By Lisa Herrick
It is said that every home has a story. Recently seven of our community’s finest historic homes opened their doors to share their fascinating history as told through historic photos, on site docents and stories from current owners. The Bigelow House Preservation Association (BHPA) annually sponsors the Holiday Tour of Historic Homes in effort to share some of our community’s history.
David Goularte, current Board Member of the BHPA and owner of one of the tour’s historic homes proclaims, “This year’s tour featured houses once owned by some of the most prominent early Olympia families-The Talcotts, Bigelows, Inghams, Egberts, and of course, the Schmidts. There were also a wide variety of periods represented from smaller bungalows to a Colonial Revival large enough to have been used as a temporary Governor’s Mansion.”
The Egbert-Ingham House, owned by David and Ruthann Goularte was built in 1914 as a wedding gift for Dr. Curtis and Dana Egbert by her father, a wealthy manufacturer in Ohio. The Colonial Revival home celebrates 100 years this winter. “The house is a much loved home in Olympia and people are always delighted to visit it. We chose to have the house feel like a bygone era, a more elegant time. The first floor has remained totally intact. The original owners would immediately recognize their house. It is our hope that when our time in the Egbert-Ingham house ends, that we will be able to find another owner that will treasure and preserve the house as we have,” Goularte shares.
The tour also included the Schmidt House. Katie Hurley, Vice President of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation Board of Trustees and great-great-granddaughter of Leopold and Johanna Schmidt (founder of the Olympia Brewing Company) for whom the house was built in 1904 says, “The house and the grounds are so beautiful year-round, but I love to see it decorated for the holidays. The photos displayed in the house really give you a feel for what our community looked like back in the house’s early days.” According to Hurley the last Schmidt family to inhabit the home was her great uncle Skip Schmidt along with his wife Ruth and their 4 sons (from 1964-1974) prior to the Peter G. and Clara Schmidt Family residing in the home. Today the historic Schmidt House is maintained by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.
Additionally on the tour was the Bigelow House, which is one of the oldest surviving houses in Olympia and was home to the Bigelow family for nearly 140 years before being acquired in the 1990s by the nonprofit association. The house is a rare example of the Carpenter Gothic style architecture popular in rural America during the mid-1800s and is still surrounded by more than an acre of the family’s original land claim. The home displays original documents, artifacts, and furnishings representing 150 years of the family’s participation in important causes on the community, state and national levels. The Bigelows were pivotal figures in early Washington history and the struggle for women’s rights and public education.
The Bigelow and Schmidt Houses can be viewed at selected times throughout the year, while the other homes that were on tour this year are private residences. The private residences included the Luepke-Talcott House which is a foursquare Craftsman built in 1907. The house was a longtime home of the Noyes and Richard Talcott families. The Talcotts owned and operated a jewelry store in Olympia for over 100 years and designed the state seal of Washington. Another tour house related to the Talcott Family is the George and Addie Talcott House, built in 1924. It is an example of a ready-cut home from the Tumwater Lumber Mills Company. The Robert and Pearl Yantis House was built circa 1911 and was designed by Olympia Architect Samuel Ward in a signature Craftsman style. The Belsito-Worthington House was built by local attorney and home designer Trena Belsito Worthington in 1948 in a Georgian Revival style.
“These historic register properties are very important as they enable future generations to see accurate buildings from the past,” shares Goularte. “Each year the BHPA Board tries to concentrate on a different area of the city for the tour primarily from our list of historic homes. It is shocking how much housing stock has been lost in Olympia. We need to preserve what we can.”
Proceeds of the tour benefit the preservation and interpretation of the historic Bigelow House.