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First Hill art museum’s Café Frieda a small part of the Trump impeachment hearings story

(Image: Jill Hardy/Frye Art Museum)

As the characters are formed and the terrible drama of the Trump impeachment hearings plays out, there is a small corner of First Hill that we might think of quite a bit differently after Wednesday’s witness is sworn in and begins his testimony.

Before she died in 2016, it is said Frieda Sondland visited First Hill’s Frye Museum — only blocks from her home for more than a decade in The Summit building — nearly every day. That love was memorialized in a special gift.

Café Frieda is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 AM to 4:30 PM — 6:30 PM on Thursdays when the weekly happy hour starts at 3 PM. You can “relax and enjoy your lunch or dinner with a side of art” and “spend some time in our bright and open environment during your workday or take advantage of Seattle’s sunny months in the courtyard” when you visit the Terry Ave museum.

Café Frieda was made possible, of course, by a generous gift from the Gordon D. Sondland and Katherine J. Durant Family Foundation.


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The foundation has been an important donor for the Frye and other area arts organizations and nonprofits for years. That won’t change with his scheduled testimony Wednesday. But, depending on how things play out, it will put a visit to Cafe Frieda in new light. You should know a bit about her — and her son, Gordon Sondland.

Gordon Sondland, a big time donor to Donald Trump’s campaign who was named the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and became entangled in pressuring the Ukraine, will face questioning beginning at 6 AM Seattle time Wednesday about his closed-door testimony and the reversal of his initial account.

Much has been made — locally — as to whether he is best identified as a Seattle or a Portland hotelier. The European Union ambassador has created a small empire of buildings across both cities and beyond. He and his wife Katerine Durant — a classic Pacific Northwest power couple, he’s the Republican power broker, she’s the Democratic mover and shaker — are a part of Stumptown high society. But his voter registration and his nonprofit foundations are registered to a downtown Seattle address — 7th Ave’s Theodore Hotel.

His family’s Seattle are roots run deep. Here’s a bit from Frieda’s obituary:

She married Gunther Sondland in 1938 just before their families were forced to leave Nazi Germany as the Holocaust began. Frieda and her parents and siblings were able to flee to Uruguay where her daughter was born and where she established a career as a talented dressmaker. Her husband, Gunther, was not able to join her until 1947. In 1953 the family moved to Seattle where Gunther’s family had settled after World War II. In Seattle Frieda and Gunther operated Fauntleroy Cleaners where Frieda continued to serve grateful clients with her dressmaking skills. Their customers became lifetime friends. She and Gunther enjoyed travel, musical events and their grandchildren and friends.

Though it’s clear that wealth and donations cemented the connection, Frieda Sondland’s love for the Frye was something else altogether. Her frequent visits were honored in 2012 when, by then in her 90s, her selections from the Frye’s “founding collection” were presented as Beloved: Pictures at an Exhibition, “an homage to her family and to Charles and Emma Frye, the founding patrons of the Museum.”

Frieda Sondland passed away four years later at the age of 94. The cafe renamed to honor her remains. Judging by her life and love for art and family, here’s to high hopes that after Wednesday, it also remains a comfortable place to visit and contemplate the Frye. And, maybe, just maybe, some might want to gather there for one of those Thursday happy hours to pop a cork or two when all of this is said and done.

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9 thoughts on “First Hill art museum’s Café Frieda a small part of the Trump impeachment hearings story

  1. Yes, rich people can buy lots of things . . . cafes at museums, ambassadorships. What I have “high hopes” for is a society that doesn’t leave the working and middle class behind. Couldn’t care less about this rich lady.

    • So, if it wasn’t for wealthy people building nice, free local art museums that support not-so-rich local and international artists.. who do you think would create, build and fund these local cultural landmarks? Maybe the local Workers World Party chapter would build museums out of sticks they find on the ground? Envy posing as a political ideology is really sad to see.

      • Or you know museums could be funded by taxes and be a benefit to all of us instead of having to rely solely on the largesse of the ultra rich.

      • If museums were funded by taxes the only art would be in service to the state. Art funded by those nasty rich people is meant to entertain and challenge the senses, because if you piss off one patron there’s another waiting.

        When there’s only one patron you only have one sensibility to entertain.

      • Big Frieda: there’s no place on the planet where an all-powerful guvmint pays for all the art. Even the most socialist of socialist states relies on private RICH (horrible) donors.

    • She was a seamstress and then a drycleaner. So by your logic, if you eventually do well or your children do, you’re retroactively not worth care? Btw, you know Sawant came from wealth and is still wealthy, right? (No one in India goes to college from impoverished households, certainly not for generations as she and her father did. So please no rags to riches baloney story.) Then she married Microsoft. So we shouldn’t care about her either right?

    • Another example of some horrible rich people trying to help victims of Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

      Search this recent headline:

      $106M gift will help UW and two partners ‘accelerate discovery’ in the field of neuroscience

      When you want to let us know when some useless, whining anarchist / socialist nobody contributes to society – you can post your comments here _____

      A stick hut built for cancer victims would even be an acceptable submission!

      We won’t hold our breath.

  2. Anyone have spicy details about their Happy Hour? Wine? Cocktails? Revelry? If not, I’ll investigate and report back.

    PS: The Frye is a treasure…and it’s free! Try to visit whenever they have a new exhibit, won’t you?

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