Capitol Hill landmark-protected Galbraith House readied for demolition

It’s been a bit since CHS heard from neighborhood historian and preservationist John Fox. He’s moved off the Hill these days but we’ve learned to listen and take a look when he points us at a piece of Capitol Hill history. John wrote to us recently about a planned demolition at 17th Ave and Howell. Designated an official landmark in 2005, the Galbraith House/Seattle Mental Health building only had its exterior protected in the process. But the landmarks board decided recently to allow “no controls” on the building freeing landowner Sound Mental Health to move forward on its plans for the property. Those apparently include demolition — a permit to demolish the structure was issued on January 3rd. Preservationists have objected to the decision but work is already underway. The giant old house completed in 1904 for Seattle merchant James E. Galbraith and designed by the same architect as 15th Ave’s landmarked Gaslight Inn has been undergoing a salvage by Earthwise who have been nice enough to share some pictures. UPDATE: Here’s more from Sound Mental Health and the landmarks board about why the house is being demolished.

From John Fox
Many have probably noticed this grand Colonial Revival house at the corner of 17th and Howell is now surrounded with construction fencing. It is scheduled for demolition very soon.

It isn’t every day that we lose a building such as this on Capitol Hill.

This grand old house featured a fine exterior and interior that could have been restored with a large investment and some imagination for how to repurpose it. A VERY large lot necessitates its demise. I am not clear of the proposed development that will replace it. It is/was a landmark and my partner and I wrote the nomination (PDF) for it years ago. We hoped that a new owner would make it into a bed and breakfast or condos or? The interior was not protected.

It is currently being salvaged by Earthwise Salvage and they were nice enough to let me in to take some pictures so I could write something about it. VERY glad it is being salvaged. I hadn’t been in the house in years and it was sad to see oak paneling and beveled windows being removed. The staircase was amazing. At least these things will find their way into other houses. I bought several sections of handrail for a reminder of a truly special building.

I have stood on the sidewalk and watched dozens of houses being torn down on Capitol Hill over 30 years but nothing of this quality. I will be skipping this one.

(Image from the Architecture of Thompson and Thompson)

Here’s why Capitol Hill’s Galbraith House is being demolished


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19 thoughts on “Capitol Hill landmark-protected Galbraith House readied for demolition

  1. I feel horrified. I almost wish I weren’t a long term resident. Then I could walk around Capitol Hill and not miss how it used to be. I recognize that it’s relative for everyone based on when they moved here. I just personally have lost any emotional or energy or sense of place connection I had to Capitol Hill. I only live here due to central location/public transportation connections. Otherwise, it’s utterly dead to me. How about tear down something else to build a facility? Capitalism is not a just steward.

  2. A damn shame. When I first moved to Seattle in the early 90s, I lived in the Hillcrest across the street. My husband proposed to me on our patio overlooking the Galbraith House. I wonder if some ticky-tacky modern boxes will go up in its place.

    • You should buy a salvage piece of something from Earthwise. Turn it into something for your home, mantle, or christmas tree.

  3. This is truly disgraceful. Even more terrible is the high probability that the replacement building will be poorly designed and constructed with cheap materials

  4. It would appear that Landmark status is meaningless here in Seattle. Perhaps it is time to demolish the utterly useless Landmark Preservation Board.

    • I am very surprised that the Landmarks Board can apparently “un-landmark” a building which was previously designated. Shame on them! And I for one do NOT trust that the Board acted in the “long-term interests of Seattle.” To demolish a beautiful old building in good condition is a travesty.

    • Pathetic.

      I’ve visited Seattle on-and-off for 25 years, and lived in Seattle for 15 years, which is nothing compared to a lot of you, I’m sure. It’s just so sad to me to see how much the city has changed. How it’s lost (not losing, but lost) any since of personality. There’s nothing anymore that makes Seattle different than any other city, except its surrounding nature.

  5. This breaks my heart. But our Landmarks board is strong and good. I trust their decision is in the long-term interests of Seattle over the short-term interest of a developer.

  6. Seattle collectively demonstrates absolute contempt for it’s history as demonstrated in the lack of Victorian and Edwardian era preservation.

    The City was largely originally developed between the 1890-1929, but we have shockingly little to show for it.

    It was bad enough they clear cut all the forests here and cleared out the aboriginal people, then to demolish and throw away the buildings constructed from the local old-growth lumber is criminal and shows a lack of soul.

  7. Clearly the value is in the land (as they say). But no point in a landmark process if you can just knock it down.

    On a positive side, earth wise continues to be a wonderful resource. I rebuilt my fireplace and hearth with their help.

  8. Here’s what John reports the house looks like this morning. I’m checking with landmarks board and Sound Mental Health to learn more.