a shopping center, with an Albertson’s, banks, Blockbuster Video, and even a couple of fast food restaurants, so I won’t freak out when I finally realize that I’m not in Los Angeles anymore. Ahh, the best of all worlds.

Winter 2008. Click to Enlarge.

Winter 2008. Click to Enlarge.

I know that this sounds like I’m representing the local Chamber of Commerce and that I’m giving you a sales pitch. I am. I made a point to pick a new home that had a degree of “sex appeal” so that my friends and family would enjoy coming to visit. Just wanted to keep you all current with my plans.

For more information about Yukon Harbor and Historical Colby, Washington, go to


5 thoughts on “The First Street Foursquare: Goin’ Semi-Rural in the Pacific Northwest.

  1. You might not remember me from high school, but now we’re neighbors. The place you’ve gotten sounds ideal. Let’s get together over at Knobstock Tavern for a beer!

  2. Very interesting website. Enjoyed meeting you and we were all so pleased that you joined us for our progressive dinner on New Year’s eve. Welcome to our neighborhood!

  3. How interesting! I was born at Bremerton and lived in Port Orchard on Mile Hill Drive for my first 50 years! My childhood included many walks to the pier and to the old cemetary on the way. It is hidden up a hill on a curve, but it was a perfect place for 4 little kids to have our sack lunches. I can’t immagine a person used to the big city in California coming to our little town. Hope you enjoy the rain and drizzle. It is a good place to create though. You are right about that! A few years ago, I moved into my 20foot motorhome and now home is where ever I happen to be. Still Western Washington, here and there. Oh, the cemetary is on the curve where the road splits to go to Manchester. Check it out sometime. There are no signs, but a steep dirt drive to (and on the other side of the curve, from) this old treasured place. It is so lovely.
    Happy happy joy joy 🙂 Trisha

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