color photos by Bruce Ikenberry Photography
James and Jennie Perkins’ ten-plus room Victorian home was completed in 1887. The plans probably came from one of the numerous pattern books available at the time. Local carpenters would follow the plans and add their own details. Using what is called “balloon” construction, the wall studs extended from the ground floor to the roof. The home has 12 1/2′ ceilings on the main level and 11 1/2′ on the second story. The flooring is 1×4″ tongue and groove boards painted to resemble hardwood. A balcony adorns every side of the second floor. Each window casing has a carved motif. The gable ends have scroll work and additional siding used at each corner to give a masonry effect. The home was originally painted white but later Perkins dressed it up in multiple colors.
Adorned with green wall paper, the Music Room and Library is to the right of the front door on the east side of the home. A large bank of windows open to the street. Mr. Perkins’ favorite rocking chair has been reupholstered in green fabric. The footstool was a gift to him from the governor of Nebraska. The shutters are copies of the original ones installed by Perkins. One or two of the originals remained in the master bedroom and more were built during the restoration process. They were mounted upside down just like Perkins had them upstairs!
This Pease piano is a bit fancier than the actual one owned by the Perkins, which came from New York around the Cape and up the Columbia River, arriving in Colfax by wagon. All three daughters learned to play it. On top sits a photo of the family around their piano.
The needlepoint cover on the piano stool was possibly made by Ethel, wife of Sumner Perkins, the son of James and Jennie. Sumner and Ethel lived in the home following James’ death. The stove is similar to those of the day. Every room at Perkins House had its own wood or coal burning stove. Central heat was added when the home was restored.
Opposite the Music Room is the Main Parlor or Living Room. A complementary bank of shuttered windows frame this front room. Originally there wasn’t a fireplace. A brick one was later added by son, Sumner Perkins. It was removed during the renovation process and replaced with a mahogany mantle obtained from a home in Tacoma and donated by the Colfax Antheneum Club (Mrs. Perkins was a charter member). The marble surround comes from the old U. S. Bank of Colfax. The wallpaper is a copy of the original pattern used by the Perkins. Also in the room but not seen in this photo is a knickknack shelf built by Captain Ewart as a wedding gift to his daughter Jennie and new husband James Perkins. Pocket doors between the living room and dining room were stripped, restained, and five coats of old-style varnish applied.
The grand stairway to the second floor was stained to match the mahogany door frames and other woodwork in the home. The handrail is oak. On the walls is a replica of the original wallpaper design called “Villa Montezuma.”
The Dining Room of Perkins House adjoins the parlor, separated by a large mahogany-framed opening. All such woodwork in the home is original, as is the light fixture above the dining table. Doors are 12″ tall with transom lights above. Sumner Perkins added the plate rail around the room. Among the items in the curio cabinet is one plate coming from the china service used by the Perkins family. Most of the furnishings have been donated, including the vintage Duncan Phyfe dining table. A wall-mounted telephone can be seen by looking through the door to the kitchen. The Perkins were the first Colfax family to have a telephone and sewing machine.
As part of the restoration process, the kitchen was equipped with furnishings common to the time period with the exception of the table and chairs. They were made by Captain James Ewart and found in the cabin. The donated green Monarch cast iron stove is in the location of the original one. Water was originally pumped into the house and updated during restoration. Oil lamps and drying racks can be seen on the walls. One large drying rack could be lowered and raised to the ceiling to dry clothes. A trap door opened in the floor for going to the fruit cellar below.
Five bedrooms are found on the second floor. The master bedroom contains the original bed, carpet, and dresser (on left) used by Mr. and Mrs. Perkins. The yellow patterned wallpaper is similar to the original. Among the furnishings is a corner table that came from the Whitman Hotel in Colfax.
Jennie and James loved to entertain. The largest bedroom was set aside for guests. Donated mahogany twin beds (ca. 1850) came west by wagon. A Murphy bed (not shown) was made to look like an armoire.
There were two adjoining bedrooms used by the three Perkins daughters, Minnie, Stella, and Myrtle – a larger one (in the photo) and a smaller one which now houses a photo collection. Its wallpaper is based on an Arts & Crafts design called “Honeysuckle” which was popular at the turn of the century. The beds are wrought iron. On display are some typical children’s clothing and toys. Their son, Sumner, had a separate bedroom down the hall. It was later converted to a bathroom and is now an office.