PANORAMA - Framing new life an old house



The new house at its current 740 Whitman St. location.


The old house moves from Park Street in 2008.


Framed within the woodwork of his creation, Kevin Davis surveys the final touches of his work in progress at 740 Whitman St.


Beautiful, warm-hued slate mixes with shadow and light from some of the $30,000 worth of new windows.


Old and new combine with a basin tub, large walk-in shower and enough hot water for every floor, all the time.


Hours of labor still await on the third floor.


Detail work from an upstairs mini-kitchen.

Built in 1911, the Craftsman-style house was one step away from demolition when Kevin Davis laid eyes on it two years ago.

The structure, which then resided on Park Street had been the property of the Walla Walla YMCA for years, said Rachelle Flanik, the Y's facility director.

The agency had rented out the 5,000-square-foot house to generations of Whitman College students, who had "totally abused" the house, she said, with a laugh.

"They had skating ramps in the living room. And a hedgehog lived there, too, in a (wading) pool in the little library," she added. And waves of students, renters or not, stored belongings in the basement.

The Y's leadership was interested in preserving the history of the house, and was considering allowing people in to remove the wood floors, panel doors, antique fixtures, anything that could be saved and reclaimed, Flanik said.

Easier considered than carried out, Y officials discovered.

When Davis came on the scene, willing to take the house for the asking price of $1 and $40,000 in moving costs, it was a "godsend," Flanik said.

Not only would the house be out of the way of future YMCA expansion, but the designing contractor had the best of intentions - to put the structure in a neighborhood befitting the age and aura of the home.

The right spot turned out to be 740 Whitman St., where Davis set the house in the back corner of the lot - and reassembled the third floor from numbered pieces - until foundation work was completed.

There were many who considered the entire project ill-conceived, Davis said, with a smile. "Even my family thought I was crazy. But I really like to save, rather than see things torn down."

The McLoughlin Union High School wrestling champion graduated from Brigham Young University in 1983 with a triple major in music, drama and dance. But he'd gone into school with eye for design, Davis said.

Careers and ambition took Davis and his family to several corners of the world, but they - like many do - eventually returned to where the roots started.

ReNae Davis now teaches music at Davis Elementary School, and the couple's sons, Campbell and Parker, have inherited the gift, Kevin said. "They're both incredibly talented in music."

Being away from the home zip code for many years offered exposure to a plethora of design and building ideas not always seen locally, Davis said.

So far, he's employed a number of innovative concepts at the house.

And a great number of dollars.

The home, which had to be gutted in some areas, now has all new plumbing, electrical, security and sound systems.

Most of the original woodwork was too scarred to be salvaged, but Davis has re-created it down to the last notch, he said. "It's better than the original."

The five-bedrooms, four-point-five bathrooms, two laundry rooms, a media room and guest-house-over-the-garage home received $30,000 in new windows. It is surrounded by and sitting on $65,000 in concrete work. Every wall is insulated, even interior ones. Appliances - in addition to the main kitchen, there are two mini-kitchens and one outdoor kitchen - rang up at $30,000.

The house will be on the market soon. Davis, and sometimes family members, are devoting long daily labors to finishing the project. Then the home will be ready to be filled with life once again, much to his satisfaction.

"I do take a lot of pride in what I do; it's not just for show. There is something about saving something from history and shining it up again and (making it) especially functional for today, with all the bells and whistles you get in a new home, but with the character (of an older home)," Davis explained. "I mean, really, I'm crazy."


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