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Commission approves repairs to historic Ballinger House


Last updated 10/8/2020 at 2:04pm

CHENEY – The Historic Preservation Commission approved an application for repair work on one of the city’s original homes that served as the residence for an early area pioneer and mayor.

New owners of the I.J. Ballinger House — sometimes referred to as the Heyer Apartments — Cleveland Blaine, LLC filed an application for a certificate of appropriateness on Sept. 8. Cleveland Blaine, LLC owners Melissa and Matt Blaine listed four areas of work they were proposing for the structure: roofing, painting, decking and foundation, some which will happen immediately and some in the future.

“My recommendation was they include everything they intend to do on this application so they don’t have to come back before you right away,” Sue Beeman, city GIS/permit technician and commission assistant, said.

According to the application, the existing cedar shake roof is in poor condition. The Blaines are requesting to replace the cedar shakes with 30-year architectural (composite) shingles, which has better fire-danger reduction and insurability.

The composite roofing was also popular in the 1920s and more typical construction for early 20th-century Cheney homes. The full extent of the foundation work is not known, Beeman said, but there is cracking and the application notes repairs are need to “support the existing framing, reinforce the rock foundation and stabilize the entry into the crawl space.”

The house exterior painting will be scraped and repainted and wood side work done to repair or replace missing boards. Existing wood decks will also be sanded and resealed to preserve the existing wood.

The home was originally listed on the local registry of historic places in 1991. It was the home of Isaac Jacob Ballinger, a Louisville, Kentucky native who moved to the future Cheney-area in 1879 after working first on a survey crew for the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1867 and then in mining and smelting in Salt Lake City.

According to a 1988 biography by Cheney historian Ellen Proctor, Ballinger and his wife settled first in a tent on the hill where Eastern Washington University’s Showalter Hall is located. He began a freighting business in support of the NPRR’s new line through what was first called Depot Springs and later Cheney, eventually buying land and farming near Lance Hills.

He eventually sold the lucrative farm and with his family into the home on 2nd and I streets in 1893, although it’s uncertain if he built the home as records indicate it was already at that location upon move-in.

Ballinger was named Cheney’s Postmaster General in 1893 by President Grover Cleveland, and became a prominent Cheney citizen, serving as mayor from 1899 – 1901. He passed away in 1929.

With the exception of being converted into apartments during World War II – a standard practice for the area at the time for older, larger homes – the house is essentially in its original condition, and work by Cleveland Blaine could make it more so.

“The staff recommendation is the conditions of the certificate of appropriateness does not do anything that diminishes the historical integrity of the building and from a very practical standpoint is needed and should be approved,” Beeman told the commission.

Beeman added that once the application was approved, Cleveland Blaine would have two years in which to complete the listed repairs, upon which they could petition the commission to allow them to apply for a special evaluation tax credit. After reviewing receipts and repair work the commission felt all was done according to historic preservation standards, they would recommend to the county they allow the deduction from the home’s property taxes.

John McCallum can be reached at


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