Century-old pillars offer a history lesson

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

A couple of pillars on Wood Avenue in Sumner have led to a lesson in history and city government.

Julie Moltke and her husband, Glenn, own a 100-year-old home in Sumner and the preservation of the property has brought them into a tangled legal affair with the city.

In front of the home are two concrete pillars with gates and a wall at the head of the driveway. So far so good - but the problem is the pillars and part of the Moltke’s front yard are owned by the city.

The Moltkes are trying to work out a deal to buy the city land, which in their view really belongs to the property since it is their front yard.

To understand the issue, a Sumner history lesson is needed.

According to Julie Moltke, her home was built by a Mr. Burglehaus in either 1907, 1908 or 1909. The exact date is uncertain.

Moltke said Burglehaus was a well-known botanist and built the 3,000 square-foot home with a nursery behind it. The home was called Rosecroft and a sign with that name spanned the pillars in front of the home.

Burglehaus died in an automobile accident near Quilcene on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in 1921.

Moltke said Ralph Weaver bought the home at some point after Burglehaus passed and this is where the pillars come into the story. Weaver had been a city clerk and city councilman in Sumner and he owned the Weaver Apartments at 1314 Maple St.

Weaver and his wife liked the pillars and wanted to make sure they were protected. The Weavers decided to place the pillars and a section of the front lawn into a separate parcel.

Later Ralph Weaver built a smaller home behind the main house. He had Parkinson’s disease and the stairs to the main house were difficult for him to climb.

Mrs. Weaver sold the main house in the 1950s and her heirs later sold the home behind the main house, but the pillar parcel was forgotten.

Moltke saw the main house in the early 1980s when she was 11 years old and told her dad, Darrell Nordyke, he had to buy it.

Nordyke owned the Hillstop Arco Country Store, also known as Darrell’s Garage.

“For some reason I saw this house and I wanted my parents to buy it,” Moltke said. “On our way home from dinner he stopped and put the headlights on the house. Dad said we couldn’t afford it, but he would check it out.”

Nordyke did check it out and the family became the next owners of the home in the early 1980s. Moltke moved into her dream home at 11.

A few years ago, Moltke’s parents decided to sell the home because they were moving to Sartenega, a small village in Belize in Central America.

Moltke said her parents sat her down and told her they were selling her dream home. After hearing the news she was upset and told her husband. He asked if she wanted to buy the house and a short time later the Moltkes, with their two boys, Quinncy and Riley, became the new owners of Rosecroft.

Moltke’s parents discovered the issue about the pillars and the separate parcel when a neighbor wanted to expand a driveway.

Moltke said after the home behind the main house sold, the forgotten parcel reverted to Pierce County and the city of Sumner bought it for $200 in 2002 and in 2006 the city converted it to city right of way.

“We weren’t worried at first until we started cleaning the wall and pillars and discovered it needed repairs,” Julie Moltke said.

The estimates for the repairs ran into thousands of dollars and stewardship of the pillars and wall became a priority to the family.

The Moltkes decided to approach the city about purchasing the parcel, but buying right of way from a city is never easy.

“I’m sure they thought it was in the street,” Julie Moltke said.

City Councilman Randy Hynek brought the issue up at the Oct. 13 study session.

“Traditionally it has been part of the property,” Hynek said. “The city doesn’t need this. It is a tiny island surrounded by private property. My point is do what we need to, comply with the law, and get it back to her (Moltke).”

Mayor Dave Enslow and City Administrator John Doan said the city is working on resolving the issue.

“When you find yourself in a home like this it is more about stewardship than ownership,” Julie Moltke said.

Reach Dennis Box at dbox@courierherald.com or 360-802-8209.