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History

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The Austin Corbin II Mansion is a property located in the Cliff neighborhood on the lower south hill at 815 West 7th Avenue in Spokane, Washington. It is situated on a parcel of land originally included in the Pacific Northwest Territory claimed by Spain, Russia, Great Britain and the United States by virtue of exploration.

Following the War of 1812 joint ownership was granted to governments of Great Britain and the United States by the Treaty of Ghent and the Convention of 1818. Joint ownership continued until 1816 when boundary disputes were settled by the Treaty of Washington giving the United States sole possession. Territorial status was granted to Oregon Country in 1818. In 1853 Washington was organized as a separate territory and was admitted into the Union on November 11, 1889. This parcel was included with alternate sections of land conveyed to the Northern Pacific Railroad by an Act of Congress passed July 2, 1864 granting lands for the construction of telegraph lines and railroads.

Designed in 1898 by famed architect Kirtland K. Cutter, this 3-story colonial revival style mansion was built by H.J. Skinner at a cost of $65,000. Originally, the home site was 7 acres and the 12,170 Sf residence contained 17 rooms. Its most prominent central feature is a monumental front entry portico in the Greek Classical Ionic Order. That same year, Daniel Chase Corbin, Austin's father, built a nearby mansion on 7th Avenue to the East also designed by Kirtland Cutter on multi-acre landscaped grounds. Austin & Katherine's home was famous for lavish parties during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Much history was made between the Corbin and Cutter families during this era.

page_c-1900-mn-flr-foyerAustin Corbin II was born September 24, 1863 in Denver, Colorado. He, along with his father, traveled in a covered wagon to Helena, Montana, and in 1880, Austin arrived in Spokane with his father Daniel Chase Corbin one of the great railway empire builders of the Pioneer Era. On May 2, 1894, Austin Corbin II married Katherine J. Benham in Chicago, Illinois. She came to Spokane with her parents Capt. & Mrs. Luscious G. Benham in 1889. They were the co-founders of the Benham & Griffith Wholesale Grocery House.

In 1929, Marycliff Catholic Girls School opened on the Gordon Family Estate to the East of the Austin Corbin Mansion thanks to Raphaelita Gordon, a prominent figure in the social and civil affairs of Spokane at the time. Gordon donated her land and home to Spokane Catholic Bishop Charles White for the creation of a Catholic high school for girls. The Catholic Fanciscan sisters operated the school and not only taught the girls science, social studies and other subjects, they also showed them how to sew, how to pray, how to strive to remain pure in body, mind and spirit. As a result, Marycliff drew girls from all walks of life and from various parts of the city. Thousands of girls leanred from the nuns and eventually from lay teachers. The graduating class consisted of 46 women who received their deoplomas in 1933.

Girls who attended Marycliff tended to come from working-class families who couldn't afford the tuition at Holy Names Academy. Tuition at Marycliff, which was about $50 a year in 1955, was subsidized by contributions from the parishes of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane. On January 3, 1945, Austin Corbin died at the age of 81. Later that year, on August 24, the Corbin Home was donated by Mrs. Corbin to the Franciscan Nuns, thus becoming part of Marycliff High School.

The Corbin Mansion served as a convent for Franciscan Sisters with the home's big drawing room used as a chapel until the school's closure. Marycliff Catholic Girls School educated thousands of Spokane women students and after 50 years, Bishop Lawrence Welsh closed the doors in 1979, citing declining enrollment. On June 29, 1984, the Catholic Bishop of Spokane conveyed the entire Marycliff site to Marycliff Associates for development into its present use. Today the 12,174 Sf Austin Corbin II Residence sits on approximately 1 acre of land established by short plat in the Marycliff Historic District. The mansion is registered with the U.S. Department of Interior and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.