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Oct. 20, 2021

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Brush Prairie spaceship-themed Airbnb popular with earthlings

By , Columbian staff writer
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A retro-futuristic, UFO-themed Airbnb sits next to the home of Kirby and Patricia Swatosh on Monday in Brush Prairie.
A retro-futuristic, UFO-themed Airbnb sits next to the home of Kirby and Patricia Swatosh on Monday in Brush Prairie. (Taylor Balkom for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

BRUSH PRAIRIE — Need to get away? Like way, way far away? Preferably off the planet?

SpaceX tickets are awfully expensive, but there is another option: a UFO appears to have crash-landed in Brush Prairie. Earthlings are welcome to stay the night.

Kirby and Patricia Swatosh spent seven years building a 726-foot, retro-futuristic spaceship in their backyard. They’d previously used the structure as a storage space and a family clubhouse, but last month they started listing it as a bookable property on Airbnb.com.

Immediately, they had liftoff.

“We launched it, and right away people started booking it,” Patricia said, surveying the open, circular room, which awaited a fresh batch of guests for a 3 p.m. check-in on Monday.

The unit sleeps up to four people, complete with two fold-out beds and a full bathroom. But it’s the quirky details that set the property apart.

Upon arrival, guests receive instructions on how to operate the lights, heat and internet in the space (aka the Spaceship Operation Manual). A wet bar and kitchenette, called the Lunar Lounge, follows the curve of one wall.

On the other side, a pair of “freezing tubes,” circa the 1965 sci-fi show “Lost in Space,” are secured to the floor, with openings wide enough to stand in (the tubes may not induce cryo-stasis, but they do make your voice sound wonky. And they make for a good picture).

A Technics M28 Auto Reverse Stereo Cassette Deck is installed below a television that on Monday was playing an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Outside, a ring of color-changing LED lights encircling the entire perimeter completes the vibe.

It’s an elaborate homage. From start to finish, the project took seven years to build.

“There’s something to be said for leaping before you look sometimes, because had we had any idea how big of a challenge it was going to be, or how expensive it would be, I’m not sure we would have gone for it,” Kirby said.

So why build a spaceship, of all things? Asked whose idea it was, Kirby and Patricia immediately pointed at each other.

As Kirby tells it, the project started as a practical concern: the Swatosh family needed some extra storage space to house the lawn mowers needed to maintain their 5-acre property, as well as a covered spot for their kids’ vehicles as they grew old enough to drive. The structure was originally planned to serve as a garage, with a little extra room for a workshop.

Patricia remembers it differently.

“Let me tell you the true story: He wanted to build a spaceship. And I said, if you’re going to build a spaceship, let’s build some storage, just to justify it,” Patricia said, laughing. “Kirby is the space fanatic.”

Kirby — who was wearing a t-shirt depicting four aliens walking in a crosswalk (think “Abbey Road,” if all of the Beatles were little green men) — describes himself as more of a casual space enthusiast.

He’s also a musician, with a discography that includes a pair of outer-space-themed rock albums. He’ll return to play at the UFO Festival in McMinnville later this month.

“Back in 1997 I wrote a song called ‘Spaceship,’ basically about building a spaceship in my backyard.” He grinned, acknowledging the prophetic irony. “The next song I write will be about winning the lottery.”

Columbian staff writer
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