Living with a legacy
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, Fall 2006
Eldridge home is
steeped in history
Bellingham boaters Dennis and Julie Fox set a course for
the past with the recent purchase of a 1906 Eldridge
what a house. Even in the history-rich Eldridge area,
its provenance is exceptional. Designed by Henry Bacon,
the architect of the Lincoln Memorial, the four-story
5,800-square-foot house is the only home in the
neighborhood that’s listed on the National Register of
become the guardians of such a historically significant
place was somewhat of a surprise for the Foxes. Though
Whatcom County has been their home base for almost 30
years, the couple had spent the past decade on the
water, sailing from Nova Scotia to Trinidad and
everywhere in between. Two years ago they crossed the
Atlantic and spent the summer in the Mediterranean.
retired 10 years ago after selling our core business,
Hydro Swirl,” says Dennis. The couple also own
Bellingham’s Hampton Inn. “We decided we could make more
money or we could make more time.”
purchasing a 58-foot Kadey Krogen trawler in 1996, the
couple began sailing year-round. “We sold our home on
the lake,” says Dennis. “We didn’t even have a car.”
the siren song of six grandchildren was strong, and it
lured them back to the area. They set foot on dry land
high above Bellingham Bay.
2004, the couple first purchased a smaller home in the
historical Eldridge neighborhood. But after a year and a
half, they decided to move the 1916 structure and build
a new home in its place to take full advantage of the
spectacular water views.
Dennis and Julie moved to a rental home on the other
side of town. But when the construction project on
Eldridge was held up, they reevaluated their situation.
“Life’s short,” says Dennis. “We had no back yard and no
view. Keep in mind, we’d lived on a lake for 18 years
and a boat for the last 10 years. We had to change the
When Dennis saw John L. Scott agent Peter Roberts
pounding a for-sale sign into the Bacon residence’s
yard, just three doors down from his new home in
progress, he pulled over and introduced himself. He was
determined to make the historic residence his and
Julie’s latest land-locked home.
wrote an offer that night, and the next morning they
accepted it,” says Roberts, who is president of the
Eldridge Society for History and Preservation and
president of the Whatcom County Association of Realtors.
“It was lightning fast.
home has a great history,” Roberts continues. “It was
one of the first to be identified as important when we
applied for our status as a historical district in
Foxes see themselves as stewards of a precious part of
Bellingham’s past. From the sturdy blocks of Chuckanut
sandstone in the home’s foundation to the attic where
the servants who tended the six-bedroom house slept,
they marvel over details.
don’t live in this home — you just become the caretaker
until the new homeowner comes,” says Dennis. He notes
the home has belonged to eight previous owners,
including the Archdiocese of Seattle, which used it as
a home for wayward boys from 1979 to 1989.
still plan to complete the renovation of the smaller
house they relocated, but may surprise themselves
“Ultimately, we will get the house next door built
within a year or so,” says Dennis. “Our dilemma then is
how well we like this home. It’s going to be hard to
give it up.”
Designed by noted architect Henry Bacon as a wedding
gift for his first cousin George Bacon, the home is a
rare Whatcom County example of Greek Revival
architecture. Henry Bacon went on to design the Lincoln
Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1911, where his
fascination with Greek and Roman temple design
Design benchmarks of the style are the square columns
that support an immense two-story portico. A
semicircular fan light window tops the sidelight-flanked
doorway, repeated with a half-round fan light window on
the pediment. Below the eaves, dentils — projecting
ornamental moldings — add grandeur and draw attention to
the height of the house.
Dennis and Julie moved into the home this past June
after hiring painters to remove wallpaper and refresh
the interior. Their daughter-in-law Kim Fox is a
contractor, and helped Julie with paint colors and other
then turned their attention to the landscaping. They
tackled overgrown trees and shrubs that were shrouding
the exterior’s handsome facade.
“We’re trying to get it so you can see the house,” says
Dennis. “Bacon did it to make it look right and we don’t
want to cover it all up.”
Because the home sits high above the bay with
gasp-worthy water views and the San Juan Islands beyond,
Bacon designed the two staircases on the main level to
run along the front of the house — the main staircase is
on one side and the servants’ staircase is on the other.
This leaves an unobstructed view from the front door
through the living room to the sweeping vistas.
off the living room is a water-facing dining room. The
two areas are separated by massive pocket doors,
designed to be slid aside by servants at just the right
moment with the declaration that dinner was served. Faux
marble and painted flowers decorated the fireplaces in
these two rooms, which were replaced with crisp white
paint to match the stunning trim and molding throughout
Previous owners Bill and Vanessa Randall installed a
small half-bath off of the dining room — the only
bathroom on the main level and the only room with dark
woodwork. They designed the diminutive space around a
lead glass window purchased many years before in
kitchen is large, with a second prep area and smaller
sink tucked closest to the dining room. Julie had blue
cabinets toned down with a striated paint technique,
which softens the look and complements white tile
countertops. What was originally a servants’ staircase,
now stained a dramatic dark hue, curves up from the
kitchen to the second-floor hallway.
second floor landing, with its view outside across the
portico’s small balcony, unfolds onto a broad hallway,
one of Julie’s favorite features of the home. “The hall
is so wide,” she says. “It’s such a grand feeling.”
bedrooms and a bath stem off of this ample hallway, with
a master bedroom and adjoined sitting room spanning the
entire back length of the house.
Complete with a third fireplace in the sitting room, the
master suite is bracketed by a window-lined enclosed
porch that overlooks the water.
Capping off the home is a spacious 1,000-square-foot
finished attic space. The basement is also finished,
housing three additional bedrooms.
Rooms with a view
In a home with so much character, it’s hard to single
out the most striking design elements.
me, it’s the size of the rooms and how tall they are,”
says Julie of the 10-foot ceilings on the main level and
9-foot ceilings on the second floor. “And I really love
the woodwork. The house just has a personality that
makes it really interesting.”
Dennis, it was the view and the location first and
foremost. But the house has also proved to be a stunner.
a period house and it looks right,” says Dennis. “No
one’s messed it up. We’ll continue to do things that
keep it a period house, but make it function better.”
Owning a century-old structure can intimidate some
homeowners. Not Dennis and Julie. They know full well
the TLC it will take to preserve the home. “It’s a lot
more work to save a house than to build it,” says
he isn’t fazed. “This is a snap compared to keeping a
boat going,” he says. “On the boat we make our own
electricity, our own water — it’s a little city. We deal
with heating, cooling, hot water, ice. But you come into
a house like this? At least it’s not rocking and
Stacee Sledge is a Bellingham
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