Name: Calhoun House
Year Built: circa 1880's
Location: 634 Clay Street
Area: Uptown Port Townsend

The Calhoun House was on the 1993 Fall Homes Tour. At that time it was in the process of being renovated from the ground up. It was an interesting site to have on the tour because visitors could see the "skeleton" of the structure and gain some appreciation for how much work has to be done to restore a historic building. Although the "old lady" was stripped down to wall boards and ceiling joists, visitors were struck by her proud architecture and simple integrity.

Today the work is almost completed, and if you were lucky enough to see the house on the 1993 tour, you will appreciate the transformation. This is a true "before" and "after."

The house was built by John and Mary Calhoun in the late 1880s. Mary, born in 1860, was the daughter of Alfred A. Plummer, who founded Port Townsend in 1851. The site of the house was Plummer property that was given to Mary in 1884 by her mother, Anna Plummer. The site, since subdivided, then consisted of the west half of the present block. John Calhoun died in 1891, leaving Mary with a four-year-old daughter. As a result of her husband's death, she was unable to meet the mortgage payments, and she lost the property.

There are two other houses in Port Townsend that were built at about the same time and were originally identical to this one. They both still have their original porches and brackets. For comparison, the addresses are 430 Lawrence (corner Monroe) and 834 Pierce.

All three houses were built without plumbing and were later modified and added to in different ways to provide bathroom and other space. This house has had the least space added.

The original house had five main rooms: parlor, dining room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. There was also an entry hall, a pantry, and two closets. A side porch at the back of the house had steps that lead to a carriage house to the north, now the location of a neighbor's home.

Walls separating the parlor, dining room, and entry had been removed by a previous owner, and at the time of the 1993 Tour there was one large open space. Since then the original room configurations have been restored, and an octagonal bay was added to the parlor. A new bath was also built.

In the old houses that were built without plumbing, the first plumbing was generally installed in the kitchen. Later, a bathroom was placed off the kitchen, near the plumbing. Before the 1995 tour, the present owner, an architect, had removed this bathroom, which had been added as a lean-to off the kitchen. She had also removed the wall between the kitchen and the pantry, which had been turned into a laundry and passage to the bathroom. She had carved a bathroom space out of a closet in one bedroom, converted the porch to a cozy inglenook with a brick fireplace, added another back porch and pantry, and supported the house with a sturdy new basement.

Data modified from the National Register of Historic Places, the former Victorian Festival Heritage Home Tour, property owners and other sources. All material copyrighted by PTguide.com.

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