Editor’s note: This story was originally published May 10, 2001.
The Moore Mansion in Pasco led a chameleon’s life punctuated by a colorful, sometimes troubled, history.
There were even rumors that spirits roamed its rooms.
Melinda McLenegan, a former bookkeeper for a past owner, said one of her friends had seen shadowy figures roaming past the windows and refused to enter the mansion. But McLenegan said she always got a friendly, welcoming feel from the big, white building on the Columbia River.
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What started as a waterfront home for a well-to-do family was transformed over the years into a speak-easy, a nursing home and a hippie camp.
The three-story mansion was built in 1908 by James Moore, a wealthy Seattle hotel owner, for his wife who had been ill. A doctor had recommended a drier climate, but she died before moving into the mansion. He spent $20,000 to build the elegant home.
In 1911, Moore sold the mansion for $100,000 to Thomas Carsten, one of the founders of the Carsten Brothers Meat Market in Seattle. Some speculated the property was going to be used to fatten cattle for a packing plant. That never happened.
Between 1921 and 1938, the mansion changed hands several times, serving as a home with grazing pastures for dairy cows and farmland for alfalfa.
During Prohibition, the Southern-style relic was turned into an illegal nightclub and became the party headquarters for Tri-City socialites.
In the 1950s, the Columbia River levee built to contain the McNary Dam pool nearly sealed off the mansion from the waterfront.
It became a convalescent home in 1955 until stricter codes forced it to shut down. After that, migrant workers rented barrackslike space.
The mansion hit bottom during the 1960s, when hippies let their fowl and livestock run through the place.
In 1979, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places to keep it from being condemned and torn down. But it remained vacant, with windows boarded, through much of the early 1980s and was frequently vandalized.
In the late 1980s, the mansion was introduced to the restaurant business.
The first restaurant at the Moore Mansion was opened by Gene Leckenby in 1987 but failed after six months.
Its successor opened in 1989 and was owned by the late Jack Carr, also a farmer, and his then-wife, Eileen. He installed a wine cellar, a professional kitchen and redid the heating and cooling systems.
The upscale Cajun-style restaurant eventually faltered. In 1995, Carr donated the $1.2 million building to Tri-Cities Prep, a Catholic high school in Pasco. The school traded the land to Metropolitan Mortgage in Spokane in exchange for Road 100 land where the new school was built.
Corey and Tami Bitton opened the mansion in the fall of 1999 as a family restaurant with steak and seafood offerings. The Bittons bought the mansion for $405,000, according to Franklin County records.
The mansion was also used for wedding receptions, reunions and special events for Water Follies, the Fourth of July and Christmas boat parades.
The Bittons sold the mansion to John and Susan Collins of Richland last November for $1.2 million. The Collinses were in the process of selling the mansion to current co-executive managers Robin Smith and Joseph Mathews of the Tri-Cities.