A New Arena For Bobby Brett Nothing Rinky-Dink About Cutter Mansion
The Boone Street Barn it ain’t.
But Bobby Brett’s sumptuous mansion on the brow of Spokane’s South Hill is almost as spacious.
Built in the English Tudor style, this historic home at W612 Sumner has 11,000 square feet on its first two floors.
Brett bought the mansion a month ago from the George Jewett Foundation, the charitable arm of a millionaire lumber family that once reigned like royalty over Spokane society.
The purchase marks the passing of an era when the wealthy lived lavishly and viewed philanthropy as their moral obligation.
Grand matron was Mary Jewett Gaiser, who occupied the mansion for half a century until its sale. She is in South Carolina for the winter, but plans to come back to Spokane in the spring.
Aside from having money, the current and former owners couldn’t be more different.
Mrs. Gaiser is quietly elegant. Brett, the owner of the Spokane Chiefs and Spokane Indians sports teams, is a promoter.
She loves the symphony. He is more into rock ‘n’ roll. She hosts polite luncheons. He screams at Chiefs hockey games.
Long a capstone of old Spokane, the mansion now is in the hands of this gregarious California transplant.
“I never thought growing up in Southern California that I’d own a house like this,” said Brett, who moved to Spokane four years ago.
“The Bretts didn’t grow up this way.”
My, how they’ve arrived.
This is lifestyles of the rich and famous. The mansion has 16 rooms, 7 baths, eight fireplaces and servants quarters. There’s a ballroom on the third floor that’s as big as a house and an old-fashioned bowling lane in the basement.
Brett and his wife, Cathy, paid $1.2 million for the home. Their $300,000 down payment came from successful investments in California real estate, he said.
Brett is the brother of retired baseball star George Brett, a partner in some of the business ventures.
When the home went up for sale, it took real estate agent Cate Moye just three weeks to close the deal. At least nine prospective buyers viewed it, including the Bretts.
The Jewett family insisted the mansion go to someone who wants to preserve its beauty and heritage.
The Bretts said they love the historic character, the quality of craftsmanship and its quiet 2-acre view lot. They do not plan any major alterations.
But Brett said he may remove an overgrown evergreen hedge and install a tennis court. He also wants to renovate the smallish bathroom off the master bedroom.
“The house has so much history. It’s a treasure,” Brett said. “I think I have an obligation to maintain it.”
“If we are going to change things, I’d like to change things back to the way they were originally.”
Completed in 1917, the mansion was built at a cost of $100,000. It was designed by renowned architect Kirtland Cutter and his partner, Karl Malmgren. Cutter’s best-known work in Spokane is the Davenport Hotel. Malmgren built his own home directly across the street from the mansion.
The original owner was timber executive T.J. Humbird, who sold it to fellow timberman George F. Jewett in 1937. The Jewetts are part of the Weyerhaeuser lumber empire.
After George Jewett died in 1956, Mrs. Jewett remarried Dr. David Gaiser.
For years, the Jewetts, and later Mrs. Gaiser, donated heavily to colleges, the nearby St. John’s Cathedral, the symphony and charities.
Newspaper files contain accounts of weddings and visits by international dignitaries. The grounds were exquisitely landscaped and tended by a gardener who lived in the upper level of the carriage house next to the main residence.
The mansion is part of the Marycliff-Cliff Park Historic District, an area rich in residential architecture and important citizens.
“Setting a tone of formal elegance desired by Spokane’s newly formed aristocracy, the homes were massive in size and reflected a taste for gracious living,” according to the historical survey of the area.
Kit Garrett, the city’s former historic preservation officer, said, “At the turn of the century, it was the most prominent neighborhood in town.”
The mansion itself reflects the personalities of its former owners.
In one of the two libraries is a ninevolume set of poetry by Robert Browning, aging encyclopedias and a copy of a book entitled, “Socialism versus Civilization.”
The house has been well maintained, but the interior treatments are outdated. Some bedrooms are done in pink. The kitchen, which was used only by the hired help, is avocado in color. The draperies are aging floral designs.
It’s a good bet Brett, 44, will bring some new style to this old house.
He’s already made a mark in business here as a man who isn’t afraid to shake the status quo.
For example, he helped arrange a controversial deal to rename the ballpark at the fairgrounds from Indian Stadium to Seafirst Stadium in exchange for the bank’s help in paying for needed improvements.
Brett jawboned city officials into renegotiating his hockey lease at the Coliseum so he could secure a profit off what previously had been a financially struggling team.
And he coined the nickname Boone Street Barn in radio and TV commercials a few years ago to promote hockey games at the Coliseum. Never mind the fact the Coliseum is actually on Boone Avenue.
Walking into the mansion, the first thing that’s noticeable is how much furniture is needed.
The Bretts moved from a smaller home on 20th Avenue, and came with the belongings that filled their old place. The furniture isn’t enough for this house.
The large formal dining room on the main floor is empty, except for dimples in the carpet where Mrs. Gaiser’s furniture had been.
The living room has several pieces, but not enough to fill its space.
The Bretts have settled into some of the smaller rooms, including the south-facing library and breakfast dining room on the main floor.
Many of the rooms have fireplaces, each with custom mantels. Windows are multiple squares of leaded glass. The interior trim molding is painted, except for natural oak on the banister rail, about the only exposed wood inside the home.
The exterior is brick and stucco with half-timbering trim reminiscent of English estates. The sharply peaked roofline is adorned with gables and chimneys.
Into this gilded setting comes a family more comfortable in blue jeans than silk. Cathy Brett does her own grocery shopping. Bobby Brett still owns a Volkswagen bus from his younger days.
For now, they plan to run the house themselves with the help of a hired caretaker. The couple is raising their son, Beau, 5.
With so many rooms, the task of housecleaning could be daunting.
“Now I know why they had butlers and maids,” said Cathy Brett.