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Its end filled with landmarks and legal proceedings, Capitol Hill’s 120-year-old Sullivan House demolished

Not all Capitol Hill landmarks are created equally. Some are demolished.

Work crews started taking down the 120-year-old mansion at the corner of 15th Ave and E Olive St. Wednesday, the start of the end for a house that has had a busy three years since it first hit the market just in time for Halloween 2017.

This January, permits were approved for a cluster of eight townhouses on the 7,200-square-foot lot. The same month, a demolition permit for the Sullivan House was also signed off on.

The project from developer and real estate investor Alex Mason and MGT Builders and the Cone Architecture firm will replace the house that was landmarked but ultimately not protected by the city.

Commissioned by Seattle “boilermaking businessman” Patrick J. Sullivan, the owner of Queen City Boiler Works in Pioneer Square, the 1900-built house was one of the oldest remaining in the neighborhood. For its past few decades, the house served as an apartment home for a small but eclectic set of tenants.

In March 2018, CHS reported on the ownership trust behind 15th Ave’s Sullivan House taking the city to court over the old mansion’s approval as a Seattle historic landmark and the decision’s scuttling of a planned multimillion sale.

In reaching their decision, board members had focused on the old house’s “distinctive visible characteristics” of Queen Anne-style architecture as well as its prominent place at 15th and E Olive St. as one of the last of its kind in an evolving residential area of Capitol Hill. “You can see a lot of what makes it beautiful,” one board member said at the time. “We are landmarking what exists today.”

That lawsuit over the landmark decision was resolved early last year with an agreement forged via the Seattle Hearing Examiner for the city to agree to not require controls that would have prevented demolition and development of the dilapidated but historic property.

By May, Mason had a deal — $2.15 million for the prime property on busy but still growing 15th Ave. Cone Architecture, meanwhile, will add another teen Capitol Hill street to its roster after already completing design work on townhouse projects on 10th, 12th, and 16th Avenues.

Next at 15th and Olive St

This also won’t be the first time a Capitol Hill landmark will bite the dust. CHS previously reported on the demolition of the Galbraith House just blocks away at 17th and Howell after Sound Mental Health successfully argued that the property had become unusable due to safety and structural issues.

Now, in a neighborhood that still needs more homes, it is time for the Sullivan House to make way for what comes next.


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20 thoughts on “Its end filled with landmarks and legal proceedings, Capitol Hill’s 120-year-old Sullivan House demolished

  1. I am only comforted by the fact that to some the then new mansion was a blight on a previously pristine patch of grass and trees (or what had been someone else’s home). Meanwhile, I shall cherish the expected graffiti on the coming building construction signage. And I’m sure the new, soulless monstrosity will fit right into the neighborhood. I would question the term “Developers”. Perhaps better stated is “Replacers.” Or “Gutters.”

    • Yeah, replacing a relative masterpiece with more off-gassing particleboard garbage that’ll be declared a teardown within 3o years is criminal on the part of Seattle City Council. File this one under ‘humans suck, even in Seattle’.

      • Sorry all sides suck.6000+ sqft for a single family? gtfo

        Omnipotent mansions are a thing of the past….and the architecture wasn’t that great and the house was dilapidated and falling apart….a blight. New architecture sucks sure….but doesn’t mean we need to save ugly old rich white people houses.

  2. Cone Architecture with their portfolio of mediocre projects being the design team is truly the biggest slap in the face. At the very least we should be able to benefit from an interesting project that engages both the community and the residents. Instead we’ll be walking by a steaming pile of the most banal sameness

    • I hear ya, but, really, at very least, this should have been redone as a subdivision of the existing building, with some sort of tasteful add-on. When it comes to architecture, Seattle is way too influenced by uninspired hicks that I’m sure Cone Architecture and most on the planning board can be counted amongst. This project in a money-grab sham. We can do density better elsewhere on the hill.

  3. Yeah the work of that developer and architect kinda sucks. If their work was of a nice quality aesthetic, that would be one thing, but replacing this old beauty with one of their shit boxes is unfortunate.

    • So the work of the architecture firm is a bit on the mediocre side, but overall pretty good.

      I mean, their designs are certainly much better than the monstrosity proposed for 15th Ave where the derelict gas station is.

      Look at that design! 2003 called and wants its oversized ugly-as-sin oversize cornice back!

      And this “mansion” was, in reality, a dilapidated heap. As was the “Galbraith House” a few blocks away.

      Good riddance to both.

      I think Seattleites tend to forget that converting these old show houses to new uses is really hard, bordering on impossible, largely because they were designed as showpieces: lots of wasted space, oversize staircases, not amenable to being reconfigured for changing needs.

      These homes were showpieces to show off how much wealth you had, they were purposely not utilitarian.

      So….now we are getting more housing, and ridding ourselves of some dilapidated eyesore…it’s a win/win.

      Oh, and while I would love to have better quality modern design in Seattle, the reality is that modernism, as practiced in this city today, is calibrated specifically for (and likely chosen by) tasteless middle aged white women.

      It’s almost as if developers ask themselves “what would a tasteless middle aged white lady who shops and Pier One and calls everything “fun” want?”, and then chooses whatever milquetoast monstrosity tumbles out of that thought process.

      Is it ideal? Nope. But it’s the best we can do.

      • Ummm, no it’s not. And, you -sorry- are part of the problem. We did not need eight (EIGHT, not 100, not even 40, EIGHT) shitty townhouses here. Want ‘best we can do’? Demand the city’s Department of Planning and Development pull its collective head out of its ass and stop allowing only 6-8 story buildings above and adjacent to Capitol Hill Station! That area can and should;d support 2, 3, 4 or even 5 times as many units. Gimme a break. We can and should do better. Knocking down the cities oldest remarkable houses should be illegal. It’s certainly disgusting and idiotic.

      • Ummm, no it’s not. And, you -sorry- are part of the problem. We did not need eight (EIGHT, not 100, not even 40, EIGHT) shitty townhouses here. Want ‘best we can do’? Demand the city’s Department of Planning and Development pull its collective head out of its ass and stop allowing only 6-8 story buildings above and adjacent to Capitol Hill Station! That area can and should support 2, 3, 4 or even 5 times as many units. Gimme a break. We can and should do better. Knocking down the cities oldest remarkable houses should be illegal. It’s certainly disgusting and idiotic.

  4. I simply do not understand why a landmarked building can be destroyed. Isn’t it the whole point of the landmark process to preserve worthy old structures?

  5. The photo of the building in this article is quite flattering. I live very close to this and would describe it as having been dilapidated and derelict for years. From the side, you could see two by fours nailed to the exterior of the building in a strange kind of balcony near the top floor, possibly as a kind of support. The roof had moss on it and the whole exterior was grimy and looked rotten.

    I’m sad to see old buildings go, but this building appeared to be very poorly maintained and I think would have been extremely difficult to renovate. Goodbye, Boo Radley house.

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