Historic home worth preserving, celebrating

| August 13, 2019 10:43 PM

It’s been 106 years since the home of J.C. White made news in the Coeur d’Alene Press. Back then it was for the grandeur of the structure and the stature of the owner. Now in 2019 the beautiful house that’s stood on the corner of Eighth Street and Sherman Avenue for more than a century is at the center of a most wonderful community effort. If the planets align and the coffers fill up, the historic house will soon be moved a few blocks south and transformed into the centerpiece of a new home for the Museum of North Idaho.

Since the 1960s I’ve always called it Mrs. Bjorklund’s house. She owned it at the time and it was partitioned into apartments, although she was also in residence. We lived next door in the similarly stately F.A. Blackwell house at 817 Sherman Ave. Our family leased the house for nearly a decade from Margaret, the widow of Dr. John T. Wood (1878-1954). The Woods were the second and final owners of the Blackwell house. The house directly across the street, now the Blackwell Hotel, was built by F.A. Blackwell for his son.

Our house next door to the J.C. White house was a magical place to be a teenager in Coeur d’Alene of the 1960s. The front porch right on Sherman Avenue seemed tailor-made to watch the cool kids in their cool cars cruise Sherman and offered a front-row seat for the Fourth of July parade.

The house was large enough that our slumber parties were not limited in size. There were three full stories and a basement — 26 rooms, six bedrooms and four bathrooms. There was a carriage house that did double duty as a garage, a butler’s pantry, leaded glass windows, a vestibule and furnishings that were nearly as old as the house. That house had a good soul, you had a sense of all of the life that had been lived within its walls.

By the mid-1970s, Mrs. Wood was elderly and out of necessity began to sell some of her properties, including the big house at 817 Sherman Ave. According to her grandson, John V. Wood, there were no offers except from buyers interested solely in the property, not the century-old house in need of a lot of TLC. So alas the house and the half-city-block lot where it sat were sold, the house demolished and in its place a Sambo’s Restaurant was built.

Over four decades later the memory of that beautiful historic home falling to the wrecking ball still breaks my heart. Back in the 1970s Coeur d’Alene was much smaller and not quite the center of philanthropy that it is today. We see the extraordinary generosity of our communities on a weekly basis for all manner of deserving causes. I’m confident that the community will rally to save and re-purpose the J.A. White house for the Museum of North Idaho, sparing it from the same fate as the F.A. Blackwell house.

Hopefully 40 years from now another generation will talk about how people stepped up to preserve history in 2019, when time was of the essence. Donations of any amount can be made to the Museum of North Idaho, P.O. Box 812, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816-0812. Indicate White house fund — or go to their Facebook page and there’s a donate button. Info: 208-664-3448, www.museumni.org

Kerri Rankin Thoreson is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the former publisher of the Post Falls Tribune. Main Street appears every Wednesday in The Press and Kerri can be contacted on Facebook or via email mainstreet@cdapress.com. Follow her on Twitter @kerrithoreson.