Old Buildings, Lasting Memories

Old Buildings, Lasting Memories

Searching for Old Buildings on Finn Hill

You may have read the recent article in the local paper that “4Culture awards funds to help preserve historic structures in annexed neighborhoods” (read full article). The Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance is researching what old buildings still exist on Finn Hill.  If you know of any buildings or are interested in joining a small task force researching Finn Hill history please let us know here and we’ll be in touch.

Janice Gerrish on Finn Hill shares a story about the Johann Wierlo’s Farm and Sauna.

Johann Wierlo’s Farm and Sauna

The Sauna at the Nordic Heritage Museum is the only structure that remains of a Finnish community that was on top of the hill. In 1915, there were about 55 Finnish families and 29 Saunas.

In October 2012, I spoke to Ed Wierlo, now 80, who is the son of Johann Wierlo. Ed shared with me some of his family history and talked about the sauna.

Johann Wierlo, Ed Wierlo’s father, came to America through New York in 1904. He heard about some work, took a train and went to a logging camp in Bellingham. He was a tree bucker and had to be careful when trees were cut. A tree fell on his partner and killed him. Johann left logging.

Johann heard about this place, the hill, and bought 5 acres of land about 1915. It was through a land developer not a homestead site. The land had been recently logged and was covered with stumps, brush and slash. He built a small shack to live in while he cleared the land.

He corresponded with Maria Yurman, who he had met on the boat and was his bride to be. He built a log house in 1918. Then he went to Montana to marry and bring back Maria. The house was extended and remodeled three times. Other outbuildings were built, such as the two chicken houses and barn. Some buildings were hand cut timber, built log cabin style, such as the Sauna.

Ed Wierlo was not certain when his Dad got into the poultry business. By 1930, Johann was ordering a thousand pullets every two years. A neighbor, Paul Raine, would pick the eggs from the small farmers and sell them at the Seattle Public Market once a week. Johann leased 7.5 acres next door from the state and used it for grazing beef and diary cows. Many years later, that land became Thoreau Elementary School.

Johann retired from the poultry business in 1945 and passed away 1950. After WWII, Ed Wierlo lived in the farm house until he married and moved 1954. Ed sold the property to William and Bessie Tait. After William died, Bessie continued to operate Primrose Acres. She farmed for over 30 years and was active in the Redmond Saturday Market.

My husband, Bob, and I rented 5 acres near Totem Lake West and had an organic farm during the 1980’s. We met Bessie Tait at the Grange and later visited her farm. She mentioned that she was donating the sauna to the Nordic Museum before the property was taken by a developer.

The Sauna was donated in 1998. It is at the museum, still in good condition. The farm property was cleared and developed into Chadwick Farm Condominiums.

One Response to “Old Buildings, Lasting Memories”

  1. Scott Morris says:

    Janice & MacKenzie: Great article! It’s nice to read a bit of Finn Hill history. Thanks.