Todd and Kimm Lothrop’s North End Tacoma home is a work in progress, they say. And what a work it is.
The 5,000-square-foot, 122-year-old home is one of the stops on this weekend’s Historic Homes of Tacoma tour. Put on by the Tacoma Historical Society, the tour will take visitors through seven homes, Annie Wright School and Christ Episcopal Church.
Unlike some historical houses forever frozen in the year that they were built, the Lothrops’ home reflects the styles of its various owners and the different eras it has existed in.
The Lothrops are only the third owners of the home. By the time they purchased it in 2006, the home had fallen into disrepair. During the remodeling process, the Lothrops bumped out two walls and modernized the kitchen. But the home still has a feel of its historical past.
“We really like the Victorian style, but we want it to be comfortable,” Kimm says.
Original wainscoting with a basketweave-like texture lines a staircase. Below is a gigantic radiator that still provides heat. Nearby is a dual-faced fireplace – one side opens into the living room and the other into the foyer.
The Lothrops’ update is hardly the first. When it was built, the home didn’t have electricity, bathrooms or running water. In 1914, the original owners updated the main floor’s Victorian theme with a Craftsman style, popular at the time. Today, the house is a hybrid of the two styles.
The home was built in 1890 by Levi and Izora Pentecost. Levi was a native of Indiana, a Civil War veteran and eventually became a banker in Tacoma. The home, on five city lots, was built for $4,000.
Levi died in the home in 1912. It was Izora who remodeled and expanded the home in 1914. She died in 1919.
In 1923, Tacoma physician Gustav Wislicenus bought the home from the Pentecost family. Gustav and wife Emma had one child, Brunhilde.
The Lothrops bought the house in 2006 from Brunhilde “Brunie” Wislicenus. Brunie had lived in the home from the age of nine.
The Lothrops, at the time living in Gig Harbor, had long admired the imposing house, but never considered owning it until it became available.
The home had been vacant at the time of its sale and was no longer livable. Mold, water damage and peeling wallpaper marred the interior. But most of the damage was cosmetic, the Lothrops say.
Living in a trailer, the couple set out to restore and modernize the house. They had no idea what they were in for.
Todd points to a row of windows and says, with some dismay still, that each has 23 separate pieces of trim. Trim that had to be replicated, repaired or refinished.
Two years after they first started, the house was transformed into the showplace it is today. The original 10-by-10 foot kitchen tripled in size.
“We did it and we’re glad we did it, but we wouldn’t do it again,” Kimm says.
Modern touches co-exist with antiques in the home. In the upstairs master bedroom, a pitcher and wash basin, original to the house, rest on a wash stand. Floors are a mix of fir and oak and had to be stripped of paint. Three rooms bore evidence of a hasty or lazy paint job, the Lothrops say. They still had squares of unpainted wood where area rugs had been placed. Every room was wall papered, even the ceilings, some with three or four layers.
The most distinctive architectural feature of the house is a two-story turret that rises above a wraparound porch. It provides a sunny alcove for houseplants on the second floor.
Though the house didn’t have running water when it was built, it wasn’t without water. When the Lothrops purchased the house a lead-lined cistern sat in the attic. It was used to collect and store rainwater from the roof and gravity fed to the kitchen. The Lothrops also discovered the remains of a well in the home’s basement.
The attic, once mostly unfinished rafters, is now plastered and wired. A bedroom off to one side probably housed a maid. Kimm Lothrop said they discovered a buzzer in the room most likely used to summon the help at the touch of a button. When the maid wasn’t being buzzed she could step out of her room and onto the balcony of the turret, a good four stories above the surrounding streets and surely one of Tacoma’s best view spots in the early 1900s. The attic, with its dangerously narrow and steep staircase, will not be part of the tour.
The Lothrops have restored historical details when practical. Todd discovered a gas lantern with attached mirror at an estate sale. It fit perfectly on hardware in a hallway that once held the same or a similar model.
The home today is partially restored to its former glory and partially evolved to suit the needs of the Lothrops. But, they consider themselves just tenants in a house that belongs to the community.
“We’re just living here, but it’s the neighborhood’s house,” Todd says.Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541