The mantra of “This Place Matters” was uttered repeatedly by 201 people gathered to experience history-in-the-making at a mass photo shoot on the street in front of the landmark Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge in West Seattle. Many wore buttons declaring “This Place Matters.” The preservation gods must have been paying attention because gray skies gave way to sunshine during the program and photo shoot. The community event attracted people of all ages who came together to say, “This Place Matters.” There were those who remembered the building before it was a restaurant. Many others present had fond memories of gatherings in the Homestead Restaurant. There were even a few attendees who were not yet born when the structure suffered fire damage and closed in January 2009.
The “This Place Matters” grassroots event was co-sponsored by a coalition of preservation and heritage organizations working to save the Homestead building from demolition. The Southwest Seattle Historical Society, Historic Seattle, 4Culture, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation planned the event to promote awareness and appreciation of the Homestead building, stressing its vital importance in local history. This public campaign to declare that the Homestead matters is meant to open dialogue about future opportunities to rehabilitate the building, how this can be done, and what potential viable uses exist for the property.
The impressive slate of speakers who declared “This Place Matters” included former Mayor Greg Nickels; State Senator Joe McDermott; King County Councilmember Jan Drago; and King County Executive Dow Constantine—all longtime West Seattle residents. City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen (who was out of town) was with the group in spirit and has been greatly supportive of the efforts to save the Homestead. Representatives from each of the sponsoring organizations also spoke. They included Andrea Mercado (Log House Museum/Southwest Seattle Historical Society), Chris Moore (Washington Trust), Jim Kelly (4Culture), and Rick Sever (Historic Seattle). This preservation cause is also gaining national attention. Rounding out the speakers were Brian Turner from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Western Office in San Francisco and Stephanie Toothman, new Associate Director of Cultural Resources, National Park Service. “This Place Matters” is a National Trust grassroots campaign effort to encourage communities and individuals to recognize historic places that matter to them.
The group photo was taken by Jean Sherrard—many of you are familiar with the “Now” photos he takes for Paul Dorpat’s “Then & Now” column in the Sunday Seattle Times. The Homestead was recently featured in “Then & Now.” Paul posted the official Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge “This Place Matters” photo on the blog he shares with Jean.
Of course, the West Seattle Blog (WSB) was present and posted the story soon after the event ended. Check out videos of the dignitaries speaking on WSB. WSB has been following the Homestead story since the 2009 fire and has many other posts about the property, including a post from yesterday about the owner offering the property for sale to local preservation and heritage organizations. The West Seattle Herald reported on the event. Read the story online (click on the photo to see a slideshow).
The co-sponsors of the Homestead “This Place Matters” event would like thank Historic Everett for loaning their “This Place Matters” sign for the Homestead group photo. Historic Everett used the sign for its own photo shoot in front of the Collins Building.