The Words of the Dolfay Family
A Seattle Jewel Shines Again Thanks To Scot Dolfay
July 22, 2007
Seattle Post Inteligencer
Carpenter Scott Dolfay has worked to restore and maintain the integrity of Loch Kelden, the 1907 mansion built by pioneer Rolland Denny and purchased by the Unification Church 30 years ago.
It was the ultimate case of "there goes the neighborhood" 30 years ago when the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Chur ch bought a venerable swath of Seattle history.
Not only did people pejoratively known as "Moonies" presume to buy the historic Rolland Denny house, whose wide windows blink directly down on Lake Washington, but this particular mansion on nearly 2 acres also rests smack in the center of Windermere -- an enclave where entitlement and family roots grow as deep as those of ancient trees that seclude prized and meticulously tended homes.
It was puzzling to stroll the grounds, as I did last week, and sense that anything but serenity ever touched the spot where, in 1907, pioneer banker Denny built his Spanish-flavored "country house."
Rolland Denny was 6 weeks old when the Denny Party landed at Alki in 1851. He was 56 when he built the manse, dubbing it Loch Kelden (Kel for his wife, Mrs. Rolland Kellogg Denny, and Den for the Mr.)
The place had passed into other families' hands long before the sale to the "Unies," as I'll call them, ruffled the plumage of the neighbors who took their concerns to court (but lost).
At the time, normally reserved residents were nearly unhinged by the fear that thousands of "Moonies" would descend and moil about doing God knows what. And local preservationists predicted the church would hack the house into dorms.
Fast forward to the '90s when the legal dust-up had long settled, but the peeling, aging house limped along on original wiring and plumbing. It needed helping hands and ironically found them attached to one of the people predicted to trash the place.
They're the hands of a rather anonymous, unassuming Seattle native, a carpenter named Scott Dolfay, who should be known as the man who saved Loch Kelden.
Not only did Dolfay help persuade the church that the historic house could and must be saved from developers, but, doggedly, he also has spent nearly half his days since restoring the place from the deteriorating basement bowels upward, largely alone and without compensation.
With pride, he showed me around a place that still rests easy in its elegance.
Yes, there is a meeting room and office just off the living space where the original, ornate copper fireplace hood, overhead woodwork and intricate leaded glass windows have been carefully kept intact.
And, yes, up the first grand staircase, there are guest rooms now designated for visiting dignitaries. The largest one -- once occupied by the Dennys -- is reserved for the Rev. Moon, himself. And there are a few modestly sized photos of Moon and his wife on the walls. But nothing shrieks of "cult." Dolfay fears the church is often confused with mass suicides, brainwashing, even the '95 Aum Shinrikyo nerve-gas attack on Tokyo's subway. But no actual church services are even held on the site. Certainly no mass weddings like the famous unions 25 years ago in Madison Square Garden.
Only two families occupy its massive space full time. And, except for the gathering of water buckets for early morning flower sales and a few other low-key activities that Dolfay freely admits are "quirks" the Unification Church has brought to the neighborhood, nothing here is disrespectful of its history. Quite the opposite.
OK, Dolfay, points out that the grounds are not yet as well-tweezed as many adjoining lawns. But he hopes the progress he's making is winning friends and influencing neighbors. He hopes they'll stop by Sept. 22 for the 100th anniversary open house, which will feature a children's choir and signal the space is open for events. Early in his effort to keep the church from selling this financially draining investment, Dolfay knew it would have to pay its own way. The first (non-Unification) wedding on the site is planned for Aug. 26.
It was bought breathtakingly cheap for $175,000, but the church had no more money to spend on fix-up. Not until it recouped $140,000 by selling land bought for a camp near Concrete but never used. "If they don't like you, you don't get permits and tax exemptions. If you build so much as an outhouse, it's vandalized," Dolfay said.
Dolfay joined the church in 1981 and has seen for himself what religious intolerance can cause. In Illinois, where he helped build a camp, a cross was burned on the lawn and the main structure eventually was lost to arson. Members have been attacked in other states. One, who was stabbed in the heart, now lives in Seattle.
So, on June 10, with restorative work on the main Loch Kelden house already well along, Dolfay naturally shuddered when the call came that the carriage house had burned. Turns out it was probably due to the wiring.
What do the neighbors think now? I tried calling the Windermere Home Owners Association to find out but was unsuccessful in reaching anyone. So I tried stopping neighbors on my way in and out of the grounds.
One woman scurried away shaking her head, convinced despite my ID that I must be selling something. The other, walking a chocolate Lab, said she wouldn't want to be quoted "in the media" and didn't know much one way or the other about the "Moonie" house anyway.
Might they be surprised that a carpenter from West Seattle -- who could never afford Windermere and is a "Unie" at that -- helped preserve this slice of Seattle history?