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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

1905 ❖ BUILDING OF ROSARIO ❖

Early Rosario Estate
Orcas Island, WA.

Click image to enlarge.
Undated original photo from the archives of S.P.H.S.©
This is a lengthy but interesting report of the first four decades of the history of Rosario, Orcas Island, written by someone who was there, a long time islander, Glen Porter, a friend and employee of the founder, Robert Moran. 
      Mr. Porter, arrived on Orcas in 1892, recorded some of the details not published in the later resort brochures. 

'In the spring of 1905 the late Robert Moran purchased the village of Newhall, that he renamed Rosario, as well as several farms surrounding Cascade and Mountain Lakes, and all the property along the creek that flows between the lakes. This was to protect the water rights that he acquired when he bought Newhall. The creek is really a ditch, since the natural discharge from Mountain Lake was by way of a creek that flowed into Stockade Bay at Olga.
      Among the farms that he bought was one owned and occupied by a Mrs. Cox, a widow in her early sixties. She lived alone, kept a few chickens, harvested apples from a large orchard and sold hay from her meadows. My family was then living on the Roy Flaherty place and I was a school boy glad to work for her on Saturdays. I would walk from home to her place, do a lot of chores and then take a large basket of eggs, walk to Olga, trade them in at the store for groceries and walk back, and then on home. For this I was given 50 cents a day.
      Mrs. Cox was a woman of ingenuity. Her house was at the head of the lake and in season the creek that flowed into Cascade Lake was full of trout. She fixed up a pen of woven wire in a spring, or water hole near the house and in it she kept a supply of live trout, that she fed. When she wanted trout for dinner she speared one or more. I used to go with her to the creek and help her draw out the fish with a garden rake. We put them in a five gallon oil can and I remember that when they were stood on their heads, some of the tails were above the top of the can. Of course we had water in the can and hurried the fish to the fish pen.
      Mrs. Cox also had a gold mine on the property. It was near the head of the lake and she was sure that some day it would make her a rich woman. Every dollar she could get she spent in developing the mine. She had a daughter living in the east who used to send her money for living expenses. All this money went into the mine, she often said to me 'If my daughter knew what I am doing with her money, she wouldn't send me any more.'
      When she sold the place to Mr. Moran, she reserved the right to all the gold on the place and stipulated that she could come back at any time and resume mining. But she went east to live with her daughter and never returned.
      Moran bought several other farms in the same vicinity, including the Reddick place, owned by the father of Arthur Reddick, Sr., the Hilton place, and the Carl place, all improved and all occupied. Naturally he had these places bought up by representatives before it was known that he had purchased the Newhall property. Andrew Newhall, his brother, E.I. Newhall, and the Prindle brothers formed the Cascade Lumber Co and installed a  sawmill, using the experience of Mr. Newhall who had formerly operated a shingle mill at the head of Stockade Bay at Olga. To insure plenty of water in Cascade Lake for his new mill, he dug a ditch diverting the outlet from Mountain Lake into Cascade Lake.
      When Mr. Moran took over the property there was quite a village on it, including a post office and a school. The post office was Newhall, but Mr. Moran had the name changed to Rosario when he gave the name to the estate. None of the houses on the place were modern. No electric lights had been installed. Mr. Newhall reserved the sawmill and moved it away, but Mr. Moran soon put in a new and more modern one. In fact it was a complete sawmill only on a small scale. Here he made the lumber used in the construction of the residence and many of the other buildings. Huge logs of teak and mahogany, squared, used to come in to be cut and seasoned and the lumber was later worked up into the beautiful paneling, door and window casings, mouldings and furniture that confer such a distinction on the mansion of Rosario.
      But before he could start the house, he had to build the mill, machine shop, and storage facilities. He employed a number of workmen on this job and my father, Frank Porter, was one of them. I joined the force, too, and was employed continuously at Rosario until after Mr. Moran sold it. In the later years I was superintendent and I can say that I had something to do with every piece of construction on the place. One of the best really big jobs that I superintended was the laying of the copper roof on the mansion. It had a good roof of shingles and over this we had celetex and on top of that heavy sheet copper roofing. In all, six tons of copper went into that roof.
      
ROBERT MORAN (1857-1943)
Retired Seattle shipbuilder in his machine shop.
He retired to Cascade Bay, Orcas Island, WA.
to build his Rosario mansion, later on the 
National Register of Historic Places.
Photographer unknown.
Original photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      While the machine shop and the sawmill were being built, and after, Mr. Moran had a force of men blasting out the site for his house. It is located on the summit of a little knoll of solid rock. Preparing the basement was a big job and took a lot of time. Mr. Moran was careful to have the concrete floor where the billiard and pool tables and the big clock were to be located, resting on solid rock. They are probably the steadiest tables in the state.
      Mr. Moran was his own engineer and draughtsman. He thought out how he wanted things done, made up his drawings and was his own foreman. He wanted things done right and just the way he planned them. He was impatient of sloppy work and soon got rid of any help that didn't come up to his standards. He employed all the suitable men he could get from the island, but had to bring in many from the mainland. At times he had as many as 50 to 60 on the payroll.
      Among those he valued highly was Ernest Miller, a woodworker who had few equals anywhere. He did practically all the fine cabinet work on the mansion interior and also the yacht SANJAN that Mr. Moran designed and built at Rosario. He kept Miller as long as he could find any work for him to do––in all I should say eight or nine years. In 1906 Gust Jensen came to work for him and remained with him, with one or two short breaks until Mr. Moran's death in 1943. Jack Snowden, of Olga, was another local man who worked for him for many years.
      Mr. Moran, as has often been told, came to the island because his doctors had given him only a few months to live. His busy life had been given over largely to construction, and when he retired from his shipyard and foundry he kept right on building. And he managed to stretch out the six months of life that the doctors had allowed him to 38 years.
      The outside walls of the mansion at Rosario are wholly concrete throughout the first and second stories, but the third is frame. Cement came in by barge loads. Sand was brought from Lopez and gravel from Blakely. The mansion was not built in a hurry. I cannot remember just when it was started, nor the date on which the family moved in, though I know that it was far from finished when they did move. Ernest Miller was still busy with the interior finish and the furniture.
ROSARIO 1911 (upper photo.)
Click photo to enlarge.
Both photos from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
      The Moran family occupied the house that had been the home of Andrew Newhall. It was without any modern improvements but had a large rat population. I recall that once Mr. Moran was preparing for a trip to Seattle and when he went to get his expensive Panama hat he found that a pair of rats had eaten a hole through the hat box an done side of the hat crown and had made themselves a snug nest in the hat.
      The family, that consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Moran, sons John, Frank, and Malcolm, and daughters Nellie and Mary, made themselves quite at home during he summer, although all but John Moran returned to  the city for the first two winters. After that they spent the whole year in the old house until the mansion was ready to move into. I remember Nellie and Malcolm attending the school when I did. When Mr. Moran built the first machine shop he provided a room for the school on the second floor, but the workmen made so much noise that he soon built what was for the island at that time a fine little school that still stands [1945] back of the new horse stable and is used for storing hay. When the force at Rosario was at its largest the school had 18 or 20 pupils.
      Once the Moran children and their teacher took a Saturday ramble to the head of the lake and found the big trout crowding up the creek where Mrs. Cox used to take them out with a rake. One of the boys had a .22-calibre rifle and shot several of the fish, that he took home with much pride. But his father pointed out that it was out of fishing season and that anyway it was illegal to shoot fish and made the boys go to Olga, plead guilty before the justice of the peace and pay a fine. That illustrated how just and exact he was. Also, he was not a sportsman and would not allow any shooting on his property. He did not like to have trees cut, either. For fuel he largely used driftwood.
      One of the improvements made at Rosario was the installation of electric lights in 1909. In 1908, it became evident that there was not enough water power on the place and a concrete dam was put in at the foot of Cascade Lake and the pipeline was extended from the dam to the power house. Previously the water had flowed a part of the way through an open ditch.
      While the family was still living in the old Newhall house the model barn was under construction. Jack Snowden was blasting off the site and put a big charge of power under a small cedar stump. The stump sailed clear across the orchard, a distance of at least 400-ft, crashed through a window and landed beside Mr. Moran, who was taking a mid-day nap. He was, even then, quite hard of hearing and his first knowledge of the super-blast came when the stump crashed through the window.
      Our family moved to Rosario in 1906. The next year work was practically suspended because of the bank panic. That year there was a fine crop of apples in the orchards on the farm around the lakes and Mr. Moran built the apple house of concrete that is still standing. He had the apples picked and stored, but by that time money was scarce and the buyer would pay only in scrip. Mr. Moran refused to sell for that kind of money and held the crop. Finally he shipped to a commission merchant in Seattle, but the apples had been stored a long time and the merchant alleged that they were in bad shape and offered only a few cents a box. Mr. Moran ordered them returned and finally dumped them. That ended his efforts at farming. He had bought a flock of sheep with the place and ran them on the hillside above the county road, which was then all open grazing land. He soon got rid of them, though. His interest was in building things, not in farming.
      He gave his brothers Frank and Sherman, building sites on the place and each put up a fine house, with all modern conveniences. I believe both these houses were occupied before the mansion was. But they were built by a Seattle contractor who rushed the job through in a single summer. Later, Mr. Moran built houses for his brother, Ed, and for his sister, Mrs. Crow, who had two daughters, Etta and Jean, both of whom were later to act as secretaries to their uncle; Jean remained with him until his death.
      In 1915, he started to change a swampy place that bred plenty of mosquitoes, into a swimming pool. This pool is 300-ft long and has two small concrete walled islands in it and is crossed at the narrow part by a bridge. It is supplied with water from the tall race of the hydro-electric plant. In 1921, the plant was found to be too small and a new one was built and equipped with all new machinery. It is still in operation though the present owners have installed a Diesel engine that is used when the water supply is low. In Mr. Moran's time the whole grounds of several acres were lighted every night.
      The machine shop was never satisfactory because it was built on a shell and gravel deposit and kept settling, so in 1925, he built the present three-story concrete shop. The quaint and charming round-house that stands on a rocky bank just above the water, was built some years earlier. It is all concrete, even the roof. It is a true circle and contains three rooms, one of them equipped for baking, a second one is a kitchen and the third a sitting room. Here Mrs. Moran and Nellie did canning and preserving, made candies and fancy cakes and such things away from the kitchen in the mansion that was a busy place, since it had to provide meals for a large family and lots of hired help.
      I think Mr Moran had the idea of Moran State Park in his mind when he bought Rosario He kept picking up parcels of land when he could, until he had the block of about 6,000 acres that is now the park. There is only one farm within the area that he could never buy. It is high up on the mountain, not far from Cold Springs, and is used as a hunting lodge.
      About 1915, Mr. Moran brought a Ford car to Rosario. It was one of the kind that had to be cranked and the family had lots of excitement over it. Gus Jensen and a team were kept pretty busy towing it when it broke down. But it had the effect of making Mr. Moran dissatisfied with the road into his place. He started to have it improved. While it was a county road I think he paid the road district for all the work done on it. In 1915, some blasting was thought necessary and he watched a crew of three drilling the rock by hand. One hand held the steel and two swung jack hammers.
      'This will never do,' he said and rushed an order for a compressed air drill. When the work was finished on his road he let the county use the drill elsewhere. He bought the first gas shovel the road district ever had, and the first maintainer. In all I think he gave the county about $20,000 worth of road-building machinery. He put in the arches across the highway where it enters the park and the bridge near Mountain Lake, the arches in 1928 and the bridge in 1929. I had charge, under his direction, of both jobs. He also paid for all or most of the road from the highway to Mountain Lake.
      He started to build the SANWAN. Ways were put up on the shore in front of the figurehead from the [wreck of the] clipper ship AMERICA that stands on the lawn near the swimming pool. 
Figurehead salvaged from the ship AMERICA.
Installed at Moran's Rosario, Orcas Island.
(See below.)

1927 photo from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
Photographer unknown.
The figurehead, by the way, is said to be one of the finest pieces of carved wood ever to grace a ship. The AMERICA had been dismantled and turned into a scow and went ashore on the west side of San Juan Island. Mr. Moran went over to see the wreck and when he found the figurehead had not been damaged he arranged to salvage it.
     
Yacht SANWAN*
Designed and built by Robert Moran (1912-1917)
at his Rosario estate, Orcas Island, WA.

Original image from the S.P.H.S.©


      The SANWAN was not a hurried job. Sometimes only myself and another man were working on it, but she was launched in 1917*. Mr. Moran got more out of building her than sailing her. He did not really care for the sea. He chartered her to others for several trips, one of them to Alaska, on which I was privileged to go. All the bronze fixtures on her were cast and machined in the shop at Rosario. Moran had brought to the island huge quantities of condemned brass and bronze filings from his shipyard and these were melted down and recast. He had pattern makers, machinists, and foundry men when he needed them. All the hinges, metal window frames and such hardware in the mansion were also made in the shop.
      Rosario was a place of great hospitality. Guests came from far and near but all were required to live up to the rules of the house, one of which was that everybody must be down for breakfast at 8 o'clock. Mr. Moran would play the pipe organ to wake them up in time. Even the governor-general of British Columbia and his lady were no exceptions. He liked to show people the house in which he took a just pride. For a long time he had open house; one a week, but visitors sometimes failed to appreciate his courtesy and after some damage had been done to his place and many small articles taken as 'souvenirs' he had to restrict the privileges of the public.
      When Mr. Moran prepared to sell Rosario he said to me that if I wanted to establish a garage business on the island, he would give me such equipment from the machine shop as I could use. It is owing to his generosity of his that I have such good equipment. 
      In his later years, Mr. Moran told several people that he had spent over a million dollars on Orcas Island. I presume this includes the cost of the land he gave to the state. I know that much of the money he spent went to wages to island folks and so was of benefit to the community. Also, he did more for the island than any other resident, and he wanted nothing in return. He loved the community and took great pleasure in helping, as in the case of Olga, to a public water system. At Rosario he created one of the finest estates in Washington and he planned it all himself."
Above words by Glen Porter, Orcas Island, WA. 1945. Porter who opened his own garage and service station in Eastsound in 1938, passed away in 1956. 
      
Concrete arch on the former Robert Moran estate
Built c. 1928.
Photograph by E. I. Jacobsen,
from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

      At Porter's memorial William A. Allen said, "All of us enjoy the lakes and scenery at Moran State Park. We feel that Cascade Lake and other scenic spots of the park are among the island's greatest assets. Passing into that haven of rest and beauty we enter through the great archway with Moran State Park emblazoned upon it. This archway was constructed under the supervision of Glen Porter. Many other island monuments and attractions have had the hand of Glen Porter on them in some way. He has had his hands on almost every home, motor, automobile, and piece of machinery on the island. Glen Porter was an efficient man of business. Robert Moran saw in him the qualities necessary for the important projects and tasks at Rosario. Throughout his entire life Mr. Porter exerted all his energies to further the interests of business and commerce on the island, yet he never bragged of his accomplishments nor trumpeted his achievements.
The Orcas Islander. March 1956. Saltwater People Log archives.

* The Master Carpenter Certificate for yacht SANWAN, signed by Robert Moran and purchased from NARA, Seattle, lists the construction taking place from 1912 to 1917, at Rosario, WA. His yacht was registered at 107.6 ft x 26.0-ft x 15-ft.
           

      


      
     
      
      



      

      

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