A gracious mansion re-emerges from its boarding-house life
The house was hard to resist. Despite its many years as a boarding house and some unsympathetic remodels both outside and in, it still reflected the gracious Classical Revival style and dignity projected in its formal portrait in Homes and Gardens of the Pacific Coast 1913, a guide to some of the most prestigious local housing developed in the first part of the 20th century. Fluted columns, Ionic capitals, classical pediment and balustrades were at least partly intact. But the second-floor porches had been enclosed and the bulls-eye window that crowned the front had disappeared. The original lighting fixtures were gone, too, but no one had painted the beautiful fir woodwork or removed the leaded and stained-glass windows in the public rooms.
Shuey sold the house in 1918; by 1928, it was being used as a rooming house. With nearly 7,000 square feet on three floors, the house could and did accommodate its owners and as many as 18 people in a ramshackle collection of rooms, makeshift kitchens, baths and closets.
He is a pharmaceutical rep, and she is a graphic designer; both work at home and lived there with their three children throughout the three-year renovation, 90 percent of which is complete. "It's that last 10 percent that seems to take forever," Rebecca says. "All the stuff you can't see is done!"
Noting that you don't know what you're getting into until workers start tearing the walls apart, Rebecca says they were fortunate to have a contractor from back East, Harmon Construction, that had restored old homes. They also got helpful advice from two architectural firms. They intended to do the work in stages, but because all the major systems plumbing, electrical, structure needed to be replaced, once they started on one part of the house they realized they had to keep going.
On the west side, the second-floor porch will eventually be returned to its original appearance, with restored columns and capitals and rebuilt balustrades.
When all is finished, it will be the classiest "rooming house" in town. That's because the family rents some of the rooms to other people. Four bedrooms in the basement share two baths and a kitchen/living area; a top-floor suite with two bedrooms and central living area, bathroom and kitchenette is comfortable for a couple.
The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and is an official city of Seattle landmark, a designation the owners sought to protect the building from the kinds of indignities it suffered in the past.
They are outspoken in their love of the neighborhood, calling it an unsung hero of high-quality housing. And, compared to their old neighborhood, a more stable residential community. "We have more families on this street, and more involvement with our neighbors."
TAKE A TOUR
During National Historic Preservation Week (May 3-8), a number of events will recognize preservation efforts and successes in Seattle and King County:
May 4: Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation offer a Preservation Week Tea and Tour of First Hill's H.H. Dearborn and C.D. Stimson mansions, ending with high tea at the Stimson-Green mansion; $20 and $25. Reservations: 206-622-6952.
May 6: State Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation Awards, 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Knights of Pythias Hall, 926 Broadway, Tacoma. For more information contact Russell Holter at the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, 360-586-3533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 8: Historic Seattle and the Historic Preservation Program in the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods present an introduction to our city's landmarks-designation process and a crash course in local-history research methods and architectural field work. Room 202, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free, but pre-registration is required. 206-622-6952.
Lawrence Kreisman is program director for Historic Seattle. Barry Wong is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff photographer.
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