This is the story of how Sam, Amber and their son Rowan Knox came to live exactly where they were meant to be.
After growing up in Selah, Amber left her hometown for college with no real intent of moving back. Like many folks, she liked where she grew up, but wanted to explore the world. Explore it she did, and in the process she met Sam Knox, her future husband.
The two married and settled in the Seattle area. Twelve years ago, she gave birth to their son Rowan, and in the process a fondness for a more rural life was also born.
Initially, they thought they might make country living a retirement goal. However, in 2016 Amber’s mother became seriously ill and she returned to Selah to help care for her.
Several months passed and the couple decided they wanted that country life now, not in the distant future. After all, who wants to start farming after age 65?
As it turned out, Amber had noticed a unique farm property that was available. Sadly, she’d heard it had already sold. But upon checking she discovered the sale had not been completed, and house, buildings and 3 acres were still on the market. Negotiations followed, and in July 2017 the Knox family moved into their country home.
Said Amber, who has done significant research into the history of the property: “I believe that the warehouse and residence on Baker Road was built around 1912 by Louis Bourdon (a stonemason and quarry owner) for a member of the Baker family, either Bourdon’s son-in-law, Earl Baker, or his (Earl’s) father, John, specifically to store and pack apples from their orchards. The warehouse is significant for its age, its local sandstone construction, and for being a relatively early adopter of ammonia refrigeration. The ammonia was produced on-site.”
She also reports that “there are several native sandstone houses and structures dating from the beginning of the 20th century within a mile of this place, but none of them have nearly as large a warehouse, barn or outbuildings as ours.”
When we drove onto the property, we were struck by how unique the two-story house itself is, and not simply because of the construction materials.
Amber greeted us and led us into the kitchen — a room that had not existed in the original structure. For safety reasons and fire prevention, the cooking was done in a separate building. Eventually, a lean-to kitchen was positioned against the house, and finally, in the 1980s, a true kitchen addition was completed.
Today this room is the lovely focal point of the home. We were initially impressed with the light, airy quality of the two-story space. The couple added beautiful new countertops when they moved in, as well as a lovely, pressed-tin feature above the stovetop itself.
Truth be known, this space is more than just a kitchen with plenty of room for a big table for entertaining. Large windows provide a wonderful view of the farm, and a wood stove brightens cold evenings.
The kitchen also boasts lovely antiques such as the wonderful, old hutch and dining room table configured with six chairs the day we visited. A 1930s or ‘40s radio adds to the room’s ambiance. The highlight of this large space, in the opinion of 12-year-old Rowan, is the loft that was created by the kitchen remodel.
The rest of the home has essentially remained as originally designed, with some rooms repurposed. Sam has an office, bathrooms have been updated and the main floor includes a living room and TV area at the front of the home. A lovely porch looks out on a delightful grove of trees.
If we had stopped our visit at the house, it would have been a smash; however, once outside we discovered our tour had only just begun.
Next stop was their 1916-era fruit warehouse. The original building retains its rock wall structure. And while not massive by today’s standards, it provides an enormous amount of usable space for a family of three with no apples to store.
Amber and Sam have no shortage of great ideas for its usage. They have completed the addition of extra lighting and power, rewired the building, cleaned up the space and in the process it has become so inviting they’ve already hosted music concerts, dinners for 40-50 people and other events.
In the future, they hope to make the room available to the public.
But wait: There’s more. The warehouse also houses Sam’s home brewing facilities and the telescopes he uses for his interest in astronomy.
There’s also a massive basement area beneath the warehouse. While the eventual purpose of this space hasn’t been determined, anyone entering the room can’t miss the huge support beams that retain the handwritten names and addresses used to deliver them for construction. We suspect the trees they were milled from probably were growing in the Northwest during the mid-1700s.
Adjacent to the warehouse are two farm-labor cabins. One of them has been converted into a lovely guest cabin and plans are in the works to change the other one as well. Powering all of the structures is the solar array the couple installed upon moving in.
While there’s no shortage of projects at any one time for the family and there’s always more to do than there are hours in the day, Sam and Amber are especially focused on the 300 hazelnut trees they planted last year. They will eventually go into production and the tree’s fruit will be harvested and sent to a co-op they have joined.
While we have spent a great amount of time telling you about the story of the efforts of Sam, Amber and Rowan, you may have the misconception that they are in charge of things in their part of Selah.
The real rulers of the roost on their piece of Baker Road are the flock of chickens and the solitary rooster that clearly believes he’s the king of all he surveys. ”Blue-ster” is his name.
And a wonderful kingdom it is.