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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Sit-N-Bull, Clallam County, WA - 3/11/2017

Gary Blevins, the Sit-N-Bull Tavern
Update: We recently received the very sad news that Gary Blevins passed away on April 13, 2019. We feel very lucky to have met Gary and had received a tour of his amazing collection at the Sit'N'Bull. Our deepest condolences to all his family and friends.

For a little bit more than a decade now I have invested a considerable amount of my free time into studying and visiting bars in Seattle and around the northwest and more. Seeking especially bars with a unique character and longer history, at this writing I have recorded visits at 3,198 different licensed bars, and quite a few historical museums. But in all that time I have never seen anything like the "Sit-N-Bull," the astonishing home bar (or bars) of Clallam County's Gary Blevins.

Trista and Gary, the Sit-N-Bull Tavern

Gary has spent over half a century collecting artifacts and memorabilia from old bars across Clallam County and the Olympic Peninsula as they closed. A contract logger for 45 years, now in his 70s, Gary will still fell trees and trade other labor for items to add to his collection. He and much of his family have lived here all his life, and his property holdings and contractor background have helped him create a continually growing space to accommodate the treasures he acquires. Long before hipster bars in Seattle coveted it, Gary's friends thought he was crazy to collect the distressed wood from six or seven old barns, which he has used to beautiful effect in room after room of preserved tavern history.

I found Gary's name in an old newspaper article in the files of the Clallam County Historical Society in Port Angeles, Washington, midway across the top of the Olympic Peninsula as it stretches westward to the northwest tip of the contiguous United States. But Gary is old school -- never had a computer nor cell phone and says he never will -- and I only tracked him down through his daughter Pamela who currently lives in Florida. After Pamela helped us make arrangements, Gary and his fiancee Gwen graciously welcomed us out to the place, meeting us at the auto store just off the highway and guiding us down the winding neighborhood roads, the last of which was built by Gary himself.

The outside of place is a revelation -- like one of the greatest backwoods bar discoveries you'd ever happily stumble upon, with various old collectibles dominated by carved hand with a single finger upraised. This I immediately recognize as one of the controversial landmarks of old Loomis Tavern. To the right is wood boat, constructed to frame the sailing mast obtained from another tavern, with long list of old area bars attached. Stepping inside you first notice a large bar loaded with old beer lights and collectibles, with an antique back bar that turns out to be from the M&C Tavern, and a long brightly lacquered bar top made from the wood of an old shuffleboard table from another old tavern. The back bar was originally designed for a soda fountain, which was how the M&C started back in 1929, before transitioning to a tavern in 1934 just after prohibition. Then Gary steps behind the bar and pours you a cold one from on tap.

But it is when you turn around that your jaw first drops. Not only is there a second bar behind you back by racks of bottles, breweriana, photos, and taxidermy rising for two stories, but you can see that the wonders just continue up, around, over and behind the space. We move upstairs, past yet another bar, and Gary points out the Brunswick billards table and the Memphis shoeshine stand once sat upon by Elvis, various members of the Rat Pack, and more. After some time taking in as much as we can of the items upstairs, we return to the first floor, and the second pool table in the area behind the second bar. A collection of old rifles hangs from the ceiling beams above. This second backbar on the ground floor of the main room is from the Dungeness Tavern, with the front section from the Red Ranch Cocktail Lounge. But the tour has just begun.

The next stop is a hunting lodge sort of room with a boars, a full bear, a leopardskin, and several other horns, heads, and hides. There's even a golden lady mannequin that once graced an ornate bordello style bar in San Francisco. We take it all in, but wait, there's more. Past the lodge room is Gary's dance hall and bandstand, where people have danced the night away at some of the fundraisers and events he donates the facilities for. The bar in the next room off the dance floor has the art deco backbar from Brickie's Place and the front bar section from Smitty's.

On and on it goes, next to the "smoking room," bathed in light now, where stools from Pop Goody's Tavern in Sappho Junction look out over a small valley and several houses where his relatives have lived, including the house his mother grew up in. His mother is now the resident of the house adjoined to the Sit-N-Bull, where Gary regularly visits and cares for her. The eyes of the hardy logger go wet as he describes her declining condition, and how he engages the considerable struggles to support her now, just as "she was always there for me."

Finally we sign the guest book and say our goodbyes, with Gary inviting us back in the future, an invitation we will eagerly take him up on sometime soon, perhaps as much for his congenial company as for his miraculous place here. As we leave the clouds over the old coast town are clearing, and we feel like we've uncovered a treasure chest, one we'd heard about but whose contents far exceeded our imagination.

Many more photos here


Claudia said...

Gary you are a treasure

Anonymous said...

Gary is a great guy! And the Sitting Bull is hands down the best bar I have e ever been into!

Unknown said...

Gary, you are already missed! RIP

Unknown said...

My daughter is Gary's grandson Jesse's longtime girlfriend. RIP Gary (he passed away this weekend) I wish I had gotten to meet you.

Angela lovelace said...

I grew up with the blevins family I dated Kenny for awhile back in the day Kim pam and Lonnie we were all friends Gary Blevins was all American to the cor for sure he will be greatly missed I'm glad I had the chance to bump into him from time to time over the years

Grandson said...

Miss you pop more then ever...