Seattle City Council protects two very different Capitol Hill houses as landmarks — UPDATE

Two Capitol Hill houses that have stood for more than 100 years are set to be designated official City of Seattle landmarks Monday afternoon. The Seattle City Council will vote on the final designations following approval at the committee level last week and previous approvals by the Landmarks Preservation Board.

UPDATE: As expected, both ordinances were passed by the full city council Monday.

The structures share vastly different recent histories but both will now be afforded protections that should preserve the structures even as the city’s much needed multi-family development continues to flow around them. Continue reading

Developer abandons plans for The Stranger building after preservation board objections


(Image: CHS)

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 9.31.39 AM

After submitting three design proposals, developers will meet with the preservation board members about their latest design that leaves The Stranger building untouched (right).

“Our hope is that by developing the Value Village building mid block, its impact is much more acceptable to the neighborhood.”

It’s been almost a year since plans to redevelop the The Stranger and (former) Value Village buildings were stalled due to the 11th and E Pine buildings winning landmark status. Since then, developer Legacy Commercial has met twice with members of the Landmark Preservation Board to hammer out how its plans for an office and retail project can move forward while still complying with the landmark protections. It hasn’t been going so smoothly.

After two meetings with the Architectural Review Committee, preservation board members said Legacy was making little progress in addressing its concerns about the proposed preservation incentive-boosted 75-foot high office and mixed-use development incorporating the two auto row-era structures and a sunken parking lot. When Legacy submitted plans for a third meeting, they were turned away.

“The third briefing packet did not appear to contain any new information and I advised the applicant that another ARC could be scheduled when new alternatives or additional information was provided,” said Sarah Sodt, a coordinator for the Historic Preservation Program. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Meany Middle School consideration as landmark likely a mere formality before major overhaul

From May, Meany’s understated elegance

From May, Meany’s understated elegance (Image: John Feit)

Seattle Public Schools has its hands full these days so you might forgive its lack of interest in the “understated elegance” of Capitol Hill’s Meany Middle School. The 20th Ave E buildings — built in three phases in the 1940s, ’50s, and early ’60s — are due for a major overhaul and construction project to prepare the campus to host a new Capitol Hill middle school by 2017. As part of the process, the district is carrying out the city’s landmark designation process to determine if the building has architectural significance that will require the construction to preserve specific historical elements.

But it’s not an enthusiastic nomination. The schools spokesperson called the nomination proposal coming in front of the landmarks board Wednesday a “fairly standard practice” and said it has been part of nearly all of the district’s major renovations.

Now, if we were fighting to preserve the 1941 edition, things might be different...

Now, if we were fighting to preserve the 1955 edition of Meany, things might be different…

Still, if you’d like to mount a defense of Meany’s architectural significance, you can send your comment on the nomination to the landmarks board via email or plan to attend the hearing this week:

The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider this nomination at its meeting on Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 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 September 15, 2015, by 3:00 p.m.: Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, Dept. of Neighborhoods, P.O. Box 94649, Seattle WA 98124-4649 (mailing address).

Meany Middle School | Nomination | Drawings – Part 1 | Drawings – Part 2 | Drawings – Part 3 | Appendix 3 | Public Notice (PDF)

For support, you might consider our essay from May by Capitol Hill architect John Feit exploring Meany’s understated elegance:

A view of the northern most saw-tooth shows that it is neighborless, revealing a simple composition of skylight and window. Again, repeating, simple forms with just a hint of hierarchy (the posts between the windows and the brick wainscot, for instance) maintains the simple approach.
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Board votes unanimously to move 111-year-old Capitol Hill B&B forward in landmarks process


(Image: The Gaslight Inn)

(Image: The Gaslight Inn)

“It’s not common that people see something in the rough and decide to take it on and spend three decades bringing it back to life.”

Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously approved the nomination of Capitol Hill’s Gaslight Inn for landmark status Wednesday afternoon. The board will meet again on October 7th to consider the nomination.

Board member (and CHS contributorRobert Ketcherside said the Gaslight Inn had “emotional and personal significance,” citing longtime owner Stephen Bennett’s efforts to make it a haven for members of the gay community during the 1980s AIDS epidemic. His colleague Nicholas Carter said the Inn was “a very important part of our cultural history.”

Board chair Alison Walker noted how unusual it was for a property owner to self-nominate for a landmark designation and thanked Bennett for his efforts to maintain the 111-year old property: “It’s not common that people see something in the rough and decide to take it on and spend three decades bringing it back to life,” she said.

Most landmarks hearings related to Capitol Hill properties in recent years have been part of clearing the way for planned development.

“I feel so lucky to have lived there for the last thirty five years. It’s a wonderful place, it gives me back much more than I put in,” Bennett told the board after it cast its vote.

He was there with John Fox, a onetime employee of the Inn and local preservation advocate who helped prepare the proposal. Both men were overjoyed at the board’s decision. CHS spoke with Fox about the proposal prior to Wednesday’s meeting. “It’s how the gay community used to live,” he told CHS. “We remember a time when you weren’t necessarily welcomed everywhere and this was our way of making something nice in our neighborhood.”

The Gaslight Inn was built in 1904 and was originally the private residence of Paul Singerman, a prosperous Polish-born Jewish businessman. Singerman sold the property two years later in 1907 and it changed hands several times before being purchased by Bennett in 1983, who turned it into a bed and breakfast. The Inn is constructed in the “American Four Square” architectural style.

In order for a building to be designated as a landmark, it must be at least 25 years old and meet one of six criteria outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. The board determined that the Gaslight Inn met criteria C and D of the ordinance:

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.

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

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: Continue reading

Last chance to have your say (via email) on 11th/Pine as Seattle landmark

IMG_2175-600x400Screen-Shot-2014-11-18-at-12.39.48-PM-600x357Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will decide whether it will extend its protections to the White Motor Company building at the corner of 11th and Pine. You might know it as The Stranger building.

The Wednesday vote follows a decision by the board earlier this month to protect the building’s neighboring auto row-era structure with REI roots currently home to Value Village. The White Motor Company has a similar auto row and REI mixed pedigree — and, the board decided in December, it also has an impressive enough interior that it, too, could be worthy of the board’s ongoing oversight.

Wednesday’s meeting includes an opportunity for public comment but you can also provide your thoughts via email to Sarah Sodt — Pike/Pine coordinator for the landmarks program. In its deliberations about the two early twentieth century structures, the board has consistently cited the many comments and shows of public support for the building it has received. CHS wrote here about efforts by preservation advocates to win protections for the buildings.

It’s not clear what impact the landmarks designations would have on the plans for a large office and commercial space development planned to integrate the facades and massing of the historical structures. A representative for real estate developer Legacy Commercial told CHS after the decision on the Value Village/Kelly Springfield building that it was too early to say what bearing the vote would have on his company’s plans to for a Pike/Pine’s preservation incentive-powered development.

Capitol Hill Value Village building with auto row and REI roots wins landmarks status but how much protection will it afford?

REI called 11th Ave home during its early growth as a retailing giant (Image: REI)

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.”

Board set to decide landmark protections for first of two 11th Ave auto row buildings with REI history

Screen-Shot-2014-11-18-at-12.41.12-PM-600x400Wednesday is a big day for the 1917-built 11th Ave building currently home to Value Village as the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board meets to consider whether the structure should qualify for protections that could end plans to redevelop the property.

Public comment will be part of the Wednesday session — note the room change — but you can also add your thoughts via email to Pike/Pine coordinator Sarah Sodt — by Tuesday afternoon.

Landmarks Preservation Board Meeting

Seattle Municipal Tower

700 5th Avenue, **17th Floor**

**Room 1756**

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 – 3:30 p.m.

In December, CHS reported that — thanks to REI history and the building’s auto row legacy —  the Kelly-Springfield building and its neighboring White Motor Company building currently home to The Stranger and the Rhino Room had advanced to the next round in the city’s process to determine if the structures should qualify for protections that would limit changes to the external features of the buildings. Additionally, the board will consider the White Motor building for possible internal protections when it considers that property later this month.

CHS wrote about the nomination of the Kelly-Springfield building here in November. An effort to advocate for protecting the properties has been joined by neighborhood groups and supported by REI, the Seattle-based outdoor gear company that traces its roots back through its first major growth on Capitol Hill.

The hearings on the properties has included some concern about decorative elements removed from the buildings prior to the nominations. During the December hearing for the White Motor Company building, the representative for the developers said she was concerned members of the public had “accused” her clients of “removing elements” and that allegations in written comments received by the board that the building’s owners had acted to damage the structure’s possible standing as an official landmark were “patently false” and “without any evidence or basis in fact.” In January 2014, CHS reported that workers had removed decorative rosettes the previous fall and that representatives for the property owner and developer told the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council that the elements were removed so that they could be preserved and restored to the building as part of a new 75-foot-high, nearly-100,000 square-foot office project planned for the land at the corner.

Capitol Hill’s Value Village building — auto row-era home of Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company — considered for Seattle landmark protection

The building in 1937

The building in 1937

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.40.15 PMMaybe this one will be different. The 11th Ave auto row-era home to Value Village and lined up to be part of a massive, mixed-use office and retail development is slated to come before the Seattle Landmarks Review Board this week.

Dubbed the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building for its first tenant after construction in 1917, the property will be weighed against six “designation standards” in a hearing Wednesday afternoon to determine if it worthy of moving to the nomination round of the process. Public comment is part of the hearing.

CHS asked developer Legacy Commercial about the landmark application but a representative did not reply with comment. UPDATE: A Legacy spokesperson tells CHS the company’s hopes are for the board to determine the property is not a landmark:

Legacy elected to be proactive in addressing the City’s request for the Landmark’s Board to review the site, to provide additional clarity during the planning process. The review is an important component of working in the Pike Pine Triangle. However, we are hoping that the site is not determined to be a landmark to provide us the opportunity to realize our vision and the neighborhood’s vision for the block.

The hearing comes amid increasing recognition of the economic and cultural value of preserving older buildings intact in neighborhoods like Pike/Pine where a “conservation overlay” provides incentives to developers for including the components of historic buildings in modern structures. The auto row building is planned to join the neighboring White Motor Company building at 11th and Pine — currently home to The Stranger and the Rhino Room — as part of a development taking advantage of these incentives to create a 75-foot tall office building above street-level commercial space.

The landmark nomination is a required part of the development process and, if designated, won’t necessarily rule the old building out for redevelopment. Even so, the odds aren’t in favor of the building making the cut. Recent Capitol Hill properties falling short of the board’s protection include The Pinevue Apartments building and 11th Ave’s Hugo House.

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First Hill’s Stimson-Green hosts Haunted Mansion Party

(Image: Kayla Clark Events)

Inside Stimson-Green (Image: Kayla Clark Events)

Which is more frightful? The $100 ticket price *or* the marketing of the “ghosts” of “mistreated slaves” for a “haunted mansion party” Saturday night at First Hill’s landmark Stimson-Green house?

For a hundred bucks plus fees, you fan find out at Seattle event producer Kayla Cook’s October 25th Haunted Mansion Party:

Are you ready for a scare? Join us at the Stimson-Green Mansion for the first annual Haunted Mansion Party. Rumor has it, the mansion is haunted…. Continue reading