Buildings are often the sentinels of place. They stand as points of continuity as everything around them changes. On the west side of Vashon, the Jedediah Paige Barn, built in 1890, has been a sentinel to the changes Vashon has experienced in the past 120 years.
Jedediah Paige homesteaded in Cove in 1880. He logged the property using oxen to drag the logs to the bluff above Colvos Passage, where he built a barn and home. He kept a steamer float anchored offshore from the mouth of the stream that ran behind the barn and named it Paige’s Landing. But Paige soon found himself in financial difficulties. In 1886, he borrowed $550, and then in 1890 borrowed $1,200 and paid off the original note. In 1891 he sold 15 acres but made no payment against the second note. Finally, in 1895 his land was foreclosed and sold in a sheriff’s sale for the total amount of the debt, $1,406.26. Paige was left with his mules, a wagon and his personal effects, which he loaded on the steamer Glide and headed for San Francisco.
Jedediah Paige’s story is not that uncommon, yet it is a story not often told. Throughout the history of Vashon-Maury Island, many have moved here to stay, but many others have moved here and failed, like Jedediah Paige, and have dropped out of the narrative of the island. Their stories are as significant, in their own way, as the story of those who stayed. Their stories help us to define who we are as islanders when we can contrast our own stories to those who made other choices and left the island.
When Paige left, the barn and house remained and continued to be one of the sentinels of Cove. Logging and agriculture drove the Vashon economy over the next 50 years, and farming continued on the Paige homestead; selling eggs was the primary business. Apple, Italian prune, Montmorency cherry orchards and hay fields supplemented the income from eggs. The barn served as the center of the farm, housing the equipment, the feed, the horses and the cows and storing hay in the loft.
Bertha and Ernest Jenner purchased the farm in 1929 and the next year named their farm “Triplebrook” after the three streams that cross the property. It still bears that name today. Ernest kept a detailed “day book” in which his entries for each day detailed the work on the farm, the price of eggs, the unusual weather and family events. This “day book” provides an extraordinary window into the everyday life on Vashon during the 1930s and 1940s.
In 1943, the Jenners sold Triplebrook, and it was then purchased in 1947 by Rebecca and Athol Green and their son Hal, who still owns the farm. After the “Great Blizzard of 1950,” when over 21 inches of snow fell on Vashon and weeks of high winds and bitterly cold temperatures closed island schools for a month, the Greens moved back to Seattle. They continued to come to the farm on weekends and during the summers. Triplebrook shifted from a full-time working farm to a weekend and summer farm. This change took place at the same time that Vashon saw farming, which was the foundation of the island economy, begin to disappear, and saw an influx of a new commuter population that began to recreate a more suburban Vashon. The Paige Barn stood sentinel to these changes.
Molly and Hal Green moved to the island in 2003, undertook a major remodel of the old Paige house, and converted the #1 brooder house into a guest cottage. In 2007, they restored the original 1890 barn using dimensional fir lumber to match the original timber used to build the barn and hand-cut steel nails to match the original nails.
The 1890 Paige Barn continues to stand as a sentinel to the changes that have taken place around it. Triplebrook Farm is the home to Molly and Hal, who are both retired, as are many others on the island. The guest cottage in the converted brooder house is now a vacation rental accommodation. The farm and orchards have been converted into a magnificent garden, which was on the 2011 Vashon Allied Arts Garden Tour. And, the fully restored barn is now used for special events, including small weddings and reunions. Vashon has changed from the frontier settlement that Jedediah Paige discovered to the farming community that Bertha and Ernest Jenner found, to the contemporary, gentrifying community that Molly and Hal Green live in today. The Jedediah Paige barn has stood sentinel to it all.
— Bruce Haulman and Terry Donnelly