Ms. Gabe, a once-celebrated inventor who died in obscurity late last year, was the creator, and long the sole inhabitant, of the world’s only self-cleaning house.
In January, the only public announcement of Ms. Gabe’s death appeared on the website of The Newberg Graphic, covering the Oregon community where she had long made her home. Spanning barely two dozen words, it gave little more than her death date — Dec. 26, 2016 — and her age, 101. ... With her own money and her own hands, she built just such a house, receiving United States patent 4,428,085 in 1984.
In a 1982 column about Ms. Gabe’s work, the humorist Erma Bombeck proposed her as “a new face for Mount Rushmore.”
Yet her remarkable abode — a singular amalgam of “Walden,” Rube Goldberg and “The Jetsons” — remained the only one of its kind ever built. The reasons, recent interviews with her associates suggest, include the difficulties of maintaining the patent, the compromises required of the homeowner and, just possibly, Ms. Gabe’s contrary, proudly iconoclastic temperament.
The house, whose patent consisted of 68 individual inventions, also included a cupboard in which dirty dishes, set on mesh shelves, were washed and dried in situ.
To deal with laundry — in many ways her masterstroke — Ms. Gabe designed a tightly sealed cabinet. Soiled clothing was placed inside on hangers, washed and dried there with jets of water and air, and then, still on hangers, pulled neatly by a chain into the clothes closet.
Her sink, toilet and bathtub were also self-cleaning.
Naturally, no conventional home, with its drapes, upholstery and wood furniture, could withstand Ms. Gabe’s restorative deluge. But she had anticipated that.
Her floors were coated with multiple layers of marine varnish. Furniture was encased in clear acrylic resin. Bedclothes were kept dry by means of an awning pulled over the bed before the cascade began.
Upholstery was made from a waterproof fabric of Ms. Gabe’s invention, which looked, The Boston Globe said in 1985, “like heavily textured Naugahyde.”
Pictures were coated in plastic and knickknacks displayed behind glass. Papers could be sealed in watertight plastic boxes; books wore waterproof jackets invented by Ms. Gabe.
Electrical outlets were, mercifully, covered.