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Reconstruction keeps Cliff House’s historic feel

A year after being gutted by fire, the Cliff House at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars has been rebuilt into a modern structure that retains its historic look.

The original 1924 landmark stood high above Spokane Valley until a fire on Dec. 23, 2009, forced the family winery to dismantle it to the ground and rebuild it with new materials.

“Now that it is back up, it’s just like it has always been,” said Jim van Loben Sels, general manager of the winery.

The exterior retains the classic Italianate/Mission-style architecture, sometimes described as Florentine, while the interior has a modern but historic feel.

The mansion’s original rock wall surrounds the lower portion of the new construction, and lends a strong link to the building’s past.

Roof tiles, chimney rock and other exterior features were saved and reused.

Inside, the floor plans have been opened up with comfortably large spaces that can be used for winery and family events. Subtle architectural changes have enhanced the interior’s usefulness.

The house contains two upper-story bedrooms, baths and modern utilities. Each floor is about 1,100 square feet.

Interior woodwork, flooring, lighting, a gas fireplace, mantel, serving counters and tile work provide good historic context.

Structurally, the three-story mansion is anchored to 21-inch steel I-beams.

“I think what I enjoy about it is it gives us a lot of flexibility,” van Loben Sels said.

The mansion and grounds were acquired in the mid-1980s by brothers David and Harold Mielke, who developed the campus as the retail and event side of Arbor Crest winery.

The Mielke brothers placed the mansion, built by Royal Riblet, on the Spokane Register of Historic Places. The reconstruction was approved by the Spokane City/County Historic Landmarks Commission.

Winemaker Kristina Mielke-van Loben Sels is the wife of Jim van Loben Sels and daughter of Harold Mielke.

KOP Construction was the general contractor. Design work was undertaken by Blue Room Architects & Design and David Randall, all of Spokane.