Preservation in Progress

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Archive for the ‘Architectural Tours’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modern Happenings

Egg chair and ottoman by Arne Jacobsen, designed in 1958.

Egg chair and ottoman by Arne Jacobsen, designed in 1958. Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art

Check out these Modern architecture and design-related events!

May 16 – August 31, 2014: Danish Modern Exhibit

The Nordic Heritage Museum goes “Mad Men” with the eye-catching and interactive exhibition Danish Modern: Design for Living. On view from May 16 through August 31, the exhibit highlights the unique furnishing designed and made in Denmark during the 1950s and 1960s. Learn more.

Exhibition–Related Programs at the Nordic Heritage Museum:

PechaKucha Night: Living Loving Nordic Design: Thursday, June 5, 6:00 p.m.
PechaKucha Night Seattle returns to the Museum, this time focusing on Scandinavian Design, inspired by the Danish Modern exhibit now on view. First formed in Tokyo in 2003, this 20×20 format features simple presentations of 20 images shown for 20 seconds accompanying presenters’ talks. These informal and fun gatherings have since spread around the world.

Docomomo WEWA Night: Wednesday, June 25, 7:00 p.m.
An evening of Danish design, remarks, reception, and special viewing of the exhibit Danish Modern: Design for Living. This event is co-sponsored by Docomomo WEWA, a local community of individuals who share a passion for Northwest Modernism. Their mission is to promote appreciation and awareness of Modern architecture and design in Western Washington through education and advocacy. $5 suggested donation.

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June 13 and 14: Mid-century Modern Resources Workshop

The Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) along with the City of Everett is proud to bring a workshop to both sides of the state on Modern Resources. Everett, through a CLG grant, contracted with the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions to plan the workshop.  Wade Broadhead from Colorado and Professor Jo Ramsay Leimenstoll from the University of North Carolina will join Washington State’s Architectural Historian, Michael Houser, to explore how to recognize, identify, evaluate, and apply the Secretary of the Interior Standards to Post WWII Resources.

The workshops will be held in both Spokane and Everett.  The Spokane workshop will be held on Friday, June 13th from 9 am to 3 pm at the Spokane City Hall Council Chambers.  The Everett workshop will be held on Saturday, June 14th from 9 am to 3 pm in the Everett Performing Arts Center.

For more information and to register online, go to DAHP’s website.

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Saturday, June 14: Modern Queen Anne Architectural Tour

On June 14, from 2 pm to about 6 pm, the Queen Anne Historical Society will offer Modern Queen Anne, a new tour that focuses on two mid-century structures with unrivaled views, Canlis and the Swedish Club, while stopping by five recently completed homes to learn from the architects who designed them about program goals and the place of their work in the contemporary idiom. (Interiors are not on the tour). The automobile tour starts at 2 at Canlis. The bike version begins at 1:30 at the Swedish Club.

View the poster for this Modern Tour.

Join the tour by sending an RSVP to Help@qahistory.org or purchase tickets now at BrownPaperTickets. Members $15; non-members $20.

Mount Baker Home Tour – December 7, 2013

Image courtesy Mt Baker Community Club

Image courtesy Mt Baker Community Club

WHAT: Mount Baker 33rd Annual Home Tour

WHEN: Saturday, December 7th, 2013  10 am – 4 pm

WHERE: Check in at Mount Baker Community Club, 2811 Mount Rainier Drive S, Seattle, WA 98144

The Mount Baker Community Club is holding their 33rd annual Home Tour showcasing six unique historic homes.  This community fundraiser event offers the public a rare opportunity to view the interiors of some beautiful homes built between 1912 and 1926 in Mount Baker’s Cascadia-Lakewood area.  The tour begins at the Mount Baker Clubhouse, and tourgoers can either walk the tour or use the free shuttle transportation.  At the end, they can visit the Arts & Crafts Fair at the Clubhouse, featuring local artists and light refreshments.

A discount is being offered to Historic Seattle members if they purchase tickets through tour’s event page at Brownpaper Tickets.  To get the $20 discounted ticket, click on the link for Tickets, enter the quantity of tickets under General admission; then click on Enter a Password or Discount Code to enter the code (“Baker“).  Tickets will also be available the day of the event at the Clubhouse for $35.

2013 Ballard Classic Home Tour – Sunday, June 23

Purchase your Ballard Classic Home Tour tickets today!

The Ballard Historical Society’s popular home tour is Sunday, June 23, 2013. Seven vintage Ballard residences of unique character and modern livability will be open for the tour. Three of the homes celebrate their 100th birthdays! To get in on the birthday action, stop by the following local retailers to purchase tickets for $20 using cash or check:

  • Sunset Hill Green Market, 6405 32nd Ave. N.W., 206 784-7594
  • Secret Garden Bookshop, 2214 N.W. Market Street, 206 789-5006
  • Johnson & Johnson Antiques, 6820 Greenwood Ave. North, 206 789-6489
  • RE Store, 1440 N.W. 52nd Street, 206 297-9119

Tickets are also available online. In addition, a limited number of tickets are available day of the tour.

Built by skilled craftsmen, the seven vintage homes exemplify lasting quality that continues to support generations of Ballard families. This event happens only once every three years, so don’t miss it in 2013!

When: Sunday June 23, 2013 from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. All tickets are will-call only. Exchange your tickets beginning at 9:30 AM day of tour for a brochure with locations.
Where: Tour starts at Sunset Hill Community Clubhouse, 3003 N.W. 66th Street, Ballard.

The Ballard Historical Society also needs tour guides (we call them tour “docents”) to work one shift at a home. In exchange, you’ll receive free tickets for the other half of the tour, to visit all of the homes on the tour. Please contact Lesli Billings at retroreno@comcast.net for details.

About the Tour
The Ballard Classic Home Tour is BHS’ biggest fundraiser, which enables the organization to take part in community projects; present free informative lectures related to Ballard’s History and maintain its archives.

About the Ballard Historical Society
The Ballard Historical Society was formed in 1988 and is dedicated to the celebration and preservation of the unique history and culture of Ballard, Washington. The society is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that provides community and educational programs and maintains an extensive photo archive.

Tour Guidelines

  • It is a self-guided tour; no transportation is provided.
  • It is not wheelchair accessible; there will be stairs and uneven sidewalks.
  • Guests will kindly remove shoes before entering homes.
  • No children under the age of 12; babes in arms are allowed.
  • No food or drink.
  • No cameras or video equipment.
  • Only a limited number of people will be allowed in a house at a time.
  • Due to the location of a few of the homes, parking may be required some distance away.

Please direct media and other inquiries to tour coordinator Lesli Billings at retroreno@comcast.net. Buy tickets for 2013 Ballard Classic Home Tour

Seattle Architecture Foundation Tours for 2013

View of Seattle skyline from Kerry Park / Photo: Eugenia Woo

View of Seattle skyline from Kerry Park / Photo: Eugenia Woo

The Seattle Architecture Foundation’s tours for 2013 begin in April! SAF has lots of great tours planned for every month from April through December. They’re currently offering a fantastic deal–3 for $30. That’s three tours for $30. Purchase by April 8 to get the discount. Learn more about the tours offered on SAF’s website. Buy tickets online. These tours are a great way to learn more about the city’s architecture. Sign up soon because many will surely sell out.

University Place Historical Society 2012 Home & Garden Tour

Curran House, one of the houses on tour / Photo: National Register of Historic Places nomination form

WHAT: University Place Historical Society Home and Garden Tour

Tour three homes and two gardens.

WHEN: Sunday, June 10, 2012; 1:00 to 5:00 pm

TICKETS: $20; available at:
Grassi’s Flowers and Gifts, 3602 Center St.,1702 Pacific Ave.
Massimo Italian Bar and Grill, 4020 Bridgeport Way W.
Westside Community Bank, 4922 Bridgeport Way W.
Willow Tree Gardens, 7216 27th St. W.

You may also purchase tickets on June 10 at the Curran House, 4009 Curran Lane, University Place, beginning at noon.

Questions? Call (253) 584-2758

Historic Firehouse Tour in Tacoma, May 19

Firehouse #8, Tacoma/ Photo: Gerry Sperry

Date:  Saturday, May 19, 2012
Time: 4-6 pm
Location:  Historic Firehouse #8 in the Whitman Neighborhood, 4301 South L Street, Tacoma
Cost:  Free to Historic Tacoma members.  Non-Members $10 at the door.

Tour a historic firehouse that has been adaptively reused as live/work space. On the Tacoma Register of Historic Places, this structure was built in 1909 and served as a fire station until decommissioned in 2003.  In 2005 the unique structure was remodeled to provide warehouse space for With Love Chocolates and living space for the company’s owners on the second floor.  While using the former fire truck parking pads for storage is an easily imagined accommodation, turning the upstairs into a stylish 3-bedroom residence took vision and patience.

Although this property does not have the proportion of residential to commercial use that a traditional live/work would require, the renovation is a great example of how Tacoma’s Special Tax Valuation Program can make a substantial historic remodel financially feasible.

Join Historic Tacoma as for this special tour of an amazing project and learn more about the special tax valuation process.