Several generations of the Huetter family turned out for an open house Thursday in the Spokane mansion at Gonzaga University where their family took root.
The Georgian Revival home was built around 1897 by family patriarch John T. Huetter, who along with his wife raised eight children there.
The home later served as the Bishop White Seminary for 51 years. It was moved across the street from its original location and refurbished to house the Gonzaga University Alumni Association and university staff in recent years.
“They’ve just done a wonderful job,” said Esther Huetter, of Ashland, Ore., who came to Spokane for the open house. She is a great-granddaughter of John Huetter.
“I’m really happy,” she said between conversations with extended family members.
The university invited the Huetters along with alumni, university staff and neighbors to have a look inside the mansion that is being given new life.
“I think we will be able to take it through the next 100 years,” said Bob Finn, director of the alumni association.
Four years ago, the brick mansion faced possible demolition when the Spokane Catholic Diocese was planning a more modern seminary building in its place. The diocese donated the house to the university, which moved it from 429 to 503 E. Sharp.
It took two days in 2008 to move the 840,000-pound structure
An original stone wall, built from cut rock taken from Huetter’s quarry at Rock Lake, was taken down piece by piece and rebuilt in a mirror image on the adjacent corner, said Paul Huetter, a grandson who lives in Coeur d’Alene.
The alumni association can now host events with up to 100 people indoors or 200 or more on the lawn and wraparound porch, such as a freshmen welcoming event there last month, Finn said.
The main floor – with its elegant woodwork, staircase and fireplace – will be used for pre-game alumni gatherings, reunions, baptisms, baby showers and other social events.
Offices for alumni association and university staff are on the upper two floors.
John Theodore Huetter was born in Germany in 1866 and came to Spokane in 1892 as a skilled stonemason, becoming an early-day contractor and business owner.
He built the Gonzaga Administration Building, Heath Library, DeSmet Hall, the former St. Joseph’s Orphanage and other large brick and stone buildings in the Spokane region. Many of those buildings have subsequently been demolished, including the orphanage.
Building materials were taken from his brick works at Huetter, Idaho, between Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, as well as his quarries and lumber mill.
In her journal, daughter Agnes Huetter wrote that the devout Catholic family attended daily Mass and said evening prayers in German, according to Esther Huetter. Bing Crosby, who grew up across Sharp Avenue, was a childhood friend.
The Crosby home is maintained by the university and was the former headquarters for the alumni association. But it had room for gatherings of only about 30 people.
Older granite spheres used in campus landscaping are Huetter signatures. Newer landscape spheres have continued the tradition.
Refurbishing of the mansion included a wider partition between the historic card room and pool room, which creates a larger gathering space, as well as new electrical wiring and air conditioning on the main floor.