The owners of the 1911 Knickerbocker Apartments at Fifth Avenue and Howard Street have toiled for several years to bring the once-luxurious building back to its old glory.
Eric and Mary Braden are reversing five decades of neglect with an eye to creating an income-producing investment while keeping faithful to the past.
“It’s a lovely old building,” said Eric Braden, a native of British Columbia and former boat builder.
For their work, the Bradens on Sunday were honored with the restoration project award by the Spokane Preservation Advocates in a evening ceremony at the Bing Crosby Theater.
“It’s nice to have all of our hard work recognized,” Mary Braden said.
Earlier this year, the Bradens received a state award for historic preservation. That award certificate is hanging in a hallway next to the ornate lobby, fireplace and staircase.
“It’s nice to have the city and state recognize us,” Mary Braden said.
The Bradens are among a group of honorees in 10 categories in the SPA’s second-annual awards program. Here are the others:
At the Knickerbocker, the ornate beaux arts-style building was one of the finest apartment houses in its day. It originally cost $200,000.
“This building was built for very wealthy people,” Mary Braden said.
The Knickerbocker was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 as one of four apartment buildings in Spokane designed by master architect Albert Held.
The Knickerbocker, 507 S. Howard St., gained a listing on the Spokane historic register through the efforts of the Bradens. Yeomans wrote the nomination. The City Council approved the nomination in February.
The ornamentation on the exterior was described by Yeomans like this:
“The west façade of the Knickerbocker Apartments is elaborately embellished with crème-colored terra cotta quoins, string courses, keystones, window pediments and sills, brackets, cartouches, inset panels, raised basement block design, beveled bays, fluted entry columns, entry portico, entablature, balconies, and arched window surround.”
Today, the Bradens have restored 16 of the building’s 30 apartments and are renting available units for between $750 and $950 a month. The sizes range from 750 to 1,000 square feet.
They obtained the building from the estate of Mary Braden’s brother.
This is not the Bradens’ first project. They have been working on residential restorations since 1970, completing six homes in that time.
They have now invested about $800,000 in Knickerbocker restoration and the cost keeps climbing. They are now eligible for property tax incentives because of their listing on the historic register.
Mary Braden said she is so well known at a big-box supply store that “when we walk in the store they all go, ‘Hi, Mary.’ ”
Work at the Knickerbocker included rebuilding the interior walls to cover up damage and cracks; restringing 250 double-hung windows; installing new natural gas service and adding a gas log to the lobby fireplace; rewiring circuits; and replacing plumbing. Non-original bathtubs were replaced with new ones similar to the historic claw-foot tubs that had been removed years ago.
While the building dates back more than a century, its construction is considered an early example of modern building techniques with steel columns and beams supporting the structure. The steel is hidden within the various architectural elements.
With the restoration, Mary Braden said the Knickerbocker “can easily go another 100 years.”
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