Through the doors of history

Historic Homes of Tacoma, an annual self-guided review of homes in some of the city’s older neighborhoods, returns for another two-day run in May.

Hosted by Tacoma Historical Society, the event is scheduled for May 6 (10 a.m.-5 p.m.) and May 7  (1-5 p.m.). Tickets ($25) are available at Tacoma Historical Society Museum, Pacific Northwest Shop, Stadium Thriftway, Columbia Bank branches at 21st and Pearl and in Fircrest, and at Additional information is available at 253-472-3738.

Six houses will be featured in the tour. They are “so huge that it takes over 225 docents for the weekend” to help manage visits, said Marie Hayden, the tour’s chairwoman.

One of the homes is the Balabanoff House — 3,450 square feet built in 1893 for Dr. Ivan and Dr. Margaret Carsley Balabanoff at a cost of $3,300.  The architect and builder of the two-story Victorian aren’t known. 

After the home was sold in 1929, it had a number of owners, none for more than a few years.  The home was purchased in 1971 by its current owners, who have restored it extensively.  Some of the original features remain, including the front door and entry, with its fir floor and stairway, and the doors and hardware upstairs.  Another piece of history is the carved camphorwood Chinese chest in the entry that is an heirloom from the 19th century.

Just beyond the dining room is a butler’s pantry, which features original glass-front cabinets and hardware.  The kitchen has been remodeled.  The servant’s staircase leads up from the kitchen to join the main stairway.  The kitchen has a vintage main table, side table and secretary desk.  The sunroom beyond the kitchen was added in 1989.  A half-bathroom occupies part of the space that was originally the back porch.

Upstairs  are two bedrooms at the front of the home. The bedroom above the living room has a bow window.  The one above the entry has a bay window and window seat, plus a transom window above the door and an antique dresser and ornate headboard. 

A former bedroom to the rear of the home is now used as an office and study, and a bathroom with skylight has been remodeled.  .                                                 

The tour includes history about the homes’ original owners. For instance, Ivan Balabanoff was born in Bulgaria in 1855 and became a doctor after moving to the U.S. and attending medical school at New York University.  In 1888, he married Margaret Louise Carsley, a doctor at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children.  After her death in 1917, Ivan donated an ambulance in her memory to Tacoma.

Majestic, turn-of-the-century homes dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s will be featured in the Historic Homes of Tacoma tour.