The Hawthorne House
The Door is Always Open, to Students, Faculty and the Famous Alike
Let’s start with Doris Kearns Goodwin.
How many of us can say we have we have hosted the presidential historian and author of Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln, which was made into an award-winning film?
Or David Brooks, the New York Times political columnist and author, whose most recent book, The Road to Character is a bestseller?
Beck and Julie Taylor have. They live in the presidential home at Whitworth College, and with the historic address on Hawthorne Street comes the opportunity to have some very high-profile guests.
Having Goodwin seated at the Taylor’s long, polished wood table surrounded by faculty and trustees was a treat, Julie says.
But it is the Whitworth students she and her husband enjoy most. “Spaghetti dinners on paper plates, lots of laughter . . . that’s my favorite kind of entertaining.”
Whether it’s a formal sit-down dinner for conservative commentator George Will, or a crazy Halloween costume party for students and faculty, the Taylors’ door is always open.
It goes without saying that it takes a generous spirit and intellectual wherewithal to be able to host guests of all ages, backgrounds, academic and star power pedigrees and regard it as not a job, but an honor. Not a chore but, actually, loads of fun.
Perhaps Julie, who is southern, comes by it naturally. Perhaps Beck Taylor, who is a fan of rousing intellectual conversation and who holds a deep belief in the marriage of the life of the mind and the spirit, welcomes these dinner parties as a mixture of entertainment and education.
Hawthorne House History
The Mediterranean Revival heavily influenced the architectural style of the Hawthorne House. The style became popular in Southern California and Florida from 1918 to 1940 and was characterized by red tile roofs, stucco walls, arcades, curved or circular windows and lush gardens.
While the Hawthorne House is less opulent than some examples in the Pacific Northwest, it has many aspects of this architectural style: a low-hipped roof, the curved three-pane window above the entry, columns and corbels under the eaves.
The exterior is painted brick, Julie added, which is not completely in keeping with the style, but gives the home an elegance and charm.
Its history dates back before it was actually built in 1924. In 1914, developer Jay P. Graves made an offer to the then-struggling Whitworth College of Tacoma to move to a 100-acre area north of Spokane he named Country Home Estates. Though the housing development faltered initially, the area eventually began to grow.
Whitworth purchased the Hawthorne House in 1942 and began a series of remodels.
Over the years, four Whitworth presidents and an academic dean and his wife have lived there and each brought something valuable to the home.
Today Hawthorne House is as much a part of the Taylor family as Zach, 19, Lauren, 17, Chloe, 9, and their goldendoodle puppy, Peanut. To help make the house a comfortable, family-friendly home that was also beautiful and tastefully decorated, the Taylors recently enlisted the aid of Diane Corppetts, owner of White Picket Fence, who worked closely with Julie on freshening the décor of the house.
Corppetts, in turn, relied on the mother-daughter team of Dianna and Fielding Chelf of Two Women Vintage Goods, and on Sue Nimmer Shaw, owner of Mel’s Home and Closet, for a supply of lovely vintage and new decorating items. Much of the furnishings are traditional, the floors in most of the rooms are polished oak, but the newer parts of the kitchen utilize glass front cabinets, granite counters and contemporary glass lighting fixtures
The décor now is all about colors and items from nature, especially in spring: miniature explosions of green, red, pink and orange flowers in small container pots, but also sand, bone and coral. Also in containers are small, sculpted boxwood plants that dot a side table. While the palatte might seem muted, much like the paintings by beloved Pacific Northwest artists such as Kenneth Callahan that dot the walls, it’s all in the service of texture.
Visitors want to run their hands over the rough-hewn coffee table in the nook, to touch the heavy glass candleholders with candles floating over (but not touching) shredded paper on the formal dining table.
The Hawthorne House lends itself to formal and informal entertaining – the latest remodel of the home expanded the living room, creating a large, informal sitting room. There was also an addition of an L-shaped deck that wraps around the side and back of the house, giving the Taylors space to enjoy guests and family time outside when the weather is fine.
The upstairs, which is not open to visitors, has a master suite with a study and a private bath, two bedrooms and an adjoining bathroom. There are spaces downstairs as well, where the Taylor family can get away for some private time.
“Julie uses the room off the kitchen a lot,” Corppetts says. “She entertains there, but for more personal visits. It’s also a place for the family to hang out – Julie and her youngest daughter, Chloe, love to snuggle there and read.”
This nook has its own special history. Dr. Frank Warren, Whitworth’s longest serving president, spent his last years (in the early 1960s) fighting cancer. According to Whitworth Archivist Tad Wisenor, “Students brought him downstairs from his bedroom every morning to this nook so he could watch student activity on the campus across the street.”
Tradition and stewardship
“It’s common for university and college presidents and their families to live in quarters on the campus and most presidential couples are grateful to have such a beautiful place to live,” says Julie.
These homes are often some of the oldest in the area.
Julie adds that she feels the presence of the families who have lived in the Hawthorne House, and has an emotional connection to the home.
“We think about that sense of stewardship; that it will pass on when it’s our time to do that. I felt that very thing so much from Bill and Bonnie Robinson.”
The stories of these families are the way you get to know a place, she says.
“Our favorite story comes from when Beck was hired as president, and we knew we would carry the torch of hospitality that was so intrinsic to the Hawthorne House. We brought our kids to visit Spokane and the Robinsons invited us over for dinner. When Bill opened the door, he said ‘Taylors, welcome to your new home!’
“It said so much. They had lived here17 years and raised their children in this house. But they were gracious and kind to us, in keeping with the tradition, but with so much heart.”
The Robinsons are still in Spokane, Julie says. “They’re up on Five Mile Prairie. In 2013 Bill was elected chairman of the board of trustees at Princeton Theological Seminary, but the couple still make their home here.
“Bonnie is the organist at the First Presbyterian Church and all three of their children and spouses live in Spokane.”
In the tradition of the Robinsons and all the presidential couples and families who have gone before them, the Taylors have created a home for themselves that honors the historic nature of the house while making it charming, elegant and welcoming.
Before moving to Spokane in November, Robin Hamilton (Brodt) was the managing editor of Walla Walla Lifestyles, the regional magazine published by the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and The Seattle Times. She can be reached at [email protected]
White Picket Fence
Owner Diane Corppetts does home staging and decor, event and business décor and floral arrangements.
Facebook: Diane Corppetts
Two Women Vintage Goods
Owners Dianna Chelf and
112 S. Cedar St.
Spokane WA 99201
Mel’s Home and Closet
Owner Sue Nimmer Shaw
12501 N. Division St., Suite 4
Spokane, WA 99218
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