Preservation in Progress

Historic Seattle’s Blog

Britton and Rachel Shepard & the Ronnei-Raum House

Nestled in the center of Fall City and adjacent to the Fall City Masonic Lodge stands the 1904 Ronnei-Raum House. In 2019, Historic Seattle purchased the house from the neighboring Masons, who planned to reinvest the proceeds from the sale back into their historic lodge.

With the purchase, the Ronnei-Raum House became the first Preservation Action Fund (PAF) project undertaken by Historic Seattle. The PAF, created in 2017 by King County and 4Culture in partnership with Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, is a revolving real estate fund dedicated to purchasing, restoring, protecting, and re-activating historic properties throughout King County (outside of Seattle’s city limits).

Fall City historians and Preservation Action Fund (PAF) team members gathered for a tour of the PAF project site in February 2019 

Historic Seattle’s plans to rehabilitate the house were well underway this spring when an unexpected — yet welcomed — change in plans resulted in the sale of the Ronnei-Raum House this month, in advance of its completed restoration. Fall City resident Britton Shepard was excited by the project and made an offer to purchase it and finish the restoration project. Funds from the sale will be reinvested into the PAF for the next project.

But, you may wonder, who is Britton Shepard? How will he take on the restoration and stewardship of this historic King County landmark? Read on to learn about the man who will play the next leading role in shaping the house’s story.

As a builder and landscape architect, Britton certainly has the sensitivity and expertise necessary to restore the property. “I feel like I am a kindred spirit to your [PAF] group. I recently earned a Landscape Architecture degree from UW, and I share a lot of the core values of the College of Built Environments which have to do with community and cultivating a sense of place,” he explained.

Britton also has plenty of experience restoring old houses. Prior to moving to Fall City, he and his wife, Rachel, owned a 1904 home (the same vintage as the Ronnei-Raum House) in Georgetown. “We put a lot of work into that house to make it happy again. Then, when we moved to Fall City 15 years ago, we were committed to the idea of recycling a farmhouse – a labor of love that is not just about the house and its setting, but also about the lives lived there,” said Britton. Rachel, in fact, grew up in Fall City. “Ten years ago when our son started kindergarten, he did so in the same classroom where she went to kindergarten! Moving out here was a bit of a discovery for me, but it turns out that the character of the neighborhood, the scale of the houses, the open fields with no sidewalks, was similar to the neighborhood where I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. So, I instantly felt at home here.”

“I have always been curious about the Ronnei-Raum House. Last spring, I noticed there was a [PAF] banner up. One thing led to another and eventually it seemed that there was this opportunity — not just to make an investment, but also to participate in  this really visible restoration project,” Britton said.

In its original form, the 800 square foot house was a modest yet nicely detailed middle-class cottage with turned and jig-sawn millwork. Despite some alterations that occurred in the mid-20th century, its scale, simplicity, and some of its detail still echo the earliest stock of vernacular housing in this mill-oriented river town.

The Ronnei-Raum House in 1940. This image shows turned posts and scrollwork on the front porch, as well as the original front door, back porch, and possibly a hint at the original house color (not white, as it appears now).

“I love that the house is humble. I love the idea of creating a dwelling that is based on life in its simplest forms,” Britton explained. “The Ronnei-Raum house was originally a worker’s cottage. Our restoration work will embrace the same values of simplicity and frugality that prevailed when the house was built. This approach aligns with my personal manifesto as a designer, landscape philosopher, and historian. I think being frugal and having just enough is the sweet spot as far as sustainability and living in a mindful way.”

Britton continued, “At the same time, the house was built with quality materials: Douglas-fir lumber that was probably coming from a mill just up the river – materials that nowadays are coveted. It is like a time capsule where all this beautiful local wood was encased in a way that made it last. One of my jobs is going to be to take it all apart and restore and reuse it. We will take apart the inside, salvage the fir, replumb, redo the electrical, and put in a nice farmhouse kitchen. We will restore the original windows and woodworking. And we’ll choose colors, materials, and finishes in keeping with rural living back then.”

“As far as the landscape goes, there are distinctive elements of the property that are considered part of Fall City’s DNA — a simple house, set in place, with open space around it that was once pasture.  These features are specified in the Fall City Design Guidelines. There are also a couple of sources indicating that the Snoqualmie people kept the area near the river as a meadow, burning it off every couple of years to have better access to food and game harvests. The town of Fall City grew up in and around this meadow. The Ronnei-Raum House would’ve sat right in the middle. As a landscape historian, that’s a part of the story I’m really drawn to. I can imagine restoring the turf, with a simple walkway to the door, and bringing back basic elements like these that are inherent to the site,” Britton described.

The approximate location of the Ronnei-Raum House is indicated in red on this map of Fall City before 1900 from “Fall City in The Valley of The Moon” (1972).

The Ronnei-Raum House has been a single-family residence since it was built in 1904. It was home to the caretaker of Fall City Masonic Lodge #66 for decades and was most recently used by the Masons as a rental.  About Rachel and Britton’s plans for use, Britton said, “The goals that we have for the house don’t include selling it. In a sense this is a professional undertaking, one that will allow me to continue to work locally and further invest in this community.”

The Ronnei-Raum house and neighboring Masonic Lodge #66, 2019.

As part of the terms of the sale, Historic Seattle will hold a preservation easement on the property indefinitely. An easement is a tool used to protect a historic resource requiring that current and future owners maintain their property in a way that reflects its historic significance. “We are willing to make the commitment to the [easement] ‘obligation’ because it fits into family plans of being rooted here. Also, the guidelines align perfectly with my own set of values so that I’m actually coming to the same conclusions about how to approach this project,” said Britton.

About being a preservationist, Britton said, “To me, preservation is about meaning. I’m interested in sustainability — as it relates to energy, food, and materials, but also in how we value resources, where things are guarded and turned over and over again, really cherished. I think it is through cherishing, through our acts of caring for the place we live, that we create meaning. I think we need meaning, communities need meaning, as much as we need electricity. I look forward to taking the Ronnei-Raum House apart from the inside out and honoring it. I like to be involved with handling and appreciating the materials and the story. That’s my sense of being a preservationist.”

For an example of his place-making creativity and sensitivity towards our tangible material history, check out this video about Britton’s intriguing thesis project. As the description reads, “WSECU collaborated with landscape designer and University of Washington student Britton Shepard to build community by bringing a vacant lot to life in Seattle’s University District where the credit union’s future building will be built. Part art, part garden, part archeological dig, see how he transformed the forgettable into something special in the middle of a bustling city.”

 

Building Dialogue

About the program:

BUILDING DIALOGUE is Historic Seattle’s newly emerging monthly reading and discussion group. Engage in facilitated conversation about books on preservation and the built environment with others who share an interest — and perhaps some expertise — in the subject.

Our first book is The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. We plan to read the book in segments and will hold a virtual (via Zoom) facilitated discussion about each assigned section once a month, for five months. Drop in for one or join us for all – a commitment to participate in every discussion is not required to take part.

The first discussion will take place Wednesday, August 19 from 12-1 PM (click to register). This discussion will cover the introduction and Part One: The Peculiar Nature of Cities, Chapters 1-6. The schedule is as follows:

Discussion Date Discussion Time Assigned Reading Scope of Assignment
August 19  12-1 PM Introduction & Part One: The Peculiar Nature of Cities Chapters 1-6

 

September 16 TBD Part Two: The Conditions for City Diversity Chapters 7-12
October 21 TBD Part Three: Forces of Decline and Regeneration Chapters 13-16
November 18 TBD Part Four: Different Tactics Chapters 17-22

About the book:

“A direct and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has characterized much of urban planning in [the 20th] century, The Death and Life of Great American Cities has, since its first publication in 1961, become the standard against which all endeavors in that field are measured. In prose of outstanding immediacy, Jane Jacobs writes about what makes streets safe or unsafe; about what constitutes a neighborhood, and what function it serves within the larger organism of the city; about why some neighborhoods remain impoverished while others regenerate themselves. She writes about the salutary role of funeral parlors and tenement windows, the dangers of too much development money and too little diversity. Compassionate, bracingly indignant, and always keenly detailed, Jane Jacobs’s monumental work provides an essential framework for assessing the vitality of all cities.”

About the author:

“Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. She had no formal training as a planner, and yet her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail. The impact of Jane Jacobs’s observation, activism, and writing has led to a ‘planning blueprint’ for generations of architects, planners, politicians and activists to practice.

Jacobs saw cities as integrated systems that had their own logic and dynamism which would change over time according to how they were used. With an eye for detail, she wrote eloquently about sidewalks, parks, retail design and self-organization. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies and mixed uses. Jacobs helped derail the car-centered approach to urban planning in both New York and Toronto, invigorating neighborhood activism by helping stop the expansion of expressways and roads. She lived in Greenwich Village for decades, then moved to Toronto in 1968 where she continued her work and writing on urbanism, economies and social issues until her death in April 2006.

A firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighborhoods develop, Jacobs encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the places where they live, work, and play.” Learn more here.

Discussion guidelines:

Please self-regulate as you would in an in-person discussion. Remember to be courteous and avoid interrupting when someone is speaking.

If it seems that multiple people want to contribute to the conversation, please raise your hand and we will attempt to call on you in order. Depending on the group size and timing, it may not be possible to get to everyone, every time.

Share the floor, if you have had a chance to speak, please be aware and allow others the chance to contribute to the conversation.

Please avoid side conversations or tangents. The chat feature is a good tool for communicating to a specific person in the group individually, or for making a comment to the group without interrupting.

Points of view and opinions will differ, please be kind and keep the discussion civil so that this can be a space for listening, learning, and exploration. Personal attacks will not be tolerated.

Local Small Business Spotlight: Risa Blythe, Proprietor of Girlie Press

Numerous articles and studies have been published citing the critical role that small businesses play in the vitality of cities and towns of all sizes. For example, small businesses help foster community, add to the unique character of a place, provide distinctive opportunities for entrepreneurism, and contribute to economic health. Beyond these significant contributions, there is also an important relationship between small businesses and historic neighborhoods and old buildings. In short, preservation relies on small businesses, and small businesses often rely on historic spaces — a relationship you can read more about in this recently published article by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Girlie Press is a woman-owned small business located in an adaptive reuse space in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Read on to hear what the print shop’s proprietor, Risa Blythe, has to say about owning small business, preservation, and more:

After eight years and only two other jobs as an offset press operator, Girlie Press was originally founded in 1995 in the back of a building in Belltown and then moved into a historic Anne Michelson building on 10th Avenue. “I shared a space as an offset printer with BSK, a screen-printing company that did much of the printing for Sub Pop and the grunge music scene. That was fun and insane, and I worked, and worked, and I put money away,” said Risa.

Inside Girlie Press

In 2000, when Risa acquired the building where Girlie Press is now located, it had been subleased to a stone cutting artist and sculptor who essentially fled in the middle of the night – leaving behind a warehouse full of massive, heavy, stone cutting equipment. “One of the companies I did a lot of work for was the Seattle Men’s Choir. Doug Exworthy was on the choir and owned the rights to the building where the shop is now. He knew I did a lot of work for the queer community, and he contacted me and said, ‘you need your own building.’ He became my mentor, guiding me through the whole process. It was adventurous, but I pulled it off! This was back in the day when you could put on a suit and go into a bank and talk things through…with people,” Risa explained.

All of the items left behind were sold off to put money back into the building and to make way for printing equipment. With her penchant and passion for machinery, Risa was just the woman for the task. Her keenness for mechanics, a trait she recalls recognizing early in life, has continued to prove valuable throughout her career. For example, when it came to acquiring her own 10,000-pound press, she was able to purchase a broken machine for a low price and repair it herself.

“I remember at one point, I applied to be a certified woman-owned business,” explained Risa. “A guy called me to ask for clarification about some parts of my application, and he just couldn’t seem to comprehend that a woman was capable of fixing a machine like this! That he believed that this was beyond my…realm, that’s when I knew why it was important to get the certification. There aren’t a lot of women in print, but I grew up in a feminist, entrepreneurial household and I’m thick-skinned. So, I have been able to shoulder discrimination I’ve encountered in the field. I started my own business because I wanted to work with people who had a sense of humor and didn’t mind working for a woman in a male-dominated field. Nobody — no guy — who’s got a lot of issues can work here and go home at the end of the day and say, ‘yeah, I work at Girlie Press!’”

When asked if she considers herself a preservationist, Risa made a surprising connection between her love of machinery and historic preservation. “The part of me that is a preservationist is that I really like a well-built machine. I really like function. Newer things are more disposable, they are meant to have an end of life, whereas with an older machine  its gearbox can be rebuilt again and again and its function is to last long term. I also like new things that are super fancy and have lots of bells and whistles, but I like them to be built on an older mechanical premise,” said Risa.

This historic assessor’s photo shows a building which formerly stood on the site where Girlie Press is now located.

Risa enjoys the location of her current shop at 1658 21st Avenue. While she is attracted to industrial and gritty places like Georgetown (one of her favorite places in Seattle), she appreciates that the shop is not in a strictly industrial area, but is instead nestled within a neighborhood with a commercial and residential mix. “There’s a German philosopher — someone who I can’t recall — who presented the idea that something went wrong when people started working in places that were far away from where they lived. It allows for more tolerable levels of pollution, longer workdays, and less family interaction. I live less than a mile away in Madrona, in a simple 1902 Victorian. Another favorite place is my backyard because my wife is such a great gardener! And I like that I can work in a trade, but still work in an area where people are living too,” said Risa.

The community is very important to Risa. In addition to the long list of organizations Girlie Press supports, she uses her business to promote causes she cares about: “There aren’t a lot of print shops that care about the same things I care about so I have a unique opportunity to use what I do, and do well, to support those things. I like the idea of using the power of the press to help organizations make money or do good things. We’ve printed over 1,000 posters since the most recent events of the Black Lives Matter movement have been unfolding. A lot of times people will ask us to print something for them and we’ll ask, ‘Do you want us to print a bunch more of these and just give them out?’ It’s cool to be part of this ancient history of activism through art.”

Risa in the shop’s new mezzanine space

Lately, the effects of the pandemic have been felt at Girlie Press. At one point, Risa sheltered at the shop and ran the whole press herself in order to execute print jobs (including Historic Seattle’s emergency appeal) for grocery stores and other essential businesses. Many of her staff have recently returned to the shop after many weeks working remotely. Upon their return, staff were able to spread out further, occupying space in the mezzanine that was fortunately recently built in the warehouse.

In the previously referenced Washington Trust for Historic Preservation article, Breanne Durham wrote, “There has never been a more poignant time to reflect on the value small businesses have in our lives and in our work. The onslaught of COVID-19 has taken our local economies by storm…Small businesses employ about half of the private workforce in the United States. And without them, our historic commercial districts lack the activity and commerce that creates healthy, socially cohesive, and economically viable communities. If the preservation field is looking for its place within the COVID-19 crisis, here it is.”

Looking for other ways to support small businesses? Intentionalist.com allows you to search for Asian-owned, Black-owned, disability-owned, family-owned, Latino-owned, LGBTQ-owned, Native-owned, veteran-owned, and woman-owned businesses and social enterprises in select cities, including Seattle.

Stimson-Green Carriage House Lives On As Birch Road Cellar

By Ryan Donaldson

The following is the sixth 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.

Collectively I’d walked by the Stimson-Green Carriage House hundreds of times, never stepping foot inside.The neighboring namesake mansion’s signature English Tudor Revival-style high-pitched roof, pronounced chimneys, dramatic gables, stained glass windows, and half-timbering overshadowed the smaller matching carriage house tucked behind it. Scaling up and down First Hill for my high school commute to O’Dea, the building blended in with the more substantial landmark next door.

As a teenager in 1990s Seattle, there was little chance of getting a peek inside the imposing mansion or carriage house unless you were invited to a wedding or special event. Located at the corner of Minor Avenue and Seneca Street, the mansion served as home to lumber magnate C.D. (Charles Douglas) Stimson’s family at the turn of the century when First Hill was known as an exclusive enclave for the city’s “first families.” The crest of the hill where the Stimson-Green Mansion stands was in the company of over 40 prominent homes that dominated the steep slope, including the Dearborn House (1907, Historic Seattle’s home today) and the W.D. Hofius House (1902, until recently the home of the Roman Catholic Archbishop).

A hundred years prior, the multitude of mansions lining First Hill were the result of fortunes made from timber resources, real estate, and other emerging industries, which led to the commissioning and creation of fashionable residences in a variety of eclectic architectural styles. As noted on a period postcard, First Hill was known as Seattle’s “[f]ine residence section” offering widescreen views of Elliott Bay and within walking distance from Seattle’s bustling downtown. A public exhibit, “The First Hill Exhibit: Seattle’s Boom Years, 1880-1925,” permanently on display in Swedish Hospital’s lobby at the corner of Boren Avenue and Madison Street (incidentally also the site of the former 1884 Carkeek Mansion), vividly illustrates what the neighborhood was like, replete with cable cars and ornate residential architecture.

Panorama of First Hill, n.d. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SEA1910.

Stimson himself had come to Seattle in 1888, drawn by the abundant natural timber resources that had already been depleted in Michigan where his father had first attained the family’s legacy in lumber milling businesses in the mid-nineteenth century. Setting up operations in Ballard to take advantage of the increased demand for lumber after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, Stimson quickly came to city prominence, also serving as director of the Metropolitan Building Company, Metropolitan Bank, General Insurance Company of America, and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. It took two years for Spokane-based architect Kirtland Cutter to complete the building, which the family moved into in 1901. Stimson, his wife Harriet Overton Stimson and their two children Thomas Stimson and Dorothy Stimson Bullitt, began living in the stately residence before any landscaping or tree cover, the land having only recently been cleared of its original growth Douglas fir trees.

Stimson’s mansion included a two-story standalone carriage house just north of the main estate, a common form of outbuilding purpose-built for horses and carriage equipment. In one particular historic photo, we can see Stimson’s young daughter Dorothy with her pony, Doctor, on Minor Avenue.

Dorothy Stimson Bullitt on her pony cart with Doctor. Courtesy the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Later, when horses gave way to automobiles, the Stimsons expanded the carriage house to its present 2,000 square foot size for their fleet. “Doctor had one corner [of the carriage house] and a little red Autocar (model 1900) had another,” recalled Dorothy. “Over the ensuing years, the car models changed, but not the pony. We had a cow, too. There’s a little back door in the garage that opens onto the alley and that’s where the cow lived.” 1

C.D. Stimson (on far left) greets an unidentified group in front of his carriage house, ca. 1910. Image courtesy Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

In 1915, a year after the Stimson family moved to a larger home in The Highlands, Joshua and Laura (Turner) Green acquired the property. Joshua Green’s business was in the steamboat and ferry industry, which evolved into the Washington State Ferry System. What is remarkable was how little of the mansion and carriage house was changed or altered during the Greens’ 60 years of ownership. In contrast, the surrounding neighborhood was quickly transforming. Apartment buildings and medical facilities rapidly replaced the mansions as the “first” families moved away. For the Greens’ carriage house, rather than be torn down or radically remodeled as was the fate of other carriage homes, the building remained as an automobile garage, even retaining its original back alley door, though the cow was long gone.

View of the carriage house in 1969 which includes a car facing out from the garage door. Image courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier: 78250.

In 1975, following Joshua Green’s death at 105 years old, the Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority purchased the property, which included both the mansion and the adjoining carriage house. The site was then acquired by Priscilla (Patsy) Collins (C.D. and Harriet Stimson’s granddaughter), and the mansion was reopened for the public to enjoy.2 No longer a private residence, mansion programming in the following years included behind-the-scenes tours, weddings catered by in-house staff, theatre performances, and other special events. In the late 1970s, the carriage house was converted to offices and housed a series of tenants, including the Bullitt Foundation – the nonprofit conservation organization founded by the adult Dorothy Stimson Bullitt.

Since 2001, the site has been owned and managed by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2016, the Trust oversaw the carriage house’s renovation, which included polishing the concrete floors and exposing the open beam ceiling and brick walls. Soon thereafter, the Chicago-based Birch Road Cellar leased the carriage house with a vision to build community through providing space for members to entertain guests outside of their homes, securely store spirits and wine in a climate-controlled cellar in a self-service environment, as well as utilize co-working space (members pay a monthly fee for the opportunity to work and host guests in the well-appointed space). Opened in May 2019, the major tenant improvements to the carriage house transformed the raw space into the stunning interiors that can be seen today.

View of remodeled self-service bar. Image courtesy Birch Road Cellar.

When I first heard about this new chapter for the carriage house, I happened to be seeking a new co-working space and quickly scheduled a visit. Several decades after those walks past the landmark in my high school days, I finally stepped foot inside. I was not disappointed: Upon walking in the door and being warmly greeted by co-founder Sharon Provins, I immediately knew this was the right place for me. I admired the historical elements and the adaptive reuse of the space, providing inspiration for my working environment. There was no question the building was once a carriage house. In the upstairs bathroom you can still see the hay door next to the toilet (don’t worry, the door is now welded shut).

After becoming a member and enjoying the space as if it were my own, what surprised me was how quickly I felt connected to the Birch Road community. I recall the photo of C.D. Stimson over 100 years ago, cigar in hand, sharing a mirthful moment with visitors outside in front of the carriage house – and it occurred to me that one of my favorite things was welcoming guests for the first time too. I was not expecting to make friends and form bonds with other members, but have since been delighted to meet both newcomers to the area (like the Stimsons once were) to those who had grown up in Seattle like myself. We all had something in common because we were drawn to the same storied space.

Upstairs meeting & dining room with view overlooking First Hill Park, currently under renovation. Reservations for the room can be made by members online. Image courtesy Birch Road Cellar.

As Washington State’s “Stay At Home, Stay Healthy” order remains in place, Birch Road Cellar will begin a pilot reopening program in June. To keep the members engaged, the club has offered virtual events, such as trivia nights, cooking classes and wine tastings, though I can’t wait to visit again in person. The Stimson-Green Mansion and Carriage House share the opportunity to be accessible to new audiences and to be recognized as places that matter, especially to those like myself who ventured by many times in the past and wondered what was inside. First Hill has other examples of creative collaborations that have helped to preserve the quality of our historic spaces, including the Museum of Museums, the Sorrento Hotel, and St. James Cathedral. It is a tradition that I hope will continue, as innovative partnerships between historical preservationists and private capital will become increasingly necessary approaches in the bid to honor and cherish our city’s past.

Ryan Anthony Donaldson is a cultural heritage strategist, digital asset manager, and archives consultant. Ryan currently works as Senior Consultant with The Winthrop Group and Collections Strategy Manager & Archivist with the Washington State Jewish Historical Society

Heart This Place – My Seattle

To celebrate historic preservation from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. For our final installment, Director of Preservation Services Eugenia Woo shows us her favorite views in Seattle:

My first time in Seattle was in 1991 as a visitor; I fell in love with the city and its environs instantly. On this visit, I went full-on tourist. Space Needle! Underground Tour! Pike Place Market! Mount Rainier! I loved it and wanted more. The unbeatable natural setting combined with its urban, yet still small town feel, and quirkiness called out to me. I knew I needed to come back and experience the Pacific Northwest more fully.

So, in September 1993, I drove my 1980 beige Volvo DL (aka “The Tank”), the family car that I learned how to drive in, from my hometown of Los Angeles to Seattle. After spending a hot and humid summer in Washington, DC as an intern, I was ready for Seattle weather. I’m one of those freaks of nature who loves rain. What brought me to the Pacific Northwest was graduate school in urban planning (with a focus on preservation planning) at UW. I remember learning about urban villages (so quaint sounding, right?), density, and growth management. Seattle was an ideal living laboratory for urban planning students to study. So many great neighborhoods and communities, each having its own history, culture, and character. Why would anyone want to destroy that? Little did I know then that I would spend such a large part of my professional life helping to fight save meaningful places that matter in this city.

It has now been 27(!) years since I first moved to Seattle (with a two-year stint back in L.A. in the late 1990s when I learned to love the City of Angels—I had to move away to really appreciate it). Over the years, my fondness for Seattle grew to encompass a great appreciation for the entire state, from small towns and rural areas to the mid-sized cities of Tacoma and Spokane. I have had the pleasure of traveling to and through all 39 counties in Washington State (logging A LOT of miles on my MINI Cooper). Whenever travel goes back to pre-COVID ease, I highly recommend exploring this amazing state. All of it. You might even see my husband and me on the backroads! Closer to home, I look forward to resuming my urban sleuthing of Seattle neighborhoods (documenting with photographs along the way), something I have done since my first visit in the early ’90s.

This brings me to my photo essay of some select favorite views in Seattle. No matter how long I’ve lived here or how cynical or jaded I may get lamenting my “lost” Seattle, nothing makes me happier than seeing the Space Needle, the Public Market neon sign, Smith Tower, or Mount Rainier. The Space Needle and Mount Rainier in particular just pop up out of nowhere at times—there’s always a new view of each that is unexpected. Fortunately, these icons are here to stay because they are landmarks or part of a historic district (well, Mother Nature will decide the mountain’s fate, but it won’t disappear entirely).

Enjoy!

All photos courtesy of Eugenia Woo. Click to enlarge:

View of Belltown and downtown from the Space Needle, 2010. (I’ve been taking views of the city from the top of the Space Needle since 1991.)

Same view looking south in 2019. Only the top of one of the Westin Hotel round towers is visible.

View of Pioneer Square in 2014 from the rooftop of the 619 Western Avenue building.

Pike Place Market and the iconic neon sign, Spring 2018.

Seneca Street looking west from First Avenue, a reopened view after the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the Seneca Street offramp, Summer 2019.

Seattle’s maritime heritage is on display on Lake Union in this spectacularly beautiful summer day in 2019.

This view of the Camlin from the Paramount Theatre (December 2019) will no longer be visible once the Washington State Convention Center expansion is completed.

View of Mount Rainier from a plane. I choose my seat for maximum view opportunities of the Cascades when I fly.

One of those unexpected views of the Space Needle that pop up out of nowhere. This one is on Capitol Hill near the Roundcliffe Apartments and the Lookout Bar (aptly named) on the corner of Bellevue Pl E / Bellevue Ave E / Bellevue Ct E.

View of Smith Tower, Elliott Bay, and the Olympic Mountains from Yesler Way.

That’s me at Archie McPhee!

Heart This Place – Columbia City Library

To celebrate historic preservation from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. Here, Asset & Property Manager David McClain touches on the importance of the Columbia City Library:

The Columbia City Library features two of my favorite things: historic buildings and books. To me, there are few better examples of meaningful places fostering lively communities. The library serves as a linchpin of the neighborhood, nestled within the Columbia City Landmark District just south of the Rainier Playfield and Community Center.

The original building was funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and designed by W. Marbury Somervell and Harlan Thomas. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The library was expanded with an addition in 2004, designed by Cardwell Architects to preserve the look and complement the style of the original building.

Serendipity or Perseverance

By Ana Lena Melka

The following is the fifth 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.

In October 2004, after months of negotiations, we finally closed on the 1914 mansion that my husband had fallen in love with earlier that year. After more than a year of house hunting across the Puget Sound region, we happened to walk past what looked like a haunted house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and my husband said, “Now, if that house was for sale, I’d sell my soul to buy it!” A day or two later he discovered that it was for sale, which is where our journey (obsession?) began!

We made an appointment to see the house and immediately realized it would need a tremendous amount of work, not just on the outside, but also on the inside. At least it had a good roof! There would be electrical work, plumbing, windows, tile, plaster wall repair, new heating, floors to refinish, even stolen fixtures to recover over the next year and a half. One of the few things that we just could not find was tile to replace the broken ones on the front porch. Our master tile craftsman suggested we tear it all up and salvage what we could. He would then install a different tile in the middle, and use the old tile to do a border. But we didn’t even know what kind of tile it was! We consulted experts who insisted it was slate – it delaminated on cleave lines the way slate does. We even had a man stop by who said he could get us slate to match – just a complete stranger who happened see us working – so we hung onto that hope for a couple of years!

So many other things were going on that we just shelved that project, while keeping our eyes and ears open to the possibility of finding the right material. One of the rabbit holes I went down was making the rounds of all the tile stores in the greater Seattle area, taking my little pieces of tile with me in hopes someone would have a matching product, or even just tell me what material they were made of. Historic Seattle hosted a tile lecture at Rejuvenation and of course I signed up with the hope of finding the answers to the tile question.

In 2014, we thought we finally had a match: quarry tile, made in Spokane. Sadly, it was not to be, as the manufacturer did not do custom matches and their samples were not a match for our tiles. At that point we began to think that doing the carpet tile inlay was our only option.

We had subscribed to Old House Journal through the years and at the end of 2015 I reached out to Patricia Poorer about help with identifying our tile. She wrote back to say they were “pretty sure” it was slate, so I contacted Sheldon Slate. No match again!

Another year went by and while reading Old House Journal I came across an article about Willapa Bay Tile in Ocean Park, Washington. I contacted the owner, Reneé O’Connor, to see if she would be able to make us some matching tiles. She wrote back with some exciting information: Tile Heritage in California was the place we had been looking for all these years!

Introductions were made online and we sent them samples. At last, a definitive answer! What we had was indeed manufactured tile, not slate. Best of all, they identified a vendor able to do a custom match: American Restoration Tile in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Bryan Byrd at American Restoration Tile assured me that they could match the size and color of our tile and gave us a proposal. We were so excited to move forward after all this time when another obstacle appeared. Sadly, Mr. Byrd passed away. Fortunately for us, his family had decided to keep the company operating – so we sent larger samples for color matching.

But, of course, it still wasn’t smooth sailing! Our master tiler had retired, and the craftsman we had found to replace him was not available to do the installation when the custom tile arrived. So, I just took the boxes to the basement unopened until he was available. Rookie mistake!

May 15, 2018—the day was finally here for tile to be laid. Opening the boxes revealed a bunch of broken tiles! So much time had gone by, it was too late to file a claim with the shipper. But the wonderful people at Tile Heritage were so gracious, they sent replacements and we were able to get the job done. Well, almost done – we had to wait for the additional tile to be manufactured and shipped. The tiler installed all he could, and when the new batch came he finished the job and grouted the whole area to match. Looking at our porch now, it’s hard to remember how it looked for all those years. But that’s what pictures are for!

Ana Lena Melka, originally from Mexico, has made the greater Seattle area her home since 1973. She considers herself a local non-native species! She and her husband, Mark Mayhle, bought the Shafer Baillie Mansion in 2004 and opened it as a bed and breakfast in 2006 after restoring and updating it. Mark is a Seattle native who was born at Swedish Hospital and would rather live here than any other place!

Understanding and Preserving Black History

The tragic death of George Floyd was not an isolated incident. In order to understand this injustice, we must take the time to educate ourselves about the history of racist violence by White people against African Americans – and the intergenerational trauma it has caused. Furthermore, as preservationists, we must work harder to acknowledge and celebrate Black history.

Historic Seattle is committed to addressing racism within our organization and making tangible progress in resolving our organization’s lack of diversity in our staffing, governance, and storytelling. As such, in July 2020, we announced the creation of the recurring blog feature “Seattle’s Full Story.”

About Seattle’s Full Story

Inspired by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Telling the Full American Story” initiative and aiming to help advance the work of the Black community in the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter movement, we are actively soliciting compensated content from Black contributors for our recurring blog feature “Seattle’s Full Story.” This call will expand to all BIPOC community members later this year.

This feature will be a permanent addition to our blog, promoted through eNewsletters and social media.

Because our organization is a public development authority, we cannot include content that endorses political candidates or specific policy positions. It is our intention to post submissions without editing, with the exception of explicit language if needed in order to be appropriate for a general public audience of all ages.

As with volunteer contributions solicited from the public in spring 2020, the following guidelines apply: No prejudiced or biased content. No explicit images. Submissions should relate to telling Black stories of Seattle’s history and/or preservation. The format is not limited to traditional article format – photo series, poems, art, song, video, etc. are all options.

Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis (no deadline). Creators of selected contributions will receive a $100 honorarium for their work. For consideration, contributors may submit either a short concept summary (1-3 sentences) to be developed into full content upon selection or the complete piece if they so choose. Contributors retain all rights and ownership of their submitted intellectual property. We ask contributors to note “Published as part of the Seattle’s Full Story blog initiative of Historic Seattle” in any subsequent posting.

For more information or to submit, contact Naomi West at naomiw@historicseattle.org.

More Resources

Many other groups & organizations are working to tell the full American story, across our region, state, and country. To learn more, visit:

National:

  • The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a National Trust for Historic Preservation campaign “to draw attention to the remarkable stories that evoke centuries of African American activism and achievement, and to tell our nation’s full history.”
  • Preserving African American Historic Places, a 24-page primer published by the National Trust.
  • The Mildred Colodny Diversity Scholarship, a National Trust program that “provides financial assistance and experiential learning opportunities to individuals preparing for careers in historic preservation. The purpose of the Colodny Scholarship is to increase the diversity of people pursuing degrees and careers in historic preservation in the United States.”
  • The Space/Race Reading List, a crowdsourced reading list “on how race and racism are constructed with spatial means, and on how in turn space can be shaped by racism.”

Local:

  • Beyond Integrity, a 4Culture initiative to elevate equity in preservation standards and practices.
  • The Northwest African American Museum, an institution which “envisions a Pacific Northwest region where the important histories, arts, and cultures of people of African descent are embraced as an essential part of our shared heritage and future.”
  • Wa Na Wari, a “space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection…in Seattle’s historically redlined Central District neighborhood.”
  • The Black Heritage Society of Washington State, whose mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the contributions of African Americans in Washington State.”

This page will continue to be updated. If you’d like to suggest a resource, please email info@historicseattle.org.

Pictured: A stained glass window at Mount Zion Baptist Church, manufactured by Mr. Douglas Phillips of Cleveland, OH. At the time of the construction of this church, Mr. Phillips was the only Black owner of a stained glass studio in the United States. The windows represent some of the Black church leaders and heroes who have made significant contributions to American civilization and were designed exclusively for the Mount Zion Baptist Church of Seattle.

Left: Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968). Preacher, prophet, peaceful warrior. Civil rights leader. Right: Nathaniel “Nat” Turner (1800 – 1831). Enslaved Black man who launched one of the most historic and largest revolts to end enslavement in Southampton County, Virginia. It lasted 48 hours before armed, White men suppressed the revolt. (Source: Zinn Education Project)

#BlackLivesMatter #TellTheFullStory

Heart This Place – KEXP

To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. Up next, Philanthropy & Communications Manager Bailey Hess tells the story of how she came to love 90.3 KEXP and the work the radio station does to bring people together:

Heart This Place: My End of Queen Anne Boulevard

By Cindy Hughes

To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. In this installment, Council Assistant & GSC Rental Coordinator Cindy Hughes takes us on a tour of Queen Anne Boulevard:

30 years ago this month, my husband, infant daughter, and I moved to a shingled 1910 house located in the northern reaches of the historic Queen Anne Boulevard on Queen Anne Hill. I don’t think we realized at the time that we would be living on such a storied route – our actual new address was on 8th Ave. W. (no addresses are actually labeled “Queen Anne Boulevard,” they all correspond with the existing streets and the term is applied to the scenic route as a whole) and the area didn’t seem to have much in common with the celebrated Boulevard on the south slope of the hill.

Everyone knows that route for its expansive views and mansions built by timber barons and real estate magnates, but the Boulevard is more than the south brow of the hill – it reaches democratically north to encompass more modest blocks of builder’s bungalows and several small neighborhood business districts.

The little commercial district at 7th Ave. W. and W. McGraw St. with the Boulevard’s tree canopy embracing it from the south.

Over the years I have spent many hours venturing both north and south on the Boulevard from my house – walking, driving, bicycling, pushing strollers, waiting for school buses, walking dogs, and navigating its twists and turns as it stitches its way around the crest of the hill. Many of our visitors from out of town have experienced the walk with us south along the Wilcox Wall, past the Marshall Park Viewpoint and the grand estates along West Highland Drive, and ending at the iconic city and mountain viewpoint at Kerry Park. Less often I have headed north and then east along leafy streets with territorial views and sections where it would seem ironic to apply the designation of Boulevard at all.

But in the end it is the quieter north end of things that I am ending up appreciating, especially now that the Boulevard serves as my sanctioned close-to-home quarantine walk route during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rest of the city seems to have discovered the pieces to the south, but the crowds tend not to cluster north of West McGraw Street. These blocks represent recreation to me in a way they never did before, a way to get out of the house that now serves as a cramped workplace for three adults.

Montpelier Maples are a rare species of street tree lining this block of 8th Ave. W.

The legal description of Queen Anne Boulevard takes up two pages and gathers up 23 separate stretches of road ranging in length from one to eight blocks.  The fact that the Boulevard runs along narrow, already-platted streets made it unique; it differed greatly from the other broad roadways in the Olmsted plan. The design that was worked out by the Parks Board, the City Engineering Office, and neighborhood residents called for six phases of development that took place between 1911 and 1916. The tree planting plan was not particularly well coordinated between phases, resulting in a charming variety of tree species – consistent on each individual block but different from one block to the next.

Some additional highlights of the Boulevard north of McGraw:

The 1910 Prairie-style Handschy/Kistler House at 9th Ave. W. & W. Wheeler St. – the only City of Seattle Landmark home located on the Boulevard on this side of the hill. The architect was Andrew Willatsen, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.

This house at 9th Ave. W. & W. Fulton St. was featured in Jud Yoho’s 1916 pattern book, “The Bungalow Craftsman.”

Peeking into Mt. Pleasant Cemetery as we round the curve back onto 8th Ave. W.

The venerable Arthur Wright Mortuary/Butterworth Funeral Home on W. Raye St.

As W. McGraw Pl. emerges at a 5-way intersection onto W. McGraw St., we can see the 5 Corners Hardware Store. It’s been open and heavily frequented during the pandemic.

As the Boulevard snakes through the Seattle street grid, it creates a number of small triangles at various intersections. This one at W. Smith St. and First Ave. W. is heavily landscaped by Seattle Parks and Recreation and features a prominent identification sign.

Foursquares were a popular architectural style on Queen Anne during the early years of the last century – this one is located at W. Smith St. and First Ave. W.

There are a number of stretches where the Boulevard doesn’t include sidewalks, especially along Wheeler and Bigelow Streets. Pedestrians are forced to walk in the street, which we are all doing anyway right now in order to socially distance ourselves. There is talk of closing at least part of the Boulevard to car traffic, under Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets campaign begun during the pandemic.

An acknowledgement of the Boulevard’s status along the McGraw Street Bridge.

This triangle displays the brown directional street signs that were installed just a few years ago to guide Boulevard travelers along its non-intuitive twists and turns.

And one last look at yet another triangle created by the Boulevard’s energetic swoop along McGraw St. to Nob Hill Ave. N.

I am grateful to the community members of Queen Anne in the early part of the last century for bringing this remarkable streetscape to life, and to later historic preservation efforts to protect it and make it accessible to all. When this pandemic is all over it will continue to enrich our experience of the city, as it has done so well over the last 110 years.

Heart This Place: Hash Browns & History

By Naomi West

To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. Up next, Director of Philanthropy & Engagement Naomi West serves up her favorite diners. Click below to enlarge:

Heart This Place – Tractor Tavern

By Jane Davies

To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. Next up, Director of Finance & Administration Jane Davies’ poem for the Tractor Tavern in Ballard:

 

The Tractor Tavern

Built in nineteen hundred and two

On the historic street, Ballard Avenue

At a time when shingles were the jam

And Ballard’s population was about 10 grand.

 

New Melody Tavern came before,

From the 40s until around ’94,

The Tractor Tavern then took the stage

And today it is still all the rage.

 

When again it opens up its door

Let’s meet at the Tractor Tavern once more

Rich in history, music and booze

With a night at the Tractor, you just can’t lose.

 

Above photo: Jane Davies

Featured photo: A historic image of the Tractor Tavern building, courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives (via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Heart This Place – Madison Park Beach

By Brady Begin

To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. In this installment, Engagement & Administration Coordinator Brady Begin celebrates Madison Park Beach.

I first visited Madison Park during the summer after I graduated from UW. I said the neighborhood was “honestly too cute for words,” but that didn’t stop me from coming up with cheesy Instagram captions like “city beach vibes” and nailing far too many hashtags to my posts like some sort of millenial Martin Luther.

I had taken a photo of a trio of surfboards near the bathhouse, which, in retrospect, cracks me up. Who surfs on Lake Washington? They were more for decoration than anything, an escapist aesthetic that inspired the collages you see below. Look, I’m no artist, but I wanted to do something creative for my contribution to Heart This Place.

While I’m lucky enough to actually live in Madison Park now, I’m quarantined at my family’s home in the suburbs because my apartment doesn’t get enough natural light to work from home (if the neighborhood is one big beach, then my apartment is a sea cave). I cut out images and text from old magazines that my parents were throwing out and mashed them up with two different photos of the shoreline.

A collage based on a recent photo of the beach. The historic structure on the right is a boathouse that connected to the boardwalk, with one of the boardwalk’s swings also in view (courtesy of UW Libraries). The canoes are from another historic image of the shoreline (courtesy of MOHAI). Click to enlarge.

The first is a recent photo of me walking along the beach, backed by a waterfront condo building. The second is a historic photo of the boardwalk and pavilions that once adorned the shore, before development of the Lake Washington Ship Canal lowered the lake’s water level and before a 1914 fire burned down the main structure – Beede’s Madison Street Pavilion. The historic images came from Pavilion days on Lake Washington, a post from the now-defunct Madison Park Blogger, which details the structures’ centrality to the burgeoning beachfront community between the late 1800s and early 1900s.

I’ll admit that I’m torn as to whether or not I think the beach would be better with the boardwalk and pavilions that once lined the shore. On the one hand, there’s obviously a lot of recreational and amusement value there. On the other, the beach we have know is more laid-back and its modesty generally reflects the slower, quieter character of the neighborhood. Regardless, Madison Park Beach is still a great in-city retreat for Seattleites in search of their own Margaritaville or Kokomo.

A collage based on a historic photo of the Madison Park boardwalk and pavilions (courtesy of UW Libraries). Click to enlarge.

In a few months I’ll be leaving Seattle to attend graduate school at the University of Georgia. I’ll miss a lot of things, including this little slice of paradise here in Madison Park. I’m holding out hope that we’ll be able to gather safely before then so we can go out and enjoy Seattle’s many public shores.

Cheers to you, little beach village!

Heart This Place – Tramp Harbor and KVI Beach

Written by Kate Kelly, 12th Grade, Vashon High School

Photos by Davis Kelly, 10th Grade, Vashon High School

To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. Next up, Executive Director Kji Kelly’s children Kate and Davis do some research into Tramp Harbor and KVI Beach:

Point Heyer, known as KVI Beach to residents of Vashon, was unofficially named after KVI Radio purchased the spit of sand and built a 431-foot radio tower in 1936. KVI Beach is the northern boundary of Tramp Harbor, located on the east side of Vashon Island. Now owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, KVI Beach surrounds tidal salt marshes, which are an essential ecosystem to migrating birds, specific types of grasses, and numerous species of crabs, shellfish, and fish that find shelter in the marsh. This natural barrier lagoon is the largest in King County. In an attempt to preserve and protect the lagoon and habitat, the County has been proactively acquiring waterfront land to the north of the beach for many years.

Tramp Harbor has played an important role in the development of the Island. Vashon’s first automobile ferry dock was built on Tramp Harbor soon after a new highway was built connecting Seattle and Des Moines in 1916. This new car dock was located between two existing passenger docks at Portage and Ellisport that served the “Mosquito Fleet.” In 1922, instead of sending cars from Tramp Harbor to Des Moines, then driving north to Seattle, traffic was directed straight downtown to Colman Dock from a newly constructed dock on the north end of Vashon. (My parents will beg and plead with anyone who cares to listen, now that the West Seattle Bridge is closed, to once again re-direct cars to Colman Dock!) After cars began to leave the island from the north end, the Tramp Harbor dock was leased by the Standard Oil Company and was repurposed to bring gasoline, kerosene, oil, and diesel fuel to Vashon Island. The dock was used for this industrial purpose until the mid-1980s, when the dock was once again re-purposed and opened as a public fishing pier.

We, and so many other Islanders, spend many summer days at KVI Beach and on the protected waters of Tramp Harbor. Since our house faces the beach, it is the first thing we see when we get up and the last thing we see when we go to bed. With dogs playing fetch, the inlet off the south side of the beach being the perfect place to paddleboard, and an endless amount of beach glass you can find amongst the rocks, KVI is one of the most popular beaches on Vashon Island. With the beach and harbor being just a short walk from our home, we feel lucky to get to grow up in this magical place.

Kate, Kji, and Davis Kelly

Checking In with Friends of Little Saigon

Last September, we presented Friends of Little Saigon (FLS) with the Community Advocacy Award at our annual Preservation Celebration Benefit, recognizing their work preserving and enhancing Little Saigon’s cultural, economic, and historic vitality. For the first time ever, this award included a $3,000 prize which FLS intended to use to help advance their mission by building out and opening the Little Saigon Cultural Gathering Space. Like so many others these days, FLS’s plans have shifted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, their work to support, strengthen, and preserve culture and community is as robust as ever. We checked in with Valerie Tran, a member of Friends of Little Saigon’s leadership team, for her take on how the pandemic is impacting the Chinatown-International District (CID) community and what FLS is doing in response to those challenges.

One such response has been establishing the CID Restaurants and Other Small Businesses Relief Fund. In late March, a $100,000 seed gift from Vulcan enabled FLS, the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), and the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) to come together to provide much-needed financial relief to neighborhood restaurants and small businesses.

“By March, the neighborhood had already suffered effects of the pandemic for a long time,” explained Valerie. “As early as late January/early February, the spread of misinformation and racism had caused many people to feel afraid to visit Asian and Chinese restaurants and businesses.” To date, the emergency relief fund has raised over $300,000 in donations, and over 87 neighborhood restaurants have received critical funding through the program’s first wave of distributions. Currently, 130 non-restaurant businesses are being evaluated for the next wave of distributions, which is expected to take place in May.

There are many unique challenges in responding to the crisis and managing the relief fund. “Many of our community’s small businesses don’t have a history of engaging with us through mediums like email, websites, and social media,” Valerie said. Interactions in the community more often occur face-to-face, which proves difficult when people are in isolation and businesses are shuttered. “There is also a lot of skepticism because of scams that are targeting small business owners,” she added.

“Language has also been a challenge. In the beginning there was a flurry of information coming from the city, state, and federal governments. Information was coming quickly, but many in the neighborhood were getting the information 4-7 days later because of the time it takes to simplify, translate, and redistribute information. In some cases, we’ve brought information out to the community in hard copy. We’ve been doing a lot of advocacy to the state and city, urging them to provide translated information at the same time that it’s delivered in English,” Valerie noted. “It’s so important to provide consistent information about legitimate sources of assistance in a timely manner.”

About the role community has in responding to the crisis, Valerie said, “COVID-19 has had some positive effects in the way the community has come together to respond. Throughout history, Asian American and Pacific Islander groups have been pitted against each other. This leads to finger pointing and debate over which ethnic group is more oppressed. Now people are coming together, people are stepping up, and community groups are partnering like never before to provide financial relief, wellness checks, groceries, and meals to people in need. We’ve got to be in this together.”

In addition to her role as Operations Director at FLS, Valerie Tran previously served on the boards of FLS and the International Special Review District. She also currently serves on Historic Seattle’s Council and understands the value of preservation. “This COVID-19 response work is important for cultural preservation. If these businesses and cultural institutions can’t reopen, this will be a huge loss to the cultural fabric of the city and the communities that rely on them,” she said. “This is why this work is critical. We can sometimes take our cultural businesses and places for granted, but the crisis brings to light the importance of community preservation, and that our work must go beyond physical and architectural preservation.”

Valerie Tran (second from the left) with members of Friends of Little Saigon

While the opening of the Little Saigon Cultural Gathering Space is delayed as a result of the recent construction moratorium, space has been leased and will include a small business resource center, office space, a Vietnamese café, a library, and an art exhibit space. Earlier this year, FLS launched a call to artists and selections were made for what will be the art space’s inaugural exhibit. “Owning It” will feature several visual and 3D artworks by Vietnamese American artists.

It has been just three years since Friends of Little Saigon brought on its first paid staff member, executive director Quynh Pham. Prior to her arrival, FLS had been an all-volunteer group since its founding in 2011. “The progress that has been made toward our mission is a testament to Quynh’s ability to implement the volunteer board’s vision,” said Valerie. Historic Seattle joins Valerie in commending her colleague and the ongoing achievements of FLS.

Heart This Place: Union Stables

By Jeff Murdock

To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. First up is Advocacy & Education Manager Jeff Murdock:

The Union Stables building as it appeared in 2011

After working for several years in my hometown in suburban Los Angeles, I made my way back to Seattle in 2007. We moved into to a fixer-upper apartment just up Western Avenue from Pike Place Market, situated diagonally across the street from the Union Stables building. At that time, these two buildings anchored a difficult block of Western Avenue. Surrounded by nefarious parking lots, with the viaduct walling off Western a half block north and the Battery Street tunnel ushering traffic north, it was easy to miss the historic building. It didn’t help that the mostly vacant property had been boarded up with plywood decorated with painted-on window details and garish multi-story banners advertising the property owner’s furniture business.

An interior view of the Union Stables building, 2011

But the intriguing urban stables did invite further investigation. I have always felt that there are a few old buildings in any neighborhood which, even after being ignored for decades and falling into the background of the city, can still convey a sense of memory and history – even as they wait precariously for a new life. To the casual observer, this was clearly once a working building – with its massive red brick masonry structure expressed in piers, large Roman arches, and expansive window openings. A curiously large pedimented parapet on Western is detailed with a telltale horse’s head, in terracotta. I had the opportunity to tour the ghostly interior of the building a couple years after we moved to the neighborhood. Walking through the massive horse-gnawed timber structure, it was easy to understand the layout of the stables, how horses moved through the building, and where they would spend their days waiting to convey their empty wagons home to the farms that supplied the public markets. You could imagine the heavy clip-clop of hoofs striking the substantial decking and alfalfa bales being lifted to the rooftop barn. But I don’t think it was my imagination bringing about the sensation of an odor of “agriculture,” that is, horse urine.

The terracotta horse’s head, 2011

In earlier-developed eastern cities, urban stables are a more common component of the built environment – reflecting the era when horsepower meant “powered by a horse.” Before the automobile’s transformative impact on urban design, cities developed with fashionable shopping streets offset by gritty working streets, which included urban stables as a building type. These working streets with their adapted stables would later provide the artist lofts and warehouse offices which contribute to many of our richest historic urban neighborhoods.

The Union Stables building was designed by George Dietrich and was constructed in 1910, not long after the Pike Place Market was founded. Accommodating over 300 horses, it was the largest of several stables constructed on Western Avenue (another one across the street from us is now occupied by Cloudburst Brewing, indicative of our changing neighborhood). A Seattle Daily Times article called it “the most modern stable west of the Mississippi.” However, it was built toward the end of the era of horse-drawn transportation in Seattle. By the early 1920s, the automobile had largely replaced equestrian transport in Seattle. The Union Stables’ robust construction and interior ramps allowed the building to be converted for various automotive uses. Over the years, the building intermittently served as a towing garage, furniture warehouse, and was even the location of an illicit cache of prohibition-era bootleg liquor, “the largest stock ever unearthed by police.” But its occupancy and uses dwindled over the years, and by the time we moved to the neighborhood the building was long empty.

The Union Stables building as it appears today

Today, our neighborhood is almost unrecognizable from when we moved here. The viaduct has disappeared, creating views that draw pedestrians north from Pike Place Market. Parking lots once noteworthy for being locations of illegal drug trade and nighttime gunfire are gradually becoming sites for high-end apartment development. Still, the Union Stables building holds court on our block. In 2013, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also became a City of Seattle designated landmark. Skillfully rehabilitated in recent years, the building is still occupied by stalls of daily workers – in architecture, construction, and technology.

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.

The Regrade Disasters

By Michael Herschensohn

The following is the third 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.

Between 1929 and 1930, a wee bit of Queen Anne (that part east of 5th Ave. N., west of 9th Ave. N. and bound by Denny Way on the south and Broad St. on the north) got washed into Elliott Bay as part of the third Denny Regrade. Our bit formed the northeast corner of the project. The lowering of Denny Park, the city’s first park, was a big part of the work even though purists will say the park isn’t in Queen Anne at all!

I’ve known that for a very long time and ever since I moved back to Seattle in 1985, I’ve wondered why. Stumbling on a paper written some 42 years ago, I discovered the reason. Having returned in my first old age at age 36 to graduate school to study historic preservation planning and architectural history, I took Seattle as the subject of many assignments. After all, I had just spent four years teaching at the UW, so Seattle history became my go to topic.

R.H. Thomson, courtesy of Paul Dorpat

I prepared that paper (“The Denny Regrade”) for a class in the history of American urban planning with the dean of the field, Professor John C. Reps. My paper traced the history of the regrade projects. The first one took place between 1898 and 1899 when city engineer Reginald Heber Thomson (1856-1949). convinced city officials to remove a portion of the hill on the north end of Seattle’s downtown. Thomson had been the city engineer for nearly a decade when the project began. He was obsessed with fostering the city’s economic growth and sure that expanding the business district out of the pit in which he saw it trapped would help the city grow. Thomson defined the pit as the land between the mud flats south of Yesler Way and Denny Hill.

Washing the hill away, courtesy of the Seattle Public Library

The first regrade washed away First Avenue from Pine Street to Denny Way. The second regrade (1903-1911) took down Denny Hill from Second Avenue to Fifth between Pike and Cedar.  The third one occurred between 1928 and 1930 as a nutty response to the second one after it failed to increase land values or attract the energy of the burgeoning central business district. Some say Thomson was a visionary. I see him in the same class as robber barons, those stubborn autocrats set on getting their way whatever the consequences. I forgive Thomson because his bull-headed behavior was well intended and didn’t make him rich. To be perfectly fair, Thomson had nothing to do with the third regrade. He’d moved on long before it began.

Hydraulic sluicing Seattle’s soft clay made the regrade projects easy to do. The sluices were, by the way, a common strategy for moving wet earth and were part of Seattle’s culture following the Klondike Gold Rush where stream beds were diverted through sluices to strain them for gold. By the time of the third regrade, the work got easy. Rubber conveyor belts moved the washed-out dirt to Elliott Bay where cleverly designed barges dumped it. Filled with dirt falling from the belt, the double-sided barges were towed out in the bay where they flipped over, dumped their loads and presented an empty bin ready for refilling at the shore.

The Denny Hotel in 1903, courtesy of Paul Dorpat

It seems fair to say that except for dumping tons of dirt into Elliott Bay and leveling a very big hill, the regrades flopped terribly. They did practically nothing to improve the economic vitality of the city until almost a century later when Amazon finally redeveloped that big chunk of the third regrade between 6th and 8th avenues. It is Thomson’s failure to see the possibility of the regrades failing economically that interests me.

The first regrade set the stage for the second. James Moore, owner of the huge Washington Hotel on top of Denny Hill, resisted the regrade concept that Thomson touted. Moore had bought the unfinished Denny Hotel at the tippy top of the hill from Arthur Denny, renamed it the Washington Hotel and completed it at considerable expense.

The Washington Hotel on Denny Hill after the first regrade, courtesy of MOHAI

Moore balked at tearing down his hotel and his substantial portion of the hill, but Thomson charged ahead with the first regrade making Moore’s hotel pretty inaccessible. When Moore caved in, Thomson moved forward with the second regrade. The top of the hill and the hotel began to disappear in 1906. About the same time, Moore built a new hotel, the New Washington, at Second and Stewart (today’s Josephinum) and the Moore Theatre next door. Both were completed in advance of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the world’s fair held on the UW campus.

Stretching roughly from First Avenue east to Fifth and from Pike north to Cedar, the second regrade leveled about 170 feet of Denny Hill. For comparison purposes, it stood a little bit more than one third as high as Queen Anne Hill (436 feet) today. As Walt Crowley tells it, the failure of the first regrade was driven partially by being butted up to the second half which provided a dismal backdrop to the new flatlands of Belltown. Crowley also points to two other factors that stymied the redevelopment of the regrades. Both can be attributed to poor thinking by Thomson or his arrogance.

Crowley politely contends that Thomson could not have anticipated the advent of the automobile which made close in development of the city less necessary and that he had no way to understand the impact of skyscrapers such as the Smith Tower (completed in 1914). Skyscrapers increased the density of offices in the historic core and like the automobile reduced the need to expand over the land.

I’d agree that Thomson’s timing was off, but skyscrapers were already dotting New York and Chicago. Seattle got its first skyscraper, the Alaska Building, in 1904, just about the time of the second regrade, the big one, got underway. Were he the far-thinking urban planner local historians have seen in him, he would have understood the future of very tall buildings. Maybe his rural Ohio roots blinded him to this urban potential. As for the automobile, Crowley may be right. There were only a couple of thousand cars in the state when the second regrade began. The automobile was still very far from its polluting heyday, and no one could have anticipated its impact on urban sprawl. In fact, we still haven’t figured out how to manage it.

The system embraced for financing the regrades may have been the final nail in the coffin. To finance the work, the city adopted a local improvement district, a LID, just like the one recently imposed on downtown businesses to fund improvements along the waterfront. Property owners in the regrades were taxed to pay for the work under the assumption that the improvements, the lowering of the hills, would increase property values and make them rich.

It just didn’t work out that way. The new flat land of the second regrade was unnecessary and ugly. Without the need for fancy stores, homes or hotels in the new neighborhood, flop houses, bars and some tenements moved in. At the very same time Paris and New York were identifying unhealthy neighborhoods for their ultimate removal, Seattle built one.

Thomson tried to remedy the problem with the second regrade by washing the hill he’d left behind into the bay. The outcome was nearly as bad. The flop houses, bars and single room only apartments only spread. Eliminating the eastern portion of hill gave license to the down and out character of the first regrade to spread unchecked. My guess is that Prohibition didn’t hurt either.

The third regrade completed between 1928 and late 1930 eliminated what remained of the hill. Eventually, the bulk of it was bought up by the Clise family, Seattle’s most well-known real estate developers. As late as 2008, the Clise property was the largest contiguous inner-city tract of land in the United States, larger even than New York City’s 22-acre Rockefeller Center.

Now, long after I wrote that paper for John Reps, I worry about the people in government making unchallenged decisions that are transforming our world. At the end of 19th c., Thomson convinced city officials to undertake a project that transformed Seattle. Until Amazon’s recent purchase of broad swaths of the third Denny Regrade, the northern portions of Seattle’s business district were a disaster, lying fallow for over 100 years. In reviewing my paper, my fear of simply accepting the wisdom of people in power is confirmed. Of course, Thomson did some great things for Seattle, particularly the Cedar River watershed project which still provides our clean drinking water, but he garnered too much power. His biggest ideas went unchallenged, and some, such as the Denny Regrades, bore rotten fruit.

 

Michael Herschensohn trained in architectural history and preservation planning at Cornell University. He served on the Historic Seattle Council for nearly 30 years. Michael continues volunteer preservation work as president of the Queen Anne Historical Society where he regularly writes about the fabric of his neighborhood’s built environment. This piece originally appeared on the QAHS website.

Color Your Own Showbox Marquee!

Are you looking for something fun to do while staying safe indoors? Robb Hamilton of Simcoe Industries has shared a copy of his original pen and ink drawing of The Showbox for you to print and color yourself. You can even write your own message in the marquee!

We can’t wait to see what you create – tag us in a Facebook or Instagram post, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #savetheshowbox. You can also email your completed marquee to us at info@historicseattle.org! Read on to learn about how Robb got started drawing old signs of Seattle.

The following is the second 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.

By Robb Hamilton

After the Four Seas in the International District closed a few years ago, I made a pen and ink drawing of the sign for my brother as it was the spot where he met his friends before and after Seahawks games. It elicited such a positive reaction that I started to draw more old signs from Seattle, including Art’s Plaza, Ying’s, and Imperial Lanes. Although none of these signs were architecturally or historically significant, they were treasured by people who grew up in the city for the memories they invoked.

When I learned that Historic Seattle was involved in trying to save The Showbox, I got the idea to make a poster of the original Showbox marquee which I could sell to raise funds for the preservation effort. I’ve seen tons of shows at The Showbox and the thought of losing it bothers me greatly. Just as my brother had a strong emotional tie to the Four Seas, lots of folks in Seattle have similar reactions to The Showbox.

Since we all need activities to keep us busy during quarantine, here is a copy of my original pen and ink drawing. Feel free to color in the neon tubes and letters and write your favorite show on the marquee (my fav was Screaming Trees).

Click the image below to download and print the PDF:

Robb Hamilton is an illustrator from Seattle. He likes drawing old signs. Simcoe Industries is named after the Simcoe Mountains in Klickitat County where his grandparents lived.

What Researching my Partner’s Grandfather’s Old Home Taught Me About Seattle’s Homebuilding History

By Kelsey Williams

The following is the first 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. Not all submissions will be posted but we appreciate your interest in contributing!

Last spring, I sat attentively in a classroom at the Good Shepherd Center, learning from Historic Seattle’s Advocacy Workshop Series. I was relatively new to Seattle—having lived in this city for only six months—and found myself wanting to join its historic preservation community. After learning how to research properties, I was itching to start a research project of my own and was deeply curious about how Seattle’s neighborhoods came to be.

I had no firm roots in the city yet, so it was challenging to choose a property that felt personally meaningful. I loved the Space Needle and Smith Tower, but selecting those structures for my initial historical dig was perhaps too ambitious—and overdone! My partner’s family, however, has been established in Seattle for four generations. One property tied to his family history stood out to me instantly: in 1948, his grandfather purchased a Craftsman home on 1st Avenue N.E. in Wallingford (the home was constructed in 1911). The first time I visited my then-long-distance partner in Seattle, he proudly drove me past the house. It was a place that found its way into numerous stories he had shared with me. It was glaringly solidified in his life and memory as a landmark (his dad was raised in the home, and my partner himself spent a few years living there in his early twenties before his family made the tough decision to sell it).

With this home in mind, I dove enthusiastically into a three-month research project to uncover every possible detail of its construction, past tenants, and alterations. What I discovered was far more impactful than I anticipated: I uncovered the otherworldly history of the pioneering days of a city so fresh to me.

Although the house has been altered, the address on the historic photograph (taken in 1937 and provided to me by the Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Regional Branch) has been removed to respect the privacy of the current homeowners.

My most ambitious goal was to complete a timeline of the house’s tenants and trace its history back to the architect and commissioner. I thought this would be relatively simple because of the Seattle Public Library’s Polk’s Seattle City Directory collection. An annual printing of the Polk directory listed Seattle’s citizens in alphabetical order by surname, including an individual’s home address and profession. “Reverse” directories began to be searchable via street address from the year 1937 onward, so things got tricky in terms of finding information about the years prior. For those earlier years, I needed to know the name of a person in order to search for the home’s record. I learned that the Soderlind family owned the house in 1937, so I was able to trace their tenancy backward in time. But when I got to the year they weren’t listed as the tenants (1920), I hit a dead end. I had to miraculously conjure up the name of the person(s) they received the home from, which seemed an impossible task unless I was willing to leaf through 1,000+ page volumes of small text.

I searched arduously for possible dwellers of the home by visiting the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections Microfilm Library, and looked through census reports, newspaper archives, and genealogy sites. The other tenants were slowly unveiled. Finally, the names of the first owner and the man who sold the plot for construction were in my possession. But no architect or builder was listed for the project! What did that mean?

The most alluring piece of history that I was introduced to during this project was the existence of plan books. History Link described this aspect of the Seattle building climate of the 1900s-1920s best: “A housebuilding industry began to take shape—spectators, developers, builders—but architects were rare. Instead, architectural plan and pattern books were popular on the frontier. These evolved into more complex and more prescriptive pattern books commonly used by builders and architects through the mid- and late-nineteenth century.” Home construction by the layman became a common occurrence. A plot owner purchased one of these plan books, ordered a design of their liking, and had the necessary materials and instructions delivered. The plot owner had the option to construct the home themselves or hire a contractor or builder. As a new societal endeavor, plan books offered home builders access to building materials and architect-approved drawings to, as Western Home Builder’s 5th edition stated, “secure a design of an attractive, artistic, well-arranged home at a price within the reach of all.”

Design No. 764 in American Dwellings: Bungalows, Cottages, Residences.

Seattleites were able to choose designs ranging from the practical, single-roomed farmhouse to a massive, ornate, Victorian-style residence—all available from the same publication. A standard plan book house design that you’ll see scattered across Seattle’s topography is Victor Voorhees’ design No. 91, now affectionately known as the “Seattle Box.” The closest plan book design I found to the Wallingford house in question was design No. 764 from Glenn L. Saxton’s plan book American Dwellings: Bungalows, Cottages, Residences. Almost identical, both houses feature three front-facing gables, a roof overhanging the front door’s porch, triangle knee braces, and a side dormer.

Now, after learning about this old-time process of home construction, I have a newfound wonder for the homes in Wallingford and other Seattle neighborhoods. Whenever I drive past or walk by a residence that mimics Home No. 764’s style, I wonder if a family over 100 years ago bought that plan from a book for $1.00*. In the case of my partner’s grandfather’s home, that one dollar sure went a long way—it traveled sentimentally through generations, disguised as a 1.5-story vessel for living.

*The cost of the plan book was $1.00; however, that particular house design had a materials cost of $3,000.

 

Kelsey made her way to Seattle nearly two years ago by way of Los Angeles. She is the Photography Archivist for the Eames Office and a historian for the Eames House. She spends much of her free time researching, stalking, and photographing mid-century modern architecture—both locally and nationally.

Death of a Landmark: The Sullivan House

It took only a couple hours (if even that) to demolish the 122 year-old Sullivan House on Capitol Hill the morning of March 18. This historic home, prominently situated on the southeast corner of 15th Avenue and E. Olive Way, was a designated Seattle Landmark. The house was built in ca. 1898 for Patrick J. and Joanna Sullivan. P.J. Sullivan was the proprietor of Queen City Boiler Works before becoming involved 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 C.C. Cawsey House at 325 West Kinnear Place West, as well as Lewis, Clark, and Parrington Halls on the University of Washington campus.

The property was listed for sale in 2017 for $2.2M, a price that did not reflect the decades of deferred maintenance of the house. It was a prime candidate for renovation and some TLC but the asking price was cost prohibitive, leaving the property vulnerable to market forces. Seeking a way to preserve the historic house, a Seattle architect and Capitol Hill neighbor submitted a landmark nomination application in 2017 without support from the owner (the owner’s consent is not required to landmark a building in Seattle).

The Sullivan House was designated a landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) in 2018. Its designation was supported by Historic Seattle and many in the Capitol Hill community. We supported the nomination and designation of the Sullivan House because it embodied the distinctive characteristics of the Queen Anne style, represented an outstanding work of the architecture firm of Josenhans and Allen, and was situated prominently at the southeast corner of 15th Ave and E Olive Way, presenting a striking contrast to surrounding buildings.

An early photo of the Sullivan House, courtesy of Seattle Dream Homes.

After the building was designated on February 7, 2018, the owner and the LPB staff entered into negotiations for a “Controls and Incentives” agreement. Controls are what protect a landmark’s designated physical features. Incentives are financial benefits and zoning and building code relief available to owners of landmarked properties. Historic Seattle advocated for controls to be placed on the Sullivan House through a detailed analysis and pro forma demonstrating that the property, as a designated landmark with controls, could still provide a reasonable rate of return to an owner or investor. We felt it was important to conduct this analysis because two other recently designated landmarks (the Galbraith House and the Wayne Apartments) had no controls placed on them, paving the way for demolition. We did not want to see another historic property face the same fate.

At its September 19, 2018 meeting, the Board voted to place controls on the property. This victory was short-lived, however, as the owner appealed the Board’s decision to the Hearing Examiner. In early 2019, the owner and the City of Seattle settled and controls were lifted – leaving no protections for the Sullivan House. The decision not to place controls was the result of a “Stipulation and Proposed Recommendation and Order” signed by the Hearing Examiner at the request of the City Attorney and legal counsel for the owner. The stipulation claimed that “Controls will prevent the Estate from realizing a reasonable return on the property…”

Historic Seattle strongly disagreed with this conclusion because we demonstrated to the Landmarks Preservation Board (in a public comment letter containing well-reasoned analysis) that controls would not prevent a reasonable return on the property. Real estate finance is not an exact science. What one developer finds to be an acceptable rate of return, another may find unacceptable. Other factors that come into play, such as market value, cap rate, comparables, etc. are all malleable.

The Sullivan House was the third landmark to be designated without controls in just over a year. The landmark Galbraith House (also on Capitol Hill) was demolished in January 2018 because it had no controls. It has now been over two years and the site of the Galbraith House is still vacant, as a replacement project has yet to be built. Controls were not placed on the landmark Wayne Apartments in Belltown in 2018, and its days are numbered as well because the property is for sale and may be under contract with a developer.

Until the last couple of years, it had been rare for the Board to place no controls on a designated landmark. We know these must have been difficult decisions for the Board and City staff. What’s not helping is the current, overinflated market value of properties in Seattle and the trend of “demolition-by-neglect” by owners who let their properties deteriorate to the point where rehabilitation is much more expensive 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.

The deteriorating Sullivan House as it appeared toward the end of its life. Photo courtesy of Seattle Dream Homes.

The Sullivan House had been converted to a five-unit apartment building in 1949, offering affordable rents for 70 years until it was sold in 2019 to a private developer for just under $2.2M. A victim of neglect and development pressure, it will be replaced by eight townhomes which will be sold for market rate.

The demolition of the Sullivan House will not be in vain. We will learn from this as we work to protect other designated landmarks where controls are not yet in place, because this cannot be the new normal for our city’s historic places. Something needs to change. Historic Seattle and our community partners in preservation hope to work with the City to look for ways to improve the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance so that it can provide the legal protections needed for our city’s historic places.

Historic Seattle’s landmarking of The Showbox is now in the controls and incentives phase. We are doing all we can to demonstrate that as a designated landmark with controls, the Showbox property will still provide an owner or investor reasonable economic use. Landmarks deserve protection, not plaques.

The “stairs to nowhere” on the site of the now-demolished Sullivan House

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.

Vanishing Seattle’s New Documentary Film Series

“The ‘vanishing’ part of ‘Vanishing Seattle’ is just one part of the story,” said Cynthia Brothers. “There are also many stories of resistance, resilience, and creation.”

Cynthia Brothers is the founder of Vanishing Seattle, a social media account that is “documenting disappearing/displaced businesses, homes, communities, and cultures of Seattle.”

Clad in one of her signature miniskirt and Vanishing Seattle t-shirt ensembles, Cynthia is stood in the living room of a packed house as she introduced the new Vanishing Seattle documentary film series. The series premiere was at and about Wa Na Wari, a project housed in a 5th-generation Black-owned craftsman in the historically Black Central District neighborhood. According to a sign in the entryway of this legacy home, Wa Na Wari (which means “our home” in the Kalabari language) “creates space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection.”

Cynthia has teamed up with Martin Tran, a filmmaker and former co-director of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, for this seven-part film series. The films will expand upon a lot of the same themes and questions that Vanishing Seattle raises with its Instagram chronicles. Cynthia explained, “Vanishing Seattle and this film series involve conversations dealing with change. But not a dichotomy of old: good, new: bad. Instead it asks, ‘What does change mean? What does progress really look like, and what are the ways that change can serve and benefit communities? What’s possible with creative, forward-thinking ideas? What do different solutions to displacement and gentrification look like?’ In the case of places that are vanishing we ask, ‘Why is this happening? What caused this to vanish, and what can be done to prevent this from happening?’”

“The advantage of this project is that film is a lot more dynamic as a medium,” said Cynthia. “Most of the Instagram posts have been of buildings and physical places, and it’s hard to get to the people behind those places with just pictures and captions. The films humanize these places and allow people to share stories in their own words.” While all the films in the series are co-produced by Cynthia and Martin, they engage different filmmakers to tell various stories about different communities. “One of the principles of this film series is that the filmmakers have a personal connection to the community and the place that they want to make a film about,” Cynthia pointed out.

“Some of the things we struggle with in using film pertain to timing,” described Cynthia. “Everything is happening so fast, in some cases, places are gone before we can find a filmmaker to tell its story. It is also hard to be selective. There are countless stories to tell, so many places to talk about. Often, there are multiple stories attached to a single place and the shorter the film is (the films are just 7-10 minutes long), the harder the choices are that you must make. We’re always asking ourselves, ‘Are we doing this justice?’”

“The goal of the series is to raise general awareness of these places and communities, through their stories,” explained Cynthia. “It’s about capturing and sharing places that are built into the structure that make Seattle unique. We all lose out when we lose these places. They should be important to us as a city. With many of these films, there is an active opportunity to support small businesses and places that provide space for art and culture to thrive.”

In the living room of Wa Na Wari, Inye Wakoma, one of the founders of the project and the grandson of the owner of the home where Wa Na Wari is based, warmly emceed the evening’s program. People sat cross-legged on the floor or in chairs, stood in the dining room and hallways, and trailed up the stairs. Food and drinks were generously offered, and the upstairs rooms were activated with exhibits by Black artists. A Shelf-Life Community Stories neighborhood cultural mapping project was on display, and a vintage rotary phone that you can pick up and hear oral histories through sat on a little table beside a wooden chair in the hallway.

An open door labeled "Shelf Life Community Story Project" leads to a room adorned with sketches of storytellers. A computer in the corner has headphones for listening to the stories.

The Shelf Life Community Story Project space in Wa Na Wari

Performances by storyteller-rappers and poets (namely Yirim Seck and Ebo Barton) preceded the screening of the film, which was directed by devon de Leña and CHIMAERA. The film rolled and Wakoma was then on screen talking about the gentrification and displacement currently happening in the Central District: “The biggest thing that folks are trying to pinpoint is ‘How do we actually survive this? And then, how do we come out on the other side of this, in some way that actually feels whole?’ We need imaginative responses, ways of imagining ourselves in the future that have everything to do with us getting there on our own, in ways that make sense to us.” 

Watch the film Central District: Wa Na Wari here, and be sure to follow @vanishingseattle on Instagram to stay informed about future screenings and other opportunities to get active! You can also read more about Wa Na Wari and the Vanishing Seattle film series in these Crosscut articles.

Two Mid-Century Modern Commercial Buildings Nominated as Landmarks

At its December 4 meeting, the Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) nominated two modern buildings for landmark consideration — the former Community Psychiatric Clinic in Eastlake and (by unanimous vote) the Stoneway Electric Building in Fremont. Historic Seattle strongly supports designation of both properties — the designation hearing is scheduled for January 15, 2020.

In 2001, Historic Seattle and Docomomo US/WEWA produced a popular modern architecture tour (repeated in 2004) of the Eastlake neighborhood which contains an eclectic mix of building types and styles including a collection of small scale, mid-century commercial buildings designed by some of Seattle’s most prominent architects from the era.

One of these buildings, the former Community Psychiatric Clinic building (or CPC, located at 2009 Minor Ave E), was designed by the firm of Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates and was completed in 1962. It is an important and distinctive work of Paul Kirk, one of the most well-regarded architects in the Pacific Northwest. The owners of the CPC, now the Bush Roed & Hitchings building, submitted the landmark nomination application to determine its historic status as part of their due diligence in potentially selling the property. Kirk’s own firm’s architecture office is located adjacent to the south. We believe that the office, too, is landmark-eligible (it is not slated for demolition at this point and the property has a different owner).

Cars are parked beneath the Community Psychiatric Clinic, which stands up on stilts. The building is long, rectangular, and features tall windows.

The Community Psychiatric Clinic as it appeared in 1975. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.

The other modern commercial building nominated on December 4 is the Stoneway Electric Building (originally Golden Rule Dairy) located at 3665 Stone Way N. Built in 1945-1946 for Golden Rule Dairy, the building has been a fixture in in the Fremont neighborhood for more than 70 years. The modern style building is restrained in its design, reflecting a time when the nation was emerging from the aftermath of World War II. The building is a good example of the style and stands out on a major street that is experiencing rapid change. The landmark nomination was submitted by a developer interested in purchasing the property for redevelopment.

A pickup truck is parked in front of the brick Stoneway Electric Building. The entrance to the building is framed by two trees without their leaves.

The Stoneway Electric Building.

Historic Seattle encourages you to support designation of these two historic modern buildings. Learn more about each property’s history and significance in the landmark nomination reports and email your comments to Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator Erin Doherty.

Giving Thanks to our Supporters’ Circle

Support for Historic Seattle comes in many different forms. Advocates and program attendees are critical to our mission, but donors go beyond, allowing us to take our work to new heights. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we want to give you ALL our thanks.

Below we’ve featured a few individuals to highlight some of the ways people in our Supporters’ Circle make our work possible.

Thank you, from all of us at Historic Seattle.

Membership Support:
Longtime | Mollie Tremaine

Not only does Mollie Tremaine hold the esteem of being one of Historic Seattle’s first members, she was also a Historic Seattle staff member in the 80s and 90s when our office was in Pioneer Square and we had a staff of just three! Mollie continued to volunteer for Historic Seattle in many capacities after her retirement and served six years as a Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board member.

Why do you think it is as important to support Historic Seattle today as it was at the time of our founding in 1974?

Mollie Tremaine: If you believe in preservation, you have to support it! If you want to have preservation, you must wave the flag.

While preservation has always been my advocational interest, I think it’s really important to continue to recruit new support for preservation by educating people about places. To do this you have to keep a pulse on where people go, what places matter, and what people want to protect.

A woman with short, blonde hair and glass smiles

Mollie Tremaine.

New Member | Nancy Paine

What prompted you to join our organization?

Nancy Paine: I was raised in Seattle; it’s been my home since 1962. I believe we need to work on preserving places that embody our history. When I heard about the potential sale and possible  threat to the Hofius House on First Hill, I knew I needed to act. You guys are the mechanism for preserving our history.

Four white columns frame the entrance to the Hofius House, made of brick. Four windows sit above the entrance

The Hofius House on First Hill.

Monthly Donor:
Dale Dvorak

Monthly donors help sustain our work. Some employers, like Dale’s, match gifts which can significantly boost your contributions.

Why do you enjoy giving to Historic Seattle?

Dale Dvorak: This organization first got my attention when I purchased a 1918 craftsman (bungalow) house in 1998. I stumbled across an article in the Seattle Times spotlighting an upcoming Bungalow Fair sponsored by none other than Historic Seattle. After attending the event, I was hooked; there was so much to learn about styles, colors, and history through workshops, lectures, and tours.

Since then, I have expanded my interest to more than just craftsman homes; Historic Seattle provides a range of activities that keeps me engaged and satisfies my curiosity. I have been on walking tours, enjoyed food and drinks, listened to lectures, and I’ve also been challenged to not only enjoy Seattle’s rich history, but also to be part of keeping it for future generations to embrace instead of razing those beautiful windows into the past to build another glass and steel structure. I’m proud to be a member of Historic Seattle and glad that I can financially support such a vital organization doing so much good for the community.

 

Dale Dvorak stands in the middle of a group of people and laughs during a tour of Georgetown. Brick and industrial buildings are seen in the background

Dale Dvorak (center) at Plates, Pours, and Preservation: A Georgetown Food, Drink, and History tour.

Corporate Sponsor:
Bassetti Architects

Generous sponsors help Historic Seattle bring you a variety of education and advocacy programs, as well as special events, that enable you to explore our historic built environment.

What value is there for Bassetti in aligning with Historic Seattle
as a program sponsor?

Lorne McConachie | Bassetti Architects:
We value the rich texture of historic buildings within our urban fabric.
We value the cultural continuum of our evolving history.
We value the embodied energy of our landmark structures as we confront climate change.
We value the opportunity to preserve and restore our cultural and architectural legacy.
We value the educational opportunities embedded in our history.
We value the beauty of our landmarks.
We value the stories.
We value our community.

Save The Showbox Contributor:
James Keblas

Contributions to our advocacy fund were essential in securing landmark status for The Showbox. This support also enables us to continue to fight to protect other cultural spaces in Seattle.

Why did you decide to make a gift to Historic Seattle to help save The Showbox?

James Keblas: I was so relieved to hear that Historic Seattle was taking the lead to save The Showbox. I remember the moment well because it was the first time I had hope that saving The Showbox was actually possible. It meant so much to have an organization from outside the music community understand the cultural value The Showbox has for Seattle. I immediately went online and made a donation to support the cause.

The Showbox is a pillar of our music and creative identity. It’s beautiful and unique. It has hosted incredible events over generations and created memories that have come to define a significant piece of Seattle’s identity.

Most importantly, live music venues are the vital ingredient to creating a healthy music community. It’s where artists hone their craft and begin collaborations with other artists. It’s where audiences and community get developed over a shared love of music. There are many things that contribute to a healthy music scene, but I believe nothing is as critical as live music venues. If we have live music venues, all the other pieces fall into line. If we lose them, this community will lose its musical identity. I am grateful Historic Seattle is fighting to prevent this from happening. Seattle is a great music city. Let’s make sure that legacy is there for the next generation.

James Keblas, wearing a shirt that says "Save The Showbox," stands to the right of Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney.

James Keblas pictured backstage at a show in Washington, DC with Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney. Corin told James she was “heartbroken” when she heard about the threat to The Showbox.

Volunteer Leadership:
Council Member Valerie Tran

Valerie Tran joined Historic Seattle’s Council in 2017 and now serves as secretary, as well as on our education, advocacy, and benefit committees. As current board president of Friends of Little Saigon and a former International Special Review District board member, Valerie brings a deep understanding of the value of preservation to community — particularly to communities of underserved immigrants, refugees, and people of color.

Why does our cause matter to you?

Valerie Tran: It matters because it’s important to have a voice for historic preservation. There need to be resources and a network to prevent the loss of not just physical assets, but cultural assets. Historic Seattle understands the value of preservation of not just physical places but the preservation of community and use. When you preserve, you’re helping to prevent displacement and protect the physical representation of cultural groups. You ensure that physical places are here for the people who have historically used them and want and need to continue to use them.

Valerie Tran stands to the left of a board that says "2019 Preservation Awards - Community Advocacy - Friends of Little Saigon." She smiles while she holds a the 2019 Preservation Celebration Benefit journal.

Valerie Tran (left) at Historic Seattle’s 2019 Preservation Celebration Benefit.

Thank you to all of you who support Historic Seattle! Together we are shaping a city that values and protects its collective history.

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.

Get to Know Author Diana James and Understand Her Passion for “Shared Walls”

In September, author Diana James is set to lead her thrice sold-out North Capitol Hill Apartments Tour with Historic Seattle. Read on to learn more about Diana, including what inspired her book Shared Walls: Seattle Apartment Buildings, 1900-1939 as well as a perhaps little-known fact about the history of apartment buildings.

Historic Seattle caught up with Diana James in the “Heritage Room” of First Baptist Church on First Hill on a sunny August afternoon. “After I finished my degree in historic preservation, the people who had been the stewards of this for over thirty years were anxious to turn it over to me,” said Diana, a longtime member of the church, in reference to the beautifully curated room containing archives and objects reflecting the 150-year history of the church.

Originally hailing from Houston, Diana’s interest in the built environment was initially sparked overseas. “When we were still in Houston my husband, who was an architect, received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that enabled us to live in England for a year. His focus there was on how new architecture fits in with old. As a result, I saw a lot of great old buildings there and when I returned to the U.S., they stuck with me.”

Her family’s much-welcomed move to the Northwest in 1980 was prompted by an opportunity for her husband to join the locally-founded global architecture firm NBBJ. “It was not until my husband died, and my two daughters graduated from college, that I sold our home in the Montlake neighborhood and moved into an Anhalt [apartment] building at 13th and Republican. I looked out a back window and realized I was surrounded by apartment buildings, buildings that I had never given much, if any, notice to previously.”

It was her curiosity about the surrounding apartment buildings that eventually led Diana to pursue a graduate degree in historic preservation. “All along I had in my mind that I’d like to write about apartment buildings for my thesis.” While the idea was rejected when pitched for her thesis, “The director of the school said, ‘You can write a book about it later,’ and I thought ‘Ok, I will!’” said Diana.

A group of 14 people on a walking tour of Capitol Hill apartment buildings wave at a resident across the street, who is standing on the building's second-story balcony

An apartment resident waves to the group during the 2018 Capitol Hill Apartments tour led by Diana James.

On the process of writing Shared Walls, Diana said, “People LOVE their old apartment buildings. The stories I could tell about gathering information for the book could be a book in itself. You’d think without having a financial investment that wouldn’t be the case, but I heard it time and time again. It was encouraging. I realized all buildings have stories to tell, each one with a life of its own. And as I wrote about them for the book, I tried to honor each place’s unique and individual story.”

“One interesting thing that popped out of my research was how many women were involved in real estate dealing with apartment buildings…owning the lot, hiring the architects, and then either turning around and selling it or keeping it as an investment, I mean in 1905! At first, I thought maybe it had to do with the adventurous spirit of the women that came west in pioneer times, but it wasn’t the case. My research showed that women all around the country were doing the same thing; it was not a phenomenon limited to the West,” she added.

Why and how was this happening? Diana cited several different reasons; one early, local influence was the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850. “The government didn’t want just men to come west, they wanted the civilizing effect that women brought so they gave married women the same land ownership opportunities that they gave men.”

On the role that historic apartment buildings play today, Diana said, “I’m all for contemporary architecture and density, but these interesting buildings save the city from just being a number of boxes lining the streets. They lend character and interest. They embrace and invite community. I have a friend who lives in The Arcadia, and they had a birthday party for their building! Some were dressed up in period clothes. One woman has worked for years writing the history of the building and its residents. The community is like a big family. In another apartment building, a resident that lived there told me he got married in the lobby of the building, and I said, ‘You know what? I happen to know you’re not the only person to ever have a wedding in the lobby of an apartment building!’ We need these tangible reminders of our history, when they’re gone, a picture doesn’t do it.”

Diana’s September tour is sold out. Stay tuned for future talk and tour opportunities. Shared Walls is available at bookstores such as Elliott Bay Book Company.

Bringing the Community Together One Event at a Time

In case you haven’t noticed, the Georgetown neighborhood has it going on! Brimming with artistic creativity, rich in history, and packed with cool industrial architecture, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood managed to level up again last fall with the opening of The Palace Theatre & Art Bar, AKA “Georgetown’s first gay bar.” For this month’s VivaCity feature, Historic Seattle chatted with the venue’s proprietor, Sylvia O’Stayformore, to learn how this flourishing community gathering place came to be and how it fulfills its mission to bring the community together one event at a time.

Sylvia’s business partner in the Palace, Carlos Paradinja Jr., originally opened a coffee shop (The Conservatory) in the space about 5 years ago. Sylvia explained, “The Conservatory was not only a café, but also an artists’ salon type of space that offered art classes and workshops. While it was successful in many ways, it was ultimately not earning enough to sustain itself. So last September, Carlos came to me and said, ‘I either need to close up shop, or do something different.’ Meanwhile, I had recently lost my corporate daytime gig and ‘Bacon Strip,’ Seattle’s longest standing drag show which I produce, was looking for a new place to flourish. I said to Carlos, ‘Since coffee wasn’t working, why don’t we try alcohol, and keep it a performance space and let me be the booker of the talent and just program the hell out it and see what that does.” And thus, the Palace Theatre & Art Bar was born.

Sylvia O'Stayformore, a drag queen in a blonde wig and blue and white checkered dress, calls out bingo numbers. In front of her are a collection of colorful bingo balls.

Sylvia O’Stayformore calls bingo at The Palace

About the name, Sylvia said, “The name actually comes from the name of the building. It originally opened in 1903 as The Palace Hotel and Bar, owned by Fred Marino. It was a workman’s hotel, and there was the Palace Bar, which is where the Seattle Tavern pool hall now is, there was a hardware store in our space, and a cardroom where Star Brass is. But nothing was called The Palace anymore. It’s an amazing name so I said, why don’t we call it ‘The Palace,’ and then “Theatre’ since that’s what we want to do, and ‘Art Bar’ so people know that it’s strong in art and creativity. And by the way, it’s also a gay bar.”

The Palace Theatre & Art Bar is a bar with a mission, “to bring the community together one event at a time.” Sylvia said, “We’re really trying to grow with community events and be a gathering place where you find something you won’t at other bars. The things we try to program are like the monthly Seattle Playwrights Salon. There’s a club made up of playwright aficionados that goes out and looks for new plays that have been written by local playwrights and we give them the space to have those plays read out by local actors on stage. We have free local jazz nights including jazz trio Hilltop Jazz Project and others, there’s a piano sing along night where you bring in your own sheet music, and ‘An Unexpected Improv Night’. We didn’t want it to be an all drag kind of place but rather a place where people say, ‘let’s see what kind of creative thing is happening at The Palace and go hang there.’”

A large group of people seated near the stage at The Palace. 5 people are on stage, each with a stand for the scripts they read from.

The Palace during a performance

About Georgetown, Sylvia said “I’ve been in love with Georgetown since I moved to Seattle in the early aughts. I love that it hasn’t been gentrified as much as other places. It’s like those industrial parts of Seattle that are going away so fast, but it’s been stubborn, it’s stayed alive. Even after prohibition ripped its main money source away from it, it was still able to survive.” When Sylvia isn’t in Georgetown at The Palace, she can usually be found calling out bingo. “I call for 12 different senior centers from Camano Island all the way down to Des Moines.”

Head on down to Georgetown to see for yourself what it’s all about. Check out the Palace Theater & Art Bar event calendar for upcoming events like the free Trailer Park Drag Strip, an annual show that takes place on August 10 as part of August’s Art Attack, Georgetown’s monthly art event.

PalaceArtBar.com

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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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.