Behind a louvered wall are five banks of tubes and other musical insturments actuated from the keyboard. CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE
SLIDESHOW: The story of a dream house named Forestledge
By Ken Robinson
This is a story about a dream.
It begins in 1901 on a steep and heavily wooded bluff overlooking Puget Sound at Seahurst at the water's edge of Burien. William Sprague began building a home there. They did not finish it until about 1918. Then their son, six-foot, 185-pound lawyer Hollister Sprague, a World War 1 veteran and honors graduate from the University of Washington took over.
It was not to be an ordinary home. Over the next years, bringing building materials to the site by barge, the project became a 7,430 square foot mansion with a 60x40 foot ballroom with a 26-foot ceiling. The house is three levels, including a basement that today seems medieval but which houses a massive gas furnace that still works.
On the main level, there is a large living room, library, dining room and kitchen and upstairs, six bedrooms with shower and bath. The waterside views are seen through leaded glass across the breadth of the big house.
Hollister Sprague was 24 when he became the principal occupant of the home. He worked at the firm, which came to be known at Perkins Coie, a company with employs more than 500 staff today. He was Bill Boeing's first lawyer.
In 1931, Sprague commissioned the installation of the largest pipe organ west of the Mississippi River to be installed in the ballroom of his mansion, Forestledge. In addition to the pipes in the ballroom, added in 1936, above a massive stone fireplace and with a large echo chamber behind, on the east side of the room there are five banks of tubes behind louvered panels to allow sound to resonate into the ballroom.
Amidst the drums in a tight space are bass drums, kazoos and other instruments actuated from the keyboard for the organ. Sprague paid $6,000 for the installation.
The Sprague family occupied the residence on about five acres of wooded land out of view of everything. A private drive provided access to the grounds. The house was camouflaged from the air by big trees.
Hollister Sprague died at home in 1986. There have been two other occupants of the property since then. The most recent owner, Sean Kinney, was the drummer for the grunge band, Alice in Chains.
The original structure has weathered time well, but Forestledge began to show signs of neglect by 2012. Then Kinney put the house up for sale.
Here is where the dream takes a fast forward pace.
Enter John White. White is the tall, handsome founder of American Piledriving Equipment (A.P.E.), a global supplier of pile driving services. After being a successful business operator for many years, White was restless. He decided to go back to school. He enrolled at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington and two years later earned a Master of Business Administration degree. During his chase for a degree, White sold his interest in A.P.E. Now, he had both an MBA degree and a bag of money. He had long wanted to build a house. John White, like Hollister Sprague, is a dreamer.
He begins looking for a site. One day while out jogging, White sees a for sale sign for the Sprague mansion. He has to get a look at it.
It was like finding hidden treasure. He has to buy Forestledge. John L. Scott realtor Bill Reid sells the place for the second time. White pays Sean Kinney $1,000,000 and became the owner of a dream house.
Many people would flinch at the prospect of taking on such a massive restoration project. John White doesn't sweat the small things. He already has been refinishing the floors, cutting back the overgrowth of trees and bushes, which threatened to give Forestledge the character of a long-hidden Mayan temple.
He is on the ground beavering away on every aspect of restoration while he contemplates the first contemporary recital from the restored pipe organ. Marceaux Organ Builders of Ballard will do the work.
Forestledge, surrounded by 3.6 acres of sloping land, holds many treasures. John White expresses a strong reverence for its history. His face glows at the thought of hearing the throaty tones of the Estey and Wurlitzer theater organs being restored by Nathan Jensen of the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
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