Landmarks: Gem in north Spokane kept in top shape
In the 1880s when the affluent among Spokane’s growing population were building stately homes in Browne’s Addition or Cannon’s Addition, a few of them ventured out to locate instead on oversized lots in an area known as Pettet’s Addition, just northwest of the city’s downtown core.
The land on a steep bluff with a panoramic view of the Spokane River was first developed by William Pettet, founder of the Washington Water Power Co. Over time a mix of elegant homes reflecting many styles were built there – from Tudor revival to Queen Anne and others.
In 1909 Edwin Knight spent $4,000 for a large lot at 1715 N. West Point Road, which paralleled the bluff’s edge and was next to Pettet’s home. The warranty deed required that homes had to “be of modern construction, costing not less than $5,000” and forbade “unsightly outbuildings.”
Knight hired noted architect Kirtland Cutter to design his home, which still stands today – thanks in large part to the quality of its construction and the care it has had over the past century – as a unique American Foursquare house that is listed on the Spokane (1997) and National (1999) registers of historic places.
Perhaps the feature that most qualifies it as unique among American Foursquare homes is that it is rectangular, not square. The architect said he preferred “to make the building fit into its surroundings to look as if it had grown there and not been superimposed.” So he designed it with an atypical 54-by-44-foot design, providing more than 4,000 square feet of interior space. He also added an unusual swept roof line mimicking the curvature of the ground on which it stands, rather reminiscent of thatch-roof cottages in England.
Another distinguishing feature of the home is that in 1916 Knight again commissioned Cutter to redesign the kitchen garden behind the brick wall on the north side of the home, transforming it into an automobile garage, thought to be one of the first attached garages built in Spokane.
The house itself remains as elegant as in its earlier years, with its front entry with open stairwell rising 20 feet to the ceiling of the second floor. The entry hall, at 21 feet by 13 feet, is more like a large living area than the usual small foyer. The architect also saw to it that a lot of natural light was incorporated into the design, including using windows around the recessed front door. There is artistic cut-work in the banister, boxed beams in the study, pocket doors in the dining room and so many elegant features one would expect in a Cutter-designed home. But perhaps best of all is that so much of the original work is intact.
Woodwork was never painted and remains pristine. Floors are the original tongue-and-groove quarter-sawn oak planks. And even improvements to the home were done with the original design in mind. When the kitchen and butler’s pantry were amended in 1953, it was done in keeping with the architect’s drawings. And current owners Gerald and Carol Santantonio completely restored the kitchen in 1994 using original pantry cabinets as a guide when new ones were built and installed. And they stripped the original fir floor planks and refinished them as well. Even the wrought-iron and brass-filigreed chandelier in the study is original.
The open pergola at the back of the house – which used to be covered with water in the winter for ice skating – was enclosed in the 1950s and made into a conservatory. Even the basement has been finished in styles reminiscent of elegant older days, including a vintage-appearing wine room.
There is a wonderful, easy elegance to the home, said Gerald Santantonio, a retired Westinghouse Broadcasting executive from California. Not only is the house one of the symbols of elegance in Spokane’s earlier days, it has also served as the home of some of the city’s early influential people. First was Knight, who developed Diamond Drill Contracting Co., one of the area’s largest manufacturers of diamond drills used in mining. He was also president of West Coast Portland Cement Co., Farmers and Mechanics Bank and a trustee of St. Luke’s Hospital. In 1932 the home was purchased by Otto Rott, a physician who dealt with eye, ear, nose and throat diseases. Then came Joe and Esther Pedicord, owners of the downtown Pedicord Hotel, one of the city’s finest hotels at the time (also designed by Cutter).
Other owners of the home were Evan and Roy Hathaway, founder of Spokane’s Hathaway Meats. Gertrude and William Longmeier, area farmers, lived there from 1951 to 1973, when it was sold to Jean and Kenneth Oxrieder, owners of Casey’s Restaurant in Spokane. The Santantonios purchased the home in 1993.
Always constant in the century that has brought change and new families to the house is that the backyard on the bluff overlooks the gem of the city, the rushing Spokane River, which has drawn settlers to it since the very beginning.