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Dan Say: 2020 Preservation Champion Award

Congratulations to Dan Say!

Anyone who meets Dan Say immediately sees that he is a passionate person. Dan brings passion and sensitivity to the structural design for every individual project. This means if a traditional structural approach is best for the project, great. But if an unusual, edge-of-the-box approach will better serve the design intent and maintain historic integrity, then that’s what you’ll get.

With 39 years of structural design for historic buildings under his belt, Dan has amassed an expansive resume. He and his team have touched a number of iconic places including the Pike Place Market redevelopment, King Street Station, more than a dozen buildings in the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, six Carnegie Library renovations for Seattle Public Library, the Washington State Legislative building both pre- and
post-Nisqually Earthquake, the original Rainier Brewery, the Cherberg Building in Olympia, and multiple county courthouses throughout the state.

Dan is a native and second-generation Seattleite – his grandfather was an immigrant tile setter who worked on the original King Street Station lobby in 1906. He grew up on Beacon Hill in the shadow of the historic Pacific Tower (then called the Pacific Medical Center), attended O’Dea High School, and completed his education at Seattle University. His passion for local history combined with his love of people led him straight to a historic preservation career path. When Dan looks at a historic building, he not only sees the building’s bones but also the people that occupied that building and its relation to its neighborhood. He understands that the goal is not just to save the building, but to preserve the neighborhood’s history for future generations.

Building restoration is a key element in preserving a community’s history. Dan’s ability to provide practical design solutions with minimal intervention and his people skills are a winning combination for a successful renovation endeavor. Whether it’sproviding preliminary historic structure evaluations, or inserting seven stories of braced frames to the FX McRory’s project while removing only minimal portions of the
existing structure, or tracking down the original 1941 Yesler Terrace Steam Plant chimney stack drawings from the Chicago cons

truction company critical to the analysis that preserved the stack (resulting in $800,000 savings for Seattle Housing Authority), Dan and his team’s thoughtful approach for every project results in preserving the historic fabric for Seattle’s neighborhood gems.

In addition to being a founding principal with Swenson Say Fagét (SSF) for the past 25years, Dan’s community commitments include six years on the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation Board of Directors ( he is currently still a non-board member volunteer), four years on the AIA Seattle
Board of Directors, and two years on the Design-in-Public Board of Directors.

Nicholas Vann, AIA, Washington State’s Historical Architect with the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, speaks to Dan’s unrivaled approach to preservation state-wide:

“Dan Say truly sets the gold standard when it comes to sensitive, practical, innovative approaches to structural challenges in historic buildings. His diligence and attention to detail are unrivaled as evidenced by his outstanding accomplishments in Seattle and Washington State. He possesses characteristics that breed success in every project he touches, and he inspires others to approach historic rehabilitation projects with the same care and sensitivity as he does.”

So, raise a glass to Dan (an Italian red, he’d likely suggest) and all his accomplishments on behalf of historic places!


Pictured top to bottom, from Dan’s extensive portfolio: Pike Place Market, Metropole Building (Pioneer Square), aerial view of FX McRory’s (Pioneer Square); Fran’s Chocolates (the original Rainier Brewery and Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company building, known collectively as Seattle Brewing and Malting Co, in Georgetown); the Green Lake and Columbia City Carnegie libraries

2020 Honorees

Each recipient was featured on our blog & social media throughout September – click the links below to learn more about these inspiring people & projects!

Building 9 at Magnuson Park

Best Preservation Project Award

Building 9 (now called Mercy Magnuson Place) at Magnuson Park, originally a barracks building for Naval Station Puget Sound on Sand Point, is now home to 148 units of affordable housing, the Denise Louie early learning education center, and a Neighborcare Health community health clinic – thanks to the outstanding work of the project team in partnership with Mercy Housing Northwest. Read more about their incredible effort.

Lincoln High School

Beth Chave Best Rehabilitation Award

Lincoln High School, a Seattle Landmark and the city’s oldest high school, first opened in 1907 to accommodate the rapid growth in North Seattle that came with the streetcar extension to Wallingford and relocation of the University of Washington campus. 113 years later, another wave of growth called the historic school back into action. Read more about this project.

Louisa Hotel

Community Investment Award

The Community Investment Award is presented to the Louisa Hotel project team for their restoration of this contributing building to the Seattle Chinatown National Register Historic District and the International Special Review District. Read more about the project.

South Park Yacht Club

Preserving Neighborhood Character Award

The South Park Yacht Club building was originally built in 1954 as a 13-unit mid-century apartment building. Over time, it fell into disrepair and was completely dilapidated, becoming a blight for the neighborhood. Read more about the rehabilitation.

Town Hall

Exemplary Stewardship Award

After operating in the existing building for 15 years, Town Hall’s leadership realized that – while the building’s historic character helped define the organization – the building had many liabilities that limited programming opportunities. After a major preservation-friendly renovation, including seismic retrofit, Town Hall now has the facility it needs to further its mission for many years to come, earning the project team our Exemplary Stewardship Award. Read more about this project.

Dan Say

Preservation Champion Award

Anyone who meets Dan Say immediately sees that he is a passionate person. Dan brings passion and sensitivity to the structural design for every individual project. Read more about his decades of his work and service in the preservation community.

Wa Na Wari

Community Advocacy Award

Wa Na Wari is an active center for Black art and culture sited in a 5th-generation Black-owned home in Seattle’s Central District.  By providing space and resources for Black artists to collaborate, exhibit their work, and network with other artists, collectors, and patrons, Wa Na Wari is advancing the community in the face of such challenges. To support their ongoing efforts in homeowner advocacy, Wa Na Wari also receives a $3,000 Community Advocacy prize alongside this award. Read more about their inspiring work.

Photo credit: Mujale Chisebuka

The Preservation Celebration

The 2020 Preservation Celebration Benefit, scheduled for September 23 at Washington Hall, has been canceled due to COVID-19.

In considering virtual options — many of which were costly or did not meet our mission — Historic Seattle has decided to forego an online event. Instead, we are staying true to the intent of the event by celebrating our 2020 award recipients with features throughout the month of September.

The 2020 Preservation Award recipients are:

Congratulations to each recipient! Each recipient was featured on our blog & social media throughout September.

Wa Na Wari also receives a $3,000 Community Advocacy prize in addition to the award, in support of their mission to create space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection.

In lieu of purchasing a ticket or table for this year’s event, we ask you to consider making a donation in support of our mission. While we can’t give you a night of food, fun, and festivities right now, we can promise you that your dollars will have the most impact this year – 100% of your contribution goes directly to our mission.

Please Give Now!

 

Top photo: the 2019 Preservation Celebration at the Georgetown Ballroom, courtesy of Sticks & Stones Photography.

NASA Lunar Rovers: Kent, WA Landmarks

About this Program:

“They were some of history’s most consequential road trips and they started right here in our backyard, in Kent, Washington.” 49 years ago, this July, lunar rovers built in Kent were sent to the moon aboard Apollo 15.

About the Speaker:

Sarah J. Martin is a public historian specializing in architectural history and the built environment. She manages her own consulting firm, SJM Cultural Resource Services, which helps clients identify, document, and interpret historic places. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Kansas and her master’s degree in public history from Middle Tennessee State University.

Before moving to Seattle, she spent nine years managing the National Register of Historic Places program for the State of Kansas. Among her recent Seattle-area landmark applications – many with her friend and colleague Flo Lentz – are the Campbell and Crescent-Hamm buildings in West Seattle, the St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, the Museum of Flight’s Boeing Airplane Co. Building, and the Ronnei-Raum House in Fall City. Sarah is a proud member of Historic Seattle and her neighborhood organization Historic Wallingford.

Click here for the PowerPoint version of this presentation.

 

Show Notes:

More on the Kent Connection

ApolloLunarRover.com, City of Kent. Includes a link to the WA Heritage Register application

Historic Washington: Bring the Moon to Downtown Kent,” TVW production, with Kent TV21 and City of Kent, July 4, 2019. Includes interviews with employees of Boeing’s rover program.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph kicks off Lunar Rover STEM Fest and unveils a lunar rover replica,” Kent TV21 video, November 29, 2019.

NASA Names Companies to Develop Human Landers for Artemis Moon Missions,”NASA news release, April 30, 2020.

NASA Features

The Apollo Missions,” NASA, last updated February 1, 2019.

Apollo 15: Follow the Tracks,” NASA, March 5, 2012. High-resolution imagery shows the rover tracks and where Rover 1 is parked.

NASA Spacecraft Images Offer Sharper Views of Apollo Landing Sites,” NASA, September 5, 2011.

Photo Credits:

Blue Origin, Boeing Corporate Archives, Boeing News, City of Kent, Kent TV21, Kent News-Journal, King County Historic Preservation Office, NASA, Seattle Times

This virtual program is made possible by these 2020 Education Program Sponsors & Historic Seattle’s Lawrence Kreisman Historic Preservation Education Fund.

Underwriting Partners: Bassetti Architects | Bennett Properties

Sustaining Partners: Lydig Construction | Marvin Anderson Architects | Pacifica Law Group

Presenting Partners: Bear Wood Windows | Beneficial State Bank | Bricklin & Newman | BuildingWork | Chosen Wood Window Maintenance, Inc. | Clifton Larson Allen LLP | Coughlin Porter Lundeen | J.A.S. Design Build | National Trust Insurance Services | Northwest Vernacular | RAFN Company | Ron Wright Associates / Architects | SHKS | SMR Architects | Swenson Say Fagét | Tonkin Architecture | Tru Mechanical | Weinstein A+U | ZGF Architects

With additional support from 

The Showbox with Shannon Welles

About this Program:

Happy 81st birthday to The Showbox! Lights are out right now at this beloved local landmark due to COVID-19, but Shannon Welles takes you on a virtual tour of its history and cultural significance “until we can meet again on that dance floor.”

Want to support our efforts to save The Showbox and buildings like it? Get your #SaveTheShowbox shirt here.

About the Speaker:

Shannon Welles is a lifelong music lover and brings deep passion to her more than 20 years of work in the live music industry. She is the founder of Friends of The Showbox, a community coalition to save Seattle’s iconic music venue, and holds a management position with The Showbox.

She is also a visual artist and a longtime student of ecosystems in many forms. Shannon has studied permaculture, earthen building, herbalism, Pacific Northwest native plants, and ethnobotany, and she founded hypha, a collaborative free plant nursery project to grow community networks of plant sharing. She recently completed her MFA in Arts Leadership, focusing on the intersection of art, artistic citizenship, and ecology.

Click here for the PowerPoint version of this presentation.

*Corrected credit: interior crowd photo, Mike Savoia

 

This virtual program is made possible by these 2020 Education Program Sponsors & Historic Seattle’s Lawrence Kreisman Historic Preservation Education Fund.

Underwriting Partners: Bassetti Architects | Bennett Properties

Sustaining Partners: Lydig Construction | Marvin Anderson Architects | Pacifica Law Group

Presenting Partners: Bear Wood Windows | Beneficial State Bank | Bricklin & Newman | BuildingWork | Chosen Wood Window Maintenance, Inc. | Clifton Larson Allen LLP | Coughlin Porter Lundeen | J.A.S. Design Build | National Trust Insurance Services | Northwest Vernacular | RAFN Company | Ron Wright Associates / Architects | SHKS | SMR Architects | Swenson Say Fagét | Tonkin Architecture | Tru Mechanical | Weinstein A+U | ZGF Architects

With additional support from 

Cal Anderson Park: The Park Behind CHAZ/CHOP

By Taha Ebrahimi

The following is the final in a series of guest blog posts submitted by members of the Historic Seattle community. The views and opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Historic Seattle.

These days it seems the whole state of Washington (and sometimes even the president of the United States!) has eyes on historic Cal Anderson Park, an unassuming patch of public green space located in the Seattle neighborhood of Capitol Hill. Only one block wide and three blocks long, these cherished 7 acres have been in service to the public since 1897 when the city purchased the land to construct its first hydraulic water pump. Cal Anderson was designated a City of Seattle landmark in 1999 and is making history again today. On June 8, 2020, protesters calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality occupied the park and declared it part of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or “CHAZ” (later changed to the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest or “CHOP”). The following is a history of Cal Anderson Park told through images comparing the past to the present.

Cal Anderson Park northeast entrance (CHOP tents seen beyond), June 2020. Image courtesy of author.

One of CHOP’s early demands was the return of land to the indigenous Duwamish people. Up until the 1850s the area that Cal Anderson Park sits on today went largely unchanged, used by indigenous peoples for hunting. In 1855, German immigrant John H. Nagle (pronounced “Nail”) settled on Donation Land Claim No. 233 located in today’s Capitol Hill. Nagle had arrived in Seattle just two years prior when the federal census counted a white population of 170 including 111 white men over the age of 21 who were U.S. citizens eligible to vote in King County. Nagle had been living in the U.S. since age 3, but he was not listed in that 1853 King County census and would not have been eligible to vote until he lived in Seattle for at least six months. Nagle was a bachelor who raised cows and cultivated vegetables and fruit trees on Land Claim No. 233. He also helped found the city’s first church (Methodist Episcopal) in 1854 and served as King County Assessor from 1857 to 1861. In 1874, he was deemed “dangerous” and committed to the newly-constructed Washington Hospital for the Insane at Fort Steilacoom. Nagle would spend the remaining 22 years of his life institutionalized before dying at the age of 66 because of “exhaustion due to acute mania.” Meanwhile, the City of Seattle was looking for land to build a reservoir that would prevent another disaster like the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 and, upon Nagle’s death in 1897, the City decided to purchase his remaining acres of land for this sole purpose. The cost was $10,800.

The Seattle P-I wrote in 1898, “In a little hollow which has been a noxious marsh for several years lie four acres of land which are to be a park. They lie on the Nagle tract. Eight or nine feet of surface dirt will be applied, thus extinguishing the marsh. The surface will be adorned with the usual accompaniments of a public pleasure ground.”

Below is one of the earliest known photographs of the land that became Cal Anderson Park, taken in 1899 when construction of the reservoir began. The view looks northward from where the Oddfellows Building is today on the corner of Pine Street and 10th Ave. On the horizon, one can see the twin tudor-style peaks of Pontius School which later became Lowell Elementary School.

In 1901, just at the turn of the century when Capitol Hill got its official name, the city’s water department announced completion of a low-service 21-million-gallon reservoir and the city’s first hydraulic pumping station, the linchpin in the city’s elaborate municipal water system sourced from the 20-mile Cedar River Pipeline in the Cascade mountains. They named it Lincoln Reservoir and the land to its south would be reserved to develop into a public space called Lincoln Park (present-day Cal Anderson Park). In preparation for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1903, the city council contracted with the famed landscape architecture firm of the Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts (descendents of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. who was best known for designing New York’s Central Park). The Olmsteds were to plan a Seattle park system and design the A-Y-P fairgrounds, as well as develop many of the city’s parks – one of which was the tract of land reserved to be Lincoln Park. In preparation for the influx of 3.7 million visitors expected for the exposition, the city wanted to put its best face forward. Up until then, the city only had Denny Park (a cemetery converted into a park in 1883).

Initially, the 1904 preliminary plan for Lincoln Park (below) included only walking paths and ornamental plantings but no sports facilities. The Olmsteds received feedback that an informal playfield children had appropriated to the south of the reservoir absolutely needed to be retained. Like Nagle in 1855 (and even the protesters of 2020), the children had simply taken over the dirt plot. The city was successfully influenced by this organic “occupation” and a second revised proposal was drawn up (also below) that included a real fenced baseball field at the southern end and a crescent-shaped span that included a wading pool and shelterhouse area devoted entirely to recreation. The original shelterhouse remained until 1962.

In 2020, the same ballfield demanded by the children of early 1900s Seattle is where CHOP protesters gravitated to occupy again. The central crescent-shaped area near the shelterhouse has been populated by a small village of occupier tents, and the area where the original wading pool existed has been converted into several circular guerilla community gardens (image below).

Aerial view of Cal Anderson Park. June 12, 2020. Image courtesy of David Ryder/Polaris; All Rights Reserved.

Cal Anderson actually has a history with tents! While the park was being built, the City of Seattle erected a giant canvas tent over the field so that Broadway High School students (what was Broadway High is now the Broadway Performance Hall on the corner of Pine Street and Broadway) could use it for gymnastics in all seasons, regardless of rain. However, the first use of the canvas structure was by the Christian Endeavor for a 3,000-person convention held in July 1907 (image below).

Christian Endeavor tent in Lincoln Park, Seattle, Washington, circa 1907.
Image courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, Postcard collection (Record Series 9901-01).

Between 1900 and 1910, Seattle’s population tripled. The public couldn’t wait for the park to be completed so the city installed a cinder running track around the reservoir to tide them over. The following image is from 1906 looking southward from present-day E. Denny Way and Nagle Place. To the left of the 90-foot geyser, one can see Central Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity on the corner of present-day Olive St. and 11th Ave., a frame building opened only three years earlier in 1903 (and which still exists today). The original stone gatehouse that housed the prized hydraulic pump can be seen on the right.

Lincoln Park Reservoir postcard. 1906. Image from author’s personal vintage postcard collection.

In 2005, the reservoir was covered and replaced with grassy lawns and wrought-iron lamp-lined walkways, as well as a water feature. Below is a view in June 2020 with the fountain turned off due to COVID-19 pandemic-related health restrictions.

Cal Anderson Park gatehouse, June 2020. Image courtesy of author.

The park was completed in time for the 1909 A-Y-P Exposition, becoming Seattle’s first supervised playfield, following a trend of public parks opening across America. The following year, it hosted Seattle’s first “Inter-Playground Athletic Meet” for over 100 schoolchildren and 1,500 spectators (the event is pictured below with children waving American flags and spectators holding umbrellas and watching from 11th Ave. Central Lutheran Church is in the background to the left).

The baseball and football fields turned out to be so popular that teams had to schedule a game ten days in advance. The image below from 1911 roughly shows the same view of the park as the first image in this article, Nagle Place is to the left with Pine Street on the lower right. The reservoir gatehouse and geyser can be seen at the far end and Central Lutheran is to the right. The baseball diamond is where protesters in 2020 would set up their encampment 110 years later.

Broadway Playfield, from southwest corner Pine Street and Nagle Place about 1911. Image courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives, Don Sherwood Parks History Collection. Identifier: 38023.

In 2020, Pine Street was the main thoroughfare in which protesters were dispersed by police and National Guardsmen armed with chemical agents, flash-bang devices, and rubber bullets. Following a lengthy standoff, the precinct left the premises and protesters occupied the area, painting “Black Lives Matter” across the width of Pine Street on the southern border of Cal Anderson.

Aerial view of Cal Anderson Park. June 12, 2020. Image courtesy of David Ryder/Polaris; All Rights Reserved.

Back in the early 1900s, the park quickly became a natural gathering place for events. Pictured below in 1912, spectators watch “modern woodmen” drills on the playfield, facing northwesterly with the shelterhouse at the top right and the line of buildings at left on present-day Nagle Place.

Modern woodmen drills, Lincoln Park playground (Now Cal Anderson Park), Seattle, 1912. Image via Pinterest.

The below image is roughly the same view of the playfield in 2020 when CHOP occupied the baseball field (the line of buildings at left are on Nagle Place, and the new shelterhouse can be seen at right).

Bobby Morris Playfield at Cal Anderson Park, June 2020. Image courtesy of author.

Much like the CHAZ-turned-CHOP, the park has also contended with naming issues. In 1922, to avoid confusion with another Lincoln Park in West Seattle, the recreation area was renamed “Broadway Playfield” (the playfield would be re-named again in 1980 to “Bobby Morris Playfield” to honor a local graduate of Broadway High that served as president of the Seattle Chapter of the National Football Foundation). The entire park would be named Cal Anderson Park in 2005 to honor Washington’s first openly gay state legislator, who died of AIDS in 1995. 

By the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) found many opportunities to put men to work improving the public space. In 1932, tennis courts were added, and in 1938 and 1939, the wading pool was replaced and new fencing, football field turf, and outdoor electric lighting were installed. Pictured below in 1938, men can be seen working at the park, facing east. Central Lutheran Church can be seen to the right and, to the left on 11th Ave., one can see the spire of present-day Calvary Chapel which was known in 1906 as First German Congregational Church and offered services for immigrants entirely in German until the two World Wars when German-speaking people were viewed with suspicion and services were curtailed.

Pictured below in 1950 are the neighborhood’s children swimming in the much beloved wading pool south of the reservoir gatehouse. Just two years earlier in 1948, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racially restrictive covenants were unenforceable (since 1924, over 500 racially restrictive covenants and deed restrictions were written in Seattle alone, with Capitol Hill’s restrictions ultimately covering 183 blocks. In 1948, most of the covenants in Capitol Hill were up for renewal but a petition to extend them failed, with one local resident writing he could not “be party to deprive any one of their rights”). Even though the city established its first integrated municipal pool in 1944 (Colman Pool, coincidentally in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park), as one can see from the image below, informal segregation still occurred. It was not until the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 and the resulting unrest in the Central District that an open housing ordinance was passed in Seattle.

The same wading pool still exists today (pictured below empty in June 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic-related health restrictions).

Cal Anderson Park wading pool, June 2020. Image courtesy of author.

The park descended into a decades-long period of disrepair beginning in the 1960s. Kay Rood, a neighborhood local and community park activist pivotal in the rebuilding of the park, recounted her impression of it in 1993: “The park looked like a prison yard from an old black and white movie, with rusted double fencing, a cinder sports field, a small rundown playground, an ugly and dangerous brick restroom building often covered with graffiti, and a semi-permanent population of transients and druggies dotting the landscape.”

Rood along with a neighborhood coalition known as Groundswell Off Broadway began working with the city to advocate for improvements to the park beginning in 1996 when they secured “10 new World’s Fair benches appropriate to an Olmsted park, and 25 new trash containers to replace the beat-up metal cans chained to trees.” They succeeded in getting the park designated as a City of Seattle landmark in 1999. In 2003, a new shelterhouse was dedicated and the park’s new name was unveiled, just as work began on burying the reservoir in an underground vault (the first of Seattle’s reservoirs to be covered). The reservoir replacement and new water feature were completed in 2005. Landscaping was developed to honor the original Olmsted vision, including walking paths lined by historic lighting fixtures and a recreated parapet wall describing the historic reservoir’s perimeter. Once again, the park became a local attraction. 

In 2016, the Capitol Hill station of Link light rail was opened on the northwest corner of the park at Nagle Place. Special attention was paid to preserve the Chinese Scholar tree (sophora japonica) on the corner, which was designated a Seattle Heritage Tree in 2003 and was most likely originally planted by the Olmsted firm. Several very old cherry trees that were also removed from the area to clear way for the station may have been from the original orchard cultivated by John H. Nagle more than 150 years ago.

Cal Anderson Park continues to bear witness to key moments in the city’s history today, acting both as a crossroads and a destination. Once Seattle’s central beating life source for water, this public area remains a canvas reflecting the city’s evolving identity and needs. Every day at the park during the CHOP era seems to be different, and the future is yet unknown, but each generation shares one thing in common: an inexplicable draw to gather and converge here.

Taha Ebrahimi was born and raised in Seattle, and happens to live across the street from Cal Anderson Park.

SOURCES

  1. “Attractive Parks and Pleasure Grounds Where All Seattle Rambles At Will,” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 18, 1898, pg. 28.
  2. Berger, Knute. “Seattle’s Ugly Past: Segregation in Our Neighborhoods,” Seattle Magazine, March 2013.
  3. DeCoster, Dotty. “Nagle, John H. (1830-1897),” History Link.org, January 23, 2010, Essay 9268.
  4. James, Diana E. “Shared Walls: Seattle Apartment Buildings, 1900-1939” McFarland & Co: 2012.
  5. Olmsted Brothers. “Letter from Olmsted Brothers to Mr. Charles W. Saunders.” Seattle Municipal Archives, Don Sherwood Parks History Collection, Item 5801_01_53_04_004 (Record Series 5801-01).
  6. “Racial Restrictive Covenants,” University of Washington Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.
  7. Rood, Kay. “Creating Cal Anderson Park,” History Link.org, January 7, 2006, Essay 7603.
  8. Williams, David B. “Olmsted Parks in Seattle,” History Link.org, June 10, 1999, Essay 1124.
  9. Williams, Jacqueline B. “The Hill With A Future: Seattle’s Capitol Hill 1900-1946” CPK Ink: 2001.

See All the People: Mt. Virgin Church Changes with the Times

By Eleanor Boba

The following is the fourth in a series of guest blog posts submitted by members of the Historic Seattle community. The views and opinions expressed in guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Historic Seattle.

If you have an idea for a future post, please send a draft to info@historicseattle.org. You can review the guidelines here.

Here Is the Church

It started with a small wooden church on a hill between the Rainier Valley and Seattle’s Central District named for the patron saint of Germany. St. Boniface was built, probably sometime in the 1890s, by and for German Catholic immigrants to the city who hoped to worship in their own language.

Information on the little German church is scarce. The 1901 and 1902 Seattle Polk Directories list “St. Bonifacius, German Roman Catholic” at 28th Avenue South and Massachusetts, along with the words “no services.” Later additions of the directory make no mention of the church at all. The 1912 Baist map show the church alone on the hillside except for a small house immediately to the north. Anecdotal evidence indicates that a succession of caretaker families lived in the basement of the church, some German-speaking, some Italian.

The Italian Transformation

By 1910, the area surrounding St. Boniface was made up largely of Italian immigrant families – so much so that the area was nicknamed “Garlic Gulch” – and thus the little church was the natural choice for an Italian parish. Seattle Bishop Edward John O’Dea called on the Jesuits to minister to the growing Italian community in the city. On September 10, 1911, Fr. DeRop, S.J. said the first mass in Italian at the church. The diary of the Jesuit order notes that two weeks later Fr. DeRop took “some of our old pews” to the new Italian church. About this time the church’s name was changed to Our Lady of Monte Virgene, after a well-known church in Caserta, Italy. A sketch rendered by University of Washington graduate student Nellie Roe in 1914 depicts the church and school surrounded by a fenced garden. The caption states that “102 Italian children” attend the school.

In 1913 Fr. Lodovico Caramello arrived to take over for the ailing Fr. DeRop and immediately began to fast track plans for a new, grander edifice in the Florentine style of his homeland. The fruition of this project in 1915 is credited largely to Fr. Caramello’s commanding personality and his contacts in his native Italy.

The Italians built their church just to the west of, and back-to-back with, the old German church. The 1916 Sanborn map shows “Mt. Virgin R.C. Church” almost touching the “Old Church.” The small house is labeled “School,” although it was also the parish rectory. With the tower removed, St. Boniface became the parish hall and later served in a number of capacities, including as a gym, kindergarten, and workshop, before ultimately being torn down about 1970. Army surplus buildings, placed on the church property in the 1940s, became the Mount Virgin School where local children received instruction from Irish Dominican nuns and sometimes from the priests themselves.

For several decades, Mount Virgin and Father Caramello were the heart of the Italian community in Seattle. Long-time resident Ralph Vacca recalled:

The church in the Italian community, at least in that generation, was the center. And Father Caramello was God in America. You could take a string or measuring stick and go out whatever distance from Mount Virgin Church and there would be a lot of Italian names and families.

Vincent LaSalle spoke of the Italian culture that defined the church:

I was raised in the Catholic school with the Dominican nuns, Mount Virgin, the little Italian parish. And I became an altar boy when I was only in about the fourth grade and Father Caramello says he’s “gonna make an altar boy out of me.” So I became an altar boy; I was number one! And you never seen anything like it – such beautiful boys! You know the altar boys at the end of the year, they used to have a great big party, you know, all the Italian kids. They were all Italian, all of them.

Vacca-Patricelli wedding, 1927. Courtesy of the Rainier Valley Historical Society

To this day Our Lady of Mount Virgin is designated as a “national parish,” one without traditional geographic boundaries. Specifically it was, and is, an “Italian National Parish,” one of several in the country created to serve a specific immigrant community.

Opening the Doors

In the last decades of the 20th century, the Italian population in Garlic Gulch began to disperse, pushed out by the I-90/Mount Baker tunnel projects and changing demographics. Many Italian-Americans had already moved out to the suburbs by the time the second major freeway expansion began in 1979. Attendance at mass dwindled steadily and there were fears the church might close altogether. However, in that same year the first of several waves of Laotian Catholic refugees arrived in the Rainier Valley. Assisted by an Italian Catholic group working with the tribal people of Laos, these refugees were adopted into the parish, bringing new life to the little church.

Mount Virgin also has a special relationship with Native American Catholics in Seattle. For a number of years the parish offered a special mass for Native Americans. Today it continues to reach out to immigrant communities, particularly Laotian, Chinese, and Vietnamese communities, while still honoring its Italian origin. During the current Covid-19 crisis, no masses are scheduled, although the church is open for quiet contemplation during specified hours. It is located at 1531 Bradner Place South, just off MLK Jr Way, in the shadow of the Mount Baker lid.

Things have changed for Mount Virgin, but there is hope for the future as the church embraces the Catholic tradition of “adopting and adapting” to new circumstances and cultures.

Information for this story is drawn from the archives of the Seattle Archdiocese, Special Collections at the University of Washington, Puget Sound Branch of the Washington State Archives, and oral histories collected by the Rainier Valley Historical Society.

 

Eleanor Boba is a public historian who writes about historic places off the beaten path at Remnants of our Past. A stint at the Rainier Valley Historical Society gave her a deep appreciation of Southeast Seattle.

Women’s History Embodied in our Built Environment

It goes without saying that women’s history is embodied in numerous places within Seattle, across the state, and throughout the country. How aware are we of these places, and in what ways are they recognized or, better yet, protected?

Let’s first look at local sites. Four of our city’s six landmark designation criteria can be applied to women, either as a cultural group or individually. Therefore, a number of Seattle’s landmarks were designated as such specifically because of their association with either individual women or groups of women whose lives played large roles in shaping our city’s history. The Cooper School in West Seattle’s Delridge neighborhood, the Dr. Annie Russell House in the University District, and The Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford are three examples of places recognized as landmarks at least in part because of their association with women.

The Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in the Delridge neighborhood, historically known as The Cooper School, courtesy of Denny Sternstein.

According to the landmark designation report for The Cooper School, now home to the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, the building “was the location for the appointment of the first African-American teacher hired by the Seattle Public Schools, Thelma Dewitty (1912-1977). She began her teaching position in September 1947, after pressure on her behalf from the Seattle Urban League, NAACP, the Civic Unity Committee, and Christian Friends for Racial Equality… Although Seattle was known for racial tolerance, Dewitty’s appointment was newsworthy and generated some conflict. When she was hired at Cooper, other teachers were informed that a black teacher would be joining them and were given the option to transfer. One parent requested that her child be removed from Dewitty’s class, although that request was denied by the principal. After teaching at Cooper, Dewitty continued her career in several Seattle schools before her retirement in 1973 and was known for her civic involvement. She was the president of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP in the late 1950s and also served on the State Board Against Discrimination and the Board of Theater Supervisors for Seattle and King County.”

The landmarked Dr. Annie Russell House at 5721 8th Avenue NE in the University District, courtesy of Joe Mabel.

The Dr. Annie Russell House landmark designation report states, “Dr. Annie Russell (1868-1942), the original owner, is significant in Seattle’s history because she was one of the first female physicians in Washington State and the City of Seattle. She was a colorful character, with an adventurous personality and an interesting history. She was also a controversial figure in the Seattle medical community in the early 20th century.” The controversy refers to Dr. Russell having her medical license revoked for performing abortions out of her home. She was eventually pardoned, and her license was later reinstated which furthered the controversy that surrounded her.

A historic postcard features an image of Wallingford’s Good Shepherd Center in its early days.

Today, the Historic Seattle-owned Good Shepherd Center (GSC) is a thriving multi-purpose community center housing a senior center, six live/work units for artists, a rehearsal and performance space, various schools, local and international non-profit organizations, and several small businesses. But originally the property and grounds were occupied for over 60 years by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who provided shelter, education, and training to young women. According to a HistoryLink essay, “The mission of the Order of the Good Shepherd Sisters was to purify and strengthen the souls of girls living in poverty and in environments considered immoral. Founder Saint Mary Euphrasia, canonized in 1940, taught an attitude of ‘maternal devotedness’ and that ‘example is more powerful than words.’ The nuns were not to use corporal punishment. Good behavior was rewarded and restoring the girls’ self-esteem was paramount.”

For many, the GSC was a place of refuge. However, the GSC’s history is not without controversy. Girls were referred to the GSC by the courts or brought in by families from throughout Washington and the Northwest. Oral histories, like this interview with former resident Jackie (Moen) Kalani, describe a distinct harshness in how the girls were treated at the GSC. For example, Kalani describes a strictness practiced by the Sisters that “probably nowadays would be called abusive.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the GSC’s history, join our popular Behind the Garden Walls tour on April 11. You’ll walk the GSC grounds with Lead Gardener Tara Macdonald to learn about its 1900s origin, the community fight to preserve the GSC, and current efforts to maintain the historic gardens while embracing ecological awareness.

On the national level, Where Women Make History stands out as a unique way of recognizing places significant to women’s history. This recent project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation aims to recognize 1,000 places across the country connected to women’s history, in order to “elevate their stories for everyone to learn and celebrate.” While this ongoing project is still accepting submissions and taking shape, it currently recognizes 12 places in Washington, three of which are in Seattle. Among the places recognized is the Historic Seattle-owned landmark Washington Hall, located in Seattle’s Central District. The “Hall for All” carries a rich and varied history that includes performances by legends Billie Holliday and Marian Anderson, but it is the fact that in 1918 Miss Lillian Smith’s Jazz Band played the first documented jazz performance in Washington State that landed it on this list.

Washington Hall as it appeared in 1914, just 4 years before Miss Lilian Smith’s Jazz Band would perform the first documented jazz performance in the state. Interested in learning more? You can journey through the history of jazz in Seattle and Washington Hall’s role in it while enjoying performances by exceptional pianists Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi, as well as Garfield Jazz, at History Told Through Music, our special event coming up on April 22 at Washington Hall.

Another local site listed is The Booth Building at 1534 Broadway, which was nominated last month as a City of Seattle Landmark and will be considered for designation at a public Landmarks Preservation Board hearing scheduled for April 1. According to the Where Women Make History project’s description, “The 1906 Booth Building in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is most significant for its association with educator Nellie Cornish. In 1914, Nellie Cornish (1876-1956) established the Cornish School of Music in one room of the Booth Building, eventually occupying all of the second and third floors. The school grew rapidly and incorporated painting, dance and theater into its curriculum. Nellie Cornish recruited to her faculty such talented artists as Mark Tobey, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and John Cage. In 1921, Cornish commissioned a purpose-built building further north on Capitol Hill, while the Booth Building remained the location of various arts education uses until the 1980s. The Cornish College of the Arts remains a vital educational institution in the Pacific Northwest and still reflects Nellie Cornish’s unique educational pedagogy promoting ‘exposure to all of the arts.’”

The Booth Building as it appeared in 1937, courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Archives.

While some of these places have been preserved, there is no denying that many places significant to women’s history in Seattle have been lost and many more remain unprotected. This vulnerability is a threat to all kinds of places across Seattle, particularly places tied to histories of certain groups – namely people of color, the working class, LGBTQ+ communities, and women. In fact, only 7.8% of City landmarks are designated primarily because of their association with underrepresented communities, according to the findings of a recent study by 4Culture. Fortunately, a shift in thinking seems to be underway, specifically in how “cultural significance” is weighed and valued in terms of landmarking. Local movements like 4Culture’s Beyond Integrity initiative are emerging to “elevate equity in preservation standards and practices.” Let’s hope these efforts will help to remedy disparity in landmarking and result in designations that better represent our collective history.

Heart Bomb The Showbox!

What’s a Heart Bomb?

heart bomb is a public display of affection for places that matter. Every February, people across the country gather at historic sites and local landmarks (both safe and threatened) to snap a photo with their valentines. Sharing the photos on social media raises awareness of these special places and why they matter to their local communities.

This is Historic Seattle’s sixth annual heart bomb. Share your own photos using #heartbombSEA and #IHeartSavingPlaces!

Why The Showbox?

Because it still needs your help! The Showbox is a designated landmark, but that doesn’t necessarily protect it from being demolished. We need you to urge the Landmarks Preservation Board to place “controls” on the property. Controls are a part of the landmarking process and describe the protections to the physical elements of the building. Without controls, The Showbox can be torn down.

We’ll go into more detail at the event, but if you can’t attend you’ll find guidance on what to say here. Don’t forget to send your comments to Sarah Sodt, the City’s historic preservation officer, at sarah.sodt@seattle.gov or plan to attend the LPB meeting now scheduled for February 19 to provide your comments in person.

What to Expect:

5:30 Doors open
Time for hearts & crafts, landmark controls comment coaching, Save The Showbox Portrait Project photos
6:15 Update on Showbox advocacy efforts by Eugenia Woo
7:00 Group photo
Continued time for comment coaching & Portrait Project photos
8:00 Event ends

Cost: Free! Advanced registration appreciated. Please note that this is a 21+ event.

Click here to register.

Presented in partnership with the Seattle Theatre Group, Friends of The Showbox, Vanishing Seattle, Friends of Historic Belltown, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Behind the Garden Walls | A Glimpse into the Allure and Surprise of the Good Shepherd Center

On October 17 Historic Seattle will hold its 5th Annual Heirloom Apple Tasting at the Good Shepherd Center (GSC). GSC lead gardener Tara Macdonald had this to say about this free event: “It captures the spirit of fall, in its simplicity and the abundance offered. It also captures the essence of the place. Like the Good Shepherd Center itself, the event has a similar element of surprise, discovery, and pride. And in the broader sense, it reflects the importance of community. This all exists because of community.”

Read on to find out what else Tara has to share from her years as the conscientious steward of the alluring Good Shepherd Center grounds.

Tell us about your connection to Seattle and how you came to be lead gardener at the GSC.

I came to Seattle for the horticultural opportunity, it’s a great place to be in the business of gardening. I had a landscaping business, but I wanted to get involved in something more plant-centric and public spaces are very important to me so when this opportunity came along it was a great fit. Here there is a great plant collection and a great backstory that adds richness to the place.

What was your earliest memory of the GSC, and what has it been like to go from that first glance to the relationship you now have with the place?

I always refer back to my first impressions because it tells me what other people’s first impressions might be. The name for Historic Seattle’s tour of the grounds is “Behind the Garden Walls,” which is fitting because there is a holly hedge that surrounds the property. Depending on what stage the hollies are in, you can see glimpses of a big historic building behind there. It has this mysterious quality to it, a quality it has had throughout history because it was a very cloistered space.

My first impression was just “wow,” and then “interesting,” as I began to walk and explore the grounds and discover the diversity of the landscape and plants. You can tell the place was created with intent, but intent from times past. You have these rich woodland settings, lawn areas, formal gardens, and even a parking lot orchard! The diversity and peacefulness is unique, and people are surprised by it. You find yourself asking, “Why was this space created, and by whom?” The place invites and encourages a lot of questions and I’ve had the opportunity to dig into those questions. In my gardening, I’d like to make those questions pop into people’s heads. The way I imagine that happening is by defining the spaces more to make the character, and therefore the history of the spaces more prominent. By doing this you wouldn’t be able to avoid the question, “Why is it like this?”

Also, my awareness of the vibrancy of the community aspect — how much goes on here, and the impact this place has on community — has grown over the years. This position comes with a lot of responsibility, to both the history and the community. It’s not about me as a gardener, or my horticultural goals or whims; it’s about the history of the place and the value of it to the community both past and present.

You developed and lead Historic Seattle’s popular “Behind the Garden Walls” tour; what have you discovered about the place through the process of developing your tour? What have tour attendees seemed surprised to learn about this place and/or its history?

That there’s more to the story than people realize. I think that’s what surprises people most, how little they know. Most people know about the place only superficially, and not very accurately. All the details are news to them…they enliven the place and explain it in ways people didn’t even think to ask.

A tour group forms a semi-circle around Tara and a sign on a tri-pod that shares information about the Good Shepherd Center grounds.

 

Do you feel personally connected to the GSC’s history in any way?

The more I’ve learned about the place the more I realize how much it’s a reflection of women’s history. It reflects how women were treated, how girls were treated, how they were seen. Even the nuns, the fact that they were here is part of the story. This was a home for women and girls of various ages, and what that says about the how society treated abused women, neglected children, “bad girls,” is intriguing to me. As a woman, you have to feel a connection to that.

I’ll say as well that outdoor space is obviously very important to me and the fact that this home, which the grounds were very much a part of, was built around the importance of outdoor space also resonates with me personally. Outdoor space was integral to providing a good home. They saw outdoor space not only as an important outlet for female energy, but also as an important part of a healthy environment.  There were ornamental gardens, and playfields, but they also included sustainable agriculture in that space to feed themselves.

How do you see the gardens and grounds foster community?

Being on site daily, I see a ton of people come through here. It offers a lot. While many people definitely regard it as a meeting place, I also hear people using words like peaceful and oasis to describe it.

I probably interact with dog walkers most because that’s a community that needs and uses a lot of green space regularly. The dogs interact so the people interact, and the same happens with children and their parents on the playground. Others come here to unwind and inevitably stop and catch up with neighbors along the way.

Each neighborhood has its own identity and I think the Good Shepherd Center and the Meridian Playground are a big part of that, at least for the immediate Wallingford community and perhaps for some further afield. So, it creates a sense of community, ownership, and identity. And it really goes beyond those who use the building and the grounds, we get people all the time who come through and ask, “Can we go in?” and they’re usually really surprised by what they find.

And of course, there’s the apple tasting! With the apples themselves as a very tangible resource, we’ve been able to do a lot over the past 4 years to build a sense of community with this event. Certainly, with the bakers (GSC community volunteers who contribute baked goods to the tasting using GSC-grown apples) it gives them an opportunity to use their time, energy, and passion to contribute and participate in the community, which is a lot of fun. It also helps by connecting the communities within the building to each other and to the community at large.

Tara hands an apple slice to a child from across the table at our annual apple tasting. The table is full of different apple varieties.

Sticks & Stones Photography

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about the GSC?

That this place exists because of the efforts of the community. The big take-home is that if you want places like this, be active in preservation. It takes the same amount of effort from the community now to continue to have places like this.