This Old House

Imagine this: You’re a Kirkland-based homebuilder and remodeler, and you get a call to come check out a possible job. As you begin to jot down the address, it seems very familiar. It’s your childhood home.

That’s what happened to Joe Bergevin, president of JD Bergevin Homes, who has lived in Kirkland his entire life. His grandfather was Jimmy Rainwater, a builder and developer in Kirkland more than 50 years ago.

Just getting that call brought back a flood of memories. And then, when he pulled into the driveway, he noticed the family Christmas trees they had planted decades ago towering over the home he knew so well.

Childhood photo“A childhood home holds a special place in the heart of many people. This is especially true for me,” he said.

His parents built the original home and moved the family there in 1965. Bergevin is the fourth of six boys raised in the home. Back then, the property was essentially a small family farm — his father was a veterinarian and a professional rodeo cowboy.

“(He) did surgery in the barn out back, and practiced calf roping in the pasture on the south side of the home (now an orchard),” Bergevin said. “My brothers and I were his assistants most of the week outside of the time we went to school. I often think back to how I was actually a veterinarian version of Doogie Howser, M.D., as a kid.”

The home was comfortable for the large family back in the 1960s — the boys had three sets of bunk beds. They spent most of their time outside, riding horses and bikes and playing hide-and-seek at the nearby Ben Franklin Elementary School and the nearby woods. They rode ponies to deliver the local newspaper to neighbors throughout the Bridle Trails area. “Many people could hear the clip-clop of the hooves and knew the morning paper was near,” he said. “These were different times, for sure.”

RemodelThe new homeowners desired a major addition and remodel on the old home. Once he got started on the project, he realized there were cracks in the foundation, and the project turned into a 90 percent teardown. “We found several places in the subfloor that had been smoldering from faulty wiring over the years. It was amazing to think that my own family, or many families that lived in the home after ours, could have burnt to the ground.”

Walking through the halls he called home for the first 11 years of life was a gift. “So many flashback memories came into my mind,” he said. “Some of the same items were in the home, like the pot-belly stove in the corner of the kitchen, and the blue bathtub that my brothers and I would all use at the same time to save water.

“I remembered so much laughing and fun. I remembered some painful times, too,” he said. “We finally sold the home and moved when my parents got divorced in 1976. Being in this home was both the best time of my life, and the worst time of my life.”

BergevinTo say this remodel was personal would be an understatement.

Today the home is a modern farmhouse style, light and bright, with an open floor plan and large kitchen ripe for doing homework, and baking cookies with the small kids who live there now. The art on the stainless refrigerator is colorful, and the toys outside on the huge back deck promise more fun to be had here for more generations.

“My favorite parts of the home today are the high ceilings, the open kitchen and family room, the grand piano room, and the wetroom in the master bath,” he said.

“When I look out the windows, though, it still looks like I am in my old house, because the landscape and trees and light are all so familiar,” he added. “(It) gives me a new understanding of the life cycle of a salmon — same old river.”

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is the editor in chief at 425 magazine.
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