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Landmark Ketron Island estate sells to Olympia restaurateur

Marion Chenaur, left, and realtor Marti Gardner stand in front of the large 1960s-era house with expansive views and easy beach access on the northern tip of Ketron Island that Chenaur is selling.
Marion Chenaur, left, and realtor Marti Gardner stand in front of the large 1960s-era house with expansive views and easy beach access on the northern tip of Ketron Island that Chenaur is selling. Staff photographer

A 5-acre estate with 1,000 feet of waterfront, commanding views of Puget Sound and the Olympics and a midcentury home built in the style of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright on the northern tip of Ketron Island has sold to a Lacey couple.

The 5,300-square-foot home, which is equipped with its own pier and a guest cabin, was featured in both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal when it went on the market last year. The News Tribune wrote about the home last August.

The home, built by an entrepreneur with visions of turning the 221-acre island off Steilacoom into an island paradise, was sold by its third owner, who had lived there since 1990.

The new owners are Thurston County restaurateurs Nicole Pham and her husband Jim Porter, according to Karen Vincent who handled the sale for Morrison House Sotheby’s International Realty. The estate originally was listed for $1.77 million. Then it was reduced to $1.299 million. It sold for $1.1 million.

The couple own a small chain of Lemon Grass Vietnamese restaurants in Thurston County.

Marion Chenaur, who with her husband owned the property for a quarter-century, sold because she was a widow and she wanted to live where retailers and public services were closer than on the island. The island has 20-some residents. It has no gas station, store, mail delivery or refuse pickup. The only public access to the island is via a four-times-daily Pierce County ferry from Steilacoom.

Many island residents, like Chenaur’s late husband, commuted by their own boat to the mainland. Island residents maintain their own dock in Steilacoom.

Pham and Porter may use it as a family retreat while maintaining a home on the mainland. They were unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

The home was built for J.C. Morris, an Anchorage entrepreneur, who bought the entire island in 1946. He envisioned some 200 homes on the property with an island retail center, churches and a school, a quiet residential retreat in the middle of Puget Sound.

Morris’ development ideas were never fulfilled in part because building out the island would have required construction of an expensive sewer treatment system to serve many of the home sites. The estate itself uses a septic system because the ground there is properly drained to allow one.

The midcentury modern home, built to a design by Tacoma architects Harris, Reed & Wilson that borrows liberally from the residential work of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, remains much as it was when it was finished 52 years ago.

The home, which was built with narrow slices of Wilkeson sandstone, Montana slate and Washington granite, takes advantage of the sights that attracted Morris to the island after World War II.

The home features an 800-square-foot living room with panoramic water views, a wine cellar, three bedrooms in the main house and a storage room on the ground level to store supplies brought from the mainland.

The grounds include a lush garden and a beach populated with driftwood and small rounded stones.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663

john.gillie@thenewstribune.com

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