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Not yet dearly departed, Broadway Bonney Watson to be considered as landmark

What is coming next for Broadway’s Bonney Watson Funeral Home could have been much different if the original plans for the “modern style” structure had been achieved:

An undated but presumably early architectural rendering retained by the Bonney-Watson company gives some indication of preliminary design ideas—the image shows a Modern-style three-story flat- roofed structure with an integral clock tower, all set back from the street to allow for landscaping. The few windows on the main elevation feature projecting wrapped surrounds, which match approximately the profile of the thin parapet coping. The building is clad with stone laid in a random ashlar pattern, but the front elevation is dominated by a two-story-high central gridded façade made of an unknown material—possibly a projecting screen, or a wall cladding of mosaic-like tiles, stones, or even translucent glazing. This proposed design apparently included a wrapping driveway allowing vehicular access to the rear of the building from Broadway, like the 1912 building.

Instead, the 1961 architectural creation of the Bain & Overturf firm more than likely has a date with the wrecking ball in a year or so. CHS reported on the development plan for twin six-story mixed-use apartment buildings to rise on the Bonney Watson properties adjacent Cal Anderson Park. November will bring the project’s first design review. A required assessment of the squat, blocky building’s potential as a historical landmark is now also on the calendar:

Landmarks Preservation Board: nomination of Bonney-Watson Funeral Home for landmark status

As we’ve noted about past seemingly doomed but requisite landmarks reviews, even if it can’t save the building, the documentation can help save the history. The nomination packet, embedded below, for the Bonney Watson mortuary is a worthwhile read:

From 1928 to 1931, Bain was in a partnership with Lionel Pries, who had been a classmate at the University of Pennsylvania. Their work included sorority and fraternity houses, apartments, and single-family residences. Examples from this period include the Viceroy Apartments (1930- 1931) and the Envoy Apartments (1930). Their 1930-1931 Moderne style Bel Roy Apartments was a departure from their usual work; the brick Capitol Hill apartment building is noted for striking brickwork, and for an unconventional zigzagging floor plan expressed in the massing of the building. Bain & Pries dissolved their partnership in 1931, at the depths of the Great Depression.

It also offers details on Capitol Hill and Seattle’s robust mortuary business, a topic CHS has dug into a few times in the past.

With its auto row roots, Capitol Hill has landmarks designated throughout its Broadway and Pike/Pine core. One of the more recent additions is the old Eldridge Tire Company building in the 1500 block of Broadway.

As for the Bonney Watson nomination, as unlikely as it might be, the protections on landmarked buildings are documented here. Redevelopment of a landmarked building can still be approved as can a host of modifications, upgrades, improvements and, yes, demolition. To qualify as a landmark in Seattle building’s must be at least 25 years old and have “significant character, interest or value, as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the City, State or Nation”

a) It is the location of, or is associated in a significant way with, a historic event with a significant effect upon the community, City, state, or nation; or

b) It is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City, state, or nation; or

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; or

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

e) It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder; or

f) Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the city and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or the City.

In addition to attending the December hearing on the nomination, you can add your comments here by email.

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