Preservation in Progress

Historic Seattle’s Blog

Remembering Kay Bullitt

The following tribute was contributed by John Chaney, former executive director of Historic Seattle.

It was always just “Kay”, a presence far beyond Historic Seattle and Seattle. Kay was experienced and skilled in philanthropy. In this sad time of her passing I am reminded of an observation she often made. “I wish more obituaries would suggest a gift to things the deceased supported and enjoyed in life, not the disease that took their life.” I’m remembering the enterprises she supported and enjoyed.

Kay served on the Historic Seattle Council for many years. I had the great pleasure of serving on the Council with Kay Bullitt for 4 years and then as Historic Seattle’s Executive Director for another 15 years. During that time the Historic Seattle Foundation was created and Kay was the first President. Kay fervently supported the long-planned completion of the Good Shepherd Center, creating long term affordable housing in historic buildings, and undertaking challenging projects like the acquisition of the Third Church of Christ Science now Seattle Town Hall and the Nisqually earthquake damaged Cadillac Hotel which now houses the National Park’s Klondike Gold Rush Museum. Kay was an early and stalwart supporter of historic preservation in Pioneer Square, the Market, and around Seattle long before I knew her. For me and so many others in Seattle, she was a shining example of community service.

Kay showed me by example that there can be great joy in adding your efforts to those of others, small grains of sand that eventually will tip the balance favorably. That part of living is experiencing victories and losses, both pyrrhic and valued. The important thing is to make investments in incremental change. Things you may not fully see nor personally enjoy. She was always present but also looking over the horizon.

Kay was part of the struggles and success of many organizations, large and small. She saw the value in working to preserve, protect and interpret our past for future generations. I often recall her gentle way with other board members and citizens. Kay was an exceptionally skilled leader.

Kay was a consistent voice for meaningful stewardship.  She cautioned me more than once about the potential hidden agenda in “sustainability” and challenging the pretty pictures of the future. Taking the long view and tempering the fashion of the day was something Kay helped me understand.

Kay’s memory will live on with many who knew her and I am hopeful that those who benefit now and in the future from her remarkable community service will also remember her. She saw each day as an opportunity to make a difference, to put energy toward making even the slightest positive change in the trajectory of our shared community. She invested in Seattle whether she found agreement with others views or not. In these times my memories of Kay will help me continue to invest in our collective future and I know new citizen warriors are carrying her ideas forward, it is the cycle of life and Kay lived it fully.

In 2012, I was retired and received an e-mail from Kay that I intend to use myself. She wrote: “My computer and email have become a burden. Today I am closing my email account. To reach me, please call or write to me.” For the next 8 years we wrote and spoke on the phone but the best times were a quiet chat at her home or at her Wednesday Summer Picnics. I will leave it to others to speak of her leadership in world and community affairs, maritime preservation, environmental awareness and a bit of progressive politics too. If you did not know Kay, it may be hard to fathom her energy and passions.

Walt Whitman wrote in 1882 on the passing of a very dear friend. ”… one beyond the warriors of the world lies surely symboll’d here.  … all loving, all-inclosing, and sane and clear as the sun. … we are here to honor … conscience, simplicity, culture, humanity’s attributes at their best, yet applicable if need be to average affairs and eligible to all. … I shall henceforth dwell on the blessed hours when, not long since, I saw that benignant face, clear eyes, the silently smiling mouth, the form – to the very last, with so much spring and cheeriness. Warrior, rest, thy task is done.”

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Times

Welcoming a New Resident at The Good Shepherd Center | Seattle Genealogical Society

Situated on a hilltop in Wallingford on a lot once surrounded by fruit orchards is the Historic Seattle-owned Good Shepherd Center (GSC). Today, the GSC is a vital 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 that all together (in “normal” times) attract an estimated 125,000 visitors annually.

Originally built in 1906 as the Home of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd occupied the building and grounds for over 60 years, providing shelter, education, and training to young women and printing and laundry services to local industries such as The Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railroads. After the Home of the Good Shepherd closed in the ’70s, the Wallingford community fought and defeated a proposal to turn the 11-acre site into a shopping center and the City of Seattle purchased the property in 1975. The building was then transferred to Historic Seattle for use as a community center. For over 40 years, Historic Seattle has since worked continuously to honor its past and further its legacy as a place full of vitality where community can thrive.

Of course, the story of the Good Shepherd Center continues to evolve, and this month part of that evolution is the introduction of our newest GSC tenant — the Seattle Genealogical Society! This month, we talked to Jim Secan, the genealogical society’s current president. Below are Jim’s responses to questions we asked about the work of the society and changes that are underway as they make their move into the GSC and prepare for their upcoming centennial and the next 100 years.

A graphic of a word cloud with several words associated with genealogy, such as "ancestry", "lineage", "generations", etc.

What is the Seattle Genealogical Society?

Our mission is two-fold. One, we have taken on the mission of collecting and preserving materials that are of interest historically, primarily, in a genealogical sense. Genealogy is a specialized history — it’s the history of the “little man,” so to speak. We look not just at what the Dennys, Terrys, Doc Maynards, and “so and sos” of Seattle did, but at what the ‘Bill Smiths’ and such did. An not only in the 1880s, but also for the future’s sake, in 2010.  We are in the business of preservation of community. We preserve the documents that community have made over the years documenting its history – everything from tax records, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates — anything that documents someone doing something. We are preserving the paperwork and now the digital works, that a community collects over the years.

The second part of our mission is to provide education to our membership. We are in a similar kind of business (as Historic Seattle). We educate on the parts of history that we deal with, just like you deal with education on the parts of history you deal with. This is particularly important these days when it goes beyond teaching people how to do research in a musty old library. Now, the question is also, “How do you do research on the internet? How do you work with digital materials?” And “How do we best preserve these materials so that they are most accessible?”

Why move to the Good Shepherd Center? What are your plans for the next 100 years?

The Seattle Genealogical Society crest. There is an evergreen tree on a rock with a book at the base and the words Search and Prove appear on a banner at the bottom.

We’re coming up on our centennial in 2023, and so we are asking ourselves, “What do we need to look like to prepare for the next 100 years?” As part of that, we decided we would relocate. We were looking for a place that would energize our base and energize ourselves. This has been an opportunity for us to look at everything with a critical eye and ask, “Is this something that is key and core to our mission?”

And while the space is smaller than our previous home, it fits into our plans to downsize our library and move away from the books and paper genealogy of our past and to force ourselves to move into a more digitally oriented future. With this pandemic, we have really had to look at how we go about the education portion of our mission because until recently that had primarily been done in person. We are also asking ourselves where we fit in to the larger genealogy educational programs. “What holes are there, and what opportunities are there in this this time that has been so impacted by the pandemic?”

How to interest younger generations in genealogy has also been a big topic of discussion.  Many of the people we are trying to attract to genealogy are more interested in accessing things digitally and online. Of course, we are still going to have books and papers, but we are narrowing our collection to focus only on the Pacific Northwest, and items that are unique to our collection. As well, as a society we are moving away from traditional definition of a family which prompts us to ask, “What kind of a program can we set up that would provide the tools for young people wanting to get into this kind of research without imposing barriers of any kind?” We want to go there, but we want to go there with great care.

The Good Shepherd Center, you walk up to the building and think, “How could you NOT love this place!” This is a move into a building that is not only beautiful, but also has a long history. Longer than ours in fact. We are excited to connect and collaborate with Historic Seattle, as well as others both in the building and in the surrounding community. We were originally based in the main Seattle Public Library building downtown; this will be our fifth location since being in the library, and it feels like coming home.

Visit to learn more or get involved with the Seattle Genealogical Society. To learn more about the GSC’s history, check out  Good Shepherd Center Garden History Tour, part of Historic Seattle’s Preservation Station video series on YouTube. Interested in experiencing the Good Shepherd Center in person and tasting this year’s heirloom apple harvest? Join us for our 7th Annual Heirloom Apple Event on Thursday, October 14, 2021!

VivaCity: Summer 2021 – A Seattle History & Preservation-Related Reading List

Last month, in celebration of summer, we asked you to share what Seattle history or preservation-related books you recommend, or have on your summer reading list. Here is a list of all of the excellent titles that were suggested. Happy reading!

Building Tradition: Pan-Asian Seattle and Life in the Residential Hotels by Marie Rose Wong

The Cayton Legacy – An African American Family by Richard S. Hobbs

Crossing Puget Sound: From Black Ball Steamer to Washington State Ferries by Steven J. Pickens

Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and the Legacy of H. H. Richardson by Jeffrey Karl Ochsner and Dennis Alan Andersen

Emerald Street – A History of Hip Hop in Seattle by Daudi J. Abe

The Forging of A Black Community Seattle’s Central District, From 1870 Through the Civil Rights Era by Quintard Taylor

The Gang of Four: Four Leaders. Four Communities. One Friendship by Bob Santos

Gay Seattle by Gary Atkins

Ghosts of Seattle Past – An Anthology curated by author/editor Jaimee Garbacik

The Good Rain by Timothy Egan

Hill with a Future – by Jacqueline B. Williams

High Voltage Women Breaking Barriers at Seattle City Light by Ellie Belew

I’m Down by Mishna Wolff

Jackson Street After Hours -The Roots of Jazz in Seattle by Paul De Barros

Lost Seattle by Rob Ketcherside

Madison House by Peter Donahue

My People Are Rising: Memoir of a Black Panther Party Captain by Aaron Dixon

My Unforgotten Seattle by Ron Chew

Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place by Coll Thrush

Nisei Daughter by Monica Stone

Olmsted in Seattle: Creating a Park System for a Modern City by Jennifer Ott

Overground Railroad: The Green Book and The Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy Taylor

The River That Made Seattle A Human and Natural History of the Duwamish by BJ Cummings

Seattleness: A Cultural Atlas by Tera Hatfield, Jenny Kempson, and Natalie Ross

Seattle Prohibition: Bootleggers, Rumrunners and Graft in the Queen City by Brad Holden

Seattle’s Women Teachers of the Interwar Years: Shapers of a Livable City by Doris Hinson Pieroth

Shared Walls: Seattle Apartment Buildings 1900-1939 by Diana James

Skid Road – An Informal Portrait of Seattle  by Murray Morgan

Sons of the Profits by William C. Speidel

Too High and Too Steep by David Williams

Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill: Propriety, Profanity, Pills, and Preservation by Lawrence Kreisman

Women In Pacific Northwest History edited by Karen J. Blair





VivaCity: Preserving Culture | Friends of Mukai

Friends of Mukai (FoM) is a Vashon Island-based non-profit comprised primarily of volunteers and dedicated to the operation of the Mukai Farm & Garden. Since 2012, FoM has worked to secure and preserve the Mukai house, garden, and fruit barreling plant—all constructed nearly 100 years ago.

Founded by Japanese immigrant pioneer B.D. Mukai in 1926 as a strawberry farm, Mukai’s heritage home, Japanese garden, and historic barreling plant are today recognized as a King County landmark and are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These designations and the site’s present-day vitality honor the significance of Mukai Farm & Garden in Vashon Island’s Japanese American and agrarian heritage.

The story of the Mukai Family on Vashon and the Farm & Garden is rich and complex and shaped largely by racism and World War II era anti-Japanese policies imposed by the U.S. government. We encourage you to watch this Mukai Farm & Garden video — or better yet visit the farm itself — to learn more. In this feature, FoM board member Mary Rabourn shares some challenges and accomplishments the group has faced along the bumpy road to the site’s restoration and describes the vision for Mukai Farm & Gardens’ future.


The early stages Mukai’s preservation efforts were plagued by a years-long legal battle for ownership rights and ultimately public access to the property. This culminated with a win in 2016, when a superior court judge finally granted ownership to Friends of Mukai (except for the barreling plant which is technically owned by King County and leased to FoM). Community support, both in the form of advocacy and funding, was key to the victory. King County, Historic Seattle, The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, a slate of over 18 pro bono lawyers, and numerous individuals have fought tirelessly to preserve and restore the site.


“In 2014, even before the court case was won, Artifacts Consulting was hired to do a full restoration plan for the property. The document was 250 pages long and covered everything. In 2016, once legal matters were resolved that plan was put into action,” said Mary. The restoration was carried out in phases and much of the work was done beautifully and economically by volunteers.  “It wasn’t really the ‘super sexy stuff’ — stabilizing the foundation, adding accessibility features, restoring the kitchen, updating the heating and electrical systems — but it was all necessary work,” said Mary.

According to Mukai’s website, B.D. Mukai’s wife Kuni “surrounded the house with a formal Japanese stroll garden as a way to celebrate her Japanese roots. At the time, the garden was an unusual and significant achievement for a Japanese woman.” Mukai’s website describes a blending of two cultures: Kuni was focused on preserving Japanese traditions and heritage expressed in her garden design, while in contrast B.D. embraced the American way of life as reflected in Mukai’s traditional, American-style home and in B.D.’s entrepreneurial business endeavors.

Mary continued, “Around 2018 Fuji Landscaping began the restoration of the garden, and the ponds were redone by Turnstone Construction. The garden and ponds were originally designed with incredible attention to detail with rocks were carefully placed to represent ships, and other aspects of the Japanese island landscape. The restoration was done meticulously. The placement of every little rock was recorded and replaced it exactly as Kuni had it originally. After seeing the property fenced off, tattered, and neglected for so long, just 3 to 4 years later, it was completely transformed. It was pretty amazing.”

Mukai began to really flourish again. “People began to discover it, a really good mix of people from both on-island as well Japanese Americans and other people from off-island,” Mary added. Mukai even gained international reach when a group visited as part of an exchange program through the Japanese American Friendship Society. “I have a lot of family in Japan,” said Mary “and I’ve found that many people there don’t know much about imprisonment and other experiences Japanese Americans had here during World War II. They were busy trying to survive the war and news like that wasn’t reaching them.” Mukai allows visitors an opportunity to learn about this this part of American history and provides a glimpse into Japanese American and agrarian life on Vashon during the 20th century.

Like so many businesses right before the pandemic, as Mary put it, “Mukai was on its way.” They were heavily engaged in community interaction, social justice, and cultural awareness experiences. They hosted numerous workshops and classes celebrating traditional Asian food, art, music, and more. Over 800 people turned out for their first annual Japan Festival, and 2,000 people attended following year. According to Mukai’s website, “Every February, we commemorate Executive Order 9066 as a reminder of the impact the incarceration experience has had on our families, our community, and our country. It is an opportunity to educate others on the fragility of civil liberties in times of crisis, and the importance of remaining vigilant in protecting the rights and freedoms of all.”

When the pandemic hit, Mukai adapted by pivoting to hosting virtual events and COVID-compliant outdoor activities. “This year, on February 19th, we hosted a virtual day of remembrance (of Executive Order 9066) with a screening Claudia Katayanagi’s documentary A Bitter Legacy. Last year’s Japan Festival was a month-long event that included a popular self-guided lantern walk and other engaging activities. We held a haiku contest and posted winning poems throughout the garden for visitors to experience as they explored the garden. Even during COVID, Mukai has been a wonderful place to visit. It is really peaceful and restorative,” said Mary.


“Our facility is available for rent again, we have hired a part-time executive director, and we are really looking forward to completing the restoration of the barreling plant. It is a large old agricultural barn with multiple structural and stabilization needs. Once we have secured funding and that work is completed, we have an agricultural, food-based tenant identified for the space,” said Mary.

Historic Seattle is working closely with Friends of Mukai as a technical advisor assisting with architect selection, design development, bidding, construction management, budget management, and more. The vision is for the barreling plant to be a functioning production facility again with public access and an educational element so that its history as an entrepreneurial mini-industrial agricultural complex that enabled berries to be shipped across the United States can continue to be shared.

Mukai is located about a mile west of the town center. The farm and garden are currently open for self-guided tours and access is free. The house is open for private tours and scheduled open houses. Please visit {} to donate, schedule a private tour, or for information about becoming a member of Friends of Mukai. 

VivaCity: Capitol Hill Historical Society

A curiosity about his historic apartment building eventually led Tom Heuser to found the Capitol Hill Historical Society. Here, Tom shares his love of Capitol Hill and how the pandemic has changed the Capitol Hill Historical Society.

Founded in 2017, the mission of Capitol Hill Historical Society (CHHS) is “to gather, preserve, and share the history of the communities that have shaped Capitol Hill.” Events offered by CHHS include intriguing history presentations, book author presentations and Q & As, panel discussions, walking tours, and more — all related to the rich history of the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The CHHS blog features pages of interesting stories about places and people significant to the neighborhood’s story. And CHHS frequently advocates for the preservation of meaningful Capitol Hill sites by voicing support at City landmark hearings, conducting surveys, and connecting citizen advocates, local architects, researchers, and others to help further community preservation efforts. In celebration of National Preservation Month, we checked in with CHHS Board President Tom Heuser. Below, Tom shares highs and lows of the past year, tells us about what inspired the organization’s formation, and highlights what CHHS is looking forward to in the months ahead.

What were the highlights of the past year?

Some highlights include the Capitol Hill coloring book that we published, which was a lot of fun to work on. There was also a lot of growth in social media engagement with our posts, which I think many people have enjoyed. Another highlight has been expanding our scholarship into new areas that are less recognized, such as the neighborhood’s Black history and Midcentury Modern Architecture. We celebrated Black History Month at our annual members meeting with a series of short presentations on significant Black members of the Capitol Hill community throughout history and recently had a virtual event co-sponsored by DOCOMOMO WEWA, where my project partner Lana Blinderman and I shared our methodology, findings, and some interesting photos from the Midcentury Modern project that is currently underway.


What are you looking forward to in the next year?

A lot of that is, of course, up in the air due to the pandemic but generally speaking, I’m really looking forward to more in-person events. For example, we really want to do a walking tour featuring midcentury apartments, and who knows — maybe we’ll be able to actually do the holiday party again this year!

How has the pandemic impacted CHHS?

Many of our members have had to scale back their involvement or step down entirely to address more immediate issues, whether family, or work or both. That has definitely changed how we do things, and what we are able to do, as well. Planning for the future is a little more difficult at the moment, so we’re trying not to jump into anything too big while things remain so uncertain. I’ll add that our virtual events are getting more attendance than in-person events. This doesn’t surprise much because it’s easier to just sign on, but maybe it also allows people to participate who may not have otherwise been able to do so. It makes me think for the future it may be good to do some sort of hybrid model for events – I think that would be a good thing to explore.

Do you feel personally connected to the history of Capitol Hill? To any place in particular?

Yes, for sure! For the amount of time I have lived here, I definitely feel connected to the history of the neighborhood. And I feel particularly connected to The Capitol Building Apartments at Broadway & John, the building I have lived in for most of my the 17 or so years here. While I did actually just move out, that building will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will always think of it fondly. In fact, that’s where my interest in the neighborhood’s history got started. I began getting curious about my building, and then I got really fascinated with everything I was learning about it, and I just kept going and this is where I ended up. I was surprised that there wasn’t already a historical society for Capitol Hill, and I just had this desire to see what could be accomplished by bringing more people together.

There are many opportunities to get involved with CHHS, visit their website at to learn more!

The Cayton-Revels House – A Newsworthy Landmark

The Cayton-Revels House in 1909, sourced from The Seattle Republican.

The Cayton-Revels house in Capitol Hill (518 14th Avenue E.) was built in 1902 for Horace Roscoe Cayton and Susie Revels Cayton. Born into enslavement by White people in Mississippi, Horace Cayton came to Seattle in 1890 and started the Seattle Republican, the first Black-owned newspaper in the city. Susie Cayton was the daughter of the first Black American U.S. Senator and joined Horace in the newspaper publishing business becoming the city’s first female associate editor of a publication.

Taha Ebrahimi, author of the Cayton-Revels House landmark nomination.

In February 2021, The Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) voted unanimously to nominate the Cayton-Revels House for designation as a City Landmark. The nomination was written and submitted by Taha Ebrahimi with enthusiastic support from the current owners, Erie Jones and Kathleen Jo Ackerman. Taha’s well-researched nomination report details the Cayton family experience — in which their success was inversely related to increasing racism and racist policies — and describes Seattle’s connection to the broader Black American experience.

In the following, Taha shares details about what inspired this nomination and discusses the importance of recognizing cultural significance, like that of the Cayton family, in our landmarks.

“One of my favorite books about history in Seattle is called Skid Row,” said Taha. “It’s a very popular book, and in it, there’s a whole chapter about early Seattle newspapers. Yet, the Caytons’ newspaper is never even mentioned! For some time, The Seattle Republican was the second most popular newspaper in Seattle – not just amongst Black Americans – but in Seattle!  Susie Cayton becoming the first female associate editor of the newspaper in 1900 was also hugely significant.”


Horace and Susie Cayton, 1896. Source: Headlines and Pictures July 1945


According to Taha’s research, it wouldn’t be until 1940 when another woman became an editor of one of the most-read newspapers in Seattle. “It was shocking that none of this was in there, and it was this shock that inspired me to get this place, and this part of our history, recognized,” Taha said.

Cayton Family,1904. Source: Vivian G Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, Chicago Public Library

According to Taha’s nomination, “Because of their business and political involvements, the Caytons were one of the most well-known Black American families in Seattle at the turn of the 20th century.” Yet, despite this and despite growing up in Seattle, Taha only recently became aware of the family’s significance. “As a student, we were required to study Washington State history. We would take field trips to places like the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, places relevant to the history of Seattle, and yet I had never heard about the Caytons. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know their story, and shocked that more people didn’t know about them. That’s when I started to learn more about the family, I got more books and I started to get deeper into the research,” said Taha.

Taha first learned about the Cayton-Revels’ residence in another book called The Hill with a Future, by Jacqueline B. Williams. “In it, they off-handedly mention the address,” said Taha. “I’d been taking these long walks during the pandemic and one day I walked by it and happened to meet one of the owners working in the yard. Quite honestly, I assumed it was already landmarked. Knowing what I knew then, I could not believe it wasn’t already designated.”

The Cayton-Revels House today, courtesy of Taha Ebrahimi.

Among those unaware of the Caytons’ legacy were also the current owners of the Cayton residence. “When they were redoing their attic, they found a couple of artifacts that had Susie Cayton’s father’s name on them. One was a marriage certificate, and the other was an ongoing tab he had at a local store,” said Taha. Susie’s father, Hiram Revels, was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress, elected to represent Mississippi in 1870 when Jefferson Davis abandoned his seat to become president of the Confederacy. “They found this out by Googling his name! Shortly thereafter, by coincidence some of the Cayton cousins got in touch with the owners and walked them through the rest of the story,” Taha explained.

When asked for her thoughts about the larger meaning of the unanimous vote by the LPB to nominate the Cayton-Revels House, Taha said, “I think that, until recently, there’s been a tendency to value architectural significance over cultural significance. And frankly, a lot of culturally significant places may not be architecturally significant. In that case, it begs the question, ‘What is a landmark then?’ The Seattle Landmarks Ordinance is great because cultural significance is built in as one of the qualifying criteria for designation. I think, and I hope, that the Board really wants nominations based on cultural significance. They are open to it, and I think this unanimous board vote reflects the desire to have more nominations centered around cultural significance.”

Historic Seattle’s mission is to save meaningful places that foster lively communities. We asked Taha to describe how she thinks the Cayton-Revels House fosters community. She said, “I think official recognition of any culturally significant landmark fosters community because it helps connect people with places in a personal way. This helps people feel pride and shared appreciation for our communities’ heritage, especially at a time like right now when a lot of people are trying to think about what a future looks like. When you have a shared sense of your past and that kind of foundation, I think you can move forward, together, better.”

The LPB will consider designating the Cayton-Revels House at its April 7 meeting. We encourage you to support designation through written comments and/or verbal public testimony at the hearing which begins at 3:30 pm. Send comments to the Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator Erin Doherty by Monday, April 5 (

How Tallulah, Louisiana Barbeque Inspired a Quilt

How Tallulah, Louisiana Barbeque Inspired a Quilt
By Storme Webber

R&L Home Of Good Bar-B-Que – The End Of A BBQ Dynasty

“Home of Good: A Black Seattle Storyquilt”

A Voices Rising: LGBTQ of Color Arts & Culture Project
Curated by Storme Webber
Supported by the James W Ray Foundation, 4Culture, the Reopen Fund, Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture and Historic Seattle.
Installed at Washington Hall. February 2021-2022

About the Quilt

(Note italicized words are quotes from Storme, on behalf of Voices Rising & the Quilt Project)

“Home of Good: A Black Seattle Storyquilt” is a subjective and collective story quilt uplifting narratives of Seattle’s traditionally Black Central District, in Duwamish Territory. Inspired by the closing of the over 60 year old Home of Good Barbeque, in 2017 Voices Rising created a series of quilting circles at Washington Hall.

I curated and produced this project. My feeling was that the closing of this restaurant deserved honor and reflection. The decades of work and care given by this family deserved respect and gratitude. Their welcoming and loving spirit, their truly cultural and delicious food was something important to lose. I want to honor this change. I wanted to honor Ms. Barbara and her mother for their decades of service. There are so many stories to be told.

According to the article, the family brought their recipe from their hometown of Tallulah, Louisiana. My father’s family came here from Marshall, Texas. Home of Good was the abbreviated nickname of this beloved restaurant & I always brought my grandma a plate to critique while enjoying every bite. Wrapped up in this project is above all, Black love and kindness, along with culture, fearlessness and the struggle for justice. We remember that Dr. King came through here. That the restaurant forever and always looked and felt just like grandma’s kitchen. That there was comfort there.

As a BIPOC – led organization, with this work Voices Rising affirms traditional Indigenous roles of Two Spirits working for the people and bringing medicine. I’m the lead artist, working in curating and project management. The Lead Designer was Elizabeth Bete’ Morris, and the majority of the sewing was done by the NW African American Quilters. Community members also helped the project at various points, I intentionally invited in other people rooted in the community. The quilting circles took place at Washington Hall.

I am no expert, as the Black Sugpiaq Choctaw Two Spirit daughter of a lesbian mother and a bisexual father. I grew up on Capitol Hill and in Pioneer Square & Chinatown. My father and grandmother lived in the Central District since the early 1940s, their memories along with my own informed this work Since my exhibition at the Frye, “Casino: A Palimpsest”, I have continued to work on foregrounded marginalized and missing narratives, restoring the grand narratives of the city of my birth, the Duwamish homeland of Seattle. In this project I took care that the choices were not only mine but represented others.

Dr. Maxine Mimms led conversations that informed the project, sharing encouragement and her profound wisdom, along with Rev. Harriet Walden of Mothers Against Police Brutality, musician
Mona Terry and the personal remembrances of so many. Asun Bandanaz shared consistent, strong and encouraging support.

I was thinking of the loss of such spaces of comfort and culture, a taste of home known or imagined, the generational bonds that were felt by me each time I visited. Remembering my first barbeque at Hills Brothers called Dirty Brothers, remembering a community with loving connection and the sustenance that it brings. In this honoring they return to us. There are many stories and my work is always to gather them. So we began here at the Hall, with some of the spirits found in the finished work. This is a medicine piece.

I hope this quilt creates a place for honor, remembrance and learning just some of the stories born here.

For Black people and also for an older Seattle working class commons, for the butch Native lesbian cabdriver & vet, who asked for Home barbecue for her last birthday. For the hill up Yesler,  for what you passed through between Yesler Terrace and Ms. Barbara’s smlle. This is where my memories move and create more space for themselves. All the work that I do to remember Seattle must include the forgotten, the marginalized. So I say this quilt also remembers those people, in the Black & Tan, or hustling far from any camera. Family, you are a part of this story. Your story is part of what keeps us warm at night.

The quilt is in alignment with the work of Historic Seattle: Saving meaningful places to foster lively communities. What makes a place meaningful but memory? Memories that join us with community and land and history. The specificity of the quilt’s subjects also give it resonance, as Seattle continues to grapple with ideas around history, gentrification, extreme redevelopment and income inequality. The visual narrative gives a storyline and presence to Seattle’s Black community, from the early 20th century to recent past. This knowledge of the past fully strengthens us to vision our present and future calls to act. It will always be meaningful to reflect on how our ancestors struggled and rose above constraints to imagine futures. It is not a zero sum gain. When we rise together, we all rise.

We face history ourselves.

This gathering of histories includes De Charlene Williams, Buddy Catlett, the Holden Family, Kabby Mitchell III, The Black Panther Party, Washington Hall, a night at the Black & Tan and many more. It’s a working class snapshot of time and culture.

Let me try and tell you a story that plays and meters these days like a song.

Imagine a weekend impossibly time traveling these memoryscapes. At the top the brilliant Dr. Maxine Mimms gives Black cultural chapter and magnificent educators verse. Kabby Mitchell III leaps through something as fragile as time into early Black Republican newspaper editorials about the struggle for justice. We find ourselves at The Black & Tan and “After Hours” enters with its unmistakable piano riff. Dr. Mimms said everyone knew what that meant! Then here’s Oscar Holden playing piano as his sister Grace angles her head and begins to sing from the Ballroom, with a rainbow of light crowning her, at Washington Hall.

We’re in the Hall as we witness this quilt and we are in the Hall in memory as Billie pauses her eyebrow arched just so and Buddy Catlett smiles that Only for Lady Day smile. Another passing glimpse as Jimi stands backstage nervous, a young master, not knowing what was coming but knowing the future was cosmic. De Charlene Williams bought her land on Madison St in the days when she had to have a man front for her. She wasn’t allowed to buy property as a single woman, but she had a will and she made a way. Rev Samuel McKinney is preaching and his voice is ringing through the march as Black people walk down Pine Street moving for equality. Witness this quilt and travel.

In gathering photos I talked with the community, considered representation and also gathered images of people and their places, from the working class culture of the time.

I thought of my folks and I invited others to think of theirs. & the ones who didn’t have kin left, I tried to think of them, too.

So many profound people have been left out of Seattle’s official narrative. This is a work of restoration. Because we honor these lives we lift them. We praise their courage, their perseverance, the way they shaped this world. In that way this is a medicine object. It is meant to do good work, healing restorative work, in this world.

Three years ago something said: make a quilt. Thankful for that. Through the turmoil and hard times the image of the quilt still comforts.

A Voices Rising: LGBTQ of Color Arts & Culture Project.
Curated by Storme Webber.
Supported by the James W Ray Foundation, 4Culture, the Reopen Fund, Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture and Historic Seattle.

Photo credit: Jenny Tucker 2020
Pictured with quilt: Storme Webber/Voices Rising & Asun Bandanaz

I love this image, taken in the Main Ballroom [of Washington Hall]. Asun was an amazing support in the creation of this work, too. The quilt looks like stained glass here, Jenny Tucker is an excellent photographer.

If you are not familiar with these images, here are a few links with more details.
More to come from our upcoming podcast!

Remembering DeCharlene Williams, Central District celebrates Juneteenth ‘freedom day’

In Memoriam: Kabby Mitchell III

Buddy Catlett’s Biography, by Eugene Chadbourne 

Eddie Lockjaw Davis – Night and Day 1962

Grace Holden: Living with a Legend

Dr. Maxine Mimms: ‘My Life is Education’

Digital content and bimonthly podcasts centering these stories, as well as conversations about Black history and its challenges from gentrification, will be upcoming on the Voices Rising socials in early March. We’ll be welcoming storytellers and others to create a repository of oral histories. More details as this unfolds.

We need to wrap ourselves up in some good stories, some strong stories, some crying when we need to cry and more than anything some love and laughter stories. Some when we did that magic thing songs. To glory in our own stories. & they are without end and waiting.

This is no “official” story. It is one of many, and welcoming more.

People in Preservation | A Look Behind a Landmark Nomination

If you’re reading this, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the City Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. You may know that landmarking is generally a two-part process. The first step is nomination; then, if a nomination meets certain criteria and receives enough votes, it goes on to be considered for designation.

What are those “certain criteria” for landmarking? Does a place need to be super old and really fancy to qualify?
A place does not necessarily need to possess remarkable architecture to qualify as a city landmark. What it does require is to: 1) be over 25 years old, 2) possess integrity or the ability to convey its significance, and 3) meet at least one of the six criteria for designation outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.

Ok, how are landmark nominations initiated?

Nominations come from a variety of sources, including preservation consultants, organizations like Historic Seattle, property owners and citizen advocates. They can also be a requirement triggered by a permit application. In this post, we highlight an example of a recent nomination submitted by a novice citizen advocate on behalf of the property owner.

The Considine House Nomination

The Considine House (also known as the Cohen House and the Immaculate Conception Convent) at 802 16th Ave in the Central District was unanimously nominated by the Landmarks Preservation Board on January 20. Like many of Seattle’s grand old homes, this Neoclassical style residence has lived many lives — first as the home of the Considine family, who played a part in Seattle’s early theater and vaudeville history. Later, it served as a convent for the nearby Immaculate Conception Church. Finally, it was divided into 4 apartments, one of which now serves as the home of its current owner. The nomination report noted that the property “has borne witness to almost 120 years of social and cultural evolution in the heart of Seattle’s Central District…[and] has served as a reflection of the diverse and ever-changing neighborhood.”

Sarah Greiner, who authored the Considine House nomination, grew up less than a mile away. Her partner is the granddaughter of the house’s current owner, artist Sue Perry, whose artwork often reflects the rapidly changing Central District neighborhood. Sue and her daughter Amy Hagopian currently reside in two of the four units that comprise the Considine House today. With extra time on her hands while between jobs, Sarah took on the task of preparing the landmark nomination on behalf of Sue and Amy.

Amy Hagopian arrived in Seattle in 1972 to attend UW as an undergraduate and has lived all over Seattle in the years since. In the late 1980s, her mother and stepfather decided to relocate to Seattle from Boston and enlisted Amy to help them find a house.

The first weekend I set out looking, I was shown the Considine House and I immediately told the realtor my folks would take it — sight unseen,” said Amy. “My folks were a retiring faculty member and a social worker, so they didn’t have a ton of money. The fact that it was a multiplex and could produce some necessary income, coupled with the historic nature of the house and that it would be a bit of a project, all made it the perfect place.”

The personal connections Sue, Amy, and Sarah all have to the Considine House aren’t solely what inspired them to seek landmarking for the Considine House.

“It is very much a socially significant place,” explained Sarah. “The history of the Considine House truly reflects the changing demographic of the neighborhood, and everyone I talked to when I was doing research was excited that to learn that it might get recognition that would help preserve it.”

Even a long period of vacancy at the Considine House tells an important part of the story, not just of the House, but of Seattle too. Prior to the purchase by Sue and John Perry and following the time it served as a convent, the house sat unoccupied for 6 years. Redlining — a policy imposed in 1960s by White legislators — made securing loans and buying property nearly impossible for Black people, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, people of Mexican ancestry, and Jews. Because of this restrictive policy, the Considine House sat unoccupied for six years between serving as a convent and finally being purchased by Sue and John Perry.

“Redlining is such an important historic factor in how this house came to be the way it is,” Amy commented.

The Buford family home in August 2018, now demolished.

“As this neighborhood changes it becomes more and more important to hold on to some of the original components of this community and what mattered here,” said Amy. “It was heartbreaking when the Buford’s home was torn down just to the north of us.” Amy continued, “They got swindled out of their house by developers, which is what’s going on all over the Central District now. For me, watching developers attempt to swoop in take over the neighborhood has a lot to do with wanting to protect this house.” You can read more about the Bufords and their ties to the Considine House and significance in Seattle’s legendary jazz history in the nomination.

Despite multi-generational ties to the neighborhood, Sarah and the Hagopian and Perry families acknowledge their part in the process of gentrification. “I definitely feel complicated in my relationship to the neighborhood,” said Sarah. “When my parents bought their house in the late ‘80s, they were the first White people on the block.  The block, and of course the neighborhood, looked very different then than it does now. The Hagopian and Perry family is also mostly White and despite their activism, social awareness, and caring for all their neighbors, they are still a White presence in the neighborhood. I think we can preserve elements of the neighborhood, such as the house, while acknowledging the damage that people including our families and our friends have done. As the nomination report describes, over time the House has been mostly a residence for working class people, and it continues to be one of the only affordable rentals within a few blocks. Not wanting to see more people displaced is a big part of why we are seeking to preserve it. I want to see it continue to be a family space, a gathering space, and a place people can afford to live in.”

The designation hearing for the Considine House will be held on March 17 at 3:30 pm. Read the nomination report to learn more. We encourage you to support designation through written comments or verbal public testimony at the meeting. Send comments to the Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator Erin Doherty by March 15 ( 

VivaCity: Keep Music Live

A Brief Introduction

Keep Music Live (KML)

Keep Music Live WA is a COVID-19 relief fundraising campaign established by music lovers to support our small, independently owned venues in Washington State.

Tomo Nakayama (TN)

Born in Japan and raised on Seattle’s “east side,” Tomo Nakayama is a UW alum, a singer-songwriter, and a producer who has been playing live music in Seattle for over 20 years. “I’ve played in practically every venue in town, from the smallest bars to the Moore Theatre and The Showbox, and I’ve met most of my best friends playing around town at shows.”

Leigh Bezezekoff (LB)

Born in New Mexico and raised in a suburb just south of Seattle, Leigh is a fellow UW alum and staple at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. “I pretty much learned there was a music scene here in Seattle when I saw Pearl Jam’s Even Flow video and I was like ‘This is happening here!? In Seattle?’ And from that moment on I started going to shows, then I moved to Seattle proper, and I’ve been here ever since!”

Michael Gill (MG)

Michael Gill hails from Montana originally. When he moved to Seattle in 2013, he started working odd jobs at Chop Suey because bands that he had played in touring out of Missoula always had great experiences there. “When I moved here, I hit them up and was like ‘can I wipe tables or clean up puke or something?’ Then, after some time, I was offered a job at the Central Saloon and I started talent buying there.”

Historic Seattle’s mission is to save meaningful places that foster lively communities. How do you think live music fosters community?

TN: The music itself is just one of the elements of what goes on at shows. It brings so many people together, and the experience of live music just can’t be recreated online. I’ve been playing Zoom meetings for the past year and it’s made me realize just how much I miss the organic relationships that form from being in the same room as someone. I miss the opportunities for different collaborations, the inspiration from seeing other people and being creative and that’s really something you can only get from being in a room with other people.

A 2019 show at the Tractor Tavern from Leigh Bezezekoff’s Instagram account @everyconcertigoto.

LB: Before I started officially working at the Tractor, I managed bands that played there a lot and I was there so much that by the time I started working there I already knew everyone!  It’s the type of community where even if you go to a show alone, you know you’re probably going to know some people there. And I think this is an important part of what we are all missing, not just your immediate and closest friends, but the people you are just used to seeing all the time.

MG: You know, I see this a lot at the Central Saloon because of our geographic location. We really are at the center of so many things — in proximity to the stadiums and the waterfront, and you just get so many different communities coming together in the space purely because of music.

Pioneer Square’s Central Saloon. Image courtesy of Michael Gill.

Why do independent venues matter to you, and why is it important that they continue to exist?

TN: Independent venues aren’t driven entirely by commerce. What you get with the bigger conglomerates is sort of a built-in hierarchy of bands, and what happens in that case is you get the same type of music getting booked and getting promoted over and over again. You need these smaller venues, to foster creativity and for people to take chances with your music. And there are so many people involved in the music industry aside from the artists themselves – there are the sound engineers, lighting, the people who run the venues – they all rely on this ecosystem to keep our industry going. When people think of Seattle music and the character of the city, that’s what you’re talking about — the independent places, and the independent experiences – they differentiate it from a corporate conglomeration.

LB: Smaller venues have the ability to help artists grow their careers. From local artists building momentum to get on the road to helping touring artists build their fan bases in each market. I love that the Tractor will book an artist at The Sunset or even Conor Byrne and help them get ready for a bigger room. We’ll even help promote them at Neumos or The Showbox to help the transition.

MG: Independent venues are why many people start playing music, to have an emotional connection with the audience. The further you get from a small venue, the further you get from that direct connection. No matter how many people hold their lighters up in a stadium, you’re just not going to get that same experience that you do in a small venue. When music matters most is when it’s at a small venue. The reason it’s important for them to continue to exist is the same reason why they exist in the first place — bands need to grow from somewhere. Small venues offer the chance for discovery – for both the patron and the artist.

How has KML changed the relationship between venues, artists, and people in the industry?

LB: The Seattle music industry is pretty small when it comes down to it. We all kind of know each other and we’re all just one or two degrees away from one another in the scene, but what has been unique about this is that we have been developing relationships – strong foundational relationships of working together on behalf of everyone else and not just our own venues. I think everyone in the group kind of recognizes that if you were just out for yourself (as a venue) you might make it, but the important thing is to make sure that everyone else is coming along. That’s something I’ve not seen in Seattle before. Another thing is the coming together of people who have been ancillary in the venue scene, like Holly Hinton who curates music for Starbucks. She’s on the Keep Music Live leadership team and getting to work closely with her and other people from different facets of the industry has been amazing.

MG: To add to that, meeting and working closely with others in different marketing and financial circles of the Seattle music industry has been so beneficial. While we have spent a lot of the last year sort of struggling to figure out how to do this, on the positive side we’ve also realized ‘Wow, imagine the opportunities we will have when we all come back together as a whole!’ Relationships have been built and trust has formed, fundamental relationships between neighborhoods within Seattle, relationships that connect us state-wide, and new connections with music-loving corporate resources who are ready to get their hands dirty. What Seattle and Washington State can now do for its music fans, its artists, its venues is — well, it gets your imagination rolling!

LB: There are developers, philanthropists, business leaders — there so many people coming together over a shared love of music, and I really feel like our artist community is going to benefit greatly from all the synergy that is coming about during this year.

Do you feel personally connected to the history of a particular venue or to Seattle’s music legacy in general? If so, how?

TN: Yeah, absolutely! I grew up going to all-ages shows at the Vera Project and started playing in bars here when I turned 21. What you don’t realize is that you see the same faces booking and playing at shows here and you grow up along with the bookers and the promoters and they become your friends and we’re all growing together as a community. So now it’s a really personal mission for me, to keep this community going.

LB: I used to feel more tied to ‘the scene’ than a particular venue but now, having been through what we’ve been through over this past year, I feel much more intertwined with the history and the impact the Tractor has had, and I feel more deeply ingrained as part of that.

MG:  Yes, we book a lot of bands at Central Saloon from Brazil and places in South America where Grunge was just huge and when they get the opportunity to play here, they just lose their minds! I want to keep that emotional connection to the city and use it to continue to uphold the caliber of its music community today.

Posters inside the Central Saloon. Image courtesy of Michael Gill.

Do you consider yourself a preservationist? If so, why?

TN: I think with the issues housing and equity being what it is we need to grow and change, so I’m not saying that every old building needs to be preserved for the sake of it. But I do think there is a way to grow consciously as a community and identify the things that we value as a community and to preserve those things. I’m not opposed to growth, but it needs to be done in a way that honors those that built our city and make it what it is, and it really needs to ensure sustainability for the future. I just want us to be aware of what we are creating.

LB: I would say I started as an archivist and have moved more into the preservationist role. I have so much memorabilia that I’ve collected from shows over the years, things I dutifully care for and take with me as I move from place to place. I have an Instagram account where I started documenting every single show I go to, and to have a record of that moment happening helps tie me to it a lot more. Every time we lose a place here in Seattle that’s tied to our hearts, it’s so hard. That’s why I got involved with efforts to save The Showbox, to start to take a more active role in making sure these places don’t go away. I think that’s why a lot of us were drawn to this [KML] – not just out of concern for our own jobs — I knew I’d be ok, that I’d find something else if my particular venue went away — but I didn’t want ANY of them to go away. And that’s why so many of us are working so hard to figure this out.

MG: Yeah, it’s crazy. One of the first venues I went to in Seattle was the Funhouse. I remember trying to find it again when I moved here. All I could remember was that it was near the Space Needle. I walked around for hours trying to find it before realizing it had been right there, where there is now a giant hole in the ground because they’re building a new building.

I also think about this in terms of the Central Saloon. It has such a rich musical history and I think it’s important to honor that legacy, but we don’t want to be a museum. We have a lot of old posters up, but we mix in more recent ones too. I think it’s more productive to have pride in where you have been, but also be proud of where you’re going.

What are some of your favorite historic places in Seattle?

MG: The Showbox at the Market comes immediately to mind.

LB: (emphatically agrees) Smith Tower, too.

TN: I probably feel closest to the Tractor Tavern – it’s where I’ve played the most shows over the years. Also, the Fremont Abbey and the Triple Door. Each one has its own character and vibe, and a specific memory of where I was in life.

With so many places you love, you don’t realize how much you love them until they’re gone. For example, I used to go to Bush Garden all the time to sing karaoke before it closed – and until it was gone I didn’t realize how much it meant to me. I think there are a lot of places like that, that you take for granted and you don’t necessarily consider historic – just places that have been around for a long time. Then every time something closes it hurts on a personal level. This pandemic has really made me more aware of what we have and how we have to keep those places alive.

Click here to register for our free virtual Heart Bomb with Keep Music Live on February 9 at 5:30!

¡Viva La Quinta!

Talk to anyone who has ever been a La Quinta Apartments resident about what it’s like to live in this Frederick Anhalt-developed building on Capitol Hill (1710 E Denny) and you will immediately hear stories of connection, accounts of really knowing your neighbors, and descriptions of a very close-knit community.

“La Quinta is a unique place where all of the neighbors grow close and really like spending time together… all of the people I have met there seem to genuinely want to make the place they live not just a home for themselves, but also a community where people look out for each other and become family,” said a friend of a La Quinta resident since the 1990s.

You may also hear descriptions about the magic of the courtyard, shared balconies, charming turrets, and a unique design that welcomes interaction.

“La Quinta is more than just gorgeous architecture. It’s a perfect place to be a writer, with plenty of beauty and solitude balanced with a supportive community just outside my door.” said Chelsea Bolan, a La Quinta resident since 2003.

La Quinta Apartments from the courtyard. Photo by Jesse L. Young, Seattle.

Given all of this, it is no wonder why a group has come together with a well-coordinated effort to seek protections for this extraordinary place. Formed in late 2020, ¡Viva La Quinta! is a group of residents, neighbors, and allies (including Historic Seattle) dedicated to preserving La Quinta Apartments and making it a City landmark.

This month, we took the opportunity to talk to two people involved in ¡Viva La Quinta! Lawrence Norman, who grew up at La Quinta in the ‘60s, shares his unique connection to the place and the influence it had on his life trajectory. Chelsea Bolan describes what it’s like to live there today and tells us more about the group working to preserve La Quinta for generations to come.

“Born” at La Quinta: Lawrence Norman & Seattle’s First Black-Owned Computing Business

“My father was a Black man and from Mississippi and my mother was a White woman from Alabama – they met at Boeing. He was an aeronautical engineer, and she was a mathematician and computer programmer. She actually programmed some of the first satellites!” said Lawrence Norman describing his origins at the La Quinta Apartments. He continued, “To an extent, I think some of the reasons they came to Seattle were to get as far away from the South as possible. They were pretty idealistic, and, at the time, Seattle was pretty radical.”

While It may have been radical in some ways, during that time (the mid-1960s) Seattle and many other “progressive” cities exercised an intentionally discriminatory practice known as “redlining.” In this practice, White people wrote racial exclusions into property deeds and community covenants, effectively prohibiting property ownership for Black people, Jews, and other people of color, beyond very limited areas bound by red lines.

Image from “The History of Redlining” by KCTS9 on YouTube.

Despite this very significant obstacle, Lawrence’s father Richard worked to purchase the La Quinta apartments by making a deal directly with the property owner at the time. “When he bought La Quinta in…1964, or 1965, it was just over the ‘red line,’” Lawrence explained. According to Lawrence, Richard was not new to real estate. “He had previously owned a property in the ‘Negro area,’ (as defined by redlining) and he’d owned another right on the line,” Lawrence says. Given the practices of those times, it is not surprising that Richard’s ownership had been reflected as a gap in the official records. You can read more about this, and other interesting aspects of the building’s ownership history in the landmark nomination report here.

Lawrence added, “My parents worked together at Boeing for a few years before starting a computing business out of La Quinta. Apartment 9 was home, and Northwest Computing was basically a startup, born out of apartment 10 — In 1965 of all things! I imagine it was probably the first Black-owned computing business in Seattle, but I can’t say for sure. The business lasted for like 8 or 9 years and it was pretty successful, with up to 18 or 19 employees at one point and an office downtown. But then the Boeing bust happened, and we lost it all. It was a painful time. That place is special to me and represents something totally personal.”

A turret at La Quinta. Photo by Jesse L. Young, Seattle.

Some of Lawrence’s earliest memories are from La Quinta. “I remember looking out of the turret into the courtyard from my room, and there were other kids there. I remember one in particular, a little girl who lived in apartment 4. Her room was also in a turret and I had a crush on her, it was pretty cute,” Lawrence recalled. “The community was tight-knit, there was an ease with the architecture. It’s a U-shaped building with everyone facing each other around the courtyard, making it almost like a little village. It’s also a refuge, peaceful and conducive to conversation. My dad was very serious about keeping that courtyard in good shape!”

Because of the Boeing bust Lawrence left La Quinta at age 7, but his time there would shape him in many ways and play into some of his life choices. “The Boeing bust was very real for me and my family. Losing La Quinta set me up to be more conservative in my own life,” he explained.

Lawrence Norman at La Quinta, age 7. Courtesy of Lawrence Norman

Lawrence would follow in his parents’ footsteps by pursuing a career in software. “I got a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science while I was at Evergreen, but I got distracted for a year by Architecture. When I ask myself why I was drawn to study architecture, I’d say it probably came from living in that building,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence at La Quinta in 2020.

Lawrence went on to compare software design and architectural design citing A Pattern Language, a popular book often included in both courses of study. “The book looks at everything from the big design down to a doorknob and asks, ‘what’s the optimal design for human functionality?’ I think La Quinta represents a ton of those design patterns. And when you get really geeky, you know that design patterns are also part of software design! Whether you’re trying to design a user interface or housing where people can coexist, some designs invite human interaction and some detract from it. The question is, ‘how do you want to structure these things so human beings can have the best experience?’ It applies to software, it basically applies to anything you’re building.”

In summarizing why La Quinta should be protected, Lawrence said, “It’s a unique piece of architecture whose scale and design promotes bonding between neighbors, and I’d like to see historical designation for it so that it could maintain its natural affordability instead of maximizing buildable volume.”

A Legacy of Community: La Quinta Today, and Hopes for its Future – Chelsea Bolan

Chelsea Bolan, one of the founders of ¡Viva La Quinta! and resident since 2003.

¡Viva La Quinta! member Chelsea Bolan came to Seattle from Spokane in the 1990s to attend UW. She lived all over Capitol Hill in her early days here and remembers always admiring La Quinta and thinking “one day, if I could ever afford it…” In 2003, that day came, and Chelsea’s life has taken shape around La Quinta ever since.

“When I first moved in, I treated it like any other apartment building, where you’d be like, ‘Oh hi, nice to meet you,’ and go inside and never talk to your neighbors again. Within days, we had neighbors knocking on our door saying, ‘We’re having a BBQ, do you want to come out?’ and I just thought ‘Wow, this is amazing!’ I’d never had an apartment experience like that, with people who are really interested and really want to get to know you. That aspect of liking your neighbors, of being able to talk to your neighbors, and actually being friends – that has never changed since I’ve been here. One thing I’ve learned from this project (¡Viva La Quinta!), from talking with other people who lived here in the past, is that it was always this way,” said Chelsea.

Movie night in the courtyard.

“We have a lot of traditions and gatherings within, among just us and our friends. Sometimes it’s centered around food, like when we all made tamales together in a big assembly line in Aaron and Marta’s apartment, then ate them in the courtyard garden. We have one tradition that was started by someone who no longer lives here, someone who left over ten years ago. It’s based on the 12 days of Christmas since there are 12 apartments. It’s a roaming party where we spend 20 minutes in each person’s apartment, which is now organized by a neighbor who wasn’t even here when it got started. It’s gone on for years now and it’s interesting that it still works. The people change, but it’s always a mix of people who are interested in these things. I wonder if it’s the architecture that brings people out, because by design, we share so much space. I think the building just draws a certain kind of people too, people who are open to talking to each other.”

“There’s a lot of community within, but it extends out into the neighborhood and larger community in a lot of ways too. One example is our annual BBQ. Every year, we have a free community BBQ that is a fundraiser for a local nonprofit. We invite everyone in the neighborhood. People love it, and it’s a great opportunity to meet new neighbors.”

A community gathering at La Quinta.

In describing how ¡Viva La Quinta! came about, Chelsea said, “We heard from the apartment manager that the building was going to be coming up for sale. He wanted to let us know, in case we wanted to landmark it before it got sold. We said, ‘We’ve got to get on this!’ Someone sent an email around and we started planning. Word spread and neighbors came forward saying ‘We can help, we’ve done this before, we can put you in touch with the right people,’ and they connected us to Historic Seattle and then Historic Seattle contacted Northwest Vernacular (the firm that wrote the landmark nomination). It’s amazing, among us we have architects, photographers, writers, people who know how to build a website and do graphic design. Everyone just naturally came into a role, and it all came together. It was actually Jeff (Murdock, Historic Seattle’s Advocacy & Education Manager) who came up with the name ¡Viva La Quinta! It really captures the spirit we have, this lively spirit. And also, ‘Long live!,’ let’s keep this thing going!”

On why she thinks the La Quinta Apartments should be protected, Chelsea added, “The community that the place fosters is a big part of it, but it’s also just a great building. With its Spanish style, it is unique even among Anhalt designs. He made it feel like a home, more than just an apartment. There’s a thought toward individuality, every apartment is different, and there’s a lot of thought to detail from the layout to the fixtures. The courtyard too is valuable, especially as greenspace becomes more and more limited. It has provided so much to us during the pandemic. Both the community and the architecture are really important to preserve.”

Both Lawrence and Chelsea thought a co-op or a condominium ownership model would be beneficial in the long-term. “My dream for the place would be that everything that needs updating and attention would be fixed, and that after all of that, it would still be affordable.”

¡Viva La Quinta! Get involved!

Because of its significance to the community, Historic Seattle has prioritized the La Quinta as a major advocacy effort. A landmark nomination was submitted in October 2020. The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination at its February 3 public meeting.

You can help support the La Quinta preservation efforts! The ¡Viva La Quinta! website, created and maintained by the residents, is a great resource. Stay connected through the ¡Viva La Quinta! email list and Instagram. If you already follow Historic Seattle via eNews, Facebook, and/or Instagram then you’ll stay in the know as well.

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