Perkins House undergoes restoration

150-year-old home became museum; will be available for parties, weddings when COVID-19 guidelines are lifted

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Visitors have reported hearing ghosts. Guests say they see them in windows.

ELIZA CALLIS, Evergreen reporter

The Perkins House in Colfax was built in the 1870s, making it the oldest building in Whitman County. Today, the house operates as a museum and is undergoing a restoration to its foundation.

Whitman County Historical Society purchased the property for $13,900 in 1973. They converted the home to a volunteer-run museum, and it has been operating ever since.

Nancy Rothwell, director of The Perkins House, said she went into the basement one day to find that the house was no longer supported by its original beams. As the house shifted, some doors and windows could not open, and the historical society knew they had to do a renovation. 

“It’s gorgeous, antique and beautiful,” Rothwell said. “I love that house. We had to save it.”

The restoration did not come without some road bumps, though. 

The historical society had trouble finding someone to do the work. Many contractors were hesitant to work on such an old building, said Val Gregory, director of the Whitman County Historical Society. 

After a year and a half of trying to find grants, the historical society decided to fund the renovation themselves through private fundraisers, Rothwell said. 

Through fundraising events, like a drive-by vintage fashion show, they were able to raise $35,000. 

However, the renovation will cost approximately $80,000 in total, Rothwell said. The historical society is hoping more people donate so it can meet the rest of the cost. 

The construction is about halfway done and expected to be finished by mid-July, she said. 

The Victorian-style home was originally built by James Allen Perkins in the 1870s when he moved to the Palouse. He purchased 160 acres for $2.50 an acre, with the hopes that Colfax would become a booming settlement. 

Perkins moved to the Palouse region from the east coast, where electricity and plumbing were becoming a common practice. Gregory said Perkins designed the house with those amenities. Electricity and plumbing technologies did not come to Colfax until seven years after the house was built. 

Visitors have reported hearing ghosts in the house, Gregory said. 

“Guests will say that they see people in the windows and say that they’ll hear stuff upstairs,” she said. “I hear things sometimes too and choose to ignore it.”

One time when she was decorating the Christmas tree inside the home, Gregory said she heard footsteps upstairs that gradually grew louder and louder until she decided to leave.

The museum is currently open to visitors for small group tours on Saturdays and Sundays. When CDC guidelines are lifted, the property will be available for parties, weddings and showers again, Rothwell said.