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New Poulsbo city hall joins town's oldest home
POULSBO — Chuck Stroud supposes Martin Bjermeland enjoyed quite the view out the front window that connects the two men across a century.
Bjermeland built the house Stroud now owns in 1886, at a time when his sitting room looked over an open vista and the entirety of Liberty Bay. Much has filled in the landscape since, although Stroud still enjoys a partial water view from his home on Third Avenue.
In a glance he can take in the Sons of Norway lodge, Martha & Mary and — now — the towering new Poulsbo City Hall.
Stroud’s home is the oldest residence in the city, and it sits next door to the 30,000-square-foot municipal campus that opens for business next week, after two years of construction and nearly a decade of debate.
“I was overseas and my dear wife fell in love with this house,” said Stroud, 81. She purchased the two-story, four-bedroom house in 1971, though it had fallen into some disrepair. Stroud recalled it had only a dirt driveway and was colored in an ugly brown shade.
“I was devastated,” he said.
His first task was to repaint the house bright blue, a color he chose so he could spot it while driving on the east side of the bay.
The house has undergone several remodels in its life, though its original frame remains intact, complete with square-headed nails.
During repairs Stroud and his son Ralph, 53, have found many old items tucked between the home’s vertical grain fir studs, including a pair of shoe soles, a silk bow tie and a partially carved smoking pipe. Stroud once found an Indian Head penny in the home’s fuse box.
The home was known to be haunted, supposedly by the ghosts of Bjermeland and his daughter, Agnes. Stroud’s three children saw apparitions in the upstairs hallway, and once Stroud said he was joined in his kitchen for a brief moment by a man in an antique suit. The home’s previous owner told them he often heard a ball bouncing on the narrow wooden staircase. A neighbor said she saw a white orb above the house at night. The Strouds had the house blessed, putting a stop to the strange activity.
Bernice, Stroud’s wife, grew up in Poulsbo. After moving away she often brought her children to town while her husband was deployed overseas. The two of them met at a downtown soda fountain in 1953, while Stroud was based on a carrier at Naval Base Kitsap. They married a few months later.
Stroud imagines recent growth might not have found favor with his wife. She died before the city hall project began, in 1994.
“It always kind of bothered her because she loved her little town,” he said. “She probably would have been very upset if she was here. At my age, it doesn’t bother me.”
Stroud said he’s glad the city built a fence between the two properties, a stylized horizontal barrier made of iron wood.
Before the land was cleared for city hall, a small home sat next to Stroud’s house and a clinic stood at the corner of Moe Street and Bjermeland Place. Both were purchased and torn down by the city. The Stroud family had a front-row view of the process. Julie Karkainen, Stroud’s daughter, joked her father was an “unpaid supervisor,” as he often visited with construction workers, offering his opinions.
“It was fascinating to watch,” said Ralph Stroud.
The siblings wonder what the neighborhood will become with the additional vehicular and foot traffic in the area, though the old city hall, also viewable from the front windows, is only a few blocks away.
“It’s bigger than I thought it was going to be,” said Karkainen, 54.
But Stroud isn’t moving because of the change, and he hopes his home, which his son plans to live in some day, isn’t torn down, but instead preserved for its historic value. To him, it seems, the home will never be defined for its proximity to City Hall. It will always belong to Bernice, who married Stroud in a home across the street, less than a block from where City Hall now stands.
“I don’t want to sell. I like it here. I think my wife would probably be hurt if I sold the house,” he said. “She loved this place. It was her home.”