The Westerly Half of Lot 2 in Block 28 of Roberts’ Addition to the City of Walla Walla, as per plat thereof recorded in Volume A of Plats at page 21, records of Walla Walla County, more particularly described as follows: Beginning at the Northwesterly corner of Lot 2 in Block 28 of Robert’s Addition to the City of Walla Walla, as per plat thereof recorded in Volume A of Plats at page 21, records of Walla Walla County, and running thence Northeasterly along the Northwesterly line of said Lot, 60 feet; thence Southeasterly, parallel to the Southwesterly line of said Lot, 240 feet to a point in the Southeasterly line of said Lot; thence Southwesterly, along said Southeasterly line, 60 feet to the Southwesterly corner of said Lot; thence Northwesterly, along the Southwesterly line of said Lot, 240 feet to the point of beginning.
The land that comprises the City of Walla Walla was acquired from the Cayuse and Walla Walla Indian tribes by the U.S. Government in a treaty signed on July 9, 1855 in Walla Walla and ratified on March 8, 1859 by President James Buchanan. Walla Walla was originally laid out by surveyor H.H.Chase in 1859, even before its formal incorporation as a city in 1862, as a one-quarter mile square oriented N-S, E-W with its eastern side centered on the point where Main Street crossed Mill Creek (at roughly the point where it does now). To this original area, additional parcels were annexed from time to time, usually with the name of the land owner of record at the time the additions were made. 136 E. Birch is in Roberts’ Addition, so named for A.B. Roberts, who came to Walla Walla from Portland in 1859 and claimed a large section of land south of Main St., where among things, he raised fruit trees, having brought the first grafted fruit trees to this area.
There were numerous transactions regarding this land before any dwelling was built. Some seem to be mortgages while others were those who actually bought the property. It was interesting to see how many names of significant early Walla Wallans were involved in the considerable real estate wheeling and dealing that occurred in the early years of this town. The first recorded transaction involving 136 E. Birch was a 20 year lease from A.B. Roberts to William A. Snider and George H. Reed on August 30, 1866 for $150 entitling them to farm his land which extended from First St. along Birch St. incorporating the lot that 136 E. Birch sits on. Just two years later, on September 30, 1868, Snider and Reed bought the above property with an additional few feet for a stated consideration of $20 from Roberts. The deed for this transaction also mentions that a block of marble buried in the ground and inscribed “S & R, NW Corner” must mark the corner of First and Birch, indicating that Snider and Reed owned the property. On December 10, 1869 a Quit Claim Deed was filed by George H. Reed and Alida Reed for $1500 to W.A. Snider and Margaret E. Snider for the property. On November 7, 1870 the Sniders sold “the lot of land sold by A.B. Roberts and wife to W.A. Snyder and G.H. Reed” to S.M. Wait and Mary Wait for $2000. On June 19, 1871 the Waits sold this original property to Sigmund Schwabacher for $2500. Schwabacher and his brothers established one of the first department stores (1861-1909) in Walla Walla at the location that is now AmericanWest Bank. The term “homestead” was on the margin of this particular document but there was no additional information about that. T.P. Denny, Elizabeth Denny, and Nathaniel Denny along with Hollen Parker and Laura B. Parker bought a large parcel that included this land, lots on Catherine, as well as a large parcel of rural land. This required what appears to have been a mortgage of $13,264.86 from John F. Boyer, of the Baker Boyer Bank, on March 15, 1875. T.P. Denny is listed as living at 202 E. Birch in the 1881 City Directory, and as having provided a mortgage of $832 for A.C. Davis on February 6, 1882 for Lot 2, Block 28 “being 120 feet front on and extending back 400 feet from Birch St.” This entry is significant because it is the first mention of Lot 2, Block 28 although it is not the size of the current lot. The next transaction was a sale by Elizabeth Denny, now a widow, on February 23, 1888 for $400, to John B. Allen, who was listed in the 1883 City Directory as a lawyer and later U.S. Senator, residing at 12 Sumach St. The previous property description is used with the addition of “to the place of beginning being the premises known as the Coston Lot, situated between First and Catherine.” That site was probably the location of the Fischer School of Music, the private music school of Edgar S. Fischer, the first conductor of the Walla Walla Symphony. The school was located on the corner of Catherine and Birch. On October 16, 1889 John B. Allen and Cecelia Allen sold the property to Albert and Celia Rosenow for $3600. In spite of this sum, there was no evidence of any structure on the current lot on the 1894 Sanborn Fire Map. It would appear that the 136 E. Birch lot was only a part of the larger property that was involved in this transaction.
On May 11, 1900 Albert Rosenow and Celia Rosenow sold the property, still larger than the current lot, to Rosalie Dusenbery, widow of Hirsch Dusenbery, who had had a grain, wool, dry goods, carpet and shoe business at 5-7 Main St. On December 13, 1902 for a stated consideration of $1, a quit claim deed was filed by Sigmund and Rose Schwabacher to Rosalie Dusenbery for the westerly half of lot 2, block 28 of Roberts Addition, today’s dimensions. There were no residential listings for either the Rosenows or the Dusenberys in relevant City Directories. On December 18, 1902 Rosalie Dusenbery sold the property to Victor Hunziker and Annetta Blanche Hunziker for $1300. In the 1902 City Directory Victor Hunziker is living at 504 E. Rose and his occupation is listed as “watches, clocks, and jewelry at Ludwigs and Hunziker, 111 Main.” Ludwigs Jewelry was one of the first and oldest continuing jewelry stores in Walla Walla. There was no City Directory in 1903 but the 1904 City Directory lists the Hunziker address as 136 E. Birch, indicating that they had built the house probably in 1903. The 1905 Sanborn Firemap shows the current house. Personal property values were listed for Hunziker in subsequent City Directories showing them at this address, and varied from $150 in 1916-17 to a high of $660 in 1915. On August 14, 1920 the Hunzikers sold 136 E. Birch to Lewis and Anna Neace for a stated consideration of $20. The 1921-22 City Directory listed the Neace’s assessed value of personal property at this address at $3580. Lewis Neace died on July 2, 1929. Anna then married J.M. Eubanks, who died in 1949. Anna Eubanks died in 1955, and was shown at this address until her death. The house was vacant in 1956 but in 1957 Dr. Don Platner, Physician and Orthopedic Surgeon, opened his office at 136 E. Birch which he occupied until 1979. He and his wives Charlotte Platner and later Joyce D. Platner did not live there, however. Their address in the 1957 City Directory was Rt. 3, Box 133, Milton-Freewater. Thus began the use of this house as a medical office and then eventually as Planned Parenthood of Walla Walla. In 1979 and 1980 the house was empty according to City Directories although in 1979 Dr. Robert Norrbohm bought the house for $56,000 through a contractual arrangement with Hal Oliver, wheat farmer and president of Homeland Properties. On July 31, 1980 a contract for deed between Hal Oliver and Planned Parenthood of Walla Walla was completed, thanks to the estate of Reena J. Evans which provided a sizeable down payment. Planned Parenthood bought the house for $70,000 in August of 1980. This was the site of Planned Parenthood for 20 years before they relocated to 828 S. First in Walla Walla. On October 19, 2001 Bill and Marie-France Wiggins bought 136 E. Birch for $90,000 and began the ambitious process of reconverting it to a single-family dwelling. They are to be commended for their preservation efforts because this is the oldest remaining house on this portion of Birch St.
Construction of the House:
There are two dates previously given for the construction of 136 E. Birch: County Assessor records give 1901 as the building date and Land Title Co.of Walla Walla provided the Wiggins with the date of 1905. Neither of these dates appear to be correct. Because there are no building permits available for these early years, this researcher relied upon City Directories and the Sanborn Firemaps for evidence. The first listing for 136 E. Birch as a residence was for Victor and Annetta Hunziker in the 1904 City Directory. They are listed as residing at 504 E. Rose in 1902. There unfortunately was no City Directory available for 1903. No other names associated with the various transactions for 136 E. Birch are listed in City Directories in the early 1900’s, making the Hunzikers the probable builders of the house since they are listed in the 1904 City Directory at this address. The Sanborn Firemap of 1905 shows the present structure. This researcher concludes that the building date wa! s circa 1903.
Pioneer Title Company documents for this property
Sanborn Fire Maps
Walla Walla City Directories beginning in 1880
Penrose Library Northwest Archives, Whitman College
Bennett, Robert A. Walla Walla: Portrait of a Western Town, 1804-1899, Pioneer Press, 1980
Walla Walla: A Town Built to be a City, 1900-1919, Pioneer Press, 1982
Walla Walla County Assessor’s Office
Katherine Weingart Walla Walla 2020 Research Service P.O. Box 1222 Walla Walla WA 99362 February 2004