The Johnson Point mansion started as a summer getaway for the family of the retail giant in Seattle. Now it is probably the most reasonably priced, multi-million dollar home on Puget Sound. While the real estate market in western Washington heats up to a record level, the price of this unique and historic home continues to drop.
Since Charles Brack bought the house on Johnson Point in 1990, he spent five years and $8 million, transforming it from a spacious, but sleepy, single-family home into probably the most unique house in the region.
Brack, a television executive from Southern California, passed away in 2010. Brack’s widow, Joyce, passed away earlier this summer.
Brack covered the original wood siding of the house with French limestone, imported Czech crystal chandeliers and expanded the footprint of the building by adding a large, wrap-around stone deck. You can still see the original house, which had been built in phases in the early 1900s and consisted originally of a large art gallery (now the northern section of the house) and a 1940s era family home (the southern wing).
Since its listing in 2011 after Calvin Brack’s death, the house has been listed and unlisted four times with the price dropping by more than half. The most recent listing in August priced the house at $2.85 million.
The story of the house, however, started 100 years before the Brack family put the house up for sale.
Gamma Poncin originally bought 230 acres at the tip of Johnson Point in 1906. Poncin had made his money in Seattle, selling dry goods in the post Alaska gold rush and Great Seattle Fire era.
Finishing the main house, along with a gallery, boathouse, guesthouses and a greenhouse around 1911, Poncin began spending summers on Johnson Point. He would usually bring his family and business associates down by boat from Seattle for a visit or weekend.
It was the European style gallery, in which Poncin kept his extensive art collection, that would later become the central hub onto which the extensive family home was built and that Brack used to apply his particular architectural tastes during renovations.
In a similar turn of events to the death of Calvin Brack recently, Poncin’s death in 1922 meant that the structures and estate were left empty for years. The site fell into disrepair until the late 1920s when the founders of the Alderbrook Resort on Hood Canal bought the property.
They opened the Beach Beach Resort in 1929, just in time for the Great Depression to pull the rug out from under them. The Beach Beach Resort lasted just over a year before the Poncin family took back the estate due to non-payment.
Vincent D. Miller bought the entire estate in 1935 and immediately implemented a plan that had been part of the failed 1920s resort: to sell of most of the 230 acre estate and subdivide it into smaller, waterfront lots. The current neighborhood around the Johnson Point Mansion owes its existence to this decision by Miller.
But, the original Poncin house at the center of the growing neighborhood stayed empty for five more years until a doctor on a house call happened by. Dr. Ralph Brown had lived in Olympia for only a few weeks with his wife Lillian when they decided to buy the main Poncin house (minus most of its original real estate). The old European-style gallery eventually became the centerpiece of the Brown house on Johnson Point, onto which they added a two-story residence.
It is ironic that a doctor took up residence on Johnson Point in the Poncin house. Johnson Point itself is named for J.R. Johnson, a doctor who practiced medicine out of a cabin on the point for many years. Historic records indicate that he was, in fact, a doctor, but the seriousness of his practice can easily be disputed. Ezra Meeker, an earlier historian and businessman from Puyallup, implied that he was more of a bartender than doctor. Dr. Brown passed away in 1984 prior to the purchase by the Bracks.
The stone gallery and the much simpler, two-story addition would be the palette on which the most recent owner would expand and create the house as it is now.
The current home’s impressive facade houses 13,334 square feet including the main gallery, so integral to the home’s past. Four bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a theater, gym, game room and multiple living spaces fill the spacious interior. Of the original 230 acres, only 1.89 remain with the home, although the property boasts 500 linear feet of beachfront with sandy beaches and bulkheads supporting grassy lawns and an expansive greenhouse.
Those interested in peeking inside the Johnson Point mansion (or who are looking to own an estate with nearly a century of local history) can view the home’s listing online, complete with a video tour, or contact the agent for a viewing.