November 7, 2008 in City

Historic mansion hit by state budget cuts

Campbell House to close Jan. 2
By The Spokesman-Review

Jill Strom, left, of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture community relations department, is shown in the parlor of the historic Campbell House on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane will close the historic Campbell House on Jan. 2 and lay off the mansion’s three part-time tour guides due to state budget cuts.

Museum-goers will no longer be able to tour the historic Kirtland Cutter-designed mansion, although Dennis Hession, the MAC’s chief executive officer, said he hopes school-group tours can continue.

The Campbell House’s numerous holiday events in 2008 will continue on schedule.

Hession said he decided to close the Campbell House after the state cut museum funding by $52,000 to help defray its budget shortfall.

“That’s small for the state, but huge for us,” Hession said.

The museum gets more than half of its funding from the state.

Hession said he could find no fat to cut, so he cut staff.

After what he called a “thorough analysis” of museum staffing, he cut the Campbell House’s three part-time “interpreters” – the docents who lead tours. That meant closing the mansion because museum attendees are not allowed to visit the building without a guide.

The museum’s admission fee includes a Campbell House guided tour.

Hession said he was saddened by the impact on the employees and their families.

He said school-group tours can continue because they usually are conducted by the museum’s history educators. The museum, in a statement, also said it would continue to maintain and preserve the Campbell House, which it called “the museum’s largest artifact.”

The closure has symbolic significance for the MAC. The Campbell House was the museum’s original building, starting in 1926.

The mansion was built in 1897 for mining magnate Amasa B. Campbell. In 1925, his daughter donated the mansion to the Eastern Washington Historical Society, which ran Spokane’s fledgling historical museum. Until then, the museum was not much more than a few glass cases of artifacts, shuffled from room to room in City Hall.

In 1926, the Eastern Washington Historical Society moved into the renovated mansion, renamed the Grace Campbell Museum. It remained there until 1960, when the Cheney Cowles Museum was built next door. The mansion – a fully restored, self-contained showcase of Spokane’s era of mining barons – became an adjunct of the new museum.

When the new MAC building was finished on an adjacent lot in 2001, the Campbell House continued to be a popular part of the MAC experience.

Hession called the Campbell House “very important to us” and said he will seek restoration of the funding at the legislative session in January.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email