HAYDEN LAKE — The Great Gatsby-like white mansion with green shutters on Hayden Lake — with its remarkable history of wealth, extravagance and tragedy — has turned 100 years old.
The 15,000-square-foot F. Lewis Clark Mansion, once called Honeysuckle Lodge, was completed in 1910 as a home for a Spokane business tycoon who made his fortune in mining, real estate, milling, banking and lumber.
“If there is any house within 100 miles that has a story — it’s this house,” said Mark Danner, whose father, Monty Danner, owns the registered historic place.
They said it’s a relic of the incredible wealth that existed in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area 100 years ago from the mining and logging industries.
It was built on a large point on the south shore of the lake for the wealthy, powerful and eccentric F. Lewis Clark and his beautiful wife, Winifred.
“He was a bit of a recluse, and she was a social butterfly,” said Monty Danner. “She made him happy, and they were nuts about each other. It’s a great big romantic love story.”
What the Clarks had built was way ahead of their time for the area, Danner said. They brought East Coast sophistication to the remote woods of North Idaho.
That was many years before Danner bought the house in 1989, when the place was in shambles, and firefighters were preparing to burn it down as a training exercise.
Time’s cruel hands, vandals and looters had nearly ruined it by then — the summer home designed to replicate German Kaiser Wilhelm’s family’s country palace located in a remote, wooded site overlooking Lake Constance at the Germany-Switzerland border.
While the Clarks owned the home it had six family bedrooms, nine staff bedrooms, nine full bathrooms and three half bathrooms, and nearly 30 rooms in all. Danner has changed the layout some for the country inn he runs today.
The house has 100 windows, and 17 doorways, three of those are double doors.
The Clarks decorated and furnished the mansion with furniture from Europe, crystal chandeliers from Czechoslovakia, marble from Italy, rugs from Asia, and French hand-painted murals. Slate for the roof was shipped from England.
Every ground-floor room has at least one door to the outside to more easily enjoy the outdoors.
The house was surrounded by massive cedar, fir, spruce and hemlock, with a view of the lake in front.
“They wanted the seclusion. They didn’t want this thing out on a point where everybody could see it,” Danner said.
The house is built sturdy as a commercial structure, with three-foot-thick concrete walls at the base and steel beams rising from the foundation.
“There was just no expense that was spared,” Danner said.
Down along the shore, the Clarks had five guest cottages. Lewis Clark’s secretary, Mr. Goodspeed, had a house, which had four bedrooms. They all still exist, and are separately owned.
The Clarks had a basalt rock wall formed along about two miles of the lake’s shore. Large sections of the wall are still in place today.
“He had 300 Chinese workers working on it,” Danner said.
Lewis Clark was born in 1861, in Bangor, Maine, and was educated at Harvard University, graduating in 1883. He came from a wealthy family, and accumulated extraordinary amounts of money on his own. He was one of Spokane’s leading citizens.
Winifred, born in 1869, was educated in France and was an accomplished musician. They married in Spokane in 1892, and had one child, Theodore, in 1895.
Lewis was an avid sailor, having grown up sailing along the New England coast. As an adult he competed in the sport in Europe in one of his yachts, christened the “Spokane.”
He won many races, but finished second in Germany to Wilhelm, who hosted a banquet with the Clarks as guest of honors. Then he invited them to his summer palace, which looked like a German castle from the 1300s.
“They just fell in love with it,” said Monty Danner.
Lewis returned to the U.S. and hired Boston architect George Canning Wales, who then traveled to Germany. With Wilhelm’s permission, a copy of his family’s summer palace was drawn.
The Clark House was the largest and most expensive home in all of Idaho when it was completed, and for some years afterward.
The mansion sat on 1,400 acres. There were barns, riding stables, carriage houses, tennis courts, greenhouses, a putting green, and 150 acres of landscaped grounds with exotic plants and trees from around the world. Lighted pathways cut through it.
A private zoo with exotic birds and animals made the mansion in the middle of the woods even more fantastic.
With his passion for sailing, the Clarks had mahogany yachts and boat houses along the lake.
Winifred hosted lavish parties.
It quickly all changed.
The partying was over after three years. Lewis became sick, and it’s now believed he was dying of cancer.
“He weighed 135 pounds and was in constant pain,” Danner said. “The fortune was all but spent, real estate holdings had lost their value, the mines had stopped producing and Winifred and Lewis were quarreling.”
During Christmas of 1913, they were in Santa Barbara, Calif. The Clarks would close up the lake mansion each winter and move to Santa Barbara.
Less than a month after arriving, Lewis would vanish near the ocean and never be seen or heard from again.
In the Jan. 18, 1914, New York Times:
“SANTA BARBARA, Cal., Jan. 17. — F. Lewis Clark, a millionaire of Spokane, Wash., internationally known as a yachtsman, disappeared last night, and is believed by the police to have committed suicide by jumping from a pier here. Clark’s hat was found tonight floating off shore a mile north of the city. He has not been seen since he escorted Mrs. Clark to a train last night.”
On Jan. 16, 1914, Lewis took Winifred to a train station, kissed her good-bye, left the station and walked to the limousine. He dismissed his chauffeur and walked into the night.
Winifred offered rewards for information about his whereabouts. Searchers traveled the beach hunting for the body. Ransom notes were written asking for money for Lewis’ return.
“We are holding millionaire Clark for ransom of $75,000. State in (illegible) if his folks will pay it or not. He is well taken care of. Yours, The Blackmailers,” one ransom note read.
Police even resorted to dynamiting the ocean in an effort to bring the body to the surface.
“Several charges were exploded in the sea, which killed many fish, but no human body was brought to the surface,” according to one newspaper account.
“In view of the heavy sea off Santa Barbara since Friday night, it is possible that Clark’s body was carried far out to sea by a strong undertow, thus minimizing the probabilities of the body being found for some time to come, provided it is in the sea.”
Winifred returned to Hayden Lake, where she waited for her husband’s return. She kept a light shining over the lake from a window in the house.
By 1922, she was broke and the bank took possession of all her holdings, including the mansion.
She moved to Spokane, and never remarried. She became ill and traveled to the East Coast, and died in Boston in 1940. Her estate was valued at a mere $10,000.
AFTER THE PARTY
After so much effort and expense, the Clarks were gone from Hayden Lake. Nobody, at that time, could afford to pick up where they left off.
From 1922 to 1933, bank caretakers monitored the house.
In 1935, attorney C.P. Lund, who represented a bank in foreclosure proceedings, purchased the mansion. He had been out to the place two years earlier, renting the secretary’s house and some of the cottages.
He purchased the mansion, home and cottages for the back taxes, Danner said.
In 1945, the Lund family allowed the U.S. Navy to begin using the house. It served as a convalescent home for patients of the Navy hospital at Farragut.
Starting in the 1950s, the home went through periods of use as a restaurant and inn, and its ownership changed several times over a span of about 20 years. Much of the interest then was in the land itself, which could be divided up and sold.
The house itself had been used by church groups, as a children’s home, and by transients.
Vandals shattered windows. Fires blackened the oak floors. Chainsaws tore through banisters. Teenagers gathered for parties inside.
“The house just sat for so many years, that’s the sad, sick part,” Monty Danner said. “It was like it was just dead.”
Fortunately, in the late 1970s someone took the time to put the home on the national historic registry. Again a country inn was planned during the decade, but it never went further than plans. The health department became concerned about the septic system, and plans for an inn became more difficult.
In 1988, when a California real estate company that owned the property was working to burn the home down, and provide some firefighting training in the process, the home’s listing on the registry blocked the flames.
The company would have to go through a historic preservation officer in Boise. The officer said the company must first attempt to sell it as a historic property. If it couldn’t sell it that way, the company would get the go-ahead to burn it.
“During that year I came up here and looked at it,” Danner said. Danner, a San Francisco supermarket-chain executive, thought it looked like a great project.
“It’s been a slow process,” Danner said. “Over the next 10 years I just continued to grow the business. Every summer I’d try to get one or two more bedrooms open so I could get more revenue.”
Once he started working toward what the house is today, Danner started getting support from some in the community.
Danner and his family have done a lot of painting, carpentry and heavy hands-on work on the house and grounds.
Artist Jack McCullagh painted murals throughout the interior, depicting the history of the home, the beauty of the surrounding forest, and the Clarks.
Danner was able to acquire a collection of Lewis Clark’s books, and they are back on the shelves of the library. Some have Clark’s personal notes in them.
“He loved to read,” Danner said.
Danner has spent a lot of time himself reading about the house and its owners and researching the history.
He said what hasn’t changed in the 100 years is the thick forested hill that moves steeply up behind the house. Visitors can still experience the forest there the way the Clarks and their guests might have in 1910.
“Those kinds of things have endured for 100 years,” Danner said. “People can appreciate the nature, and the beauty of that, and how this particular property folds into the woods.”
As much as he’s learned in his research, Danner said there is one important thing he doesn’t know about the Clarks.
He knows what he’d ask them if he could travel back 100 years and visit the home he now owns.
“What are you doing here?” he would ask. “What’s the long-term goal?”
If that was ever known, it’s been lost during all those years. So much happened in a few years, then the Clarks’ summers on the lake ended.
“It sat here like some huge, white elephant,” said Monty Danner.