History of 734 Washington Street, Walla Walla, WA


Property Description:

Lot 1, Block 5 of Reed’s Addition: Tract I of short plat filed in Volume 2 at Page 93 of Short Plats under Auditor’s File No. 8603957, in the County of Walla Walla, State of Washington.

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. This property was included in the U.S. Patent on August 3, 1866 from the U. S. Government to Mary E. Johnson, William Johnson and John McComb for 160 acres  in the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 21. The transfer of title from the Johnsons and McComb is not recorded in local files because the land office at that time was located in Vancouver, Washington. The first locally recorded transaction was when Isaac N. and Cynthia Reed platted Reed’s Addition on November 1, 1878. Reed was listed as a taxpayer but not a resident in Polk’s 1893-94 City Directory. No other listing for him was available in city directories.

On July 24, 1882 I. N. and Cynthia Reed sold Lots 1-4 of Block 5 to Benjamin L. Sharpstein for $480. On May 30, 1885 Sharpstein and his wife Sarah J. sold these 4 lots to the City Water Company for $1000. The City Water Company then sold Lots 1-4, 11 and 12 “except the right to lay pipe through said lots” back to Mr. Sharpstein for $900. Benjamin L. Sharpstein came west in 1865 and opened a law practice in Walla Walla. He served three terms in the state legislature and was a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1889. It was through his efforts that the State Penitentiary was located in Walla Walla in 1887. He served on the local school board of directors and an elementary school built in 1898 was named for him.

On September 3, 1901 B. L and S. J. Sharpstein sold Lots 1 and 2 “subject to the deed by City Water Company to B. L. Sharpstein on September; 16, 1890” to E. E. Stafford for $650. The 1902 city directory lists Charles M. Stafford, a teamster, as living at 734 Washington as well as his children Laura and Morgan (wives were not yet listed in the directories). In 1904 Charles is listed as a farmer, Laura is a teacher at Washington School and Morgan is a letter carrier, all living at this address. By 1905 Elizabeth E. Stafford is a widow living at 710 N. Main.

In October 1904 E. E. Stafford, an “unmarried woman,” sold Lots 1 and 2 to James Still for $3100. On March 1, 1915 M. A. Stafford, the son of E. E. and C. M. Stafford testified that his mother had purchased the property from Mr. Sharpstein with money she inherited from her uncle and that she was the sole owner. Subsequently the children and heirs of E. E. Stafford signed a quit claim deed for this property to James Still so that he and his wife Mary could have a clear title to this property. James Still was a farmer who lived at 221 Fulton Street with his wife and children Maude, Clifford and Clarice. They apparently rented out this property but there was no reverse directory during these years. James Still sold Lot 1 to T. A. Farmer on March 21, 1916 for a stated amount of $10. The 1916-1917 city directory listed Truett A. and Mollie Farmer as living in this house as well as Grant and Saml T. Farmer. They subsequently moved to 427 Crescent.

On May 4, 1917 T. A. and Mollie Farmer sold this property for “$10” to A. L. Thoroughman subject to a mortgage of $1250 and LID of $190.70 by James and Mary Still to Joseph and Stephen Ringhofer dated February 16,1915. Aaron L. Thoroughman died on February 9, 1920. Ethyl T. Goodsell was his executrix and Mable (or Mabel) Elam, a widow, his apparent heir. There is no city directory listing for Mrs. Elam but James L. and Fannie M. Elam lived at 735 Washington Street. Mabel Elam gave a warranty deed to Nettie Woodward, a widow who lived on the corner of Washington and Howard Streets, for “$1.” on February 20, 1945. Starting in 1931 the city directory contained a reverse directory so it is possible to know who rented this house after that time. Edgar Wallace lived there in 1931-32. Frank S. and Nettie Mae Hull and Mrs. Ila Bowman lived there in 1935.  Hulls lived there in 1937-39. It was vacant in 1941. There were no directories during the war years but in 1946 Walter R. and Bertha I. Merryman lived there with their daughter Barbara. Walter was a clerk with the Union Pacific Railroad. The first time the house at 204 S. Madison behind this house was listed in the city directory was 1949-50 when it was occupied by Jack E. Woods. In 1951-52 Bertha Merryman lived at 204 S. Madison and Jack E. and Dorothy I. (Merryman) Woods lived at 734 Washington. In 1953 Bertha was living back in this house and Walter R. Merryman lived in back. In 1954-55 both Walter and Bertha lived at 734 and the house in back was rented to Ernest and Arlene Smith. Smith was a brakeman with the UPRR.

After living in this house for a decade, W. R. and Bertha I. Merryman purchased it on April 22, 1955 from Mrs. Woodward for “$10.” They continued to live in this house until 1962 when it was vacant. By then Bertha was a widow living at 41 S. Park and this house was rented to Mrs. Jeanne A. Koch through 1966. Mrs. Maxine Estes lived here in 1967. It was vacant in 1968. It was occupied in 1969 by Francis Walker, in 1970-71 by Mrs. Carole Thomsen.  On October 30, 1971 Bertha Merryman gave a deed and Seller’s Assignment of Real Estate Contract to her daughters Dorothy Merryman Woods and Barbara Merryman Meissner. The house was vacant in 1972.

In February of 1972 these two daughters sold this property to Herman A. Miller and Deana J. Miller, individually, for “$1.” Neither Miller apparently ever lived here. Herman was a painter who lived outside of town. In 1973 Millers rented to Alice and Marsha A. Wright. In the 1974-75 it was rented to Whitman students. In 1976 Mike Nelson, a teacher at Sharpstein School rented it. In 1977-78 Miss Ann E. Downie, an RN at St. Mary Hospital lived here. She also rented rooms to three Whitman students. Herman Miller died in 1979 with the house valued at $25,000 but there was no probate. On March 26, 1979 Esther Miller Boyer gave a quit claim deed to this property to Whitney Miller. The following July Dean C. Boyer, husband of Esther Miller Boyer, also signed a quit claim deed to Whitney Miller. From 1979-1983  Jim and Carolyn Gouge lived here. He was a student at Walla Walla Community College until he became a self-employed mechanic. Most of the time the house at 204 S. Madison was rented to various people.

On December 1, 1983 Whitney and Deana Miller sold the property to Richard H. Read Jr. and George H. Smith III, doing business as Accent Builders, for $28,000. In February 1993 Accent Builders had Lot 1 short platted into Tract I (60’x70’) and Tract II (60’ x 50.13’ on the alley). On August 15, 1994 Read and Smith sold Tract II to Michael G. and Suzanne R. Hoonan. There were frequent changes in tenants during these years. On January 6, 1995 Richard H. Read Jr.,  George H. Smith III and J. Kay Fenimore Smith sold Tract I to Gregory E. and Marla G. Gurnett. They were the first owners to live in this house since the Merrymans left in 1962. Tract II was sold in 1995 to Ross Stremcha and Jennifer Alexander. Ross and Jennifer Stremcha sold Tract II to Terri McMahan and Betty J. Young in 2001. On September 5, 2002 Gregory and Marla Gurnett sold Tract I to Tamara A. Gordon.

Construction of the House:

Mrs. Stafford paid $650 to purchase this property in September 1901 and sold it for $3100 in 1904. Therefore, it seems clear that the house was constructed by the Staffords. The 1902 city directory lists the Staffords as living at this address so it is reasonable to assume a building date of late 1901 or early 1902. We have no evidence that the city issued building permits before 1905. The county assessor lists a build date of 1901, which is the date which should be used for this house.

This house appears to be of the same design as a house a few blocks away at 736 Pleasant, which was built circa 1898. There were no common owners of these two houses and they predate Sears prefabricated houses (1916-1933).


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.

Bennett, Robert A., A Nice Place to Raise a Family 1920-1949, Pioneer Press,  Walla Walla, 1988

Building Permits: Whitman College Penrose Library Archives

Gilbert, Frank T.; Historic Sketches of Walla Walla, Whitman and Garfield Counties, Washington Territory, and Umatilla County, Oregon, 1882.

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

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

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


Mary E. Meeker
Walla Walla 2020 Research Service
PO Box 1222, Walla Walla WA 99362
April 2005