You don’t always need an address to find the Friel House. Just follow the music.
A short walk from campus, a group of music-minded students have found a home on C Street. The house looks small from the curb, but its three stories shelter seven students, and still have room for a formal dining room, a large kitchen with a breakfast nook, a living room, and a library.
The house is named for the Friel family, and for 54 years was home to Washington State University basketball coach Jack Friel and his wife, Catherine.
Catherine Friel died in 2003. Last year, her family agreed to sell the College Hill property to the University, furthering the school’s plans to offer theme housing for students in the neighborhood. “She would have loved it,” says attorney Wally Friel, the son who lived in the house from 1942 until he married in 1954. The family was most concerned that “some slum lord would buy it and put 30 college kids in it.” That it has become a resource for WSU is even better, he says.
The school invested about $400,000 to buy the property and update it with new windows, neutral paint, carpet, new bathroom fixtures, and fire protection. But in a way, Mrs. Friel and her family still inhabit the house.
To get to her room at the back of the house, Nola Swanson had to wander between a strawberry-colored couch and an orange sherbet chair in the Friel living room. “This is better,” says the graduate music student, gesturing to the bright pieces. “When we first saw it, the whole house was pink.” It was one of Mrs. Friel’s favorite colors, she says.
Despite the rosy hue of it all, Swanson loved the place, the size of it, the full kitchen where she and her housemates could bake cookies, the bedroom off the kitchen furnished with the Friel family antiques, and that she was hand-selected to live there. “But the fact that I would be living with music students, that was the biggest draw,” she says.
Swanson was picked by Gerald Berthiaume, the director of WSU’s School of Music and Theater Arts. Carefully selecting the students is key to the house’s success, he says. He wants tenants who will respect the old house and its furnishings, but he also wants to provide roommates who will stimulate one another’s musical interests.
So far, it seems to be working. Several of the students invited friends and family over for dinners on Mrs. Friel’s china and entertained them with impromptu recitals at the Steinway, which belonged to Mrs. Friel’s mother.
Chris Wang was the first student to move into the master bedroom on the top floor. For $339 a month he had an old four-poster bed, a walk-in closet, and a great view to the north. He devoted hours this spring to cataloguing the books left behind by the family, a task which prompted him to learn more about each member. Knowing whose house it was enriched his time living there. “I liked everything about this house,” he says. “What a great way to spend my senior year.”