Famed Willcox Home on Hood Canal sells for $2 million
HOLLY – A story of mansion overlooking the Hood Canal, once frequented by celebrities of yesteryear and more recently touted as a travel guide and guidebook, has recently changed hands.
Designed by renowned University of Washington professor and architect Lionel Pries, Willcox House has long been one of the most valuable properties on the Kitsap Peninsula and was sold for $ 2 million in November, according to the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office .
Original owners Julian and Constance Willcox, an ultra-modern home in a rustic Puget Sound setting when it was built in 1938, maintained John Wayne, Clark Gable and Ernest Hemingway from their home in Teiku Point.
But for the last quarter of a century it was Phillip and Cecilia Hughes who kept the red-tiled manor house up and running, and helped maintain it by running a bed and breakfast that became popular when the news spread and guide writers flocked to review it .
“It was all word of mouth,” said Cecilia Hughes of her 1988 purchase. “It just caught fire.”
But after her husband’s death in 2016, Hughes was ready to downsize and sell. The purchaser of the famous estate, which includes a chauffeur, cottage, and gatehouse driving to the primary residence, has been listed as Gateau LLC by the Assessor’s Office. A property manager for the new owners said they did not want to comment on their plans at the time
When Willcox hosted Hollywood A-listers
The property was originally owned by two men, Col. Julian Willcox and Dr. Harold Christensen, who served together in China in the years following the Boxer Rebellion, according to Kitsap County, A History. Christensen found nearly a mile of waterfront on the Hood Canal and Willcox, then the chief executive of the Marines at what was then the Puget Sound Naval Station, joined the property.
Willcox’s wife Constance and sister Agnes Britt wanted the famous northwest architect Lionel Pries to design a mansion there, and he was committed. Britt and Willcox apparently had a penchant for upper crust life and insisted on the most modern amenities, including fluorescent lighting, which only became available after the 1939 World’s Fair.
Pries, an artist and architect who taught at the University of Washington, designed the house with myriad subtleties: custom-made oak floors, complexly shaped rooms, and even a touch of Art Deco in the foyer of the marble and glass doors. A doorbell rings a bell tower.
The house was surrounded by an ornate garden, criss-crossed by brick paths, the deeply rooted wisteria of which near the house still climb onto a trellis that offers breathtaking views of the canal and the Olympics.
It was Constance and her sister Agnes, who had inherited money from their father, who paid $ 250,000 to build the estate. But it was Col. Willcox’s connection to Hollywood – he was a consultant on the Clark Gable film, “Tell it to the Marines” – that brought A-list celebrities to the Hood Canal, according to the Kitsap Sun Archives. People like Wayne, Gable, Errol Flynn and Spencer Tracy are said to have stayed there.
Col. Willcox died in 1971 and the sisters soon afterwards. The house had multiple owners before the Hugheses took a chance. Cecilia Hughes recalls that it was a risk they faced upside down.
“We could have lost everything,” she said.
In those days before the internet, people needed time to research their charming inn and spectacular views. Cecilia remembered many who would search with just one ‘l’ in Willcox instead of the peculiar two. You have created a remedy by making entries for both spellings in the telephone book.
Until 1990, their inn was a busy place. In summer they had to turn away guests. It wasn’t until January that things were slow enough to be able to travel.
It was an adventure that not only helped preserve history, but also helped others experience it.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” said Cecilia Hughes.
Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, [email protected], or on Twitter at @joshfarley.
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