May 15, 1945. Image: WA State Archives.
On Labor Day weekend of 1929, 300 motorcyclists and their families roared into the sleepy resort town of Long Beach, WA for a motorcycle rally known then as a Gypsy Tour.
Aside from the three days of two-wheeled camaraderie that ensued, one rider raced ahead of the rest. His name was Marion Diederiks, an unknown motorcycle messenger from Portland who became “grand champion” after winning 8 out of 12 races over the weekend.
His victories included various pursuit and get-away races, the two-mile open, and a broad jump. Although a promising start of a career in racing, he curiously never won any other speed races like these hereafter. Instead he later found his true calling in a different form of racing known as the hill climb — a race to the top of rough hills that were so steep they were practically vertical.
Marion’s career negotiating these hills spanned two decades and culminated in the establishment of his own Harley Davidson dealership on a most unique hill — our very own Capitol Hill.
His fortune in cash prizes, his regional fame, and the tightly-knit group of riders he bonded with along the way made it all possible. The result was a dealership with a unique business model that wove standard sales and service and the spectacle of professional racing into the same fabric. And although this fabric abruptly unraveled with the onset of war and personal dramas, Marion kept the dealership going in one form or another for three decades on 12th Ave and later on Broadway. Continue reading
A prime piece of Pike/Pine’s commercial past and present has a new owner. A company associated with the Keeler Investment Group, an investor in “Pacific Northwest-based, early stage, private equity and real estate opportunities,” for $14 million, according to King County records.
Longtime owner Capitol Hill-based Hunters Capital announced the sale Monday of the Ford Building, the 97-year-old former auto row warehouse now home to Elliott Bay Book Company, the Little Oddfellows cafe, and upscale fashion retailer Totokaelo
In March, Hunters officials told CHS they had a letter of intent with a local buyer. “It’s not some big, national conglomerate,” Mike Oaksmith, director of development at Hunters said at the time. Elliott Bay owner Peter Aaron told CHS that the bookstore is well positioned for any change of building ownership. Aaron said Elliott Bay is in the midst of a “long term” lease — “more than 10 years is what I’m comfortable saying,” Aaron told CHS. Continue reading
Capitol Hill’s craft distillery industry is being downed by half and one of the neighborhood’s longest running purveyors of craft cocktails is contemplating more changes on E Pike.
CHS has learned that Sun Liquor Distillery, one of two craft-level spirit makers operating in Pike/Pine’s light-manufacturing zone left behind by the neighborhood’s auto row legacy, is moving operations to a nondescript warehouse on the backstreets behind University Village.
“We need two times as much space and the loading on E Pike is just too dangerous,” Sun’s founder Michael Klebeck tells CHS. Klebeck said his company is also considering working with a new owner to take over the Sun Liquor lounge across the street from the bottling facility on E Pike. Continue reading
The Landmarks Preservation Board voted Wednesday night to approve one auto row era building on Broadway nominated for landmark status and deny its next door neighbor. Both are properties owned by Seattle Central and are being lined up for affordable housing development by the school.
The board will now consider 1519 Broadway, the former Eldridge Tire Company, for designation in March. The consideration process for 1515 Broadway, today home to burger joint Freddy Jr.’s, ended with the board’s vote.
“(1519 Broadway is) a great example of … both an auto-style building and a Mission-style building ” said board member and CHS history contributor Robert Ketcherside. “… I think it’s a great building and an important part of what was auto row.”
The other property, home to the burger joint today and, long ago, the Stewart Warner service station, didn’t have the qualities it takes to qualify the next part of the designation process.
“I think that this building is an important component of the undesignated auto row district in Capitol Hill, but it’s the poster child for lacking the ability to convey significance,” said board member Jeffrey Murdock. Continue reading
As it seeks a partner in its plans for affordable housing, Seattle Central will take the auto row history of one of the two Broadway properties it is pushing forward toward redevelopment in front of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board next week. The board will weigh just what architectural features if any should be protected in the one-time Stewart Warner service station and its neighbor the old Eldridge Tire building in the 1500 block of Broadway between Pine and Pike. Today, the structures are home to a burger joint, a taco joint, and a hair stylist.
The board will consider the buildings for nomination Wednesday afternoon.
Landmarks board: 1515 Broadway and 1519 Broadway
Seattle has a relatively robust and busy landmarks system but the process is as much about development as it is preservation. Seattle Central is moving the properties through the review as a prelude to redevelopment and a requirement of the permitting process for buildings from before 1940. Continue reading
Capitol Hill’s auto row was created by entrepreneurs launching start-ups, of sorts. One modern vestige of the era has made a home for a set of entrepreneurs to make their mark in history with one of the neighborhood’s new economic lifebloods: coffee beans.
Bean Box, a “gourmet coffee” subscription and gift service, has been growing its business out of the recreated auto garage next to Bill’s off Broadway.
“Capitol Hill is wildly diverse from a population and diverse from a business standpoint,” Bean Box’s Ryan Fritzky told CHS earlier this year when we stopped by for a visit to check out the coffee bean packaging and shipping operation on E Pine. Continue reading
(Images: Dennis Saxman with permission to CHS)
Early June became demolition season on Capitol Hill this week as three old buildings came down, raising clouds of musty dust and nostalgia in mostly equal measure. For the two most Capitol Hill memory-filled structures, we had some warning as the wrecking crews came for the old Broadway post office and the longtime 11th Ave home of Hugo House. Fewer knew about the impending doom that awaited the Emerald City Manor apartments on Boylston. But we’re guessing there might be some nostalgia floating in the dust over there, too. Continue reading
A former Capitol Hill chocolate factory — in an auto row era building with an, um, nutty past — will provide “character inspiration” for what could be the first passive house certified mixed-use development in Seattle. The project faces its first design review Wednesday night.
CHS reported on the uber-green six-story, 55-unit project above 2,400 square feet of retail space, and
no underground parking late last month as frequent Capitol Hill developer Maria Barrientos teamed up with Cascade Built and architects Weber Thompson to transform the corner of 13th and Pike still owned by Fran’s Chocolates which moved its operations to Georgetown in 2014. Just down the street from the Bullitt Center, the world’s first living building, the project will aspire to the standards set by Passive House Institute US. Among the many requirements, passive buildings are required to be extremely airtight and insulated to minimize energy use. UPDATE: The project is, indeed, planned to have 26 units of underground parking.
The project is described as a first of its kind “sustainable apartment building that includes a passive house design that reduces energy needs to as close to zero as possible.” The developers say that the passive features including increased insulation affect the massing and windows and that “exterior shading devices” will shield the south and western faces of the building from “heat loads.” Meanwhile, the design will use “the old rhythm of the column spacing” and “many elements such as the brick and the ornamental pieces on the current facade.” Continue reading
It’s nowhere as interesting as last month’s news that big ol’ Redhook is building a brewpub and “small-batch” brewery inside the Pike Motorworks development but it is a reminder of the property’s auto row past and the environmental reviews required to make the Capitol Hill block comply with environmental health statutes.
The Department of Ecology is taking public comment on the proposed removal of the “environmental covenant” on the E Pike property as a last step of certifying that restrictions can be lifted after a petroleum, lead and cadmium clean-up process.
The demolition, facade preservation, and redevelopment on the block included the removal of four underground storage tanks and about 20,600 tons of contaminated soil, the Department of Ecology said in the announcement, below. The department says soil tests have “confirmed that the site complies with Washington’s cleanup standards” and that the property “no longer poses a threat to human health or the environment.” Continue reading
REI called 11th Ave home during its early growth as a retailing giant (Image: REI)
You already knew this but Capitol Hill’s Value Village is a landmark.
Or it will be after a City Council vote.
Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle Landmarks Board voted 9-0 to designate the historic Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building as an official Seattle landmark saying the building held special significance in the neighborhood due to its history in the early years of REI and its place in the “economic heritage of auto row.”
As a landmark, the building will be afforded special protections and alterations to its exterior will be subject to review by the board. But the designation may not stave off development planned for the site.
A representative for real estate developer Legacy Commercial said it was too early to say what bearing the vote would have on his company’s plans to use Pike/Pine’s preservation incentives to create a 75-foot tall office building above street-level commercial space with the property. The building is owned by the Ellison family that founded the Value Village chain.
One likely next step could be an appeal of the board’s decision. Another representative for the developer called the Kelly-Springfield building “a middling example” of auto row-era architecture in asking the board not to support designation of the property.
CHS wrote about the Kelly-Springfield nomination here. The neighboring White Motor Company building — currently home to The Stranger — will take its turn in front of the board on January 21st after successfully moving through the first round of the landmarks process in December. In that session, the REI connection for the two buildings was firmly established and the board was swayed to consider not only the 1918 building’s exterior but also its classic auto row-era guts including the three-story structure’s impressive upper-story truss.
In voting for landmark status for the current home of Value Village Wednesday, the board cited the many letters it had received from the public in support of protecting the buildings and the connection to REI as a significant factor in the decision. “The building has industrial automotive significance,” one board member said. “Letters have expressed that the building conveys that significance.”