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This year’s featured house is the Metzger, on view for the first time since 1998

rosemary.ponnekanti@thenewstribune.comMay 1, 2013 

Historic home tour It’s unusual to be just the third owner of a house built 112 years ago — but Deborah Sandidge has taken the job seriously. In the 20 years she’s lived in the Metzger House on Tacoma’s historic North Slope, she’s restored the foursquare house to its former stately glory — and the fruits of her efforts are on show this weekend during the Tacoma Historic Society’s annual Historic Homes Tour, along with five other North Tacoma homes, a school and a church.

“I’m the third owner — there’s not a lot of turnover with this house,” said Sandidge, who works as a therapist. “People buy it and they stay. I’ve turned it into the home I believed it could be.”

The process, though, has taken Sandidge two decades and more money than she can count. When she and her family first moved in, the first thing they did was overhaul the plumbing and wiring — some chandeliers were even still hooked up to run on gas. They pulled down all the partition walls and doors that had divided the enormous kitchen into four rooms, and modernized it, and opened the home to the public on the Historic Homes Tour of 1998.

But that’s the last time it’s been on view. Now, after years of restoration of walls, woodwork, bathrooms and more, it’s back on the tour — and visitors will love the transformation.

“It’s a great example of a foursquare that’s well-maintained,” said Jean Hoard of the THS tour committee.

Two floors of the house will be open for view this weekend. After you climb the blue-and-white wide Doric-columned verandah and pass through the extra-wide front door, the hall, living and dining rooms are a unified whole in their Victorian palette of burgundy and butter (matched by Sandidge from old paint found underneath the picture rail) and the red-brown clear fir that’s everywhere from floor to lintel to carved fireplace.

A window seat hugs the enormous bay windows that look across the road to St. Patrick’s church; long and skinny Roman tiles surround the fireplace. Sandidge has restored the five-foot-wide sliding pocket doors connecting the rooms and the original glass-fronted polished fir hutch (including adding a support beam in the kitchen to take the weight off the cabinetry). Her decor is an understated mix of contemporary-Asian and antique, including an imposing 1790 Dutch grandfather clock.

Elsewhere downstairs, Sandidge has kept the original style of the house while subtly modernizing: The bathroom was expanded but rewalled in bead-board from the kitchen and new dental molding; new clear fir French doors were added to what was originally the music room. Even the details are period: the original painted-eggshell door hinges, a bell to show servants which door was ringing.

When Alfred and Emily Metzger commissioned Tacoma architects Russell and Heath to design their house, they lived in it from 1901-1942 with a varying combination of extended family, boarders and servants. As you climb either the main stairs or the servants’ stairs, running parallel from hall and kitchen to meet at a huge landing, you can imagine how the house was used, with children playing and dressing by the pot belly stove on the landing, adults going in and out of the five bedrooms that lead off it, and perhaps a nanny climbing the stairs to her sloping bedroom in the attic. On the second floor as well, Sandidge has kept the original character of the house — floral wallpaper, antique furniture, the original carved bench from the kitchen — while enlarging the bathroom and modernizing the closets.

There still is more to be done on the house. Sandidge is working on the upper railing outside, and the attic, bright with mullioned windows and skylight, is ripe for refinishing. Like any old house, it’s a constant, expensive process — but Sandidge has no regrets.

“You have to be passionate about it,” she said. “It’s not a house, it’s a home where you live. You take care of it like a child.”


It’s not just the immaculately-restored Metzger House on this year’s Historic Homes Tour of Tacoma. Here are the other venues, all in the North Slope area:

Friedman House: A 1925 stuccoed Tudor cottage that features mahogany woodwork and oak floors, leaded glass and views of Garfield Park.

Kyle House: A simplified Queen Anne from 1902, this house included original stained glass, light fixtures, a carved-oak fireplace surround and claw-foot bathtub.

Petrich House: Built in 1959, the Petrich is a good example of midcentury architecture, with Japanese-style sliding doors, bamboo floors, shipbuilding elements and a sandstone-basalt fireplace, with art by Paul Horiuchi and Tom Wilson.

Pratt House: An 1891 Queen Anne, this home features beveled and stained glass, original cupboards and doors, clear fir floors and pocket doors.

Vaeth House: Built in 1989 in Queen Anne-Romanesque style, this 6,207-square-foot home includes a cylindrical turret and complementary half-octagon verandah, oak woodwork, three original chandeliers, a library with leaded-glass bookcases and a bay window.

Stadium High School: Built as a hotel in 1890, Stadium was nearly demolished after the 1893 depression and a fire before being converted to a school. The chateau-style building was designed by Frederick Heath after a Loire river castle, opened in 1906 and renovated in 2005-06.

First Presbyterian Church: Designed by Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram, this 1920s Romanesque church includes a 1,100-seat sanctuary and 250-seat chapel, halls and educational spaces, with a large Reuter organ and rich decoration in stone, wood, stained glass and mosaic.

Explore area architecture

What: Historic Homes of Tacoma Tour 2013

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 4, 1-5 p.m. May 5

Where: Various locations around North Tacoma including Stadium High School, First Presbyterian Church and local homes (addresses on ticket)

Cost: $20 from Pacific Northwest Shop, Stadium Thriftway, Columbia Bank branches and (on May 4-5) at First Presbyterian Church reception, 102 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma

Information: 253-472-3738,

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568

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