Preservation in Progress

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Building Dialogue

About the program:

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

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

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

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

 

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

About the book:

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

About the author:

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

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

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

Discussion guidelines:

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Shaping Seattle Architecture

This is the fourth of an eight-part series on our blog, highlighting Historic Seattle’s 2015 Preservation Award recipients. The awards were presented at our 7th Annual Preservation Awards Ceremony on May 12, 2015, at the Good Shepherd Center.

Architectural Heritage Publication Award

Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects, Second Edition

Shaping Seattle ArchitectureThe Architectural Heritage Publication Award went to the second edition of Shaping Seattle Architecture (University of Washington Press) for its invaluable contribution to a deeper understanding of architects who helped shape Seattle’s built environment.

Shaping Seattle Architecture was published in 1994 to document the lives and work of designers instrumental in creating the region’s built environment. Twenty years later, the second edition revises and expands upon this seminal work through updated information and illustrations, additional architects, and broader historical perspective on the second half of the 20th century.

Both editions were edited by Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, University of Washington professor of architecture. Ochsner worked with a five-person editorial board (as noted below), who established guidelines, reviewed submissions, and scrutinized for accuracy and completeness. University of Washington Press supported and guided this project throughout its long history.

In the second edition, the revised introduction brings the story of Seattle architecture into the 21st century. It updates the 48 essays in the first edition, and includes new essays on Edwin J. Ivey, Fred Bassetti, L. Jane Hastings, and Richard Haag, and on architects and speculative housing.

The revised sources appendix includes new research and the “Additional Significant Seattle Architects” appendix has been expanded from 85 to more than 250 brief sketches of important individuals and firms not addressed in the main essays. Finally, the appendix “Researching Seattle’s Architectural Past” has also been expanded and updated.

For the second edition, the Press provided a completely new design with larger pages, allowing larger photographs. Like the original book, the second edition conveys the broad range of “architectural achievement and the extraordinary diversity of those who contributed to making Seattle’s built environment.”

Supporting Partners: University of Washington Press; Jeffrey Karl Ochsner; Dennis A. Andersen; Duane A. Dietz; Katheryn Hills Krafft; David A. Rash; and Thomas Veith.

First Hill Publication

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

In celebration of our 40th Anniversary, Historic Seattle will debut a beautifully illustrated history of Seattle’s First Hill, Downstairs at Town Hall on Thursday evening, December 4, 2014.

Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill: Propriety, Profanity, Pills, and Preservation (Documentary Media, 2014) reveals First Hill’s origins, how and why it changed, and the potential that exists for future development that respects the neighborhood’s surviving historic buildings.

As editor of this volume, Lawrence Kreisman, Historic Seattle’s Program Director, has tapped the knowledge and talents of contributors Paul Dorpat, Jacqueline Williams, Dotty DeCoster, Dennis Alan Andersen, Luci J. Baker Johnson, and Brooke Best.

First Hill developed on a promontory east of downtown and became the location of important churches, clubs, hotels, schools, and residences for civic leaders and entrepreneurs from the 1890s until World War I. From Sixth Avenue to Broadway and from Pike Street to Yesler Way, streets were filled with stylish residences, boarding houses, and fraternal and ethnic community halls welcoming newcomers to the Northwest from America and abroad. Many of these early buildings have been demolished. Their losses accompanied the transition to a denser, larger-scale neighborhood of institutional and commercial buildings, apartment houses for every income level, and the center of Seattle’s health care industry.

Each chapter explores a different historical, cultural, or social dimension of First Hill, providing a marvelous starting point for urban understanding and exploration. We hope the book will encourage longtime and newly settled residents, workers, shoppers, concert and lecture attendees, and visitors to think about what makes First Hill special and worthy of preservation.

If you would like to pre-purchase a copy of Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill (ISBN: 978-1-933245-38-6, softcover, 208 pages with 220 images), you may do so by contacting Brooke Best at 206-622-6952 ext. 221. The purchase price through Historic Seattle is $34.95 plus tax and shipping.

Roots of Tomorrow E-Book Release

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Crosscut just released an eBook of Knute Berger’s Roots of Tomorrow: Tales of Early Seattle Urbanism.

About the book:

Did you know that Seattle at the turn-of-the-century was home to a state of the art bike highway system and roving bike gangs? That an arts commune spawned modern Bellevue and an Italian godfather invented P-Patches in Seattle’s Wedgewood neighborhood? Roots of Tomorrow: Tales of Early Seattle Urbanism highlights Seattle’s modern-day urbanism and explores its deep roots in area heritage. With a foreword by former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels.

Here’s a Crosscut article about the book. Download the e-Book through Amazon’s Kindle store. It’s only 99 cents!