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Abandoned in the Ravine

One of the oldest homes in Olympia, built in the late 1800's by a Danish craftsman, deemed unsafe to live in but still standing, gutted out and uninhabited.

The old woman who lived here I knew as Jan: Miss Janice Dohm. She was a librarian, specializing in children's books, and a practiced pianist. Her house was filled to the brim with books and old sheet music, the walls covered by posters of old paintings with writing in Dutch or Latin, and to a small child like me it was creepy and old-smelling. Every year for Halloween my parents made my sister and I walk down the dark steps to Jan's front door to knock and say, "trick or treat!", since no one else braved the entry.

As the years went on, it became difficult for Jan to get up and down the uneven steps down to her house. Her little dog, a faithful walking partner and her only life companion, died of old age, and Jan was left alone. Her relatives pushed to move her into an elder care facility, believing they were doing the best for her since the house was liable to slide down the ravine at any moment and take Jan with it. She fought for several years to stay, maintaining that if she was to go like that, at least she would die in her beloved home, but eventually it got too difficult for her to walk up and down the steps, and too dark for her to see, and so she had to leave.

Jan passed away a few years later, at almost 90 years old. Most of her belongings were thrown away, unwanted by her surviving relatives or mildewed. The house is still there, empty, awaiting remodel or demolition, a piece of history abandoned in the ravine. 


Nikon F2

Ilford Delta 400

Summer 2020

1 opmerking

The end of the story, that I did not know. Janice Dohm was actually a very well known children's book collector, with wonderful taste and enthusiasm. Selections from her thousands of books were eagerly accepted by University Library Special Collections. .Her fairy tales and Russian midcentury children's books are in the University of Michigan and her William Mayne collection in the University of Toronto, I think. , Her Eastern European books are in the University of Oregon. And doubtless there are more. We were very priviledged to know her and handle some of her books.

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