I’ve seen the Name “Faraway” on and off over the years and have always been intrigued. But somehow never found the time to investigate the history behind the name. That is until now. I came across “Faraway” on social media, Facebook and Instagram, and discovered that the famed estate had recently been purchased by a young couple. Their dreams are to bring back its former glory. I hope to share a little bit of Faraway’s former beauty and the family that lived there from 1915 until it was sold to Roland and Roland in 1956 when Gertrude Sloane McDermott, the sole heir was too ill to care for the estate.
As I try to recreate that magic, I hope you will come along with me for a visit.
The family responsible for building and developing the grounds of Faraway lived in Seattle and fell in love with Filucy Bay near Longbranch, Washington, when sailing in the area in 1908. Frank McDermott (1869-1944) and Josephine Patricia Nordhoff McDermott (1871-1920) and their children were that family.
|The Peninsula Gateway, June 22, 1983|
But before we meet the family, let’s first we meet Josephine, and her first husband, Edward Ludwig Nordhoff (1859-1899). Edward and Josephine met in Chicago shortly after Edward arrived from war-torn Germany. They both worked in department stores, and soon discovered their ideas on opening and operating were similar. Unfortunately the competition in Chicago was, and is, fierce. With promising news of the opportunities in the West (remember Horace Greeley and “go west, young man, go west”) the newly married couple came to Seattle.
It was in Seattle that they opened their new store in the Belltown area of Seattle, Washington, at first called Nordhoff & Co., but later renamed The Bon Marché-Nordhoff Company. Edward was frequently gone on buying trips so it fell to Josephine to mind the store and mind the children. In 1889 Seattle was still a frontier town, and their store naturally attracted Native American customers as well as the original settlers. In order to better serve the Native Americans, Josephine taught herself Chinook so she could better communicate with those customers. She also discovered the women of Seattle wanted more fashionable and ornate dresses like the women on the east coast and Europe. In order to fill the need, Josephine tried to stay current on fashion and took up the study of the more current trends and latest styles.
Edward’s health began to suffer and unfortunately died of tuberculosis in 1899 (his doctor called the illness “phthisis” according to HistoryLink.org essay - The Bon Marché Department Store by James R. Warren). His death left Josephine, age 27, with three small children, Eleanor Josephine (1888-1966; Arthur Alphonsus (1895-1984; Edward Joseph (1893-1973) and the responsibilities as president of the store. From 1899 until 1901, Josephine Nordhoff was president of The Bon Marché-Nordhoff Company, assisted by her brother-in-law, Rudolph.
In 1901, Josephine married Frank McDermott (1869-1944), a successful merchant in tailored goods. Again it was a marriage of similar business ideas (as well as love) but also because Frank saw new ways in which to grow the store and its business. Following their marriage, Josephine stepped down and Frank became president a position he held until 1928. (The Nordhoff name was dropped after Josephine and Frank married.) 1902 was a busy year for them, their child Donald Francis was born (1902-1984) and they expanded the store taking up almost an entire block between 2nd and Pike Streets. In 1904 the expansion was continued by adding a 4th floor to the building.
Fast forward to 1908 and the boat trip to Filucy Bay where Frank fell in love with the untouched beauty of the peninsula. Littleton Sturgis owned 4-lots and had built a summer cabin on the property. The two men negotiated an agreement for Frank to purchased the land. Sturgis had actually purchased the land from Edward Yeazell who platted Long Branch in 1890.) Later, Frank was able to purchase more lots from individuals who had also purchased their land from Sturgis; all of Frank’s property was on the west side of the peninsula. Although Frank wanted to own the entire peninsula, Sturgis kept 12 lots where he and his family built “Do-Drop-Inn”, the mansion on the east side of the peninsula with a commanding view of Mount Rainier. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any information on Sturgis other than perhaps he came from Texas or his property. If you know his history, please let us know.
Frank and Josephine hired E. J. Rounds Construction Company to build their 80 by 90 foot home for $10,000, and construction started in 1915. During the construction, the family still visited their property and stayed in what they named “the farm house”. It was a cabin built by a Scandinavian pioneer to the area. And despite the construction McDermott slated what he hoped would become an annual affair; a gala gathering for all The Bon Marché employees. And gala it was: equipment, outdoor furniture, personnel, cases of food and drink were are brought over from Seattle. McDermott even hired the Indianola steamship to transport everyone to and from Longbranch. The Indianola didn’t lack amenities for the passengers…there was food and drinks, separate quarters for women and children, a Dixieland band. Unfortunately WWI and the Spanish Flu epidemic prevented the annual parties.
The first and last site visitors to Faraway saw was a lighthouse built by William Sipple, a local boat builder and contractor. But strangely the Coast Guard never allowed a light to be installed the lighthouse with no light”.
There is a 200 foot brick path in a covered walkway leading to the main house from the estate grounds. If you follow Faraway on Facebook, you will see pictures of the walkway and the climbing roses that the current owners are repairing. I don’t know if any of the wisteria vines supporting by the cover are still there nor do I think the geraniums still exist since they normally have to be taken in during winter. The nasturtiums…will they come back from seeds dropped 100 years ago? But the daffodils are appearing in old beds.
The McDermott designed the estate for leisure, much of it similar to estates they had seen in there visits to other countries. There were tennis courts near the house, trails over the grounds, tree houses, gazebos, dovecotes, swings and so much more. The boathouse was on the shore for anyone wanting to win; and a glass farmed sitting room at the end of the pier for those people wanting to be near water but not swimming or boating.
The big house, as it was called, was built around a grand room like many houses are today. The 60-foot room with a vaulted ceiling had numerous windows, especially on the north and northwest sides. The floors were hardwood, the furnishings combined many things they brought back from their travels as well as local things representing the wildlife of the area. For musical evenings the room contained a grand piano as well as an organ. The second floor opened up on a small balcony overlooking the grand room. The other rooms of the house were built around the grand room with the south end containing nine bedrooms. One of the upper rooms on the east side had two walls constructed of glass, and this is where Frank spent much time towards the end of his life suffering from an illness caught during WWI. And of course, the wide porch allowed sleeping lofts and many swings.
The kitchen too had high ceilings with lots of windows. Chrome was popular then too just as it is today as evidenced by the massive two oven Lang range. Another modern item was the kitchen sink with…yes, running water. Josephine had hired Mrs. Washington as her cook; the first black person many of the residents of Longbranch ever saw. However everyone, in the community as well as visitors to Faraway, adored Mrs. Washington not only for her food but for her charm and warmth. The McDermott family cared for her for several years.
As times changed, changes and updates were added. One time was a gas-powered electric plant- although it didn’t always work, it did help occasionally. A telephone was late in arriving, in the meantime the family and their friends had to go to the Longbranch mercantile store if they needed to make a telephone call.
In 1916 Frank was elected president of the Knights of Columbus and was sent to Europe after the US entered WWI. Faraway was close the big house, and of course, the estate lost some of its radiance. While in Europe Frank contacted an unknown disease from which he never recovered.
The war ended in 1918, Frank returned home, but Josephine was struggling with the effects of cancer. She died in February 1920. Frank was devastated, and although he and Rudolph Nordhoff managed The Bon Marché together, the modern times caught up with them but they couldn’t keep up with the new ways. They sold the store to Hahn Department Stores of Chicago. Both Frank and Rudolph then retired.
Frank had a hard time getting over Josephine’s death, and in the mid-20s he happened to meet the nurse that had cared for him in France. Gertrude Sloane, a Montana girl had attended both the University of Montana and the St. Luke’s School of Nursing in St. Louis, MO. She went to France to serve in the first mobile hospital unit in France, and the unit received honors for extraordinary service during time of war. Following the war, her career brought her to Seattle, where she and Frank reconnected. They married in the mid-to-late 20s, traveled, and lived at Faraway. Gertrude continued to take care of Frank until his death in 1944. Gertrude sold Faraway in 1956.
To learn much more about Faraway, I suggest you visit Key Peninsula Historical Society, 17010 S. Vaughn Rd. KPN, Vaughn 98394 Tuesday and Saturday 1 to 4 pm. Also follow Faraway on Facebook to watch the restoration progress on this important landmark on the Key Peninsula, part of our greater Gig Harbor community.
Early Days of the Key Peninsula, R. T. Arledge
Peninsula Pioneers, Colleen A. SlaterThe Peninsula Gateway, June 22, 1983
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