By JENNIFER K. BAUER
LEWISTON — After being mostly closed to the general public for decades, Lewiston’s Heritage House is again opening its doors.
The two-story cinder block and stucco home stands downtown behind the Nez Perce County Historical Society Museum.
Community volunteers have cleaned and renovated the building as part of the society’s plans to make it an extension of the museum.
“The museum is working to give it a historic house feel,” said the society’s Executive Director Leah Boots.
The home is being furnished with items from around the 1920s. Exhibits and displays are slowly being added.
Free tours of the home will be given from 4 to 7 Thursday, July 16 at an ice cream social and lawn party on the museum grounds. After that, the house will be open sporadically as work continues.
In the kitchen, one can read a history of Lewiston dairies and see vintage milk cartons and a wooden delivery box. In the living room, there is an 1880s square Steinway grand piano, a shape called “coffin style.”
The piano had a long journey to Lewiston as a wedding gift in 1879. Shipped from the East Coast, it came around the Horn of South America to Portland, Ore. From there, it went by steamboat to Wallula, then by train to Walla Walla. An ox team brought it to Lewiston. The newlyweds, Dr. John Morris and his wife, Laura, took the piano with them when they moved to Mount Idaho in 1880. It was disassembled and transported by mule train. It returned to Lewiston the same way four years later when the couple returned.
The piano’s history, along with the history of the Heritage House, are featured in the spring/summer issue of the society’s journal, “The Golden Age.”
The earliest written record of a home at the site is 1878. Nearly every building on the block was burned down in 1897 when a fire started in a nearby livery stable. Dr. C.P. Phillips built a small home over the old foundation around 1900. This home likely included the present day living room and kitchen, according to research by society members.
Phillips died in 1911, and his wife rented the home to Phillip “Pete” Nutting, a laundry manager, who bought it in 1920. He and his wife, Ida Schroeder, added a music room, garden room and a second floor with two bedrooms and a bathroom. Schroeder’s daughter, Inez, inherited the home in 1954 and sold what was then called “the Nutting House” to Centennial Celebrations Inc., in 1959. The home was the last house in the old downtown area to be used as a residence. It became the original Luna House Museum in 1963 during Idaho’s centennial celebrations.
When the museum relocated its exhibits to its current building in 1974 the home was renamed the Heritage House. It was last renovated in the 1980s when board members planned to use it as a wedding chapel and public meeting space, an idea that didn’t pan out.
Dozens of businesses and volunteers have helped with the latest restoration, which includes the addition of an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathroom on the main floor and a grant from the Idaho Heritage Trust to help preserve the home’s many original windows.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Boots said.
If you go
What: Heritage House reopening
When: 4 to 7 Thursday, July 16
Where: Nez Perce County Historical Society Museum, 0306 Third St.
Of Note: The event is an ice cream social and lawn party with free tours of the Heritage House. Refreshments will be served and ice cream will be for sale, along with street trolley rides. Admission to the museum is $4 general admission; $3 seniors (age 60 and older), $2 students ages 7 to 17, and free for children age 6 and younger.