Graffiti can be seen on the back walls of the Pioneer Gehl House in Jennings Memorial Park in Marysville. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Graffiti can be seen on the back walls of the Pioneer Gehl House in Jennings Memorial Park in Marysville. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Historic Marysville pioneer home vandalized with graffiti

Historical society members are at a loss for how to repair the Gehl home in Jennings Memorial Park.

MARYSVILLE — The walls of hand-hewn cedar boards in Marysville’s Pioneer Gehl Home were built from felled trees almost 140 years ago.

Last week, vandalism on those boards brought sadness to many who appreciate the historic house in Jennings Memorial Park. Two faces of the structure’s exterior were marred with spray-painted graffiti.

John and Catherine Gehl built the house in 1884 on a homestead just north of Getchell. The couple had moved with their 10-year-old son, Phillip, from New York to the Pacific Northwest with dreams of building a home and planting some crops.

One hundred years later, the Marysville Historical Society purchased the home to preserve it. Piece by piece, volunteers disassembled the house, moved it and reconstructed it in Jennings Park. More than 300 hours of work went into moving and restoring the one-story, one-room house to its original condition.

Historical society members were at a loss this month about how to fix the home’s exterior. They were searching for a way to remove the graffiti while preserving the original condition of the wood.

“You can’t paint over it,” Marysville Historical Society board member Steve Muller said. “You can’t go buy a board down at the lumber store and replace it, because this is not store-bought. You don’t want to turn it into that, because then it loses the value of what it is.”

Muller said the society is reluctant to powerwash or sand the surface, because those repairs could damage the texture of the antique boards. As of Friday afternoon, police had not identified anybody responsible for the vandalism.

The house and the grassy yard surrounding it have served as an event space for many people in the community over the years. Weddings, graduation parties, memorial services, baby showers and other functions have taken place at the home.

During the summer months, the house’s interior is opened up as a museum. It is filled with historical furniture — such as an 1800s-era butter churner and a child’s crib — that give visitors a glimpse into the way life looked for some early Snohomish County settlers more than a century ago.

“Now, it’s a throwaway society. Back then, you made things by hand and you were lucky to have whatever you could put together,” Muller said. “It’s a good reminder of how hard people worked to get us to where we are today. Sometimes people lose sight of that or don’t appreciate it.”

Linda Molitor, a historical society board member, said she’s heartbroken the treasured community space was damaged.

“They took a lot away from the community,” Molitor said. “They took away from the old people as well as the young ones. It’s heartbreaking.”

The historical society is run by volunteers, and repairs will need to be covered through donations. To donate, visit marysvillehistory.org.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen

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