Olympia holiday tour: Homes full of history

A house that stood for nearly 30 years as a burned out hulk is one of six historic homes on Olympia’s west side that will open their doors to the public on Sunday.

The annual Holiday Tour of Historic Homes benefits the Bigelow House Preservation Association. The Bigelow House also will be part of the tour.

Shanna Stevenson, a board member of the all volunteer-run organization, said the tour shows that houses can both be a repository of history and up-to-date homes for modern families. A bonus: they’re all in the same neighborhood.

“People are going to be able to park once and walk to most of them,” Stevenson said of the six properties built between 1890 and 1940.

One of those homes, the craftsman style Meeker/Bean House on Percival Street, was designed and built by Ernest Meeker in 1918. It’s now owned by Kate and Stephen Rosenfeld.

“It’s an unusual home because it has seven split levels. When you look at it from the front it looks like a standard craftsman two-story home, but when you go to the back, this house stands 50 or 60 feet high,” Kate Rosenfeld said.

The home is built on the edge of a ravine that overlooks Capitol Lake. “It’s quite a sheer drop off,” Rosenfeld said.

The Bean family bought the home in 1929. At that time, the top floor was a ballroom, but eventually it was converted into two bedrooms. The house was damaged by a fire in the 1970s and sat unoccupied until 2003. Parts of the home were open to the elements during that time, Rosenfeld said.

The home was repaired and updated in 2003. Floors were repaired using reclaimed 100-year-old fir planking. Coved ceilings were replaced. New plumbing and modern heating were installed.

“We just feel really lucky to own this home. It was beautifully restored and it’s really charming. It’s a wonderful blend of this lovely old unusual home from 1918 and everything that you would like living in 2012.”

Nearby on Percival Street live Peggy and Philip Austin. They bought their 1925 home in 1963. “It was kind of a square boxy house when we moved here. Then in 1967, we added two more bedrooms, a dining room, a den and enlarged the bathroom,” Peggy Austin said.

The couple hired an architect to help blend the old with the new. “You hardly know when the old leaves off and the new starts,” Peggy Austin said. She’s not sure what to call architectural style. “I just call it home.”

The tour also includes:

Westhillsyde: A distinctive 1920s residence on Percival Street designed by noted Olympia architect Elizabeth Ayer. It has a distinctive design and finishes.

Percival House: A Victorian era house on Fourth Avenue featuring classic period styling.

The Sherwood Press building on Fifth Avenue: It’s been continuously operated as a printing shop since the 1940s.

Schnably/Buckner House: This Brawne Avenue home combines modern energy-efficient features with historic details including a horseshoe gable.

The Bigelow House: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this home was built in the 1850s by Daniel and Ann Elizabeth Bigelow. He was an early territorial legislator and she was a teacher and active in the early suffrage movement. Susan B. Anthony had dinner at the Bigelow House in 1871.

Their house is one of the oldest surviving houses in Olympia and was home to the Bigelow family for nearly 140 years before being acquired in the 1990s by the nonprofit association. Today, the home is maintained as a historic house museum.

The home has been restored to reflect its history and contains original furnishings. The dining room is set in a 1920s period and the kitchen in the 1950s.

Tickets for the tour are available in advance at Drees, Popinjay, the State Capital Museum and Thompson Furniture. On tour day, tickets will be sold at the Bigelow House and at Sherwood Press (811 Fifth Ave. SW). Shoes will need to be removed before entering the homes.

Holiday Tour of Historic Homes

Who: Bigelow House Preservation Association

When: Noon-4 p.m. December 2

Where: 918 Glass Ave. NE, Olympia

Tickets: $15

Information: 360-753-1215, BigelowHouse.org