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Pacific Northwest | April 25, 2004Pacific Northwest MagazineApril 25, home
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Classical Revival
A gracious mansion re-emerges from its boarding-house life
By combining two bathrooms and a makeshift kitchen that served boarders, the couple now has a generous kitchen. Mahogany cabinetry was custom-made by Crown Point Cabinetry in New Hampshire. Bamboo flooring harmonizes with the original white oak in the adjoining family room, with its beveled-glass window bay.
IT HAPPENED by mistake. Four years ago, Steve and Rebecca Schellings were living comfortably in Wallingford when Rebecca was perusing the newspaper one Sunday and saw a small ad for a house in University Park. Steve remembers, "We answered the ad. They were selling it through a closed bidding process. We looked, decided to make an offer, and it was accepted. Lo and behold, we were the owners!"

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.
A curved bay of stained glass and a window seat entice visitors to climb the stairs to the landing.
Built in 1908 for banker-developer Henry Owen Shuey, this house took advantage of three city lots in the newly platted University Park neighborhood — another of developer James Moore's efforts to provide upscale single-family residential districts similar to those he had opened on Capitol Hill. University Park stretched from Northeast 45th Street north to Northeast 55th Street and from 15th Avenue Northeast to 20th Avenue Northeast. The streets south of 50th closest to the University of Washington eventually filled with fraternity, sorority and boarding houses to accommodate the growing student population.

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.
Lovely stained-glass windows attract attention in the dining room. The couple selected a warm palette of paint colors that combine well with wood trim.
The new owners weren't novices in rehabilitating older homes. Rebecca and Steve built a custom home in the south Sound and redid two Wallingford houses. But this has certainly been their biggest project.

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.
The Shuey home, above, was featured in the prestigious publication Homes and Gardens of the Pacific Coast in 1913. With major upgrades behind them, the new owners now look forward to removing the enclosures to the second-floor porch, repairing columns and painting in the original color palette.
The back of the house was stripped to the studs, as were several rooms upstairs that now contain the master suite and bathroom. The rooming-house kitchen in the sun porch (the only serviceable kitchen of several when the couple moved in) has been replaced by a light-filled room with wet bar and French doors to a new deck. R.W. Anderson did all the finish carpentry.

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."

The 2004 Viewpoints tour season, a program of the Seattle Architectural Foundation, operates guided architectural walking tours from June through October. Neighborhood tours include University Park, which will be offered Sept. 11. Other tours show off buildings throughout Seattle, including weekly Discover tours in the central business district. For information, call 206-667-9184 or e-mail to
Fortunately, when the house was divided into apartments, the woodwork in front and rear parlors was left unpainted.
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

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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