For the last 140 years, the house at 400 West 11th Street in Vancouver, Washington, has played a central role in the life of the city. One of its earliest and perhaps best- known owners was Charles Brown. Brown was born in Knoxville, Illinois, on July 15, 1850. He moved to Vancouver in 1861 when Abraham Lincoln appointed his father to the position of “Receiver of Public Moneys” of the United States Land Office of Vancouver. The family traveled west by ship via the Isthmus in Panama. There was no canal yet, so they had to cross by land and board a new ship on the other side to take them to San Francisco and ultimately to Vancouver. Charles went to school in Vancouver and supplemented his education on his own. After finishing his studies, he moved to San Francisco and worked in the printing trade; he soon returned to Vancouver though. In 1874, he married Rebecca Slocum. The ceremony took place in the house at 400 West 11th Street, where they lived the duration of their lives together. The town of Vancouver and Charles Brown grew together. Involved in city politics for years, he represented the city’s head, serving on the city council, and holding the office of county auditor for four successive terms. In 1891, he was elected President of the First National Bank of Vancouver. He served in that position until his untimely death in 1901. The house remained a private residence until 1946 when the law firm of Bates and Burnett moved into the Brown House, making it the first decentralized law office in Vancouver and starting a trend of using older homes for professional buildings. Since then, it has passed from lawyer to lawyer and is now in the hands of SK&H, one of the leading Family Law and Estate Planning Law firms in Astoria, Bend, Portland, Prineville and Vancouver, Washington.
Our firm plans to retain and enhance the charm and beauty of the original house. The house is of the French Second Empire style, which was popular from 1855-1885 during the reign of Napoleon III. The Brown House, built in 1866, features a square, two-story wood frame residence with shiplap siding and is situated on a corner lot. The mansard roof has Victorian hooded dormers with flat, scroll saw cut surrounds.
The shape of the roof is unique to this architectural style. The steep sides of the roof were designed to increase living space in the attic. When Napoleon II was rebuilding Paris, there was a tax on homes based on the number of floors, but there was no tax on attics. The steep sides of the roof added another entire story, tax-free.
SK&H looks forward to a long and prosperous residency in this wonderful old historic home. The building also houses the office of attorney James L. Gregg, who will remain practicing in the home in the near future.