The house at the corner of Franklin and Idaho streets is Geraldine and Tracy Warner’s “35-year remodeling project,” as they fondly call it.
The Warner home is in Wenatchee’s Grandview Historic District. The residence has withstood roughly 100 years of weather and living, so some maintenance can be expected. Such work is rewarding to the owner and important to the greater community in preserving local history.
The historic district covers six full and two partial blocks, including Delaware, Washington, Miller, Idaho and Alaska streets and portions of Douglas, Emerson, Franklin and King streets. It's an area where many of the city's pioneer families built their first homes.
The Warners, as newlyweds in 1986, were looking for a home in the area west of the Chelan County Courthouse campus. Tracy already had an apartment nearby and they both liked the neighborhood.
“We used to walk along the streets, looking for available houses,” Geraldine said.
They purchased the home at 154 S. Franklin St. because of its good location and the space inside. At the time, the house was known as the Albert and Alice Sylvester House, although the first owners were Mary and David Oliver. Mary was the daughter of W.T. Clark who in 1909 built Wells House on the property where Wenatchee Valley College is now located.
The home is 2,200 square feet, including the basement awaiting renovation. There are three bedrooms and a full bath upstairs and downstairs. The Warners purchased the home in 1986 for $68,000.
“We liked that it had a proper dining room, separate from the kitchen,” Geraldine said.
They knew there was work to be done – and they have accomplished much during their 35-year ownership period.
“It only felt overwhelmed once: on our moving day when I saw the house in its bareness,” Geraldine recalled.
The orange shack carpet and the mostly yellow interior greeted them in all of its cheeriness as they were transferring their belongings into the empty residence. The carpet was the first to go, then the kitchen floor. After that, painting the interior walls commenced. Underneath the carpet hid the original oak floor which the Warners eventually brought to its original splendor.
The Warners have worked off and on over the past 35 years to remodel the historic home. Since 2005, when the historic district was established, alterations to any of the 141 properties within district boundaries have to be approved by the city.
Tracy is handy when it comes to working with wood. He has done many changes to the house’s decorative and functional features, such as building a bookcase in the front parlor and changing some of the too-numerous doorways into bookshelves.
“There was a hole in this floor,” Tracy said, pointing at the space by the short stairway in the parlor. “I spent a long time trying to decide what to do about it. I finally built a bookcase over it, to match the one on the opposite side of the room.” When he later saw a photo of that particular spot, sure enough there had been a bookcase there and very similar-looking.
The house was not only the home to the young Clark family, but after them the Sylvesters called it home. Albert Sylvester was a well-known surveyor, explorer and forest supervisor in the Cascade Range. After the Sylvesters came a dentist, a high school teacher, a Navy recruiter and now the Warners. Many owners brought changes to the structure.
“Our TV room had a lot of doors — two leading to the kitchen on both sides of the room (besides the main door),” Tracy explained. “We didn’t understand the purpose of those.”
The excess doors no longer exist; Tracy built a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf along the entire wall.
A five-week kitchen remodel project was a bit of an endurance test. Tracy’s birthday fell within that time frame, one that he remembers as not particularly festive.
Initially, the house had no insulation and only single-pane windows. Those were matters the Warners addressed promptly. They also replaced the original cast-iron floor vents with modern ones.
“The yellow vinyl exterior started to fall apart,” Geraldine said.
The hired Steve Freese, a contractor they trusted, to redo the exterior. All of the vinyl was removed and it exposed the green wood walls, amazingly in fairly good shape without any rot.
“The green paint had lead in it, so it had to be taken off by professionals with special precautions,” Geraldine said.
Little by little, they've brought the old wiring in the house up to modern standards. The old light switches are still in their places and functional.
“We only saw an original photo of the house five years ago,” Geraldine said.
The Warners are pleased to have been able to restore the exterior of the house fairly close to its initial look. There are still many improvements awaiting.
“This is a dream-come-true,” Geraldine stated of their old charmer at the corner.