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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The elegant life: Historic Coeur d’Alene home on market for $8 million

Stanly Easton bucked the real estate trends of his day, building an understated mansion on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Other Silver Valley mining executives flaunted their wealth in Spokane with showy, European-style homes.

But Easton – the Bunker Hill Mining Co.’s chairman – chose to stay in Idaho, building a Colonial Revival house in Coeur d’Alene’s Sanders Beach neighborhood.

It’s still a local landmark. People strolling along Lakeshore Drive in the summer often unlatch the wrought iron gate to take a quick selfie with the white, three-story house and its garden of white roses, daisies and peonies.

After an extensive renovation, the 14,000-square-foot house is on the market for about $8 million. Tomlinson Sotheby’s International Realty is advertising it worldwide to clients interested in a lake home with a private beach and a side of North Idaho history.

“Oh, if these walls could talk,” said Karin Wickham, the listing agent. “In the 1920s, it was meant to be the crown jewel of the town. And it still is, in my mind.”

Easton, his wife, Estelle, and the couple’s three daughters moved into the house in 1923. Easton worked for the Bunker Hill Mine for 55 years, rising to national prominence in the mining industry.

The residence reflects the aspirations of a professional man and the class structure of the day. Spaces were designated for family and guests, or for servants.

Even the residence’s three back doors have a social hierarchy, Wickham said. One was for guests to enter the house. Another was for tradesmen and indoor servants. The third entrance, with slate flooring, was used by the servants who brought coal and wood into the house.

“You can see the lifestyle, including the social classes,” Wickham said. “You were a seen servant or an unseen servant.”

The house is owned by Coeur Capital LLC, according to Kootenai County property records.

Wickham said the current owners moved there in 2007 after three years of renovations, using the house as a family residence. They also purchased the lot next door, tearing down a brick-style rancher to install an outdoor swimming pool and pool house that mirrors the main house’s design.

The current owners declined to be interviewed but issued a statement saying they were proud of the work that preserved a local landmark.

The owners’ renovations turned the residence into a comfortable home, one that retains its historic character without being fussy or museumlike, Wickham said.

“Even though it’s obvious wealth, you feel like you could be here in your jeans and sweatshirt,” she said. “You don’t have to be dressed up.”

The house’s elegant simplicity is partly a reflection of the architectural period, said Robert Singletary, the Museum of North Idaho’s historian.

“The Victorian era was over,” he said. “They were looking for clean, classical designs.”

A house tour starts in the front hallway, where the light coming through the original leaded-glass windows is muted by subtle distortions in the old glass. The floor boards are tigerwood, an exotic South American hardwood.

A crystal chandelier dominates the entry, one of many period chandeliers the owners had restored and installed in the house, which they called their “jewel box,” Wickham said.

A left-hand turn takes you into the dining room, with picture windows looking across Lake Coeur d’Alene. Beyond the dining room is the kitchen, a housekeeper’s office and a family room.

A right-hand turn from the front hall leads to the music room with a Steinway grand piano. There’s a sunroom on the far east side of the house. Easton’s office is also on the first floor, featuring the original copper humidor for cigars and a built-in gun rack.

Besides being a family home, Easton would have used the house to conduct business and entertain colleagues, said Singletary.

“If you can imagine those original miners, it must have all been about booze and cigars,” said Wickham. “I can just see them drinking whiskey.”

Before the Eastons moved to Lakeshore Drive, they lived in a similar, though smaller home on McKinley Avenue in Kellogg near the Bunker Hill Mine and Smelter complex.

Easton, a California native, worked briefly at the Bunker Hill as a miner. After stints at other western mines, he returned in 1903 as the general manager. He turned a debt-ridden operation that had been crippled by strikes into a profitable company, rising to the top executive position.

Because of his wealth and prominence, the Lakeshore Drive house was built with a basement “safe room” with a phone line. About six people can fit in the room.

The hideaway remains, though the rest of the basement has been remodeled to include a wine room, an exercise room with a sauna and a mahogany-paneled movie theater.

Easton was familiar with the Silver Valley’s violent labor struggles, Singletary said. A lockout by mine owners in 1892 led to workers destroying the Frisco Mill in Gem, Idaho. Five miners were killed and nonunion workers were shot in retaliation, according a biography of Easton in the University of Idaho’s special collections.

Six years later, the Western Federation of Miners demanded that the Bunker Hill and Sullivan mines unionize. After the owners fired all union miners, union supporters dynamited the Bunker Hill and Sullivan concentrator, according to the UI biography. Idaho’s governor declared martial law and federal troops were brought in.

Easton changed the Bunker Hill’s culture, according to Singletary, setting “a tone of sympathy and understanding for the miners. He was well aware of the working conditions.”

Easton hosted community picnics for workers and their families, who came to call their employer “Uncle Bunker.” Years of goodwill between management and workers followed, Singletary said.

The family’s private quarters were on the home’s second floor. There are six bedrooms, including a master suite originally containing his-and-her bedrooms.

“The butler would have put the breakfast tray here in the morning,” said Wickham, pointing to a dresser between the rooms.

The master suite has been redone for a modern couple, she said. One of the bedrooms was transformed into a walk-in closet.

Antique furnishings in the master suite include a fainting couch and a French wardrobe that dates to the early 1800s. There’s also a small parlor, where Estelle Easton would have relaxed with a cup of tea or cocoa in the morning.

As Wickham headed up the stairs to the third floor, she said, “I’m about to take you to one of my favorite things in the house.”

A gentlemen’s club occupied the house’s top floor. “This is where they would bring their wives. They had a bar, and they would all dance,” she said.

Business deals were probably hammered out in the room, too. It was built with a soundproof phone booth, which still remains.

Wickham is intrigued by a cupboard in the gentlemen’s club that opens into a hidden storage space. During Prohibition, it would have been a convenient place to stash liquor, she said.

“Alcohol was still part of socializing; it was still a part of business meetings,” Singletary said. “That never went away. They all had their ways of getting booze.”

The current owners kept the club atmosphere, installing a new bar. The hidden storage space became a “little man cave for their son,” Wickham said.

At the back of the house, a circular drive leads to the original carriage house, which has space for five cars. Servants quarters above the carriage house were remodeled into a two-bedroom apartment.

In the pool house, a blueprint of the estate’s original landscaping plan hangs above the fireplace, listing more than 200 varieties of perennials and flowering shrubs.

“You can see the type of money that went into this,” Wickham said.

Easton and his wife lived in the house until 1958. After his retirement, they moved to California, where he died three years later.

Besides his house, Easton left his mark on Coeur d’Alene through volunteer and philanthropic efforts, Singletary said.

The Boy Scouts was one of his primary interests. He helped with the purchase of the first Scout camp on Lake Coeur d’Alene, later named Camp Easton.

Easton was on the UI’s Board of Regents, the state Education Board and Whitman College’s Board of Overseers. The American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers gave him a distinguished service award in 1949.

“He was a well-respected man,” Singletary said. “Everybody knew him.”

Wickham said she’s not surprised that people are still drawn to Easton’s house on the lake.

“You can see how this house reflects a bygone era. It was the elegant life – gracious and rarefied. But it’s not ostentatious,” she said. “It isn’t trying too hard.”