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Take a tour of historic homes decked out for the holidays

Landmark Percival House part of the 2018 Holiday Tour of Homes

The century-old Percival House at 811 Fourth Ave. W. in Olympia will be on the 2018 Holiday Homes tour this season. It will be hosted by its longtime homeowners Sherri Shulman and her husband, Neal Nelson.
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The century-old Percival House at 811 Fourth Ave. W. in Olympia will be on the 2018 Holiday Homes tour this season. It will be hosted by its longtime homeowners Sherri Shulman and her husband, Neal Nelson.

Past and present co-exist in the Queen Anne-style Percival House, one of seven west Olympia properties featured on Sunday’s Holiday Tour of Historic Homes.

The 1892 Victorian has evolved over the years, retaining elaborate woodwork, original fireplaces and wooden floors set in concentric rectangles while losing the elaborate wrap-around porch and gaining additions and updates over many years and multiple owners.

“I love the house, and when I walk around the house, I feel a sense of peace,” said Sherri Shulman, who’s lived in the house for two decades. “It’s a welcoming kind of house. It’s a home to live in.”

Perched above the Fourth Avenue Bridge, the Percival House boasts sweeping views — of downtown, the water and even Mount Rainier — and abundant natural light even on a gray day.

“It has beautiful light,” Shulman told The Olympian. “In the early morning and at sunset in spring and summer, the light coming in is just beautiful.”

She and husband Neal Nelson, both math professors at The Evergreen State College, have raised three children in the house, maintaining the period features that remained when they bought it from artist and former gallery owner Marianne Partlow.

They’ve replaced newer windows and trims with ones that echo original designs and added vintage light fixtures but haven’t attempted a complete restoration to period style.

If much of the house’s appeal comes from its original features — stained glass above the front door; a floral motif that appears on the newel post in the entry and at the upper corners of windows in the main rooms; those elaborately detailed fireplaces — the room that draws visitors to linger is the kitchen, with glass-fronted cabinets and bay-windowed seating area.

“This is not a historic kitchen,” Shulman said, “but I designed it, and I love it.”

Seeing how people live in historic homes is part of the point of the tour, said Shanna Stevenson of the Olympia Historical Society, which organizes the tour. “We want people to live in them, because that is how they can be preserved.”

This year’s tour also showcases adaptive reuse, including both a bed and breakfast inn and a hospital-turned-apartment building. “This year we have an interesting variety,” she said.

Other properties on the tour are:

Westhillsyde, a 1923 French Eclectic house on Percival Street designed by noted Olympia architect Elizabeth Ayer, the first woman to graduate from the University of Washington School of Architecture.

The Sherwood Press building on Fifth Avenue, which has operated as a woman-owned print shop since the 1940s.

The old St. Peter Hospital Chapel at what is now the Capitol House Apartments. The hospital was completed in 1924.

The Van Etten House on Foote Street, a 1938 house that combines French Eclectic and English Revival styles.

The McCleary-Robinson House on Sherman Street, a Craftsman built in 1914.

The McIntyre House on Cushing Street, a well-preserved Queen Anne built in 1892 and now operating as The Marie Bed and Breakfast.

The Women’s Club of Olympia on Washington Street, built in the early 20th century and designed to fit in with the residential character of the historic neighborhood south of downtown.

The Bigelow House Museum, built in the 1850s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which will serve refreshments and host live music played on vintage instruments.

Holiday Tour of Historic Homes

What: The annual tour — this year focused on the west side — showcases Olympia’s architectural history and raises money for the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

When: Noon-4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Bigelow House, 918 Glass Ave. NE, Olympia; Capitol House Apartments, 420 Sherman St. SW, Olympia; and seven other historically significant properties

Tickets: $20, available Sunday at Bigelow House and Capitol House Apartments and in advance at olympiahistory.org; Drees, 524 Washington St. SE, Olympia; Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W., Olympia; and Thompson Furniture, 5407 Capitol Blvd., Tumwater

More information: olympiahistory.org

Also: Tour goers will receive a panorama postcard with a 1906 photo of Olympia. Taken near the Bigelow House, the photo shows a sweeping view of downtown and the west side.

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