Home’s destruction leaves a void to fill

Wally’s World

If you’ve commuted on the Krain Highway, officially 400th Street Southeast, every day for several months or if you’ve only driven that road a few days each month but done so for many years, you may have recently felt an uneasiness – perhaps a slight sense of disorientation. At first it was difficult to isolate a reason for such feelings, but eventually you realized they were caused by a space where there shouldn’t be one. A hole in the landscape, around 212th.

Then, in a rush, it came to you. The old Silvestri farmhouse is gone; squooshed into kindling and hauled away in a Dumpster.

And a lot of local history vanished with it.

Initially, the place was actually two tiny Muckleshoot one-room houses built in the early 1880s, prior to Washington statehood. Then, in 1889, under the Homestead Act and President Benjamin Harrison, Gilbert Courville and “his wife from Osceola” bought the two houses and 160 acres for 12 bucks. (Talk about a real estate deal.) How much the Indians were paid for their homes isn’t clear, but I’d guess about 50 cents each.

After that, the acreage was sold in various combinations and permutations too confusing to clearly delineate. In 1890, Ellen Neely – of Neely Mansion fame – bought 80 acres for $500. Around 1895, a few acres were sold to a fellow from London, England. During the early 1900s, another section was sold to Edwin and Mary Inglis, a family name of certain historical significance in this region. There were other transactions as well. Sometime between 1900 and 1930, the two original houses were connected, forming one large building that dominated the skyline of that crest just west of 212th.

Finally, in 1932, widow Clotilde Silvestri purchased the house and a substantial part of the original homestead from Roy Higgins. She and her son Rick operated a diary on the property and, from then on, the place was known as the Silvestri Farm.

In 1934, Rick married Emma Berilla – another family name of some notoriety in these parts – and brought his blushing bride to live on the farm. In September 1955, he purchased the house and 75 acres from his mother.

Eventually, Rick and Emma’s youngest daughter Joyce inherited the house and half the land. Through the years, the property was further divided and sold in various parcels. Finally, Joyce’s son, Joe Poleski, ended up with the original house and 10 acres. Then, a couple of weeks ago, Ty “Buzz” Inglis – there’s that name again – drove his excavator through the center of the house and that was the end of that.

During the demolition, a 1913 Seattle newspaper fell out of the kitchen wall. Headlines indicated the 16th Amendment was ratified, authorizing an income tax, and Grand Central Station had opened in New York City. It advertised the first sedan-type car (a Hudson) – “the most economical car in America” – for $695 and the world’s finest woman’s corset for $4.

So it goes.