Shaw House: A new chapter for former owners of landmark Tacoma residence

Two years ago, the Tacoma Daily Index published a series of articles following the progress of homeowners Sharon Winters and Kendall Reid as they placed their home on Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places.

For more than 45 years, the two-story, 115-year-old building, located at the corner of North 25th Street and North Lawrence Street, was home to the late Tacoma architect Stanley T. Shaw, his wife, Clara, and their four children.

Between 1919 and 1930, Shaw and his brother, Frederic, designed more than a dozen residences, churches, schools, and business headquarters in Tacoma. After Frederic moved to California in 1929, Shaw continued his architectural practice. In 1931, he purchased the home at North 25th Street and North Lawrence Street, and turned one room into a home office, where he started to garner attention for the residential homes he designed. Although the home wasn’t originally built by Shaw, it served as a sort of laboratory for some of Shaw’s architectural ideas.

Stanley died on July 21, 1976, at the age of 80. Clara sold the house a year later, but remained in Tacoma until her death in 1981.

An early photograph of the Shaw House in Tacoma. (IMAGE COURTESY SHARON WINTERS / KENDALL REID)

An early photograph of the Shaw House in Tacoma. (IMAGE COURTESY SHARON WINTERS / KENDALL REID)

 

Winters and Reid bought the home in 1997.

When I interviewed the couple in July 2014, I mentioned that a common argument against landmarking property is that it might limit what they could do with their home.

Winters — a significant figure on Tacoma’s historic preservation scene — was unfazed.

“I only think of it as a blessing because, sure, we have to do design review if we want to make changes to the exterior, and some people might think, ‘Well, doesn’t this affect the re-sale value of the house?’” she explained. “But I wouldn’t want to sell it to somebody who wasn’t going to maintain this [house].” Winters and Reid landmarked the home knowing they would soon make major life changes.

Last October, the couple sold the heritage home in a matter of days for $20,000 more than the original asking price. Winters and Reid now live in St. Petersburg, Fla., where they bought a 1920s bungalow (pictured below) and retired.

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“Most folks think the register is far more restrictive than it actually is, and we didn’t want to manage that misconception while working to sell the home,” the couple’s real estate agent, Ethan Wing, recently told me. “That said, much of the reason the home sold in days and for significantly more than list price, was due to its uniqueness and character. In a world where, more and more, homes look alike, the demand for and value of those that don’t only seems to be increasing.”

(Note: I also reached out to the Shaw House’s new owners through their real estate agent, but did not receive a response.)

Last week, I phoned Winters and Reid to learn more about their experience selling the Shaw House. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for publication.

TACOMA DAILY INDEX: What role did the landmark status have on marketing and selling the home? Did it help? Did it hurt?

SHARON WINTERS: I’m not sure about the specific landmark status piece and whether that helped or hurt because our realtor didn’t really market it that way. But he did talk a lot in the narrative — in fact, I have a copy of the flyer that he was distributing: The Historic Stanley T. Shaw Home. He talked about the architect, the details of the house, and the fact that it was original. I think that was the hook — not necessarily the landmark status.

We listed it on a Thursday night. I think there were probably ten different realtors who came through. Our realtor then did an open house and had about thirty-five people at the open house. It was interesting because out of the three solid offers we had, two chose to send their realtor to talk with us personally and give us a letter from their buyer saying how much they valued the character and the original detail of the house. So that was very cool for us — having two people who came in with kind of these passionate, elaborate, verbose statements about how much they loved the house and would love to be the owner and a steward of it.

In the end, it came down to one of those two couples coming back with a much better offer dollar-wise. So that’s who got it.

INDEX: When we spoke a couple years ago, you mentioned you wouldn’t want to sell it to someone who wouldn’t want to maintain its history. Was that still kind of a criteria for you?

WINTERS: Because we ended up selling it to a couple that had written this three-page letter and — in the end, we’re not going to take $25,000 less because somebody has written this passionate letter and the other bidder hasn’t. That’s just reality. Because in the end we live across the country and we can’t control that. But that was a nice feature that we were able to sell it to people who we know are going to be good stewards of the home. I mean, they need to be with the exterior because it’s on the register. I trust that they are going to maintain the interior character. But, again, you sell a house and, you know, you’ve sold a house. You don’t have anymore ownership in it. So all you can do is do things in advance, like put it on the register, and then be pleasantly surprised when people write you this passionate letter about the house.

I can give you some quotes out of their letter because it just points to the fact that there just aren’t a lot of unique original houses on the market because often you see a really great exterior and then the interior has been totally ripped out. They said, “We consider it an added bonus that it was recently added to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places.” They actually talked to the City of Tacoma’s Historic Preservation Office and did some online research about the house so that they understood what it meant to own a historic home and what the responsibilities were. I think two out of the three families that put in offers were doing that kind of rigor around it. Plus, they knew it was a competitive market and they needed to catch our attention.

INDEX: You always hear people say, ‘If I landmark my property, I can’t do anything with it.’ Was there ever any concern about putting the house on the register while knowing that you were soon going to sell it? Was that ever in the back of your mind?

KENDALL REID: We were aware of that. But we had the good luck that our agent, Ethan Wing, was able to balance that concept really well. In other words, he presented the house as an interesting house and a unique house, but he didn’t overemphasize the fact that it was on the register. So I think that worked really well.

WINTERS: We had put a lot of energy into the house. We had this incredible affinity with the whole Stanley thing and the character of the house. For me, I [put it on the historic register] kind of as a defensive measure. I felt strongly enough about the character of the house and I had been wanting to list it for a long time. When we could see that we were going to sell, I was like, “OK, let’s get this done.” I think it leaves a legacy for the neighborhood.

Here [in St. Petersburg], we bought an equally unique house, perhaps more so in the way of architectural significance. I just nominated it to be on the local register here. We have a lot of tear-downs going on in this neighborhood. I just feel really powerfully about this house and about the character of the whole neighborhood. So I can do my one little thing here by putting this house on the register. I think it’s about valuing the character of your neighborhood, not just your particular house. You want to leave a bit of a legacy there.

INDEX: Does this mean you have both officially left Tacoma?

WINTERS: Yeah. It’s nice when somebody sends me a question or sends me a note about something that is going on in Tacoma. But we have moved across the country and have gotten really engaged in the community already. Kendall is really involved in the Bike Co-Op and is on the board of directors. I’ve gotten involved in the neighborhood’s planning and preservation committee. I have been working on zoning issues and variances and going to hearings and testifying. Part of it is about the tear-down issue in the neighborhood. Also, I was doing a lot of research in the fall about listing the house on the local register, so I’m really trying to get some of my neighbors to do it, too. We’ve kind of jumped in with both feet here. As retirees, we have time to do that. And we have a good bit of desire to do that just to kind of make connections in the community. We have left Tacoma, sadly, but we are just really loving it down here. It’s a very community-minded kind of place. People are very involved in trying to make things better, which is very encouraging.

Sharon Winters and Kendall Reid outside the historic Shaw House in 2014. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Sharon Winters and Kendall Reid outside the historic Shaw House in 2014. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the historic Shaw House, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.