The Smith House, currently Persephone Bakery
Year Built: 1941
Historic Use: Residence
Current Use: Persephone Bakery
Historic Designation: Listed in the Jackson Town Register of Historic Places, Teton Historic Preservation Easement (2020)
History of the Smith House
The building was constructed in 1941. The addition was created in 1913 by Maggie Simpson. She sold lots 1 and 2 of block nine to George Sullivan and Jessie Sullivan in 1920, who in turn sold the lots to Ray and Nellie Reed in 1927. Ray and Nellie were married in 1921, and in 1926 moved into a cabin they constructed on Pearl Street. In 1940, as Ray’s health was beginning to fail, the Reeds sold the property to John S. Smith and Hazel P. Smith. John “Jack” Smith was undersheriff of Jackson and co-owner of the Frontier Saloon. They closed on the property on the 28th of August 1940 and on September 26 Jackson’s Hole Courier reported “the Nelson brothers began work…on a new home in the west part of town for Mr. and Mrs. Jack Smith.”
The house the Smiths constructed was oriented towards Willow Street and was nearly identical to a number of homes erected at the same time in Jackson. Built with frame construction, a simple gable roof, and enclosed entry, the house was typical of the many houses being built in the area, and a handful of very similar buildings remain.
In 1944 Smith sold the Frontier Saloon, and in 1945 he and his wife moved to Pocatello. The same year, they sold their Jackson property to Fred W. Toppan and his mother, Eliza W. Toppan. The Toppanses owned a ranch in Wilson, and it is unclear why they purchased the property in town. They owned the house for just over a decade, selling to Lee Johnson, Jr. in 1956. Lee Johnson, Jr., known familiarly as “Son,” was born in 1918 in Jackson, WY. His father served as the Teton County treasurer. During high school, Johnson spent a summer with the C.C.C. stationed at the Lizard Creek camp. During World War II he enlisted in a special civilian engineering corps and in 1941 was deployed to Wake Island, where the Japanese captured him. He spent nearly four years and the duration of World War II in a Japanese prison camp. Upon his return to Jackson, he married Hilda Feuz in 1946 and worked for the state highway department. In 1956 the Johnsons purchased the house from Fred Toppan. “Mr. and Mrs. Lee Johnson, Jr. have purchased the Fred Toppan home in Jackson and moved in this week,” the Jackson Hole Guide reported. “Fred and Clara [Toppan] will make their home at their ranch north of Wilson. The Lee Johnson Seniors have moved into the house vacated by their son, having sold their former home.” The Johnsons owned the cottage until 1980. Lee passed away in 1981; Hilda eventually remarried and passed away in 2005.
In 1980, Lee and Hilda sold the house at 220 S. Willow to Teton Land Title Co., who two months later sold it to an attorney and developer Floyd King. King converted the residence into his law office, likely adding the false front at that time. “Floyd R. King, attorney at law, announces the removal of his office to 220 S. Willow Street,” an ad in the June 3, 1981, Jackson Hole News read. During his lifetime, King served as the U.S. magistrate for Grand Teton National Park, was elected attorney for the town of Jackson and attorney for the school board, and was president of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. In the 1980s, he went into partnership with his son, attorney Brett King; they practiced together until the senior King’s retirement in 1997. In 1985, their office was the site of a bizarre hostage incident, in which a man named Gary Tuggle entered the King’s office to confront a former girlfriend, secretary Janet Wells. “Armed with a pistol and an automatic rifle, police said Tuggle ordered Brett King out of the office, held Wells hostage for almost 90 minutes before releasing her, then remained in the office another three and one-half hours before giving himself up.” No one was injured, though Tuggle did shoot out the lights and other fixtures with his automatic rifle. The bullet holes in the walls of the cabin have since been covered up.
Floyd King was also a developer and, with partners, was the developer behind the Rafter J and Aspens subdivisions. In the early 1990s, King and Teton County began discussions about the construction of a new county office on the site of the King law office, eventually reaching an agreement where King would build the structure and sell it to the county on a 20-year lease/purchase agreement. The project was controversial from the start, with many townspeople concerned over the impact the large office structure would have in a neighborhood containing homes and offices on a more residential scale. Ultimately, the agreement fell through and the county purchased the property from King, constructing the building itself.
After more than two years of discussion and rejected proposals, ground was broken for the new county administrative building on lots 1, 2, 3, and 4, block 9 of the Second Cache Creek Addition in the spring of 1994. In August of 1993, an ad appeared in the local paper with a photo of the cabin and the message, “office building for sale; must be moved; could be remodeled for home.” The list price for the structure was $20,000. It is unclear when the building was actually moved—and whether the $20,000 price tag was paid—but according to county commissioner Sandy Shuptrine speaking to the Jackson Hole News in May 1994, “there was an old building on the site, and that needs to be cleaned off to work there.” Soon after, in the summer of 1994, Mountain Molly’s lingerie shop opened in “an 80-year-old bungalow style cottage” at 145 East Broadway, the first business to advertise at that address.
Since 1994, the building has housed a range of businesses, including Mountain Molly’s, the Casewell Gallery, and, since 2013, Persephone Bakery. The large east deck was added sometime soon after 2013.
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