Two of the historic cottages near Nine Mile Falls Dam are being refurbished to be homes for Riverside State Park rangers.
Built for dam employees by the Washington Water Power Co. in 1928, the cottages have been vacant since 1993.
“Ranger pay isn’t very much. This is going to help them out a lot,” said Gary Herron, manager of Riverside State Park.
The five other cottages might also be restored as state money becomes available, said Herron. He would like to see them devoted to a conference center or a concession area, perhaps to rent bicycles for the nearby Centennial Trail.
Herron has planned the rehabilitation for almost two years. The cost for improvements of the two cottages is $90,000, which includes new electrical work, heating and plumbing.
WWP is donating one-third of the money, with the state Parks Department paying the rest.
The rehabilitation work is being handled by Spokane Americorps, a state and federal program that pays teens to work on public projects. The teens are paid $4.90 an hour and receive a $4,725 educational stipend for each year of service.
It is estimated the 27 Americorps workers will take two months to finish the cottages, said Pat Kahler, Americorps coordinator in Spokane.
Park rangers will pay rent to live in the buildings.
The cottages were placed on the National Register of Historic Places because of their exterior integrity and architectural excellence. They also serve as an example of the housing necessary to provide electrical generation in rural areas, said Dana Anderson, a spokeswoman for WWP.
Features of the single-story cottages include gabled roofs, extended eaves and open-front porches.
“Restoration of the cottages preserves an important historical asset that will be put to good use by Riverside Park rangers,” said Sandy Mack, WWP natural resources coordinator. The utility, which will maintain ownership of the cottages and the land, closed them because of the cost of needed renovation.
Dave Widgren, dam operator, was the last dam employee to move out of the cottages. He lived there from 1981 to 1993 and said his cottage had wood heat and three bedrooms and was a good place to raise his family.
“They’re quaint little houses,” Widgren said. “The area is peaceful and beautiful. The country living is worth the investment in fixing them up.”
Another feature for Widgren was being close to the dam.
“It was convenient,” he said. “We lived close. If there was trouble, we could get there.”
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