Preservation in Progress

Historic Seattle’s Blog

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.

We want to hear from you!

Are you hunkered down at home and looking for something creative to do? For the first time ever, Historic Seattle is opening up our blog – Preservation in Progress – to volunteer submissions from guest contributors!

Do you have a cool story to share about a meaningful place in Seattle, or the people behind it? Knowledge about restoring historic buildings? Do you want to highlight a threatened place or underappreciated building? Take a deep dive into how gentrification and displacement has impacted your community? Or can you share a peek inside your historic home?

We are now accepting submissions on a rolling basis. Please send a draft of your content to info@historicseattle.org and our staff will review it as time allows. Not all submissions will be selected, but we appreciate the interest of everyone who participates!

If you have any questions, please contact us at the email above. The rules: No prejudiced or biased content. No explicit language or graphic images, please. Submissions must relate to Seattle’s history and/or historic preservation. Have fun and get creative!

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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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: