VAN WETTER’S HOUSE

CATEGORY: MORE PORT TOWNSEND

The beautiful Jeannie Van Wetter and her husband Lee moved to Port Townsend from the east and bought a house on the bluff overlooking the place where Port Townsend Bay almost laps onto the street into town plus a few businesses precariously squeezed between the bay the the street.  The house was set back enough from the bluff that there was no view of any man-made thing along the waterfront below, mainly a motel with its neon sign.  Their view was of water, islands and mountains: both the Cascades and the Olympics. They hired me to do a remodeling and an addition.

The house they bought was long and low and faced with Roman brick.  Probably because of the weight of the brick, the foundation walls were thick enough to be able to pass the code required to add a second story for a master suite.  We also added a new kitchen and a glass-sided dining room with a view of both mountain ranges.

When Jeannie made a list of things she wanted in the house, one request was to be able to see the view from her bathroom shower.  Part of the second story addition, including the shower, was at a 45° angle to the rest of the house, so I designed the sea-facing half of her square shower with glass walls, the corner jutting out toward Port Townsend Bay like the prow of a ship.  I specified one-way glass so no one could see through it.  What I didn’t know was that silhouettes can be seen through one way glass if there is light coming from the other side.  Because of the angle, it was possible to see clear through the shower from either side of the house, including the neighbor’s back yards.  These neighbors were not close and probably binoculars would be required.  Still———-

Talk about heart stoppers!

I discovered this startling fact before Jeannie or Lee did.  I confessed to them that I was ignorant of this sneaky property of one-way glass.  Lee said, “If our neighbors don’t know what a naked person looks like in shadow form, it’s about time they found out.  We will leave it exactly as it is.”  Jeannie agreed and said if they found it disturbing, they could add an opaque curtain.  Later she told me the master bathroom was her favorite room in the whole house, and that she especially found it enchanting to take a shower by moonlight.  She said she felt like an angel floating over the bay.

Lee died a few years after the house was finished, but Jeannie lived on for several more years.  When she did die it was of a heart attack in a situation similar to that of Dorothy Adams.  She had been getting dressed to go to her doctor, and when she didn’t arrive for the appointment, the doctor ordered that the house be broken into.  They found her in her favorite room.  

I feel eternally blessed that both of these wonderful women spent their last moments in spaces that they loved–spaces that I was privileged to have designed for them.