The Campbell Family of Spokane

The article is the work of Georgi Krom, a member of the Board of the Queen Anne Historical Society and a Spokane native.  The article traces the history of Spokane’s Campbell House whose twin, the Stimson-Green Mansion on Terry Avenue at Spring, was designed for C. D. and Harriet Stimson who moved there from Queen Anne.
Campbell House in Browne’s Addition Spokane

There is a house in the Spokane neighborhood of Browne’s Addition that is almost a twin to the Stimson-Green Mansion in Seattle.  Architect Kirtland Cutter used a similar floor plan in 1898 to create an English Tudor mansion for a wealthy family — Amasa, Grace and Helen Campbell.  The book Campbell House  by historian John Fahey describes the business and social activities of this era.

Amasa Campbell was an ambitious bachelor who came from Youngstown, Ohio with partner John Finch to speculate in mines in the Coeur d’Alene district.  At age 45 Amasa proposed marriage to a young schoolteacher, Grace Fox, 31.  They started their life in Wallace, Idaho in 1890 at a time when silver and lead mines began to flourish.

Campbell and Finch were not mining experts, but they attracted wealthy investors from Ohio, Milwaukee and Montana who purchased shares in the mines.  These successful investments were later expanded into banking, retail, and logging businesses.

Campbell and Finch made fortunes for themselves and their partners and formed associations to fight organized labor.  Workers in the mines were making $3.00 per 10-hour day.  Mines were shutting down in bitter union disputes, there was an explosion of a processing mill in 1892, and gunfire and deaths were occurring.  Fearing violence against his family, Amasa sent Grace to Spokane where she gave birth to their only child Helen.

The family later moved permanently to Spokane with John Finch and his new wife, purchasing adjoining lots in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood.  Amasa and Grace built an English Tudor, and the Finch mansion was a neoclassical design.  Their lawyer, W.J.C. Wakefield, lived between them in a Mission Revival home.  Fellow mining investor Patsy Clark also had a nearby mansion, and all of these grand places were designed by prominent Spokane architect Kirtland Cutter.

The Campbell home featured a 15-page interior plan from a Cleveland decorator with extensive wallpaper and fabric designs.  A central hot water heating system, servant call box, and a cold storage room were new technologies Cutter used again at the Seattle Stimson-Green mansion in 1903.  This Tudor on First Hill has similar rooms to the Campbell house but is a reversed floor plan.

The Campbell lifestyle in Spokane at the turn of the century was affluent, social and formal.  Their French rococo reception room greeted visitors who would often stay for only fifteen minutes, leaving calling cards behind in a silver tray.  Dinner parties called for elegant gowns and jewelry and the family would dress formally even when they dined alone.  Servants worked in the back of the home and would be summoned by a call button under the dining table.  The Campbells employed five to seven live-in servants, and friends in their circle often shared or hired away good cooks or maids.

Grace Campbell focused on their child and running her household.  Women’s clubs in this era talked about suffrage, civics and politics.  Grace supported the temperance movement and cast her first vote for President in 1916.

Life was less formal for the Campbell’s daughter Helen.  Looser clothing than her mother’s allowed her to play tennis and enjoy camping trips with friends.  Her short bob was considered daring.  Motion pictures, telephones and automobiles were popular for Helen and people in all classes.

The financial panic of 1907, a new federal income tax in 1913, and World War I affected the spending of the Gilded Age families.  Amasa died of throat cancer in 1912 and Grace continued to live in the Campbell House, enjoying visits from Helen and her family.  After living in the home for twenty-six years, Grace died in 1924.

Grace Campbell, ca. 1923

Helen gave the Campbell house to local historical groups.  The contents of the home were sold at auction and it became a public museum in 1926.  It also served as an office for the Eastern Washington State Historical Society for thirty years.

In 1960 a new museum opened on the east lawn and the home began its transformation back to its original state.  Volunteers retraced lost furniture, uncovered original wall coverings, and recreated vintage hardware and windows.  An original wrought iron fireplace andiron was recovered from a fraternity house, and family descendants donated many personal items.

By Spokane’s Expo ’74 the Campbell House was listed on the National Register of Public Places.  Public tours are offered and many of these original homes still stand together in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood of Spokane.  You can imagine their owners hosting parties, traveling together, and leading a Downton Abbey style of life over the turn of their century.

Just like these early families, today’s tech billionaires are clustering together in Medina, Hunts Point and West Bellevue compounds.  Income inequality is still a huge challenge.  History does repeat itself.

Source for photos and content: Campbell House, copyright 2005 by historian John Fahey, with Larry Schoonover, Director of Exhibits and Programs, Marsha Rooney, Curator of History and Patti Larkin, Curator of Campbell House.

A special thanks to Paul Huetter, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Queen Anne Yesterday & Today

Work on the Fremont Cut portion of the Lake Washington Ship Canal is just getting underway in this June 1911 image.  The location of the cut follows the path of Ross Creek, which was the natural outlet of Lake Union.  The creek had been widened into a small canal in 1885 by the Lake Washington Improvement Company.  The company, formed by lumber mill owner David Denny (1832-1903) and a group of local businessmen, hired Chinese laborers to dig canals between lakes Washington and Union and from Lake Union to Salmon Bay.  The flow of water from Lake Union to the canal was controlled by a wooden dam, lock and spillway near the old timber-trestle Fremont Bridge.  The Army Corps of Engineers took over construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and locks after federal funding came through in the 1910 River and Harbor Act.  A steam shovel is visible in the distance, near the present-day location of the Fremont Bridge.

In today’s image, taken from roughly the same vantage point, the Queen Anne and Fremont sides of the canal are obscured by vegetation.  But no structures from the historic image remain, having been removed for the widening of the waterway.  The completed Fremont Cut is 5,800 feet long and 270 feet wide, with a 100-foot wide, 30-foot-deep navigable channel down its center.


Historic image courtesy of Washington State Digital Archives

Queen Anne History For Sale!

Queen Anne style houses apparently once peppered the south side of our hill and gave the neighborhood its name.  One of the last of these distinctive homes offering a strong reminder of the neighborhood’s original architectural heritage is now for sale — and probably slated for demolition.

This large 2-1/2 story house can be found at 714 First Ave. W. — just across Queen Anne Driveway from the former site of the George and Angeline Kinnear House (1888) — on the fringe of Uptown where the street dead-ends at stairs leading up to the Queensborough Apartment House and Bayview Retirement Community.  It is known as the Emma Gross house for one of its early owners, who may have converted it from a single-family home to a five-unit apartment building. The house dates from between 1885 and 1890, the period during which most of the Queen Anne style houses were constructed.  Its cement block foundation replaced what may have originally been a brick one.

Emma Gross House
Emma Gross House at 714 First Ave. W.

The city’s 2005 Historic Resources Survey notes:

This house is significant as one of the oldest homes in this section of Queen Anne and one of the few remaining Queen Anne-style houses in the area.  This large house, with its polygonal turret, is a strong reminder of the neighborhood’s original architectural heritage.  The original owner and exact construction date are not known, but it most likely was built earlier than the 1900 date given in the Tax Assessor’s records.  It was owned by Emma Gross between 1931 and the 1960s.  It was probably during this period that it was converted from a single-family home to a five-unit building, and it may have been used as a rooming house before that.  It had several owners in the 1960s-70s.  However, exterior alterations appear to be minimal.

 The second section of the survey describes what the house looked like in 2003.  It is relatively unchanged since then:

This 2-1/2 story house is hidden beneath large trees and is very difficult to see clearly. It has a hipped roof with deep eaves and curved brackets, and a polygonal turret at the southwest corner.  A porch extends across the front (west) of the house, with stairs going down to the south.  The porch has four small round columns, turned balusters and spindle work along the top; lattice encloses the area beneath the porch.  To the north of the entry is a three-sided bay with three one-over-one windows.  A square bay projects above the porch, with similar windows.  A dentilled course runs below this.  The south elevation has a small eyebrow dormer and another three-sided bay; to the east of this is a small porch and a door to the second floor.  Many of the windows on the south elevation have five-over-one sash, with a simple diamond pattern in the upper sash.  The three-story turret has three windows on each floor, with a lattice pattern on the upper floor.  Cladding is clapboard throughout with a concrete block foundation (pre-dating 1938).

The survey omits the proximity of the house to Queen Anne Drive which effectively climbs around the Gross House.   As it curves to the north, the drive is level with the rooftop.

Among recent residents:  historic preservationist John Chaney, the longtime executive director of Historic Seattle; and sculptor Bill Evans (1994-2016) who lived there for many years before his death.

The house occupies a well-known piece of Queen Anne:  ACT Theatre occupied the 1912 Redding Hall across the street between 1985 and 1995.  On the Boards has been there since then.   For a long time before 1985, it served as a dance hall known as Queen Anne Hall. The Gross House is next door to Shah Safari, Inc. which designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes clothing and accessories.

Except for the Gross House, Shah Safari, Inc. owns all the buildings along Roy Street from Queen Anne Drive west to First Avenue West including the Shiki Japanese Restaurant.  Shah Safari  plans to demolish the buildings it now owns and construct a multi-story apartment building there and on the parking lot adjacent to the Gross House.  At this point (October 26, 2020), the best solution  might be for Shah Safari to acquire the Gross House, restore it to its original glory, and incorporate it in its redevelopment of the block!  Showing such care for the historic fabric of our neighbor would be fantastic and add some very special apartments to their project.