Photos by Sue Parson
The old Swanton House was moved successfully, though slowly, from its original foundation on Wednesday, Feb. 13.

At Large in Ballard: A lot of history

The first year that Ballard Historical Society mounted a Classic Homes tour, in 2001, the most impressive home was the one known as The Captain Swanton House. Based on archival and anecdotal research the BHS description of this 1903 Sunset Hill home on a 16,300 sq. ft. corner lot noted, “Reportedly Mrs. Swanton wanted to eliminate the chance that it could ever be divided so the house was built right on the center line of the two lots.”

One-hundred ten years after it was built in the center of a large property along an orchard, facing the water, the house has been picked up and moved to the east, where it will now orient more north, its angled windows no longer commanding an unobstructed view to the Sound. The large corner lot is now being divided so three homes will reside where there was one.

Captain and Mrs. Swanton built the home in 1903. It was sold in 1941 to the Hills. In turn they sold it to Robert & Stephanie Marcelynas in 1977, a Ballard couple with two young children who moved up from a duplex at 34th & Market. The Marcelynas were in their home 34 out of their 43 years of marriage. They had met when just 18 years old over at WSU. In 2010 Robert was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He died in 2011. Stephanie and Robert had talked of retiring to Gig Harbor. She decided to move there after his death and to leave the wonderful memories of their time in the house intact rather than trying to rent it out. She very much wanted to find a single-family owner but despite serious interest none could get financing.

The house went on the market in late 2011, but Stephanie took it off in December so she could have one last Christmas in her home. After the New Year its sale to a young man in Arlington went through as of March 2012. Stephanie said he loves the opportunity to find ways to keep classic homes intact while opening up unused land. Of course, a stunning garden set back from the street is one person’s paradise but unused land to a builder. The hardest things for Stephanie Marcelynas have been seeing the garage that her husband built demolished, leaving her neighbors of 34 years and watching their dog Maggie get plump without her big yard.

So the neighbors have known for quite a while that this city-approved subdivide plan was in the works, but seeing the house lifted and moved by an outfit that specializes in moving homes is another thing entirely. For many, there are competing and simultaneous emotions; regret that the lot is being divided is somewhat tempered by the fact the house is being saved. They juggle curiosity about the logistics with nostalgia for the loss of the gorgeous home and garden at the corner of 36th Ave and NW 64th St that was on the old Ballard Beach trolley line.

Babette Saltzman lives on the north side of the street. She was so excited about the actual move that she considered keeping her kids home from school so they could watch. Although sad to see the lot divided she’s relieved that the former Swanton Home will be in her sightline, since it’s likely that she will not be as enamored of the new construction of two more single-family homes on the corner of NW 64th St and to the south on 36th Ave NW.

“It is what it is,” another neighbor, one of the Marcelynas closest friends said, looking over the suddenly altered landscape from her front steps. “You can’t stop change.”

In preparation for the move by Nickel Bros., a hole had been dug where the 1903 house will sit on a new foundation. The house itself was lifted on what resembled a giant forklift with tines as long as a city block. The operation is actually considered a “lot move” rather than a “house move” with the house moving very slowly on what are called “skates.” The distance the house traveled was perhaps 70 feet but it was also the distance between a time when a young family could buy a home on a big lot to when the property tax alone is slightly below what a full-time worker could earn in a year at minimum wage. The house traveled the distance between trolley and RapidRide, carriages and SmartCars, Ballard as its own city and one of 38 neighborhoods in Seattle, Washington.

But the house has been home to generations of three different families and in time it will be home to a fourth. The Swanton/Hill/Marcelynas Home is still a beautiful Victorian that does honor to all who have loved her, ready to face the future from a slightly different angle.

The Ballard Historical Society’s 2013 Classic Home Tour is scheduled for Sunday, June 23rd. Information at www.ballardhistory.wordpress.com

Follow Ballard News-Tribune on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ballardnewstrib

And Twitter at http://twitter.com/ballardnewstrib

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.