History of 636 Catherine Street, Walla Walla, WA


Property Description:

Lot 8 and 9 in Block “F” of Foster’s Addition to the City of Walla Walla, Washington, according to the official plat thereof of record in the office of the Auditor of Walla Walla County in Book “C” of Plats at page 43.

Title History:

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 and 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 named after the land owner of record at the time the additions were made.

All of the land in this area 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. On May 2, 1870 John Singleton, a farmer, obtained a patent for 160 acres under the May 20, 1862 Homestead Act from approximately Third Street on the west to Howard Street on the east and from Thorn Street on the north to Cherokee on the south, which included this property. John Singleton was a soldier at Fort Walla Walla who fought in the battle of Steptoe Butte. He was Irish and his wife followed him to Walla Walla where they bought the homestead claim of Captain E. D. Pierce, who was a part of the first party to discover gold in the Oro Fino district. John and Jane Singleton’s residence in the middle of their claim was near Maple Street. On January 9, 1880 John and Jane Singleton sold 6 parcels of this tract to Charles S. Boyer for $500. Charles Boyer worked for Chapman and Boyer and roomed at 428 Birch. On May 21, 1881 Charles S. and Amelia Boyer sold the same property to A. S. Nichols for $500. Dr. Nichols was a physician and surgeon who lived at 12 Sumach Street. On November 1, 1881 Ammi S. and Frederica Nichols sold “1 acre” (probably the same six parcels) to H. F. McCornack. On February 2, 1883 H. F. and Nellie McCornack sold these same 6 parcels to Maximilian Baumeister and Ira Small for $1000. Baumeister was the manager of Small’s Opera House at the southeast corner of Second and Alder and lived at 134 Dr. Newell Street. He also owned a wooden building on Main Street between Second and Third Streets which was built prior to 1872 and housed the offices for The Walla Walla Union, a newspaper created in 1869 by local Republicans in opposition to the rival Democratic paper, The Walla Walla Statesman. The building was replaced in 1889 by a brick building still located on the site. On April 30, 1883 Maximilian and Alvire Baumeister and Ira Small sold this parcel on Catherine Street to G. F. Dearborn for $1000. On July 2, 1892 George F. and Mary A. Dearborn sold this property to Samuel B. Sweeney for $2000. Sweeney was a grain dealer with an office in the Rees-Winans Building who lived at 315 Dr. Newell Street.

On November 16, 1896 Sweeney conveyed this property to First National Bank for $4000 which in turn sold it to Maud S. Foster on January 12, 1897 for $1200. Maud’s husband Frank was an owner of Kyger and Foster which had offices at 3 East Main Street. Daniel Kyger and Frank Foster had both been salesmen with “Johnson, R and W”, before they went into business together. They sold dry goods, ladies’ and gentlemen’s furnishings, boots and shoes. Frank also had acquired hundreds of acres of land in Oregon and Washington. In 1894 Frank had married Maud S. Straight, daughter of Zebulon K. Straight, owner of the Z.K. Straight Jewelers. Straight had married a widow Margaret Alexander who had a daughter Adella. Captain Straight opened his first jewelry story in 1870 in Dr. Day’s drug store at 6 E. Main. In 1876 he moved his thriving store to the south side of Main Street between Third and Fourth Streets. He served on the Walla Walla City Council from 1874-1889. He was elected to represent Walla Walla in the first state legislature in 1889. Frank and Maud Foster lived at “718” Catherine in 1898. Street numbers have changed over the years and this probably referred to the present house at 636. In 1898 William and Anna Davison owned and lived in the adjacent property at “720”, (now 704), Catherine. The 1900 city directory listed the Fosters as living at 636. The 1905 fire map listed this house as 801 and the next one to the south as 820. Clearly addresses were still in a state of flux. Frank died an untimely death on February 23, 1900. On May 29, 1905 Maud Foster filed a plat for Foster Addition which included the property between Thorn, Catherine, Locust and First Streets. Mrs. Foster lived at 636 Catherine through 1904 after which she moved to her parents’ home at 328 W. Poplar. Her mother was widowed by 1909. Margaret, Maud and her son Arthur lived together on Poplar Street until Margaret’s death in about 1918. On November 22, 1921 Maud’s son Arthur S. Foster quit claimed his interest in the Catherine Street property to his mother. In 1925-26 Arthur owned the Foster and Thomas Auto Company which was the Ford and Lincoln dealership and lived on Rural Delivery #1. In 1926 Arthur apparently moved outside of Walla Walla and Maud moved back to her home on Catherine Street. Her half sister, Adella, had married Edwin Reser and Maud frequently entertained the extended Reser family in her home. In 1940 she purchased the house next door at 704. She lived at 636 until her death on February 26, 1942, when her son inherited his mother’s house and the one next door. It is not known who lived in the house on Catherine Street between 1904 and 1926. There was no street index in city directories before 1931 so it is difficult to locate names of people who may have lived there. However, through oral history, it was possible to locate the fact that Miss Mary Thomas, principal of Sharpstein School, lived at 636 Catherine from 1929-1937. Carl and Mabel Livermore were also suggested as tenants in the 1920s. Mabel was listed in the 1918 and 1920 city directories as being a stenographer at Fosters Inc. who lived at 218 W. Chestnut in 1918 and at 217 Madison in 1920. There is no Livermore listing before 1918 or after 1920. In 1932 a Whitman instructor, Roger Folgate, also lived there. Maud died on February 26, 1942.

In 1946 Mrs. Violet R. Hughes lived at 636 and H. George and Beatrice Huettig lived in the apartment that was now designated 636 1/2. On July 6, 1948 Arthur Foster, a single man, sold the house to Blakely L. and Dorothy Bishop for $13,000. Bishop worked as a salesman for the Walla Walla Produce Company. In addition to the Bishops the residents of the house included Donald and Ann Skeen. Skeen was a Greyhound driver. R. W. and Maxine Hubbard lived in the apartment at 636 1/2. He worked for National Cash Register Company. On January 5, 1950 the Bishops sold this house to Frank R. and Mary F. Gustafson. Gustafson was office manager for Wades Clothing in 1949-50. He was an agent for Penn Mutual Life in 1951-52. He rented 636 1/2 to Robert and Hazel Petterson, a cook at Pete’s Alder Cafe. In 1953 Gustafson worked for Wainwright-Condon and rented the apartment to Clinton and Beverly Parker, a blacksmith. In 1954-55 Gustafson was the Secretary of FOE and the apartment was vacant. In 1956 Gustafson was an accountant with Jaymar Mills. He rented the apartment in 1957 to Fluke and June Frankson, who worked in food service at the Veterans Hospital. In 1958 Barry Neyman, a student, rented the apartment. The house and apartment were both vacant in 1959 prior to the sale of the house on December 3, 1959 to Ruth D. Anderson for $20,400. She was an LPN whose housekeeper was Miss Mary Jane Utesch. The two of them ran Anderson’s Boarding House accommodating 4-5 other persons until 1970. On August 30, 1970 she sold the house to Stephen M. and Colleen Portch. Stephen worked for Zaring Insurance. The Portchs  rented the apartment to a Walla Walla Community College exchange student, Medhi Shafee, in 1971. Apparently Miss Anderson and Miss Utesch also continued to lived there with the Portchs. (Mary Jane Utesch lived at 623 Catherine in 1994 .) The Portchs sold the house on October 13, 1977 to Jimmie L. and Karen M. Pridemore for $40,780.

The Pridemores rented to a Whitman student, Jim Edmunds, in 1978. The house was vacant until they sold it on March 23, 1981 to Donald E. and Sheila R. Wagner. There were several court cases until the sales contract was forfeited and canceled in 1983. On May 13, 1983 the Pridemores sold to Charles R. and Sharon K. Wood for $55,500. Charles was an electrician. They lived there until June 26, 1985 when they sold to Gary W. and Meryl E. Kanegis for $119,500. Meryl Kanegis lived there in 1986 and 1987. In 1988 and 1989 Terri Harding and Connie Beck, both employees of Frontier Federal, occupied the house. On August 16, 1988 Kanegis sold to Jon M. and Patricia A. Donovan for $107,500. Jon was an employee of Key Tech. In 1995-96 Graham Donovan also lived there. On December 1, 1997 the was a Boundary Line Adjustment for the west three feet to Charles F. McKhann IV and Patricia A. Schulte. On August 3, 1998 the Donovans sold to Michael E. and Pamela K. Bryan for a stated amount of $10.

Construction of the House:

The Walla Walla County Assessor records state this house was built in 1898. No building permits are available for this time. Since the Fosters purchased the property in January of 1887 and are listed in the 1898 city directory as living on Catherine Street it is reasonable to assume the house was constructed sometime during 1897.


Andres, Penny, Walla Walla Her Historic Homes, 1991.

Bennett, Robert A., Walla Walla Portrait of a Western Town 1804-1899, Pioneer Press, Walla Walla, 1980.

Bennett, Robert A., Walla Walla A Town Built to be a City 1900-1919, Pioneer Press,  Walla Walla, 1982.

Building Permits: Whitman College Penrose Library Archives, Larry Dodd, Archivist

Lyman, Professor W.D., An Illustrated History of Walla Walla County  1901.

Ogle’s Standard Atlas of Walla Walla County, 1909

Sanborn Fire Maps: 1884-1905 (with updates until 1950).

Walla Walla City Directories: 1880-present (various publishers–not all years).

Whitman College Archives, Larry Dodd, archivist


Mary E. Meeker
Walla Walla 2020 Research Service
PO Box 1222, Walla Walla WA 99362
July, 2003