The 1880s were a booming time in Port Townsend. Its population increased more than 400 percent—bringing with it industry, streetcars, electricity, and an enviable collection of Victorian buildings. In Seattle, buildings constructed before 1890 are a rarity, with many of them destroyed in the Great Seattle Fire or regrades. Port Townsend, on the other hand, still has this built history intact, from government buildings to former brothels. But the most elaborate and flamboyant of these buildings are the town’s most upscale mansions, designed with lots of creativity and little inhibition.
The 1889 Starrett House, which hit the market earlier this month, exemplifies this wild and luxurious work. Its neighborhood’s nomination form for the national historic register calls it a “prime example” of the Eastlake Style, a particularly ostentatious offshoot of the already-showy Queen Anne style. Intricate wooden ornaments hang from eaves and decorate gables. Interior millwork is even more involved, with whimsical casing, uniquely carved doors, small icons carved in the corners of window frames. Also: It’s pink.
Builder George Starrett originally constructed the house as a wedding present for his wife, Ann. She still graces the place today: Inside the bold turret at the front entrance is a four-story atrium, with one long staircase spiraling up to a solar calendar featuring eight frescos, including four of Mrs. Starrett herself representing the four seasons. The agent tells us that the winter fresco, featuring a sheer wrap, was quite scandalous in its day.
Brief landings along the way lead to hallways and bedrooms, many with special details like reading nooks, ceiling murals, bay windows, and private balconies. This kind of staircase, which makes two full turns with no lower supports, is extremely rare—rumor has it that this is just one of two remaining in the United States.
While it is certainly as fancy as it was at its inception, it does have a few updates. A finished attic creates a fun top-floor suite. The basement got a similar treatment, highlighting some exposed brick walls. It’s spent some time as a bed and breakfast, so the kitchen’s a little more industrial.
The home has some illustrious company. It’s on the east corner of Port Townsend's downtown, placing it near other vintage favorites like the Rothschild House. Plus, it's close to the dramatic Post Office, Court, and Customs House building and the stretch of historic structures and small businesses on Water Street.
Listing Fast Facts
744 Clay Street, Port Townsend
Size: 5,796 square feet, 11 bedroom/10 bath
List Date: 4/12/2021
List Price: $1,500,000
Listing Agent: Teri Nomura, Windermere