Family bids farewell to Felida-area farm

Farmhouse stood for more than 110 years; development planned

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Dan Alger Sr. went by the old Erickson place along Lake Shore Avenue a couple of weeks ago and did a double take.

"I had to look twice," the longtime Felida-area resident said.

Like Alger, a lot of puzzled passers-by have been wondering: Isn't there supposed to be a house here?

The two-story home stood at Northwest 106th Street and Lake Shore Avenue for more than 110 years. It was the most visible element of a family farm, and now the house is gone; so is the farm.

"It's so sad that it's all gone," Alger said.

What remain are a couple of piles of timber and scrap lumber, and a stack of old tires. They mark the site's transition to a 50-acre development that will include homes, multifamily housing and commercial and retail property.

Most of his family was on hand earlier this month to watch the house come down, Matt Erickson said.

"I don't have good words to describe it," said Erickson, one of five children that Vinton and Helen Erickson raised in the house. It was "watching a personal family era pass."

According to an old diary, that era started on Feb. 8, 1898, when Matt and Ida Anderson settled there.

"It looks like he spent the first few years planting prune trees and building a barn" said Matt Erickson, great-grandson of the settlers. "The original part of the house was built in 1901."

They built an addition in 1909, including a higher peak that created a loft under the roof. The next generation moved in when Frank Erickson married Ruth Anderson in 1921.

Vinton Erickson married Helen Zimmerly in 1953, and they took over the farm when he got out of the Army.

"My dad was born in that house," Matt Erickson, 50, said. "It was the only house my dad lived in except during two years in the Army, until he moved into a care facility in January."

For decades, the fertile fields gave local kids a chance to earn money picking berries or beans. The farm's market also was a neighborhood source for fresh produce until it closed in 2006.

Cindy Hasey, another neighborhood resident, said she grows her own raspberries, but she would get strawberries at the Ericksons' you-pick field.

The Ericksons didn't just provide produce: They offered guidance.

"When they trimmed their raspberries, I'd trim mine," Hasey said.

There also were seasonal attractions. Alger said he and his wife, Crysta, would take their kids pumpkin hunting.

"We'd try to find the biggest ones we could," Crysta Alger said.

The Ericksons had a Christmas display that included luminaria -- paper-bag lanterns with candles inside that are a Southwest holiday tradition.

"We started those in 1960 or 1961," Helen Erickson said. "My sister lived in the old-town area of Albuquerque and we ordered them from a company down there."

Matt Erickson's memories of the old house include the bedroom he shared with brother Doug. It was in the loft space created by his great-grandfather in 1909.

The boys climbed a metal ladder that was bolted to the framing around the chimney, and entered their room through a hole in the floor, he said.

"A shop teacher at Hudson's Bay High School made the ladder," Helen Erickson said.

"Habitat for Humanity got it" during the demolition process, she added. The nonprofit collected quite a bit of building material before the house was leveled, she said.

As far as development goes, Matt Erickson said that 57 residential lots are planned for Phase 1, just south of 106th Street.

If the lots are finished according to schedule, "We would hope to start doing some building in January 2013," he said. "The second phase of residential could be built in 2014.

"We're hoping to get to the first phase of commercial and multifamily this summer," he said.

While the Erickson farm is gone, the Ericksons haven't completely dispersed. Matt Erickson and his wife are renting a family-built home on an edge of the acreage. Helen Erickson is living with family just a house or so away from the old farm. She seems to be taking a philosophical view of the passing of an era.

"No matter where we are," she said, "there is history behind it."

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.