History of 1970 Whitman Street, Walla Walla, WA

1970_Whitman

Property Details

Legal Description: Lot 5, Block 1, of First Addition to East Walla Walla

Title and Occupant History

Washington Territory was created in 1853. In 1854, the new legislature created Walla Walla County that stretched from the crest of the Cascade Mountains to the crest of the Rocky Mountains in the present states of Washington, Idaho and Montana. In 1855, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens held a council on the banks of Mill Creek at the present site of Walla Walla with representatives of regional Indian tribes to purchase land from them. The Yakamas, Cayuses and Walla Wallas were dissatisfied with the treaties and war followed. Missionaries, former French-Canadian employees of the Hudson Bay Company trading post at Wallula, and soldiers at the military Fort Walla Walla were the primary European occupants of the area prior to 1859, when it was opened for settlement. The U. S. Government, in a treaty signed on June 9, 1855 in Walla Walla and ratified on March 8, 1859 by President James Buchanan, acquired all the land in the Walla Walla area from the Cayuse and Walla Walla Indian tribes.

Walla Walla was originally laid out by County Surveyor H. H. Case in 1859, even before its formal incorporation as a city in 1862, as a one-quarter mile square with its eastern side centered on the point where Main Street crossed Mill Creek (at roughly the point where it does now). The City of Walla Walla received a Trustee Town site from the U. S. Government that consisted of 80 acres issued on July 20, 1869 by the Vancouver, W. T. District Land Office.

The house at 1970 Whitman Street is one of two extant early residences built east of School Avenue shortly after the turn of the 20th century. At that time, Whitman Street extended east only to School Avenue; beyond that point it was designated as “County Road,” which presumably meant not much more than a path for accessing fields and pastures. For many years thereafter, it remained outside the city limits of Walla Walla, where addresses consisted of such vague examples as, “1 mi se city limits,” or “School Av RFD 6,” etc. The land on which the house at 1970 Whitman Street was built was platted and filed as First Addition to East Walla Walla on March 14, 1907; yet it was several decades before addresses were designated by house numbers and street names.

7/31/1883, Right of Way, Edward and Sarah A. McDonnell, grantors; John Thoney and John Thoney, Jr., grantees; to run water from small creek or brook for irrigation; $1.

7/27/1887, Warranty Deed, Edward and Sarah A. McDonnell, grantors; Eugene A. Mills, grantee; commencing at quarter corner between Sections 22 and 23, Township 7, North of Range 36, East of the Willamette Meridian running thence North on the quarter section line 2.67 chains. Thence West at right angles 20 chains. Thence South right angles 11.75 chains. Thence East at right angles 20 chains. Thence North at right angles 8.93 chains to place of beginning, containing 23 and 34/00 acres in Sections 22 and 27 excepting and reserving a certain easement or right to convey water across the same owned or claimed by John Thoney and also conveying any right which the parties of the first part have to take water from the stream running through the land of the parties of the first part and conduct the same to the above described premises for irrigation, the same to be taken from the West branch of the Yellow Hawk Creek just North of the Russell Creek road; $2,334.

4/22/1888, Warranty Deed for the above tract, Frank B. and Eugenia A. Mills, grantors; Henry Kelling and H. S. Blandford, grantees; $4,500.

11/23/1891, Warranty Deed for the above tract, Henry Kelling, a bachelor, and H. S. Blandford, a bachelor, grantors; Archer S. Bowles, grantee; $1.

12/3/1891, Warranty Deed for the above tract, Archer S. and Sarah J. Bowles, grantors; William Rowe, grantee; $1,250.

6/22/1892, Warranty Deed for the above tract, Archer S. and Sarah J. Bowles, grantors; A. Jay Anderson, Jr., grantee; $2,500.

10/4/1892, Warranty Deed for the above tract, Jay and Lora W. Anderson, grantors; Ambrosina Tachi, grantee; $2,000.

4/26/1898, Deed for the above tract, W. J. Scott and Charles W. Scott, only heirs of William Rowe, deceased, grantors; Mary J. Robison, grantee; $1.

1/12/1900, Warranty Deed for “an undivided one-half interest” in the above tract; also a one-half interest in other property not in the above tract, Mary J. and James L. Robison, grantors; Nathaniel Webb, grantee; $900.

10/18/1902, Warranty Deed for the above tract; also a one-half interest in property in Section 27, Township 7 North, Range 37, Nathaniel and Eliza J. Webb, grantors; Mary J. Robison, grantee; $1,200.

10/21/1902, Deed, W. J. Scott and Charles W. Scott, only heirs of William Rowe, deceased, grantors; Mary J. Robison, grantee; Deed to correct error made in property description in Deed of 4/26/1898; $1.

11/1/1902, Warranty Deed for the above tract, Mary J. and J. L. Robison, grantors; P. S. Witt, grantee; $4,000.

1/18/1907, Warranty Deed for a portion of the above tract, as follows: Commencing at a point 893 chains South of the Northeast corner of the Northwest quarter of Section 27, in Township 7 North, of Range 36 East of the Willamette Meridian, and running thence West 20 chains; thence at right angles North 7.05 chains; thence at right angles East 20 chains; thence at right angles South 7.05 chains to the point of beginning, excepting and reserving therefrom a certain easement and right of way to convey water across the same, owned by John Thoney, P. S. and Donna L. Witt, grantors; C. A. Beck, grantee; $2,000.

8/6/1907, Water Deed, Pasco Power and Water Company; perpetual right to use water from main canal (location not specified on Deed) for irrigation, $10.

12/20/1911, Indenture, C. A. and Mary N. Beck, grantors; Don F. Creswell, grantee; Lots 1-10, 12 and 13, Block 1; Lots 3, 4, 7 and 8, Block 2; Lots 1-3, 5-7, 10-13, 16, 17, 19-22 and the West half of 23, Block 4; plus other lots too numerous to list; “for dwelling houses of not less than $1,500.”

5/11/1912, Affidavit, Edward C. Mills certifying the identity of C. A. Beck as the person in the Deed filed 6/9/1905.

3/26/1923, Statutory Warranty Deed, Don F. and Eva A. Creswell, grantors; Ida H. Payne, a widow, grantee; Lots 1-3, 5-7, 10-13, 16 and 17, Block 4; Lots 1-10, 12 and 13, Block 1; $1 and other valuable considerations.

3/27/1923, Affidavit, S. P. Maxson, testifying to establish legal heirs of P. S. Witt, deceased.

5/10/1935, Warranty Deed for Lot 5, Block 1, Ida H. Payne, a widow, grantor; Earl and Elida Jefferis, grantees; $10 and other valuable considerations.

4/16/1946, Warranty Deed for the above lot, Earl and Elida Jefferis, grantors; Dewey Ernest Sherwood, grantee; $10 and other valuable considerations.

3/29/1954, Seller’s Assignment of Contract and Deed, Dewey Ernest Sherwood, a bachelor, grantor; Walla Walla Federal Savings & Loan Association, grantee.

3/30/1954, Release of Mortgage, First Federal Savings & Loan Association of Walla Walla, grantor; Dewey Ernest Sherwood, a single man, grantee.

[date unk.], Lis Pendens, Walla Walla Federal Savings & Loan Association vs. George E. Sherwood, Cascade Industrial Loan Company and others. (There was only one page in the file; thus the date cannot be established.)

10/16/1964, Deed for the above lot, Walla Walla Federal Savings & Loan Association, grantor; George E. and Esther E. Sherwood, grantees; $1.

10/16/1964, Assignment of Real and Personal Property, surviving children of Esther Emelia Sherwood to George E. Sherwood all interest in a real estate contract dated 3/11/1954 between Dewey Ernest Sherwood, a bachelor, seller and George E. and Esther E. Sherwood.

10/16/1964, Statutory Warranty Deed for the above lot, Surety Finance Company of Yakima, grantor; George E. Sherwood in his separate capacity; $10.

11/24/1967, Warranty Deed for the above lot, Surety Finance Company of Yakima, grantor; George E Sherwood in his separate capacity; $10.

11/26/1971, Quit Claim Deed for the above lot, George E. and Mary E. Sherwood, grantors; John R. and Gail S. Edwards, grantees.

6/19/1972, Statutory Warranty Deed for the above lot, John R. and Gail S. Edwards, grantors; Wayne Lee and Virginia P. Owen, grantees; $10 and other valuable considerations. (John R. Edwards was an accountant with Niemi, Holland & Scott and resided at 2002 Delmont Street.)

Construction of Building

The Walla Walla County Assessor’s Office lists the year of construction for the house at 1970 Whitman Street as 1906. While it is fairly well accepted that the Assessor’s date is frequently a “guesstimate,” in this case their choice may be very close; 1907 is the year the property was platted and is therefore most likely the year the house was constructed by Carl A. and Mary N. Beck.

Due to the fact that this house was situated outside the Walla Walla city limits for many decades, it was not possible to locate records pertaining to its construction. Only one of the property owners, Carl A. Beck, listed in City Directories in the early years of the 20th century as a farmer, and his wife Mary N. Beck, had varying addresses over the years that might have referred to this house. Other owners were eliminated by virtue of having specific residence addresses within the city limits. One other owner, Philander S. Witt, a farmer, and his wife Mary, were listed in the 1902 City Directory as having residence in Sections 29, 30 and 32, Township 7; the township is correct, but the sections do not match those of 1970 Whitman.

(For interest only, the lithograph of the farm of Philander S. Witt is illustrated below to show how undeveloped this part of Walla Walla was. [Recall that in January 1902, the Witts sold the property to the Becks on which 1970 Whitman Street is located.] As the caption for the lithograph notes that this was Washington Territory, the illustration would pre-date the assumed construction of 1970 Whitman Street by over a decade.)

Farm of Philander and Mary Witt, thought to be on Pleasant Street west of School Avenue.

Farm of Philander and Mary Witt, thought to be on Pleasant Street west of School Avenue.

Farm of Philander and Mary Witt, thought to be on Pleasant Street west of School Avenue.

Carl A. Beck was born in 1863 and died in Walla Walla on July 21, 1937. He owned a vast amount of undeveloped land in the First Addition of East Walla Walla, in addition to the acreage where the house at 1970 Whitman is located. This included land both east and west of School Avenue and south of what is now Loubeck Street, as well as land northeast of what is now Whitman Street (at that time referred to as County Road) and Gladys Street. In that in 1911 he subdivided part of his acreage into individual lots east of School Avenue between Pleasant Street and the then-County Road, he may have used this residence to show prospective purchasers what could be built on one of the lots. In 1907, the City Directory listed Mr. Beck as residing at “ea end Div.” The following year, he was listed at “1 mi se city limits.” In the 1910-11 City Directory, his residence was denoted as “es School av s Pleasant,” and in 1911-12 his address was given as “es School Ave nr Pleasant,” where he continued to be listed into the 1920s.

Mr. Beck himself was a man of sundry careers. Initially listed in Walla Walla City Directories as a farmer, in 1910 his employment was noted to be “real estate.” In the 1915 Directory, he was listed as “mgr Farmer’s General Trading Co.” and in the 1916-17 Directory as “clerk, C. A. Beck Groceries,” located at 8 West Alder Street. To further spin the web of haziness, the actual owner of the grocery was listed in City Directories as Charles A. Beck.

City Directory addresses for Carl A. Beck in the 1930s noted, “see Charles A. Beck,” and addresses for Charles A. Beck were consistently given as “School Av” followed by a RFD number. Be that as it may, none of the various owners of the lot on which 1970 Whitman Street is located appear to have resided in that house until some years after Mr. Beck’s death. Sadly, this synopsis of the early history of 1970 Whitman Street is pure speculation, and it may never be determined with total accuracy exactly who built this house, the year of construction, and precisely which of its owners actually lived there.

The house itself is also difficult to analyze with certitude due to numerous changes that have been made to its exterior over the years. There are no existing photos that show it as it appeared originally. It is a relatively simple house architecturally, reflecting a rural farm style. The front faces School Avenue, and always has according to the current owners, based on the arrangement of interior spaces and the location of the stairs to the second story. It displays a fore-and-aft gable roof with intersecting side gables. The foundation is fieldstone. An expansive covered porch extends across the west façade and partially wraps around the south side. The porch roof has a low-rise pediment at the front steps and a second pediment on the south side, above a porte-cochère or carport that is a later addition. These pediments, as well as the fore and aft gable peaks, display jigsaw-cut fancy scrollwork, reminiscent of della Robbia plaster ornament; this is the only ornament on the house. Due to the existence of a pediment on the south side of the house, it might be surmised that the porch originally continued east along that side of the house and was later partially enclosed. The original porch supports and balustrade (assuming there was a balustrade) were removed prior to 1972 when the current owners purchased the house, and replaced with wrought iron supports. The wrought iron supports for the front porch have been removed and replaced by the current owners with turned posts, more harmonious to the original structure, and they plan also to remove the wrought iron carport supports. The existing aluminum siding was installed prior to 1972, and many of the windows no longer display their original sash.

When the current owners purchased the house in 1972, the address was listed as 1947 Amelia Street. At that time, Whitman Street’s eastern termination was at School Avenue; east of School Avenue it was still an undeveloped county road. The house was surrounded by pastures to the north and east. The houses that now line Whitman Street east of School Avenue were not constructed until the 1970s. In 1978, addresses on this extension of Whitman Street terminated at number 1873. By 1980 new addresses continued up to number 1940. In 1987, the U. S. Postal Service assigned the address of 1970 Whitman Street, deleting 1947 Amelia Street, presumably because the house is much closer to Whitman than Amelia, even though the property continues to extend south to Amelia Street.

1970 Whitman Street was still surrounded by pastures in the early 1970s. Photo taken from the Amelia Street side looking east.

1970 Whitman Street was still surrounded by pastures in the early 1970s. Photo taken from the Amelia Street side looking east.

 

References

  • Whitman Archives
  • Walla Walla City Directories
  • Standard Atlas of Walla Walla County, Washington including a Plat Book of the    Villages, Cities and Townships, Geo. E. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1909
  • findagrave.com
  • krausweb.com (Witt family photos)

Stephen Wilen