Joseph Borst built this house for his bride Mary. Not only did he build the house, but also a record setting barn (rumored to be the biggest at the time). Whatever creature comforts or luxury items that couldn’t be made on site, he ordered to be brought around Cape Horn. Touring the Borst house is truly a treat for the curious local, the historian at heart, and for the hopeless romantic. Look closely when you visit, and you will see details uncommon today.
The Borst house sits up high, on the bank of the Chehalis river in Centralia where the Skookumchuck runs in; the waters of the Chehalis can be seen from the inside the house.
Construction began around 1860, and the home features many unique qualities. The fireplace is made of soapstone, which could be shaped with a planning tool, hold heat like clay, never crack, and only improve with age. The ends of the lumber were dipped in white lead to prevent decay, and the siding planks were held to the exterior walls by wooden pegs. It is reported that Borst built his barn without a single nail. If you look closely at the maple spool beds upstairs, they too are held together with wooden dowels. Locally, hand-made furniture still sits in some rooms, and each room holds special features and items that were either hand-made or specially selected for Mary Borst, Joseph’s wife, and their family. In the master bedroom sits Mary’s rocking chair, made by her husband, still strung with buckskin strips webbing the seat. Across from it is the East Lake style bed, brought from around Cape Horn. The hallway cabinets hold small, personal items such as a jewelry box, a candle holder, and candle stick…a candlestick they used. A rare find was seen when my tour guide opened a leather hat box to reveal its contents: Joseph Borst’s beaver hide tall-hat.
In addition to the home is a carriage house, a one-room school, and a pioneer church that is under construction. The city of Centralia hosts monthly open houses for visitors beginning in the spring.
Keep your eyes peeled; everywhere you look, you will find a curious detail. FYI: the original house key still hangs by the front door.
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