Historic Seattle’s Annual Preservation Celebration is coming up on September 28, 2023. We’ll celebrate the projects and people that help amplify our mission. Today, we feature one of two recipients for the Beth Chave Award for Preservation Champion–Clay Eals.
Clay Eals is a pied piper of preservation in Seattle.
In 1989, he spearheaded landmarking of the Admiral Theater in West Seattle, saving it from demolition and redevelopment. (Check out this news clip from 1989!) In 2016-17, he worked with owners of the Hamm and Campbell buildings in the West Seattle Junction and inspired the community while securing landmark designation of these two crown jewels of the business district. He also was instrumental in saving the landmark Alki Homestead, a unique log structure built in 1904. He is working with other advocates to Save the Stone Cottage in West Seattle.
While Clay is a preservation champion, he also is many other things.
Born July 21, 1951, Clay lives in West Seattle and has devoted his adult life to writing and publications. He worked 15 years as an editor, reporter, and photographer for four Pacific Northwest newspapers, two years as a journalism teacher, 13 years as a curriculum writer and publications editor for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and five years as communication officer for the Encompass children’s organization. He also wrote and had published biographies of child actress Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu in “It’s a Wonderful Life”) and singer-songwriter Steve Goodman (“City of New Orleans”).
Before working nearly five years as the first executive director for the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, he was a founding member in 1984, serving on its board for 12 years and as its president for three.
With a passionate and enthusiastic approach, Clay loves to elevate stories of local people and places. In 1987, he edited, designed and partly wrote a 288-page history of West Seattle and White Center, “West Side Story,” published by Robinson Newspapers. Since 2019, he has prepared, with Jean Sherrard, the weekly photo-history column “Now & Then” for Pacific NW magazine of The Seattle Times. Their column continues the 37-year tradition of its founder, Paul Dorpat. Clay often seeks “Now & Then” subjects that reveal why preserving historic places is vital.
As Clay told the West Seattle Blog: “It’s all about identifying and saving the gems that make us unique so that they can keep functioning and inspiring us all down the road. None of us does preservation work alone. I truly believe in the well-worn phrase ‘It Takes a Village,’ and I’m grateful to know first-hand that many in West Seattle and in the city as a whole are key parts of that village.”
Image: Clay Eals emceeing Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration at the Admiral Theater, 2009; Jean Sherrard, photographer