Smith-McKenzie House

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Smith-McKenzie House 

  • Construction Date: 1877
  • Original Owner: Charles R. and Mary L. Smith
  • Interim Owners: Rosella Smith, daughter (1919). Hugh C. and Winifred McKenzie (1939). 
  • Present Owners: Peter and Susan Daggett
  • Description: 1 1/2 story, front-facing gable with one-story wing; cornice returns; four-pane windows with bracketed shelves; wing porch enclosed; evidence of turned posts and cutout brackets at entrance; garage and body shop built at rear and north side.

There are three different building generations on the parcel: the main residence; the body shop; and the garage. The property's evolution over the years and various additions tell a story of the property's use, its owners, and how it contributed to the economic community of Arcata. 

  • Although somewhat altered from its original architecture, the Smith-McKenzie house is basically an upright-and-wing with classic cornice returns and decorative bracketed window shelves on the gable portion. Two turned posts and cutout brackets at the front entrance are remnants of the open veranda that once extended across the wing. 
  • The Body shop sits to the west of the house. There is a narrow addition that extends across the back western half of the property to the third structure, a large garage. The body shop likely dates prior to the turn of the century. Defining architectural features include the false parapet, the nine-paned windows, the sliding doors, and the horizontal siding. 
  • The third building is the large garage north of the house. It has large sliding doors on the east side, nine-paned windows that flank the sliding doors, a low-pitched gable roof, and minimal trim detail.

During its first one hundred years, only two families owned the house, constructed in 1877 for Charles and Mary Smith and purchased from that family by Hugh and Wilfred McKenzie in 1939. A Civil War veteran and native of Maine, Charles Smith came to Humboldt County shortly after the war and established a blacksmithing business. He and Mary L. Kelsey were married in 1870 and moved to Arcata a few years before the home was built in 1877. Charles passed away in 1918 and Mary passed in 1931. They had three daughters: Lulu Ogilwy, Maude Liscom, and Rosella Welsh. Present owners Hugh and Winifred McKenzie lived in the house roughly forty years during which time Mr. McKenzie ran a garage and body shop, located on the property. 

In more recent years, the property has fallen into disrepair. It was purchased by Peter Daggett and his wife, and in 2017, Peter and his brother Gregory came before the City with a proposal to rehabilitate the structure. The proposal included rehabilitating the existing single-family residence and shop buildings into three new residential units and shop/studio space which represents the type of adaptive reuse encouraged by both the City's General Plan and the Secretary of Interior's Standards. In order to approve the project as proposed, the City Council granted the Daggetts a increase in allowed dwelling units on the site and financial incentives including fee waivers and enrollment in the Mills Act Tax Abatement Program. These incentives will create financial supports for the continued rehab and ongoing maintenance of the site. 

The Smith-McKenzie House Project is an excellent example of preservation and innovative design. Most importantly, one of the oldest Arcata Historic Landmark properties will be rehabilitated under the guidelines of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation, with integrity of material, originality, and context. The newer estructures will be reconstructed for an adaptive reuse, and the story of the property will still be told, while allowing for modern convenience and needs. 

In celebration of National Historic Preservation Month, this structure and its story showcase one of the many stories of the region's past and its inhabitants. The City of Arcata staff and the City's Historic Landmarks Committee acknowledge there are many facets of our shared history and honors the fact that this land was historically in the stewardship of the Wiyot people, who celebrate and share their own stories and histories. You can learn more about Tribal Historic Preservation by visiting Wiyot webpages on tribal history and community cultural activities.

Information provided courtesy of Peter and Susan Daggett, Suzie Van Kirk's "Arcata's History: 80 Years of Architecture", and Jill MacDonald's prepared Historic Resources Report.