Property Watch: An Ornate Tacoma Home Near Commencement Bay

Property Watch: An Ornate Tacoma Home Near Commencement Bay

Perched over Tacoma’s Commencement Bay about a mile south of Point Ruston, this ornate brick home is in illustrious company. Its architect Ambrose J. Russell, known for more ornate Italianate, Georgian, and Romanesque styles than we typically see in the Pacific Northwest, also designed the Governor’s Mansion at the State Capitol along with partner Everett Phipps Babcock. The pair designed some of the South Sound’s fanciest landmarks, including the Pantages Theatre and the imposing William Rust House.

Russell designed this home, finished in 1929, late in his career when he was in his early 70s. Dr. B.H. Foreman, a gynecologist and a relatively prominent member of the medical community of the time, was the original owner. According to his 1956 obituary in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he lived there for the rest of his life. It’s no surprise that he stuck around: The house, although ostentatious, is beautiful, and combines highly formal spaces with serene spots for relaxation. (This house also, according to a March 1929 issue of The Tacoma Sunday Ledger, cost about $500,000 in today’s money just to build, not factoring in land or design costs.)

The home looks church-like from the street, with a pair of tall, arched windows with artful circular stained glass above, all cased in a large arch with bright brick and stone accents. The front entry has its own grand demeanor: The original wood door, complete with decorative wrought-iron grates, sits in a brick arch, bounded by column-like reliefs and its own pair of stained glass windows. Inside, the foyer lives up to the outside: It features original tile and mahogany millwork, including the banister to an open, curved staircase and a smart built-in entry table with cabinets. Like most rooms in the house, it has a recessed radiator behind a custom, decorative gate.

It’s the living room where the home’s elaborate style really comes through, with bas-relief molding and ceiling decoration that, from modern standards, might as well be Gilded Age. A crystal chandelier hangs above; an artfully carved mantle and casing around the fireplace show off the original tile inside. There’s a more casual sitting room just off the living area through an angled arch and a large wrought-iron gate, which also connects to the formal dining space with similar ceiling reliefs and colorful floor tile that’s original to the home.

The dedicated library is a little quieter. It’s on the other side of those two arched windows at the front, and has two built-in mahogany bookcases for all your most important reads. A terrace connecting to both the living room and the library completes the loop, adding fresh air and expanded space to either room.

Up the curved staircase, decorated with a stained-glass window and wrought-iron balusters, find the home’s three bedrooms. The largest, complete with en suite bath and a view of Commencement Bay, has two walk-in closets, but one is clearly superior: A cedar closet with a Juliet balcony at the end. The other two each have a generous closet, and one has its own bay views.

Down in the basement, a large family room provides casual gathering space in contrast to the hyper-formal common areas on the main floor. It’s also home to the climate-controlled wine cellar, which has room for more than 1,800 bottles.

The backyard stays on theme, with stately stone walls peering over the hillside below. Stone patios and small lawns surround a large, decoratively shaped heated pool, all with a sweeping, uninterrupted view of the bay. Through a gate in the wall, head down some stairs to a deck with raised beds peeking out from a more wild hillside.

Listing Fast Facts

4121 Madrona Way, Tacoma
Size: 3,460 square feet/.85 acres, 3 bedroom/4 bath
List Date:
List Price: $1,899,950
Listing Agent: Heidi Hurst and Tim McKeown, Windermere

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