Sunday, September 16, 1984
Home Section: House of the Week
New Owners Reviving the Stately Estate
by WANDA A. ADAMS
Herald Home Editor
When Sue Hartley Brown walks through the house where she grew up, every fixture sparks a memory.
That isn’t unusual. Most of us would be moved by a visit to our childhood homes.
But Brown’s is a special place.
It was the home of her grandfather, Roland Hartley, who built it in 1911, when he became mayor of Everett and only left from 1924 to 1933, when he occupied the governor’s mansion in Olympia.
Brown’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. David Hartley, and their three children, lived in the house at 2320 Rucker during Gov. Hartley’s tenure and shared the home with the senior Hartleys for several years after.
“It was not,” Brown recalls, “a children’s house. We were seen and not heard”, especially when her grandparents were present.
There were strict rules: breakfast was at 8 a.m., luncheon at 12:15, and dinner at 6 p.m. “AND I don’t mean 6:06. And we spent one hour in the dining room, no more, no less,” she says.
The children did their share of chores: mowing lawns, stacking firewood, dusting the newel posts on the staircases.
The rest of the time, they were expected to play outside on the huge lawns and not to run to the neighbor’s house to beg forbidden cookies, or to the waterfront to walk on logs—though they did both.
And when they were allowed to gather around the upright RCA radio on a Friday night for “Gilmore’s Circus”, a favorite program, they were to do so quietly.
Still there were many and pleasant indoor memories.
There, under the stairs, is a little closet which served as a dressing room for the impromptu plays she and her brothers staged in the billiard room.
There, on the wall, is the in-house phone system, with each of the buttons still neatly labeled in her grandfather’s painstaking script: Mr. Hartley, Mrs. Hartley, Mr. David (her favor) ….
That’s the swinging door between the dining room and the butler’s pantry that caused all the excitement one Thanksgiving. As she was proudly bearing the turkey into the room, Julia, the cook, caught her heel, and the door swung back, knocking both Julia and the bird to the floor. (Both were unhurt.)
In the kitchen is the alcove where the icebox sat. The man would arrive with a huge block of ice on his rubber-shielded shoulder and knock off some chips for the children to suck before continuing on his rounds.
Up those stairs in the attic, where she and her brother played marbles (she bought them, he won them from her by changing the rules). Down another set of stairs is the basement where they roller-skated on rainy days and—unavoidable duty—stacked firewood for the wood-burning furnace.
Out back is the two-story garage with the immense turntable in the floor, which allowed her grandfather to store three cars, including a Pierce-Arrow, without having to back out of the driveway. Once, when she was twelve and being given a first parking lesson, Brown drove a brand new Buick through the rear of the garage, shattering the windows and leaving the car hanging half out the second story. It is not recorded what Gov. Hartley said to that.
Brown lived in the mansion from infancy to age sixteen, when her father and mother purchased a home in Mukilteo.
The 10,000 square foot building, with its immense basement and attic floors and roomy garage, became a nursing home. The floors were covered with linoleum, the leaded glass windows in the dining room went into storage, the portieres and brocade hangings disappeared.
But last year, Dr. Sanford Wright, an Everett neurologist, purchased the house for use as medical offices, with the idea of returning it as much as possible to its former grandeur. And he turned to Brown, who had not been in the home since the family moved, for help.
Along with sharing charming stories of Hartley family life, she was able to help him identify original fixtures and trace the original floor plan.
Wright hired architect, Bob Butterfield, and contractor, Pete Newland, as well as a host of craftsman to do the work.
All manner of fixtures emerged from the rabbit warren of storage areas to help them piece together the home’s former appearance.
For instance, the living room fireplace had been walled over and the mantlepiece taken apart. But a bit of the mantlepiece turned up among the detritus and from this, workmen were able to fashion a new one.
One of the lighting fixtures which flanked the doorway was found, but the other had disappeared, so Wright is having that copied.
Roger Gilbert, owner of the Brass Nut Antiques in Snohomish, worked over the numerous brass pieces, light fixtures, doorknobs, hand plates, and the like. About half of the pieces were salvaged, including a doorknob and a pair of lighting fixtures imprinted with the ornate Masonic symbols that came from Gov. Hartley’s bedroom.
And Newland’s provided the services of carpenters with a special interest in recreating the missing pieces of oak and mahogany moulding and other trim.
The wood floors were uncovered, stripped, and polished and accented with Oriental rugs, as when the Hartleys lived there.
Whenever possible, Wright has attempted to leave the floor plan “as-was”. The living room is now the waiting room, and the dining room will become a board room, where meals will still be served. The butler’s pantry is converted to a small kitchen. The billiard room, Gov. Hartley’s den, and bedrooms are offices and examination rooms. And the bathrooms, with their brass-and-nickel fixtures and porcelain spider-webbed with exquisite cracks, remain largely unchanged.
Wright purchased the Hartley mansion for a number of practical reasons—it is large enough to serve his purposes and located strategically between Everett’s two hospitals. But he admits also to being intrigued with the challenge of the remodeling project. Such projects have enjoyed great success in the eastern U.S., where Wright lived for 12 years, and he was eager to try his hand here.