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Seattle’s writers and creatives find Capitol Hill home again at Hugo House grand reopening

Maria Semple, best-selling author and screenwriter, speaking at the opening event last Saturday

There once was a Hugo House here / We loved its old crazy quilt cheer / This house, it would seem, an architects dream / But the spirit of quirkies still near

This poem was recited by Dick Gemperle last weekend at the grand reopening of Richard Hugo House, a beloved community workspace for writers and a home for Seattle’s “literary heartbeat.”

“This is a wonderful time for Hugo House. Everything is coming together in September. On the 4th of September we closed the transaction to purchase this space. We’re almost done with construction, almost done with our capital campaign, tonight is our grand opening, and next week classes start,” said Gemperle, board president of Hugo House. “It’s all coming together.”

The new Hugo House offers more space for readers and writers with more classrooms, along with a dedicated performance space for readings, and a front parlor space with desks and bar that will be open during events.

‘A gift’ — first look inside Capitol Hill’s new Hugo House

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“It’s the job of writers to find and bring forward the valuable nuggets from writers from the past, and to find those things and carry them forward into the future. Those things that are of value, even as our culture is shifting, as we’re all working to leave behind some pretty outmoded ways of operating,” said Tree Swenson, executive director of Hugo House, on stage at the grand reopening on Saturday. “It’s so important that we have a space in our culture where anyone who has faith in the power of words, faith that treasures can be found in books, and faith that this allegiance to words can build connections among people who come from very different places.”

The first incarnation of Hugo House was created in 1996 by three visionaries—Linda Breneman, Frances McCue and Andrea Lewis—and quickly became a gathering place for Seattle’s writers, artists and creative minds alike. 22 years later, it’s been replaced by a new building with the same namesake, one with more facilities and a more modern look. The staff and employees of Hugo House opened the doors to their brand-new building last weekend and welcomed the community to christen their new home.

Gemperle announced on Saturday that, with help from the Seattle Public Library and the Washington Center for the Book, United for Libraries has given Hugo House the first official national literary monument designation in the state of Washington. 33 other states have such landmarks, but Washington had none, until now.

“Hugo House is here to provide a home, a place where writers can feel comfortable, writers who may have experienced adversity or may be experiencing adversity now, so we just want you to know that we are here for you, we are the community of writers who are here to support each other,” Gemperle said. “Discovery is still the ideal. We have so much that we can discover about writing, about ourselves and about each other. Hugo House welcomes all of you as part of that community.”

Hugo House is located at 1634 11th Ave. You can learn more at

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