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Landmarks: Bridge builder’s home being restored

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 10, 2018, 2:53 p.m.

When the James and Sarah Bayley House was first constructed in Ross Park Addition near the Spokane River on the near northeast side of the city, it was one of several fine dwellings belonging to some of the area’s most noted entrepreneurs, politicians and members of the social elite.

And until recently the Queen Anne home that was built 129 years ago was one of just two of those original homes still standing there. It’s still standing, but not there.

Though run down, in foreclosure and near to being demolished, it was rescued when Scott McConnell – who had been interested in the house for years – stepped in. He paid the grand sum of $1 for the place in 2010, but the house had to be moved from its location at 1603 E. North Crescent Ave. (just behind the Avista Corp. headquarters) to anywhere it could go, and within six months.

Several time extensions later, in 2012 it began its journey a mile east and out of Ross Park Addition, first moving from one nearby lot to another, and then finally across the Greene Street Bridge and on to a new concrete foundation at 3111 E. Marshall Ave., in the Chief Garry Park neighborhood. For the move to happen, porches, chimneys and other design elements had to be removed.

And there it sits now, easily visible to the nearby traffic on Greene Street, perhaps appearing a bit derelict – but there is much activity going on within and great plans for its restoration and future.

McConnell, who grew up in a house just one block from where the Bayley House has been relocated, and his wife, Noreen, have been interested since 1995 in finding a historic home in the area to refurbish to be used as a house of prayer as part of a Christian ministry. Particularly interested in Ross Park Addition, about which Scott McConnell is now writing a book, he thought this home would be perfect. He did bid on it once, but it was sold to a contractor, though it eventually fell into foreclosure.

The house has a storied history. It was designed for the Bayleys in the year of the Great Fire of 1889 by noted architect Loren L. Rand, who, in addition to designing homes for many of the city’s prominent families, designed and built many commercial buildings and schools in the city, including Lewis and Clark High School and Franklin and Wilson elementary schools.

Bayley, who came to Spokane in 1880, was a bridge builder and civil contractor who built the first Post Street Bridge across the Spokane River and the first truss span bridge in Eastern Washington, which he erected with two 100-foot spans for M.M. Cowley at Spokane Bridge. He also went on to build roads from Spokane to the gold mines in Idaho, the first mine concentrator to recover fine particles of free gold for the Bunker Hill Mines and the largest riverboat and lake steamer on the Pend Oreille River.

The Bayley home was a typical Queen Anne and contained a reception hall, formal staircase, parlor, dining room, library, five bedrooms, two bathrooms and servants’ stairs and quarters. There are ebony-finished oak doors throughout, and various additions and upgrades were made through the years.

The Bayleys left the home in 1898, and it was occupied by a number of prominent families afterward – including James M. Geraghty, a Washington State Supreme Court justice and grandfather of Jack Geraghty, who was mayor of Spokane from 1994-98. But in the 1960s upstairs rooms had been modified into apartments, and the neighborhood was changing to include multifamily dwellings and increasing commercial development. By 2005 most of the large estate homes in Ross Park Addition had been demolished, and many of the properties, including the Bayley House, had been purchased by Avista, which was expanding its footprint in the area.

The McConnells saw the house as the perfect home for the nonprofit My Father’s House – A House of Prayer for All Nations (myfathershousespokane.org). They have donated the house, which was listed on the Spokane Register of Historic Places in 2015, to Spokane-based Restoration of Hope Ministries headed by McConnell’s pastor, Jim Leuschen of New Covenant Fellowship. They rely largely on donations for funding and donated labor for the current restoration efforts, with a hoped-for target date of one to two years for completion of house and lot improvements.

Because of their location, sometimes casual passers-by have just stopped to help – like some men who, with a truck and heavy chain, gave them a hand in removing a stump from the property not long ago.

“Individuals who have the heart for this kind of project are the ones who step forward to help us,” said McConnell, who with his wife lives in the upstairs caretakers unit. McConnell is contracted with Restoration of Hope Ministries as the construction supervisor, Leuschen said. The couple will become official residents and caretakers after the construction is complete.

“As much as possible, we’re going to restore it to what it once was, and we have a good start in that the woodwork is mostly intact,” McConnell said.

“I’ve had this in my heart for years,” he said. “The Bayley House/My Father’s House is intended to be a gift to this city, not only as a restored piece of Spokane’s rich history, but more importantly as a place where we invite God’s presence and purpose for our city, region and world through prayer. Prayer changes things.”