February 6, 1998 in Features

Back From The Dead 85-Year-Old Marr House, Once Rumored To Be Haunted, Is One Of 12 Preservation Award Winners

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Timothy and Cynthea Cunninghamm’s 85-year-old bungalow isn’t haunted - at least, not anymore.

Neighbors warned that Mary Marr, wife of the original owner, might be hanging around 204 W. 16th. If she was, she left soon after the Cunninghamms bought the home six years ago and began breathing new life into it.

But ghost or no ghost, Marr House talks to the Cunninghamms - and they listen.

“We’ve tried to make the house the way it wants to be, not the way we want it to be,” explains Cynthea. “The house tells us what it wants.”

For instance?

“This house hates white,” Cynthea says. But figuring out what color it likes wasn’t easy.

Cynthea tried close to three dozen custom-mixed paints, searching for just the right shade of light terra cotta to bring out the living room’s warm oak trim without accentuating the wood’s green undertone.

That sort of attention to detail helped earn the Cunninghamms a 1997 Historic Preservation Award from the Eastern Washington State Historical Society. Three other Spokane homes, along with a hotel, an auditorium and a courthouse, all will receive preservation awards Tuesday night during the first session of Cheney Cowles Museum’s annual Old House Workshop. Five other properties will receive certificates of merit.

This year’s Old House Workshop, which continues Feb. 17 and 24, will focus on the legacy of turn-of-the-century Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter. For the first time, the entire series sold out in advance and no single-session tickets will be available at the door, according to museum history curator Marsha Rooney.< In years past, the Historic Preservation Awards program typically attracted only a handful of entries. Last year, though, 12 projects - all worthy - were submitted, says Marcia Smith, who chairs the preservation awards committee.

“We worked very hard to streamline the entry process,” notes Smith. “We’ve also benefited from the fact that more people are nominating their homes for inclusion on the local historic register,” so much of the necessary documentation for contest entries is already in hand.

Such was the case with the Cunninghamms’ home, which earned a spot on the Spokane register in 1996.

The classic Craftsman-style home was designed by Frank Hutchinson, a respected draftsman who taught mechanical drawing at Lewis and Clark High School.

The home’s exterior is distinguished by a full-width front porch, exposed rafter tails, and Tudoresque half-timber details in the gables.

Charles Marr owned and operated two grocery stores when he purchased the home in 1914. By 1929, Marr owned 575 stores in two states - including Spokane’s first Safeway supermarkets. He retired in the early 1930 at age 52, and in 1938 sold his home on 16th Avenue and purchased the Waikiki Farms estate of J.P. Graves, an early Spokane mining and railroad tycoon.

Marr House changed hands several time before local developer Warren Leland and his family moved there in 1947. Leland sold the home to Ron and Pat Miller in 1962, and 30 years later the Millers sold it to the Cunninghamms, who lived next door.

The Cunninghamms were so taken by the home’s exterior, “We started negotiating with the owner before we ever even saw the inside,” recalls Timothy.

Once they got past the front door, he says, “We were blown away by how beautiful it was.

“But we also recognized that it needed a handyman to bring it up to speed. The kitchen and upstairs bathroom needed a complete makeover. And there were plumbing errors all over the house - fixtures and pipes that had been abandoned for ages because they leaked.

“The good news was that nothing had been done,” he says, “and the bad news was nothing had been done.”

Before moving in, the couple enlisted a crew of friends and contractors who spent a solid three months rerouting pipes, replacing antiquated wiring, refinishing floors and replastering walls and ceilings.

One crew spent a week in an upstairs bedroom, removing three layers of linoleum and then refinishing the original red fir floor.

The upstairs bathroom’s 4-inch-thick terrazzo floor had collapsed as the house settled, and had to be removed with hand chisels.

The list goes on - toilets added, sinks moved, layer upon layer of wallpaper stripped, the entire kitchen remodeled.

But visitors would be hard pressed to find evidence of the Cunninghamms’ labor, so seamlessly has the project come together.

The new stained glass in the dining room looks as built-in as the original window seat nearby. And the master-bedroom bathtub - which required six people to wrestle into place - sits as comfortably as if Hutchinson has drawn it there in the first place.

“During those first three month,” says Timothy, “we called in a lot of favors and wrote a lot of checks.” And the intervening six years have been punctuated by a steady stream of projects. Still on the to-do list are a first-floor bathroom makeover and a sauna in the basement.

But there’s no sign of regret as the Cunninghamms give the grand tour. Pride is the theme of the day.

“This is a treasure that will be handed down after we’re gone,” says Timothy, reflecting on what he and Cynthea have accomplished.

“At one time, someone might have looked at this house and decided it was too beat up to be worth saving. That will never happen now. We’ve giving this house another 100 years of life.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 6 Color photos

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story:

1. 1997 HISTORIC PRESERVATION AWARDS

Residential

Kirby House, a 1900 Arts and Crafts bungalow at 809 W. 11th that stood vacant and vandalized for 10 years before its current owner began wall-to-wall restoration.

Stanek-Perrenound House, 1607 E. 16th, a Spanish Colonial built in 1937 by Frank Stanek. Restoration required 57 gallons of paint.

Waverly Place Bed & Breakfast, a 1902 Queen Anne Victorian built by Harry Skinner. Restoration included removing dropped ceilings and installing new front steps.

Charles Edward Marr House, 204 W. 16th, a Craftsman-Tudor bungalow designed by Frank Hutchinson and built in 1913.

Public

Eastern Washington University’s Showalter Hall auditorium and lobby, a classically detailed 1914 Beaux Arts structure designed by Spokane architect Julius Zittel. Renovation by Northwest Architectural Co. included new windows, floors, seats and mechanical systems, as well as re-creating original stencil work.

Lincoln County Court House, the 1897 two-story Davenport landmark nearly destroyed by fire in 1995; rebuilt and renovated by 3E Design Group. Restored in time for its centennial, the courthouse’s interior was made safer and more efficient, while the architectural character of its exterior was carefully preserved.

Commercial

The Globe Hotel, a 1908 “single room occupancy” hotel at 204 N. Division, renovated for use as a bookstore, grocery and deli.

2. 1997 HISTORIC PRESERVATION AWARDS

Honorable Mention

Residential

Guy Brown House, 5705 S. Custer Road.

Fotheringham House (turret), 2128 W. Second.

Corbett-Aspray House, 820 W. Seventh.

Public

Sutton Hall, Eastern Washington University campus.

Kingston High School, Kingston, Idaho.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. 1997 HISTORIC PRESERVATION AWARDS Residential Kirby House, a 1900 Arts and Crafts bungalow at 809 W. 11th that stood vacant and vandalized for 10 years before its current owner began wall-to-wall restoration. Stanek-Perrenound House, 1607 E. 16th, a Spanish Colonial built in 1937 by Frank Stanek. Restoration required 57 gallons of paint. Waverly Place Bed & Breakfast, a 1902 Queen Anne Victorian built by Harry Skinner. Restoration included removing dropped ceilings and installing new front steps. Charles Edward Marr House, 204 W. 16th, a Craftsman-Tudor bungalow designed by Frank Hutchinson and built in 1913.

Public Eastern Washington University’s Showalter Hall auditorium and lobby, a classically detailed 1914 Beaux Arts structure designed by Spokane architect Julius Zittel. Renovation by Northwest Architectural Co. included new windows, floors, seats and mechanical systems, as well as re-creating original stencil work. Lincoln County Court House, the 1897 two-story Davenport landmark nearly destroyed by fire in 1995; rebuilt and renovated by 3E Design Group. Restored in time for its centennial, the courthouse’s interior was made safer and more efficient, while the architectural character of its exterior was carefully preserved.

Commercial The Globe Hotel, a 1908 “single room occupancy” hotel at 204 N. Division, renovated for use as a bookstore, grocery and deli.

2. 1997 HISTORIC PRESERVATION AWARDS Honorable Mention Residential Guy Brown House, 5705 S. Custer Road. Fotheringham House (turret), 2128 W. Second. Corbett-Aspray House, 820 W. Seventh.

Public Sutton Hall, Eastern Washington University campus. Kingston High School, Kingston, Idaho.


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