Monday, February 8, 2016

TL;DR Five Things You Need to Know About This Week’s Cover Story

Posted By on Mon, Feb 8, 2016 at 10:53 AM


Busy week? We get it. Here are some highlights from the cover to get you caught up. (And a few things that didn’t make it into the issue.)

The tiny town of Bridgeville (85 acres, population about 25, located on State Route 36 about an hour east of Fortuna) first rolled across international headlines when it went up for sale on eBay in 2003. The town has changed hands twice since then, and remains for sale. But its history, from the stagecoach era to its presence on the digital frontier, has long been a checkered one. Although countless people have been “bitten by the Bridgeville bug,” owning a town means more than having your own Main Street and zip code. Since the financial bottom dropped out of the region at the end of the timber boom, Bridgeville’s buyers have struggled to maintain the town, and locals who live and gather there have suffered as a result.

1. Bridgeville used to be the only overland route south out of Humboldt County. Before Humboldt Bay opened to ships from San Francisco, the only options to leave the region were north over the rugged Trinity Mountains or east across the Van Duzen. Originally called Robinson’s Ferry after its founder, William Slaughter Robinson, Bridgeville became an important waypoint for stagecoaches. Its original covered bridge was replaced by a stronger concrete arch bridge in 1925, designed by John B. Leonard, the same engineer that designed Fernbridge.

2. At the height of the logging boom, Bridgeville had a livery, restaurant, hotel and general store. It was owned by the Cox family, who had purchased the land in 1912. But by the mid-1960s, it was financially unsustainable to maintain, and in 1973 the Cox heir Laura Pawlus sold it to a family from the Bay Area Long Beach, the Lapples. The town has been almost continuously for sale ever since.

3. Several religious groups have expressed interest in the town. The Pentecostal Faith Challengers, which bought Bridgeville in 1977, eradicated liquor and tobacco products from the town, which eliminated even more revenue. Ownership reverted back to the Lapples when the group’s minister left with his congregants’ money. In the meantime, the town continued to fall into disrepair, with the cabins originally built in the 1940s far outliving their expected use.

4. Although online bidding for the town went up to $1.77 million in 2003, the bidder ultimately backed out, leaving real estate developer Bruce Krall to pick it up for considerably less in 2004. Krall made some improvements to the town with an eye to turning it into a health spa, but he couldn’t make it work and sold it to music producer Daniel LaPaille in 2006 for $1.25 million. Both men died tragic deaths; Krall from a plane crash in 2011 and LaPaille from suicide a few months after buying Bridgeville. LaPaille’s family has been trying to sell the town ever since.

5. Although few people currently live in Bridgeville, many people in neighboring communities use the school and community center and would like to see the town become a place they can gather. Some have developed plans to turn it into a housing co-op, with at least ten people pitching in to buy and develop the land. So far, though, there doesn’t seem to be enough interested parties to make this a reality.

Editor's Note: The original version of this story mistakenly said that the Lapple family is from the Bay Area, when they are in fact from Long Beach. The Journal regrets the error.
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