Historic Seattle Preservation Foundation Board

The Historic Seattle Preservation Foundation is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides leadership for the preservation and enhancement of greater Seattle’s historic places.

Board Members

James Fearn, President

James is a graduate of Antioch College and the University of Chicago Law School, and is General Counsel for the Seattle Housing Authority. Previously he has been an attorney in private practice and worked as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Land Use Division of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, and Seattle Legal Services. James has also worked as Deputy Director and Executive Director of the Institute for Local Government and Public Service in Budapest, Hungary. He has served on a variety of boards and commissions including the Seattle Parks Board, the Seattle Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, and the Governor’s Growth Management Task Force. James has been a member of the Historic Seattle Public Development Authority Council for more than ten years.

Rick Sever, Vice President

Rick holds a B.A. in Art History with an emphasis on Architectural History and Design from the University of Washington. Rick is an expert in residential design and wood building practices, and is the principal of Sever Residential Construction, specializing in pre-1960s homes. He has been a member of Historic Seattle since 1990 and an active volunteer from the very beginning. In 1995 Rick co-founded the Historic Seattle ‘Preserving Your Old House’ program. Rick served as the Public Development Authority Council Treasurer and the chair of the Historic Seattle Audit Committee. He serves as a Technical Advisory Board Member for The Wood Construction Center at Seattle Central Community College.

Michael Herschensohn, Ex Officio

Michael is an inveterate cultural conservationist with a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell. Michael’s preservation experience includes historic district surveys; National Register nominations; exhibits about the history of Chicago architecture; and producing the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s famous walking and bus tours. In Seattle, he was formerly director of The Children’s Museum, Museum of History & Industry, and Northwest Folklife. Michael is particularly enthusiastic about the preservation of vernacular buildings and sites.

Vernon Abelsen

Vernon received his Masters of Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a BS in Art/Architecture from Portland State University.  An architect licensed in the State of Washington, he has extensive experience in the rehabilitation, preservation and adaptive reuse of historic properties. His historic housing and public works projects include the Juvenile Detention Center in Mount Vernon, Navy officers’ quarters in Bremerton, and King County Courthouse in Seattle. He has volunteered as a member of the AIA-Seattle Historic Resources Committee, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board (including as Chair), and with a technical advisory group to amend the Washington State International Existing Building Code as it applies to existing and historic properties. He is currently a member and volunteer with Architects Without Borders-Seattle.

Gary Gaffner

Gary was born and raised on Alki Point, a fifth-generation Seattleite, and has enjoyed a lifetime avocation studying the history of the city, its many interesting people, and its architecture. He and his wife undertook privately the restoration of many old Seattle homes, hoping to bring back as much of their original charm as possible. Gary graduated with a B.S. in Engineering from the University of Washington in 1957 and an M.B.A. from Stanford University in 1961. He spent his entire career at The Boeing Airplane Company as an engineer and later in various management positions, with occasional stints as a visiting lecturer in the Graduate Business School at Stanford. He served as a founder and board member of the Community Council and the Historical Society on Seattle’s Queen Anne hill for several decades. When Historic Seattle was being formed 31 years ago, Gary was elected by the conveners as the first constituency member on the Preservation and Development Authority Council, and has served continuously since then, first as a Council member, and now on the Board of Directors of the Historic Seattle Preservation Foundation.