The home of late philanthropists Ed and Dollie Lynch is not located where one would expect to find a $3,695,000 home. Houses close to the lavish art deco-inspired estate at the corner of Northwest Franklin and 48th streets in west Vancouver are on the market for around $300,000.
“They didn’t want to be in a private community. They didn’t want to be out of touch and away from everyday people,” said the couple’s son, Michael Lynch. “It’s not an exclusive community, and it’s not meant to be.”
The fence surrounding the 12,335-square-foot house was actually put up after Ed Lynch passed away a year ago at age 94. He liked the way light filtered through the trees and bushes, and how he could see the field to the north — a field the Lynches donated to become a future city park.
“They were the real deal. Dollie out in public was Dollie in private. Same with Ed. He was just always true to himself, true to the family,” said Jim Mains, the Lynches’ friend, next-door neighbor and personal assistant.
Soon after Ed died, the family thanked the Northwest neighborhood with a catered party featuring Dairy Queen Dilly bars and lemonade (Ed’s favorites). Much of the neighborhood had never set foot on the property, but had their own ideas of what it looked like.
“Someone asked, ‘Where’s the pool?’ ” Mains said.
The Lynches felt anchored to this part of Vancouver, which they moved to in 1959. In 2001, they had their aging home torn down to make way for a barrier-free home that better allowed them to age in place.
Ed Lynch made his money as president of Kiewit Pacific, a Vancouver-based subsidiary of one of the world’s largest construction contractors. The couple were part of a generation of local residents who made fortunes in business, then spent their retirement giving money back to the community. Ed and Dollie Lynch left over 98 percent of their estate to local causes and charities. When the home eventually sells, the money will go into the couple’s fund at the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington, which continues doling out money on their behalf.
“There’s the giving that you see to the nonprofits, and all these groups, but there’s giving that people have never seen,” Mains said. “I remember his pastor retired and they built him a retirement home. He just never wanted to brag about it.”
Or there’s the time shortly after Ed died when a young man, a neighbor’s son, came up to the house to say thanks. Ed apparently had paid for him to attend Oregon State University.
Broker Heather DeFord said the home has been on the market since November. Multimillion-dollar homes are more difficult to sell because the pool of potential buyers is small; some may want to buy anonymously, so people don’t know where they live. These luxury homes take a lot of time, advertising and care to sell, DeFord said. She considers the Lynches’ home a steal for the right person because the asking price is a fraction of the nearly $11 million it cost to build.
“The home is so alive when you walk through because of so many events having happened here,” she said. “This is such a happy, sweet, loving house, but it’s also grand but not intimidating.”
Curved walls, pillars, light fixtures from Europe and large tiles lining the entryway just inside the stained-glass doors all combine to make a home somewhat reminiscent of “The Great Gatsby.” The house designed by Doug Nichols and built by Cal Jutila took nearly five years to complete. Local elementary schools and hospital wings were built faster than this house, Mains said.
During the building, the Lynches lived off-site and then temporarily moved into the one-bedroom apartment above the garage.
No buyer has latched onto the property. In the interim, the house is getting plenty of use. In mid-September, the von Trapp family had a concert at the home that raised $22,000 for the local School of Piano Technology for the Blind. The troupe performed in the living room, which has expansive windows that overlook a garden with a view of Mount St. Helens. Before he died, Ed Lynch helped plan the event.
“It was magical,” Michael Lynch said. “It sure made you aware what a special house it was. You couldn’t put an event like that on in very many places. The acoustics were phenomenal.”
Leadership Clark County held its award ceremony at the home in October. On Tuesday, the board for Greater Vancouver Luxury Homes, the consortium of brokers that puts on the annual luxury home tour each spring, came to the home for a photo shoot.
“We try to keep it to organizations Ed gave to,” Mains said. “We’ll keep doing events as long as we have the house.”
Dollie often puttered around in the expansive garden. Before she died from cancer in 2010 at age 84, she had rhododendrons taken from the yard and planted in a therapy garden the Lynches funded at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, now known as Dollie’s Garden.
There are four stray cats that Dollie fed that hang out in the yard, and the Lynches’ house cat Heidi still lives indoors.
“When I’ve shown the home, I say, ‘she gets to stay.’ So far, there’s been no opposition to that,” DeFord said.
On Tuesday, Heidi prowled Ed’s massive basement library that’s stocked with upwards of 20,000 books. The vast majority of them are nonfiction books, though a few of Dollie’s fiction books are mixed in. The plan is to donate at least a percentage of the books to Clark College.
“If friends or people were just coming over to visit, he would say, ‘hey, take a book with you,’ ” Mains said. Ed would have multiple copies of the same book and kept many in the trunk of his car that he would also give away.
His collection rivaled many city libraries, and a creative buyer probably could come along and turn the property into a luxurious library.
While the area is zoned and generally intended for single-family homes, the Lynch estate could be used as a library, museum, historic site or gallery, said Chad Eiken, the city’s community and economic development director. Zoning codes for that area conditionally allow other uses so long as they don’t adversely impact the neighborhood.
“It’s kind of weird. It feels like a chapter is closing,” Mains said. “Part of me wishes it would sell because that would kind of finish the closure.”
In a way, Mains considered Ed and Dollie Lynch as his grandparents. As the Lynches’ health declined, he spent at least 60 hours every week at the house and the Mains would often cook them dinner.
“Every day (Ed) would have us go around the table and have us share one thing that we learned that day. He was always the first one to share,” Mains said.
He hopes that whoever buys it will take care of the home and appreciate its history, though he knows that he’ll never have neighbors quite like Ed or Dollie Lynch.