Name: Ann Starrett House
Year Built: 1889
Location: 744 Clay Street
Area: Uptown Port Townsend
This mansion was a bed-and-breakfast inn for many years and provided guest with a glimpse of this archetypal Victorian. It is now a private home as of 2017.
Built by George Starrett, one of Port Townsend's most prolific home builders, this is a Victorian residence of national stature. Its architecture is unique, and the free-hung circular stairway, a "two-tier free-floating staircase," is believed by the Smithsonian Institute to be the last of its kind in America. The domed ceiling in the staircase tower has a fresco that depicts the four seasons and the four virtues, in eight panels. The house was built at a cost of $6,000 as a wedding gift for Starrett's wife Ann.
Starrett once bragged to the local newspaper that he had built 350 homes by 1889. A native of Maine, he settled in Port Townsend in his late 20s. He established himself as a carpenter, builder, contractor, and brick manufacturer, with his workshop at Point Hudson. He later operated a sawmill obtained from George Downs at Point Hudson. At a time when $2,000 would build a substantial residence, the Starrett House was a extravagance and a tribute to Starrett's profession. In his book, Victorian Architecture of Port Townsend, Allen Dennison wrote: "The architecture of this house is truly remarkable in the originality of its concept and the successful integration of diverse elements into an imposing and harmonious mass, which make it not only of local, but of national significance."
Seattle artist Otto Chapman painted the fresco in the tower. The dining room and parlor also have original frescoed ceilings, which have required only minimal retouching. The interior has elaborate moldings and features door moldings of carved lions, doves, and ferns.
The eight-sided tower ceiling is actually a solar calender. Small dormer windows are perfectly situated so that on the first day of the new season the sun shines on the ruby red glass in the center, causing a red beam to point toward the appropriate panel of the Four Seasons frescoes.
Originally the tower was topped by a weather vane. The windows of the third floor landing, together with the railing, form an indoor widow's walk. A feature seldom noted is the variety of exterior trim. No gable went without adornment such as stars, sunrise, scrolls, and harps, some more elaborate than others.
In what may seem like a curious omission, the house was built without fireplaces. Instead, the latest technology was used: stoves and central heating. Not having a fireplace was prestigious.
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.