A Romantic History
|(Mary Lee Davis House)
410 Cowles Street, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701The BuilderSome say Lucille McCarthy was a young ingénue that accompanied her parents to Fairbanks for the purpose of inspecting their territorial business interests; still others claim she was most likely a “good time girl” from Dawson that arrived during the heat of Fairbanks’ gold fever. Although Lucille’s reason for coming to Fairbanks is unclear, it is clear she and Arthur Williams, a very prosperous and civic minded Fairbanks restaurateur had fallen madly in love. The result of this love match was the two year planning and construction of the largest and most elegant house in the Alaska Territory. The house featured such modern marvels and territorial firsts as tongue and grove oak flooring, central heat from a coal burning furnace, a coal fueled kitchen stove, a central vacuum system, an indoor bathroom with hot and cold running water, a heated greenhouse, a masonry fireplace, insulated walls, ten foot ceilings, and massive furniture made from exotic woods by some of America’s best craftsmen.
It was in this frame bungalow style house that Arthur and Lucille started Fairbanks society and lent their support to such worthy civic causes as public education, the American Red Cross, street lighting, and establishment of a hometown baseball team. The ever fashion conscious Lucille served on various charitable committees and let her lady friends take hot baths during the cold winters in her large and no doubt luxurious bathroom.
On February 5, 1919, much of which was then downtown Fairbanks, including Arthurs’s restaurant, The Arcade Café, was destroyed by fire. The devastating loss of their business had Arthur and Lucille weighing the advantages and disadvantages of relocating to the Seattle or building a bigger and better Arcade Café. During this time of decision Arthur Williams died of heart disease on May 9, 1919.
The still grieving and relatively young Lucille sold the house that Arthur’s love had built for her to Mary Lee Davis in June 1919. She then left Fairbanks, by steamship, for Seattle in July of that same year never to be heard from again.
In her own right Mary Lee Cadwell Davis purchased the 410 Cowles Street house from Lucille Williams for what the Fairbanks News-Miner reported as, “a steal.” The real estate purchase was unusual for the time as it was a business transaction between two women even though Mary Lee was married to John Allen Davis. Mary Lee was a very well educated woman (B.A. and Phi Beta Kappa, B.A. Wellesley College 1906, M.A. Radcliffe College, 1907) who thrived on adventure.
Mary Lee and her husband John Allen Davis arrived in Fairbanks on July 15, 1917 on the steamer Alaska. John a geologist had been assigned by the United States Geological Survey, to create a mine experiment station for the Bureau of Land Mined in Fairbanks. As John settled into his work, Mary Lee quickly became a part of the Fairbanks community. She penned news articles and wrote features for special editions of the newspaper, which defined Alaska’s role in the war effort and helped raise funds to support a bed at the American Hospital in France. She was also the spitfire behind formation of the Alaska Chapter of the American Red Cross, helped found, cooperation with the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, the first library in the territory, and performed volunteer night nurse duties during the great flu pandemic in 1920.
Mary was a writer from New York. She loved Alaska and the people of this far north region of the world. In ‘WE ARE ALASKANS’ copyrighted 1931, she wrote about ‘her beloved grey house with a green roof’ and included pictures of 410 Cowles St. in the early 1920s’.
and her husband, John Allen Davis, were On Oct.9, 1924, Mrs. Davis sold her house to F.E. Gold Company. The Alaska Heritage House was used to house the managers and higher ups in the famous gold company. They owned it from 1924 through 1963.
Here is a Time Line of people who have lived in and enjoyed the Alaska Heritage House from 1916 to this day:
1. Lucille Williams 1916-1919