Preservation in Progress

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Archive for the ‘Landmarks’ Category

Death of a Landmark: The Sullivan House

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

Women’s History Embodied in our Built Environment

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.

Two Mid-Century Modern Commercial Buildings Nominated as Landmarks

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).

Cars are parked beneath the Community Psychiatric Clinic, which stands up on stilts. The building is long, rectangular, and features tall windows.

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.

A pickup truck is parked in front of the brick Stoneway Electric Building. The entrance to the building is framed by two trees without their leaves.

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 email your comments to Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator Erin Doherty.

Giving Thanks to our Supporters’ Circle

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.

Membership Support:
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.

A woman with short, blonde hair and glass smiles

Mollie Tremaine.

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.

Four white columns frame the entrance to the Hofius House, made of brick. Four windows sit above the entrance

The Hofius House on First Hill.

Monthly Donor:
Dale Dvorak

Monthly donors help sustain our work. Some employers, like Dale’s, match gifts which can significantly boost your contributions.

Why do you enjoy giving to Historic Seattle?

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 stands in the middle of a group of people and laughs during a tour of Georgetown. Brick and industrial buildings are seen in the background

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.

Save The Showbox Contributor:
James Keblas

Contributions to our advocacy fund were essential in securing landmark status for The Showbox. This support also enables us to continue to fight to protect other cultural spaces in Seattle.

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, wearing a shirt that says "Save The Showbox," stands to the right of Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney.

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 stands to the left of a board that says "2019 Preservation Awards - Community Advocacy - Friends of Little Saigon." She smiles while she holds a the 2019 Preservation Celebration Benefit journal.

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.

Behind the Garden Walls | A Glimpse into the Allure and Surprise of the Good Shepherd Center

On October 17 Historic Seattle will hold its 5th Annual Heirloom Apple Tasting at the Good Shepherd Center (GSC). GSC lead gardener Tara Macdonald had this to say about this free event: “It captures the spirit of fall, in its simplicity and the abundance offered. It also captures the essence of the place. Like the Good Shepherd Center itself, the event has a similar element of surprise, discovery, and pride. And in the broader sense, it reflects the importance of community. This all exists because of community.”

Read on to find out what else Tara has to share from her years as the conscientious steward of the alluring Good Shepherd Center grounds.

Tell us about your connection to Seattle and how you came to be lead gardener at the GSC.

I came to Seattle for the horticultural opportunity, it’s a great place to be in the business of gardening. I had a landscaping business, but I wanted to get involved in something more plant-centric and public spaces are very important to me so when this opportunity came along it was a great fit. Here there is a great plant collection and a great backstory that adds richness to the place.

What was your earliest memory of the GSC, and what has it been like to go from that first glance to the relationship you now have with the place?

I always refer back to my first impressions because it tells me what other people’s first impressions might be. The name for Historic Seattle’s tour of the grounds is “Behind the Garden Walls,” which is fitting because there is a holly hedge that surrounds the property. Depending on what stage the hollies are in, you can see glimpses of a big historic building behind there. It has this mysterious quality to it, a quality it has had throughout history because it was a very cloistered space.

My first impression was just “wow,” and then “interesting,” as I began to walk and explore the grounds and discover the diversity of the landscape and plants. You can tell the place was created with intent, but intent from times past. You have these rich woodland settings, lawn areas, formal gardens, and even a parking lot orchard! The diversity and peacefulness is unique, and people are surprised by it. You find yourself asking, “Why was this space created, and by whom?” The place invites and encourages a lot of questions and I’ve had the opportunity to dig into those questions. In my gardening, I’d like to make those questions pop into people’s heads. The way I imagine that happening is by defining the spaces more to make the character, and therefore the history of the spaces more prominent. By doing this you wouldn’t be able to avoid the question, “Why is it like this?”

Also, my awareness of the vibrancy of the community aspect — how much goes on here, and the impact this place has on community — has grown over the years. This position comes with a lot of responsibility, to both the history and the community. It’s not about me as a gardener, or my horticultural goals or whims; it’s about the history of the place and the value of it to the community both past and present.

You developed and lead Historic Seattle’s popular “Behind the Garden Walls” tour; what have you discovered about the place through the process of developing your tour? What have tour attendees seemed surprised to learn about this place and/or its history?

That there’s more to the story than people realize. I think that’s what surprises people most, how little they know. Most people know about the place only superficially, and not very accurately. All the details are news to them…they enliven the place and explain it in ways people didn’t even think to ask.

A tour group forms a semi-circle around Tara and a sign on a tri-pod that shares information about the Good Shepherd Center grounds.

 

Do you feel personally connected to the GSC’s history in any way?

The more I’ve learned about the place the more I realize how much it’s a reflection of women’s history. It reflects how women were treated, how girls were treated, how they were seen. Even the nuns, the fact that they were here is part of the story. This was a home for women and girls of various ages, and what that says about the how society treated abused women, neglected children, “bad girls,” is intriguing to me. As a woman, you have to feel a connection to that.

I’ll say as well that outdoor space is obviously very important to me and the fact that this home, which the grounds were very much a part of, was built around the importance of outdoor space also resonates with me personally. Outdoor space was integral to providing a good home. They saw outdoor space not only as an important outlet for female energy, but also as an important part of a healthy environment.  There were ornamental gardens, and playfields, but they also included sustainable agriculture in that space to feed themselves.

How do you see the gardens and grounds foster community?

Being on site daily, I see a ton of people come through here. It offers a lot. While many people definitely regard it as a meeting place, I also hear people using words like peaceful and oasis to describe it.

I probably interact with dog walkers most because that’s a community that needs and uses a lot of green space regularly. The dogs interact so the people interact, and the same happens with children and their parents on the playground. Others come here to unwind and inevitably stop and catch up with neighbors along the way.

Each neighborhood has its own identity and I think the Good Shepherd Center and the Meridian Playground are a big part of that, at least for the immediate Wallingford community and perhaps for some further afield. So, it creates a sense of community, ownership, and identity. And it really goes beyond those who use the building and the grounds, we get people all the time who come through and ask, “Can we go in?” and they’re usually really surprised by what they find.

And of course, there’s the apple tasting! With the apples themselves as a very tangible resource, we’ve been able to do a lot over the past 4 years to build a sense of community with this event. Certainly, with the bakers (GSC community volunteers who contribute baked goods to the tasting using GSC-grown apples) it gives them an opportunity to use their time, energy, and passion to contribute and participate in the community, which is a lot of fun. It also helps by connecting the communities within the building to each other and to the community at large.

Tara hands an apple slice to a child from across the table at our annual apple tasting. The table is full of different apple varieties.

Sticks & Stones Photography

What is one thing you wish everyone knew about the GSC?

That this place exists because of the efforts of the community. The big take-home is that if you want places like this, be active in preservation. It takes the same amount of effort from the community now to continue to have places like this.

Beyond Nostalgia & the Spirit of Service to the People

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?

SW: I 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.

EA: FOTS 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.

SW: Music 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.

EA: I 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 exists there.

What is your earliest memory of The Showbox?

SW: I 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.

“At 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.

SW: Well, 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?

SW: I’ve 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.

Shannon, Earnie, and other Showbox employees testify in support of nominating The Showbox for landmark status.

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 experience.

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?

SW: We’re 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.

EA: The 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.

SW: We’re 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?”

EA: There’s 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 pursuits?

SW: I 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.

EA: The 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.

Save the Spud Building & Sullivan House!

There’s no shortage of preservation advocacy issues happening. Here’s the latest:

Spud – Next Modern Landmark? Sullivan House – Next Capitol Hill Landmark or Tear-down?

The February 7th Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) meeting should shape up to be a pretty interesting one with a ca. 1898 house and a 1959 Modern commercial building up for consideration by the Board.

The Spud Fish & Chips Building (6860 East Green Lake Way N) is an excellent example of a mid-century Modern commercial building with elements of the Googie-style. The iconic design of this legacy business is one of the few remaining intact buildings of this style in Seattle. This property is also threatened with demolition and redevelopment. Historic Seattle will be supporting the nomination of the Spud Fish & Chips building.

The Patrick J. and Joanna Sullivan House (1632 15th Avenue at E. Olive Street) on Capitol Hill will be up for landmark designation. Historic Seattle supports the designation of this significant property because the house embodies the distinctive characteristics of the Queen Anne style; represents an outstanding work of the architecture firm of Josenhans and Allen; sits prominently at the southeast corner of 15th Ave and E Olive Way, presenting a striking contract to surrounding buildings; and is associated with a prominent businessman from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Currently threatened because it’s for sale for $2.2M, we hope to see the property designated and sold to someone who intends to restore the structure, which actually houses five-units.

You may download the nomination reports for both properties on the Seattle Historic Preservation Program’s website, under “Current Nominations.”

We encourage you to support the nomination of the Spud building and the designation of the P.J. and Joanna Sullivan House. You may submit written comments via e-mail to Erin Doherty, Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator, at erin.doherty@seattle.gov, by Monday, February 5th or attend the public meeting on Wednesday, February 7th at 3:30 p.m. and provide comments. The meeting will be held in Seattle City Hall (600 4th Avenue, Floor L2) in the Boards & Commissions Room L2-80.

No Controls on Two Designated Landmarks

In the past two months, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board placed no controls on two designated Seattle Landmarks—the Galbraith House on Capitol Hill (17th and Howell) and the Wayne Apartments in Belltown. Demolition of the Galbraith House began in early January. The Wayne Apartments building is for sale. With no controls, we expect it will also be demolished unless a sympathetic buyer surfaces. Historic Seattle is very disappointed with this outcome for both historic properties. It has been rare for the Board to place no controls on a designated landmark. And now, in the span of two months, this has happened twice. We know these must have been difficult decisions for the Board and City staff. What’s not helping is the current, over-inflated market value of properties in Seattle and the demolition-by-neglect by owners who let their properties deteriorate so the cost of rehabilitation is much higher 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. We hope to learn from these recent examples and work with the City to seek stronger protections for designated landmarks. We do not want this be the new normal for designated landmarks.  

More info on each property:

Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

Friends of Historic Belltown

Photo credits: Spud (daytime) – Joe Mabel photographer; Spud at night (Docomomo WEWA); Wayne Apartment Building (Historic Seattle)

Save Seattle’s Historic Schools!

Calling All Preservation Advocates!

Historic Seattle seeks your help in saving Seattle’s historic schools. We recently learned that a bill has been introduced to the State Senate by Senators David Frockt and Reuven Carlyle (SB 5805) “Concerning the application of landmark or historic preservation regulations with regard to school district property in school districts with more than fifty thousand students.”

In a nutshell, SB5805 seeks to exempt schools in the Seattle School District from the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO). The bill states, “For school districts with more than fifty thousand students, school district property shall be subject to state and local landmark or historic preservation regulations only to the extent explicitly approved by the board of directors of each school district.”

The Seattle School District is using the legislature to solve a local issue. Seattle is the only district in the state with over 50,000 students. If the school board does not like the LPO, it should address its issues with the City of Seattle, not the state legislature.

It’s our understanding that all currently designated Seattle School District-owned landmarks as well as all future designated landmarks owned by the School District could be affected. Schools could still be designated through the current Landmarks designation process, but the school board would have the authority to “approve” which elements of the landmark ordinance it wishes to comply with. One could designate a school, but the school board would have the authority to ignore any controls and incentives, thereby opening up the possibility of demolition or significant alterations without approval from the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board.

The bill also refers to “state…historic preservation regulations.” There are no state historic preservation regulations. The Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation reviews historic preservation issues under SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act). Is the School District also looking to be exempt from SEPA?

Seattle taxpayers have approved millions of dollars in levies for schools, much of which has been used to renovate designated landmarks. If this bill is passed, the school board would have the power to “undo” the will of Seattle voters on past projects.

The bill also sets a bad precedent for other school districts in the state.

What You Can Do

Please submit written testimony, ideally, by Wednesday, January 10, close-of-business day (5 pm), or no later than NOON on Thursday, January 11, to Senator Frockt and Senator Carlyle and explain why you are opposed to this bill (SB5805). Be sure to reference the bill.

We also suggest emailing Senator Lisa Wellman and Senator Christine Rolfes, Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee. And it’s always a good idea to contact the senator in your own legislative district.

Keep your message short. Bottom line, the Seattle School District should not be exempt from the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. You might even ask Senators Frockt and Carlyle why they are even supporting such a bill.

If there is a historic school in your neighborhood that is designated a landmark or is a potential landmark, please note the school buildings and say why they are important. Seattle’s historic schools are institutional anchors in every neighborhood. The School District has a duty to maintain and sensitively upgrade these buildings to serve the community.

If you have time to attend a public hearing for the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee scheduled for Thursday, January 11, at 1:30 pm, we encourage you to provide testimony in person. The hearing takes place in the Senate Hearing Rm 1, J.A. Cherberg Building, Olympia, WA 98504.

Here’s a link to learn more about testifying in Committee in person and via written testimony (scroll down the page for written testimony instructions). http://leg.wa.gov/legislature/Pages/Testify.aspx

We recommend emailing the senators and their legislative aides directly. See contact info below:

Senator David Frockt, David.Frockt@leg.wa.gov; legislative aide Jon Rudicil, Jon.Rudicil@leg.wa.gov

Senator Reuven Carlyle, Reuven.Carlyle@leg.wa.gov; legislative aide Kate Hoffman, Kate.Hoffman@leg.wa.gov

Senator Lisa Wellman, Lisa.Wellman@leg.wa.gov; legislative aide Noah Burgher, Noah.Burgher@leg.wa.gov

Senator Christine Rolfes, Christine.Rolfes@leg.wa.gov; legislative aides Linda Owens, Linda.Owens@leg.wa.gov and Mikhail Cherniske, Mikhail.Cherniske@leg.wa.gov

Thanks in advance for taking the time to advocate for the preservation of Seattle’s historic schools!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Eugenia Woo, Director of Preservation Services at Historic Seattle at eugeniaw@historicseattle.org.

 

Photo: Seward School, a designated Seattle Landmark (source: Department of Neighborhoods)

Two New West Seattle Landmarks!

West Seattle Junction’s Crescent-Hamm and Campbell Buildings Designated

WA_KingCounty_Seattle_CampbellBuilding_01-31-2017_005_blog_a

Campbell Building / photo: Sarah Martin

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) has voted unanimously to designate two of West Seattle Junction’s iconic commercial buildings: Crescent-Hamm Building (4302 SW Alaska Street/4559 California Avenue SW) and Campbell Building (4554 California Avenue SW). The Hamm designation vote was on February 15th, followed by the Campbell designation on April 5th. These two prominent anchor buildings, occupying the northeast and northwest corners of California and Alaska, are the first official City Landmarks in the heart of the Junction.

Historic preservation consultants Sarah Martin and Flo Lentz prepared both nominations on behalf of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society (SWSHS) as part of its “We Love the Junction” campaign. The Johnson Partnership, who represented the building owners, made presentations to the Board for both properties. Their presentation for the Hamm building focused on the changes to the historic fabric and the issue of integrity. For the Campbell Building, they were there to clarify the owners’ support of the exterior designation, but not interior.

Members of the “We Love the Junction” Task Force along with other community members attended both hearings to speak in favor of their designations. Peder Nelson, SWSHS board vice-president and co-chair of the task force, said he represented “hundreds of people in West Seattle” including Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and former Seattle Council member Tom Rasmussen.

Crescent-Hamm Building

Crescent-Hamm Building / photo: Sarah Martin

Crystal Dean, a task force member, described the Hamm Building (home to Easy Street Records) as a “jewel…the Junction’s north star,” adding that the “Hamm and Campbell Buildings are to West Seattle what Pike Place Market is to downtown.” Board comments were overwhelmingly positive as well. Steven Treffers said the building “truly does embody the two-part commercial block” and remains very intact.

The Board’s deliberation for the Campbell Building  (main tenant Cupcake Royale) looked at four of the designation standards: Criteria B, C, D, and F. Treffers expressed his gratitude to the consultants, as well as the outpouring of community support. He voiced his support of Criterion B due to its strong ties with real estate developer William T. Campbell, saying it was the first of his commercial buildings and the one that he held onto the longest.

Board member Deb Barker praised the Calvo family, owners of the Campbell Building since 1943, for their “loving care over the years,” saying that the two-story brick structure stands as the “cornerstone of the crossroads.”

Nelson said their group is “thrilled by these designations” which marks a high point in their campaign. In March 2016, they released the results of their two-year historical survey, What Makes the West Seattle Junction Special?, funded by 4Culture. The joint collaborative effort – which included the West Seattle Junction Association, Southwest District Council, Junction Neighborhood Organization (JuNO), and ArtsWest – led to the launch of the “We Love the Junction” campaign.

The next step is for the City to work with both owners in negotiating a Controls and Incentives Agreement for the landmarks. Only the exterior of both buildings were designated.

Congratulations to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society and “We Love the Junction” Task Force for their pro-active efforts in protecting the community’s history. A leader in these efforts has been SWSHS Executive Director Clay Eals. The organization just announced that Clay will be stepping down from his post in July. He’ll go out on a high note. Learn more about Clay and his work with the SWSHS and the organization’s search for a new Executive Director.

Upper left photo in sidebar: “We Love the Junction” Task Force members / credit: SWSHS

Mama’s Building Designated a Landmark

fohb members_mama's_011817_blogAt its January 18 meeting, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to designate Belltown’s iconic Mama’s Mexican Kitchen building (2234 Second Avenue) as a Seattle Landmark. David Peterson of NK Architects, who prepared the landmark nomination on behalf of the property owner, gave a presentation about the building’s history and design. He stated that it was “typical” of the low-scale commercial structures in the neighborhood from the early 20th century and didn’t rise to the level of landmark status. However, the Department of Neighborhood’s (DON’s) Historic Resources Survey describes the Bell Street storefront as “one of downtown’s most intact examples of an auto repair garage.”

The owner’s consultant next addressed changes to the building’s three facades and interior spaces, arguing that when taken together, the alterations have impacted the overall physical integrity. Jack McCullough, the owner’s legal counsel, argued against designation, downplaying any significance and focusing on integrity issues. McCullough made the statement that “the bar for integrity needs to be higher” for these more utilitarian buildings.

After several questions from the Board, public comments were taken. Historic Seattle joined representatives from various community groups including Friends of Historic Belltown (FOHB), Belltown Community Council, and Project Belltown. Everyone in attendance spoke in support of designation with the overall consensus that Belltown doesn’t have a lot of high-style buildings, but more humble buildings for “the common man” that embody the neighborhood’s heritage.

Steve Hall, a community organizer and spokesman for FOHB, said that Mama’s is already an unofficial landmark, “If you say, ‘Meet me at Mama’s,’ kind of like the pig at the Market, it’s just one of those places that is known in the community, and important to the community character.” He also stated that it’s “not a contest” – for example, it doesn’t have to be the best and most intact example – and the structure needs to be looked at in its entirety.

Historic Seattle’s Eugenia Woo addressed McCullough’s assertion about a higher bar for integrity, making the point that the Landmarks Ordinance does not have different levels of integrity for high-style versus vernacular buildings and that the Mama’s building should not be held to a higher standard.

The Board then deliberated for over 30 minutes before making a motion and voting 6-0 to approve the designation, based on Criterion D and F. Board Chair Jeffrey Murdock clarified that the language in the designation standards does not require a property to be “exceptional;” Criterion D states that a property needs to embody “the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction.” Steven Treffers, a newly-appointed Board member, said that the Mama’s building “tells a story about a community, period of development,” adding that it retains a “remarkable degree of integrity” to convey the qualities and characteristics of a 1920s auto building.

FOHB said that the Board’s vote comes at a critical time for Belltown as it “faces stupefying change, as Amazon and other tech businesses continue their meteoric transformation of the South Lake Union area.” Hall wishes these types of advocacy efforts weren’t so adversarial: “I would like it if developers would see these iconic and historic buildings as an asset, too, which is great for their business, rather than a liability to be dealt with.”

The community group refers to this decision as the “Mama’s Superbowl” since its designation would represent the second landmarked building on the key block at the corner of Second and Bell. The Wayne Apartments, situated to the south, was recently designated a City landmark.

The property owner, Minglian Realty LLC of Vancouver, BC, acquired the site in 2015 with plans to construct an eight-story apartment building. We do not know if Minglian Realty has a “Plan B” since the building is now designated.

The next step is for the Board staff to negotiate a Controls and Incentives Agreement with the property owner that defines how historic features should be preserved, along with preservation incentives (i.e., special tax valuation and zoning/building code relief). The Board designated the building exterior; no interior spaces and/or features were included in the designation.

Even though Mama’s is designated as a landmark, it doesn’t guarantee that it won’t get altered and/or demolished. Although it’s a complicated process, the owner can still tear down a landmark if they can demonstrate that operating it within the constraints of the landmark designation does not deprive them of “reasonable economic use” of the property.

Photos: East and north facades of the Mama’s Mexican Kitchen Building; and happy members of Friends of Historic Belltown after the designation hearing (images courtesy of Friends of Historic Belltown)