Our motivation is honor the life and legacy of Mr. Cutter and to bring knowledge and understanding of his life's work and contribution to Spokane and many other cities to the next generation.
Who says you can’t go back in time? Now is your chance to help rebuild the personal residence of famed architect Kirtland K. Cutter and spend a night or two in the famous Chalet. We are planning to rebuild the original residence of Mr. Cutter which he called the Chalet Hohenstein. We have obtained his original drawing plans from the Museum of Arts and Culture and we will faithfully reproduce an exact replica of his home.
There are seven bedrooms including servants quarters, two and half baths, three fireplaces with one in the master bedroom, two staircases, a butler's pantry and a library.
Guests will be able to spend a night in the house and experience life at the turn of the century. Brunch will be included as well as afternoon tea. Lunch and dinner will also be available for those who choose to dine with us. Two or three time a week we will conduct tours of other Cutter homes in the area including the Patsy Clark Mansion, the Glover Mansion and the Campbell house. We will also have period costumes available for those who wish to have the full experience.
What happened to the original Chalet Hohenstein? It was torn down in the 60s to make way for condominiums. It was located on 7th Avenue just below the Corbin House. If you drive by you can still see the basalt rock wall Mr. Cutter had built at the entrance to his property.
Who is this Cutter guy? He was born in 1860 in Ohio and studied art hoping to become an illustrator. In 1887 he moved to Spokane at the behest of his uncle, Horace Cutter who was a prominent banker. He had no formal architecture training or experience but had an eye for detail and design. He designed a house for his uncle and for himself.
After the great fire of 1889 when Spokane’s millionaires were eager to rebuild, Horace introduced his nephew to many of the influential men and women in the area. In the ensuing years he designed houses for James Glover, D.C. Corbin and son Austin Corbin, Patrick "Patsy" Clark, John Finch, Amasa Campbell, Robert Strahorn, W.J.C. Wakefield, Rockwood Moore, F. Lewis Clark, J. M. Corbett, Mr. Drumheller, Louis Davenport, and many more. Between 1887 and 1923 he produced designs for over 70 Spokane homes while only 35 of them remain today.
His commercial successes include the Davenport Hotel and restaurant, the Chronicle building, the Sherwood Building (now Cutter Tower), the Robertson Building, the Booth McClintock Building, the Spokane Club, the Cushing Building, the Rookery Block, First National Bank, the Steam Plant, the Gardner and Engdahl/The Gables Apartments and many others, some now demolished.
He also designed buildings and homes in Seattle such as the Stimson Greene mansion and the Rainier club; in Tacoma, Thornewood, Heather Hill and remodeling of the Tacoma Hotel; in Bellingham, Wa., Wardner's Castle; Walla Walla; Log Church in Chelan; the Rock House and the Cutter Theater in Metaline Falls; the Yale Hotel in Chewelah; Wilcox Manor and Autsen Mansion in Portland; the Hurlbut Mansion in Idaho; C. E. Conrad Mansion in Montana; and the Idaho building for the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago in 1893 for which he won a medal; the Fleming House, Balboa Island, Newport Beach, California, many homes in Palos Verdes, Long Beach and Pasadena, et al.
This home will not only pay tribute to one of Spokane's greatest architects but allow visitors to enter into the past through Mr. Cutter's own personal residence which was located in one of the most prestigious areas of town in the 1890s: Seventh Avenue. A small donation will go a long way in helping to realize a dream and you will get to experience this turn of the century home for yourself. If you feel you are unable to donate such a worthy cause, please share with your friends so they may share with their friends.
This interview appeared in the Spokesman-Review on April 8, 1917:
Spokane’s Best Known Builder, Kirtland Cutter, Welds Brick, Stone and Nature into one happy structure
Who has not marveled at the charm of some of Spokane’s most notable buildings, the Davenport Hotel, the Jay P. Graves country home at Waikiki, the R. B. Porter home, the Welch and Turner homes under the cliffs of the south hill, his own charming little chalet, the new Sherwood building, the Spokane Club and Western Union Life Insurance buildings?
Who, then, will not be interested in this interview with Kirtland Cutter, architect and artist, who has done more for Spokane’s advertisement as the most beautifully built of all western cities, perhaps than any one other individual. Mr. Cutter talks freely of his hopes, his ambitions, his disappointments and his gratifications.
It is a long way from the roofs and spires of Nuremberg to those of Spokane, and that the skyline of one city should have influenced the skyline of the other is a notion far fetched enough to seem unreal.
Yet it so happens that the impressions of Nuremberg upon a young American’s ideal of the beautiful has done much to change the architectural aspect of Spokane. The other day the writer had an interesting visit with Kirtland Cutter in his new studio on the seventh floor of the Eiler’s building which is in the early stages of extensive improvements. The windows look out on four sides of the town and a roof garden promenade extends the length of the two street fronts. In its present unfinished condition the place looks more like a workshop than anything else and it is a most incongruous mixture of office fixtures, an antique chair or so, a stuffed peacock, drafting tables, men in yellow smocks drawing and a stack of blueprints and blueprint shavings in one corner.
He sat at a table piled with glazed linen plans and spoke softly as if he were a little sorry to talk about himself in particular, but very glad to say anything about beauty in the abstract.
EARLY AMBITION TO BE ILLUSTRATOR.
Early in life Mr. Cutter wanted to be an illustrator—at least so he thought at the time. After a course at the Art Students’ league in New York, under Beckwith and Kenyon Cox, it was his privilege to continue his studies in the old world atmosphere, particularly in Dresden and Florence.
What appealed to him in Nuremberg, he said, was what American cities lack most, namely, the quaint architectural unity and interesting skyline that gives to that ancient city an indescribable charm.
“America,” said Mr. Cutter, “can boast some of the finest examples of modern architecture to be found anywhere. Its business structures are models of convenience and adaptiveness, but to the foreign architect nothing is more hideous in its general effect than the sky-scraping boxlike structures of our larger cities with their flat, uninteresting and inartistic roof lines.
Before he “found” himself Mr. Cutter devoted several years to pictorial art and afterward he dabbled for a time in sculpture, some of his work in the latter field, which as he laughingly said, while but the expression of a novice, nevertheless attracted encouraging notice.
CAN’T TELL RED AT A DISTANCE.
Any ambitions he had as a colorist were easily nipped in the bud by his discovery of a peculiar idiosyncrasy in his inability to see red at a distance—a disadvantage as to danger signals. As strange as it may seem to those who have been delighted with Mr. Cutter’s decorative effects, both in an architectural and a furnishing way he has what he calls a “little kink in his color discerning apparatus” that is comparatively rare.
Contrary to a story sometimes circulated, he is not color blind in the ordinary sense. He has in fact an unusually accurate color sense but—and here is the oddity—place a small spot of red in a large mass of green at a distance from him and, as Mr. Cutter smilingly puts it, “If not (seeing red) is a sign of a peaceful man, I would be entitled to a high place in a pacifist congress.”
Cherries never get red so long as they remain on the tree, so far as he is concerned. To one who knows colors and loves them so well as he does this is almost as much of and affliction as was deafness to some of the world’s greatest musicians.
HOW HE CAME TO TAKE UP ARCHITECTURE.
“How did I come to take up architecture? Well it was more or less of an accident. In my art work I always felt a certain lack of satisfaction, which was rather indefinite to me at the time. Everything that I had been doing seemed to appeal to the eye and to the intellect rather than fitting in to the every day life of my fellow beings. I soon came to feel that it was entirely different with architecture.
“A beautiful structure, you know, is the embodiment of all that is harmonious and pleasing in line and proportion, in its treatment and decoration there is endless opportunity for expressing the finest handiwork of the sculptor and for the most entrancing color combinations. Some one with a rhetorical flourish has described architecture as frozen music. Somehow, I don’t like that figure. To me, it is indeed art incarnate, if I may use the term. And above all, in it are expressed every form of art with the ultimate end of not only pleasing the eye of man and ministering to his aesthetic nature, but contributing to his comfort and convenience as well.
“It was Ruskin, I believe, who said that architecture is the finest of the useful arts and the most useful of the fine arts.
CAME FROM EUROPE, DIRECT TO SPOKANE.
“Some of my first house sketches,” he said, “came into the hands of practical builders who seem pleased with their appearance and buildings were modeled after them. They were crude enough, I confess, but they gave me my introduction into my life work.”
“When I finally determined to devote all of my efforts to architecture, I made the best affiliations available and have worked along with ever increasing interest to gain the essential knowledge of practical building. I never had any technical training in a school way, my approach to a profession, being from the artistic end, the other knowledge being attained in the hard school of practical work.”
As Mr. Cutter talked, one was impressed by the utter absence of that velvet jacket pose which one is wont to associate with geniuses of this type. He is distinctly not a business type nor does he bear any of the earmarks of a man in any of the so termed learned professions. He has too serious an eye for the man of the stage or its affairs. He is least of all the flowing-tie-artist type.
INFLUENCE OF SURROUNDINGS ON ARCHITECTURE
In speaking of his influence of the site upon the ideal architectural structure, he said: “French women are renowned the world over, not only for their artistic gowns but for the peculiar manner in which their costumes seem to fit their personalities as well as their figures. So, in architecture, we must consider not only the style of the building as it conforms with the rules of construction and as it carries out the wishes and expresses the taste of the client, but as well its fitness and suitability to the site selected—which of course contemplates the environs in which it is to be placed.”
“Do I love my work?” laughed Mr. Cutter. “Let me tell you a little secret. I don’t know a thing else. It is one thing of course to dream of an ideal structure for a given purpose and quite another to make that dream come true—and still keep within the available appropriation. In architecture one must make many compromises with his ideals in an art way but the very necessity for compromising with the [lim].
“Could he always visualize his structure?” “Yes, that part of it is not difficult. Architecture is, in fact, what might be called and exact art. But in one sense we also have all of the apprehension--and the thrills of the playwright. That is to say, we can never feel quite certain that the completed structure is going to express all that our client hoped for, his visualization, ordinarily, not being as vivid as ours. Even the usual pleasant experiences of satisfied clients never entirely take away this apprehension. Perhaps it is a good thing for us.
“My experience with the F. Rockwood Moore house, now owned by Judge George Turner, is quite in p—nt. In this structure we aimed to secure an old effect, using native basaltic rock for the walls, and a tile roof. When it was completed, although Mr. Moore expressed satisfaction, the public was very plainly not pleased. How they did pick that poor old thing to pieces!
But while the house showed no ill effects, these criticisms came pretty near to taking the foundations from under my aspirations. I was heartsick. It was my first big effort, and it meant much to me to know that the thumbs of the populace were down, I was truly disconsolate.
“And then, like a good pri--- story book, Dr. Seward Web came to visit our city, one of the ca----ble to honor ---. While being -----d about the city to view its ------- sights the Moore place attained high attention. In true fairy book style he insisted upon a close-up [view of the] house, and his verdict in ----- ----- alleged architectural crime was ‘not guilty’! It is needless to say that this incident succeeded in -----ning my spirits from the bran- --- discouragement in which they had been cruelly entangled” What style he thought most appropriate to the northwest?
“It is a little difficult to tell just what particular style of architecture, if any, will evolve. Our topography is so varied as not to distinctly call for any particular typical treatment. The Chester Thorne house, which I did at American Lake, near Tacoma, is purely Tudor, and has received considerable notice from architects and critics as being peculiarly suited to its surroundings, and still it would be entirely out of place, perhaps, within a half hour’s journey from its site.”
ALL STYLES APPEAL; HE PLAYS NO FAVORITES.
Mr Cutter has no penchant for any particular style. His strength, we learn through the architectural journals in which he has received favorable notice, is not in his blind adherence to either the classical, renaissance or Gothic styles, but in an adaptation of such of them as best expresses the purpose to which his building is to be devoted and its relation to the site it is to occupy. In other words, he never tries to be an artist.
The many evidences of versatility on his work are not confined to the Pacific coast. Among his creations distant from Spokane are a house in the New Forest, in England, which was illustrated some years back in the London Studio and commented on as remarkable; a house built in America which was selected to illustrate an advertisement for an English publication entitled “Best Examples of Tudor Architecture”, Carnegie Camp, in the Adirondacks, Kirtland Hall, a memorial to Mr. Cutter’s great grandfather, at Yale; the Idaho Building at the World’s Fair in Chicago, for which he received a medal, and many other buildings scattered throughout the middle west.
Mr. Cutter is enthusiastically loyal to Spokane and has great hopes for the city in an architectural as well as commercial way. One can’t speak to him long enough to get close to the real man without learning that he is an intense idealist, and without realizing a-----, that in everything he does he has in mind not only his client’s satisfaction, and certainly least of all, his own advantage, but rather the part he is trying to play in making Spokane known among American cities as much for its architecture and its culture as for its resources and commercial opportunities.
Mr. Cutter’s Biography
An Ohioan of Distinguished Ancestry
Kirtland Kelsey Cutter (he has dropped the middle name and initial in his business correspondence of recent years) was born in Cleveland, Ohio, August 20, 1860, his parents being William L. and Caroline Atwater (Pease) Cutter, both members of families intimately connected with the Western Reserve. Grandfathers on both sides were among the early New England arrivals in the then far west—Ohio. Spending his boyhood days in Cleveland, Mr. Cutter attended Brooks Military academy and later entered the Art Students league of New York. He spent some time in Europe in the study of art, finally selecting architecture as the channel in which his life work should flow. In his early youth he enjoyed the opportunity of the close association with his distinguished great-grandparent, Professor Jared Potter Kirtland, M.D., L.D., for whom he was named, a man of great learning and peculiar personal magnetism, an early member of the National Academy of Natural Science, a great lover of nature and an authority upon ornithology. He was a warm friend of John J. Audubon, who named two species of birds in his honor. To this early influence is due Mr. Cutter’s love of the beautiful and nature-like in architecture.
Some examples of Cutter architecture in Spokane
Risks and challenges
We have located a perfectly situated piece of property that overlooks the Spokane River and is relatively close to downtown.
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