Wa Na Wari is an active center for Black art and culture sited in a 5th-generation Black-owned home in Seattle’s Central District. The home, originally built in 1909, was purchased by Frank and Goldyne Green in 1951 and members of the extended Green family continued to reside there through 2013.
In 2016, Inye Wokoma became the estate guardian and put a plan in place to preserve and maintain the home in perpetuity. Establishing Wa Na Wari is the first step towards securing that long-term vision.
The Central District, a historically redlined neighborhood, was 80% Black in the 1970s. Today, gentrification has taken hold, with a population that is now less than 14% Black and dropping. Seattle’s affordability crisis has impacted residential, commercial, and cultural opportunities for Black residents and has all but eliminated spaces where Black artists can live, work, and create. Aging Black homeowners struggle to afford skyrocketing property taxes and remaining Black residents experience isolation and economic hardship.
By providing space and resources for Black artists to collaborate, exhibit their work, and network with other artists, collectors, and patrons, Wa Na Wari is advancing the community in the face of such challenges.
Wa Na Wari was nominated for this award by Cynthia Brothers of Vanishing Seattle. “As a Black-led organization, Wa Na Wari is not only physically preserving a historic home – it is preserving Black culture, ownership, and the social connection which is integral to the neighborhood and to the city as a whole,” Cynthia said.
Wa Na Wari’s visionary usage of art and community stories both defends and creates space to sustain and reignite local Black cultural life. Furthermore, Wa Na Wari is actively demonstrating how Black art and culture can be effective tools for combating gentrification and displacement by securing Black-owned property for community use.
In the spring of 2020, Wa Na Wari launched a new program to help anchor the Black community in the Central District: The Central Area Cultural Ecosystem 21st Century (CACE 21). CACE 21 is a community organizing initiative that seeks to build grassroots power, expertise, and capacity among Black Central District homeowners and artists to envision and advocate for community-driven land use policies that fight displacement and lower the barriers to creating more cultural spaces, such as those based on the Wa Na Wari model.
At a time when the Black heritage of the Central District is at risk of being erased, Wa Na Wari has taken the lead in protecting and enhancing its cultural legacy. For that, it is our privilege to present them with Historic Seattle’s 2020 Community Advocacy Award. This award includes a $3,000 prize which Wa Na Wari plans to use to support their homeowner advocacy work.
Featured image by Mujale Chisebuka; 3rd embedded image by Jill Freidberg
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
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.
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).
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.
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 emailyour comments to Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator Erin Doherty.
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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 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 (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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
What is your earliest memory of The Showbox?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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?”
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
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.
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.
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 a nomination; then, if the nomination meets certain criteria and receives enough votes, it goes on to designation consideration. (Psst… if you want to know more about Landmarking, join our March 9 Advocacy Workshop 2: Landmark Nomination).
But, do you know how nominations are initiated in the first place? Nominations come from a range of sources. They can be a requirement triggered by a permit application or submitted by property owners, consultants, or organizations like Historic Seattle (to name a few examples). Perhaps most inspiring of all are those that come from citizen advocates.Meet Dr. Ruth Fruland and Cynthia Mejia-Giudici, the team who recently presented a nomination for the Shearwater Community School/Decatur Annex (7725 43rd Ave NE) in the Wedgwood neighborhood. What inspired these two women to nominate this place?
The Shearwater Community School/Decatur Annex
If you think this building lacks the beauty you might envision in a landmark, you are not alone. However, 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. Ruth and Cynthia’s Decatur Annex nomination focused on the cultural and historic significance of the place, which is too rich and complex to do justice in this short piece. To get a better idea of the scope of that significance, read their landmark nomination and explore related blog posts in Wedgwood in Seattle History.
To summarize, the Shearwater Community Center, now called Decatur Annex, is the last remaining building from the Navy’s Shearwater Housing Project, which was built in 1945-46. The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) was contracted by the Navy to build the housing project (which included the community center) for military families at Sand Point NAS. The Shearwater Housing Project was unique in that it strategically and successfully implemented racially-integrated housing during a time when discriminatory housing policies were systemically enforced both at the federal level as well as in Seattle in the form of neighborhood covenants, exclusionary redlining, and “sundown” laws. The onset of WWII prompted the Navy to establish a policy of racial and gender integration of its service. The Shearwater Housing Project was the Navy’s first integrated housing project under this new policy, which happened to coincide with the equalitarian vision of Seattleite Jesse Epstein, a lawyer who created the SHA to qualify for federal funds for low-income housing under the Wagner-Seagull Act of 1937.
According to Dr. Fruland’s nomination, “The Shearwater Administration and Community Center embodies a fascinating, but under-reported history, not only of the Navy’s new policy of racial integration, but also of how it leveraged Seattle Housing Authority’s integration policies under Jesse Epstein (and vice versa). One might say his appointment as the first Executive Director of the SHA in 1939 was ‘just in time.'”
There is much more to the Shearwater story, but the question still begs: how did these citizen advocates come to spotlight this significant piece of history? The answer is history, education, and – in part – geology!
With a PhD in Education Science and Technology and a background in geology, Wedgwood neighborhood resident Dr. Fruland’ s interests lie both in education and in “the passage of time and its effects on things.” Her inclination to preserve the Decatur Annex was initially sparked by a postcard she received in the mail from the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) regarding demolition of the annex. SPS, which now owns the property, redeveloped most of the former housing lot into a large new public elementary school and is seeking approval to demolish the annex for “outdoor education use.”
That same postcard landed in the mailbox of another Wedgwood resident, Cynthia Mejia-Giudici, an oral historian and special education teacher at nearby Roosevelt High School. Cynthia lived in Shearwater housing as a child, and her Filipino family has lived in Wedgwood since 1956. She was driven to preserve the Decatur Annex not only because she remembers it vividly from personal experience, but also to honor and represent its broader meaning in a larger cultural context, and to raise awareness about the historic ties the Wedgwood neighborhood has to the former Navy base, now Magnuson Park. Cynthia is “passionate about honoring the multi-cultural community that Sand Point created with the Housing Project, and about paying tribute to the US Navy.” To quote Ruth’s words in their nomination, “It is Cynthia who knows the feeling and meaning of racial discrimination, and the true significance of Decatur Annex in Seattle’s history.” Again, Cynthia’s family’s story and the significance of the community that formed at Shearwater warrants much more space than this piece allows. Read more about Cynthia’s story here.
On January 2, 2019 the Shearwater Community Center/ Decatur Annex came before the Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) for designation determination. Landmark designation requires a majority vote among the 10 seated LPB members. So, although 4 of the 6 LPB members present voted in favor of landmarking, the annex failed to receive the requisite 6 votes required for designation and The Decatur Annex will likely be demolished in the coming months. Ruth and Cynthia are now working to hold SPS accountable to promises made for a plaque or statue to honor the significance of Shearwater – a significance many SPS representatives denied in their public comments opposing designation.
Cynthia and Ruth at the Landmarks Preservation Board meeting at Seattle City Hall, January 2, 2019. Courtesy of Wedgwood in Seattle History
Despite this outcome, Ruth and Cynthia’s passion and important work on this nomination calls attention to significant and perhaps lesser known pieces of Seattle’s collective history. Their work also closely relates to Beyond Integrity, an emerging local movement in preservation that seeks to shift emphasis from architectural integrity toward cultural significance to ensure the places we honor as historic landmarks tell a complete and inclusive story. We commend Dr. Fruland and Cynthia Mejia-Giudici for their outstanding grassroots advocacy and for furthering the conversation about whose history we preserve.
On February 14, Valentine’s Day, about 30 people (and two dogs!) gathered in front of KeyArena to show their love for the modernist icon from the Seattle World’s Fair. Participants showed off their creative handmade valentines. The HeartBomb event was co-sponsored by Historic Seattle, Queen Anne Historical Society, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and Docomomo WEWA.
HeartBombs are a form of advocacy and a fun and creative way to bring people together and raise awareness about what’s cherished in a community–a sort of city-wide love letter to places that matter.
The groups gathered to make a statement about KeyArena’s significance. The City of Seattle has issued a Request for Proposals for the rehab and reuse of KeyArena, a world-class sports and entertainment venue. But there’s also a tear-down option. We believe the landmark-eligible historic structure from the Seattle World’s Fair should be preserved and reused. Designed by architect Paul Thiry and built in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Seattle World’s Fair, the structure became the Washington State Coliseum after the fair.
Historic Seattle is following the City’s RFP process and is in contact with Seattle Center and the Office of Economic Development. We’ll continue to advocate for preservation and reuse. A landmark nomination is being prepared by Artifacts Consulting, Inc. for Seattle Center. We will share news of when the nomination goes before the Landmarks Preservation Board to encourage public support for landmarking.
Photos: Jennifer Mortensen, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
On July 19, 2016, the Nuclear Reactor Building (NRB) was unceremoniously and quietly demolished by the University of Washington (UW). The passing of this historically and architecturally significant building ends a years-long battle between preservation advocates and the UW.
The NRB hailed from the Atomic Age of the 1960s, representing nuclear engineering technology and contributing to the University’s science and research programs. The NRB was unique. It was an architectural, engineering, and artistic marvel dreamed up by a stellar team of University professors and alumni. It set itself apart from the rest of campus with its Brutalist architectural features.
In 2014, plans for demolition of the NRB were resurrected by the UW. The building made it on the Washington Trust’s Most Endangered Properties list for a second time in 2015 (the first was in 2008) and preservation advocates rallied to Save the Reactor. In the end, the structure met its demise. Read the eulogy for this significant structure to learn more.
Although the NRB is gone, it is not forgotten.
Join Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation for a gathering at the NRB/More Hall Annex site to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of the Nuclear Reactor Building:
Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at 5:30 pm
Please wear all black attire. We’ll go to a local pub afterwards. No registration or RSVP is required. In lieu of flowers, please share stories and memories at the wake, on the Save the Reactor Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Color image – Site after demolition (Washington Trust for Historic Preservation); Nuclear Reactor Building (John Stamets for Docomomo WEWA, 2008)
On May 19 Historic Seattle held its InterUrban event, “Project Belltown: Imagining Possibilities,” at Union Stables with nearly 60 people gathering for a visioning exercise around a real-life project site in the neighborhood. The event, hosted by Lease Crutcher Lewis in its beautifully rehabilitated space and co-sponsored by Friends of Historic Belltown, brought people together to think creatively about the possibilities of developing a site that includes a designated landmark and adjacent infill.
Thanks to those who helped make this happen: Marcia Wagoner, our lead moderator; our five lead facilitators, Matt Aalfs, BuildingWork LLC; Adam Alsobrook, Clark Design Group; Rick Sever, residential contractor; Vernon Abelsen, architect; and Hannah Allender, SHKS Architects; and presenters Dave Rauma, Lease Crutcher Lewis; Tiffany Jorgensen, Friends of Historic Belltown; Tom Graff, Ewing & Clark; and Brittany Shulman, Seneca Ventures.
Following the introductions, Historic Seattle’s Eugenia Woo presented the project site: the landmarked Franklin Apartments (NE corner of Fourth and Bell) and the adjacent parcels along Fourth Avenue—these north lots contain two, lower-scale commercial structures that have been altered extensively.
After laying out the three development alternatives, participants moved into smaller facilitated group discussions and considered the pros and cons of each scenario. Key questions included: What are the project goals and strengths of site? What are the potential uses for the Franklin and/or adjacent site? What are the guiding principles (i.e., fitting in, standing out, sustainability, affordability, preservation, density, etc)?
The group discussions were energetic and engaging. Participants appreciated the opportunity to have open and frank conversations about what’s going on in Belltown. The groups then reconvened for brief presentations by the facilitators which were revealing in their shared commonalities.
Group 1 felt that the alternative that retained the Franklin’s integrity while accommodating context-sensitive development could be “altruistic visually.” At the same time, they agreed that density was an important consideration for addressing affordable housing. This group looked at rehabilitating the Franklin for affordable units and designing new residential towers on the adjacent parcels for market rate housing. Design considerations included building setbacks, delineation between historic and new buildings, and active alley/interior courtyard with retail shops.
The other groups came up with variations of a theme. Group 2 tried to “strike a balance” between infill development that was sensitive to its context and also visually distinctive. They grappled with big questions to help inform their approach, such as how do you fit without matching? If the roof is part of the landmark designation, how can you put something on it?
They came up with a manifesto that said “NO” to the “facadectomy approach” and rejected “that option for this project and all others of its ilk in Seattle.” Visioning concepts included street activation, as well as preserving light and air.
Group 3 distilled the defining characteristics of the site and came up with three primary goals:
Encouraging community as a gathering place, event space, artist space, and shared production pace.
Supporting residential use including a mix of market-rate and affordable housing, as well accessible ground floor for public gathering combined with small commercial (i.e., retail, restaurant).
Maintaining scale to retain lively and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood experience. They proposed setting back from the building perimeter to decrease overall mass, modulating materials to harmonize with existing qualities, and articulating detailing to contribute to human-scaled streetscape.
Group 4 drew inspiration from the Franklin’s light well on the north side, incorporating it into the new design to create an interior courtyard space. The last report out from Group 5 reinforced this design concept with their proposal to take the Franklin’s footprint, rotate it 180 degrees and place it on the two lots, forming a courtyard “between and into each building.” The pedestrian alley between the buildings allowed them to preserve the entirety of the Franklin’s exterior. The new building was setback along Fourth Avenue “so that the fire station and the apartment remain proud.” Their proposed seven-story tower would contain a mix of studio to three-bedroom units, with both buildings providing mixed low-income and market rate housing.
Historic Seattle wrapped things up by looking at the bigger picture and how attendees can be more effective preservation advocates. The most stunning element of our workshop was the “big reveal” of the actual developer’s preferred proposal for this site: a facadism project that retained the two primary facades (Fourth and Bell) and “punched through” new street-level door openings. The rear alley façade was sacrificed to accommodate underground parking, even though parking is not required.
The overwhelming consensus of our audience – including architects, developers, real estate professionals, Belltown residents, and interested/concerned neighbors and citizens – was that more consideration should be made to respect the landmarked apartment building.
Dana Phelan from 4Culture had this takeaway: “It was really engaging, and such a clear demonstration of the huge discrepancy between what people want to see in their neighborhoods and what is getting approved and built.” Steve Hall from Friends of Historic Belltown added, “People really dug into the work. And they had fun. And most importantly, they learned the value of historic preservation – and the value of their own voice.”
Historic Seattle’s InterUrban series seeks to inspire conversations about achieving more livable communities through historic preservation. The series connects historic preservation to urban planning and policy discussions impacting our region such as affordability, equitable development, social justice, sustainability, and neighborhood density.
Photos: View of participants in the penthouse level of Union Stables (Steve Hall); group discussions (Sticks and Stones Photography); historic view of the Franklin Apartments, 1937 (Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Region Branch)