Hundreds of people from around the country turned out in the historic Cliff Park area on Thursday night for a candlelight tour of some of Spokane’s finest homes.
The occasion was the National Preservation Conference, an event of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has drawn 1,700 delegates to Spokane this week.
The tour put Spokane residents elbow to elbow with preservationists from across America in 10 homes on West Sumner Avenue and Cliff Drive.
“I love Spokane,” declared D. Henrichs, of Gainesville, Fla. “This is an absolutely fabulous city.”
Henrichs is staff liaison to the Historic Preservation Board in Gainesville.
She said she arrived on Monday and is staying at the Davenport Hotel, a place she described as “just fabulous.”
Henrichs was inside the Nuzum House, a 1912 Tudor Revival home designed by renowned Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter. It sits on a lot with two different levels.
“Cutter always designed houses to suit the land they were on,” explained professor emeritus Henry Matthews of Washington State University, the foremost expert on Cutter.
Tom and Louise Yots, of Buffalo, N.Y., also arrived Monday for the conference and were greeted by conference volunteers when they landed, they said.
“The people here are so embracing,” Louise Yots said.
Tom Yots is executive director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. Like Spokane, Buffalo was bypassed during urban renewal efforts of the 1960s and 1970s, he said.
“We’ve got all of these great buildings and we are in the process of adapting them to new uses,” he said.
Down the street, Mayor David Condon stood along the sidewalk in front of his 1910 Dutch Colonial-style house greeting tour guests. Condon is a longtime supporter of historic preservation and has frequently opened his home over the years for fundraising tours.
“I’ve done a ton of these, and this is at the top end of attendance,” Condon said.
A ticket to the Thursday night event was $45, higher than local groups have charged in the past, and organizers were fearful that Spokane residents wouldn’t turn out in big numbers. Proceeds are going to the trust’s historic preservation work.
Inside his home is a comfortable dining room with built-in china cabinet. A 1980s addition at the rear includes a vaulted ceiling with skylights.
The Condons’ home is known historically as the Atwater-Ferris House.
Walkways to the homes were lined with luminaries lit with battery-operated candles. Dozens of volunteers were on hand to help guide guests through dark areas or point out features on the inside.
Volunteers Jerry and Bev Numbers, of Spokane, greeted guests inside the 1925 Leuthold House, 507 W. Sumner Ave., built in the French Eclectic tradition.
Jerry Numbers explained that the upper stories of the house were gutted by fire last January, and reconstruction is under way by Daniel J. Olson Construction Inc. of Spokane. The main floor sustained smoke damage, he said.
The owner of the unoccupied home brought furnishings out of storage just for the evening tour, Bev Numbers said.
Kathy Mogan, a nurse in Spokane, was among the local folks who turned out. “I love old homes. I like to support all of these events,” she said.
Paula Frickey, an accountant for the Ravalli County Museum in Hamilton, Mont., said she has learned valuable information at the conference about taking advantage of federal tax credits to help raise funds for restoration of the museum, which is the former county courthouse.
Frickey said the museum will open a Nez Perce exhibit in 2013 that earned a National Park Service grant for historic trails.
“There is so much to learn,” she said. “Going to the conference has certainly been an eye opener.”