EVERETT — This move-in-ready home has great views, ample parking, access to good schools and a ballroom.
The place can be yours for only $700,000 down.
Rucker Mansion is the ultimate party house and the perfect place to wait out the pandemic.
Everett’s most notable home features a library, parlor, two kitchens, two pianos, six bedrooms, six fireplaces, six full bathrooms, a bunch of other rooms and killer views of Puget Sound and beyond. The property is 2.74 acres and comes with a carriage house.
Asking price is $3,498,000, Steinway negotiable. Showings by appointment only.
The sellers, Bob and Brenda Kerr, gave The Daily Herald a personal tour of the 10,000-square-foot home at 412 Laurel Drive on Rucker Hill. It was a welcome retreat from our slightly less-lavish quarantine hideaways.
The Kerrs devoted the past 23 years to a meticulous renovation of the big brick house on the hill.
Detailing everything would fill a newspaper. Here’s the condensed version.
The Rucker name
Talk about a grand entrance.
It starts with a loop on the scenic one-way Laurel drive that encircles the property and once served as the driveway. Now the public road and popular walking path lets pedestrians gaze up and dream.
Across the lawn, 17 stairs form a majestic climb to the front door and white-columned veranda. With a panoramic view of water, mountains and cityscapes, it’s like being on top of the world.
This was the first house on the hill west of downtown Everett, hence the name Rucker Hill. In real estate, Port Gardner is a sought-after neighborhood with charm and low turnover.
The population of Everett was 16,000 in 1905 when construction was finished on the mansion built by timber tycoon brothers Wyatt and Bethel Rucker for a then-whopping $40,000. The home was shared with Bethel’s bride, Ruby, and their mom, Jane Rucker, who died two years later.
The home changed hands when the Ruckers moved to Lake Stevens to be near their sawmill, tired of the long commute by horse-and-buggy and row boat. Though no Rucker (other than a namesake dog) has lived in the house for about 100 years, it’s still called Rucker Mansion.
In the 1990s, the property was vacant and needed TLC. There was talk of razing it and subdividing the land.
Bob and Brenda Kerr scooped it up for $650,000 in 1997.
The couple, who met in Alaska, were newlyweds. Bob had lived in Bellevue since 1975, and he wanted to bring Brenda to Washington.
“I told her about this charming old house in Everett with a ballroom,” said Bob Kerr, who hails from Texas and still has the drawl.
Brenda Kerr, an outdoorsy Minnesotan turned Coloradan then Alaskan, wasn’t familiar with Everett or its Rucker founders.
“I just thought we were touring a cool historic mansion,” she said.
The couple saw the house on a Sunday and made an offer on Monday. They own property management and investment companies, but this was for their residence.
“This house comes on the market about once in a lifetime,” Bob said.
It was the first house Brenda owned. “This is my starter home,” she said.
The Kerrs spent the next 23 years fixing it up. It was a combination of DIY and calling in the experts.
“Bob is really handy. To own a house like this you have to be very handy,” she said. “Bob just says, ‘Brenda, you can do it.’”
It’s a lot of space to clean, as well. Housekeepers come twice a month.
“Brenda cleans before the cleaners come,” Bob said.
How many rooms are there?
“I’ve never counted,” Brenda said.
They hosted receptions and house tours. Holiday parties had nine Christmas trees. A shindig had 400 guests.
It might have got a little crowded, Bob said.
The Rucker legacy
The mansion has mystery — tales of hauntings and hidden rooms.
Mostly, though, it has history.
The name Rucker is prominent in Everett, where a street, building and even a pyramid are named in honor of the family.
Bob and Brenda Kerr knew they were buying more than a place to live. It came with a name to uphold.
They named their dog Rucker. The miniature Pinscher lived in the mansion all of its 15 years.
They befriended Everett native Bill Rucker, grandson of Bethel Rucker.
Bill Rucker said that as a shy kid growing up in blue-collar Everett in the 1940s and ’50s, he was embarrassed when classmates assumed he lived in Rucker Mansion.
He’d never been inside it until a few years ago.
“The Kerrs graciously invited my family for a tour,” Bill Rucker said. “My wife and kids were in awe of the home.”
They struck up a friendship. He was invited back.
He praised the couple’s labor and sense of style.
“It’s like a marvelous and unique work of architecture and art,” he said.
Rucker Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
“If there was a house the city embraced as an embodiment of gracious living, it was the Rucker Mansion,” David Dilgard, a history specialist at the Everett Public Library, told The Herald in 2005. “It always seemed to hold the imagination of the city.”
The Rucker reno
It’s like stepping back into the early 1900s.
Modern appliances and TVs hide behind cabinetry.
Bob and Brenda Kerr spent two decades renovating the home to its era.
“The only thing that was in the house when we moved in was the law library,” Bob said. “We looked all over the world for furnishings that would fit the period.”
“All furniture has been curated with this house,” she said.
Every light fixture except the original in the entryway was replaced.
Attention to detail was important, right down to a sliver of glass.
“The windows came from Venice — they’re beveled zinc,” Bob said. “It’s spectacular when you see how the sun shines through these windows. It’s like a crystal chandelier how it reflects the light.”
The glass artisan who helped repair a window told him: “You know, the windows in your house are worth more than my house.”
The Kerrs hand-cut and placed mosaic tiles in the catering kitchen downstairs to complement existing flooring, a three-month project.
“There are 46 feet of it,” Brenda said. “I watched a lot of HGTV to pass the time.”
She sewed the fabric for the parlor walls, reception room and the master bedroom.
“You have to sew an entire wall at a time,” she said.
He devised a way to cover the walls with leather in the smoking room, with 2,500 individual nail heads. Brenda’s mom came from Colorado to help out on that project and Venetian plaster another room.
The main kitchen remodel took a year and a half.
“We had Thanksgiving out of a toaster oven,” Brenda said. “With turkey, dressing, pies, everything.”
The floor is the same marble that thousands of people long admired on the walls of the Seattle Opera House. A depiction of the mansion cut in granite that took a Russian artist three months hangs above the French Lacanche cooking range. The fridge doors match the cabinets.
A pullout pet dish drawer in the kitchen is engraved with “Rucker” after their dearly departed dog. Their other dog, Max, doesn’t have a personalized dish.
The elevator is behind a door on every floor, handy when you don’t want to take the stairs. There are 53 steps from bottom to top.
In the basement is a vintage needle shower believed to have healing abilities when installed.
“It’s kind of like a car wash. You got water coming at you from every angle,” Bob said. “This particular faucet says ‘liver’ on it because in the Victorian days it was thought massaging your liver or kidney was a very healthy thing.”
They step inside from time to time but didn’t invite us to freshen up.
The 4,300-square-foot carriage house, which was not on the tour, has minimal changes and multiple uses. The four horse stalls are still there, though you can’t keep horses there these days.
“You can envision how the space was used,” Brenda said.
For about 10 years, the Kerrs used part of the carriage house to make Rucker Mansion private-label wine. They hid a wine bottle, with a note instead of wine, in a mansion wall as a time capsule to be found by future renovators.
Where is a secret. Like the hidden room that has never been found.
The Rucker future
Despite the countless hours devoted to the mansion and running a company, Bob and Brenda Kerr made time to play.
They snow ski, scuba dive, golf and go off-roading. She rows and does triathlons.
“We stay in shape so we have energy to work on this house,” she said.
They traveled the globe by air and water. They took a three-month Southern Hemisphere cruise in 2019 and have the northern cruise planned for 2022.
The rainy months are spent in their home in Arizona.
The mansion doesn’t sit empty when they are away. Talk about a dream gig for a caretaker. Kids are welcome.
“Almost all our house sitters have had kids,” Brenda said.
The decision to move came after finishing the last major project, the master bathroom that’s the size of a bedroom.
The floors are heated Carrarra marble slabs with matching veining patterns on the marble walls.
“The marble weighs about 60 pounds per square foot. It took about eight guys bringing the marble up the stairs,” Bob said.
Behind a cabinet door is a TV to watch while soaking in the elegant claw-foot bathtub, the same brand as in the modern-day White House. It’s not the super-sized model as the tub that President William Howard Taft was rumored to get stuck in and, as lore has it, needed six strong men or butter to get released.
There are chandeliers everywhere, even in the water closet.
With their to-do list on this house done, the Kerrs are ready for their next project.
They call living in the Rucker Mansion a “privilege.”
“We kind of pinch ourselves and say, ‘How did we end up here?’ ” Bob said. “We hope the next steward will be as honoring to the property as we have tried to be.”
“We feel like we are caretakers and we wanted to leave it the best we could,” Brenda said. “It’s a good time for us, a good time for the market and hopefully a good time for another family.”
“It’s just wrong for it not to be enjoyed,” he said.
Can you afford it?
Cost per square foot: $351
With 20% down (roughly $700,000) at 3% interest over 30 years, the monthly payment is about $11,800.
That doesn’t include taxes or insurance.
The property taxes for 2020 are $21,830.
Andrea Brown: email@example.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.