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Mary Lee Davis House

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1916. 410 Cowles St.

Built by miner Arthur Williams, the Mary Lee Davis House is a one-and-a-half-story, novelty-sided bungalow, with a low hip roof and overhanging eaves. The porch across the front is also covered by the main roof; the porch's half-walls and box columns add solidity. Two hip-roofed dormers as well as the main roof are ornamented with carved brackets. Leaded-glass sidelights and a transom window contribute to the bungalow charm.

Author Mary Lee Davis, who bought the house in 1923, described it in hyperbolic fashion:

A man who had been a wanderer, an adventurer, made quite a little fortune in Dawson in the early days, married a young wife who loved the bright lights of the city and its ways, and then came to our town to live. The wife longed for 'Frisco, but the husband—for reasons which I suspect, but which he alone knew best—did not care to leave the North. He proposed a compromise, so I have been told. If she would remain contented in Alaska for ten years, he promised to build her the finest house that the Territory had known! She considered this. Having had, perhaps, some former experience with the futility of masculine promise, she went to her attorney and had him draw up the plans and specifications of a house such as her fondest dream had imaged. It was to have a real lawn, first and foremost—that unknown, luxurious thing in a land of moss; and it must have a real fireplace, a thing until then unknown in the Interior. It must have hot-water heat, even though a man had to come from Seattle to install it, and an oak floor (another import!), oak trim and doors, a large porch all screened and roomy, a double garage, and the best plumbing obtainable, with all-porcelain fixtures. This house was to be really warm—not a log cabin to be chinked anew each year, to sag in the corners when the frost moves, and “with cracks you can stick the stovepipe through.” Oh, no! This was to be one frame house set inside another frame house, complete, with six full inches of sawdust in the space between the outer walls and also in the ceilings, making it absolutely frost proof in winter and heat proof in summer. ( Uncle Sam's Attic: The Intimate Story of Alaska[Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1930]), 308–9)

According to Davis, Williams died before the house was completed, and she and her husband bought it.

Writing Credits

Alison K. Hoagland


What's Nearby


Alison K. Hoagland, "Mary Lee Davis House", [Fairbanks, Alaska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Alaska, Alison K. Hoagland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 215-215.

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