Victorian home features almost 100 years of history

Boldman House Museum and Garden first built in 1880



The Boldman House Museum and Garden, a historic Victorian home in Dayton, features almost 100 years of the Boldman family’s history.

GABRIELLE FELICIANO, Evergreen life editor

Note: This piece was written and shot for the Murrow Rural Reporting Plunge. For more info, please see 

Almost 100 years of a Dayton family’s history remains within their Victorian home, known today as the Boldman House Museum and Garden.

The Boldman family, a middle-class farming family, moved into the house in 1912. For the next century, they kept and stored almost everything they owned, which ranged from clothing and furniture to school assignments and shopping receipts. Some of the items they kept date as far back as the 1860s and as recently as the 1990s, said Boldman House manager Erika Greenup.

“They were pretty much just your average, run-of-the-mill family, which is what makes it so unique that we have such a good collection of them,” Greenup said. “Most collections have to be someone famous or important, and these were just everyday folks.”

Steven Boldman, the head of the family, purchased the house in 1912, 32 years after its construction in 1880. In 1999, Gladys Boldman, one of Steven Boldman’s daughters, left the house to the Dayton Historical Depot Society when she died. Greenup said Gladys Boldman requested that the house be restored to its original 1912 condition and become a museum.

Located at 410 N First St., the Queen Anne-style house features three bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, a parlor, a library and music room, a kitchen, a dining room and a cellar. Each room showcases an array of items that the family used in their everyday lives.

“There’s very few historic homes and museums that have been preserved with this many items and this range of items, as well as the written records that give us a lot of information about their day-to-day lives,” Greenup said. “It’s a really unique snapshot that gives you a peek into what life was like for this family.”

Currently, only about 10 percent of the written records that the family left behind have been read in their entirety. Between journal entries, letters, postcards, recipes, tax records, receipts and school assignments, Greenup said the Boldman House has at least 100,000 primary sources originally written and/or kept by the family.

She plans on contacting history professors who may be interested in putting together a book about the Boldman family and their home.

“[The Boldman House] would have lots of good information about what life was like in a small town, middle-class agricultural community,” Robert McCoy, WSU associate history professor, said. “If someone was interested in doing research on that, it would probably be a good resource for them.”

The Boldman House’s history has also given itself a haunted reputation. Greenup said that around five years ago, a group of paranormal investigators conducted an investigation of the house, but did not capture any evidence of the supernatural.

Employees have also reported having paranormal experiences. One former employee could not find the key to a wind-up clock and searched the house for it for two days. One morning when she came in and turned the lights on, she saw the key sitting in the center of the parlor.

The same employee told Greenup to tell Gladys Boldman and Goldie Boldman that she needed to leave if she ever struggled to unlock the door to the house. Greenup said that every time she does so, the door opens on the first try.

Greenup herself was using the bathroom after hours when she heard the voice of an elderly woman asking, “Are you here?” Thinking that the voice came from a member of the Boldman House Board of Directors, Greenup rushed out but found no one there. She searched the whole house in case the woman went to a different room but still did not find anyone. She also did not hear anyone entering or leaving the house.

Greenup said the experience made her more of a believer in ghosts.

“There’s a real feeling of connection with the family here,” Greenup said. “They lived here a long time and made it their home, and really had a lot of pride in it. If they were gonna stay anywhere, I feel like this is where they’d stay.”

The Boldman House is open to visitors all year. From May 1 to Sep. 30, the house is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from Oct. 1 to April 30 (except for the month of January), the house is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In January, the house undergoes maintenance, and Greenup changes up the exhibits for the year.

Visitors can take tours of the Boldman House anytime during open hours, or call (509) 382-1548 to schedule a tour if they are with a large group of people or want to set a specific time for it. Visitors can also call to schedule a tour after hours with three days’ notice.

The Boldman House hosts and participates in various Dayton community events. Greenup also runs the Boldman House’s Facebook and Instagram pages, where she posts pictures of the family’s clothing captioned with information about it every week.

For more information, contact Greenup via e-mail at [email protected].