Preservation in Progress

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Archive for the ‘Washington Hall’ Category

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.

Robin & Alvis Harris: Washington Hall Caretakers

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your earliest memory there.

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

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

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

Has your time living there changed your family?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite place in Seattle and why?

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

Building for Culture

Historic Seattle is thrilled to announce that our campaign for the landmark Washington Hall is complete! This $9.9M campaign has spanned many years, while we’ve secured grants, government funding, and private support from our generous donors. The renovation work, which has been executed in phases, is nearing completion of Phase 3, including seismic retrofit of the entire building, installation of fire sprinklers, and installation of an elevator, enabling the Seattle Landmark to be fully accessible for the first time in its long history—107 years! Click here to see the project team and acknowledgement of funders.

For Phase 4, we sought funding through the Building for Culture grant program—a joint effort of 4Culture, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and King County Council. Signed into law just in time for Thanksgiving, this unprecedented $28M fund provides grants to 102 arts, culture, and heritage projects throughout King County. We are receiving our full request of $986,000 to complete the 4th and final phase.

With this grant, our renovation will remain on schedule and allow Washington Hall to reopen in the late spring of 2016. We’re looking forward to returning the Hall to the community for use as an arts, cultural, and gathering space, and stewarding the “Hall for All” in the decades to come! Thank you 4Culture and King County!


Photo: King County Executive Dow Constantine and King County Council Chair Larry Phillips at the Building for Culture bill signing, November 24, 2015


2015 Vets Restore Program

Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Vets Restore program, an intensive 12-week training, internship, and job networking program for post 9/11 veterans interested in building renovation. Vets Restore is the result of an innovative partnership between 4Culture, Historic Seattle, and the King County Veterans Program. The mission of Vets Restore is to connect veterans with the valuable work of revitalizing America’s historic buildings.

Once accepted into Vets Restore, veterans take a 4-week intensive class with hands-on training in basic carpentry skills. Training is followed by 8 weeks of paid employment under Lydig Construction. Both the training and internship take place at the historic Washington Hall in Seattle’s Central District, where an extensive renovation project is currently underway. The program is designed to provide ample networking and mentoring opportunities with preservation-focused construction firms.

Throughout the 12-week period, veterans also receive comprehensive support services, including case management, career counseling, and financial assistance to pay for tools, gear and transportation.

Interested veterans are eligible if they:

  • Reside in King County
  • Have served on active duty and received an honorable, medical, general, or under honorable conditions discharge
  • Have served in the National Guard or Reserves and met their initial service obligation

Priority will be given to post 9/11 veterans. Applicants should have a desire to work in the construction trades and an interest in working with old buildings.

2015 Program Calendar

  • July 6: Application period open at
  • August 14: Deadline to apply. Applications must be submitted by 5:00 pm
  • August 18-20: Applicant interviews
  • September 14 – October 9: 4-week training program in basic preservation practices at Washington Hall covering safety, tools skill-building, hands on carpentry projects, mentoring sessions and field trips
  • October 12: December 4: 8-week, full-time paid internship
  • December 9: Graduation
  • December – January: Job search guidance

Veterans can find out if they are qualified by contacting Candice Corey, King County Veterans’ Program, at (206) 477-6989.

Photo by Kji Kelly

Washington Hall Phase III

Washington Hall parapetHistoric Seattle has kicked off the restoration of Washington Hall’s historic performance and event spaces, the culmination of several years of work to stabilize the building, reactivate it with community use, and raise the funds needed to continue to restore the property.

Washington Hall, located in the Central District, is home to three organizations with a focus on arts and social justice – Hidmo, 206 Zulu, and Voices Rising – that have partnered with Historic Seattle in planning the building’s future. King Khazm of 206 Zulu said, “This renovation is a lifelong dream becoming a reality. We’ve all worked so hard for this, and now, a continuation and rebirth of a legacy is amongst us. We can only hope our ancestors are looking down proudly.”

The rehabilitation of Washington Hall is a $9.9 million, multi-year, phased project. Historic Seattle purchased the building in 2009 with help from 4Culture, saving it from demolition. Phases One and Two involved stabilization, critical repairs, and upgrades that were needed to make the building available for limited rental and use.

Phase Three will be completed in 2016. Team members for this phase include Ron Wright & Associates/Architects, Rushing, Coughlin Porter Lundeen, and Lydig Construction. The $3.5 million project will involve seismic retrofit of the entire building, ADA compliance, a new fire sprinkler system, and buildout for performance and operating space, including a catering kitchen and small café. For the first time in its history, the Hall will be fully accessible with the addition of an elevator.

New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) financing generated $2.6 million in equity for the building’s current phase of rehabilitation.  The purpose of this federal tax credit program is to stimulate and encourage investment in low-income areas. Partners in the NMTC financing included the City of Seattle and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation.

“Washington Hall is an important community landmark with a rich history. We look forward to the building re-opening and providing a fantastic updated space for arts and cultural exhibitions as well as nonprofit groups,” said Maria Bustria-Glickman, vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, which provided the tax credit equity.

“The Seattle Office of Economic Development and Seattle Investment Fund are proud to partner with Historic Seattle and provide NMTC financing to Washington Hall. When complete, this historic performance hall will be a valuable amenity for the Central District and Seattle, preserving a neighborhood landmark and contributing to economic vibrancy in the community,” said business finance specialist AJ Cari with the Office of Economic Development.

Photos by Dan Hawkins

Vets Restore Underway for 2014

Historic Seattle is a proud partner with 4Culture and the King County Veterans Program in Vets Restore. Vets Restore offers training in preservation carpentry, paid internships, and job placement assistance to military veterans who are interested in entering the preservation trades.

Vets Restore participants receiving training at Washington Hall, Seattle / Photo credit: Brandee Beau Photography © 2014

The Vets Restore program serves the dual purpose of reintegrating veterans into the civilian workforce, while training dedicated, skilled tradespeople to bring new life to historic places. Last year, the inaugural Vets Restore class restored windows and completed numerous carpentry projects at Historic Seattle’s current rehabilitation project, Washington Hall.

In Vets Restore’s second year, five veterans are engaged in a seven-week, hands-on training session at the Hall. The first three weeks, led by Historic Seattle Council Member Rick Sever, cover skill development in preservation carpentry and provide an overview of the relationship between building preservation and sustainability. The following four weeks, Vets Restore participants will focus on window restoration, under the tutelage of specialists from Bear Wood Windows of Tacoma.  They’ll restore Washington Hall’s historic wood windows to be fully operable and to improve their energy performance.

When the veterans’ training concludes, they will begin paid internships with Vets Restore’s industry partners: Bear Wood Windows, J.A.S. Design-Build, Rafn Company, Susan Black & Associates, and Abacus Fine Carpentry LLC.





Washington Hall in the News

Poster design by

Poster design by

It’s not too late to buy tickets and join Historic Seattle for a not-to-be-missed benefit concert featuring performances by four generations of the legendary Holden Family, a dynasty of Seattle jazz and music, and special guests The Teaching featuring Evan Flory Barnes, Josh Rawlings, and Jeremy Jones. Proceeds will go to restoring this 106-year-old historic building to its former glory and re-activating it as a vibrant community gathering place for arts and culture.

The event is this Saturday, March 29, 2014 (7:30 to 10:00 pm) at Washington Hall.

The event and our restoration efforts at Washington Hall have been in the news lately. Check out these articles and great piece on KPLU!

Jerry Large’s March 27th column in the Seattle Times, “Benefit party to help pay for the restoring Washington Hall.” 

KPLU-FM story about Washington Hall and the Holden family, descendents of Seattle jazz patriarch Oscar Holden. Be sure to listen to the great interview! 

City Living Seattle recently highlighted our upcoming benefit concert for Washington Hall in this article, “Behind the Curtain, Benefit Concert.” 

Musical Benefit for Washington Hall – March 29, 2014

Poster design by

Poster design by

Buy tickets today!

Join Historic Seattle for a not-to-be-missed benefit concert featuring performances by four generations of the legendary Holden Family, a dynasty of Seattle jazz and music, and special guests The Teaching featuring Evan Flory Barnes, Josh Rawlings, and Jeremy Jones. Proceeds will go to restoring this 106-year-old historic building to its former glory and re-activating it as a vibrant community gathering place for arts and culture.

With a new roof, seismic stabilization of the south wall, refinished floors, and funds to build an elevator secured, we’ve entered the final phase of the campaign. We need to raise $2.2 million by June 2014 to continue the renovation. In addition to fully restoring the Main Hall and Lodge Room to their original condition, the full rehabilitation of Washington Hall will include renovating the former Danish settlement house in the western third of the building. Once home to immigrants of all backgrounds, these spaces will become offices for Hidmo, 206 Zulu, Voices Rising and other community organizations, classrooms and meeting rooms, a recording studio, and cafe.

Please visit the Washington Hall website or contact Historic Seattle to donate to the campaign and to learn more about the history of Washington Hall. Purchase tickets here!

We need event volunteers! If interested, please contact Van Diep, Washington Hall Rental Manager at

What’s Happening at Washington Hall

Screen shot from Vets Restore website

Veterans in front of Washington Hall / Source: Screen shot from Vets Restore website

There’s been a lot of activity this summer at Washington Hall, Historic Seattle’s current rehabilitation project. Historic Seattle just completed an intensive two-month, hands-on training program in the restoration trades at the Hall.

In collaboration with 4Culture, King County Veterans Program, and the Wood Technology Center at Seattle Central Community College, twenty-three students worked at the Hall, continuing the rehabilitation efforts of Historic Seattle Council, staff, volunteers, contractors, and our Washington Hall Partners to complete a variety of projects. Four of these students were in the Vets Restore program, which offers training, mentoring, and job placement guidance for newly returning veterans in preservation carpentry.  Vets Restore participants learn how to bring new life to America’s vintage houses, schools, depots, churches, and halls with a mission to save historic places.

Be sure to check out this cool video from 4Culture and Vets Restore. Vets were interviewed on site at Washington Hall and King Street Station.

The work performed at Washington Hall included restoring main entry doors and replicating and installing new code-compliant hardware; repairing damaged sheetrock and plaster; restoring original built-in furnishings and building and installing custom cabinetry and display cases; rebuilding a deteriorated basement staircase; and repairing and restoring original windows on the south side of the building.

The work force consisted of a combination of students enrolled in a new 18-credit course in remodeling and preservation at Seattle Central Community College’s new state-of-the-art Wood Technology Center and students from the Vets Restore program initiated by 4Culture and supported by the King County Veterans Program.

Thanks to the extraordinary effort and support of Rick Sever (Historic Seattle Council), Flo Lentz and Heather Dwyer (4Culture), Candice Corey (King County Veterans Program), Frank Mestemacher (Seattle Central Community College) and Kevin Palo (Ten Mile Restoration), the initiative fulfilled multiple goals: training the next generation of restoration focused trades people; connecting returning Veterans to meaningful, team-oriented work, and continuing to enhance the community-based, social justice-driven mission and goals core to the Washington Hall project.

Big thanks and congratulations to all the students who completed the course! They celebrated their success today in a gathering and BBQ at the Wood Technology Center. Some of the students will continue with a one-month internship at Washington Hall.

Mayor Visits Washington Hall

Mayor Mike McGinn speaking at Washington Hall about the Seattle Nightlife Initiative / Photo: Historic Seattle

Happy New Year everyone! MAin2 took a break over the holidays and we’re ready to begin a new year.

To close out 2010, Mayor Mike McGinn chose Washington Hall as the site for a press event on December 28 to provide an update on his Seattle Nightlife Initiative. This initiative consists of policy proposals to “increase public safety, help the local economy and improve urban vibrancy.” A Seattle Times article noted the landmark building’s significant ties to the music industry (past, present and future) by stating, “Performances from a local poet and a hip-hop artist preceded McGinn’s announcements, bridging the hall’s extraordinary musical past with the city’s potential future as an increasingly vibrant center for nightlife and entertainment.”

View a video of the event and read more about it on the Mayor’s website. Historic Seattle’s Director of Real Estate Development, Mark Blatter, gave the opening remarks and welcomed the Mayor.