40 for 40: Walla Walla County
Kirkman House

By Holly Chamberlainprevious story | next story | all stories

William and Isabelle Kirkman would not recognize much of Walla Walla today, but thanks to Historical Architectural Development, Inc., their imposing National Register-listed 1880 brick Italianate home, complete with widow’s walk and extensive grounds, is still there.

William immigrated to Boston from England in 1852, and, although having intended to operate a textile business, got fired up by more typically western North American pursuits. He spent time in the California, Idaho, and British Columbia gold fields, and other mining operations, raised cattle, and ran pack trains serving miners, among other jobs. William met Isabelle Potts, an immigrant from Ireland, in about 1867 in San Francisco, where they were married. After a stint in Idaho and a cold winter which killed their cattle, they moved briefly back to California, and then to Walla Walla in 1870 where they ran the Pioneer Market, raised cattle in partnership with John Dooley, operated two farms, raised wheat, and owned a Seattle hotel. Very active in civic affairs in his adopted home town, William served on the city council, school and penitentiary boards, as a Whitman College trustee, and as a delegate to the 1892 Republican National Convention. William and Isabelle had four children who lived; family members resided in the home for about 40 years. The home was then used variously as a dorm for Whitman and, later, apartments. The heavy usage and alterations congruent with those uses were fortunately able to be reversed with many restoration projects which began in the late 1970s by Historical Architecture Development, Inc. (HAD), and such volunteer leaders as Erma Jo Bergevin.

The Washington Trust recognized HAD’s work as early as 1982 with an award of merit, and later gave four Valerie Sivinski Washington Preserves Fund grants from 2004 through 2015. Grant assistance was provided toward matching a Heritage Capital Projects Fund grant for structural repairs; repairs to the unreinforced brick foundation; window rehabilitation; and most recently for restoration of the rear chimneys and dining room firebox.

Today, Kirkman House is operated as a museum, and contains many of the original family furnishings and possessions. On a personal note, I was an intern there in 1980, and it has been a very great pleasure over the years to observe the wonderful rehabilitation progress achieved by HAD, and the public programs and exhibits they have developed.

This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. This story highlights one of our most popular programs, the Valerie Sivinski Washington Preserves Grant Program, and shows just how much grassroots organizations can accomplish with a small amount of financial assistance. If you would like to support this grant program and spur more projects with positive outcomes, please consider making a special gift to the Washington Trust Valerie Sivinski Washington Preserves Fund. Each dollar contributed to this fund goes directly to funding projects around the state. You can also make a restricted contribution to the Valerie Sivinski Endowment to promote the long term stability of this grant program. Continuous stewardship is needed to protect that irreplaceable legacy for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

Here's to 40 more years of saving places that matter across Washington! Please sign up for our special weekly e-newsletter to recieve stories like this in your inbox all year long.

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