15th Ave’s Gaslight Inn to be considered as landmark

15th Ave’s Gaslight Inn will be considered as an official landmark later this month. But don’t worry, good neighbor — nobody is planing to tear it down.

In a process that often portends doom in Capitol Hill’s hyperactive environment of redevelopment, the 1904-era bed and breakfast is being nominated because the man who has owned it for more than 30 years and restored it to what the nomination backers claim is near-original condition, honest to goodnessly believes the old house should be a protected Seattle landmark.

Neighborhood preservation activist and area resident John Fox helped prepare the nomination for the Singerman Residence/Gaslight Inn house and tells CHS owner Stephen Bennett is pursuing the designation “because he does NOT want it ever torn down.” “He wants to be sure it stays part or the architectural fabric of the neighborhood,” Fox writes.

It is also, the proposal contends, a symbol of how gay and lesbian residents revived, and reshaped Capitol Hill starting about 40 years ago:

The Gaslight Inn exemplifies the efforts by gay and lesbian residents to revive the neighborhood in the 1970s and 1980s, and to create identifiable LGBTQ space in the city. Along with growing tolerance in the past three decades, and more recent passage of civil rights and marriage equality legislation, Capitol Hill has undergone another transition with increased gentrification, while LGBTQ residents have moved to homes throughout the city. This trend analogous to the experience of many immigrant communities, is seen throughout many American cities where “gayborhoods” are increasingly attractive to residents of all gender identities (see Brown and Ghaziani).

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 7.09.52 PMThe property is also a part of Seattle’s Jewish history, built as a home for city businessman and philanthropist Paul Singerman:

The life and career of Paul Singerman is associated historically with Seattle’s early Jewish community, which was made up largely by well educated Ashkenzic Jews of German decent. He and his family were linked to others within this community through a double marriage ceremony in 1909 when his daughter, Belle, married Louis Friedlander and Singerman’s son, Louis, married Anne Friedlander, both of the family that would later establish Friedlander Jewelers.

As you might recall, the structure will have to meet certain standards to be considered for protection:

Landmark designation standards:

In order to be designated, the building, object, or site must be at least 25 years old and must meet at least one of the six criteria for designation outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (SMC 25.12.350):

a) It is the location of, or is associated in a significant way with, a historic event with a significant effect upon the community, City, state, or nation; or

b) It is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City, state, or nation; or

c) It is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community, City, state or nation; or

d) It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction; or

e) It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder; or

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

You can send your comment on the nomination to the landmarks board via email or plan to attend the hearing on the house later this month:

Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board will consider nomination of the Singerman Residence/Gaslight Inn (1727 15th Avenue) on Wednesday, August 19 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 18 at 3:00 p.m.:
Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
PO Box 94649
Seattle, WA 98124-4649 (mailing address)

You can learn more about the nomination here. The full nomination document is below.

_Gaslight Inn Landmark Nomination

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9 thoughts on “15th Ave’s Gaslight Inn to be considered as landmark

  1. This is great news! For Capitol Hill to stay vibrant, it is essential to maintain architectural diversity and a connection to history. It is refreshing to see a landowner using the landmark preservation process the way it was intended rather than as the first step in destruction of the neighborhood fabric. The Seattle Landmark Process needs serious reform. The Board has become a rubber stamp for developers. Even buildings that are landmarked are at great risk of facadectomy. We need to reform the process before the whole neighborhood becomes block-sized six-story buildings with false storefronts. There are much better ways to add density while protecting landmark properties. For example, transfer of development rights and flexibility in the code to allow taller developments in parking lots in exchange for restoration of historic properties. The pike pine conservation overlay negotiated by the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council and the developers has been a disasterous failure for Capitol Hill that has hastened the destruction of the neighborhood. Facadism is not historic preservation.

    • It seems to me that you are conflating two different preservation programs. I believe that some facades are being preserved so that the developer can take advantage of the incentive program which allows for greater height and/or tax breaks. But the landmark designation mandates that the entire external structure be preserved, so I don’t think it’s possible to do a “facadectomy” on a landmarked building. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    • I think you both are some right and some wrong. Some of the developments that have gotten easements or breaks for preserving facades have made significant changes – sometimes blaming the changes on accidents – that impact the original look of the facade.

    • Unfortunately, even landmark properties are being facadimized. It is in violation of the Department of Interior’s landmark preservation standards, but the board is increasingly signing off on the gutting of landmark properties around the city anyway. The developer of the old REI building is still proposing to gut the two buildings on 11th that were recently landmarked and add three stories of parking underneath. It remains to be seen whether or not the landmark board will have the courage to say no. It is an outrage.

    • In addition to approving landmark status for the REI building, the Board specifically protected some of the interior…I believe it was the beautiful old wooden beams in parts of the store. It would be a gross violation if the developer was allowed to gut the interior, and I agree it will be an outrage if the Board does not disallow this.

      Can you give examples of landmarked buildings where the exterior has been altered? Is this being done with the permission of the Board?

  2. Bravo to John Fox for the nomination.
    Stephen Bennett has over many years done much to maintain and improve the vintage housing stock on Capitol Hill and the northern parts of the Central Area. Thoughtful restorations and interesting new construction that are models of urban development, we’ve been lucky to have he and his partners in our midst.

  3. If you ever have friends visiting Seattle and Capitol Hill who ask you where to stay–this is the place. You think the outside is nice? You ain’t seen nothin till you’ve seen the inside. “Magnificent” doesn’t even come close to describing it. Huge kudos to Mr Bennett not only for using the preservation designation for how it’s intended, but for doing such a jaw-dropping job restoring this mansion to splendor. It’s just flat out incredible.

  4. If this doesn’t pass, then nothing on Capitol Hill will ever be saved.

    But I’m sure there are some developers somewhere getting an erection thinking of turning this into apodments with a first floor yoga studio.