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1956 Capitol Hill anti-aPodment The Sterling considered as Seattle landmark

(Image: Cardinal Architecture PC)

(Image: Cardinal Architecture PC)

(Image: Puget Sound Regional Archives)

(Image: Puget Sound Regional Archives)

A two-story, 6-unit Bellevue Ave apartment building designed in the spirit of a single family home during a brief Capitol Hill development boom in the 1950s will be considered as an official Seattle landmark this week.

The longtime landowner of the Sterling Apartments at 323 Bellevue Ave E is bringing the nomination forward. Though the landmarks process can often be the first public step in developing a property, there are no records for active projects on file for the address.

A 2006 plan to demolish the building and build a new two-story, 10-unit apartment building never got off the ground.

According to the landmarks nomination prepared for longtime owner Dan Chua by Cardinal Architecture PC, the Sterling units were created during a boom for developers as builders rushed to beat a new Seattle requirement for off-street parking:

Construction in Seattle dropped off considerably with the Great Depression, but apartment construction picked up again after World War II with a flurry of activity in the 1950s and 1960s. A new zoning resolution that went into effect in 1959 established minimum off-street parking requirements for apartment buildings in this neighborhood, which led to a rush to build before the new law went into effect.

Nearly 60 years before the debate over microhousing’s shared spaces, architect Paul Hayden Kirk designed the Sterling building with an eye toward privacy for tenants:

The Sterling opened in July 1956. An Open House announcement in the Seattle Times described the building as a “new luxury apartment house” and listed rents in the range of $120 to $130 a month. The announcement identified Paul Hayden Kirk as the architect and describes four view apartments and two with “private, secluded courts”. The basic building materials (vertical cedar siding and pumice block) are mentioned, but there is no in-depth architectural description or analysis.
The focus on privacy alluded to in the Seattle Times description references a quality where the Sterling stands out from other apartment buildings of the era. Many Seattle apartment buildings built in the 1950s used exterior corridors, which allowed for more units with exterior entrances and large view windows, but at the expense of individual privacy. Victor Steinbrueck, in his 1962 book Seattle Cityscape, wrote, “Most tenants close their blinds and look for another apartment when their lease runs out.” The Sennett, which is located across Bellevue Avenue from the Sterling and was also developed by Sterling Taylor in the mid-1950s, is an excellent example of this phenomenon (figure 50). The Sterling stands apart from these buildings in its focus on privacy. Its private unit entrances, high ribbon windows, and private patios and balconies reference Paul Hayden Kirk’s expertise in private homes.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 7.40.53 AMThe Sterling was completed in 1956 and named for original owner Sterling Taylor, “a Seattle attorney and polio survivor who worked as an advocate for people with disabilities,” according to the nomination. He and his wife, Frances Taylor, developed the property and managed the apartments until his death in 1972. In 2005 after a series of owners, Chua bought the property for $1,050,000.

With its unique design and place in the Hill’s remaining stock of old apartment buildings, The Sterling could be the kind of property to make the landmarks board cut. The most recent Capitol Hill property slated to come before the board never made it to its hearing — owners of the Aloha Terrace property pulled out of the process before its June meeting. The Sterling nomination gets its first hearing Wednesday. Meeting information is below. The full nomination packet is here (PDF). You can speak up in person or send your feedback via email.

Landmarks Preservation Board to consider The Sterling Apartments for landmark nomination

SEATTLE – The Landmarks Preservation Board will consider nomination of The Sterling Apartments (323 Bellevue Avenue East) at its meeting on Wednesday, August 20 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 19 at 3:00 p.m.:

Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
PO Box 94649
Seattle, WA 98124-4649 (mailing address)

A copy of the landmark nomination will be available for public review at the Capitol Hill Branch Library, 425 Harvard Ave E (206-684-4715), and at the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods office at the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, Suite 1700 (206-684-0228). It is also posted on the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods website, under the heading of “Current Nominations.”

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17 thoughts on “1956 Capitol Hill anti-aPodment The Sterling considered as Seattle landmark

  1. I think it’s a funky little building. Not sure it’ll survive what so far is a pretty picky landmark process, but I think it’s a cool building and I hope it stays where it is.

  2. Really? I think this building is ugly, built with cheap materials and poorly maintained. We have lost much more important buildings to The Hill’s history over the past few years. I’d be a little irritated if this one achieves landmark status considering some of the others we have lost.

  3. Didn’t the owner of those apts onthe North end of Broadway do the same thing a few months ago, knowing it would be turned down, so interested developers would know there were no roadblocks to tearing the whole place down?

    • Indeed, they did. I expect this building is the exact same scenario. As Mike pointed out above, it’s poorly maintained.

      A properly built building will look cheap to anybody who doesn’t have a clue about the style in the days it was built, but the minute you let it go and don’t maintain it, you get something that looks cheap and run down.

      I’d bet a dozen Top Pots that’s what the apodments will look like within 10 years.

      • Yep, aPodments are already looking like crap. Im noticing the poorly maintained landscaping. No one is pulling weeds or watering the new vegetation so brand new shrubs and bushes are dying :(

      • They only plant shrubs and such because they are REQUIRED by the City to provide “green space” other wise they would be built property line to property line with nary a single plant. As a gardener myself it seems that most (not all) new buildings plant a bunch of cheap generic shrubs only to let them die and turn into a big weed patch. More trees would be nice too since all of the old ones get mowed down to develop the lot.

      • You’re right, MaximumReturn. And part of the problem is that the city counts the square footage of the tiny, unuseable “balconies” as “green space,” which in turn reduces the actual green space surrounding a new building.

  4. The one thing that is clear to me is that the residents of Capitol Hill have no confidence in the landmark board. This is upsetting.

    • The reason that we have no confidence in the Board is because they seem to be 100 percent developer driven. I am a preservationist and there is no way in hell that ANY members of the Board are interested in preservation of anything historic!

      Weatherford House-DENIED

      1823 18th Ave (1890 yellow victorian-one of the oldest houses left
      standing) DENIED

      Victor Hugo House DENIED

      Ruth Court Bungalows-DENIED

      And many others all denied.

      The ONLY thing I can think of that they have landmarked is 1600 E John (Anhalt Apartments)

      The developers and New Urbanists are in the drivers seat now.

      • Yes. Not only that, but even buildings which are designated landmarks are being gutted and taxidermied. Look at the Troy Laundry building on Fairview in the Cascade. Who in their right mind would call that PRESERVATION?

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  6. YES! Most excellent news. I have to bike past these A-hole customers outside everyday coming home from work and more days than not, one of them yells something rude at me for no reason whatsoever. This place closing will actually decrease my daily street harassment intake very significantly and I am not exaggerating. Also a significant decrease in pit bulls who aren’t on leashes who try to attack your dog walking by. I’m really not seeing a downside here. If you patronized this place and sat on the sidewalk yelling rude remarks at female bikers, please also go away!