When Pam Gray and her husband, Steven, bought a former Franciscan spirituality center southeast of Spokane, they thought that the property’s converted farmhouse would have to be demolished.
They purchased the Clare Center and its 148-acre estate from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, in 2013 with plans to build a new home on an upper portion of the acreage.
Pam Gray said that when she started poking around in the heavily altered farmhouse, she began to realize it has potential for restoration as a family home.
Board by board, she’s been removing siding and trim to uncover original features of the turn-of-the-century house at 4624 E. Jamieson Road.
“At this point, it’s been me and my little tool belt,” the retired dental hygienist said.
Now, she is bringing in some volunteer help.
On Saturday, members of the Spokane Preservation Advocates will join Gray for one of the organization’s quarterly “doing it” projects.
The plan is to remove aluminum siding that was added in later years.
“We’ll have to see what’s under that siding,” said Kelly Lordan, chair of the SPA Doing It committee.
Members of the public are invited to join the work project, which begins at 9 a.m. and will continue into the afternoon. Work gloves and clothes and small tools are recommended.
“We’d love to have anybody come. Bring the kids,” Lordan said.
The farmhouse is in a quiet rural spot surrounded by pastures and groves of trees. It is less than a mile east of the intersection of the old Palouse Highway and Jamieson Road. A Clare Center sign marks the driveway.
Gray said she was amazed at how many bedrooms were added by the nuns.
“They carved bedrooms out of anyplace they could,” she said.
The interior is a mishmash of original and converted space. So much was added it is hard to discern the original architecture. Gray said she thinks it is built in the American Foursquare style.
The interior still has its original fireplaces, fir floors, hardware pieces, some light fixtures and an exquisite staircase. Its wrap-around porches show architectural embellishments of the period.
“It has some real nice features that are intact,” Gray said. “The stairway is the best of them.”
Also on the property, the sisters turned an old barn into their retreat center. Gray said she wants to return the barn to its original look. Two small cottages also stand on the property.
Historically, the property was acquired about 1900 by Lewis and Emily Rinker Atherton and their daughter and her husband, Bertha May and H.C. Bellinger, a successful mining executive. The family built the farmhouse.
The family occupied the property until the 1950s, when it was sold to the sisters. It sold last year for about $1.4 million.
Gray said she was told the nuns vacated the property about four years ago when occupancy dwindled to the last two sisters.
She said she and her husband plan to live in their new home above the farmhouse. After the farmhouse and barn are restored, they hope to sell it along with some of the acreage, she said.