SPOKANE, Wash. – In 1889, Washington state was in its infancy, and Spokane was in its golden age.
“The trees are growing and it detracts from the panoramic view that once existed there,” said Cindy Blue Blanton, an interior designer and local conservationist.
Blanton works as a tutor at the Corbin Mansion of the Arts, but before it became the Spokane House of the Arts, it was a lavish private home.
“It was built in 1898 by Kirtland Cutter, who was Daniel Chase Corbin’s son-in-law,” Blanton said.
Scraps of wallpaper can still be seen on the wall of the house that were once maintenance work, and this is still done to this day.
The house was a modest mansion at the time, built for Daniel Corbin, a very private businessman who was moving west.
“When he came to Spokane, he was the one who started the feeder railroads to the Coeur d’Alene mine…so he became very wealthy,” Blanton said.
The stately home was meant to be a bastion of Spokane society, a private retreat for his family. But the family home never served its purpose.
“His wife and children lived in England and had never set foot in this house,” Blanton said.
Eventually, his daughters made it to Spokane, but his wife had health problems and died.
Which led to the redesign of the lady’s rooms and salons into smoking rooms. Fortify the house and turn it into a masculine resort.
But the second marriage was quickly approaching.
“He would eventually marry his housekeeper Anna, and as the story goes, he married her and sent her to finishing school,” Blanton said.
But according to reports from our sister publications The Spokesman-Review and the Spokane Chronicle in the early 1900s, Corbin was not in good health when he married Anna.
When Corbin died, he left the house to Anna, and made a very small allowance, the bulk of the money to his daughters.
Eventually, Anna took up work as a gardener, or “superintendent,” and thanks to legal problems, Anna struggled to afford the house.
She and his caretaker attempted to burn the house down, and also engaged in other lucrative financial transactions.
The court system deemed her insane and the judge ordered her to seek treatment at Eastern State Hospital.
When she came out of treatment, she was able to return home.
“Anna turned this into a boarding house so she could earn a living,” Blanton said. “We see where walls have been taken out or walls put in that were not original.”
In the 1940s, Anna sold the house to the Spokane Parks Board with the caveat that she would be allowed to live there until her death.
WSU rented the house for a short time as part of its fine arts program. But in the end, Spokane took control again.
“It has been teaching art classes to young children for over 30 years, is open to the community and has served children and adults for many years,” Blanton said. “(The house) hosts finger painting, portraiture and wreath-making classes.”
“So it’s a legacy he left, but he probably didn’t realize how much it would give back to the community,” Blanton said.
The house will be open September 9-17 from noon to 7pm daily for tours.
The city will host an event called “Era of Elegance Reimagined” to showcase decorations that honor the history of the house and showcase the Corbin Center for the Arts in a new way.
Local businesses include Ritters Garden & Gift, Chic & Shab Upscale Home, Tin Roof Furniture Showroom & Design Center, Jacobs Custom Living, Trovato Interiors Home Furnishings Boutique, and Bide & Burgeon: A furniture company has completely remodeled the house and items will be changed. Available for purchase with tickets on sale to return to the building to restore the facade.