by Ann M. Colford

When you drive past the city's elegant historic homes, especially at this time of year, don't you wish you could just peek in the windows to see how these classic statements of Spokane architecture get dressed up for the holidays? The Spokane Preservation Advocates (SPA) understands such modest cases of voyeurism, and plans to indulge the public's need to know with its fourth annual Holiday House Tour this Saturday. The main floors of three private residences along Upper Terrace on the city's South Hill will be open for viewing, complete with holiday decorations.

After noting the success of the MAC's Mothers' Day tour, the SPA established the holiday tour as a similar activity at a different time of year. The tour has since become a major source of revenue for the SPA while raising awareness and increasing appreciation for the Spokane area's architectural heritage.

The SPA is a nonprofit membership organization that educates and advocates for historic preservation in the Spokane area. Members also volunteer for the hard and often dirty work of maintaining historic properties. Recent efforts include clean-up days at Liberty Park and the Corbin and Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens, along with continuing repair work on a Victorian home in the East Central neighborhood. Volunteers will also help decorate the homes on the tour.

In addition, SPA's Heritage Fund provides grants to individuals and organizations in Spokane County for preservation activities. In the past year, Heritage Fund grants have helped the Friends of Sky Prairie Schoolhouse create a prospectus for their campaign to save the former Five Mile Schoolhouse from demolition, supported Cheney's Pathways to Progress program for downtown revitalization, and paid for the nomination process to list the Corbin and Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens on the Washington State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The three private homes on this year's tour sit within the Rockwood National Historic District, along Upper Terrace. According to the Spokane City-County Historic Preservation Office, the layout for this neighborhood was designed by the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts, the preeminent landscape architecture firm of its time. The firm linked the neighborhood's steep slopes and basalt outcroppings with pleasant tree-lined green spaces and curvilinear streets. Since its inception, the Rockwood neighborhood has housed some of the city's most prominent families, making it fertile ground for residential designers and builders through the first half of the 20th century. Two of the homes date from the city's golden age nearly a century ago, while the third came along more than two decades later.

The Taber-Ott House (1910 S. Upper Terrace) is a one-and-a-half story 1910 Craftsman-style home designed by architect W. W. Hyslop. Highlights include a front-facing gabled dormer, a partial-width front porch supported by square columns, and a cut granite stone foundation that functions as a major decorative feature. The wide overhanging eaves show an early Prairie-style influence despite the steeply pitched roofline of earlier periods.

In addition to its architectural significance, the house is notable for the roles of its residents in community history. Original owner E.G. Taber served from 1907 to about 1940 as chief engineer for the Spokane International Railway, which played a significant role in the development of the region. In addition, Taber's second wife, Anna Stratton Browne, was the widow of Spokane founder J. J. Browne. Later, long-time local music instructor and pianist Margie May Ott and her husband, Franklin, acquired the house and called it home for nearly 40 years. The Taber-Ott House is listed on the Spokane Register of Historic Places.

Another Craftsman home from the same era, the D. Crow House (712 E. 19th Ave.) awaits just around the corner. The symmetrical facade is the most prominent design feature of this one-and-a-half story 1910 home built by Ivan Abraham. A full-width front porch sits beneath the principal roof extension and engages the home with the street, while two cross gables above are joined by a shed dormer. Four painted brick columns support the roof above the broad front porch and its low brick front wall.

The extensive grounds of a corner lot enhance the presence of the Riegel House (1835 S. Upper Terrace), a two-story Spanish Eclectic-style home built in 1936 by architect and builder C.F. Rider. Featuring the tile roof, stucco walls and leaded casement windows typical of the style, this home's multiple cross gables and wall extensions create a myriad of arched and walled spaces. A stucco gazebo on the lawn matches the style of the house.

The SPA reminds tour guests that food, drink, smoking, photographs, backpacks, spiked heels, and strollers are not allowed inside the homes.

Publication date: 12/04/03

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Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
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