It was a slim victory for those who want to save the structure from the demolition machines but hopes of preservation for 14th Ave and John’s Weatherford House will go on for at least another three months. The Seattle Landmarks board voted 8-1 Wednesday night to pass the house to the next phase in the nomination process that could ultimately deliver the 1902 building a reprieve from being torn down to make way for a four-story apartment building.
Calling the old house home to Weatherford Antiques architecturally “not very interesting” and with worries about the building’s structural integrity, the board mostly agreed that the biggest thing going for the nomination is the house’s role in the last decades of life for “adventurous” Seattle photographer Ella McBride. McBride, who lived to be 103, moved into the house at age 77 in 1939. The nomination document compiled for the landmark process by developer Murray Franklyn and architects Weber Thompson had this to say about McBride:
McBride was also an early member of the Seattle Camera Club, a small group of mainly Japanese-American male hobbyist and professional photographers interested in the artistic possibilities of photography. The group experimented with alternative techniques, shared methods, hosted speakers, published a club journal, entered competitions, and held their own juried exhibitions. Although the club only existed from 1924 to 1929, many members of the group achieved considerable success. In 1925, members had 367 prints accepted to 21 salons(photography exhibitions) throughout the world. The club’s success peaked the following year, when 589 photos from 21 members were accepted into 33 salons. In 1925, McBride was the sixth most exhibited Pictorial photographer in the world, and in 1926-27, club members were among the top exhibited Pictorial photographers worldwide.
You can review the entire document in our report about the nomination here: Want to practice your Hill preservation technique? Weatherford nomination goes before board
HistoryLink also features an informative essay on McBride.
City Council members at the meeting for the designation of the old Seattle PI globe as a landmark were long gone by the time the small group of neighbors who sat through the three-hour board meeting spoke during the public comment phase of the proceedings. While one neighbor called for the house to be torn down without delay — “There’s two Anhalts in the area. They’ll be protected. Do we want a little museum here?” — the other speakers said the house is too special to demolish.
“The ‘free style’ is what makes it so interesting,” one said. “It is different looking. People stop to look at that building every day.”
Another criticized the Weber Thompson presentation about the house. “If we’re trying to discuss implications of making this a landmark,” he said, “all I saw was reasons of why it shouldn’t be.”
“In a city that is 150 years old, a building that is 110 years old is history,” he said.
“If that doesn’t make it a landmark then the guidelines and standard are worthless.”
Not every board member struggled to find value in the Weatherford as a potential architectural landmark, however. Cassie Hibbert, a Capitol Hill ex-patriot, said the fact that the building is now a “mish-mash” could be part of its value. “That’s what Capitol Hill is,” she said. Other members noted the gateway the house forms with the Bischofberger Violins building across John as an entryway to the more residential side of Capitol Hill.
With the decision to pass the Weatherford house on to the nomination phase, the board kicks off a more intensive process of documenting the strengths and weaknesses of the property and examining the structure. Developer Murray Franklyn and its architects seeking to establish certainty about the historical nature of the property must wait in the wings before their planned development can go forward. The nomination will likely be brought to the board in June.