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Robin & Alvis Harris: Washington Hall Caretakers

Aside from being the home of community-based anchor partners 206Zulu, Hidmo, and Voices Rising, for the past three years Washington Hall has been home to its caretakers Robin and Alvis Harris. Family circumstances require Robin and Alvis to move this spring. Historic Seattle caught up with them prior to their move to learn more about their experience living within Washington Hall’s legendary walls.

Tell us about your connection to Seattle and how you came to be caretaker(s) of Washington Hall?

Born in Tacoma, Robin said this area has always been home). He joined 206 Zulu in 2006 before it had its home at Washington Hall. Much of the work Robin did through 206 Zulu (providing safety and security at events) was carried out in the CD, so he quickly became connected to the neighborhood and community through that relationship.

Eventually Robin moved to Hawaii, where he also has deep roots, and for 5 years he traveled back to Seattle to provide security for Zulu’s annual anniversary event. He moved back to Seattle in 2015 “right around the time Zulu got WA Hall as its home,” and it wasn’t long after that the caretaker position opened up. He knew that with his security and maintenance background, he could help ensure it was a safe place by becoming the Hall’s caretaker. “I was also looking to provide a cool experience for my wife who then had never lived on the mainland.”

Tell us about your earliest memory there.

When Robin was 19 years old, a friend started getting him into jazz music. That friend drove him by Washington Hall telling him “this was THE PLACE everyone played at.” Robin said, “It has an incredible history musically alone!”

What is the connection between the Hall and your personal creative endeavors?

Robin is himself a musician and producer. Everything he has created musically has happened at the Hall. He says, “I knew the music I created here needed to come from a good place in my heart because of what this place means musically.” His work with and musical contributions to 206 Zulu’s Beats to The Rhyme program allow him to give back to the community.

Has your time living there changed your family?

Robin had always chosen to live in remote settings and enjoys solitude. Adjusting to living at the Hall challenged him, opened him up, and made him more patient. His wife Alvis is from a close-knit island community in the Pacific and was a little leery when she first moved into the Hall before it reopened. She was much more comfortable once the Hall became full of people and activity. “Her whole experience living on the mainland has been centered around Washington Hall. This is her home.”

How would you describe the Hall’s role in the community and Seattle as a whole? Do you personally feel connected to the Hall’s history?

“You cannot not notice homes are being torn down in the Central District, which is essentially changing the face and spirit of the neighborhood. Neighbors want to share the Central District pride with new people. People see this building still standing and it’s a beacon. It makes people happy to have this beautiful hall that is still such a hub of the community.”

When Robin got the call that he and Alvis were to be Washington Hall caretakers, he immediately felt a huge sense of pride, “to be stewards of something so beautiful, historic, and precious to so many all over the city.”

Robin has repeatedly heard from people in the community saying that they don’t know where they’d be if they hadn’t been able to find refuge at the Hall. “People look out for each other here. Having a role in caring for and providing a safe place where people truly care for each other is part of the Aloha spirt that is deeply instilled in my wife and I.”

“My wife and I, as well as anyone that has a birthday party or a wedding at the Hall, are part of its history. When you are a visitor to the Hall, you are a guest, but you are also now part of the family and we want you to come back. The community at the Hall is about showing people love, and saying we care about you, we want you to be here because the Hall is not the same if it’s empty. For the past three years we have not only worked to troubleshoot small problems, we troubleshoot larger life here.”

What is your favorite place in Seattle and why?

“I mean…(long pause)… does it have to be someplace other than the Hall? I’ve created more strong memories in the Hall than in any other place in the City.”

Preservation Planner Job Opening

The King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) is looking for a dynamic and innovative preservation professional to serve as King County’s Preservation Planner. Established in 1978, King County’s Historic Preservation Program’s (HPP) mission is to preserve and protect the county’s significant historic and archaeological resources and enhance public access and appreciation of them. HPP is a regional preservation program, providing preservation and landmarking services to unincorporated areas as well as 20 of the county’s suburban cities through interlocal agreements.

Deadline to apply: May 2, 2016

Job listing details available here.

Photo: Fall City Hop Shed (1888), a King County Landmark; source: King County Historic Preservation Program

Washington Trust Opportunities

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation announces a job opening and opportunities to apply for grants.

Development and Events Coordinator

The Washington Trust is looking to hire a Development and Events Coordinator. Based in Seattle, the Development and Events Coordinator guides and manages the Trust’s membership, development, and special events. The position is 80% (32 hours per week). Deadline to apply is Wednesday, August 26, 2015. Learn more here.

Valerie Sivinski Washington Preserves Fund

Grant applications for the 2016 Valerie Sivinski Washington Preserves Fund are being accepted. The deadline for submitting applications is Wednesday, October 7, 2015.

Established in 1997, the program has awarded grants to 115 projects totaling over $108,000 in funding to local historic preservation organizations and advocates engaged in the important work of preserving Washington’s cultural heritage.

Learn more about the fund and how to apply on the Trust’s website.

Heritage Barns Grants

happy home_blogThe Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP) has announced that applications to request funding through the Heritage Barn Rehabilitation Grant Program are available. Part of the state’s Heritage Barn Preservation Initiative established in 2007, the grant program assists with rehabilitation projects designed to stabilize and preserve designated Heritage Barns across the state. Since the program’s inception, Heritage Barn Grant funding has provided assistance to 65 Heritage Barns throughout Washington.

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation helps administer the grant program for DAHP. Learn more about the program through the Trust’s press release.

Grant applications are due on Wednesday, October 21, 2015, with grant awards slated to be announced in early 2016.

Photos: Poulsbo Boat Ellyn, 2015 Sivinski Grant recipient (source: Gig Harbor Boat Shop); Happy Home Barn, Douglas County, 2013-15 Heritage Barn Grant recipient (source: Washington Trust)

Historic Seattle Job Opportunity

Historic Seattle Seeks Director of Philanthropy

Historic Seattle’s Mission

For the mutual pride and benefit of all citizens and to foster a more livable environment, Historic Seattle protects Seattle’s architectural heritage through educational programs, advocacy and the preservation of buildings and cultural landscapes.

Invitation to Apply

Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority (HSPDA) invites applications for the position of Director of Philanthropy. Historic Seattle is the only city-wide non-profit organization devoted exclusively to the preservation of Seattle’s historic and architectural legacy. Since its founding in 1974, Historic Seattle has been a major advocate for and active participant in thoughtful and meaningful preservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings and landscapes. Historic Seattle seeks an exceptional fundraising professional to join our team of 15 staff members, 200 volunteers and 600 members. Our Director of Philanthropy will be tasked with building a culture of philanthropic support. This support will provide additional financial capacity and shall build upon an existing, sustainable and healthy $2.6M annual operating budget.

Position Summary

The Director of Philanthropy will be:

  • Closely aligned with the mission of Historic Seattle.
  • A seasoned development professional with a track record of success building a comprehensive annual giving and major gift program.
  • Team oriented in achieving organizational goals.
  • Able to balance strategic planning and day-to-day completion of necessary tasks.
  • Sensitive to interpersonal dynamics and relationships.

The responsibilities of this position include:

  • Working closely with the Executive Director, HSPDA Council and Staff and the Historic Seattle Foundation Board.
  • Thoughtfully developing strategy, conducting research, providing leadership and effectively executing a variety of fundraising initiatives including (but not limited to) project-specific capital and endowment campaigns, planned giving, annual fund, membership, fundraising events, corporate sponsorship programs and grant writing/management.
  • Managing volunteers to assist in donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.
  • Developing the role descriptions for the Historic Seattle Foundation Board.
  • Working to build the Foundation Board and working with the Executive Director and Board leadership to enhance the relationship between the Foundation Board and HSPDA Council.
  • Supervising the Membership and Communication Manager in addition to other appropriate consultants, contractors and/or vendors.
  • Overseeing the development of collateral materials related to philanthropic programs.
  • Improving upon the existing donor/member acknowledgment and benefit fulfillment program.
  • Supervising computerized record keeping and gift receipting.

This position reports to the Executive Director of Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority and Foundation. A comprehensive salary and benefits package is offered. Historic Seattle offers a positive and flexible working environment. Candidate must be willing to work occasionally outside of normal business hours.

Required Qualifications

Education: Baccalaureate Degree or equivalent experience is required.


  • Five years of progressive, results-oriented experience and a fundamental understanding of capital, endowment, annual, major and deferred gift programs.
  • Experience in and knowledge of historic preservation, real estate development, and public funding programs.
  • Provide effective communication, writing, organizational, leadership, administrative, marketing, and computer skills.
  • Ability and desire to work effectively with people of diverse personalities, cultures and communication styles, including volunteers, community leaders, business representatives, Board members, and colleagues.
  • Experience in a non-profit setting.


Posting Date: July 10, 2015. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Applicants are encouraged to apply by August 14, 2015.

Please email a cover letter addressing qualifications and interest in the position, resume highlighting relevant experience and at least three references to [email protected].

Questions may be directed to Kji Kelly, Executive Director at [email protected].

Historic Seattle is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Applicants representing the diversity of our community are encouraged to apply.

Historic Seattle Seeks Full Charge Bookkeeper

Historic Seattle is looking for a new Bookkeeper. If you or someone you know is interested, please contact us. The job announcement is listed below and also posted on our website at

Deadline to apply is Friday, August 8, 2014.

It is a full-time position (40 hours per week, non-exempt).  Eligible for medical and dental coverage, long-term disability insurance and retirement contribution in addition to holiday, vacation and sick days

Position Summary:

The Historic Seattle Bookkeeper is responsible for verifying and entering into the financial records the details of the organization’s financial transactions, including accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, and standard monthly general journal entries.  In addition, the Bookkeeper is responsible for reconciliation of general ledger accounts to sub-ledger detail, and reconciliation of bank accounts.  The Bookkeeper will close the books monthly and provide monthly management reporting to staff.  In addition, the Bookkeeper will assist the Contract CFO with annual budgeting and annual audit preparation.  This is a full-charge bookkeeper position.  The organization includes three discrete entities, including one limited liability company.


Job Opening: Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator, City of Seattle

From the City of Seattle job opportunities website: 

The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) works to bring government closer to community members across Seattle by engaging them in civic participation, helping them become empowered to make positive contributions to their communities, and by involving more of Seattle’s under-represented residents, including communities of color and immigrants, in civic discourse, processes and opportunities. The department motto is “Strengthening Seattle by actively engaging all communities.”

The Historic Preservation Program is responsible for the designation and protection of more than 450 historic structures, sites, objects, and vessels, as well as eight historic districts throughout Seattle. By involving residents in maintaining high standards for rehabilitation and new construction, the program allows them to recognize and keep the quality, character, and uniqueness of their neighborhoods.

DON is seeking a Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator, who will report to the Historic Preservation Officer, to support the Landmarks Preservation Board throughout the nomination or Certificate of Approval process for sites primarily in neighborhoods outside the downtown area.

For details on the position, wage, benefits and how to apply, go to the City of Seattle job posting for this position. Deadline to apply is July 17, 2012, 4 pm Pacific Time.