Historic home worth preserving, celebrating

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It’s been 106 years since the home of J.C. White made news in the Coeur d’Alene Press. Back then it was for the grandeur of the structure and the stature of the owner. Now in 2019 the beautiful house that’s stood on the corner of Eighth Street and Sherman Avenue for more than a century is at the center of a most wonderful community effort. If the planets align and the coffers fill up, the historic house will soon be moved a few blocks south and transformed into the centerpiece of a new home for the Museum of North Idaho.

Since the 1960s I’ve always called it Mrs. Bjorklund’s house. She owned it at the time and it was partitioned into apartments, although she was also in residence. We lived next door in the similarly stately F.A. Blackwell house at 817 Sherman Ave. Our family leased the house for nearly a decade from Margaret, the widow of Dr. John T. Wood (1878-1954). The Woods were the second and final owners of the Blackwell house. The house directly across the street, now the Blackwell Hotel, was built by F.A. Blackwell for his son.

Our house next door to the J.C. White house was a magical place to be a teenager in Coeur d’Alene of the 1960s. The front porch right on Sherman Avenue seemed tailor-made to watch the cool kids in their cool cars cruise Sherman and offered a front-row seat for the Fourth of July parade.

The house was large enough that our slumber parties were not limited in size. There were three full stories and a basement — 26 rooms, six bedrooms and four bathrooms. There was a carriage house that did double duty as a garage, a butler’s pantry, leaded glass windows, a vestibule and furnishings that were nearly as old as the house. That house had a good soul, you had a sense of all of the life that had been lived within its walls.

By the mid-1970s, Mrs. Wood was elderly and out of necessity began to sell some of her properties, including the big house at 817 Sherman Ave. According to her grandson, John V. Wood, there were no offers except from buyers interested solely in the property, not the century-old house in need of a lot of TLC. So alas the house and the half-city-block lot where it sat were sold, the house demolished and in its place a Sambo’s Restaurant was built.

Over four decades later the memory of that beautiful historic home falling to the wrecking ball still breaks my heart. Back in the 1970s Coeur d’Alene was much smaller and not quite the center of philanthropy that it is today. We see the extraordinary generosity of our communities on a weekly basis for all manner of deserving causes. I’m confident that the community will rally to save and re-purpose the J.A. White house for the Museum of North Idaho, sparing it from the same fate as the F.A. Blackwell house.

Hopefully 40 years from now another generation will talk about how people stepped up to preserve history in 2019, when time was of the essence. Donations of any amount can be made to the Museum of North Idaho, P.O. Box 812, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816-0812. Indicate White house fund — or go to their Facebook page and there’s a donate button. Info: 208-664-3448, www.museumni.org

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Three weeks ago I met Matthew Boyd at the airport as he arrived from New York to begin rehearsals for Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre’s production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe. The 20-something actor was experiencing the Pacific Northwest for the first time, if you count a layover at SeaTac before the final leg to Spokane. It was a beautiful summer Sunday so I gave him the 5-cent tour through downtown Coeur d’Alene and then we had lunch on the patio of Crafted. It’s always fun to see someone’s first reaction to the place we get to call home.

Last week Matthew and I reconnected on opening night of the musical review. “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” features ensemble performances by nine actor/singers, several of whom are new to Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre audiences. It was interesting to see Matthew on stage performing some of the 1960s songs that his late father performed with his touring group, Kelvin Boyd’s Drifters.

Matthew’s castmate, Josian Brett, is a firecracker, vocally and as a performer. I give her props for Rockette-caliber kicks and anyone who can do the splits while belting out a song is high on my list of awesome. Outstanding performances all the way around that stage by CJ Lorentz, Emily Cleveland, Anden J. Leo, David Eldridge, Amy D’Orazi, Jackson Bouchard and Jennifer Kleinkauf.

Treat yourself to this do-wop, R&B musical confection before the show closes on Aug. 25! Info: www.cdasummertheatre.com

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Things to do highlights:

Thursday is the dedication of artist Terry Lee’s sculpture of an Idaho lumberjack, 11:30 a.m. at McEuen Park on Sixth Street.

If you were awed by opera singer/musical theater actor Brandon Michaels’ performance of the national anthem to kick off the Fourth of July parade this year, here’s a chance to hear more. On Saturday the Coeur d’Alene Symphony will perform a special Riverstone concert with Brandon as the guest soloist. From 6-8 p.m., the concert is free!

Tuesday, Aug. 20, at 7:30 p.m., the Showstoppers Summer Concert is planned at the JACC, performed by and benefittting Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre.

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Happy Birthday today to Bob Sandau (87!), Erin Elliott, Elaine Damschen (50!), Lisa Hutcheson, Peter Faletto, Erin Reasor, Melinda Engel, Marla Lewis, Kevin Flaa, Annette Nolting, Melinda Frost and Gene Mann. On Thursday Tracy Christopherson, Wayne Longo, Rick Currie, Mary Richter, Anne Couser and Thomas Sorci take another trip around the sun.

On Friday Jeff Drew (40!), Susan Selle, Brian Kirk, Jennifer Ross, Cindy Wagner, Andrea Fulks, Kim Brown, Serena Carlson, Paul Sullivan and Brandia Young will celebrate and on Saturday Amber Malloy, Jenna Morrison, JR Conrow, Kristin Largent, Cynthia Rayner, Terri Seymour, John Gertenbach, Brandee Peacock, Linda Mannschreck, Christina Gardner and Lugene Broadsword mark their special day.

Sunday celebrants are Jim Hail III, Brandi Meeks, Jaqueline Dickinson, Jake Medlock, Jasmine Preckle, Sarah Andrews,Toni Prince, Marissa Davenport, Corrine Larsen, Keva Wolfe, Andrea Sadler, Julie Pierce and Althea Carpenter. On Monday Vicky Jo Carey, Scott Noordam, Amy Elder, Peter Woods and Frank Garcia put on their party hats. Mary Condie, Nancy Scofield, Elaine Carda, Louise Gillespie, Christina Gardner, Gene Colley and Art Elliott share Aug. 20 birthdays.

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Kerri Rankin Thoreson is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the former publisher of the Post Falls Tribune. Main Street appears every Wednesday in The Press and Kerri can be contacted on Facebook or via email mainstreet@cdapress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kerrithoreson.

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