Capitol Hill house standing since 1890 won’t get landmark protection

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board has deemed a 122-year-old Capitol Hill house unworthy of protection clearing the way for the structure’s demolition to make way for a new apartment building.

According to John Fox, a member of the Capitol Hill Coalition group who had been working to save the Frank Pardee Lewis House, the board voted Wednesday that the house at 1823 18th Ave should not be nominated for landmark status.

The decision clears the way for a four-story, 31-unit apartment project to replace the old house. There are currently no permits on file for the house’s demolition.

The house joins 14th and John’s Weatherford House and the Ruth Court Apartments at 18th and John as area structures denied protection by the board as development projects wait in the wings.

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30 thoughts on “Capitol Hill house standing since 1890 won’t get landmark protection

  1. Agree with your criticism of the Landmark Preservation Board. I’m no expert on what criteria they use to provide landmark status, but I have to wonder if they are fearful of being criticized for approving properties too easily, so they err on the side of not approving them.

    I strongly think that if properties such as this one and also the Weatherford House are not deemed “worthy” of landmark status, then the Board needs to look carefully at revising the criteria that they use.

    It’s a damn shame and really, disgraceful, that our city is allowing new abominations such as the “apodments,” and at the same time clearing the way for beautiful old homes like this one to be demolished.

    update: My post is responding to the first reply in this thread, which now seems to have disappeared….???

  2. What more is there to say? Only to wonder why, if developers intend to tear down a house, they can’t buy an ugly, falling-apart one instead — thus improving the neighborhood with their work. Why buy a meticulously restored home that carries with it more than a hundred years of history, only to destroy it? It’s a sickness of the soul.

  3. This is so wrong. A retaing wall at Cascade Park is protected. But this beautiful old home is not. I think it sucks! Wake up Landmark committee! This is what you are supposed to be all about!

  4. Have been coveting this house for years but being a broke artist I can only dream of saving it. As Sherri says, there are plenty of ugly, falling-down structures one could do away with instead. It is a sickening shame that developers have no sense of beauty or history (or even practicality — why tear down a beautifully restored house that’s an asset to the neighborhood instead of a wreck that brings down surrounding property values?).

    Sad sad sad.

  5. There are structures a block away that are in total disrepair, frames sagging and overgrown with weeds, obviously unmaintained and unloved. This place is in pristine condition.

    Who’s on the landmarks board/whose pocket are they in?

  6. I walk by this house all the time to and from work, it makes me sad to think that someday it’ll just be another apartment building with no character. As others have said, there are plenty of other properties nearby that aren’t as nearly well maintained as this one, so that’s likely why people are so confused about it’s fate.

  7. I think what is happening here is that people are not properly understanding what it means to preserve the character of a neighborhood. There is the physical appearance of the neighborhood (the stock of houses and apartment buildings) and then there are the people, which are actually more important. The character of Capitol Hill is in danger of being lost because the cost of living here keeps going up. Soon, it could be out of reach of the people that make it the great place that it is. If we really want to preserve the character and culture of Capitol Hill, we should be encouraging the creation of as much housing as possible. While this does unfortunately result in the loss of some nice old houses like this one, a much more productive use of energy would be lobbying the developer to hire a better architect and use better building materials.

    We don’t have to stand for crappy design in this city, but when everybody is just blindly anti-development, it turns the developers against us and they in turn have no incentive to work with neighbors and concerned citizens to improve the design language. The city would actually be better served if this house was demolished to make way for a much larger apartment building of 6 stories or more, where normal people can actually afford to live. We should be wary of becoming like San Francisco, where development is paralyzed (fewer than 500 new units were built in 2010 there) and the cost of housing is largely out of reach for normal people that work as artists or work in service and retail jobs. When people rail against development like this, that will be our future–a city for rich people only. Is that really what you want?

  8. How does this have anything to do with labeling this place a landmark? Just because it’s old doesn’t make it a landmark. It’s not an architecture masterpiece, did somebody famous live/die there?

  9. Fact of the matter is, once a beautiful home like this is demolished, nothing will ever bring it back. When my wife and I were looking for single family homes in Seattle, anything built post 1940 was just garbage – cheap floors, cheap molding, fake retro windows, etc. You can’t replicate the way homes were made back then. People live in Seattle because it’s gorgeous – no one says, “Oh man, I wish they would tear down that beautifully restored Victorian and just put up a 20 unit apartment complex, the people that it would bring into the neighborhood would be fantastic!” Sorry, no one (other than money grubbing real estate agents and contractors) would agree with you and much of it has to do with aesthetics. And your example of San Francisco is terrible – have you ever lived there? I have and can say that one of the best things about both cities is its architecture. That’s not to say I’m against affordable housing or anything of that nature, on the contrary. But like many people have said, there are many, many lots on the Hill that can (or should be) demolished and rebuilt. The corner of 14th and Union is a great example- people can barely recall what was on that corner. Point is, you can have your “great neighbors” without demolishing wonderfully restored old homes. Our family loves wandering around the Hill, from Broadway to Volunteer Park – we remark at how gorgeous the homes are and how they’re meticulously kept. If you want the Hill to turn into Belltown, by all means, move there. Your obtuse comments don’t resonate on the Hill. If I had it my way, no well-kept home built before 1930 should ever be demolished here or in any other city.

  10. Mark, I agree with what you are saying about the need for affordable housing in our neighborhood. HOWEVER, as we have seen with the glut of new housing over the past few years, these new developments increase the cost of housing rather than reduce it. Each new building charges higher rents than the last, and that causes upward pressure on ALL housing prices. Yes, many have a few units available for low-income residents, but have you seen what it takes to qualify for Section 8 vouchers, for example? The maximum a single person can make is $18,500 annually. That’s an $8.90/hr job (less than minimum wage). What about the person who makes $20-30K a year? They don’t qualify as low-income, but they certainly can’t afford all the new development in the area (the cheapest studio at the Lyric runs $1,185.00).

    I can guarantee you that whatever four-story, 31-unit apartment building replaces this home is NOT going to increase the affordable housing on Capitol Hill. It will only contribute to the upward spiral of rents.

  11. I completely disagree with you Mark. There can be a good mix while preserving and paying homage to our past. There will be a point when Capitol Hill is too dense (we are getting there alreay), more people does not = charcater, it only equauls more peole. And it’s sad that peopel have the mindset that the crackerbox buildings going up actually add to character.

  12. We have a 1903 Victorian on the hill that we’ve worked hard to restore. We love the area, love the people, and the diverse cultures. But this continual destruction of neighborhoods has caused us to decide to sell and move on. I’m sure a developer will tear our house down and then who knows. Sad..but inevitable.

    Our historic neighborhoods have been destroyed by low-budget developers and city leaders that let the planning dept run wild. Where else do you see a quiet neighborhood with historic houses lining the street that also has a 3-unit low-budget tall/skinny smack dab in the middle.

    Someone said it earlier – once its done, there’s no going back. Those tall/skinny’s will be there for the rest of our lifetime. The only solace you can take away from this will be those people in the future that can look at Capitol Hill and think….what the hell were they thinking?!?!?

  13. 1: an object (as a stone or tree) that marks the boundary of land

    2a: a conspicuous object on land that marks a locality
    2b: an anatomical structure used as a point of orientation in locating other structures

    3: an event or development that marks a turning point or a stage

    4: a structure (as a building) of unusual historical and usually aesthetic interest; especially : one that is officially designated and set aside for preservation

    No, no, no, no, and no.

    It’s a kinda sorta pretty thing for the nostalgic. Nothing architecturally remarkable compared to other buildings extant. George Washington didn’t sleep there either, I’m guessing.

  14. The house is beautiful and so well-preserved and I’m so sad to see it go. However, the decision to deny landmark status doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t unequivocally fit into any of the following six criteria legally required for the status (but I myself would vote for D):

    A. It is the location of or is associated in a significant way with an historic event with a significant effect upon the community, city, state, or nation.

    B. It is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the city, state, or nation.

    C. It is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, oreconomic heritage of the community, city, state, or nation.

    D. It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, period, or method of construction.

    E. It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder.

    F. Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrast of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable feature of its neighborhood or the city and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or city.

    I think I want to see the _result_ of having it designated a landmark (that is, that it would be preserved)… but I don’t think the _strategy_ was going to be the successful way to do it. If only there was a way to preserve it other than making it a landmark….

    That said, the property was willingly sold to Rudd Development by the previous owner of this house. The previous owner certainly had the right to sell it to whomever s/he wished, and Rudd certainly has the right to build it however they want the architect to design it within code. That’s not to say that the previous owner is to blame at all, or that Rudd should not shoulder any responsibility. But with the laws the way they are right now, everyone has the right to do what they are doing. :(

  15. I’m not a money grubbing real estate agents and contractors and I entirely agree with Mark. Yes, we should certainly preserve history. But granting historic status to every building that applies will get us nowhere. Thanks you, Preservation Board, for making the difficult but reasoned decisions.
    Also, every poster in this forum should disclaim if they live in a single family house or not. Disclaimer: I live in an apartment building

  16. You are absolutely kidding yourself if you think the cookie-cutter apartments that replace this house will be in any way shape or form “affordable”. The design presented at the review board is another sad example of corporate architecture devoid of character or context.

  17. I’ve read remarks from the board noting that they are not the “nice old building preservation board”.

    Given our very strong property rights constitution, government has to be very careful to avoid charges of “taking”

  18. This is what happens when you have a hot area for real estate like capitol hill and money hungry developers from OUT of state or new arrivals who couldn’t care less about the area’s history. They simply have no connection to it and don’t care. This is a recipe for disaster and will continue to happen unless we get a preservation board with teeth. Rignt now they have a mouth full of gums…get some dentures then and bite this problem out of the hill.

  19. JS…I hope to god that you are not correct that an old home has to be an “architectural masterpiece” to qualify for landmark status. There are many old homes on Capitol Hill, this one included, that may not be masterpieces but are in beautiful condition and add alot to the character of our neighborhood. If such homes cannot now qualify as landmarks, the criteria for the Landmarks Board need to change!

  20. Mark: Very few people here are “blindly anti-development.” We just want beautiful older homes, in pristine condition, to remain just as new development occurs. You are dead wrong that such homes do not contribute to the “character” of a neighborhood. But, hey, maybe you would rather live in an area with only huge apartment buildings, apodments, tall-skinny houses….and that is what Capitol Hill would be like if your point of view prevails.

  21. Yet another beautiful structure demolished for a poorly constructed, unattractive building that will get torn down in 30 years. History, consistency and integrity are integral attributes of a thriving, happy neighborhood.

  22. My partner and I were fortunate enough to purchase a 1906 “fixer-upper” six years ago on Capitol hill. It was these old houses that really attracted us to this part of the city along with its lively diverse community. Since being here we have witnessed several houses in our neighborhood, that were in good condition torn down only to be replaced by town homes and ugly modern structures that really don’t fit into the neighborhood. We even have been approached by developers eager to buy our place, only to tear it down I’m sure, and build another cheap & ugly town home complex.
    It is such a shame to see the same fate happening to this house. They don’t build homes like this anymore. Tphe old growth lumber that was used cannot be found in new houses today. The details in the moldings and woodwork were oftentimes done by craftsmen, not purchased in the big box home centers like today. Architecture like this just isn’t done anymore, so once this house is torn down there will be no way to replicate it ever again.
    It is sad to see Seattle slowly loosing its historic identity . I don’t want to live in the past, but I want to be able to see the city take a more active commitment to preserving its older structures. There is a way that both old and new can co-exist and be done without tearing down a house that has stood proudly on the corner of 18th and E. Denny for over 110 years. If the Landmark Preservation Board isn’t interested in saving our smaller neighborhood houses maybe they should be replaced by those of us who really do care about this neighborhood and preserving its identity.

  23. I disagree with you Mark – and it’s “scrap” not “scrape”. Incorrect spelling & language comprehension also detracts from your sad points.
    This building is unique and well preserved, hence the reason for the all the outrage (and the 1890 is more unusual for Seattle, especially in this neighborhood) . There’s plenty of old, run down buildings from around the same era that need to come down and no one will fight to save those. Trying to preserve one building doesn’t automatically translate to trying to preserve them all. But this house is worth saving.

  24. And demand that Mr.McGinn do SOMETHING to stop this bullshit once and for all. Anyone who votes for a sitting councilperson for mayor is bunk. The landmark preservation board needs to be abolished and replaced with something that actually reflects the citizenry. I’ve had it.