If there's one thing I have learned over the years, it's that I am not alone when I say I like having a chance to peek into other people's homes. Not in the creepy, hiding-in-the-bushes sort of way, of course, but in the much more socially acceptable manner of dropping in at open houses and taking home tours.
I think this impulse to look behind closed doors is what makes the Candlelight House Tour at the National Preservation Conference a success year after year -- and never more so than in Spokane a couple of weeks back, when preservationists and city residents alike wandered through homes in the ritzy Cliff Park neighborhood.
Cliff Park -- according to the brochure we received -- dates back to the early 20th century, and features custom-built homes that rejected "tall, linear Queen Anne designs in favor of European-inspired Tudors, French and Spanish eclectics as well as American Colonials, Story Book, and Craftsman styles..." and "even a few homes... that represent mid-20th century modernism."
Each of the homes I visited on the tour had its own unique appeal, but I'll admit I was most charmed by the Senator Dill Mansion, known as Cliff Aerie. "Charm" and "mansion" rarely go together as far as houses are concerned (charming is Realtor code for "really, really tiny" in my experience) but for all its imposing size, Cliff Aerie was laid out in such a way that all of the spaces seemed intimate and cozy, rather than impossibly grand. The views it commands, however -- including one from an observation tower used in World War II -- are as grand as can be.
Though no other home on the tour could match the views at Cliff Aerie, and though the homes represented a wide range of architectural styles, they all did share one thing in common -- amazing stewardship. It was readily apparent that each house was beloved and well-preserved by its owners, who all seemed to take great pride in sharing their work with conference attendees and their fellow Spokanites alike.