Lovegren mansion owners to part with years of work
Restored house is historical landmark
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
PRESTON - When Jack and Virginia O'Malley first laid eyes on the old house, they knew they had found just what they had been looking for.
"It was what we had always dreamed about," said Virginia. "We wanted a house to restore."
And now, six years later, the restoration of the historic Lovegren mansion is nearing completion.
"But it will never be really finished," said Virginia. "There will always be something to do."
And that is one of the reasons the O'Malleys are hoping to find another family that will love the home as much as they do. They have decided to put it up for sale, and, although they will miss the house, they feel it is time to move on. Virginia explained that they are both retired with grown children and grandchildren living out of state.
"We want to be able to visit them more often," she said. "Restoring the house has been fun and interesting and we have enjoyed it a lot, but we want to be free to do some traveling."
The couple can depart with a comfortable feeling, knowing that they have left behind a lasting legacy.
"I think that if we hadn't bought the house, it would be gone now," said Virginia. "It was in very bad shape when we bought it."
She said the structure of the house had been suffering from the effects of termites and carpenter ants which needed to be dealt with first. Another project at the top of the list was applying for county historical landmark status. When that was achieved, the couple was able to apply for grants and low interest loans, which helped in the restoration process. One grant paid for part of the installation of the wraparound porch, an original feature which had been lost in a fire.
"It's a lot of paperwork, but it was worth it," she said. "There are also tax breaks that come along with owning a historic landmark. The work has been hard but very rewarding."
The elegant, two-story family home was built by August Lovegren in 1904. Lovegren, a Swedish immigrant, developed the Preston Mill to provide material to rebuild Seattle after the great fire of 1889. The home was built with bay windows, dormers and a wraparound veranda and overlooked the shingle mill. A greenhouse, carriage house and fountain completed the estate.
But in the 1920s, fire consumed the veranda and the top dormer. When the O'Malleys purchased the house, the outbuildings were also gone. But most of the interior was still original and well preserved. Two oak and tile fireplaces, lighting fixtures, staircases and all the molding were still intact, just waiting for loving hands to bring them back to life.
Acquiring old pictures and hearing tales from pioneer family members were also crucial elements in restoring the mansion to its original grandeur.
Shortly after the couple moved in, three little old ladies came to the door, said Virginia.
"They were Lovegren daughters, I think, and a cousin," she said. "They brought pictures and supplied history."
The O'Malleys completed the task by filling the house with period furniture, the result of a lifetime of antique collecting. The effect is stunning.
"It is like stepping back in time," said Virginia. "I felt that way when I first saw the house."
Unfortunately for the new owners, whoever they may be, the antiques will be leaving with the O'Malleys.
"Some are family heirlooms," she said. "They carry a lot of memories so we will be passing them onto our children."
The O'Malleys have hosted teas at the house for both historic preservation groups and the numerous descendants of August Lovegren who died in 1917.
In doing the restoration, the couple kept in mind the original design and integrity of the home. Items replaced or restored were duplicates of originals or in keeping with the time period of the 4,000-square-foot home.
Inside, the rooms have bay windows, heavy pocket doors and wood moldings. There is a front parlor, living room, sewing room, a "common room" upstairs, two bathrooms and five bedrooms. The house also has a butler's pantry-laundry room, unfinished basement and attic bonus room.
All the electrical wiring, the septic system and furnace have been redone. The house sits on 1.19 acres near the Preston Community Center.
"This is a very special house," said John L. Scott Realtor Marilyn Sundquist. "The O'Malleys have poured their heart and soul into it for six years. We hope to find someone who will appreciate the history of the home."
The house is being shown by private appointment only. For information, call Sundquist at (206) 498-0567.