When Patti Jeffrey and Bob Gunderson were house-hunting in Tacoma 15 years ago, the one thing they knew they wanted was an older home.
What they bought was a two-story house in the Oakland-Madrona neighborhood, built in 1910.
“We looked in the windows here and it was a perfect layout, absolutely charming,” Jeffrey said. “It was stripped bare, no carpets on the floors. So we had a blank canvas.”
What they eventually learned was that they’d bought a history far richer than they could’ve imagined.
Inside a wall, in what had been an attic, they found a bread label from Evans Bakery.
“I was curious, so I did a little investigating and found a website with information on the family,” Jeffrey said. “And I found we had this marvelous history with a bakery that was directly across the street.”
From the early 1920s through the ’90s, Evans Bakery was a family operation. And the Greek family that had owned the bakery all those years had also owned the house that Jeffrey and Gunderson now owned.
Then history came calling.
“Bill Evans had run the business after his father died, and liked to drop by the bakery, even after the family had sold it. When he did, he’d stop by the house,” Jeffrey said. “He’d tell us stories about the house, his family, the bakery. We loved it.”
The more Jeffrey looked into the Evans family, the more people she found. One of those was Katy Mason, a Tacoma woman who was Bill Evans’ daughter.
“Patti said my dad visited six or seven times,” Mason said. “He was very sociable, loved to chat. That was his job with the bakery. He was an actual baker, and delivered bread throughout the city, so he talked to customers.”
“Evans” was the name the family had shortened from Evangelou. Two Greek brothers, Louie and Peter, migrated to Tacoma about 1917. Louie worked for small bakeries in the downtown area, then bought a building at 3812 S. Wright Ave.
It was a bakery with a small apartment in the rear of the building, a tiny grocery in the front and a full-service gas pump outside.
“A few years after they bought the bakery, they bought this house,” Jeffrey said. “We still get junk mail addressed ‘Evans.’”
Over several generations, Evans Bakery was essentially a neighborhood employment agency. Most families in the area had one member or another who worked for the bakery, for the small retail store, or as drivers for a fleet of trucks in the ’30s and ’40s.
Mason spent a lot of time in the house across the street from the bakery when her grandparents owned it. Her father, his brothers and his sister, Ethel, all grew up in the house — and stayed there until they married.
“I spent lot of nights with grandma at the house,” Mason said. “Dad worked across the street, mom worked full time, so I’d get dropped off in the summers and spent days with grandma.”
By 1998, Bill Evans was the last of the family still working at the bakery. He sold it to Gavin and Cindy Jury, who operate the bakery today as Baker Boys Northwest.
“They’ve kept the bakery much the same as it was, and they even left old pictures of the bakery and the Evans family on the walls,” Mason said.
What of the remodeled, former Evans home and its previous occupants?
Bill Evans died in 2013. Mason and her aunt Ethel, who lives on Camano Island, hadn’t been to the house since the early ’90s. Last weekend, Mason accepted an invitation from Jeffrey to visit.
“I felt my grandmother there as soon as I walked in,” Mason said. “Patti kept it historically accurate while updating some things. It really seemed like walking into grandmother’s house again.
“It was funny, because I wanted to see what Patti had done to the house, and Patti wanted to know how my grandmother had done the inside.”
For all the years the Evans family lived there — and at times there were as many as six or seven in the house — there was only one bathroom.
“They were probably just glad it was indoors,” Mason said, laughing.
“The home is lovely, and at one point I stood looking out the window at the bakery across the street. For just a moment, I felt like I was waiting for dad to come home.”