Beginning at a point on the Westerly line of Park Street in the City of Walla Walla, Washington, which point is 80 feet Southerly, measured along said Westerly line of park Street, from the point of its intersection with the Southerly line of Whitman Street in said City; thence Westerly and parallel to the Southerly line of Whitman Street, a distance of 100 feet to a point in the Westerly line of Lot 2 in Block 19 of Roberts’ Addition to the City of Walla Walla, according to the official plat thereof of record in the office of the Auditor of said County of Walla Walla; thence Southerly and along the Westerly line of said Lot 2 a distance of 61 feet to the Northerly line of the alley in said Block 19; thence Easterly and along the Northerly line of said alley, a distance of 100 feet to a point on the Westerly line of Park Street; thence northerly and along the Westerly line of Park Street a distance of 61 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 June 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. 512 S. Park is located in Block 19 of Roberts’ Addition, named for A.B. Roberts, who came to Walla Walla from Portland in 1859. He claimed a large section of land south of Main St. where besides developing that part of town into blocks and lots, he raised fruit trees, having brought the first grafted fruit trees with him from Portland.
Roberts was part of the very active real estate buying, selling and developing that occurred as Walla Walla grew in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Names of individuals who were part of this are now names of Walla Walla streets, downtown buildings, schools, etc. However, on October 3, 1873, there was a Sheriff’s Sale “at the Courthouse Door” of lots 1,2,3,4 of Block 19 and several other properties owned by Roberts, conducted by Burrell M. Griffin, Sheriff of Walla Walla County and Special Master in Chancery of the District Court of the First Judicial District of Washington Territory. The buyers were brothers Frank W. Paine and John G. Paine and Miles C. Moore, the last Territorial Governor. The price covered Roberts’ debt of $1178.39 in gold coin. The Paines and Moore then sold lots 1,2,3 and 4 of Block 19 to Francis Denny on March 28, 1880. On December 4, 1882 Francis and Priscilla Denny sold lots 1,2,3 and 4 to Margaret Stewart and Daniel Stewart for $2700. The Stewarts lived at 334 Whitman in a large house situated on Lot 1, beginning in 1883. Daniel Stewart, who died in 1906, is listed as postmaster in the 1889 City Directory and as a farmer in the 1893-94 Directory. On the 1905 Fire Map, a large barn is evident on Lot 2 next to the alley, where the home at 512 S. Park is today. The fire map also indicated that 334 Whitman had become “furnished rooms,” and the Stewarts are no longer listed as living there in the city directories.
Numerous Stewarts deeded lots 1 and 2 and other WW properties to Crassus Stewart, executor of Daniel Stewart’s estate, for $1500 in 1906. That same package plus lands in King and Pierce County was deeded by Crassus Stewart to Kate Stewart Nixon for $3212.50 on August 16, 1907.
Kate S. Nixon died in 1919 and her estate was handled by her son, Edward Stewart Nixon, who sold it Lot 2 on October 19, 1928 to Howard and Grace Ransom for an unstated amount. There was no building permit for a structure on this lot in any of the available records in the Whitman Archives except for a garage remodel in 1929. Building records appear to be intact from September 1907. The 1929-30 City Directory lists the Ransoms as residing at 512 S. Park. That is the first residential entry for this address. Ransom was the manager of the Puritan Creamery and Walla Walla Dairymen’s Association. On March 25, 1931 the Ransoms sold the house to James A. Cavanaugh and Saloma F. Cavanaugh for an unstated amount. The Cavanaughs never lived at 512 S. Park; they used it as a rental. In the 1937 City Directory Francis (Frank) A. and Elizabeth Phillips began their long-term rental and eventual purchase of the house in December of 1945 from the Cavanaughs. Frank Phillips had various occupations such as Watchman for United Union Breweries, a bottler, and carpenter. The four Phillips daughters inherited the house upon their parents’ deaths in the 1980’s and on January 10, 1984 they deeded the house to James Michael Lentz, son of Louise Phillips Lentz, one of the four sisters. James Lentz, who was disabled by an accident, lived there until his death on July 10, 2005. 512 S. Park was purchased by Lloyd T. McKinlay and Ann P. Bates on August 20, 2005. The house is valued at $92,500.
Construction of the house
Walla Walla County Assessor records give 1891 as the construction date for the current house at 512 S. Park. The architectural features of the house, including the decorative second story shingles, used from the 1880’s until about 1910, the ornate front porch posts, similar to the 1895 house on the south corner of the same block, and the simple molding and circular corner blocks over the interior doors, not used much after 1900, indicate that it could be of the 1891 vintage. However, it does not appear on the fire maps of 1899 and 1905 which are on microfilm in Penrose Library. Building permits began to be regularly recorded in September 1907. The absence of any building permit suggests the house was built before September 1907, but after the fire map of 1905 was published. Title to the property continued to be held by the Stewart family until 1928 together with 334 Whitman, which may explain why there was no separate directory listing for this address prior to the 1929-30 directory. All of this evidence leads to the conclusion that the home at 512 S. Park was constructed circa 1906.
Resources for this research
Pioneer Title Company records
Whitman College Northwest Archives
City Directories located in the Walla Walla Public Library and Whitman Northwest Archives
Penrose Library Sanborn Fire Maps on microfilm
Interview with Louise Phillips Lentz
Walla Walla County Assessor’s Office records
Katherine Weingart Walla Walla 2020 Research Service P.O. Box 1222, Walla Walla WA 99362 September 14, 2005