I don’t remember much from my Washington State history class. I admit this to Max Vogt, owner of Windermere Real Estate in Centralia, during a tour of his historic Centralia building. The local history buff is quick to fill in my gaps, starting with a rich history of George Washington, the founder of Lewis County.
Washington’s portrait hangs proudly in the front room at what is now Windermere Centralia. “I think of Washington as my mentor and guide,” says Vogt, referring to the historical figure as one of the area’s arguably first real estate agents.
We meander up the historic home’s stairs. Once a humble, family home, the structure has since been converted into a bustling commercial and residential real estate business. During our walk upstairs, Vogt notes various references to previous residents of the home.
The tour leads us to the history room, which served as a bedroom before Vogt’s extensive renovation. Up until the early 2000s when the house became the site of Vogt’s business, it had humble beginnings as a family home.
Purchased by the Hoss family, the house was originally built for the fiancé of a Mr. Foote. The only problem is, she never showed up. Heartbroken, he sold it to Mr. Hoss. Incidentally, Foote’s descendants still own his business, Lincoln Creek Lumber.
During my visit with Vogt, he points to a photograph hanging on the wall of Mr. Hoss with his grandchildren. “Patricia came to visit me when she was 83-years-old and taught me about the family’s history in this home,” recalls Vogt, directing my attention to a picture of Patricia taken circa 1928 on the front porch.
Hoss was a politician who brought electric power to Lewis County. He was also involved in the electric trolley and coincidentally operated a real estate company in this building with a partner by the name of Zimmerman. “I found a 1914 Chronicle clipping that advertises Hoss and Zimmerman — a wide awake real estate company,” says Vogt. We share a laugh about what an advertisement of that sort could mean.
Vogt surmises that the home was originally built sometime between 1891 and 1906. There was no electricity at the time. “This home is structurally immense and sound,” explains Vogt. “It is built three feet about flood level. I suspect that builders in those days had to pay attention to nature.”
Vogt purchased the home in 2003 with the full intention of renovating the structure to its historical nature while customizing it for his real estate business. The property was made even more desirable by the adjacent side yard that he converted into crucial off-street parking.
The half-million dollar project was completed on December 8, 2005 — less than six months after receiving the building permits to complete the remodel and just in time for the annual Visiting Nurses Historic Home tour. Vogt recalls that 15 people were working on the home every day.
At one point during Vogt’s renovation, the power was out. “It must have sounded like when it was first built,” recalls Vogt. “Just saws and hammers.”
The home tells numerous stories. For example, Vogt points to the faded numbers on the room doors. “Mrs. Hoss rented rooms during the Depression to help pay for the taxes,” says Vogt. “She also wouldn’t let anyone drink in the house. Visitors were required to sip on the front porch where they could be watched by anyone passing by.”
Some claim that Vogt’s commercial building may be haunted. “Mrs. Hoss’ father died in the dining room. Some folks have seen ghosts but they are clearly friendly,” he shares.
After Hoss, Dr. Burdette, an osteopathic physician, lived in the home. Both receipts from Hoss’ ownership and physician tools from Burdette were found embedded in the walls during Vogt’s renovation.
“Centralia had periods of economic depression where the community couldn’t even afford to tear down buildings,” explains Vogt. “As a result, beautiful brick buildings remain, kind of by accident.”
“You could never build this building again,” he adds, noting that the beams are huge, old growth timber.
Vogt’s interest in history is contagious. “In real estate, land will always be valuable because it is something you can’t manufacture,” he says. “I am invested in the history of this building. With a life-long involvement in real estate, I have a value of things that can not be replaced.”
While Vogt clearly loves the atmosphere of working in a historic home, he opted for a modern house for his living quarters. In 2009, two brand new homes were built one block away. “I have a 1 minute, 34 second commute by foot,” says Vogt. “It’s wonderful, new and everything is level.”
Vogt believes that it is “important to invest in the past and bring it to the future.” Even though his renovation project was undertaken during tough economic times, he says that it was worth it to stick to the building. “I want to show that it pays to invest in your community.”
Vogt welcomes visitors to his commercial building at 411 West Main Street in Centralia. “Come see the building and visit the history room,” encourages Vogt.