Storey Street -- Two Homes On The Mount Baker Tour Show How Ellsworth Storey's Designs Changed Over The Course Of A Decade
MOUNT BAKER PARK WAS the first city neighborhood to be integrated into the Olmsted Brothers' comprehensive plan for parks and boulevards. That accounts for the pleasant way in which streets follow hillside contours and afford wonderful views of Lake Washington and the Cascades.
In 1907 the Hunter Tract Improvement Company sought to create an exclusive upper-income residential district adjacent to the park. They did this through deed restrictions that limited the number of houses on a lot, the minimum cost for these houses, a requirement that every house have a basement, and a regulation that there be "no outhouses or stables, and no animals, except domestic pets."
The firm's efforts paid off. The area has an outstanding mix of architect-designed residences and builder homes and bungalows, seven of which will be on view during the Mount Baker Tour of Homes Dec. 2. Two of these were designed by one of the city's best-loved architects, Ellsworth Storey (1879-1960). They are quite different and show the changing influence on the designer over the course of a decade.
The home of Jerry and Vreni Watt, built in 1916, was the featured building in Jud Yoho's Bungalow Magazine of March 1916. It shows the influence upon Storey of the Arts and Crafts movement and of the Prairie style architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright in Storey's native Chicago. The house came shortly after Storey had completed a group of speculative rental cottages on the edge of Colman Park on Lake Washington Boulevard nearby, which share with this bungalow the distinctive diagonal mullions of corner windows.
His home for Harry E. Wooley, built in 1924-25 and now owned by Gordon and Jennifer Younger, strongly suggests the Spanish Colonial revival then so popular in California. According to architectural historian David Rash, the style may have captured Storey's attention on his 1920 travels to see the California missions. This house was published in Washington State Architect in November 1927.
Bungalow meets Prairie
The Watts' home is a stucco California bungalow with references to the Prairie style in the wide projecting eaves, the bold, square columns that support the pergola and the bands of windows that, all told, count 37 and make the house into one great sun room.
The three-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot house was estimated to cost about $3,200 to build for developers Swanson & Austin as speculative housing. For the monthly supplement to Bungalow Magazine, it had been photographed inside and out. Every board and nail used in the construction of the house was documented, and full working drawings and details were provided so that "any capable builder should experience no difficulty in duplicating this bungalow." The article provided the Watts with invaluable documentation when they took on the task of undoing the work of previous owners' upgrades to the kitchen and bathroom.
The pictures also revealed that the first owners had appropriately furnished their bungalow living room in Mission oak. The Watts have followed suit with Limbert and Stickley Brothers rockers, a Lifetime bookcase and some Stickley reissue furniture. Their architect, Joseph Greif, designed window boxes and a table for the kitchen that fit right in. Steven Cook built them when not doing the cabinetry in the redesigned kitchen for the contractor, Greg Peterson of Contemporary Renovations.
Jim Watt literally bought the house over the phone. He had been in the house years before at a party, and told the owner he'd be interested if she ever wanted to sell it. "Three years later she called and said, `I'm selling my house. Still want to buy it?' " There was no question in his mind.
Which isn't to say the house was just as it had been when built. Outside, brick window boxes had been removed. A green fiberglass canopy was supported by two 4-by-4 posts, the original large-scaled columns having long ago disappeared. The new owners have rebuilt the entrance columns and trellis, opting for slightly smaller-scaled columns and a wet-weather glass canopy to protect the trellis and themselves during those many non-California-weather days. They took to heart the Bungalow Magazine criticism of this part of the original design: "The supporting pillars look far too massive for the light weight which they are expected to support."
Inside, the brick-trimmed fireplace had been painted over. French doors to the dining room had been removed. None of the lighting fixtures remained, nor did any of the wood paneling remain in the dining room. At some point the upper half wall between the kitchen and dining room had been removed for a bar and pass-through, and the kitchen had received a 1960s era make-over.
In reconstructing the kitchen, the Watts have thought of everything and every conceivable way in which they might use the space. In rebuilding the breakfast nook, for example, Vreni suggested it be raised a step, and that the table open up so that when she works, she can slide out additional work space. Her children have supplies in built-in drawers so they can play while she works.
The cabinetry looks as though it has always been there. But instead of the simple glass-pane cabinets shown in the Bungalow Magazine article, these cabinets incorporate the distinctive diagonal and triangular details that were Storey's trademark. And the cost of the kitchen remodel - $45,000, including high-end Gaggenau appliances - shows that custom work which respects and enhances the existing architecture is possible for the price of off-the-rack design.
Storey's hacienda for the Wooley family had all the Spanish revival touches - red-tiled roof, stucco-arched portico, rough-laid stucco interiors, and Mexican-tile accents in sun room and hearth. A pleasant, octagonal-shaped entry stair hall led to a handsomely proportioned living room and adjoining sun room on one side and to the dining room and kitchen on the other. All told, there was more than 5,000 square feet of living space on a spacious 15,000-square-foot lot.
Gordon and Jennifer Younger have lived here since 1984. The low asking price sold them on the idea of doing some cosmetic things, living in it for a while, then finding the house of their dreams. But the changes they made were far greater than simply cosmetic, and then "we just started liking it and loved the neighborhood."
The house had not been well-maintained by the elderly previous owners. It was surrounded by chain-link fence, now replaced by wrought iron and hedges. And while the rhodies and major trees have been kept, most of the landscape is recent.
They replaced the aging tile roof and re-stuccoed the exterior to match the original work (although they opted for beige over its original white paint). The previous owners had added a swimming pool to the grounds, but the system was no longer working, and the pool itself was breaking up. They redid the pool, adding new tiles, coping and pavers; they also rebuilt the pool house in a compatible Mediterranean style.
Jennifer remembers that the interiors were done in mint green with mint green carpeting. "They were heavy smokers, and it was quite dingy. It resembled the color of a Texaco restroom." Inside, they opted to replace rather than restore.
They laid new oak flooring, replaced the original windows with double panes and upgraded electricity and plumbing. One casualty of that process was the original rough-plaster walls, which were removed for wallboard. Taking their cue from the Mexican tile of the fireplace surround and sun-room floor, the owners brought the same saltillo tile into a greatly expanded kitchen. They also filled in the archway that led from the living room to a small den. Instead, they made an arched connection between the den and the expanded kitchen. Upstairs, they borrowed closet and bedroom space for a new master bathroom.
Work just completed at the house by architect Martin Henry Kaplan includes borrowing space from the dining room that housed built-in cabinets for a new powder room. The kitchen has new appliances, a new floor, an expanded island and granite counters to replace tile. The Mexican saltillo floor tile hadn't worn well and now has been replaced with handmade tile from Pratt and Larson which has a hard, fired surface.
Inside and out, the owners appreciate the architecture of the Southland as interpreted by Ellsworth Storey, a local designer whose interests and influences ranged far and wide.
Lawrence Kreisman, director ofn "Viewpoints" Seattle Architecture Tours, is author of six publications on regional architecture and historic preservation. Mike Siegel is a Seattle Times photographer.
----------------------------------------------------------------- Mount Baker Tour of Homes
In its 24th year, the Mount Baker Tour of Homes is Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 am to 5 p.m. Cost is $12 for adults and $8 for seniors and children under 12. The tour includes transportation. Seven homes, ranging in style from Georgian Colonial to Spanish, will be open for viewing. Complimentary cookies, coffee and tea will be served at the Mount Baker Community Clubhouse at 2811 Mount Rainier Drive S., registration site for the tour.
Bungalow Magazine Reprint
The Seattle Public Library has the only nearly complete public collection of Bungalow Magazine in the country. To make its contents available to those researching their own homes, the library is seeking ways to increase access and preserve these rare publications. For information, contact Jo Ann Fenton at 386-4610.
For further information about Ellsworth Storey, you can read Grant Hildebrand's essay in "Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects." There is also a detailed study of his works prepared by Christine Carr for her master's thesis in architecture in 1994, "The Houses of Ellsworth Storey: Frames and Patterns," available at the Architecture and Planning Library, University of Washington. Some of Storey's drawings are held in the Special Collections Division at the university.
Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.