A 1929 Tudor Revival shows off its decorative half-timbering, gorgeous chandeliers and copper-topped gazebo on the Magnolia Holiday Tour of Homes in Seattle.

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Rita Daubenspeck wanted an inviting, warm house. Clean and pretty. After that, she had no requirements when her husband, Harold, moved them around Magnolia.

“I didn’t care, big or small,” she says.

And so, in 1984, the Daubenspecks came to live in a grand, 11,000-square-foot, bus-tour-stopping, bluff’s-edge Tudor Revival estate designed by George Wellington Stoddard.

“I’ve heard it’s been pegged as the Japanese consulate, and then it was Ivar’s house,” Daubenspeck says. “Good, I say, as long as it’s wrong. But I would like to take one of those tours sometime myself to find out what they’re saying.”

Inside the stately Tudor of mystery are hand-hewn timbers and leaded-glass windows. Quarters for the maid. A rather substantial dining-room chandelier dripping crystals midair.

Throw in the “Sound of Music” driveway, the “Sunset Boulevard” staircase and the Sherlock Holmes den and the home, built in 1929 for Seattle Star newspaper editor H.W. Parish, has Hollywood’s golden years written all over it.

But “I hated this house when we bought it,” Daubenspeck says.


Seems even a mansion needs a makeover now and then, because the clean-and-pretty part of Rita’s deal arrived only after the Daubenspecks remodeled their fixer-upper estate. The work left them with four bedrooms, five baths, three powder rooms, four fireplaces and Rita’s favorite, lots of storage.

“When we bought the house there was a tree with Christmas lights still in the front yard,” she says. “There was coaxial cable draped across the windows and dog droppings on the copper dormer roof.”

All of that is history now. And 24 years after she first did so in 1984, Rita Daubenspeck will again open her gracious home to the public as part of the Magnolia Holiday Tour of Homes.

“We’re appealing to a different crowd this time,” she says, leaning in conspiratorially over a plate of homemade biscotti.

Indeed. But tour-goers should know that, before Harold succumbed to illness, the Daubenspecks, married 60 years, hosted “wonderful parties,” and three weddings under a copper-topped gazebo facing the water. Big dinners that included one little private table for a lucky few in front of the big window upstairs in Rita’s favorite place, the hallway tucked into the gable over the front door. Rita and Harold worked together, at their Alaskan canneries, played together, sailing and golfing, and raised their daughter together.

“We went to Hong Kong and bought 14 Oriental carpets for the house,” she recalls, running a toe across a Tree of Life pattern in the entrance hall. “We had a lot of fun.” The nearby grandfather clock chimes in.

Tour-goers might also want to know that the ship Retriever, featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” originally belonged to the Daubenspecks.

Now Rita looks forward to becoming a great grandmother and working out with her coach in the fitness room. She wakes up in her house of the sea by the sea, Puget Sound and rolling manicured lawn before her. But, the fishing business still in her blood, the first thing she looks for each morning is the fish weather vane atop the gazebo.

“Every day I get up to see what kind of weather we’re going to have,” Rita says. “The fish is never wrong.”

Beside her bed? “Short Stories of the Sea.”

Rebecca Teagarden is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.