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Archive for the ‘VivaCity’ Category

VivaCity: Capitol Hill Historical Society

A curiosity about his historic apartment building eventually led Tom Heuser to found the Capitol Hill Historical Society. Here, Tom shares his love of Capitol Hill and how the pandemic has changed the Capitol Hill Historical Society.

Founded in 2017, the mission of Capitol Hill Historical Society (CHHS) is “to gather, preserve, and share the history of the communities that have shaped Capitol Hill.” Events offered by CHHS include intriguing history presentations, book author presentations and Q & As, panel discussions, walking tours, and more — all related to the rich history of the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The CHHS blog features pages of interesting stories about places and people significant to the neighborhood’s story. And CHHS frequently advocates for the preservation of meaningful Capitol Hill sites by voicing support at City landmark hearings, conducting surveys, and connecting citizen advocates, local architects, researchers, and others to help further community preservation efforts. In celebration of National Preservation Month, we checked in with CHHS Board President Tom Heuser. Below, Tom shares highs and lows of the past year, tells us about what inspired the organization’s formation, and highlights what CHHS is looking forward to in the months ahead.

What were the highlights of the past year?

Some highlights include the Capitol Hill coloring book that we published, which was a lot of fun to work on. There was also a lot of growth in social media engagement with our posts, which I think many people have enjoyed. Another highlight has been expanding our scholarship into new areas that are less recognized, such as the neighborhood’s Black history and Midcentury Modern Architecture. We celebrated Black History Month at our annual members meeting with a series of short presentations on significant Black members of the Capitol Hill community throughout history and recently had a virtual event co-sponsored by DOCOMOMO WEWA, where my project partner Lana Blinderman and I shared our methodology, findings, and some interesting photos from the Midcentury Modern project that is currently underway.


What are you looking forward to in the next year?

A lot of that is, of course, up in the air due to the pandemic but generally speaking, I’m really looking forward to more in-person events. For example, we really want to do a walking tour featuring midcentury apartments, and who knows — maybe we’ll be able to actually do the holiday party again this year!

How has the pandemic impacted CHHS?

Many of our members have had to scale back their involvement or step down entirely to address more immediate issues, whether family, or work or both. That has definitely changed how we do things, and what we are able to do, as well. Planning for the future is a little more difficult at the moment, so we’re trying not to jump into anything too big while things remain so uncertain. I’ll add that our virtual events are getting more attendance than in-person events. This doesn’t surprise much because it’s easier to just sign on, but maybe it also allows people to participate who may not have otherwise been able to do so. It makes me think for the future it may be good to do some sort of hybrid model for events – I think that would be a good thing to explore.

Do you feel personally connected to the history of Capitol Hill? To any place in particular?

Yes, for sure! For the amount of time I have lived here, I definitely feel connected to the history of the neighborhood. And I feel particularly connected to The Capitol Building Apartments at Broadway & John, the building I have lived in for most of my the 17 or so years here. While I did actually just move out, that building will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will always think of it fondly. In fact, that’s where my interest in the neighborhood’s history got started. I began getting curious about my building, and then I got really fascinated with everything I was learning about it, and I just kept going and this is where I ended up. I was surprised that there wasn’t already a historical society for Capitol Hill, and I just had this desire to see what could be accomplished by bringing more people together.

There are many opportunities to get involved with CHHS, visit their website at to learn more!

The Cayton-Revels House – A Newsworthy Landmark

The Cayton-Revels House in 1909, sourced from The Seattle Republican.

The Cayton-Revels house in Capitol Hill (518 14th Avenue E.) was built in 1902 for Horace Roscoe Cayton and Susie Revels Cayton. Born into enslavement by White people in Mississippi, Horace Cayton came to Seattle in 1890 and started the Seattle Republican, the first Black-owned newspaper in the city. Susie Cayton was the daughter of the first Black American U.S. Senator and joined Horace in the newspaper publishing business becoming the city’s first female associate editor of a publication.

Taha Ebrahimi, author of the Cayton-Revels House landmark nomination.

In February 2021, The Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) voted unanimously to nominate the Cayton-Revels House for designation as a City Landmark. The nomination was written and submitted by Taha Ebrahimi with enthusiastic support from the current owners, Erie Jones and Kathleen Jo Ackerman. Taha’s well-researched nomination report details the Cayton family experience — in which their success was inversely related to increasing racism and racist policies — and describes Seattle’s connection to the broader Black American experience.

In the following, Taha shares details about what inspired this nomination and discusses the importance of recognizing cultural significance, like that of the Cayton family, in our landmarks.

“One of my favorite books about history in Seattle is called Skid Row,” said Taha. “It’s a very popular book, and in it, there’s a whole chapter about early Seattle newspapers. Yet, the Caytons’ newspaper is never even mentioned! For some time, The Seattle Republican was the second most popular newspaper in Seattle – not just amongst Black Americans – but in Seattle!  Susie Cayton becoming the first female associate editor of the newspaper in 1900 was also hugely significant.”


Horace and Susie Cayton, 1896. Source: Headlines and Pictures July 1945


According to Taha’s research, it wouldn’t be until 1940 when another woman became an editor of one of the most-read newspapers in Seattle. “It was shocking that none of this was in there, and it was this shock that inspired me to get this place, and this part of our history, recognized,” Taha said.

Cayton Family,1904. Source: Vivian G Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, Chicago Public Library

According to Taha’s nomination, “Because of their business and political involvements, the Caytons were one of the most well-known Black American families in Seattle at the turn of the 20th century.” Yet, despite this and despite growing up in Seattle, Taha only recently became aware of the family’s significance. “As a student, we were required to study Washington State history. We would take field trips to places like the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, places relevant to the history of Seattle, and yet I had never heard about the Caytons. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know their story, and shocked that more people didn’t know about them. That’s when I started to learn more about the family, I got more books and I started to get deeper into the research,” said Taha.

Taha first learned about the Cayton-Revels’ residence in another book called The Hill with a Future, by Jacqueline B. Williams. “In it, they off-handedly mention the address,” said Taha. “I’d been taking these long walks during the pandemic and one day I walked by it and happened to meet one of the owners working in the yard. Quite honestly, I assumed it was already landmarked. Knowing what I knew then, I could not believe it wasn’t already designated.”

The Cayton-Revels House today, courtesy of Taha Ebrahimi.

Among those unaware of the Caytons’ legacy were also the current owners of the Cayton residence. “When they were redoing their attic, they found a couple of artifacts that had Susie Cayton’s father’s name on them. One was a marriage certificate, and the other was an ongoing tab he had at a local store,” said Taha. Susie’s father, Hiram Revels, was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress, elected to represent Mississippi in 1870 when Jefferson Davis abandoned his seat to become president of the Confederacy. “They found this out by Googling his name! Shortly thereafter, by coincidence some of the Cayton cousins got in touch with the owners and walked them through the rest of the story,” Taha explained.

When asked for her thoughts about the larger meaning of the unanimous vote by the LPB to nominate the Cayton-Revels House, Taha said, “I think that, until recently, there’s been a tendency to value architectural significance over cultural significance. And frankly, a lot of culturally significant places may not be architecturally significant. In that case, it begs the question, ‘What is a landmark then?’ The Seattle Landmarks Ordinance is great because cultural significance is built in as one of the qualifying criteria for designation. I think, and I hope, that the Board really wants nominations based on cultural significance. They are open to it, and I think this unanimous board vote reflects the desire to have more nominations centered around cultural significance.”

Historic Seattle’s mission is to save meaningful places that foster lively communities. We asked Taha to describe how she thinks the Cayton-Revels House fosters community. She said, “I think official recognition of any culturally significant landmark fosters community because it helps connect people with places in a personal way. This helps people feel pride and shared appreciation for our communities’ heritage, especially at a time like right now when a lot of people are trying to think about what a future looks like. When you have a shared sense of your past and that kind of foundation, I think you can move forward, together, better.”

The LPB will consider designating the Cayton-Revels House at its April 7 meeting. We encourage you to support designation through written comments and/or verbal public testimony at the hearing which begins at 3:30 pm. Send comments to the Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator Erin Doherty by Monday, April 5 (

People in Preservation | A Look Behind a Landmark Nomination

If you’re reading this, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the City Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. You may know that landmarking is generally a two-part process. The first step is nomination; then, if a nomination meets certain criteria and receives enough votes, it goes on to be considered for designation.

What are those “certain criteria” for landmarking? Does a place need to be super old and really fancy to qualify?
A place does not necessarily need to possess remarkable architecture to qualify as a city landmark. What it does require is to: 1) be over 25 years old, 2) possess integrity or the ability to convey its significance, and 3) meet at least one of the six criteria for designation outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.

Ok, how are landmark nominations initiated?

Nominations come from a variety of sources, including preservation consultants, organizations like Historic Seattle, property owners and citizen advocates. They can also be a requirement triggered by a permit application. In this post, we highlight an example of a recent nomination submitted by a novice citizen advocate on behalf of the property owner.

The Considine House Nomination

The Considine House (also known as the Cohen House and the Immaculate Conception Convent) at 802 16th Ave in the Central District was unanimously nominated by the Landmarks Preservation Board on January 20. Like many of Seattle’s grand old homes, this Neoclassical style residence has lived many lives — first as the home of the Considine family, who played a part in Seattle’s early theater and vaudeville history. Later, it served as a convent for the nearby Immaculate Conception Church. Finally, it was divided into 4 apartments, one of which now serves as the home of its current owner. The nomination report noted that the property “has borne witness to almost 120 years of social and cultural evolution in the heart of Seattle’s Central District…[and] has served as a reflection of the diverse and ever-changing neighborhood.”

Sarah Greiner, who authored the Considine House nomination, grew up less than a mile away. Her partner is the granddaughter of the house’s current owner, artist Sue Perry, whose artwork often reflects the rapidly changing Central District neighborhood. Sue and her daughter Amy Hagopian currently reside in two of the four units that comprise the Considine House today. With extra time on her hands while between jobs, Sarah took on the task of preparing the landmark nomination on behalf of Sue and Amy.

Amy Hagopian arrived in Seattle in 1972 to attend UW as an undergraduate and has lived all over Seattle in the years since. In the late 1980s, her mother and stepfather decided to relocate to Seattle from Boston and enlisted Amy to help them find a house.

The first weekend I set out looking, I was shown the Considine House and I immediately told the realtor my folks would take it — sight unseen,” said Amy. “My folks were a retiring faculty member and a social worker, so they didn’t have a ton of money. The fact that it was a multiplex and could produce some necessary income, coupled with the historic nature of the house and that it would be a bit of a project, all made it the perfect place.”

The personal connections Sue, Amy, and Sarah all have to the Considine House aren’t solely what inspired them to seek landmarking for the Considine House.

“It is very much a socially significant place,” explained Sarah. “The history of the Considine House truly reflects the changing demographic of the neighborhood, and everyone I talked to when I was doing research was excited that to learn that it might get recognition that would help preserve it.”

Even a long period of vacancy at the Considine House tells an important part of the story, not just of the House, but of Seattle too. Prior to the purchase by Sue and John Perry and following the time it served as a convent, the house sat unoccupied for 6 years. Redlining — a policy imposed in 1960s by White legislators — made securing loans and buying property nearly impossible for Black people, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, people of Mexican ancestry, and Jews. Because of this restrictive policy, the Considine House sat unoccupied for six years between serving as a convent and finally being purchased by Sue and John Perry.

“Redlining is such an important historic factor in how this house came to be the way it is,” Amy commented.

The Buford family home in August 2018, now demolished.

“As this neighborhood changes it becomes more and more important to hold on to some of the original components of this community and what mattered here,” said Amy. “It was heartbreaking when the Buford’s home was torn down just to the north of us.” Amy continued, “They got swindled out of their house by developers, which is what’s going on all over the Central District now. For me, watching developers attempt to swoop in take over the neighborhood has a lot to do with wanting to protect this house.” You can read more about the Bufords and their ties to the Considine House and significance in Seattle’s legendary jazz history in the nomination.

Despite multi-generational ties to the neighborhood, Sarah and the Hagopian and Perry families acknowledge their part in the process of gentrification. “I definitely feel complicated in my relationship to the neighborhood,” said Sarah. “When my parents bought their house in the late ‘80s, they were the first White people on the block.  The block, and of course the neighborhood, looked very different then than it does now. The Hagopian and Perry family is also mostly White and despite their activism, social awareness, and caring for all their neighbors, they are still a White presence in the neighborhood. I think we can preserve elements of the neighborhood, such as the house, while acknowledging the damage that people including our families and our friends have done. As the nomination report describes, over time the House has been mostly a residence for working class people, and it continues to be one of the only affordable rentals within a few blocks. Not wanting to see more people displaced is a big part of why we are seeking to preserve it. I want to see it continue to be a family space, a gathering space, and a place people can afford to live in.”

The designation hearing for the Considine House will be held on March 17 at 3:30 pm. Read the nomination report to learn more. We encourage you to support designation through written comments or verbal public testimony at the meeting. Send comments to the Landmarks Preservation Board Coordinator Erin Doherty by March 15 ( 

VivaCity: Keep Music Live

A Brief Introduction

Keep Music Live (KML)

Keep Music Live WA is a COVID-19 relief fundraising campaign established by music lovers to support our small, independently owned venues in Washington State.

Tomo Nakayama (TN)

Born in Japan and raised on Seattle’s “east side,” Tomo Nakayama is a UW alum, a singer-songwriter, and a producer who has been playing live music in Seattle for over 20 years. “I’ve played in practically every venue in town, from the smallest bars to the Moore Theatre and The Showbox, and I’ve met most of my best friends playing around town at shows.”

Leigh Bezezekoff (LB)

Born in New Mexico and raised in a suburb just south of Seattle, Leigh is a fellow UW alum and staple at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard. “I pretty much learned there was a music scene here in Seattle when I saw Pearl Jam’s Even Flow video and I was like ‘This is happening here!? In Seattle?’ And from that moment on I started going to shows, then I moved to Seattle proper, and I’ve been here ever since!”

Michael Gill (MG)

Michael Gill hails from Montana originally. When he moved to Seattle in 2013, he started working odd jobs at Chop Suey because bands that he had played in touring out of Missoula always had great experiences there. “When I moved here, I hit them up and was like ‘can I wipe tables or clean up puke or something?’ Then, after some time, I was offered a job at the Central Saloon and I started talent buying there.”

Historic Seattle’s mission is to save meaningful places that foster lively communities. How do you think live music fosters community?

TN: The music itself is just one of the elements of what goes on at shows. It brings so many people together, and the experience of live music just can’t be recreated online. I’ve been playing Zoom meetings for the past year and it’s made me realize just how much I miss the organic relationships that form from being in the same room as someone. I miss the opportunities for different collaborations, the inspiration from seeing other people and being creative and that’s really something you can only get from being in a room with other people.

A 2019 show at the Tractor Tavern from Leigh Bezezekoff’s Instagram account @everyconcertigoto.

LB: Before I started officially working at the Tractor, I managed bands that played there a lot and I was there so much that by the time I started working there I already knew everyone!  It’s the type of community where even if you go to a show alone, you know you’re probably going to know some people there. And I think this is an important part of what we are all missing, not just your immediate and closest friends, but the people you are just used to seeing all the time.

MG: You know, I see this a lot at the Central Saloon because of our geographic location. We really are at the center of so many things — in proximity to the stadiums and the waterfront, and you just get so many different communities coming together in the space purely because of music.

Pioneer Square’s Central Saloon. Image courtesy of Michael Gill.

Why do independent venues matter to you, and why is it important that they continue to exist?

TN: Independent venues aren’t driven entirely by commerce. What you get with the bigger conglomerates is sort of a built-in hierarchy of bands, and what happens in that case is you get the same type of music getting booked and getting promoted over and over again. You need these smaller venues, to foster creativity and for people to take chances with your music. And there are so many people involved in the music industry aside from the artists themselves – there are the sound engineers, lighting, the people who run the venues – they all rely on this ecosystem to keep our industry going. When people think of Seattle music and the character of the city, that’s what you’re talking about — the independent places, and the independent experiences – they differentiate it from a corporate conglomeration.

LB: Smaller venues have the ability to help artists grow their careers. From local artists building momentum to get on the road to helping touring artists build their fan bases in each market. I love that the Tractor will book an artist at The Sunset or even Conor Byrne and help them get ready for a bigger room. We’ll even help promote them at Neumos or The Showbox to help the transition.

MG: Independent venues are why many people start playing music, to have an emotional connection with the audience. The further you get from a small venue, the further you get from that direct connection. No matter how many people hold their lighters up in a stadium, you’re just not going to get that same experience that you do in a small venue. When music matters most is when it’s at a small venue. The reason it’s important for them to continue to exist is the same reason why they exist in the first place — bands need to grow from somewhere. Small venues offer the chance for discovery – for both the patron and the artist.

How has KML changed the relationship between venues, artists, and people in the industry?

LB: The Seattle music industry is pretty small when it comes down to it. We all kind of know each other and we’re all just one or two degrees away from one another in the scene, but what has been unique about this is that we have been developing relationships – strong foundational relationships of working together on behalf of everyone else and not just our own venues. I think everyone in the group kind of recognizes that if you were just out for yourself (as a venue) you might make it, but the important thing is to make sure that everyone else is coming along. That’s something I’ve not seen in Seattle before. Another thing is the coming together of people who have been ancillary in the venue scene, like Holly Hinton who curates music for Starbucks. She’s on the Keep Music Live leadership team and getting to work closely with her and other people from different facets of the industry has been amazing.

MG: To add to that, meeting and working closely with others in different marketing and financial circles of the Seattle music industry has been so beneficial. While we have spent a lot of the last year sort of struggling to figure out how to do this, on the positive side we’ve also realized ‘Wow, imagine the opportunities we will have when we all come back together as a whole!’ Relationships have been built and trust has formed, fundamental relationships between neighborhoods within Seattle, relationships that connect us state-wide, and new connections with music-loving corporate resources who are ready to get their hands dirty. What Seattle and Washington State can now do for its music fans, its artists, its venues is — well, it gets your imagination rolling!

LB: There are developers, philanthropists, business leaders — there so many people coming together over a shared love of music, and I really feel like our artist community is going to benefit greatly from all the synergy that is coming about during this year.

Do you feel personally connected to the history of a particular venue or to Seattle’s music legacy in general? If so, how?

TN: Yeah, absolutely! I grew up going to all-ages shows at the Vera Project and started playing in bars here when I turned 21. What you don’t realize is that you see the same faces booking and playing at shows here and you grow up along with the bookers and the promoters and they become your friends and we’re all growing together as a community. So now it’s a really personal mission for me, to keep this community going.

LB: I used to feel more tied to ‘the scene’ than a particular venue but now, having been through what we’ve been through over this past year, I feel much more intertwined with the history and the impact the Tractor has had, and I feel more deeply ingrained as part of that.

MG:  Yes, we book a lot of bands at Central Saloon from Brazil and places in South America where Grunge was just huge and when they get the opportunity to play here, they just lose their minds! I want to keep that emotional connection to the city and use it to continue to uphold the caliber of its music community today.

Posters inside the Central Saloon. Image courtesy of Michael Gill.

Do you consider yourself a preservationist? If so, why?

TN: I think with the issues housing and equity being what it is we need to grow and change, so I’m not saying that every old building needs to be preserved for the sake of it. But I do think there is a way to grow consciously as a community and identify the things that we value as a community and to preserve those things. I’m not opposed to growth, but it needs to be done in a way that honors those that built our city and make it what it is, and it really needs to ensure sustainability for the future. I just want us to be aware of what we are creating.

LB: I would say I started as an archivist and have moved more into the preservationist role. I have so much memorabilia that I’ve collected from shows over the years, things I dutifully care for and take with me as I move from place to place. I have an Instagram account where I started documenting every single show I go to, and to have a record of that moment happening helps tie me to it a lot more. Every time we lose a place here in Seattle that’s tied to our hearts, it’s so hard. That’s why I got involved with efforts to save The Showbox, to start to take a more active role in making sure these places don’t go away. I think that’s why a lot of us were drawn to this [KML] – not just out of concern for our own jobs — I knew I’d be ok, that I’d find something else if my particular venue went away — but I didn’t want ANY of them to go away. And that’s why so many of us are working so hard to figure this out.

MG: Yeah, it’s crazy. One of the first venues I went to in Seattle was the Funhouse. I remember trying to find it again when I moved here. All I could remember was that it was near the Space Needle. I walked around for hours trying to find it before realizing it had been right there, where there is now a giant hole in the ground because they’re building a new building.

I also think about this in terms of the Central Saloon. It has such a rich musical history and I think it’s important to honor that legacy, but we don’t want to be a museum. We have a lot of old posters up, but we mix in more recent ones too. I think it’s more productive to have pride in where you have been, but also be proud of where you’re going.

What are some of your favorite historic places in Seattle?

MG: The Showbox at the Market comes immediately to mind.

LB: (emphatically agrees) Smith Tower, too.

TN: I probably feel closest to the Tractor Tavern – it’s where I’ve played the most shows over the years. Also, the Fremont Abbey and the Triple Door. Each one has its own character and vibe, and a specific memory of where I was in life.

With so many places you love, you don’t realize how much you love them until they’re gone. For example, I used to go to Bush Garden all the time to sing karaoke before it closed – and until it was gone I didn’t realize how much it meant to me. I think there are a lot of places like that, that you take for granted and you don’t necessarily consider historic – just places that have been around for a long time. Then every time something closes it hurts on a personal level. This pandemic has really made me more aware of what we have and how we have to keep those places alive.

Click here to register for our free virtual Heart Bomb with Keep Music Live on February 9 at 5:30!

¡Viva La Quinta!

Talk to anyone who has ever been a La Quinta Apartments resident about what it’s like to live in this Frederick Anhalt-developed building on Capitol Hill (1710 E Denny) and you will immediately hear stories of connection, accounts of really knowing your neighbors, and descriptions of a very close-knit community.

“La Quinta is a unique place where all of the neighbors grow close and really like spending time together… all of the people I have met there seem to genuinely want to make the place they live not just a home for themselves, but also a community where people look out for each other and become family,” said a friend of a La Quinta resident since the 1990s.

You may also hear descriptions about the magic of the courtyard, shared balconies, charming turrets, and a unique design that welcomes interaction.

“La Quinta is more than just gorgeous architecture. It’s a perfect place to be a writer, with plenty of beauty and solitude balanced with a supportive community just outside my door.” said Chelsea Bolan, a La Quinta resident since 2003.

La Quinta Apartments from the courtyard. Photo by Jesse L. Young, Seattle.

Given all of this, it is no wonder why a group has come together with a well-coordinated effort to seek protections for this extraordinary place. Formed in late 2020, ¡Viva La Quinta! is a group of residents, neighbors, and allies (including Historic Seattle) dedicated to preserving La Quinta Apartments and making it a City landmark.

This month, we took the opportunity to talk to two people involved in ¡Viva La Quinta! Lawrence Norman, who grew up at La Quinta in the ‘60s, shares his unique connection to the place and the influence it had on his life trajectory. Chelsea Bolan describes what it’s like to live there today and tells us more about the group working to preserve La Quinta for generations to come.

“Born” at La Quinta: Lawrence Norman & Seattle’s First Black-Owned Computing Business

“My father was a Black man and from Mississippi and my mother was a White woman from Alabama – they met at Boeing. He was an aeronautical engineer, and she was a mathematician and computer programmer. She actually programmed some of the first satellites!” said Lawrence Norman describing his origins at the La Quinta Apartments. He continued, “To an extent, I think some of the reasons they came to Seattle were to get as far away from the South as possible. They were pretty idealistic, and, at the time, Seattle was pretty radical.”

While It may have been radical in some ways, during that time (the mid-1960s) Seattle and many other “progressive” cities exercised an intentionally discriminatory practice known as “redlining.” In this practice, White people wrote racial exclusions into property deeds and community covenants, effectively prohibiting property ownership for Black people, Jews, and other people of color, beyond very limited areas bound by red lines.

Image from “The History of Redlining” by KCTS9 on YouTube.

Despite this very significant obstacle, Lawrence’s father Richard worked to purchase the La Quinta apartments by making a deal directly with the property owner at the time. “When he bought La Quinta in…1964, or 1965, it was just over the ‘red line,’” Lawrence explained. According to Lawrence, Richard was not new to real estate. “He had previously owned a property in the ‘Negro area,’ (as defined by redlining) and he’d owned another right on the line,” Lawrence says. Given the practices of those times, it is not surprising that Richard’s ownership had been reflected as a gap in the official records. You can read more about this, and other interesting aspects of the building’s ownership history in the landmark nomination report here.

Lawrence added, “My parents worked together at Boeing for a few years before starting a computing business out of La Quinta. Apartment 9 was home, and Northwest Computing was basically a startup, born out of apartment 10 — In 1965 of all things! I imagine it was probably the first Black-owned computing business in Seattle, but I can’t say for sure. The business lasted for like 8 or 9 years and it was pretty successful, with up to 18 or 19 employees at one point and an office downtown. But then the Boeing bust happened, and we lost it all. It was a painful time. That place is special to me and represents something totally personal.”

A turret at La Quinta. Photo by Jesse L. Young, Seattle.

Some of Lawrence’s earliest memories are from La Quinta. “I remember looking out of the turret into the courtyard from my room, and there were other kids there. I remember one in particular, a little girl who lived in apartment 4. Her room was also in a turret and I had a crush on her, it was pretty cute,” Lawrence recalled. “The community was tight-knit, there was an ease with the architecture. It’s a U-shaped building with everyone facing each other around the courtyard, making it almost like a little village. It’s also a refuge, peaceful and conducive to conversation. My dad was very serious about keeping that courtyard in good shape!”

Because of the Boeing bust Lawrence left La Quinta at age 7, but his time there would shape him in many ways and play into some of his life choices. “The Boeing bust was very real for me and my family. Losing La Quinta set me up to be more conservative in my own life,” he explained.

Lawrence Norman at La Quinta, age 7. Courtesy of Lawrence Norman

Lawrence would follow in his parents’ footsteps by pursuing a career in software. “I got a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science while I was at Evergreen, but I got distracted for a year by Architecture. When I ask myself why I was drawn to study architecture, I’d say it probably came from living in that building,” said Lawrence.

Lawrence at La Quinta in 2020.

Lawrence went on to compare software design and architectural design citing A Pattern Language, a popular book often included in both courses of study. “The book looks at everything from the big design down to a doorknob and asks, ‘what’s the optimal design for human functionality?’ I think La Quinta represents a ton of those design patterns. And when you get really geeky, you know that design patterns are also part of software design! Whether you’re trying to design a user interface or housing where people can coexist, some designs invite human interaction and some detract from it. The question is, ‘how do you want to structure these things so human beings can have the best experience?’ It applies to software, it basically applies to anything you’re building.”

In summarizing why La Quinta should be protected, Lawrence said, “It’s a unique piece of architecture whose scale and design promotes bonding between neighbors, and I’d like to see historical designation for it so that it could maintain its natural affordability instead of maximizing buildable volume.”

A Legacy of Community: La Quinta Today, and Hopes for its Future – Chelsea Bolan

Chelsea Bolan, one of the founders of ¡Viva La Quinta! and resident since 2003.

¡Viva La Quinta! member Chelsea Bolan came to Seattle from Spokane in the 1990s to attend UW. She lived all over Capitol Hill in her early days here and remembers always admiring La Quinta and thinking “one day, if I could ever afford it…” In 2003, that day came, and Chelsea’s life has taken shape around La Quinta ever since.

“When I first moved in, I treated it like any other apartment building, where you’d be like, ‘Oh hi, nice to meet you,’ and go inside and never talk to your neighbors again. Within days, we had neighbors knocking on our door saying, ‘We’re having a BBQ, do you want to come out?’ and I just thought ‘Wow, this is amazing!’ I’d never had an apartment experience like that, with people who are really interested and really want to get to know you. That aspect of liking your neighbors, of being able to talk to your neighbors, and actually being friends – that has never changed since I’ve been here. One thing I’ve learned from this project (¡Viva La Quinta!), from talking with other people who lived here in the past, is that it was always this way,” said Chelsea.

Movie night in the courtyard.

“We have a lot of traditions and gatherings within, among just us and our friends. Sometimes it’s centered around food, like when we all made tamales together in a big assembly line in Aaron and Marta’s apartment, then ate them in the courtyard garden. We have one tradition that was started by someone who no longer lives here, someone who left over ten years ago. It’s based on the 12 days of Christmas since there are 12 apartments. It’s a roaming party where we spend 20 minutes in each person’s apartment, which is now organized by a neighbor who wasn’t even here when it got started. It’s gone on for years now and it’s interesting that it still works. The people change, but it’s always a mix of people who are interested in these things. I wonder if it’s the architecture that brings people out, because by design, we share so much space. I think the building just draws a certain kind of people too, people who are open to talking to each other.”

“There’s a lot of community within, but it extends out into the neighborhood and larger community in a lot of ways too. One example is our annual BBQ. Every year, we have a free community BBQ that is a fundraiser for a local nonprofit. We invite everyone in the neighborhood. People love it, and it’s a great opportunity to meet new neighbors.”

A community gathering at La Quinta.

In describing how ¡Viva La Quinta! came about, Chelsea said, “We heard from the apartment manager that the building was going to be coming up for sale. He wanted to let us know, in case we wanted to landmark it before it got sold. We said, ‘We’ve got to get on this!’ Someone sent an email around and we started planning. Word spread and neighbors came forward saying ‘We can help, we’ve done this before, we can put you in touch with the right people,’ and they connected us to Historic Seattle and then Historic Seattle contacted Northwest Vernacular (the firm that wrote the landmark nomination). It’s amazing, among us we have architects, photographers, writers, people who know how to build a website and do graphic design. Everyone just naturally came into a role, and it all came together. It was actually Jeff (Murdock, Historic Seattle’s Advocacy & Education Manager) who came up with the name ¡Viva La Quinta! It really captures the spirit we have, this lively spirit. And also, ‘Long live!,’ let’s keep this thing going!”

On why she thinks the La Quinta Apartments should be protected, Chelsea added, “The community that the place fosters is a big part of it, but it’s also just a great building. With its Spanish style, it is unique even among Anhalt designs. He made it feel like a home, more than just an apartment. There’s a thought toward individuality, every apartment is different, and there’s a lot of thought to detail from the layout to the fixtures. The courtyard too is valuable, especially as greenspace becomes more and more limited. It has provided so much to us during the pandemic. Both the community and the architecture are really important to preserve.”

Both Lawrence and Chelsea thought a co-op or a condominium ownership model would be beneficial in the long-term. “My dream for the place would be that everything that needs updating and attention would be fixed, and that after all of that, it would still be affordable.”

¡Viva La Quinta! Get involved!

Because of its significance to the community, Historic Seattle has prioritized the La Quinta as a major advocacy effort. A landmark nomination was submitted in October 2020. The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination at its February 3 public meeting.

You can help support the La Quinta preservation efforts! The ¡Viva La Quinta! website, created and maintained by the residents, is a great resource. Stay connected through the ¡Viva La Quinta! email list and Instagram. If you already follow Historic Seattle via eNews, Facebook, and/or Instagram then you’ll stay in the know as well.

Historic Seattle Staff ❤️ These Places: Local Businesses to Support with Your Holiday Spending

We all know how critical it is to support small businesses in our community right now. In light of this, we compiled a list of Historic Seattle staff’s favorite small & historic businesses for holiday shopping and spending. From bacon-flavored candy canes to African coffee beans, check out this amazing list for inspiring ideas, meaningful gifts and experiences, and businesses you can feel good about supporting this holiday season and beyond!

Note: In the making of this list, we asked our staff to submit “one or two” favorite places. As you can see below, some of us couldn’t stop ourselves at one or two, or even three or four!  These recommendations were too good to leave out, so we’re sharing them all with you!

Enjoy & happy holidays from the Historic Seattle team!

The 2020
Historic Seattle Staff
❤️ These Places
Shopping List

Jane Davies | Director of Finance & Administration

Ballard Ave
A variety of stores all in a designated historic district!  You can stop for a covid-safe bite to eat outside at a number of restaurants as well!


Bailey Hess | Philanthropy & Communications Manager

Ghost Gallery (Pike-Pine Corridor)
While no longer located in the 1914-built apartment building where the gallery was originally founded thanks to #displacement, this shop still rocks and is worthy of your business for many a good reason. Focusing on local and regional artists & designers, the gallery’s hybrid model provides an ever-evolving, welcoming space where artists and collectors, new and established, can connect. Ghost Gallery showcases a curated selection of visual art, handmade jewelry, tarot, apothecary, and bottled wines. Check out artwork by Historic Seattle’s own office administrator featured in this year’s Holiday Mini Exhibit!

Dusty Strings (Fremont)
From Dusty Strings’ website, “When Ray and Sue Mooers started Dusty Strings in 1979, Ray built hammered dulcimers in the couple’s basement–” Ok, I have to stop here and make a confession. I have no idea what a dulcimer is, and I don’t have a drop of talent for playing instruments in my body! Yet, I still LOVE shopping at Dusty Strings. Located in the basement of a 1926 masonry building in Fremont since 1982, Dusty Strings is a music store, school, and repair shop. Go here for gifts of beautiful instruments, virtual music lessons, or to repair your beloved’s dulcimer!

Keep Music Live
One of my favorite gifts to give are gifts of experiences — including tickets to live music shows! Since this isn’t an option this year, consider making a gift to (perhaps in someone’s honor?). Your gift will help ensure the survival of beloved independent music venues (and their ecosystems!) across the state. 


Cindy Hughes | Council Assistant & GSC Rental Coordinator

Five Corners Hardware (Queen Anne)
Mom & Pop hardware store located on one of the many corners at 3rd W. & W. McGraw.  Opened in 1944 and family-run since then, they are super-friendly and have everything you need for your pandemic home projects, (and practical gifts as well)  in a small-box space.

Stuhlbergs (Queen Anne)
Gifts, toys, home accessories, cards and more in a restored turn-of-the-century Craftsman on Queen Anne Ave. N.  These old-houses-converted-into retail are fast disappearing along that street so Stuhlbergs stands out even more.


Amee Jorgensen | Bookkeeper

Fremont Vintage Mall
Located in a basement in Fremont, this vintage store is the culmination of treasure sold by a collective of multiple sellers. It’s like visiting the Room of Requirement in real life. 


Kji Kelly | Executive Director 

Horizon Books, Magus Books
Nothing says the holidays like quality time walking the stacks of a Seattle used book store!


Tara Macdonald

Tara Macdonald Good Shepherd Center Lead Gardener

Scandinavian Specialties (Ballard)
Selling Scandinavian goods in Ballard since 1962, it is now the last remaining Scandinavian store in Seattle.  They carry a wide range of Nordic goods from food to sweaters to books and they have a nice selection of Christmas decorations. It’s a good reminder of Ballard’s recent cultural history.


David McClain

David McClain | Asset & Property Manager

Elliott Bay Book Company
A venerable old independent bookstore that keeps going strong. Though no longer in their original Pioneer Square location in the Globe Building, I still feel a sense of history every time I visit their present home in Capitol Hill, originally constructed in the 1920s. I enjoy browsing their books any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season.


Jeff Murdock | Advocacy & Education Manager

Le Panier
It’s hard for me to get out of the market when holiday shopping! We bring their palmier cookies to friends and family.

In Melrose Market, interesting clothing designs, home items and plants, well-curated gifts.

Steinbrueck Native Gallery (on Western, north of Pike Place Market)
Compelling artworks by Northwest Coast First Nations artists. I love the modern interpretations of traditional art, and chatting with Elizabeth Steinbrueck is a treat.

University Book Store
Always fun to wander the aisles of gifts, books, art supplies downstairs. Reminds me of grad student procrastination days. . . but now I can do it without guilt!


Matt Murray | Good Shepherd Center Building Operations Manager

DeLaurenti (Pike Place Market)
A specialty food and wine store with a great selection of cheese, wine, chocolate, and other food essentials.


Our awesome Office Administrator

Wall of Sound Records
The best record shop in the city for deep cuts, outer-sounds, and obscurities. I never leave empty-handed!

Frye Art Museum Store
An artfully curated selection of decorative objects, beautiful books, and original work. Even though the museum is closed, you can still shop the store online!


Taelore Rhoden | Community Events Manager

COMMUNION Restaurant & Bar (Central District)
COMMUNION is Chef Kristi Brown’s of That Brown Girl Cooks! (TBGC!) brand new restaurant in Seattle’s Central District. Located in the Liberty Bank Building, COMMUNION marks the return of a Black-owned restaurant to the 2300 block of East Union Street (see Thompson’s Point of View) as well as the return of fan favorites from Chef Kristi and team, including the TBGC! Black-Eyed Pea Hummus and bottled craft cocktails from Brown Liquor Cocktail Co. The COMMUNION menu is what Chef Kristi describes as “Seattle Soul,” a story of people, culinary flavors, and cultural traditions. I recommend the Catfish Po’Mi, a masterful mash-up of a po’ boy and a bánh mì! Gift cards available.

Boon Boona Coffee (Downtown Renton)
What a treasure! I’ve tried multiple varieties of beans from Boon Boona and everything has been delicious! All of their coffee sourced from multiple countries throughout the continent of Africa and is available for purchase online and in-store. My go-to drink order is the Africano with cinnamon. Gift cards available.

Métier Brewing Company (Woodinville)
Washington State’s only Black-owned brewery does not disappoint! The Woodinville location offers about a dozen beers on tap, outdoor seating, a gallery to showcase local artists, and rotating food trucks on weekends. Métier is bicycle-friendly (check out the logo) and a huge supporter/partner of the Major Taylor Project

Footprint Wine Tap (Capitol Hill)
Quaint and bright, Footprint Wine Tap is Seattle’s first and only sustainable keg wine on tap bar and shop sourcing fine PNW wines. It’s one of my favorites for happy hour and they have wine growlers and it’s Black-owned! Heck yes, Footprint! Gift cards available.

Flowers Just-4-U (Central District)
Ms.Mary has been in the floral business since 1984 and is one of a few Black florists in the Greater Seattle area. Originally located on 23rd & Jackson, Flowers Just-4-U relocated to 23rd & Cherry in 2018 after a wave of community support to keep the business open. If gifting plants and flowers is your thing, visit Ms. Mary this holiday season!

Ola Wyola (Columbia City)
Take all of my money, Ola Wyola! This Columbia City shop has everything from hand-crafted crystal jewelry to vintage clothing and accessories to hand-dyed hoodies. It even has an apothecary – swoon!

Vivid Matter Collective Pop-Up Shop (Capitol Hill)
Buy dope art from Vivid Matter Collective (VMC), the group of Black and Indigenous artists who created the Black Lives Matter mural on Pine Street. VMC returns back to where it all began with a winter pop-up shop next door to Molly Moon’s in Capitol Hill. I stopped by last week to grab a few prints and a coloring book and was impressed with the variety of products available for purchase – originals, clothing, greeting cards, stickers, and more! 919 E Pine Street | Thursday – Sunday  12:00 pm – 6:00 pm 


Naomi West | Director of Philanthropy & Engagement

Pike Place Market
Wandering around the market is a treat any time of year, but it feels like the most festive place in town during the holiday season. If you aren’t comfortable with shopping in person this year to support the tons of small businesses there, you can shop from home on their new online platform:

Capitol Hill Historical Society Coloring Book
Do you need to calm your amygdala at the end of this tough year? Experts everywhere, from UW to the Cleveland Clinic, say you should try coloring! Whether for a kid, an adult, or yourself, try the Capitol Hill Historical Society’s new coloring book. 


Eugenia Woo | Director of Preservation Services

Click! Design That Fits
Amazing store for cool “design-y” gifts in the West Seattle Junction for those with discerning taste.

Wing Luke Museum Store (AKA the Marketplace)
From books about the Asian American experience to super cute things, this museum shop in the C-ID is the place to go. Over 100 small businesses are supported in the Marketplace.

Kobo Seattle (2 locations – Kobo Capitol Hill & Kobo at Higo in Japantown)
Well-curated shop and gallery in historic buildings! The Capitol Hill one is in the Loveless Building across from the old Harvard Exit. The Japantown shop is in the old Higo space. For those who love art, design, and cool objects from Japan, the Northwest, and beyond. 

Archie McPhee
Need something fun, silly, or quirky as a gift or for yourself? Or just want to brighten up your mood and get a good laugh? Browse around this classic Seattle shop, which was recently voted one of Seattle’s Top 20 Essential Seattle Shops by Seattle Met.

Paper Hammer
This modern stationer in downtown Seattle is the place to go for well-designed paper goods. If you like letterpress, you’ll love Paper Hammer. The studios are in Tieton. 


Simon Wright | Facilities Maintenance Manager

8th Generation at the Pike Place Market
A great Native-owned and operated boutique that amplifies indigenous artists by making their art into unique apparel, jewelry, and accessories

BLMF Literary Saloon
I’ve never met anyone who knows as much about books as JB, and he has a recommendation for anyone he’s ever sold a book to.

Umami Kushi
Japanese culinary ambassador/bakery and a favorite local business in Rainier Beach


Giving Thanks to Our Supporters

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 people in our Supporters’ Circle who make our work possible.
Thank you, from all of us at Historic Seattle.


Sustaining Support

Kelsey Williams | Monthly Donor

Monthly donors help sustain our work throughout the year!

Why do you enjoy giving to Historic Seattle?

KELSEY: When I decided to move to Seattle in 2018, I obsessively researched the city, its architecture, and its preservation initiatives. Historic Seattle caught my attention quickly!

Shortly after my move, I participated in Historic Seattle’s Advocacy Workshops and observed how knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and devoted the staff was. Beyond those workshops, I’ve seen Historic Seattle’s members in action at Landmark Preservation Board meetings, in their fight to save The Showbox, and at historic house tours. There are few things more energizing to me than witnessing another person learn the history of a home or building, teach others about its significance, and then fight with all of their spirit to save it. Seeing the staff’s educational connection with our communities and their success in keeping historic properties alive made me want to support Historic Seattle continuously.

Historic Seattle did catch my attention quickly—but it also gained my sustaining adoration.


Business Membership Support

Lance Neely | Heritage Realty

Business members help to support Historic Seattle and have the opportunity to network with others who share a concern for Seattle’s architectural heritage.

At the core of Heritage is founder and designated broker Lance Neely. With a passion for the stewardship of historic places and a keen interest in our region’s unique architectural history, Heritage Realty is in alignment with both Historic Seattle’s mission and its community of supporters.

What inspired you to join our organization as a business member?

LANCE: First and foremost, my appreciation for historic homes is what initially led me to get into real estate.  Playing a small role in how some of the extraordinary homes of our region are passed down from caretaker to caretaker is very gratifying and what informed my decision to name my business as I have. Naturally, my interest and involvement in preservation as it relates to residential real estate carries over to historic commercial buildings, many that I have had the privilege of experiencing from my time as a resident of this city and now, professionally, as an agent & brokerage owner. I have specifically sought out other businesses and organizations that celebrate the unique architectural history of our city. Historic Seattle speaks to the ethos of my business.  Heritage takes great interest in preserving the integrity of existing residential architecture and we hope to provide clients with a different viewpoint and resources on creating a lifestyle to suit both historical and modern sensibilities, but always with the goal of preserving the landmark homes and buildings of our region.


Corporate Sponsorship

Northwest Vernacular

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. Please contact Director of Philanthropy & Engagement Naomi West to learn more about 2021 sponsorship opportunities.

Not only has Northwest Vernacular generously supported Historic Seattle’s education programs, they’ve been outstanding partners in preservation through their extensive advocacy and preservation consultancy work – a notable example, preparation of the successful Showbox landmark nomination!

What value is there in aligning with Historic Seattle
as a corporate sponsor?

NORTHWEST VERNACULAR: Historic Seattle’s work exemplifies so much of what historic preservation can offer — from their educational programs and advocacy efforts, to their role as active stewards of historic properties in the city to provide community spaces that contribute to the city’s quality of life. As a historic preservation consulting firm, supporting Historic Seattle is a natural extension of the work that we do.



Thank you to all of you who support Historic Seattle!
Together we are shaping a city that values and protects its collective history.

Healing Trauma | Washington Hall’s Pongo Poetry Program

The Pongo Poetry Project teaches and mentors personal poetry by youth who have suffered childhood traumas, such as abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. The following is an interview between Historic Seattle (HS), Pongo’s founder Richard Gold (RG), and its interim executive director Barbara Green (BG). The Pongo Poetry Project is a tenant within Historic Seattle-owned Washington Hall in Seattle’s Central District.  


Pongo graduate Maven Gardener. Photo by Michael Maine

HS: In the video “The Impact of Trauma and How Pongo Helps” on your website, Richard says, “As an impact of trauma, the emotions are all balled up inside our clients — in our writers’ hearts. They feel horrible, and confused, and mistrustful. But when they externalize into a poem their experiences, they are engaged in a transformative process from, ‘I’m a terrible person, to this is a terrible thing that happened to me.’ And in that process, they see themselves as writers. They see themselves as people whose creative work can make a difference in the world.”

What do you have to add to these words in light of the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and other current events?

BG: I think that the Black Lives Matter movement has done a great job of raising awareness about the trauma of systemic racism. I’m hoping that this will help youth of color see the difficulties that they’re experiencing in a different light, with a broader perspective. And I think that now, because of the increased awareness of systemic racism, more people can appreciate how relevant our work is. I also think writing poetry is a way for the youth to say, “I matter,” and for people to hear that they matter. We can help amplify their voices so that others can understand what their experiences have been.

The Black Lives Matter movement has also increased awareness of the racism that is inherent in the criminal justice system. One of my hopes is that this will lead to fewer youth — fewer everybody — being incarcerated and lead to the creation of alternatives. I think that the Pongo poetry method could be a great part of a diversion program for youth to help them deal with the trauma that they have experienced.

RG: I would just add that at its heart, Pongo is about listening. I think the killing of George Floyd was a revelation for many white people. And when we really listen respectfully, and understand one another better, it’s a way of healing society as well as individuals. 

HS: How has the pandemic uniquely impacted your work and the communities you serve?

BG: I don’t want to presume to talk about the communities we serve because I’m not really part of that, but I do know that for everybody the pandemic has created a lot more anxiety, depression, and trauma. And that has been particularly true in the Black community because of the disproportionate impact that COVID has had in communities of color. Furthermore, the youth that we are serving are primarily in institutions, and the pandemic has only made it scarier and lonelier for people who are living and working in those institutions. 

On the other hand — and I hate to say this – but in some ways there have been positive impacts on our work. Even though we are no longer able to go into the institutions where the kids are living, we have been working with them remotely. The surveys they complete after they have gone through the program have demonstrated that the work has been just as impactful, if not more so, since we’ve been working remotely. The other “silver lining” is that in our last round of volunteer recruitment we recruited volunteers from around the country. As a result, the skill level of our volunteers has increased exponentially.    

RG: Yes, what we’re saying is that we now have a set of volunteers from all over the country who are working in King County Juvenile Detention with us. These are people who believe in the work, but they are also learning the work. We have now taught Pongo nationally and internationally. Our work, that we know of, is now being done in 11-12 different countries.

HS: According to Historic Seattle’s executive director Kji Kelly, “Pongo joined us at Washington Hall in August 2016. As a result of our space planning efforts before Phase 3 of construction, we identified areas within the building that we could offer to organizations matching the mission of the project. Washington Hall’s mission is to create a transformative space in Seattle’s Central District that honors the history of The Hall and is a home for arts & culture that reflects its legacy. Richard, and now Barbara, sit on our Hall Governance Board along with Creative Justice and our anchor partners.”  

What would you like to add to this background story of the relationship(s)?

RG: It’s been a real honor to join that community and learn from the arts organizations there. For example, we began with a focus on healing individuals, and part of our growth has been to recognize that the trauma that these individuals have – mostly youth of color, is from social injustice. They are part of a community of people of color in Seattle that has suffered. The organizations in Washington Hall are serving that very community, and it has been a privilege to be there and be part of that work.  

BG: I would add that I am really looking forward to partnering with Creative Justice and the other tenants in the building on both programmatic and anti-racism work.

HS: A lot of Pongo’s programming takes place at juvenile detention centers, hospitals, homeless shelters, supportive housing, etc. That said, what is the connection/significance of Pongo being based in Washington Hall?

RG: Washington Hall is our place for meeting as an organization. We (normally) interview volunteers there, we plan our work there, we communicate from there with donors, and people internationally who are doing the work. We bring people in there a lot and always talk about the history of the Hall. It is our home, and the history of the Hall is now part of our story. As I was saying earlier, we are working with individuals in institutions, but our goal is to be more present for the community and Washington Hall is an opportunity for us to do that.

It is also fun to be based in Washington Hall. These historic buildings, these places with history, places that have the edginess and imperfections that come with time and occasional neglect in some cases, they’re very soulful places. And thanks to Historic Seattle many have now been made available for artwork, and community work, and there’s energy there. We deal in healing people, so we know that there is a lot of beauty in imperfection, and the response to it, and the opportunity within it. That’s how I think about restoration too, it’s all very soulful. 

BG:  I have two points to add to that. One is, as you know, Washington Hall is a space that’s dedicated to arts and culture for people of color, and so is Pongo. So, I think in terms of that, it’s a really good fit. And secondly, the juvenile detention facility is our neighbor – it’s right down the street from where we are. Pongo is providing services for youth in our neighborhood, and they are some of the youth that could benefit from it the most. 

HS: Were you aware of Washington Hall before the Pongo Poetry Project took up residency there? Do you have any “first Hall experience” stories to share?

RG: I was a longtime subscriber to On the Boards. While it is not a social justice organization, On the Boards is a highly innovative, edgy, creative, arts organization – always stimulating, always interesting, so I always had that connection with Washington Hall.

BG: And I used to go to political events there, you know, back in like the 80s, and would also occasionally go to On the Boards performances there. So, when Richard told me where the office was located, I knew exactly where it was. And it sure looks great now!

HS: What interests you about the history of Washington Hall?

RG: I think I’m most moved by, and appreciative of, the iconic Black performers – Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Dinah Washington – the people who performed there. That that was their venue. They were not allowed to perform in white clubs in Seattle. So much of art is a response to challenges, and to exploration of ourselves. And at that time, it was a response to racism and the racist history of this country. I’m just very connected to that part of the Hall’s history and the beautiful bittersweet art that came out of that landed in the Hall because it couldn’t be somewhere else.

BG: I echo what Richard said and will add that, as a Jew, I was very interested to learn that Yiddish theater was performed there, and that the neighborhood was a largely Jewish neighborhood when the Hall first opened.

A Yiddish theater performance at Washington Hall, ca 1920s. Image courtesy of University of Washington, Special Archives.


HS: Do you consider yourself a preservationist? Why or why not?

RG: I never would’ve thought to apply that word, “preservationist,” to me, but we publish books, we take people’s stories, and we give them a concrete life of their own beyond the moment. And it’s actually a very important part of healing. Preserving the stories. With the difficulties they’ve had in their lives, our writers may not have had a parent to put their creations on a refrigerator with a magnet. But every story, and there have been something like over 8,000 poems written now, is saved. Anyone that comes to me and says, “In 2004, I did work with you in juvenile detention,” I can say, “Of course, tell me your name,” and I can send them their poetry.  So, it is part of acknowledging people’s value, to preserve. And maybe that’s the best way to compare Pongo’s work to Historic Seattle’s, we’re both acknowledging value, and preserving stories and manifestations.  

BG: I would add that I think it’s important to preserve historic buildings so that they can continue to benefit community. And I think that’s at the core of what Historic Seattle does. It’s not about preserving a fancy home so that one person can live in it, it’s about restoring it to its original beauty so that it can benefit the community.

To read or hear the work of some of Pongo’s teen writers, to get involved, or to donate visit There is also an opportunity to learn the Pongo method at a virtual workshop on Saturday, October 17. Learn more and register here.

The italicized text above is paraphrased, not directly quoted. The meaning has been preserved.

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.”


Local Small Business Spotlight: Risa Blythe, Proprietor of Girlie Press

Numerous articles and studies have been published citing the critical role that small businesses play in the vitality of cities and towns of all sizes. For example, small businesses help foster community, add to the unique character of a place, provide distinctive opportunities for entrepreneurism, and contribute to economic health. Beyond these significant contributions, there is also an important relationship between small businesses and historic neighborhoods and old buildings. In short, preservation relies on small businesses, and small businesses often rely on historic spaces — a relationship you can read more about in this recently published article by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Girlie Press is a woman-owned small business located in an adaptive reuse space in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Read on to hear what the print shop’s proprietor, Risa Blythe, has to say about owning small business, preservation, and more:

After eight years and only two other jobs as an offset press operator, Girlie Press was originally founded in 1995 in the back of a building in Belltown and then moved into a historic Anne Michelson building on 10th Avenue. “I shared a space as an offset printer with BSK, a screen-printing company that did much of the printing for Sub Pop and the grunge music scene. That was fun and insane, and I worked, and worked, and I put money away,” said Risa.

Inside Girlie Press

In 2000, when Risa acquired the building where Girlie Press is now located, it had been subleased to a stone cutting artist and sculptor who essentially fled in the middle of the night – leaving behind a warehouse full of massive, heavy, stone cutting equipment. “One of the companies I did a lot of work for was the Seattle Men’s Choir. Doug Exworthy was on the choir and owned the rights to the building where the shop is now. He knew I did a lot of work for the queer community, and he contacted me and said, ‘you need your own building.’ He became my mentor, guiding me through the whole process. It was adventurous, but I pulled it off! This was back in the day when you could put on a suit and go into a bank and talk things through…with people,” Risa explained.

All of the items left behind were sold off to put money back into the building and to make way for printing equipment. With her penchant and passion for machinery, Risa was just the woman for the task. Her keenness for mechanics, a trait she recalls recognizing early in life, has continued to prove valuable throughout her career. For example, when it came to acquiring her own 10,000-pound press, she was able to purchase a broken machine for a low price and repair it herself.

“I remember at one point, I applied to be a certified woman-owned business,” explained Risa. “A guy called me to ask for clarification about some parts of my application, and he just couldn’t seem to comprehend that a woman was capable of fixing a machine like this! That he believed that this was beyond my…realm, that’s when I knew why it was important to get the certification. There aren’t a lot of women in print, but I grew up in a feminist, entrepreneurial household and I’m thick-skinned. So, I have been able to shoulder discrimination I’ve encountered in the field. I started my own business because I wanted to work with people who had a sense of humor and didn’t mind working for a woman in a male-dominated field. Nobody — no guy — who’s got a lot of issues can work here and go home at the end of the day and say, ‘yeah, I work at Girlie Press!’”

When asked if she considers herself a preservationist, Risa made a surprising connection between her love of machinery and historic preservation. “The part of me that is a preservationist is that I really like a well-built machine. I really like function. Newer things are more disposable, they are meant to have an end of life, whereas with an older machine  its gearbox can be rebuilt again and again and its function is to last long term. I also like new things that are super fancy and have lots of bells and whistles, but I like them to be built on an older mechanical premise,” said Risa.

This historic assessor’s photo shows a building which formerly stood on the site where Girlie Press is now located.

Risa enjoys the location of her current shop at 1658 21st Avenue. While she is attracted to industrial and gritty places like Georgetown (one of her favorite places in Seattle), she appreciates that the shop is not in a strictly industrial area, but is instead nestled within a neighborhood with a commercial and residential mix. “There’s a German philosopher — someone who I can’t recall — who presented the idea that something went wrong when people started working in places that were far away from where they lived. It allows for more tolerable levels of pollution, longer workdays, and less family interaction. I live less than a mile away in Madrona, in a simple 1902 Victorian. Another favorite place is my backyard because my wife is such a great gardener! And I like that I can work in a trade, but still work in an area where people are living too,” said Risa.

The community is very important to Risa. In addition to the long list of organizations Girlie Press supports, she uses her business to promote causes she cares about: “There aren’t a lot of print shops that care about the same things I care about so I have a unique opportunity to use what I do, and do well, to support those things. I like the idea of using the power of the press to help organizations make money or do good things. We’ve printed over 1,000 posters since the most recent events of the Black Lives Matter movement have been unfolding. A lot of times people will ask us to print something for them and we’ll ask, ‘Do you want us to print a bunch more of these and just give them out?’ It’s cool to be part of this ancient history of activism through art.”

Risa in the shop’s new mezzanine space

Lately, the effects of the pandemic have been felt at Girlie Press. At one point, Risa sheltered at the shop and ran the whole press herself in order to execute print jobs (including Historic Seattle’s emergency appeal) for grocery stores and other essential businesses. Many of her staff have recently returned to the shop after many weeks working remotely. Upon their return, staff were able to spread out further, occupying space in the mezzanine that was fortunately recently built in the warehouse.

In the previously referenced Washington Trust for Historic Preservation article, Breanne Durham wrote, “There has never been a more poignant time to reflect on the value small businesses have in our lives and in our work. The onslaught of COVID-19 has taken our local economies by storm…Small businesses employ about half of the private workforce in the United States. And without them, our historic commercial districts lack the activity and commerce that creates healthy, socially cohesive, and economically viable communities. If the preservation field is looking for its place within the COVID-19 crisis, here it is.”

Looking for other ways to support small businesses? allows you to search for Asian-owned, Black-owned, disability-owned, family-owned, Latino-owned, LGBTQ-owned, Native-owned, veteran-owned, and woman-owned businesses and social enterprises in select cities, including Seattle.

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