A house that was once the center of Tacoma’s suffragist movement is on the market, only the fourth time in its 111-year history.
The Mason House at 2501 N. Washington Ave. in Tacoma was built for the John Quincy Mason family in 1905. The family spent $12,000 to build the 4,800-square-foot dwelling “equipped with all the improvements known to modern building,” according to the Tacoma Daily Ledger of 1907.
Asking price in 2016: $798,000.
The Greek revival/colonial-style mansion in the city’s Proctor District features soaring Ionic columns, large public areas and is reputed to be Tacoma’s highest house in elevation.
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The home’s current owners, David Kenworthy and Cher Maplestone, credit Mason’s wife, Virginia, for those features.
“She designed the house, there’s no question about that,” Kenworthy said, looking around the public rooms on the first floor. “She knew exactly what she wanted and that’s what she got.”
Some of her motivations, Kenworthy speculates, were based on her work with the suffragist movement. Virginia Mason, he suspects, wanted large rooms for gatherings of her suffrage groups.
In 1905 Virginia Mason was a national leader of the movement that was arguing for the right of women to vote.
According to Herbert Hunt’s “Tacoma; Its History and its Buildings,” the Mason House was a defacto community center for the state suffrage movement from its 1905 construction until 1910 when women won the right to vote.
Mason also initiated the movement that established the Franke Tobey Jones retirement home, according to her obituary in The Tacoma Daily Ledger. She is not affiliated with Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital.
Her husband, a Civil War veteran, held managerial positions with the Northern Pacific Railroad and Western Union, according to his 1920 obituary in The Tacoma News Tribune. Virginia Mason died in 1936.
The home was built on the site of a horse racing track, the Tacoma Speeding Park. The home’s builder, C.F. Erickson, also built the Northern Pacific headquarters building at Seventh Street and Pacific Avenue and was part of the mob that expelled Chinese community members out of Tacoma in 1885, according to the Tacoma Times.
The home has far-reaching views out to the Sound, Mount Rainier and beyond, especially from the fourth-story widow’s walk.
“We can see both Bremerton and Seattle fireworks,” Kenworthy said.
Visitors enter the house via a large parlor. It has a chandelier, stained fir paneling, leaded and stained-glass windows and built-in cabinets.
The 20-foot-by-28-foot living room has a gas fireplace and, instead of crown molding, contains lincrusta, a deeply embossed wall covering.
Like much of the renovation work, the couple installed the lincrusta themselves. It turned out to be a technologically challenging and time-consuming process.
“If you do it as a married couple, make sure you have a really strong marriage,” Maplestone said.
It’s just one of countless improvements the couple has made over the years, both structurally and aesthetically.
Antiques fill the house, chief among them is an imposing grandfather clock from the 1840s.
“We don’t have it running a lot because it has tremendous authority when it chimes,” Maplestone said.
A banquet-size dining room can be separated from the living room by two massive pocket doors.
A society item in the Tacoma Daily Ledger of Dec. 31, 1922, described the scene of a Mason family Christmas dinner in the home.
“The spacious living room, with its wide fireplace, was radiant in crimson and green and the table centerpiece for the dinner was a bright Christmas tree sparkling with frost and silvered ornaments,” the newspaper said. A Mrs. Eleanor Gulick read Van Dyke’s “Spirit of Christmas” for the 20 guests.
The home’s modern kitchen and three full bathrooms give a nod to the 21st century but retain 20th-century motifs. The baths have claw-foot bathtubs along with walk-in showers.
Seven bedrooms are spread among the second and third floors.
Several garden rooms with different themes surround the house: parterre, woodland, Zen, sitting, and Savannah courtyard.
“I thought the formal look looked great with the Greek revival house,” Maplestone said.
The couple is selling the home to downsize. They’ve bought a smaller house in Old Town Tacoma.
The Mason House was on the market last year at a higher price, said listing agent Leighanne Cheslik who is also Maplestone’s daughter. With a new lower price and hotter housing market, she thinks the house is priced correctly.
When it does sell, the couple will not only lose space, they’re also losing the site of many memories. Chief among those occurred on Oct. 18, 1995. That’s the day they closed on the house and then, a couple of hours later, were married in the living room.
“I wouldn’t recommend it. It was hectic,” Maplestone recalled of the day.
Kenworthy is a retired District Court judge, and Maplestone is retired from Group Health Permanente.
Maplestone, who grew up in Wales, has an affinity with old houses.
“Since I’ve lived in America I’ve tried to live in old houses,” she said. “They speak to me. I love the history, all the people who have lived there before you. When you run your hand down the bannister, I think of all the other hands and their lives,” Maplestone said.
Before they move out, an estate sale will be held to unload belongings. Their new home can’t hold all of the couple’s furniture and antiques. They know the sale will attract people who just want to see the house.
“When they wander in here, hopefully they’ll buy something,” Maplestone said, sitting on a circa-1863 sofa.
The sofa has been in the house since it was built and they’re hoping the new owners will buy it. “Every owner has bought it,” Maplestone said.
Leaving the home brings mixed emotions for the couple.
“We’re regretting but feeling the time has come. We need to get something that is less effort and frees up more time,” Kenworthy said.
But two members of the family are definitely unhappy with the sale.
“This is their second home,” Kenworthy said of Cheslik’s two children. “They are not pleased.”
“They’re madder than heck,” Maplestone said.
“They are saving their piggy bank money to buy the house,” Cheslik said.
Savings thus far: $5.
$797,995 to go.