This faded gem was built by businessman and mayor, Clarence D. Martin in 1929, named in honor of his mother, Philena. It was erected as housing for single faculty members of the Cheney Normal SchoolIt is now home to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.


  • The Philena Apartments about 1935.
    The Philena Apartments about 1935.
  • Normal [College] Avenue about 1935. The Philena apartments are at right.
    Normal [College] Avenue about 1935. The Philena apartments are at right.

This faded gem was built by businessman and mayor, Clarence D. Martin in 1929, named in honor of his mother, Philena. It was erected as housing for single faculty members of the Cheney Normal School.

Mr. Martin chose Spokane architects Archibald and Roland Vantyne to design the 3-story building in a Romanesque style. The brick building has striking arched windows and terra cotta decoration. The front door was originally flanked by two concrete pedestals that held decorative wrought iron lamp posts.

The rich interior originally had hardwood plank flooring and painted wood wainscoting. There was a hanging, hexagonal light fixture made of wrought iron above the stairway foyer. French doors lead off the main foyer.

Philena J. Martin was born in Ohio about 1861. She came to Cheney with her husband, Frank M. Martin about 1883. She was an active clubwoman involved in several organizations including the Rebekahs, and auxiliary of the Odd Fellows. Mr. Martin was involved in a number of businesses before establishing his legacy with the Frank M. Martin Grain & Milling Company in 1907. 

Over time, the Philena transitioned from faculty housing to housing female students, both women and men, and finally was purchased by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

Loved my apartment there. When I was a kid, it was only grownups and mostly teachers or people associated with Eastern living there. I had a studio apt on the 3rd floor when I was going to EWU. Rent 75 bucks a month. (!) Built in bookcases, fireplace, lovely. I barely turned on my heat (radiators) because the people below had their heat on. - Suzanne

On the ground floor facing College Ave there is a glass French door entry. That space has housed a number of businesses in the past, such as the College Inn restaurant, Cheney Public Employees Credit Union, JAAZ Hair Salon, the Martin family business office, and ice cream parlor.

My sister lived there in the late '70's. One day I crawled through the mail / newspaper drop next to her door and waited for her to get home. Needless to say she was quite surprised having an unexpected visitor! - Anne

Historic Preservation Commission, Guide to the Eastern Washington University Campus Historic District 2003.
Cheney Free Press;
The Southwest Spokane County Historical Society photograph collection;
Facebook Group, You Know You Grew up in Cheney...