David Goularte [this article originally appeared in the Fall 2013 Olympia Historical Society Quarterly bulletin and has been updated by the author in 2023 with new information about the home]
The [Egbert-Ingham] house first appeared in print in the forerunner of The Olympian on December 20, 1914 as having been completed that spring. Called “one of the finest homes in the city,” it cost $6,000. to build. The same article noted that the Carnegie library was also completed that year for $21,000. The average bungalow cost $1,200 in 1914.
A wealthy industrialist from Shelby, Ohio, Joseph A. Seltzer, built the house as a wedding present for his daughter. He owned 5 factories, one of which manufactured the first bubble gum in America. The daughter, Dana Seltzer Egbert had married Dr. Curtis Egbert, a dentist who had come to Olympia in 1902. They married in 1912 and bought the lot from the Mottman family. They had Tacoma architect Luther Twichell design the house. His firm built Stadium High School in Tacoma. Building began in 1913. Move in day was in May of 1914.
Dana Egbert’s first party was in 1915 for ladies to knit mittens for the Belgians who were suffering during the First World War when Germany overran Belgium. Dr. Egbert entertained lonely soldiers from “Camp Lewis” in their home in 1918.
The state capitol had not yet been built. The Egberts watched the capitol campus go up from 1917 through 1928. The house was originally located at 119 West 14th Street on the corner of Columbia Street (current location of the visitors’ parking lot).
One of the architects of the capitol, Walter Wilder of Wilder and White, New York, rented the third floor. Wilder had his drafting tables there. He was a friend of the family and supervised the building of the capitol from this house. The whole capitol campus was visible from the house. Those were exciting years watching the magnificent buildings go up between ’17 and ’28.
Dana was very interested in technology like her father. It’s said she added the first continuous cabinets, the first dishwasher, and the first garbage disposal in Olympia in 1927. She added the wall trim (faux bois) detail in the living room in 1924 and the exterior shutters in 1937. The shutters are still on the house and still operate as intended.
Dana Egbert’s 1946 obituary noted that she built the Girl Scout House (on 11th Street, gone now) for the community. First Lady Lou Henry Hoover reputedly stayed with Dana on a visit to Olympia when Mrs. Hoover was President of the Girl Scouts of America. The Egberts’ daughter, Mary, married her UW fiancé John White, one of the gold medal winners at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. His story is featured in Daniel James Brown’s book, The Boys in the Boat. Many other prominent state and national personalities have visited the house over the years.
Dr. Egbert died in 1936 of pneumonia, “playing golf in the rain.” Dana died in 1946. Dr. Reed Ingham bought the house from their children Lawrence and Mary in 1947. Reed Ingham was related to Mark Reed, one of the founders of Simpson Timber. The Inghams lived happily here until the fateful day in 1960 when the state told them they had to give up their house for the expansion of the capitol campus. They managed to hold on until 1969 when the state took over the house. It was to be torn down.
The City of Yelm bought the house from the state for one dollar. Yelm received a grant of $167,000 to use the house for a community center. Yelm could not come up with matching funds to move all the telephone poles, so the house reverted back to the state.
Again it was to be torn down. In the early 1970’s the Legislature, after many years of indecision, granted funds for the renovation of the 1908 Governor’s Mansion. It was decided to make the former Egbert house a temporary “Mansion”…saving it from the wrecking ball a second time. When former Governor Dan Evans and Nancy Evans later visited to see their old home, Nancy told the Goulartes that of “all the government issued housing I’d had to live in, this one was my favorite.” The Evanses lived here in 1973 and ’74 until they moved back into the renovated Governor’s Mansion.
The house then became state offices…the architects of the campus expansion had their offices there…just as Walter Wilder once did. When the campus expansion was completed, the house was no longer needed and faced being torn down for the third time.
Just days from demolition, James Curnutt bought the house from the state for $1,200 and, in a very publicized move, relocated the house 14 blocks to Adams Street in 1979. The front porch was dismantled and the parts placed in the living room. The rear projections were discarded. The house had to be winched across the I-5 Bridge because the bridge could not hold both the truck and the house. The truck BACKED the huge house into the street and between two ancient apple trees and then was TURNED it to face west.
Peggy and Dwight Morrison bought the house from James Curnutt but were there a short time, having to relocate in 1983. They brought the house down onto its new foundation and connected power and plumbing. The basement was not re-created. The house had been vacant for 6 years when David and Ruthann Goularte bought it in 1989. Interior designer, David Bettencourt Goularte had his office and drafting table on the 3rd floor as Walter Wilder once had his.
Built in the waning years of the Edwardian era ended by WWl, the Goulartes chose to restore and create a contemporary version of that time. You might feel as if you’ve returned to the days of the Titanic when you walk in.