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A gate of logs and stone

Renowned architect left his mark on local area

World War I soldiers and vehicles go inside and out Camp Lewis under the gate designed by Kirtland Cutter in 1917. Photo courtesy of The Lakewood Historical Society

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Spokane's famous Davenport Hotel, the Spokane Chronicle Building, even a modest home in Metaline Falls that now is used as a community theater, are just a few examples of the many early 20th century buildings designed by an Ohioan who came west to follow his career.

Once Kirtland Cutter began his practice in Spokane in the late 19th century, he branched out to designing homes in the Lakewood area for about 30 years. He concluded his career in 1939 in California.

One of Cutter's most distinctive works, a stone and timber structure near the main gate of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is visible from I-5 as motorists travel on that main route. Strictly ornamental today, it was for many years the actual main gate for Camp Lewis, as the base was known in 1917, the year the gate was constructed.

In his book about Cutter's architectural career, Henry C. Matthews, Washington State University professor of architecture, wrote that Chester Thorne was instrumental in having the military camp located on the site near American Lake and "may have helped to secure the commission for Cutter."

The gateway to the military establishment, built of rough hewn stone and logs, took its inspiration from the design of forts in the early years of Washington Territory. Two "fortified" blockhouses, similar to those that existed at Fort Nisqually (in present-day DuPont), supported a canopy made of whole tree trunks spanning the roadway. Archways allowed the passage of pedestrians on either side.

In the Lakewood area, Cutter designed Thornewood Castle, Villa Carman, the Dolge House and the Jones House.

Heather Hill, Ernest Dolge's home near Lake Steilacoom, is not as ornate as some of Cutter's other designs, but quality was not skimped on the home of this lumber baron.

Dolge was so proud of the work that went into his mansion that it's said he offered any visitor $100 if the visitor could find any knotholes in the beams of the attic. It's also said that no one ever collected on Dolge's offer.

In 2012, Lakewood Historical Society members had the opportunity to tour Villa Carman for its summer fundraiser. It is hoped that someday it can host tours to these other sites as well.

Kirtland Kelsey Cutter was born August 20, 1860, in the Village of East Rockport, near Cleveland, Ohio, spending his first 17 years at the home of his mother's grandfather, Jared Kirtland, a distinguished physician and naturalist. After his father's death, Cutter went to Europe, where he studied in the early 1880s. In October 1886, encouraged by his relatives, he made the long train journey on the Northern Pacific to Spokane Falls, Washington Territory.  

The City by the Falls was ripe for development, but before Cutter launched his own architectural firm, he painted scenery for an amateur production of The Mikado at Joy's Opera House. The cast included some of his future clients.

His earliest structures followed the Queen Anne design; over the next several decades, however, Cutter incorporated a variety of styles in the distinctive homes he built, including Swiss, German, and ultimately Mediterranean and Spanish. Especially noteworthy designs include the Davenport Hotel, the Idaho House designed for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, Lake McDonald Lodge at Glacier National Park in Montana , the Rainier Club in Seattle, and the interior rooms at the Tacoma Hotel.

Read more about this renowned early northwest architect in Kirtland Cutter: Architect in the Land of Promise, by Henry C. Matthews, published by the University of Washington Press, 1998.

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