Preservation in Progress

Historic Seattle’s Blog

Beyond Nostalgia & the Spirit of Service to the People

An interview with Shannon Welles and Earnie Ashwood, Showbox employees and founding members of Friends of The Showbox.

What is Friends of The Showbox (FOTS) and how were you inspired to organize this group?

SW: I describe Friends of The Showbox as a grassroots community coalition of people dedicated to saving The Showbox. For me, establishing the group came from wanting to get the employees of The Showbox connected to a greater community of people working to save the venue. It also came from wanting to unite individuals and connect them with groups like Friends of the Market and Historic Seattle to get all parties working together.

Also, I was in grad school when the news about the threat to The Showbox broke. I was taking a public policy class, and I felt like I could help organize people who had energy but didn’t know where to put it. Like the employees, many people wanted to help but didn’t know how.

EA: FOTS is a coalition of people who love The Showbox and have gathered for the sole interest of preserving both the use and the cultural heritage of the building.

Tell us about yourself, your connection to Seattle, and how you came to be a part of The Showbox.

SW: Music has been the driving force in my life since I was a kid. I started working at a music store when I was 16, and I moved to Seattle because of the music scene. Seattle was my music mecca. I would not have come here were it not for the music.

EA: I moved to Seattle to pursue music as a full-time career. I started working at The Showbox, and it quickly became a second home for me. My relationship with The Showbox has dramatically evolved because of the culture of community that exists there.

What is your earliest memory of The Showbox?

SW: I went to my first concert at The Showbox (Gillian Welch) about two weeks after I moved here in 2001. Not long after that, I started working there. I’ve now worked at The Showbox for 17 years and I can’t imagine my life, or Seattle, without it.

EA: One of my earliest memories was meeting the security manager of The Showbox for a job interview at Pike Place Market. It was very simple, he asked me, “Are you compassionate? Do you have the ability to listen? And can you make this more than being about yourself, and flexing power?”

He proceeded to explain that the culture of The Showbox is about more than standard security. It’s about providing a safe space for people to connect and enjoy music. The interview introduced me to the spirit of service to the people that IS The Showbox.

“At the heart of the community’s love for The Showbox is our relationship to music, to memory, and to each other through music. These relationships should not be dismissed as nostalgia. It’s so much deeper than that.”

The above quote is from Friends of The Showbox’s website. Explain how love of The Showbox is about more than people’s nostalgia for a bygone time in their lives.

SW: Well, those are my words so that’s a lot of it! But I also think music is often just dismissed solely as entertainment, without consideration of any other role it has in society. I’ve done some reading about music as a social force, so I see it differently.  It’s old, old function in human relationships is in ceremony, and bringing people together. We build relationships through music.

EA: To me, The Showbox is a shining example of diversity, both in music and in demographic. And as a musician in this city, when small shows pop up at The Showbox you pay attention because that’s where Seattle music really gets to shine. You see so much pride among the musicians performing and within the people who work there. People take this in as a beautiful Seattle event, and a sense of power of connection comes through that space.

Do you personally feel connected to The Showbox’s history? If so, how?

SW: If you’re speaking about the legacy of bands that have played there, I got to be part of many of them, so I feel really connected to that space. Then 5 years ago, for The Showbox’s 75th anniversary, I worked with the GM at the time to put together a celebration of The Showbox. I helped by digging through archives to gather old photographs, I did research, and I read the HistoryLink article. As a result, I became very familiar with The Showbox’s history. 

EA: I feel connected to the history in two distinct ways, as a musician and as an employee. As an employee, finding a new family through work makes me feel like a part of its history as a place where people connect. As a musician, it’s always been a dream to play at The Showbox and I got that opportunity in January of 2017. The opportunity to share my music on that stage changed my perspective about what was possible within myself. This venue represents opportunity for musicians like me.

Assuming this is the first time you’ve been involved in the landmarking process, what are some of the big takeaways you’ve learned thus far?

SW: I’ve read a lot to figure out what it is and how you explain it to someone else. One disappointing thing that I’ve discovered is that landmarking doesn’t necessarily save a place, that it doesn’t protect use. I also learned that the landmarking criteria heavily focuses on the things that you can see and touch, and not necessarily what it means to a community. When you’re trying to make the case for cultural significance, it’s hard if many of the ideas that they have about landmarks are about material space. I know that there have been articles written about equity, and who gets to save what spaces, and what do we value in terms of landmarks process. I think there’s room for improvement and change, to strengthen the rules so that we can save spaces with cultural significance when an owner might have an offer of millions of dollars that involves demolition.

EA: One of the biggest things I’ve come away with is that you can’t assume that other people have the same knowledge you have about a place you care about. And perhaps more importantly, the way you approach educating someone really determines how effectively you can accomplish the goals you’re trying to get across. For example, one of the landmark board members didn’t have a good understanding of the accessibility of The Showbox and the wide demographic that we serve. At first, I got almost angry, “How could they not know this!?” Then I realized I could share my knowledge and use that information as a positive point for why this place should be preserved. It’s not all about being prepared with what you have to say, but also to show up and listen, and address concerns to be effective for the movement.

Shannon, Earnie, and other Showbox employees testify in support of nominating The Showbox for landmark status.

What is one of the more significant ways you’ve seen The Showbox foster community? How would you describe its role in the context of Seattle as a whole?

SW: I see it most among the employees because that’s how I am in the space. The employee base is a unit. But I also see relationships forming there, people make friends there, romances form. In the context of Seattle as a whole, it provides space for people to gather. If you’re in a place where there are 1,000 other people who love that band that you also love, and you’re all singing the songs together and jumping up and down together on that floor, there’s a sense of belonging. If you go someplace like a bar you may be talking together with your friends, but you don’t feel like you’re having some sort of communal experience.

EA: Live music tends to break down barriers, it allows people from different backgrounds and different beliefs to come together. It gives them a space to let that go and just enjoy what’s in front of them, in the moment, with fellow human beings. For example, one of my favorite bands came to play at The Showbox, about a year ago. I was working security and noticed someone wearing a Trump t-shirt and another in a Black Lives Matter shirt. In our political climate that can lead to some very uncomfortable feelings. As security we must be mindful of situations like that. The moment the band started to play, those two got next to each other in the same area and it felt like some type of showdown could go down. Instead we saw the two of them wrap their arms around each other and start belting out the songs together. That is representative of the way this place allows for community to set aside differences and come together.

How would Seattle’s music scene change if The Showbox were to be torn down?

SW: We’re one of just two venues of that capacity here and in terms of how bands move through the Pacific Northwest we’re an important small-to-midsized venue. There are bands that are too big for the Crocodile but too small to fill places like the Moore or the Paramount. You need the venues that are in between and without them I think a lot of bands will just skip Seattle. It would be terrible for Seattle because of what the place means for people in Seattle. Artists who are young and coming up dream of playing there and want to see their name on the marquee. There would be this hole where that used to be. The place is an icon. If you destroy this icon, it’s going to crush the spirit of the musicians in Seattle. The greater touring musicians in this country know The Showbox and want to play there. It will destroy one of the best places to play in the Pacific Northwest and will have effects that people aren’t thinking about now. I think it will affect the greater ecosystem of music in the PNW.

EA: The Showbox is unique not only because of its culture of community but also in terms of its capacity. The average bar here has a capacity from 100-150, then you have places like the Crocodile around 300, and places like Nuemo’s with a capacity of 600-700. This is where The Showbox is really special, it’s a very approachable space that fits 1,100 to 1,200. From there it jumps up from 1,800 to 1,900 at places like Showbox SODO. If you were to lose The Showbox, you’re looking at a jump from about 600 to 1,800. That gap leaves musicians in a very tough spot and limits options for how you can present your music. The unique size of The Showbox is one of the reasons it draws musicians from around the world to Seattle.

I mention the Neptune is the only other place of its size in Seattle.

EA: And I love the Neptune, but it’s different. To me, The Showbox represents a home-grown identity and a home-grown goal. It is unique because of its location in the heart of Seattle, and because of its rich history with artists like Duke Ellington, Soundgarden, and Lady Gaga having played there.

Please share some specifics on how The Showbox impacts Pike Place Market and the local neighborhood.

SW: We’re connected. The bands that come through get off their buses and ask, “Where can I go eat in the Market?” They go over and explore, The Showbox employees go over there, people who work at the Market come to shows. Many of the businesses in the Market already consider us part of the Market because they give us discounts that employees at the Market get! We get a lot of people coming in from the Market during the day asking, “What is this place?” or, “We want to see the show, do you have tickets?”

EA: There’s a strong relationship between The Showbox and the Market, a natural, symbiotic, heartwarming connection between both the people who visit the Market and The Showbox, and the people who work in both places. The Pike Place Market itself is about human connection. It’s about face to face interaction, and service to the people. That same spirit is very much what The Showbox is about.

How has The Showbox influenced your other life pursuits?

SW: I have a good understanding of what it’s like to live in Seattle and have no money and to do something for years because you love it. From being part of that community for so long, and having that be my lived experience, I can advocate for people who have that experience also.

Whether you work as a tattoo artist, or a photographer, or audio tech — you’re part of the creative community. There has to be a place for the creative community. Seattle is not going to be a great place to be if you don’t have any artists or musicians. And we’re supposed to be “The City of Music,” it’s ridiculous that we’re being driven out!  I see my path forward supporting the arts, we need all the support we can get and that’s where I’m going to focus my energies next.

EA: The fight to save The Showbox has changed my perspective about what a community of people coming together can do. I’m not just talking about the Showbox community, or the people of Seattle, I’m talking about the countless people around the world who have shown support for what this fight is really about, which to me, is the concept of profit vs. culture.

The Showbox has provided me with a lot of direction in life. Not only direction, but also the support behind the direction to execute. It has broadened my perspective of what I’m capable of and caused me to question what’s really important to me. These are the reasons I’m fighting so hard to save this place. 

The italicized text above is paraphrased, not directly quoted. The meaning has been preserved.

Time & Place: Julian Barr on the Making of Queer Seattle

As we roll into June and people across the globe engage in Pride celebrations, we wanted to focus in on Seattle and highlight the projects and research of Julian Barr. Julian is a University of Washington PhD candidate who is leading two sold out walking tours for Historic Seattle. His tours are based on a mapping and walking tour project he developed called Pioneer Square and the Making of Queer Seattle. With this piece, Historic Seattle aims to share a little insight into the person behind these important efforts to capture and share this part of Seattle’s history.

Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Julian received an undergraduate degree in history and masters in geography there before moving to Seattle in 2014 to pursue a PhD in historical geography. He is passionate about historical geography because he believes both where and when something happens are equally important.

Tell us about your connection to Seattle and how you came to pursue the projects and research you’re involved in?

Not long after arriving in Seattle, Julian read Gary Atkins’ book Gay Seattle which helped spawn his interest in Seattle’s LGBTQ history. He soon learned of The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project (NWLGHMP) and Angie McCarrel, a local architect and lesbian interested in preserving history and buildings, who developed a Pioneer Square walking tour with NWLGHMP in the 1990s. Julian said, “Although the oral histories collected for The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project are now in UW Special Collections, the project hadn’t really been active since the early 2000s.”

Julian explained, “Right around the same time a sociology conference was coming to town and my dissertation adviser Michael Brown asked me to look at McCarrel’s tour and update it to offer to conference attendees.” 

Through that process, he became particularly interested in how Pioneer Square’s LGBTQ history is portrayed to the public. While exploring Pioneer Square, he questioned, “What’s being told? What’s not? What understanding is the public getting from this place by walking around?”

“Gay history wasn’t represented in Pioneer Square, it wasn’t represented in the Underground Tour, not included in Klondike Gold Rush Museum, etc. I was not seeing Seattle’s gay history represented and I wanted it shown more, and for there to be opportunities for people to engage with it.”

Thus, the idea for Pioneer Square and the Making of Queer Seattle was born. With critical support from the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, Julian developed an interactive map and comprehensively updated the walking tour. Julian will conduct his tour twice this year for Historic Seattle and has been invited to offer it through numerous other outlets, such as MOHAI. “I saw this as a great and accessible way to engage the public in Pioneer Square’s LGBTQ history.”

“We are coming upon the 50-year anniversary of the start of the Stonewall Riots that inspired Pride as a celebration of queer life and sexuality, and a political and social demonstration. In general, so much of gay history focuses on what happened in a place after the 1970s. People forget that there were many vibrant and organized gay communities that existed before then. The Pioneer Square project offers the public a glimpse of what it was like living in Seattle as a LGBTQ person in those earlier times.”

What’s next for Julian?

“Well, I’m working on completing my PhD! My dissertation is on Queer Pioneer Square and understanding the historical geographies of lesbian and queer women in Seattle.”

What is your favorite place in Seattle?

“I have a strong affinity for Pioneer Square. Specifically, the corner of 2nd and Washington which is where my tours start and also where The Double Header used to be. I was lucky enough to visit the Double Header before it closed, and it was there that I really felt the connection to the queer history of Pioneer Square.”

Although Julian’s upcoming tour with Historic Seattle is sold out, if you are interested in learning about protecting the places that anchor Seattle’s LGBTQ communities join us for There Goes the Gayborhood!, our free panel discussion happening June 8th. Learn more and register here.

Happy Pride from your friends at Historic Seattle!

In Memoriam: Cathy Galbraith

With heavy hearts, we note the passing of Cathy Galbraith, executive director of our organization from 1987 to 1992. Cathy was a lifelong leader in historic preservation in the Pacific Northwest.

From her obituary: “Catherine Mary Galbraith passed away on Nov. 23, 2018 at Hopewell House hospice from complications following a stroke. She was surrounded at her last breath by friends who loved her.

Cathy was born September 1, 1950 in Pittsburgh, PA to John and Catherine (Stuparits) Galbraith. She attended St. Augustine High School, Pennsylvania State University for her BA in Community Development, and did her graduate work in Urban Planning at Portland State University. She was also certified in Nonprofit Organization Management and Development at the University of Washington.

As Planning Director and then Director of Development Services in Oregon City, OR, from 1977 to 1986, Cathy’s responsibilities were broad, but she was especially noted for her work advocating for the importance of historic places, including co-writing the Canemah Historic District nomination, developing the city’s historic preservation program, and planning the End of the Oregon Trail Center. In 1987, she moved to Seattle to serve as the second executive director of Historic Seattle. Her impactful work there included the successful acquisition, financing, and rehabilitation of eight endangered historic properties which created 72 housing units, and starting the annual lecture series. The Belmont/Boylston Historic Houses project she shepherded resulted in 48 units of affordable housing in Seattle’s first project combining historic preservation tax credits with low-income housing. The effort received the National Mortgage Bankers Association Multi-Family Project of the Year, and an Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

She returned to Portland in 1993 to serve as the founding Executive Director of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation. In addition to administrative responsibilities, she managed the inventory of the organization’s extensive collection of architectural artifacts, exhibit and program development, and rehabilitation of the historic 1883 West’s Block and its transformation into the Architectural Heritage Center. The project received a National Trust Honor Award in 2005. Her nationally-recognized and award-winning leadership in documenting historic places associated with Portland’s African American community was encapsulated in Cornerstones of Community – The Buildings of Portland’s African American History, related exhibits and public presentations, and nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2010, she was the second recipient of the University of Oregon’s prestigious George McMath Award in Historic Preservation which recognizes outstanding contributions to the field from leaders throughout the state. Cathy retired from the AHC in 2016.

Her extensive and passionate volunteer contributions in education, advocacy, and planning included leadership roles in many organizations such as the Oregon-California Trails Association, Historic Preservation League of Oregon (now Restore Oregon), and innumerable city planning efforts such as Portland’s Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area. Her personal advocacy efforts at the national level in 1987 had a direct effect on the National Park Service’s decision to restore Crater Lake Lodge.

In 2007, Cathy wed jazz and blues music icon James “Sweet Baby James” Benton and made her home in Scappoose. James passed away in 2016. Cathy was also preceded in death by her parents and her youngest brother Matt. She is survived by her brothers John (Mary Beth), Roger (Lynn), sister-in-law Janna Galbraith, as well as nephews Alex, John, and Joe; nieces Jaycie (Garrett), Kelsey and Julia; grand-niece Cora and grand-nephews Bryce and Ellis.

A public Celebration of Life and private graveside service will be held at a later date. Memorial donations can be made to the Architectural Heritage Center’s Cathy Galbraith Fund or a preservation project of your choice.

Cathy’s family and friends want to acknowledge and thank the staffs at Emanuel Hospital and Hopewell House for the compassionate care they provided. Arrangements by Crown Memorial.”

To honor her legacy, a number of her friends and past colleagues have sent kind words and tributes to Historic Seattle. If you would like to add a tribute to this page, please send it to Naomi West.

Historic Seattle is grateful to Cathy for her years of service to our organization and saddened by the loss of such a passionate preservationist who continues to touch many lives through the places she fought to save.

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Larry Kreisman

Cathy and I never directly worked together. But we became colleagues and friends while she was at Historic Seattle. When she made the major step of moving to Portland to take charge of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation, Wayne and I would make a point of stopping in whenever we traveled south so that we could share what was happening for us professionally and personally. There was shared respect. admiration, and support for the ways in which we were making a difference in the understanding of architecture and design heritage and the importance of preservation in our communities.

Those who met Cathy may have been challenged at first by her frankness. In a city that prided itself on its politeness, what has been referred to as “Seattle Nice,” Cathy’s style might have been off-putting. She had little patience for the niceties of chit chat. She had strong opinions and was not shy about voicing them. She was all about direct and honest discussion that got to the point and moved beyond the theoretical to the practical. It is how she won arguments and earned praise for getting the job done. Cathy was not one to settle or compromise easily–at least without a good fight!

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Lisa (Teresi Burcham) Craig
“Cathy was a dear mentor to me as I began my career in preservation.  One of the most important lessons I ever learned from Cathy was ‘Don’t JUST show up.  If you’re attending a meeting, get up and be heard. It’s your responsibility.’  Of course, I cleaned it up… I think it went something more like, ‘get your a** up there.'”

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Remembering Cathy Galbraith by John Chaney

On November 23, 2018, I lost a great friend, but more importantly Seattle and Oregon lost a Preservation Warrior.

Raised in Pittsburgh, Cathy was educated as an urban planner in Pennsylvania and Oregon. Cathy began her professional career in Oregon City, moved to Seattle, Washington and then moved back to Portland, Oregon, for her crowning achievement in creating and leading the legacy of the Bosco-Milligan Foundation and its Architectural Heritage Center. She served as its Executive Director from 1993 until her retirement in 2016.

I met Cathy Galbraith in Oregon City, Oregon in 1977. I was working on the new City Comprehensive Plan, and Cathy was the Senior Planner working on both short and long range planning. She had already immersed herself in the effort to preserve the Canemah Historic District in Oregon City. The Preservation portion of the Comprehensive Plan, after many public meetings, eventually produced an Historic District, an innovative Conservation District and individual Landmarks in this very historic first seat of US government in the West and end of the Oregon Trail.

Cathy would become a significant preservation leader in Oregon and Seattle. I left Oregon City for Seattle in 1982, Cathy continued leading the Oregon City planning office and became the Director of Development Services. She also joined the Board of the Historic Preservation League of Oregon (now Restore Oregon). As President of the HPLO, she led the effort to preserve the Crater Lake Lodge and other important statewide preservation issues.

In 1987 Cathy was hired to be the second Executive Director of Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority or simply Historic Seattle. In five years she brought new focus and led expanded activities in advocacy, education and preservation. This unique publicly chartered governmental non-profit preservation organization already had been doing important preservation works in Seattle for over 13 years, but Cathy brought renewed energies to Historic Seattle. She invigorated the leadership of the Historic Seattle Council to engage in expanding membership and creating volunteer opportunities, especially in preservation education. Historic Seattle also actively engaged in preservation projects with ownership of the Good Shepherd Center in the Wallingford neighborhood and the Mutual Life Building in Pioneer Square. Cathy managed these properties and would lead Historic Seattle in a new development direction.

Cathy did not rest on Historic Seattle’s past accomplishments and stewardship. She will be remembered for two very important initiatives that permanently shaped the legacy of Seattle. First was creating the basis to move forward on an impasse to preserving historic Seattle school buildings; and the second, combining the public policies of historic preservation and affordable housing.

On the Seattle School Preservation front there was an impasse. The School District did not want to be required to preserve historic schools even though the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board had designated a number of historic schools. Working with Historic Seattle Councilmember Steve Arai, Cathy led the effort in preparing a comprehensive evaluation of all the extant historic Seattle school buildings. This evaluation placed all the buildings in perspective and allowed communities and the School Board, as stewards, to fully understand the value of each of these community assets. The outcome has been millions invested in high quality preservation efforts for many historic schools. Although many individuals and organizations formed coalitions to assure this outcome, the vision of the comprehensive assessment of these assets was the key step in this long-term preservation outcome. Cathy’s standards of excellence in producing the final product made all the difference, as did her formidable defense of the report in public forums and the press.

When Cathy arrived, Seattle was in a depressed real estate cycle. She worked to find resources to further Historic Seattle’s direct preservation work. She located six adjoining large wood frame houses on First Hill that were vacant and slated for demolition. These became the first project in Seattle to combine the national Historic Preservation Tax Credits and City of Seattle Low Income housing financing. These became the Belmont Boylston Historic Houses (affectionately Bel-Boy) with 48 units of housing in these six buildings. The innovation of Bel-Boy was recognized with many awards including the National Mortgage Bankers Association Multi-Family Project of the Year and an Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The project was a national inspiration and a local innovation. She followed this with the Victorian Row Apartments and the Phillips House, in total creating 73 new affordable homes in eight historic buildings. I know Cathy’s important accomplishments as I followed in her giant footsteps and the third Executive Director.

Cathy’s career, as evidenced in her dedication and limitless reservoir of energy, has left a lasting legacy. As a non-profit leader she inspired the herculean commitment of others and then led that energy to accomplish great things in spite of often “insurmountable” obstacles. She was passionate and persuasive, always believing in people centered preservation.

In 1882, Walt Whitman wrote of By Emerson’s Grave: “We stand by Emerson’s new made grave without sadness – indeed a solemn joy and faith, almost hauteur – our soul-benison no mere “Warrior, rest, thy task is done,” for one beyond the warriors of the world lies surely symboll’d here.”

Sweet Cathy, rest, thy task is done.

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Save the Spud Building & Sullivan House!

There’s no shortage of preservation advocacy issues happening. Here’s the latest:

Spud – Next Modern Landmark? Sullivan House – Next Capitol Hill Landmark or Tear-down?

The February 7th Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) meeting should shape up to be a pretty interesting one with a ca. 1898 house and a 1959 Modern commercial building up for consideration by the Board.

The Spud Fish & Chips Building (6860 East Green Lake Way N) is an excellent example of a mid-century Modern commercial building with elements of the Googie-style. The iconic design of this legacy business is one of the few remaining intact buildings of this style in Seattle. This property is also threatened with demolition and redevelopment. Historic Seattle will be supporting the nomination of the Spud Fish & Chips building.

The Patrick J. and Joanna Sullivan House (1632 15th Avenue at E. Olive Street) on Capitol Hill will be up for landmark designation. Historic Seattle supports the designation of this significant property because the house embodies the distinctive characteristics of the Queen Anne style; represents an outstanding work of the architecture firm of Josenhans and Allen; sits prominently at the southeast corner of 15th Ave and E Olive Way, presenting a striking contract to surrounding buildings; and is associated with a prominent businessman from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Currently threatened because it’s for sale for $2.2M, we hope to see the property designated and sold to someone who intends to restore the structure, which actually houses five-units.

You may download the nomination reports for both properties on the Seattle Historic Preservation Program’s website, under “Current Nominations.”

We encourage you to support the nomination of the Spud building and the designation of the P.J. and Joanna Sullivan House. You may submit written comments via e-mail to Erin Doherty, Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator, at erin.doherty@seattle.gov, by Monday, February 5th or attend the public meeting on Wednesday, February 7th at 3:30 p.m. and provide comments. The meeting will be held in Seattle City Hall (600 4th Avenue, Floor L2) in the Boards & Commissions Room L2-80.

No Controls on Two Designated Landmarks

In the past two months, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board placed no controls on two designated Seattle Landmarks—the Galbraith House on Capitol Hill (17th and Howell) and the Wayne Apartments in Belltown. Demolition of the Galbraith House began in early January. The Wayne Apartments building is for sale. With no controls, we expect it will also be demolished unless a sympathetic buyer surfaces. Historic Seattle is very disappointed with this outcome for both historic properties. It has been rare for the Board to place no controls on a designated landmark. And now, in the span of two months, this has happened twice. We know these must have been difficult decisions for the Board and City staff. What’s not helping is the current, over-inflated market value of properties in Seattle and the demolition-by-neglect by owners who let their properties deteriorate so the cost of rehabilitation is much higher than if the properties had been maintained over the years. If a developer or property owner can show no “reasonable economic use” for a designated property, then the death knell will surely sound for the landmark. We hope to learn from these recent examples and work with the City to seek stronger protections for designated landmarks. We do not want this be the new normal for designated landmarks.  

More info on each property:

Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

Friends of Historic Belltown

Photo credits: Spud (daytime) – Joe Mabel photographer; Spud at night (Docomomo WEWA); Wayne Apartment Building (Historic Seattle)

Save Seattle’s Historic Schools!

Calling All Preservation Advocates!

Historic Seattle seeks your help in saving Seattle’s historic schools. We recently learned that a bill has been introduced to the State Senate by Senators David Frockt and Reuven Carlyle (SB 5805) “Concerning the application of landmark or historic preservation regulations with regard to school district property in school districts with more than fifty thousand students.”

In a nutshell, SB5805 seeks to exempt schools in the Seattle School District from the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO). The bill states, “For school districts with more than fifty thousand students, school district property shall be subject to state and local landmark or historic preservation regulations only to the extent explicitly approved by the board of directors of each school district.”

The Seattle School District is using the legislature to solve a local issue. Seattle is the only district in the state with over 50,000 students. If the school board does not like the LPO, it should address its issues with the City of Seattle, not the state legislature.

It’s our understanding that all currently designated Seattle School District-owned landmarks as well as all future designated landmarks owned by the School District could be affected. Schools could still be designated through the current Landmarks designation process, but the school board would have the authority to “approve” which elements of the landmark ordinance it wishes to comply with. One could designate a school, but the school board would have the authority to ignore any controls and incentives, thereby opening up the possibility of demolition or significant alterations without approval from the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board.

The bill also refers to “state…historic preservation regulations.” There are no state historic preservation regulations. The Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation reviews historic preservation issues under SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act). Is the School District also looking to be exempt from SEPA?

Seattle taxpayers have approved millions of dollars in levies for schools, much of which has been used to renovate designated landmarks. If this bill is passed, the school board would have the power to “undo” the will of Seattle voters on past projects.

The bill also sets a bad precedent for other school districts in the state.

What You Can Do

Please submit written testimony, ideally, by Wednesday, January 10, close-of-business day (5 pm), or no later than NOON on Thursday, January 11, to Senator Frockt and Senator Carlyle and explain why you are opposed to this bill (SB5805). Be sure to reference the bill.

We also suggest emailing Senator Lisa Wellman and Senator Christine Rolfes, Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee. And it’s always a good idea to contact the senator in your own legislative district.

Keep your message short. Bottom line, the Seattle School District should not be exempt from the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. You might even ask Senators Frockt and Carlyle why they are even supporting such a bill.

If there is a historic school in your neighborhood that is designated a landmark or is a potential landmark, please note the school buildings and say why they are important. Seattle’s historic schools are institutional anchors in every neighborhood. The School District has a duty to maintain and sensitively upgrade these buildings to serve the community.

If you have time to attend a public hearing for the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee scheduled for Thursday, January 11, at 1:30 pm, we encourage you to provide testimony in person. The hearing takes place in the Senate Hearing Rm 1, J.A. Cherberg Building, Olympia, WA 98504.

Here’s a link to learn more about testifying in Committee in person and via written testimony (scroll down the page for written testimony instructions). http://leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/Testify.aspx

We recommend emailing the senators and their legislative aides directly. See contact info below:

Senator David Frockt, David.Frockt@leg.wa.gov; legislative aide Jon Rudicil, Jon.Rudicil@leg.wa.gov

Senator Reuven Carlyle, Reuven.Carlyle@leg.wa.gov; legislative aide Kate Hoffman, Kate.Hoffman@leg.wa.gov

Senator Lisa Wellman, Lisa.Wellman@leg.wa.gov; legislative aide Noah Burgher, Noah.Burgher@leg.wa.gov

Senator Christine Rolfes, Christine.Rolfes@leg.wa.gov; legislative aides Linda Owens, Linda.Owens@leg.wa.gov and Mikhail Cherniske, Mikhail.Cherniske@leg.wa.gov

Thanks in advance for taking the time to advocate for the preservation of Seattle’s historic schools!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Eugenia Woo, Director of Preservation Services at Historic Seattle at eugeniaw@historicseattle.org.

 

Photo: Seward School, a designated Seattle Landmark (source: Department of Neighborhoods)

Advocacy Alert and Update – December

Support P.J. Sullivan House Landmark Nomination        

There’s a significant historic property being considered for landmark nomination by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.

The P.J. Sullivan House (1632 15th Avenue at E. Olive Street) on Capitol Hill was built in ca. 1898 for Patrick J. and Joanna Sullivan. P.J. Sullivan was the proprietor of Queen City Boiler Works before becoming engaged in real estate development. The house was designed in the Queen Anne style by the prominent architecture firm of Josenhans and Allan, credited for designing notable works such as the Marion Building at 818 2nd Avenue; the Cawsey C. C. House at 325 West Kinnear Place West; as well as Lewis, Clark, and Parrington Halls on the University of Washington campus.

Download the landmark nomination application here.

Historic Seattle will be supporting the landmark nomination of the Sullivan House and we urge you to do the same. Despite some changes to the exterior, we believe the house retains its integrity and ability to convey significance. This is an architecturally significant property that embodies the distinctive characteristics of the Queen Anne style. The house was originally built as a single-family residence but was converted to a five-unit apartment building. The 7,200 sf lot on which the house sits is zoned LR3 (Lowrise 3)—very desirable for redevelopment. Historic Seattle is monitoring the property which was listed for sale recently at $2.2M. Its current status is pending. Its future is uncertain but if you’re interested in saving the property, please consider connecting with the seller through the listing agent.

To support the landmark nomination, please submit your written comments via e-mail to Erin Doherty, Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator, at erin.doherty@seattle.gov, before 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 19th or attend the public meeting on December 20th at 3:30 p.m. and provide comments. The meeting will be held in Seattle City Hall (600 4th Avenue, Floor L2) in the Boards & Commissions Room L2-80.

Photo: historic view of Sullivan House; source: real estate listing for 1632 15th Ave)

 

Save the Reactor Update: It’s Not Over Until it’s Over

This summer, we shared the good news that the State Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that University of Washington (UW) is subject to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO). This was a huge victory for preservation advocates and the City of Seattle. The Court held that the University of Washington is a state agency that must comply with the local development regulations adopted pursuant to the Growth Management Act (GMA).

Well, it’s not over until it’s over.

In September, the UW filed a petition to the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) claiming that the City of Seattle did not properly adopt the LPO pursuant to the GMA. Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation were not named in the petition, but the three preservation organizations intervened in the petition to support the City of Seattle and to continue to be champions for historic preservation. The City and the three organizations filed separate motions to dismiss in October.

On October 31 (trick-or-treat!), the GMHB dismissed the case, finding that the UW, as a state agency, did not obtain the Governor’s consent to petition the GMHB for review, as required by the Revised Code of Washington; and that the UW’s petition was untimely on its face because its challenge of the LPO is about a quarter of a century too late—the appeal period is 60 days.

We were thrilled to see the case dismissed but knew that the GMHB’s dismissal of the case could be appealed to King County Superior Court. UW had 30 days (from October 31) to appeal. That date recently passed and there was no appeal by the UW.

Finally.

Preservation organizations Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation have an open dialogue with the University about preservation on campus. We are hopeful for the future of the historic University of Washington campus.

2017 Election and Preservation

The 2017 General Election is November 7th.

Historic Seattle is conducting a survey of candidates running for Mayor and Seattle City Council Positions 8 and 9 (both at-large). We are posting responses as we receive them and will continue to do so through Election Day. You may view the submitted responses on our website. As of this posting date (October 20), we have received responses from the two Mayoral candidates.

The candidates were asked the following five questions:

  • What’s your favorite historic place in Seattle and why do you think it’s important?
  • How can Seattle accommodate the growing numbers of residents and increase in density while keeping neighborhood character?
  • Do you believe historic buildings and places help create a more sustainable, affordable, and livable city? If so, how?
  • How would you strengthen the City’s historic preservation program to ensure continued protection of designated Seattle Landmarks and historic districts?
  • How do we use existing and new tools to better engage communities to ensure equitable cultural heritage preservation?

If you don’t see a response from candidates for the at-large City Council positions, we urge you to contact them directly and ask them to respond to our questionnaire.

Let the candidates know that historic preservation is a key quality-of-life issue and a valuable tool for building strong, livable communities!

Announcing 2017 Awards

awards invite_front_2017_blog_cropped

On Tuesday, September 19, 2017, Historic Seattle hosts its 9th Annual Preservation Awards celebration at the landmark Washington Hall in the Central District. Space is limited. Purchase your tickets today! The Awards showcase and recognize exceptional public and private projects, as well as individuals and community groups that preserve and protect Seattle’s built heritage for future generations.

Nancy Guppy will serve as emcee. Doors open at 6:00 pm. The awards presentation and dinner begin at 6:30 pm, followed by a dessert reception and performance by Garfield Jazz at 8:00 pm.

Wine and beer generously provided by Proletariat Wine and Standard Brewing

Congratulations to the 2017 award recipients!

Beth Chave Historic Preservation Award for Preserving Neighborhood Character

Southwest Seattle Historical Society: “We Love the Junction” Campaign

Best Adaptive Reuse

McMenamins Anderson School

Exemplary Stewardship

First United Methodist Church | The Sanctuary

Best Rehabilitation

The Publix Hotel

Outstanding Modern Preservation

Robert Reichert House & Studio

Neighborhood Reinvestment

Optimism Brewing

Community Advocacy

Vanishing Seattle

Community Investment

Building for Culture

 

Photo sidebar: 2016 Awards event at Washington Hall; Sticks and Stones Photography

Victory for Preservation in Supreme Court!

Screenshot of State Supreme Court oral arguments, October 6, 2017.

Screenshot of TVW video of State Supreme Court oral arguments, June 6, 2017.

An almost decade-long fight to protect historic resources at the University of Washington has culminated in a State Supreme Court ruling in favor of preservation advocates in the case—University of Washington vs. City of Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. On July 20, the State Supreme Court of Washington issued its opinion—a precedent-setting unanimous decision—holding that the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO) applies to property owned by the University of Washington (UW). The Court ruled that the University of Washington is a state agency that must comply with local development regulations adopted pursuant to the Growth Management Act (GMA). The Court also held that the University is a property owner as defined by the LPO, overturning the trial court’s too narrow and technical decision that the UW is not an owner.

Oral arguments before the State Supreme Court took place on June 6 at the Temple of Justice in Olympia. If you really want to geek out on legal stuff, you can watch the proceeding on TVW here (about 45 minutes).

The importance of the State Supreme Court’s opinion in this case cannot be overstated. Read the entire opinion here and the article by the Seattle Times here.

In the week since the opinion was issued, Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation have learned more about what this all means and what might be ahead. It’s our understanding that all state agencies (including state universities) must comply with local development regulations adopted pursuant to GMA. This is HUGE.

In the weeks and months ahead, we hope to meet with the City and the UW to discuss what this new world order will mean in the future. The UW recently released its 2018 Campus Master Plan. Will it be updated to reflect that the University is now subject to the LPO? Will the historic resource survey and inventory of the campus (soon to be completed) be updated to include language about local landmark or district eligibility? Will the University change its internal review of historic resources and transform it into a more public process, taking into account the very public landmark nomination and designation review process? These are just some of the questions we have.

The Supreme Court win won’t bring back the Nuclear Reactor Building (may it rest in peace), but it can help save other properties owned by UW in the future and may serve as an important precedent for future cases regarding historic properties across the state.

Historic Seattle thanks our attorney David Bricklin, partner organizations Docomomo WEWA and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Assistant City Attorneys Roger Wynne and Patrick Downs, and the Seattle Historic Preservation Program staff for their hard work to secure this collaborative victory for preservation. We appreciate the support of the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Futurewise, and the Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys who all submitted amicus briefs. We give a shout out to Abby Inpanbutr. Back in 2008, she was a graduate student in architecture at the UW. She alerted our three preservation groups about the threatened status of the Nuclear Reactor Building. Little did we know at the time that our advocacy efforts would be an almost ten-year fight. And finally, we offer a big thanks to our generous donors who have help to fund this effort!

Wait, there’s more! On October 6, in a ceremony in New York City, Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation will be honored with a Docomomo US Modernism Award of Excellence in Advocacy for our Save the Reactor efforts. We wish the Nuclear Reactor Building had not been demolished, but its destruction was not in vain.

A version of this article was first published in the Docomomo US e-newsletter on July 20, 2017.

Photo: Advocates at a HeartBomb event celebrating the Nuclear Reactor Building, February 2015. The National Register-listed building was demolished by the UW in summer 2016. Photo by John Shea.

Call to Action: Comment on Mandatory Housing Affordability

Share Your Thoughts on Affordability!
Comment Period Extended to August 7

Have you heard of HALA? MHA? What about DEIS? If these acronyms are not familiar to you, they should be! All will affect your life and your city’s future.

What can you do? We’re asking supporters of preservation to review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) policy and submit your comments to the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) by Monday, August 7. The DEIS evaluates MHA implementation in urban villages, proposed urban village expansion areas, and all other multifamily and commercial areas throughout the city.

A key component of the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) strategy, MHA will require new development to either build affordable homes or contribute to a City fund for affordable housing. OPCD estimates MHA will deliver more than 6,000 rent-restricted housing units over the next 10 years. As proposed, MHA will expand housing choices by granting additional development capacity to allow for construction of more market-rate housing and commercial space.

The 460-page DEIS evaluates three alternatives (one of which is “No Action”) for implementing zoning changes proposed under MHA, and includes a section addressing historic resources (Section 3.5). The DEIS does not include Downtown, South Lake Union, or the University District, where MHA is already proposed or in effect.

Historic Seattle shares the City’s concern about the lack of affordable housing and supports a number of HALA’s recommendations. However, in our opinion, what’s being proposed for MHA is a “one-size fits-all” approach that will have a potentially significant adverse impact on the livability and quality of Seattle’s neighborhoods.

Here Are Some Ways Historic Preservation + Affordability + Livability Intersect:

Housing Diversity and “Naturally Occurring” Affordability  

Older buildings provide a diversity of housing types and tend to provide more units of affordable rental housing than taller, newer developments. Research shows that neighborhoods with a high concentration of historic buildings and mixed-scale development are more vibrant and perform better in terms of environmental, economic, and social metrics.

Hidden Density 

Older neighborhoods contain hidden density. It has been demonstrated that “human-scale neighborhoods with older fabric are the ‘missing middle’ of cities and can achieve surprisingly high population densities.”

Social Equity

Neighborhoods with a smaller-scaled mix of old and new buildings draw a higher proportion of non-chain shops, restaurants, and women and minority-owned businesses than new neighborhoods.

TAKE ACTION! Historic Seattle will submit public comments on the proposed alternatives and potential impacts on historic properties. We urge you to get engaged so that your voice is heard!

Feel like wonking out a bit more? Here are some more talking points related to the MHA DEIS:  

MHA should provide a more balanced approach to achieving growth

Historic Seattle believes City leadership needs to strike a balance to achieve density without demolition, and affordability without sacrificing livability in order to ensure that how we grow is sustainable and resilient – while retaining urban character and sense of place.

The Historic Resources section (3.5) is inadequate and lacks meaningful analysis. It is repetitive, imprecise, and non-specific

The section on Affected Environment (3.5.1) does not provide any real understanding of the study area’s history, context, and patterns of developments. It should include details on neighborhoods to adequately assess potential impacts to historic resources such as potentially-eligible individual properties and future historic districts. Added development pressure will result in increased demolition of potentially historic buildings and neighborhoods and adversely impact the character and scale of neighborhood blocks.

The analysis should reflect a better understanding of what exists that’s currently affordable, in order to determine the net gain or loss from the proposed MHA changes. What will the impact be in terms of tear-downs, net gain of housing, and how much is “affordable”?

The DEIS does not connect MHA to URM

Unreinforced Masonry (URM) buildings are mentioned in both Affected Environment (3.5.1) and Mitigation Measures (3.5.3), however, the DEIS does not reference the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection’s (SDCI) list of over 1,100 URM properties in the city. The analysis should include the number of URMs in each of the study area neighborhoods in order to understand how MHA might impact these properties.

Additionally, complying with a possible City mandate to seismically retrofit URMs to the “bolts plus” standard will present a substantial financial burden on many property owners. If preservation of existing affordable housing is truly a goal of HALA, it would then make sense to offer financial incentives to property owners who preserve and upgrade historic URMs and provide affordable housing.

The DEIS should provide substantive mitigation measures

Section 3.5.3 focus on two mitigation measures that are already in place–Comprehensive Plan policies and City Landmarks process, and proposes a third to continue funding of comprehensive survey/inventory efforts that have been inactive for years. A list of other potential mitigation measures follows in a separate paragraph but it is unclear whether any of these have any import or will be considered seriously. Mitigation should actually respond to the potential impacts and not rely only on existing policies, programs, and regulations without ways to implement through added funding and staff resources.

Please use your own words and include examples in your neighborhood that relate to the talking points above. Submit written comments by August 7 to MHA.EIS@seattle.gov.

Or mail to:

City of Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development
Attn: MHA DEIS
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019

Thank you in advance for taking the time to advocate for Seattle’s future development and places that matter! If you’d like more information about this advocacy effort, please contact Eugenia Woo, Director of Preservation Services, Historic Seattle, at eugeniaw@historicseattle.org or 206.622.6952, ext 245.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

What is an EIS?
EIS Process
Preservation Green Lab (PGL) Older, Smaller, Better report
PGL Atlas of ReUrbanism
CityLab “Density Without Demolition”

 

Photo: Pike/Pine new construction adjacent to historic apartment building; source: Historic Seattle