FAIRBANKS — When the house at 410 Cowles Street was built 98 years ago, it had an indoor bathroom with hot and cold running water, quarters for a maid, 10-foot ceilings and central heat from a coal-burning furnace.
The bungalow-style house with a lawn and a large screened porch was likely the nicest house in the Alaska Territory at the time, according to Elizabeth Cook of the Tanana-Yukon Historical Society.
Known as the Mary Lee Davis House on the National Register of Historic Places, the house was renovated from 2005 to 2009 and is now an eight-bedroom bed and breakfast full of antiques. It’s for sale. The asking price is $625,000.
“If you look around Alaska, you’re not going to find too many more homes as interesting or with as much history,” said Bill Albee, who owns the bed and breakfast with his wife, Van Newstrom.
The house was built in 1916 to impress a woman.
Arthur Williams, a prosperous businessman, built the house for his new wife, Lucille McCarthy, according to a history of the place described on the bed and breakfast website, www.alaskaheritagehouse.com.
It’s a matter of debate whether McCarthy was a “good time girl” from Dawson City or young girl traveling in Alaska with her parents.
The couple used the house for entertaining, charity and civic activities. Lucille reportedly shared her bathroom with friends so they could take hot baths on cold winter days.
In 1919, tragedy struck. Williams’ restaurant burned down. Later that year, he died of heart disease.
Lucille quickly sold the house and left town. Mary Lee Davis, the second owner of the house, was a writer from New York City.
The Mary Lee Davis suite, where the small, ornamental coal-burning stove that Davis had installed still sits, was Davis’ study where she wrote books and news articles.
Along with eight bedrooms, the house has seven bathrooms, original oak floors, a fireplace surrounded by jade and the original bathtub, which was a huge luxury for Fairbanks in 1916.
“If you wanted a hot bath prior, you had to go to the bathhouse or just boil water in your own kitchen,” Newstrom said.
The kitchen has original cabinets and countertops and the original icebox, which has been converted to a refrigerator.
The stove is the same make and model that was used in the house in the 1900s. It has been retrofitted to have a propane cooktop and electric oven.
The dining room table, which stays with the house, is original and some of the bedroom furniture is from the early days. Most of the antiques, which have been reconditioned, will stay with the house except for some family pieces, Newstrom said.
Historic photos from the University of Alaska Fairbanks archives decorate the walls throughout the house.
The house’s history includes a visit by Lou Hoover, wife of then-Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who went on to become president of the United States.
Albee and Newstrom bought the house in 2009, establishing it as the Alaska Heritage House Bed and Breakfast.
The couple is looking to retire so they can travel more and spend time with grandchildren in the Lower 48.
The house underwent major renovations less than 10 years ago, so it has modern plumbing, electrical and roofing, the owners said. Jacqueline Haydon, the previous owner, reportedly spent more than $100,000 on the plumbing alone.
The bed and breakfast is rated No. three on the website www.tripadvisor.com for its category in Fairbanks.
Rates to stay in the historic house are $75-$220 per night depending on the room and the season. The proprietors say business is brisk in both summer and winter when visitors come for aurora watching.
Inquiries about the property should be made to Pamela Throop at Alaska Commercial Properties.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587.