"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

The house at 30 Miller Street

By on June 26, 2021 in Featured Homes with 0 Comments
Long an architectural  landmark with its Doric columns, cornice moldings and portico, the Miller Street brick home‘s grandiose exterior belies its many years as a lived-in and loved-in family home. Photo by Mike Cushman

Built by a monied fruit broker in 1930 and maintained proudly ever since

By Susan Lagsdin

“How can we be so lucky to live here?” Mario and Connie Fry still ask themselves after 32 years in their stately brick house at 30 Miller Street in Wenatchee.

It wasn’t all luck. 

They needed more space for their growing family and had a limited budget when they approached the home’s seller, Judy Fishbourne, in 1989. She interviewed the young couple in their then-current home, deemed them worthy (“Your plaster is in good condition,” Connie remembers her saying), and offered them a sweetheart deal.

Fishbourne had good reason to care about the big landmark house. She was only the second owner; the first, successful fruit broker George Miller of the pioneering Phillip Miller family, had it built at considerable expense in 1930. Plumbing and electricity still worked perfectly, high-quality imported materials and exquisite handcrafting were intact.

The four-level house was in pristine condition at the time of that sale, and it had a reputation to uphold. Over the decades they’ve lived there, the Frys have been respectful stewards and have maintained it proudly.

The big sunny living room with its 90-year-old maple floors runs the length of the house, anchored by a fireplace that has remained in use, with a mantle and surround added by the Frys. 

Oak and maple floors gleam, bathroom tiles glow with color, multi-paned windows sparkle, dark varnished trim still wraps the doors and windows, heavy gumwood doors click securely, the chimney draws well, there’s nary a crack in any plaster wall.

And that’s after raising seven children through their rambunctious childhoods and into maturity. Mario says he’s never had to refurbish much due to wear and tear, and Connie’s description of their early home life indicates why.

“They never bickered, they never fought,” she says of her four boys and three girls, adding it helped that the house was spacious enough that people could spread out over three floors. (One tribute to good parenting is that the whole bunch plus families still happily vacation together.)

It was a different era for many households: “We had dinner together at 6 p.m. every night, and there was always a homemade dessert: pie, cobbler, pudding,” said Connie. (Cookies didn’t count.) Everyone had their assigned chores to do, and playtime was outdoor time. “When they went outside, they usually went right across the street, over to Washington Park.”

Mario and Connie Fry, who’ve lived here 32 years, are at a perfect point — still in love with their grand old brick house and their Wenatchee community but looking forward to a change of locale that’s close to family. Photo by Mike Irwin

30 Miller served well as a joyful, kid-filled family home, and just yards away from the 147-site Grandview Historic District, it also gained some gravitas being placed on the Wenatchee Register of Historic Places. Its distinctive 18th Century architectural style, called Georgian in some sources and Southern Colonial in others, figures in the memories of thousands of neighbors and friends of the family over the years.

An antique spinning wheel prominent in the upstairs landing window was lost inadvertently before the Frys moved in; Mario purchased a newer one — still there — because it had become a favorite “I spy” item for passers-by.

Big birthday parties and wedding receptions often filled the landscaped yard or the 30-foot by 15-foot living room, with furniture moved aside and décor festooning the walls. One local visitor who had been there as a child remembered how beautiful the Christmas decorations were. 

The Frys modernized their home seamlessly as their needs changed, making their own accessories, art and furnishings a subtle complement to the home’s elderly charm.

As children grew and moved on, they converted some rooms. 

Every tile and fixture is original, with the bathtub’s lovely scene imported from Italy. The distinctive Moorish arch above the tub echoes those downstairs and on the living room fireplace. Photo by Mike Cushman

Connie, a skilled fabric artist, became enamored of peel-and-stick wall décor. “At one point I had to decide between a quilting machine and a 10-foot-wide printer,” she said. She chose the latter, and with her daughter’s tech help she designs, prints and markets custom-designed wallpaper and decals from her basement studio.

Another downstairs room has become a whimsical leopard-print den. Carpeting, painted furniture and a wall-sized, up-close portrait of a leopard are a fun contrast to the more traditional look upstairs.

In the kitchen, Mario crafted the smooth and stylish concrete countertops, sink surround and center island, which besides being functional are surprisingly congruent with all the vintage cabinetry. The dining room — deliberately kept separate despite the trend toward open plans, features bold colors and calligraphy trim at the molding height. 

The Frys are pleased with their choice to leave most of the 1930’s décor intact. The bathrooms are lush with Italian tilework, the built-in bookcases and glass-fronted cabinets are artfully crafted, brass lighting fixtures remain.

There’s still a telephone nook in the foyer, and the soft rounded coving and Moorish arches in the main living areas add a touch of the exotic. A leaded glass door leads to the private walled patio and its original fountain.

“Retirement is easy in a big space like this,” said Connie. “We just close off the rooms we don’t use.” 

In their 70s, neither she nor Mario are daunted by stairs; they freely use the basement rooms, the main floor and occasionally the second story. “There’s an attic way up there, too, Mario said, “But it’s never been finished.” He cites copious storage space as a luxurious original feature.

Mario has remodeled homes in the past, and his long career as an accountant offers insight to his care for details. 

He’s the on-call fixer, and he’s proud of the home’s quality and condition. “It’s totally square,” a builder’s high compliment. “And even without any insulation in the walls, the brick helps keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter,” he added, citing a reasonable electric bill.

“And, listen… you can barely hear the cars going by.” Handy to downtown, the home’s front yard fills the northwest corner of Miller and Washington streets, but inside it feels a world away.

There comes a time in the life of a long-married couple in a big old house when it’s time to move on. Mario and Connie still love their home and are content, comfortable, and connected to their community. But they are also ready for their next adventure, anticipating a move this year to a simpler home in St. George, Utah where their daughter lives. 

They’ve listed the house with Emilia Furmanczyk at John L. Scott and are hoping, as their predecessor did, that a buyer (whose plaster is in good condition) will walk in and see not just a house with a historic pedigree but a place they can call their own. 

The Frys realize the next owners might want to remodel or re-purpose the house. 

So Connie is quick to demonstrate its flexibility, deftly peeling back a corner of the huge leopard-portrait wall covering, “See — it comes right off. This room can be anything you want it to be.”

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