Preservation in Progress

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Archive for the ‘Community Preservation’ Category

Wa Na Wari: 2020 Community Advocacy Award

Congratulations to Wa Na Wari!

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

Town Hall: 2020 Exemplary Stewardship Award

Congratulations to the project team!

Owner: Town Hall Association; Architect: BuildingWork and Weinstein AU (Matt Aalfs AIA, Kate Weiland AIA, Dave Aynardi AIA)

Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates; Civil Engineer: SiteWise Design; Landscape Architect: Karen Kiest Landscape Architects; Acoustic and AV Design: Jaffe Holden; Theater Consultant: The Shalleck Collaborative; Mechanical Engineer: Mazetti; Electrical Engineer: Stantec; Lighting Designer: Blanca Lighting Design; Interior Designer: Amy Baker Interior Design; Owner’s Representative: Point32; General Contractor: Rafn Company

The Town Hall Seattle building, originally the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, was designed in the Classical Revival style by architect George Foote Dunham and opened in 1916. In 1997, the congregation of the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist was faced with the possibility of selling to an unsympathetic developer. Historic Seattle completed a feasibility study that supported its use as a performance space and successfully negotiated a purchase and sale agreement for the property. In 1998, Historic Seattle assigned the purchase rights for the building to Town Hall, LLC, an investor group led by David Brewster. Now called the Town Hall Association, the nonprofit ownership has offered hundreds of music performances, author readings, lectures, and a variety of “town hall” civic discussions and events in the years since.

After operating in the existing building for 15 years, Town Hall’s leadership realized that – while the building’s historic character helped define the organization – the building had many liabilities that limited programming opportunities. More people had passed through the building’s doors in its 20 years as a venue than in the previous 84 combined, pushing the century-old infrastructure to its limit and necessitating a complete renovation of the building. As part of the planning for the renovation project, Town Hall self-nominated for City of Seattle landmark status to help ensure that the upgrades would not alter the historic aesthetic.

“To address Town Hall’s liabilities, we started with a deep and thorough investigation of the historic building to learn how it was built, using both the latest 3D scanning technology and old-fashioned on-site physical investigation. We continually looked for and found innovative ways to integrate new construction within the building’s historic fabric. Our solution challenged conventional notions of design and engineering to prioritize historic preservation,” the architects at BuildingWork said.

The building’s preservation and modernization work included a complete seismic retrofit that minimized the visual impact of the structural work, improved accessibility, a new gender-neutral restroom, a new entrance to the downstairs venue, restored stained glass and light fixtures, state-of-the-art performance systems, new code-compliant mechanical systems, and sustainability upgrades – all while meeting the highest possible standards for preservation.

Today, Town Hall stands beautifully rejuvenated. The Forum on the lower level providesfor more intimate gatherings, and the stately Great Hall is a perfect performance and meeting space for large gatherings. Town Hall now has the facility it needs to further its mission for many years to come, earning the project team our Exemplary Stewardship Award.

Building 9 at Magnuson Park: 2020 Best Preservation Project Award

Congratulations to the project team!

Owner: Mercy Housing Northwest; Architect: Tonkin Architecture

General Contractor: The Rafn Company; Structural Engineer: IL Gross Structural Engineers; Civil Engineer: Coterra Engineering; Landscape Architect: Karen Kiest Landscape Architects; Mechanical, Electrical, & Plumbing Engineers: WSP USA; Historic Preservation Consultant: Kate Krafft; Environmental Consultant: PBS Engineering and Environmental; Building Envelope Consultants: RDH Building Science, Wetherholt and Associates; Geotechnical Engineer: Geoengineers; Acoustical Consultant: A3 Acoustics; Preschool Education Center (PEC) Tenant: Denise Louie Education Center; PEC Tenant Improvement Architect: Environmental Works Community Design Center; Health Clinic Tenant: Neighborcare; Health Clinic Tenant Improvement Architect: Miller Hayashi Architects

Building 9, now called Mercy Magnuson Place, at Magnuson Park, originally a barracks building for Naval Station Puget Sound on Sand Point, is now home to 148 units of affordable housing, the Denise Louie early learning education center, and a Neighborcare Health community health clinic – thanks to the outstanding work of the project team in partnership with Mercy Housing Northwest.

The building was constructed between 1929 and 1944 and served as barracks for naval personnel, including a mess hall, gymnasium, chapel, and offices. At its height, the base supported more than 4,600 Navy, Marine Corps, and civilian personnel.

However, the Navy decommissioned Building 9 in the 1990s. In the years since, the building fell into disrepair, with leaking roofs, graffiti, looters who stole the copper gutters and downspouts and pigeons.

Restoring the building, a contributing resource in both the Sand Point Naval Air Station National Register Historic District and Seattle Landmark District, was a massive undertaking. Building 9 is over 800 feet long, containing over 240,000 square feet of interior space. 75 tractor truckloads of asbestos and mold-laden demolition material were removed before the project team could begin.

To ensure the preservation of Building 9’s character, significant architectural features such as doors, stairways, and terrazzo flooring were restored, repaired, or rebuilt. To bring it into the future, the project team focused on preserving the building exterior and historic landscaping, creating vibrant resident and community spaces, accessibility, energy efficiency, interior lighting, envelope improvements including new roofing and windows, ventilation, and new building systems. This was all in addition to a seismic upgrade, which incorporated new steel brace frames and concrete shear walls.

As a complex renovation and new affordable housing project, Building 9 required multiple funding sources, including historic tax credits, low income housing tax credits, city, and state, private lender and philanthropic support.

In a city that desperately needs more affordable housing, Building 9 is a shining beacon of hope. In addition to providing much needed affordable homes for Seattle families, it repurposes a piece of Seattle’s history.

This project proves that, with the right mix of incentives and the right team, our historic built environment can respond to meet the needs of an ever-changing city.

 

South Park Yacht Club Apartments: 2020 Preserving Neighborhood Character Award

Congratulations to the South Park Yacht Club Apartments & owner Padraic Slattery!

The South Park Yacht Club building was originally built in 1954 as a 13-unit mid-century apartment building. Over time, it fell into disrepair and was completely dilapidated, becoming a blight for the neighborhood.

Where many may have seen a prime candidate for a teardown, Padraic Slattery – a preservationist and mid-century modern revivalist  – saw a building in need of some TLC. Over the years, Padraic has thoughtfully restored and revitalized several mid-century modern residential, commercial and dwellings throughout the Seattle area. Approaching his projects as a designer first and real estate developer second allows Padraic to create transformation.

Such is the case with the South Park Yacht Club. Slattery’s reimagining of the building defied the industry’s conventional wisdom as it pertains to both design and economics – more artistic crusade than traditional real estate investment. The building’s design was prioritized over the return on investment, elevating the project to a new standard and producing aboutique hotel-like feel for the apartments. The marina theme pays homage to the adjacent South Park Marina on the Duwamish River.

The project included restoring the brick façade, exposing the rustic wood ceilings, refinishing the concrete floors, and adding solar window shades, sound-absorbing insulation, smooth finish drywall, custom cabinetry, new appliances, wood or quartz slab kitchen countertops, full penny round tiled kitchen backsplash and shower walls, custom bathrooms with rain showers, frameless glass shower panels, brass lighting and hardware, and fully-fenced outdoor patios.

 

In lieu of being able to speak to you directly at this year’s Preservation Celebration Benefit – canceled due to COVID-19 – Padraic said, “To be recognized by Historic Seattle amid a deep and talented pool of past, present and future preservationist award recipients represents nothing short of a profound honor for me. The Yacht Club underwent a remarkable transformation and the project was treated more like an obligation to both the neighborhood and the structure itself rather than a real estate focused renovation project.”

He continued, “The building was in tear-down condition and resembled a housing complex that was no longer fit for human habitat. In my approach, I believe that as historic preservationists, we have an underlying debt not only to the buildings we preserve and the future occupants but also to the former tenants and the impact we have on the surrounding communities we invest in. From a design perspective, I make it a point to get funky because you can’t stand out if you fit in. I want people to see my soul in my work. When I started out on this journey, I made it a mission to dispose of outdated industry culture and standards. I prioritized design and that mindset often clouds economic reality but ultimately, I’m so much more satisfied with the end user product because of it. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, cheap, or fast and historic preservation done properly is no exception.”

“In closing, I would like to personally thank everyone who has inspired me, I collaborated with, and the people that provided me with the opportunity to be in the unique position to rehab historic buildings. It’s my aspiration to one day inspire a future design-oriented developer in the same way others have inspired me to follow in their footsteps,” Padraic concluded.

And we’d like to thank you, Padraic, for your vision and hard work to restore the South Park Yacht Club. Congratulations for earning this year’s Preserving Neighborhood Character Award!

Dan Say: 2020 Preservation Champion Award

Congratulations to Dan Say!

Anyone who meets Dan Say immediately sees that he is a passionate person. Dan brings passion and sensitivity to the structural design for every individual project. This means if a traditional structural approach is best for the project, great. But if an unusual, edge-of-the-box approach will better serve the design intent and maintain historic integrity, then that’s what you’ll get.

With 39 years of structural design for historic buildings under his belt, Dan has amassed an expansive resume. He and his team have touched a number of iconic places including the Pike Place Market redevelopment, King Street Station, more than a dozen buildings in the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood, six Carnegie Library renovations for Seattle Public Library, the Washington State Legislative building both pre- and
post-Nisqually Earthquake, the original Rainier Brewery, the Cherberg Building in Olympia, and multiple county courthouses throughout the state.

Dan is a native and second-generation Seattleite – his grandfather was an immigrant tile setter who worked on the original King Street Station lobby in 1906. He grew up on Beacon Hill in the shadow of the historic Pacific Tower (then called the Pacific Medical Center), attended O’Dea High School, and completed his education at Seattle University. His passion for local history combined with his love of people led him straight to a historic preservation career path. When Dan looks at a historic building, he not only sees the building’s bones but also the people that occupied that building and its relation to its neighborhood. He understands that the goal is not just to save the building, but to preserve the neighborhood’s history for future generations.

Building restoration is a key element in preserving a community’s history. Dan’s ability to provide practical design solutions with minimal intervention and his people skills are a winning combination for a successful renovation endeavor. Whether it’sproviding preliminary historic structure evaluations, or inserting seven stories of braced frames to the FX McRory’s project while removing only minimal portions of the
existing structure, or tracking down the original 1941 Yesler Terrace Steam Plant chimney stack drawings from the Chicago cons

truction company critical to the analysis that preserved the stack (resulting in $800,000 savings for Seattle Housing Authority), Dan and his team’s thoughtful approach for every project results in preserving the historic fabric for Seattle’s neighborhood gems.

In addition to being a founding principal with Swenson Say Fagét (SSF) for the past 25years, Dan’s community commitments include six years on the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation Board of Directors ( he is currently still a non-board member volunteer), four years on the AIA Seattle
Board of Directors, and two years on the Design-in-Public Board of Directors.

Nicholas Vann, AIA, Washington State’s Historical Architect with the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, speaks to Dan’s unrivaled approach to preservation state-wide:

“Dan Say truly sets the gold standard when it comes to sensitive, practical, innovative approaches to structural challenges in historic buildings. His diligence and attention to detail are unrivaled as evidenced by his outstanding accomplishments in Seattle and Washington State. He possesses characteristics that breed success in every project he touches, and he inspires others to approach historic rehabilitation projects with the same care and sensitivity as he does.”

So, raise a glass to Dan (an Italian red, he’d likely suggest) and all his accomplishments on behalf of historic places!


Pictured top to bottom, from Dan’s extensive portfolio: Pike Place Market, Metropole Building (Pioneer Square), aerial view of FX McRory’s (Pioneer Square); Fran’s Chocolates (the original Rainier Brewery and Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company building, known collectively as Seattle Brewing and Malting Co, in Georgetown); the Green Lake and Columbia City Carnegie libraries

Lincoln High School: 2020 Beth Chave Best Rehabilitation Award

Congratulations to the Lincoln High School Project Team!

Owner: Seattle Public Schools
Architect: Bassetti Architects

Construction Manager: CBRE/Heery; Contractor: Lydig Construction; Structural Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen; Mechanical Engineer: Metrix Engineers; Electrical Engineer: Hargis Engineers; Cost Control: RLB | Robinson; Landscape Architect: Cascade Design Collaborative; Civil Engineer: LPD Engineering; Acoustical Engineer: Stantec; Hardware Consultant: Adams Consulting; Food Service Consultant: JLR Design Group

About the Project:

Lincoln High School, a Seattle Landmark and the city’s oldest high school, first opened in 1907 to accommodate the rapid growth in North Seattle that came with the streetcar extension to Wallingford and relocation of the University of Washington campus. 113 years later, another wave of growth called the historic school back into action.

The building has been altered several times over the years. A north wing designed by Edgar Blair, the second school district architect, was added in 1914 and contained an auditorium and two small gymnasiums. A south wing designed by Floyd Naramore, the third district architect, was added in 1930 for art, music, classrooms, and a study hall.

The final major alteration of the 20th century, an International Style addition designed by NBBJ in 1958, accommodated physical education and performing arts programs but was a significant departure from the building’s historic context.

After a decline in enrollment in the 1970s, Lincoln High School closed in 1981 and was leased out for community use until 1997, when it began to be used as an interim site for schools under construction. The multiple users, haphazard remodels, and deferred maintenance left the building in very poor condition.

Like the 1914 and 1930 additions, the goal of the 2020 rehabilitation was to support modern educational needs while celebrating the rich contextual heritage of the landmark building.

The restoration of Lincoln’s exterior included tuckpointing, cleaning, and waterproofing of the brick cladding, along with terra cotta and sandstone repair and replacement.

New additions were sited to minimize impacts to primary facades while rotting and rusting fenestration was replaced with new, historically referential windows. The historic landscape, crowned by 100-year-old beech trees, was also preserved and revitalized. Interior renovation included complete system upgrades (seismic, life safety, mechanical, electrical) along with adaptive re-use of the building layout to support six learning communities surrounding a centralized student commons. Surviving historic interior elements (stairways, drinking fountain, alumni room, artwork) were also preserved.

The result is a school – which reopened to students in Fall 2019 – that provides outstanding learning settings while instilling pride in the preservation of a community landmark. The Beth Chave Best Rehabilitation Award honors Seattle Public Schools and the project team for their preservation efforts, made possible by community support from school levies and the neighborhood for embracing the renovation of its historic legacy.

ABOUT THE BETH CHAVE HISTORIC PRESERVATION AWARD
Historic Seattle established the Beth Chave Historic Preservation Award in 2013 to honor our friend and colleague who served as the Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator for the City of Seattle for 25 years. The award recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of historic preservation. Beth Chave (1955-2012) left an indelible mark on the city’s historic built environment. Her work with professional colleagues, landmark and historic district property owners, and neighborhood advocates throughout Seattle has left a legacy of honoring and protecting historic places in our communities.

The Louisa Hotel: 2020 Community Investment Award

Congratulations to the Louisa Hotel Project Team!

Owners: Yuen G Woo LLC (Woo family), Gaard Development
Partners: Chase Community Equity; First Federal; Barrientos Ryan; Rolluda Architects; DCI Engineering; Marpac Construction; Chinn Construction; Gemma Daggatt Interior Design; Northwest Vernacular

About the project:

The Louisa Hotel, a contributing building to the Seattle Chinatown National Register Historic District and the International Special Review District, was built in 1909 as a single occupancy (SRO) hotel with ground floor retail. Designed by Andrew Willatsen and Barry Byrne, disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright who worked in his Chicago studio at the turn of the century, the hotel first housed Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino immigrants while they waited for work in Alaskan canneries.

The building was once home to a casino, a jazz club, and Seattle’s first Chinese bakery – but this history was threatened by both the passing of time and by disaster.

The Louisa Hotel’s top floors were vacant for over 50 years. It had been too expensive to bring them up to code, as is the case with many buildings in the Chinatown-International District. On Christmas Eve in 2013, a fire broke out which burned the roof and compromised the western half of the building. With the mortar in the brick damaged

by the fire, the unreinforced masonry wall along Maynard Alley was in danger of collapse and became a threat to public safety. Furthermore, some of the building’s interior had collapsed onto itself.

The restoration project began by stabilizing, demolishing, rebuilding, and replicating the fire-damaged western side of the building. Just stabilizing the building took two years. The team then worked to preserve the Louisa Hotel’s façade and extensively renovate the eastern half of the building.

The restoration complied with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The team preserved the feel of the hallways by removing, refinishing, and reinstalling the historic doors, which still carry the shadow of their original unit numbers. The team paid close attention to detail when restoring the building’s character-defining features, such as the original wood trim, picture rails, leaded glass windows, and bay windows.

Notably, Prohibition era murals from the jazz club (shown here) were also discovered and restored. Furniture and other artifacts salvaged from the Louisa Hotel before demolition have been returned and put on display.

But the building is more than just brick and mortar. True to its origin as affordable workforce housing, the Louisa Hotel reopened with 84 units of affordable workforce housing for individuals and families earning between $35,000 and $80,000 per year. In June of 2019, the building opened its doors to new residents for the first time in over 50 years – and not a moment too soon.

We are proud to recognize the Woo family and Gaard Development with the Community Investment Award for their restoration of the Chinatown-International District’s historic Louisa Hotel.

The Louisa Hotel: 2020 Community Investment Award

Congratulations to the Louisa Hotel Project Team!

Owners: Yuen G Woo LLC (Woo family), Gaard Development
Partners: Chase Community Equity; First Federal; Barrientos Ryan; Rolluda Architects; DCI Engineering; Marpac Construction; Chinn Construction; Gemma Daggatt Interior Design; Northwest Vernacular

About the project:

The Louisa Hotel, a contributing building to the Seattle Chinatown National Register Historic District and the International Special Review District, was built in 1909 as a single occupancy (SRO) hotel with ground floor retail. Designed by Andrew Willatsen and Barry Byrne, disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright who worked in his Chicago studio at the turn of the century, the hotel first housed Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino immigrants while they waited for work in Alaskan canneries.

The building was once home to a casino, a jazz club, and Seattle’s first Chinese bakery – but this history was threatened by both the passing of time and by disaster.

The Louisa Hotel’s top floors were vacant for over 50 years. It had been too expensive to bring them up to code, as is the case with many buildings in the Chinatown-International District. On Christmas Eve in 2013, a fire broke out which burned the roof and compromised the western half of the building. With the mortar in the brick damaged

by the fire, the unreinforced masonry wall along Maynard Alley was in danger of collapse and became a threat to public safety. Furthermore, some of the building’s interior had collapsed onto itself.

The restoration project began by stabilizing, demolishing, rebuilding, and replicating the fire-damaged western side of the building. Just stabilizing the building took two years. The team then worked to preserve the Louisa Hotel’s façade and extensively renovate the eastern half of the building.

The restoration complied with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The team preserved the feel of the hallways by removing, refinishing, and reinstalling the historic doors, which still carry the shadow of their original unit numbers. The team paid close attention to detail when restoring the building’s character-defining features, such as the original wood trim, picture rails, leaded glass windows, and bay windows.

Notably, Prohibition era murals from the jazz club (shown here) were also discovered and restored. Furniture and other artifacts salvaged from the Louisa Hotel before demolition have been returned and put on display.

But the building is more than just brick and mortar. True to its origin as affordable workforce housing, the Louisa Hotel reopened with 84 units of affordable workforce housing for individuals and families earning between $35,000 and $80,000 per year. In June of 2019, the building opened its doors to new residents for the first time in over 50 years – and not a moment too soon.

We are proud to recognize the Woo family and Gaard Development with the Community Investment Award for their restoration of the Chinatown-International District’s historic Louisa Hotel.

The Louisa Hotel: 2020 Community Investment Award

Congratulations to the Louisa Hotel Project Team!

Owners: Yuen G Woo LLC (Woo family), Gaard Development
Partners: Chase Community Equity; First Federal; Barrientos Ryan; Rolluda Architects; DCI Engineering; Marpac Construction; Chinn Construction; Gemma Daggatt Interior Design; Northwest Vernacular

About the project:

The Louisa Hotel, a contributing building to the Seattle Chinatown National Register Historic District and the International Special Review District, was built in 1909 as a single occupancy (SRO) hotel with ground floor retail. Designed by Andrew Willatsen and Barry Byrne, disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright who worked in his Chicago studio at the turn of the century, the hotel first housed Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino immigrants while they waited for work in Alaskan canneries.

The building was once home to a casino, a jazz club, and Seattle’s first Chinese bakery – but this history was threatened by both the passing of time and by disaster.

The Louisa Hotel’s top floors were vacant for over 50 years. It had been too expensive to bring them up to code, as is the case with many buildings in the Chinatown-International District. On Christmas Eve in 2013, a fire broke out which burned the roof and compromised the western half of the building. With the mortar in the brick damaged

by the fire, the unreinforced masonry wall along Maynard Alley was in danger of collapse and became a threat to public safety. Furthermore, some of the building’s interior had collapsed onto itself.

The restoration project began by stabilizing, demolishing, rebuilding, and replicating the fire-damaged western side of the building. Just stabilizing the building took two years. The team then worked to preserve the Louisa Hotel’s façade and extensively renovate the eastern half of the building.

The restoration complied with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The team preserved the feel of the hallways by removing, refinishing, and reinstalling the historic doors, which still carry the shadow of their original unit numbers. The team paid close attention to detail when restoring the building’s character-defining features, such as the original wood trim, picture rails, leaded glass windows, and bay windows.

Notably, Prohibition era murals from the jazz club (shown here) were also discovered and restored. Furniture and other artifacts salvaged from the Louisa Hotel before demolition have been returned and put on display.

But the building is more than just brick and mortar. True to its origin as affordable workforce housing, the Louisa Hotel reopened with 84 units of affordable workforce housing for individuals and families earning between $35,000 and $80,000 per year. In June of 2019, the building opened its doors to new residents for the first time in over 50 years – and not a moment too soon.

We are proud to recognize the Woo family and Gaard Development with the Community Investment Award for their restoration of the Chinatown-International District’s historic Louisa Hotel.

Britton and Rachel Shepard & the Ronnei-Raum House

Nestled in the center of Fall City and adjacent to the Fall City Masonic Lodge stands the 1904 Ronnei-Raum House. In 2019, Historic Seattle purchased the house from the neighboring Masons, who planned to reinvest the proceeds from the sale back into their historic lodge.

With the purchase, the Ronnei-Raum House became the first Preservation Action Fund (PAF) project undertaken by Historic Seattle. The PAF, created in 2017 by King County and 4Culture in partnership with Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, is a revolving real estate fund dedicated to purchasing, restoring, protecting, and re-activating historic properties throughout King County (outside of Seattle’s city limits).

Fall City historians and Preservation Action Fund (PAF) team members gathered for a tour of the PAF project site in February 2019 

Historic Seattle’s plans to rehabilitate the house were well underway this spring when an unexpected — yet welcomed — change in plans resulted in the sale of the Ronnei-Raum House this month, in advance of its completed restoration. Fall City resident Britton Shepard was excited by the project and made an offer to purchase it and finish the restoration project. Funds from the sale will be reinvested into the PAF for the next project.

But, you may wonder, who is Britton Shepard? How will he take on the restoration and stewardship of this historic King County landmark? Read on to learn about the man who will play the next leading role in shaping the house’s story.

As a builder and landscape architect, Britton certainly has the sensitivity and expertise necessary to restore the property. “I feel like I am a kindred spirit to your [PAF] group. I recently earned a Landscape Architecture degree from UW, and I share a lot of the core values of the College of Built Environments which have to do with community and cultivating a sense of place,” he explained.

Britton also has plenty of experience restoring old houses. Prior to moving to Fall City, he and his wife, Rachel, owned a 1904 home (the same vintage as the Ronnei-Raum House) in Georgetown. “We put a lot of work into that house to make it happy again. Then, when we moved to Fall City 15 years ago, we were committed to the idea of recycling a farmhouse – a labor of love that is not just about the house and its setting, but also about the lives lived there,” said Britton. Rachel, in fact, grew up in Fall City. “Ten years ago when our son started kindergarten, he did so in the same classroom where she went to kindergarten! Moving out here was a bit of a discovery for me, but it turns out that the character of the neighborhood, the scale of the houses, the open fields with no sidewalks, was similar to the neighborhood where I grew up in Boulder, Colorado. So, I instantly felt at home here.”

“I have always been curious about the Ronnei-Raum House. Last spring, I noticed there was a [PAF] banner up. One thing led to another and eventually it seemed that there was this opportunity — not just to make an investment, but also to participate in  this really visible restoration project,” Britton said.

In its original form, the 800 square foot house was a modest yet nicely detailed middle-class cottage with turned and jig-sawn millwork. Despite some alterations that occurred in the mid-20th century, its scale, simplicity, and some of its detail still echo the earliest stock of vernacular housing in this mill-oriented river town.

The Ronnei-Raum House in 1940. This image shows turned posts and scrollwork on the front porch, as well as the original front door, back porch, and possibly a hint at the original house color (not white, as it appears now).

“I love that the house is humble. I love the idea of creating a dwelling that is based on life in its simplest forms,” Britton explained. “The Ronnei-Raum house was originally a worker’s cottage. Our restoration work will embrace the same values of simplicity and frugality that prevailed when the house was built. This approach aligns with my personal manifesto as a designer, landscape philosopher, and historian. I think being frugal and having just enough is the sweet spot as far as sustainability and living in a mindful way.”

Britton continued, “At the same time, the house was built with quality materials: Douglas-fir lumber that was probably coming from a mill just up the river – materials that nowadays are coveted. It is like a time capsule where all this beautiful local wood was encased in a way that made it last. One of my jobs is going to be to take it all apart and restore and reuse it. We will take apart the inside, salvage the fir, replumb, redo the electrical, and put in a nice farmhouse kitchen. We will restore the original windows and woodworking. And we’ll choose colors, materials, and finishes in keeping with rural living back then.”

“As far as the landscape goes, there are distinctive elements of the property that are considered part of Fall City’s DNA — a simple house, set in place, with open space around it that was once pasture.  These features are specified in the Fall City Design Guidelines. There are also a couple of sources indicating that the Snoqualmie people kept the area near the river as a meadow, burning it off every couple of years to have better access to food and game harvests. The town of Fall City grew up in and around this meadow. The Ronnei-Raum House would’ve sat right in the middle. As a landscape historian, that’s a part of the story I’m really drawn to. I can imagine restoring the turf, with a simple walkway to the door, and bringing back basic elements like these that are inherent to the site,” Britton described.

The approximate location of the Ronnei-Raum House is indicated in red on this map of Fall City before 1900 from “Fall City in The Valley of The Moon” (1972).

The Ronnei-Raum House has been a single-family residence since it was built in 1904. It was home to the caretaker of Fall City Masonic Lodge #66 for decades and was most recently used by the Masons as a rental.  About Rachel and Britton’s plans for use, Britton said, “The goals that we have for the house don’t include selling it. In a sense this is a professional undertaking, one that will allow me to continue to work locally and further invest in this community.”

The Ronnei-Raum house and neighboring Masonic Lodge #66, 2019.

As part of the terms of the sale, Historic Seattle will hold a preservation easement on the property indefinitely. An easement is a tool used to protect a historic resource requiring that current and future owners maintain their property in a way that reflects its historic significance. “We are willing to make the commitment to the [easement] ‘obligation’ because it fits into family plans of being rooted here. Also, the guidelines align perfectly with my own set of values so that I’m actually coming to the same conclusions about how to approach this project,” said Britton.

About being a preservationist, Britton said, “To me, preservation is about meaning. I’m interested in sustainability — as it relates to energy, food, and materials, but also in how we value resources, where things are guarded and turned over and over again, really cherished. I think it is through cherishing, through our acts of caring for the place we live, that we create meaning. I think we need meaning, communities need meaning, as much as we need electricity. I look forward to taking the Ronnei-Raum House apart from the inside out and honoring it. I like to be involved with handling and appreciating the materials and the story. That’s my sense of being a preservationist.”

For an example of his place-making creativity and sensitivity towards our tangible material history, check out this video about Britton’s intriguing thesis project. As the description reads, “WSECU collaborated with landscape designer and University of Washington student Britton Shepard to build community by bringing a vacant lot to life in Seattle’s University District where the credit union’s future building will be built. Part art, part garden, part archeological dig, see how he transformed the forgettable into something special in the middle of a bustling city.”