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Cramped in its possible landmark home, Capitol Hill’s Hugo House considers expansion

(Image: Hugo House)

(Image: Hugo House)

Though he never lived here, since 1997, this has been the Richard Hugo House. But the Capitol Hill literary nonprofit named for the White Center poet is starting to feel a bit of writer’s block about the increasingly cramped and uncomfortable confines for its growing organization inside the 1903 house at 1634 11th Ave.

“We have some great plans for how we’re going to be able to serve the community better but we’re kind of maxed out on space,” new executive director Tree Swenson tells CHS.

This week, CHS reported that the property owned by a Hugo House founder and leased by the group was beginning the city’s landmark process to determine if the onetime home of Manning’s Funeral Parlor is of enough historical and architectural significance to be protected. From the landmark nomination document for Hugo House:

In 1917, when the apartment building was converted to a mortuary, the interior of the structure was substantially modified. The restaurant area currently present in the Hugo House, and also the rear portion of the building, each held a chapel for funeral services. The southern portion of the main floor was used for offices, and the upper floor was used for residential purposes. Sometime in the 1930s, after the building was no longer used as a residence, the entire second-floor was used for offices and preparation. Minor changes to this interior configuration were made in the 1930s, from designs prepared by Victor W. Voorhees and Donald Earl Roberts. In 1958, additional alterations occurred when the symmetrical floor plan was altered to accommodate the large funeral chapel addition built to the south, which was designed by John W. Maloney.

[mappress mapid=”48″]That history and macabre charm doesn’t necessarily make Hugo House an efficient facility for the organization’s increasingly popular classes and seminars.

“Our classes have just been amazing — we’ve been filled to capacity,” Swenson said.

Despite the cramped quarters, Hugo House seems to be thriving. Thursday night, the House will hold its annual Eat Read Hugo benefit. The dinner and auction is again sold out.

The organization is currently exploring possibilities. These could include expanding the current building or finding a new location — preferably on Hill: “I feel like Hugo House is such a great home for us to be in on Capitol Hill,” Swenson said. But it’s too early at this point to say what the plan is.

“We are exploring a lot of different possibilities,” Swenson said. “Until we even have an idea of the parameters of what is possible, I don’t want to say we’re thinking about X and we’re thinking about Y. And then we end up doing Z.”

(Image: Hugo House)

(Image: Hugo House)

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6 thoughts on “Cramped in its possible landmark home, Capitol Hill’s Hugo House considers expansion

  1. I was a longtime volunteer here and then finally an employee in the early 2000s. I have so many creepy stories from the basement renovation, met some of my heroes working here, and I really feel that my time spent at the House as a teenager and young adult and the relationships forged there have enhanced an informed my adulthood. The Richard Hugo House is a special place. I still meet people I used to work with and feel like we share something important.

  2. Pingback: Digging up Capitol Hill’s mortuary past as the last funeral home works to prolong its life | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  3. I love old architecture but, in this case, we should do what we can to help this unique cultural organization continue to thrive on the Hill. We should give the Hugo House room to grow where it is so that more writers can sign up for classes and so the organization can stay in a central Seattle neighborhood, which will be easily accessible by Link light rail and other transportation.

  4. The classes always filling up must be the ones I don’t sign up for because every class I sign up for, gets cancelled due to lack of attendance.

  5. Pingback: A look at more than 100 years at 11th and Olive as Hugo House landmarks hearing nears | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  6. Pingback: Capitol Hill’s Hugo House falls short of landmarks protection as nonprofit eyes expansion | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle