One of the most intriguing things I discovered upon moving to Moclips was that my cottage is a part of the Bluff House Artist Colony, founded in 1961.The property, which includes four homes, were built in the early 1900s on the bluff, 100 feet above sea level. Artists used to come from all over the country to live and paint the spectacular sunsets, with colors that danced on an ocean so still, it seemed like a sheet of glass as the day’s light slowly sunk below the horizon. The most famous local painter, Uldine Burgon (Bluff House Studio), initially bought the original bluff house on State Route 109.
Uldine Burgon was an accomplished local artist and quite a character to those who knew her. A free spirit, immensely talented with a knack for bringing people together. No matter what she did or where she went throughout her life, other artists of every kind—painters, actors, musicians, sculptors—gravitated towards her. So, it’s not surprising she founded The Bluff House Studio, which later became known as The Bluff House Artist Colony due to many local artists. Though she spent most of her life in Aberdeen, in 1960 she and her husband learned the original house on the Moclips Bluff was for sale. They bought the first house originally built in 1905 by a Civil War veteran, who died.
Later, her husband built a small studio next door that she used as her painting studio, called Bluff House Studio. The rustic setting ignited what would eventually become a set of four houses called The Bluff House Artist Colony. Her daughter Burgene, only 17 years old at the time, was appalled upon seeing it, “We had looked at houses in Pacific Beach and other places that were really nice, but this was a shack and I told them I wouldn’t be bringing of my friends out there”, Burgene recalls. To placate their daughter, they generously offered the master bedroom with a view of the ocean.
Uldine and her husband Al, spent several months renovating the old home with her father, making trips every weekend from their home in Aberdeen to Moclips. Once ready, it soon became the place to be. Burgene recalls it seemed like Grand Central Station, “When we moved out there, it was funny because mom and dad’s friends were saying it was so far away from everyone, but from the first weekend they would stop by all the time”, shares Burgene. “Mom and dad would invite them in, always offering drinks and food. Mom was so friendly to everyone. She would host anyone passing by that wanted to see studio”.
Their home on the bluff was a gathering place for impromptu breakfasts and huge dinners. “Mom saw no barriers, no matter who you were, she accepted you. She was way ahead of her time”, Burgene adds. As a teenage girl, Burgene said it was a bit intrusive, but her mother was such a bright light, that this was their daily life.
In addition to the original Bluff House, Uldine and her husband purchased the property next door. “The original house, the studio with the gallery that Dad built and then the house with the attached garage was purchased when the owner died”, Burgene recalls. “It was attached by a sky bridge to the studio and garage was made into a classroom”, she adds. This is the cottage that artists would come from all over the country to be tutored by Uldine. A few years later they purchased the fourth and final home on the bluff, which Uldine would rent out to artists.
Burgene also recalled that in the 1970s, a young man showed up in town. He was clean cut, friendly and lived across the street from the Bluff House for a few months. Uldine would allow him to use her phone quite often. By this time, Burgene had moved out and was married to Seattle Times columnist, Rick Anderson, but they would still visit. Uldine told her daughter he was “very interesting” and wanted her husband to meet him. Little did she know he was the one and only Christopher John Boyce. A spy that was being hunted down by the FBI for selling secrets to Russians! Burgene said it was quite a shock to everyone when he was captured.
The Burgon’s left the property in the mid-1980s, but that wasn’t the end. In 2000, a real estate investor, Kurt Sorensen and his partner bought the property with plans to demolish the homes. Luckily the locals in and around Moclips strongly advised against it and so The Bluff House Artist Colony remains, now considered historic.
All four homes continue stand strong, weathering through the harsh winter storms that envelop the coastal region each year. Sadly, Uldine died in 2017 at the age of 101, but her legacy lives on. Today her art is highly revered, and pieces still linger in various homes and businesses of those lucky enough to have procured an original. It is safe to say that she left her indelible mark on the world through her paintings and founding of The Bluff House Artist Colony of Moclips.