It must have seemed like Camelot – a powerful, wealthy man, a beautiful wife, friends in high places and a house, a country place, its design inspired by the home of a prince. But like other Camelots before it, the idyll at Hayden Lake was short lived and the reason for its fall is shrouded in mystery.
Lewis and Winifred Clark and their son, Teddy, lived at what is now referred to as the Clark House Inn for only four, short seasons, from 1910 until 1914.
The Clarks began construction of their “palazzo,” as the blueprints describe it, in 1908 on their 1,400-acre estate. Present owner Monte Danner sees the hand of Winifred in the design. He says that she was not only beautiful but accomplished and sophisticated as well. Educated in Paris, Winifred Wyard married Clark in Washington, D.C., in 1892.
Danner, who purchased the abused and misused mansion in 1989, has spent the years since restoring the house to its original glory and pursuing the history of a family and a place.
“To tell the story as it should be told would take a book,” he says. He does not believe the importance of the Clarks and the house has ever been fully understood or appreciated.
Lewis Clark, who was born in Bangor, Maine, in 1861, graduated from Harvard in 1883, and came to Spokane the following year. The only son of wealthy parents, he proved to be a shrewd businessman, investing in mining and real estate.
Danner describes Lewis as being “very tall and very thin.”
In 1884 he bought a site from Fredrick Post and built the largest grain elevator and flour mill in the Pacific Northwest. Next he formed a partnership with F.E. Curtis. Together the men established an excellent system of grain elevators on branch railroads, centering in Spokane, the importance of which, in a wheat growing region, cannot be over estimated. He sold to Washington Water Power in 1890.
In Spokane he had built an elegant home, Underhill, just below the lip the city’s South Hill. It was here that he brought his bride. The home still stands as part of the Marycliff business campus. Its architect was K.K. Cutter, which probably gave rise to the misconception that Cutter also designed Honeysuckle Lodge. Lacking definitive information or blueprints, the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places gave credit to Cutter.
Recently, the mystery surrounding the identity of the Honeysuckle Lodge’s architect was solved when, in cleaning out the Parks and Recreation offices in Boise, someone found the original plans labeled, “A Palazzo for Mr. and Mrs. F. Lewis Clark.”
“The architectural historian called me from Boise with the news that the blueprints had been found,” says Danner.
The name on the blueprints was George Canning Wales of Boston, who also was a marine architect. Wales later turned to art and became known for his paintings of boats and ships. It would not seem unusual for a New Englander like Clark who successfully raced his own yachts in European regattas to choose as his architect a fellow New Englander involved in yacht design.
Despite the designation “palazzo,” there is nothing Italianate about the building which architectural historians define as early 20th Century Revival in the Colonial Revival mode. The proof is in the clean, simple lines and side gabled massing and strong symmetry of the main house. The first floor interior is typical of the Colonial style. Stairs go straight up from a central room or entry with rooms flanking and flowing around.
Not only is the house pleasing to the eye, it is solid.
Danner says, “The place is built like a fort or commercial structure. It would not have survived otherwise. There are three-foot concrete walls and steel beams in the original construction. The Clarks spared no money.” He also says that it is possible that interior timbers came from the surrounding forests since a working mill was part of the estate.
He points out that the roof is slate, imported from England, and “It’s still there.”
Danner recounts how the couple filled the house with treasures and furniture from around the world. “The 10 fireplaces were faced with Carrara marble, the chandeliers came from Czechoslovakia, hand-painted Zuber murals from France and rugs from the Orient covered the oak floors.”
There was even a large, world globe, a gift from the German Kaiser, which, after many years has been returned to its place in the 15,000-square-foot mansion. The Clarks had become acquainted with the Kaiser through successfully racing their yachts in the European Regatta in which the German ruler participated. The couple also were guests at Wilhelm’s country estate which Danner says, inspired the building of Honeysuckle Lodge.
Wandering the peaceful rooms of the great house, it’s hard to imagine the place has experienced a chaotic past and to realize that it was almost burned in 1988 for a burn exercise for the county Fire Department.
The slide from glory began in 1914 with the strange disappearance of Lewis Clark on a California beach. His wife and son, Teddy, had just left on the train to return to the lodge on Hayden. He said goodbye to them, and rather than driving all the way home with his chauffer, he decided to walk. No one is known to have seen him again or knows his fate. The mystery remains along with the questions. Did he end his own life in the waters of the Pacific? Was he a victim of foul play, a crime? Did he just walk away, and, if so why?
For the next 18 years Winifred tried to hold the family fortune together, but in 1922 the money was gone and the bank took possession of the house, its furnishing and its grounds. As the years passed, the land was divided and sold off, and the Lodge had a series of renters, including church groups and the United States Navy, which used it for R&R.
Eventually vandals and thieves took their toll of the once-stately home. Transients built a fire on the oak floor of the downstairs central hall, the Carrara marbles were shattered, the banisters and moldings stripped away and burned for firewood. Devastation was almost total and, in 1988, a date with the Fire Department seemed imminent.
It was then that Danner’s son Mike learned the place was still for sale and contacted his father, who had already restored a historic house in San Francisco. In November 1989, Danner purchased the home and with his then-partner Rod Palmer began restoring the Lodge.
To anyone who talks to Danner, it soon becomes apparent that a chunk of his life has become a love affair with a house, a family and history. He has spent hours and days in the hunt for information, including a trip to Europe to see the former Kaiser’s country place. He has contacted surviving family members and the Clarks’ son, Teddy, and grandson Lewis have visited the estate.
Without the original plans and so much destruction to the interior, how did Danner, who was his own contractor, know how that interior should look? He explains that pictures exist of famous personalities such as Bing Crosby who visited the place, probably when the lodge operated as a resort. Danner studied the background of the photos and was able to duplicate original interiors.
As Danner describes the estate, it appears to have been an almost independent community with a dairy, lumber mill, greenhouses, riding academy and guest houses which now are private homes. “Guests did not stay in the lodge. That was for family,” Danner says with a smile.
According to him, the original grounds extended two miles east of the house and the intersection of Prairie and Government Way is the original western corner post.
He believes the Clarks made significant contributions to the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene region. In addition to his business ventures, Danner says that “Lewis served on the Spokane Park Board and was instrumental in bringing the Olmstead firm to design the city’s park system.” He believes it is possible, but not provable, that Olmstead had a hand in designing the landscaping for the Lodge.
He also believes the Clarks were very much in touch with nature, bringing the outdoors indoors. “The house is like a huge conservatory. From the lawn on the south side one can look through the alignment of windows to the lake side on the north.”
Danner comments that guests who come to stay or dine at the restored mansion always seem pleasantly affected by the tranquility and grace of the house and its grounds.
Today, Honeysuckle Lodge, now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is again whole and serene and will likely remain so. Mike Danner indicates he shares his father’s passion and pride for the great, white house that does not dominate but settles in comfortably, surrounded by forest and lawns.
Long ago, English, Romantic poet, John Keats wrote these lines, lines with which one might frame the experience of Honeysuckle Lodge.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness…”
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