Hill’s art deco ‘best example’ Bel-Roy considered as official landmark

Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board is today considering the nomination of the Bel-Roy Apartments building for official landmark status. The building is slated for a significant redevelopment project that will rehabilitate the 1930 building and add 58 new units to the structure. The landmark process is a common component in redevelopments as land owners formalize protections for historical buildings while establishing a clear path for planned construction and changes to the structures. The most recent previous designation on Capitol Hill was the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

In addition to the process to lay out clear guidelines for the preservation of the city’s oldest buildings, the process is also cool for the documentation it produces. We have attached the information submitted for this application to the post. It’s a fantastic read.


The Bel Roy’s assessor’s card from 1937

Here is the nut graph on the historical value of the Bel Roy in terms of design and aesthetic:


The Bel-Roy has been called “one of the best examples of Art Deco design in Seattle,” by architect Peter Staten.

Although other apartment buildings of the period had applied Art Deco motifs, this is unusual in its expression of Art Deco on the zigzag façade.

“Art Deco” is a term applied retroactively to a style that came to the world’s attention at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925. The exposition was a celebration of modernity, things that were new, exciting and unorthodox for the jazz age—a reaction to both the excesses of the Victorian Age and the handmade simplicity of the Craftsman. Art Deco architecture is “a particularly hard concept to define as it refers to a decorative style at once traditional and innovative, which absorbed influences from a variety of sources and movements and introduced a whole range of new or improved materials into the vocabulary of architecture.”

The report also documents the design elements that contributed to the Bel Roy’s distinctive style:

The Bel-Roy is an excellent example of a single-purpose apartment building of this period, with a mixture of studio and one-bedroom units. However, it differs from the typical building in that it does not have a single main entry and a lobby, but has seven entries, each accessing small groups of apartments without long corridors. This approach was highly favored at this time by Frederick Anhalt, who used corridors in only one of his numerous buildings. The Bel-Roy’s studio units had large closets and wall beds (none of which remain). In keeping with the modern style (and perhaps its year of construction, 1930) its ornamentation and materials are simple, of brick rather than marble or terra cotta.

Beyond design, the documentation also provides an interesting snapshot of the demographics that shaped the building:

City directories indicate that the building has been a popular one with tenants and has generally been fully occupied. The first reverse directory after its construction, in 1938, shows that the tenants were primarily men or married couples with only 14 single women in the 49 occupied units. There was a considerable range of occupations, with a dentist, the owner of a ski equipment company, store clerks and telephone company workers. Most of the women had office or laboratory jobs; others were teachers or students. The percentage of women was only slightly higher in 1948, but some of them had jobs with more responsibility, including a director of a medical placement firm and a librarian. The men, most of whom were married, included the vice-president of an insurance agency, government workers and store clerks. This trend continued in 1958, with more women (50%). The women were in sales and office jobs; one owned a hat design studio; the men were primarily in sales or were students.


Artist rendition of the planned BelRoy Court redevelopment

You can read the complete report below. We’ll follow up with the Landmark Board to learn more about how Wednesday’s session went. If approved by the board, the next step in the process will be for the nomination to be passed to the City Council for a final vote.


Landmarks Preservation Board Bel Roy Apartments



Landmark Nomination for the Following Property:

Bel-Roy Apartments

703 Bellevue Avenue East

The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider this nomination at its meeting on Wednesday,

August 18, 2010, at 3:30 p.m. in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue, 40th Floor,

Room 4060.

The public is invited to attend the meeting and make comments. Written comments should be

received by the Landmarks Preservation Board at the following address by August 17, 2010, by

5:00 p.m.: Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, Dept. of Neighborhoods, P.O. Box 94649,

Seattle WA 98124-4649 (mailing address).

Copies of the Landmark Nomination will be available for public review after July 30, 2010

at the Capitol Hill Branch Library, 425 Harvard Ave E, 684-4715; and the Department of

Neighborhoods Office, at Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, Suite 1700, telephone:

684-0228. The nomination is also posted on the Department of Neighborhoods website:

http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/landmarks. under the heading of

“Current Nominations.”

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4 thoughts on “Hill’s art deco ‘best example’ Bel-Roy considered as official landmark

  1. If I’d known about the meeting enough in advance, I would have sent a letter of support to the board. The building is cool architecture and I’d loved to see it around for generation to enjoy.

  2. as long as they clean up the filth and druggies in the shrubbery below. It’s not safe to go down near there at night. You’re likely to run into a drugged up street rat or step on a needle or any number of other horrible things.

    Designate it historical, Build onto it, build around it, just CLEAN UP!