Unlike Most Impeccably Maintained Bastions of 19th Century Privilege, the Victorian Belle Is Accessible

“We have a regular high tea. Each month, Lacy Knightly [stages] high-quality burlesque. Sword & Veil produces these immersive dark art experiences.”

Victorian Belle (Courtesy Victorian Belle)

Nobody just runs across the Victorian Belle.

A block off North Interstate Avenue in the middle of Kenton, sightlines to the lovingly restored 1885 three-story Queen Anne mansion have been sufficiently obscured, so even neighboring houses wouldn’t suspect a secret garden of manicured civility lies next door, save for the steady stream of vehicles (rented limos, personalized hearses, vintage coupes, homemade tandem bikes) that don’t quite match the surrounding blue-collar industrial area.

“People don’t often walk onto the property from the neighborhood,” agrees event coordinator Diana Kaeser. “We have so much light shrubbery, no one would ever expect this expansive event venue. The size of the place always takes you by surprise. It’s a kind of hidden gem.”

Unlike most impeccably maintained bastions of 19th century privilege, though, invitations to the public are readily available thanks to the events produced there by discrete companies representing a wide range of interests and private parties.

“We tend to attract people who want a Victorian vibe for their events,” Kaeser says. “Couples looking for unique layouts or color palettes or asymmetrical ceremonies choose the Belle for those darker-themed October weddings. We get a lot of the spooky vintage ‘till death do us part’ themes, which we absolutely love.”

Conversely, for all of her near-obsessive attention to replicating every last detail of the estate’s finest hours, Belle owner Karla Pearlstein’s portfolio displays no particular attachment to the Victorian era. Whether imagineering Jazz Age splendor for the dilapidated Mediterranean Revival manse she’s currently healing in Laurelhurst, or keeping her own 110-year-old Nob Hill brick firehouse residence flash-frozen in its second youth like a fire pole suspended in plexiglass, the local restoration doyenne’s vision requires each passion project be understood within the context of its age.

Still, she readily includes old features that feel misplaced and anachronistic (like the Belle’s oddly nautical tube intercom), while commissioning distinctly new David Schlicker stained-glass pieces to supplement the Povey Brothers’ originals. Most notably, in sharp contrast to the traditional great house-turned-betrothal space, she feels compelled to open doors for a diverse array of niche productions catering to all manner of tastes.

“On the public front, a Preservation Artisans Guild [rep] brought thousands of lace pieces for this really detailed presentation on historic styles specific to the era,” Kaeser says. “We have a regular high tea. Each month, Lacy Knightly [stages] high-quality burlesque. Typically, the first Tuesday of every month, Sword & Veil produces these immersive dark art experiences. People come dressed in costumes for tarot readings and different festivities in the various rooms, and they immerse themselves in these kind of…unique dance performances around the property.”

Comparisons to Eyes Wide Shut were neither confirmed nor denied.

“For the deeper dark arts,” she says, laughing, “we try to be as accepting as possible.”

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