Our History

Historic Seattle is a public development authority established by city ordinance in 1974.

For 40 years Historic Seattle has shown what can be done quietly in the background with technical assistance and feasibility studies, and loudly by plunging head-on into full scale redevelopment of buildings that no one else in the community would assume responsibility to protect.

As a community-based organization, Historic Seattle focuses on the reuse and reimagining of historic properties for new purposes.

One such property is the Good Shepherd Center, a 1906 Catholic Home for Girls that was slated for demolition. The property was purchased by the City of Seattle and the buildings transferred to Historic Seattle in 1975. Today, the Good Shepherd Center accommodates the Wallingford neighborhood’s desire for community space, housing nonprofit organizations, a school, six units of artist housing and a 200-seat performance space (in the former chapel) hosting over 100 musical events and programs each year.

Historic Seattle has saved dozens of other historic buildings, as well. Many of these buildings, highlighted in the Projects section of our website, would be gone if Historic Seattle had not taken on the risks and rewards of their rehabilitation. As one example, the Cadillac Hotel in historic Pioneer Square was to be razed after the Nisqually earthquake in 2001. Instead, we acquired the property, rehabilitated the 1889 historic structure, and created a unique partnership with the National Park Service, providing a new home for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in 2005.

Our focus since 2009 has been the restoration of Washington Hall, a historic community gathering space in Seattle’s Central District that was threatened by neglect. Built in 1908, the Seattle Landmark and National Register-listed building has a storied past that mirrors the diverse neighborhood’s changes over time. We acquired Washington Hall with a commitment to honor its history and respond to the needs of both the neighborhood and the local arts community.

Historic Seattle is also a membership organization dedicated to the protection of our architectural heritage through projects, educational programming, and advocacy within the community. Historic Seattle has become the region’s foremost educator on built heritage, offering an outstanding series of lectures, workshops, tours, and specially arranged visits to historic properties. It has also greatly expanded its role to encourage activism in the preservation of important community landmarks and neighborhood character, provide resources and referral services, technical and landmarks assistance, and keep people informed of current issues and initiatives.

As Historic Seattle looks toward its future, we encourage your participation in our preservation work through membership, contributions, time, and creative ideas.

Photo: 1915 postcard showing the Good Shepherd Center