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What does $5.5 million buy in Pierce County? It’s more than hardwoods and a nice view

A look inside Tacoma's Weyerhaeuser mansion

Haddaway Hall, commonly known as the Weyerhaeuser mansion, is the most expensive piece of real estate on the Pierce County market at $5.5 million.
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Haddaway Hall, commonly known as the Weyerhaeuser mansion, is the most expensive piece of real estate on the Pierce County market at $5.5 million.

Born in the age of kerosene lamps and now seven years short of its 100th year, Haddaway Hall, otherwise known as the Weyerhaeuser mansion, is on the market and ready once again to serve as a family residence, school, another nunnery or perhaps as the headquarters of a nonprofit arts organization.

But don’t expect the estate to find its reincarnation as an event venue.

A Pierce County Superior Court judge last week sided with North Tacoma neighbors who fought a conditional use permit that allowed events such as weddings to be held at the hall.

A neighbor group had complained that events at the site attracted guests whose rowdy behavior included loud music, blocked parking and worse.

Judge Bryan Chushcoff on May 2 reversed the decision of the city’s hearing examiner, saying the proposed use as an event venue “is not in harmony with neighborhood’s scale and character.”

He cited the noise of amplified music and “periodic cheering and clapping,” and he noted “increased noise from wedding reception guests walking in the neighborhood talking loudly,” and then there was the parking issue, the public consumption of alcohol and marijuana, and “confrontations between neighbors and wedding guests.”

So no more commercial weddings at Haddaway Hall.

THE PROPERTY

It’s not just the mansion that is listed for sale by Re/Max Professionals at $5.5 million.

Also enclosed within the 5.1 acres on North Stevens Street are a carriage house, education building and chapel.

▪ The Jacobean-Tudor mansion, built in 1923, has four levels totaling 15,600 square feet.

▪ The carriage house, with two apartments, comes in at three levels and 6,800 square feet.

▪ The two-level education building, with space fitted with classrooms and also once used as a dormitory, totals 16,200 square feet.

▪ The chapel, at 5,800 square feet, contains an apartment and two meeting rooms as well as a sanctuary.

▪ The territorial view of Commencement Bay, Vashon Island, Maury Island and Puget Sound extends from the North Cascades to Mount Rainier and beyond.

Over the past few years, the estate has twice been under a sale contract — first to a Seattle catering company that arranged the wedding events, and then to a local private school. Both contracts have lapsed.

A LOOK INSIDE

Eric Herbel, a broker with Re/Max Professionals in Tacoma, has listed the estate along with Sonia Grunberg, also of Re/Max.

When he shows the house to potential buyers, Herbel carries a set of some 30 keys that secure interior and exterior doors.

”It’s important for the community to understand that this is not a source of controversy,” he said, beginning a recent tour. “This is a legacy property that has great importance to the community.”

Beginning life as a private residence in 1923, the estate has also served as a novitiate for the Sisters of St. Dominic and as a seminary operated by Northwest Baptist College. The current owner, Corban University, is based in Salem, Oregon.

Listed at a high of $6.4 million in 2011, the price now is at $5.5 million.

Sequoia trees, flowering plums and a cherry tree grace the space near the oak front door of the mansion. Rhododendrons bloom in profusion, massed in frilly seas of pink and red.

The main floor entry leads to a vestibule, which leads to the “stair hall” leading either to the right, with a drawing room, library and conservatory, or to the left, with the dining room. Beyond the dining room stand the rooms where servants worked, with the pantry, scullery, ice room, flower room, silver vault and kitchen.

“There is nothing that competes with this,” said Grunberg.

The Weyerhaeuser family fortunes were based largely on Douglas fir, but it is oak that panels the walls and oak that makes up the floors. Wilkeson sandstone abounds.

Secret passages create shortcuts between a few of the rooms, and a small secret closet could have been the repository of Prohibition hootch.

The second level contains his-and-hers master bedroom suites, closets aplenty, two guest suites and four more bedrooms.

A pipe organ can bellow from the basement, and the organ’s music can fill the house through ducts not unlike those that form the boiler-and-radiator heating system.

Two more bedrooms — making a total of 11 — join a VIP suite, massage room, playroom and office on the third level, while the basement contains a billiard room, cinema room, canning room, holiday decorations storage room and a laundry room featuring an Aircraft-brand industrial washer that might well have lasted all of these 93 years.

Herbel estimates the house cost $6.5 million to build, and that “to re-create that now, it would have to be four times that, or more. That’s just the structure. Add five acres of North End view land.”

COMPLEXITIES

Herbel estimated that he and Grunberg have shown the property to at least 30 types of buyers.

“Nine different types of schools, a PTSD retraining school, another possibility is some kind of senior-living establishment,” he said.

Or “a music school, a ballet school, a place to rehabilitate teenagers.”

The day before showing the property to The News Tribune, Herbel said, “I showed it to a Chinese film director.”

“It’s a complicated piece of property,” said Grunberg. “Most of the properties in Pierce County selling for more than one million have been on the waterfront in Gig Harbor. The last home, a large estate that sold for $1.3 million, has been the top end in this area. There is nothing that compares with this.”

She suggested the property “could be used for the public good, like Lakewold Gardens, but somebody has to be willing to take that responsibility.”

She gave the chance that the estate could once again comprise a single-family residence as “thin to none.”

“The house needs to be owned by someone who can take care of it,” Grunberg said. “The current owners have been very caring about the property.”

And about the neighborhood, she said. “There were cordial relationships for two years while weddings were going on, until new neighbors joined the discussion. We know that we will find a buyer, but there was a lot of negative, unnecessary and inaccurate information.”

Steve Burnham, an attorney who represented one of the neighbors, said of the judge’s decision, “It is good news for my clients and the rest of the neighborhood.”

He said he was pleased with the decision and confident that the judge believed testimony showing the caterer unable to control noise and behavior at events.

“Stopping things is not a solution for this property,” said Herbel. “Saving historic buildings such as this is a priority for the people of Tacoma and for the government of Tacoma.”

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535

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