Christmas is a time of nostalgia. Not only for our own childhood holidays, it seems, but also for those of the Victorian Era, its sentimental images perennial scenes on contemporary Christmas cards. Of course we have never experienced that time and what is envisioned as a simpler, more romantic era, but many still long for it.
This is the perfect year to immerse yourself in Christmas Past with a visit to the Campbell House, where a holiday tree in the library will be decorated with 600 Victorian glass ornaments valued at $7,900, donated from Spokane’s Old World Christmas.
Amasa and Grace Campbell’s house, designed by Kirtland Cutter, Spokane’s premiere architect of the day, has been restored to its original 1898 grandeur. And there’s going to be a holiday-long party to celebrate - “Come Home for the Holidays.”
The Campbell House is one of the few homes built by 16 millionaires when Spokane was young to be fully reinstated to what it once was. Helping assure authenticity of the restoration is the 15-page plan William Otis of Cleveland, Ohio, compiled when he decorated the house, according to information that historian John Fahey has compiled for the home’s centennial next year.
Most of Campbell’s money came from his mining ventures, which allowed the family inclusion into Spokane’s aristocracy and the city’s Blue Book of “who was who” in 1902.
Following the custom of the city’s elite in those days, the English Tudor home was built to reflect the Campbells’ wealth and social standing along with the owners’ character and refinement.
The home’s unique feature is the French rococo reception room off the entry hall. Gilt trim adorns the fireplace, mirror, panels and furnishings. There’s gold leaf on the wall panel’s trim, baseboard and cove ornaments, and even the embroidered pillows on a high-backed sofa and armchairs were “gilded and burnished and upholstered in French damask,” Fahey wrote. The walls were covered with rose moire silk.
This is where Grace Campbell received her women guests on visiting days. To be socially correct, each woman would leave a calling card along with two of her husband’s business cards.
On the other side of the entry is the library, used by the Campbells as their living room, with its dark wood walls and Gothic-carved panels.
The room has a huge quartzite sandstone fireplace, and on either side are cozy seats, called inglenooks, beneath leaded windows.
The house, situated on six city lots with 19 rooms, cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to build using brick, stone, stucco and half-timbers, Fahey wrote. It has an irregular roof line.
The house boasted state-of-the-art utilities: a dumbwaiter, concealed radiators, a walk-in icebox in the cellar, and a signaling system, including a floor button at the head of the dining room table so Amasa Campbell could discreetly buzz the servants to bring in the next dinner course.
Because socially conscious people at the turn of the century thought small rooms offered only “narrow hospitality,” Fahey wrote, the Campbell’s dining room was a spacious 20 feet by 25 feet. Also, a small room could be uncomfortably warm during the summer.
On those warm evenings, Fahey wrote, the family liked to gather on the veranda, enclosed with plate-glass windows and lighted by lamps with pagoda-shaped shades. It was furnished with dark green wicker chairs cushioned in Japanese print linen.
A house of this magnitude required a staff to maintain it, which fell under the jurisdiction of Grace Campbell.
The cook was at the top of the servants’ pecking order, followed by the head maid and the upstairs maid. A coachman lived on the upper floor of the carriage house.
The servants’ quarters, both working and living, were discreetly separated by the architect.
When Amasa “Mace” Campbell died of throat cancer in 1912, he willed the house to Grace, who continued to live there with their daughter, Helen.
The house was the site for Mace Campbell’s grand funeral, attended by more than 125 people, and for Helen Campbell’s wedding to William Powell in 1917.
Helen descended the great stairway dressed in a white silk net gown with a long satin court train that hung from her shoulders, Fahey wrote.
Grace and Helen Campbell, Fahey theorized, might well have determined their wonderful home should not deteriorate into an apartment house or be neglected by future owners, as had happened to so many of their neighbors’ homes once the city’s class system became less pronounced.
When Grace Campbell died in 1917, she left the house to her daughter, who donated it to the Eastern Washington State Historical Society as a memorial to her mother.
The house was remodeled into an art gallery, museum and offices. Walls were removed, a stairway relocated, the servants’ dining room converted into the caretaker’s apartment, and another room altered to make space for a covered passage built to connect the house with the museum building.
In 1959, after nearly 30 years as an art gallery, restoration of the Campbell House was begun to return it to what it once was.
Helen Campbell Powell paid to remove the gallery’s velvet walls to reveal the original covering. That’s also when the family’s drapes were discovered in a trunk in the basement.
Much of the home’s original furnishings found their way back home once the restoration began. The Spokane Junior League donated money for a reproduction of the original wallpaper, and carpeting similar to what first covered the floors and stairways.
By 1974, enough restorative work had been done so the Campbell House could be added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Restoration continued, and in 1988, Marsha Rooney was hired as curator of the Campbell House (she’s now curator of history for the Cheney Cowles Museum).
Under Rooney’s direction, workers “unearthed” such things as discarded fragments of tile from the master bathroom. Retired elevator builders were hired to redesign the dumbwaiter’s pulley system, using manuals written 100 years ago.
Mace’s game room in the basement, with its red book-cloth and stenciled burlap walls, was restored, as was the vault and wine room.
As in the main house, the basement has double stairways: one for guests and the other for servants.
When the covered connecting walkway was removed, artisans duplicated the original window and masonry of the servants’ dining room.
If they were alive today, Mace and Grace Campbell might feel just as at home in their house in 1997 as they did in 1898. , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: ‘SERVANTS’ WILL SHOW OFF HOUSE To coincide with the final phase of the 12-year remodeling project, visitors are invited this Christmas season to “Come Home for the Holidays” at the Campbell House. Upon entering, they will receive a calling card to serve as their admission ticket. They will be greeted by “servants” and given a tour of the house by trained guides, in period dress, portraying maids, coachmen and the cook. The cook will fill the house with the scents of Christmas with baked goodies coming from the refurbished and restored gas and wood stove. Upstairs, maids will set out clothes as they did 99 years ago for the Campbells’ dinner and prepare rooms for guests. Downstairs, other servants will be busy with the laundry and may enlist the help of visitors in stretching curtains to dry. Special events this holiday season include the Wassail Party for museum members and their guests from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, and refreshments and tours during the Historic Browne’s Addition Caroling Party from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 14 and 21. The Campbell House is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays; and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $4 for adults; $3 for those 65 and older; $2.50 for children 6-16 years old; and $10 for families. The Campbells no doubt would be pleased to have lots of visitors come home for the holidays