Everett couple’s renovations bring out the best in 1906 home

  • By Sarah Jackson Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, September 9, 2009 1:05pm
  • LifeEverett

Walt Gillette has some advice for anyone getting ready to restore an aging home.

“Don’t think of it as an old house. Think of it as a mature house,” Gillette said. “Honor it and treat it with respect.”

Gillette is speaking from personal experience. He and his wife, Saundra Cope, have spent the past decade and countless dollars restoring one of the largest, most historic homes in Everett.

They became students of history, architecture and patience in 1998 when they bought a $405,000 Grand Avenue home in need of updates.

Their aim: Pay tribute to the prominent home’s first 100 years, but also prepare it for at least 100 more.

Gillette and Cope’s extraordinary efforts on what is now known as the Charles D. Fratt house were recognized with a William F. Brown Award from the Everett Historical Commission in 2003, along with a place on the Everett Register of Historic Places.

Saturday, the couple, both retired Boeing executives, will open their 7,800-square-foot home to the public for the first time as part of Historic Everett’s annual home tour.

Residents familiar with Grand Avenue Park in north Everett are likely to know the Fratt house, a broad, three-story, craftsman-esque structure painted a soft, buttery yellow.

Not by accident, it sits directly across from the tree-lined park overlooking Port Gardner and the Everett Marina.

Fratt, a prominent Everett businessman in lumber and banking, agreed to build a house on the bluff only if the city extended utilities to the property and dedicated the land across the street as a park, even though it was originally plotted for residential lots.

Fratt got his way, according to Patti Lohse with Historic Everett.

Construction began in 1904, but the home was destroyed by fire on Feb. 8, 1905, a week before the Fratt family was to move in.

When Fratt’s second attempt was ultimately completed in 1906, it was the only home on Grand Avenue within six blocks.

Seven subsequent owners have occupied the home since then, including Washington Gov. Monrad Wallgren, who lived there in the early 1940s when he was a U.S. senator.

Wallgren was a close associate of then-Vice President Harry Truman, who reportedly visited on several occasions during those years.

Today, the second-story bedroom where Truman is said to have slept is decorated with Truman memorabilia, courtesy of Gillette and Cope, who delight in telling stories of history in the home’s many rooms.

Visitors to the completely restored home will see a mix of craftsman and Victorian style, inside and out.

Old-growth fir trim, once covered in layers of paint, is now stained a deep coffee hue that adds richness throughout the house.

Thirteen leaded glass windows, created by Covenant Art Glass of Everett, feature a stylized tulip design that is repeated in some variation on every floor.

Craftsman columns and corbels, also in the name of continuity, are present in areas old and new to create a seamless aesthetic.

Gillette and Cope, whose passion for history saved the home from possibly being demolished and replaced by new construction, have restored, refinished or updated just about everything visitors will see.

That includes roofing, siding, windows, woodwork, walls, fixtures, surfaces and the extensively manicured lush grounds.

Remodeling projects over the years had taken away much of the eclectic home’s turn-of-the-century grandeur.

Previous homeowners removed the home’s balconies and covered the original lap siding with shake siding. Double-hung windows were replaced with picture windows on the main floor.

Gillette and Cope, working with a team of local designers and craftsmen, have tried to bring all those elements back, using pictures of the original home and clues they found in the basement, tucked in crawl spaces and buried in burn piles in the back yard.

They’ve also dramatically updated the infrastructure of the home — plumbing, wiring, insulation, heating, earthquake resistance and appliances — with the hope that the home will last another century without extensive upgrades.

Everett architect Doug Hannam said Gillette and Cope’s dedication to restoration is exceptional.

“It’s pretty rare, the depth of detail and attention to detail,” Hannam said. “The whole intent was to do it right.”

Though they’ve loved working on their historic home, especially hearing stories from previous residents and neighbors, Cope and Gillette’s greatest wish is that it remain a place for families, not a museum.

“When you walk through a home and there are ropes, there’s a feeling of staleness. Life has left the home,” Cope said. “This home needs to resonate with laughter and sad and happy events.”

Cope hopes that people on the tour will share what they know about the home’s history and place in Everett.

She also wants them to take home something of their own, too.

“I hope they walk away with a feeling of pride in Everett and its old neighborhoods.”

Take the tour

What: Historic Everett’s annual home tour will feature eight historic homes, five in north Everett and three on Rucker Hill, plus a renovation fair with vendors at the Weyerhaeuser office building on W. Marine View Drive. Tickets for the self-guided tour include maps and directions to the homes.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Cost: Tickets for $15 or $10 for members are available at J. Matheson Gifts, 2615 Colby Ave., Everett. They’ll be available the day of the tour at Van Valey House, 2130 Colby Ave., Everett.

Information: 425-530-2722 or www.historiceverett.org.

Resources

Port Gardner Architects

Where: Everett

More info: Doug Hannam, 425-388-5588

Clean Cut Improvements

Landscaping installation, carriage house construction

Where: Everett

More info: Tim Lang, 425-330-8881; www.cleancutimprovements.com

Stephen Sibborn

Old world wood craftsmanship, painting, refinishing

Where: Seattle

More info: 206-406-5080

Seattle Building Salvage

Vintage lighting, restoration

Where: Seattle

More info: Steve Ecalbarger, 425-374-2550; www.seattlebuildingsalvage.com

Absolute Interiors

Draperies, upholstery, tile renovation

Where: Everett

More info: Beth Stibre, 425-355-8058

Cantrell Restoration

Brick, stone work

Where: Lake Stevens

More info: Ron Cantrell, 425-501-9611; www.cantrellrestoration.net

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