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These old houses

Walk your way through an education in Craftsman

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From the outside, the distinctive, sturdy and simple shape of the house — generally low-pitched roof with deep eaves embellished with exposed rafters or decorative brackets, front porch screaming for a low-slung Adirondack chair, and simple double-hung windows — may clue you in to the style of the home.

On the inside, heavy but simple woodwork and the use of natural materials and Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired motifs may be your next hint.

Just do Historic Tacoma a favor, and don’t paint the house pink and gut the inside, replacing the woodwork with metal accents, octagonal cut-outs, and hip ’50s light fixtures.

“It’s the architectural equivalent of a giraffe’s body, alligator’s head and pigtails,” explains Caroline Swope, author and board member for Historic Tacoma, who hopes to help preserve the architectural heritage of Tacoma one building at a time and educate against monster-house remodels like the one described.

“If you design with the energy of the house,” Swope says, “it’s a better finished project.”

Swope, with an extensive background and education in design and architecture, moved to Tacoma from the East Coast. She compares Tacoma favorably against Seattle. “The North Slope is one of the largest historic districts in the whole state,” she notes. “Tacoma outshines Seattle.” She points out that while much of Seattle’s historic architecture is kept in primarily the most affluent parts of the city, Tacoma’ historic homes can be found throughout the city.

And Historic Tacoma hopes to encourage homeowners to keep those homes preserved.

“For us, it’s about saving the architectural flavor of Tacoma,” Swope elaborates.

These preservations don’t have to be difficult or create museum-feeling homes, and the tour of the Craftsman homes on Sept. 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. will show how that preservation can be done through the examples seen in one particular style of home, to encourage and educate people with all kinds of homes.

Historic Tacoma’s current informational thrust focuses on Craftsman homes. “It’s a hot style from a design point of view, with lots of people interested in it and lots of samples available in Tacoma,” Swope says.

The 2007 Old House Tour will showcase seven of the area’s Craftsman homes.

“What we’re trying to do is put together a sampling of seven homes that run the gamut.”

These homes range in size, from 1,000 square feet to “much larger,” according to Swope. “We’re trying to showcase sympathetic remodels,” She adds.

“The way they were built 100 years ago does not support modern traditions,” Swope explains. She suggests that while it might look neat to have a kitchen from the period when the house was built, that kitchen may not be the best one to work in.

Homes featured on the tour will show how to restore homes with a nod to Craftsman styling, and include those which have included kitchen remodels, additions, and even painted woodwork.

“It’s about respect for the house and a certain understanding,” Swope says, adding, “There are some really great houses.”

Defining features to understand about the Craftsman style will be pointed out on the tour, along with information about vendors and resources for restoration. These will range from Rejuvenation lighting and hardware, to Ixia Tile, on to Stories Inc, who create reproduction textiles.

Additionally, author Lawrence Kreisman will have the first available copies of his book, “The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Pacific Northwest” on sale, ready to offer more restoration inspiration.

Tickets to the self-guided tour are $15 and on sale at Dave’s Meat and Produce (1312 N I St., 253.280.9999), King’s Books (218 St. Helens, 253.272.8801, or through Historic Tacoma by calling 253.591.2026 or visiting

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