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Really old Bordeaux House proposed as new landmark on Capitol Hill’s Millionaire’s Row — UPDATE

“Figure 73: Thomas Bordeaux and his first wife, Mary Ritner Bordeaux, circa late 1880s-early 1890s. [Courtesy of Liz Arbaugh, director of the Mason County Historical Society]”

A 118-year-old Capitol Hill mansion built for the family of a Pacific Northwest timber baron is being considered for city landmark status as owners along the neighborhood’s Millionaire’s Row look to shore up historical protections for the area’s aging — and relatively enormous — homes in the face of ongoing demand for new housing.

The Thomas and Sarah Esther Bordeaux House at the corner of 14th Ave E and E Valley will come before the city’s landmarks board Wednesday afternoon.

City staff have recommended it move forward in the nomination process citing the structure’s embodiment of “distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction”  — “a distinctive combination of the Queen Anne and Tudor Revival architectural styles,” the nomination report reads — and its presence as a monument to the work of architect William Kimball:

The Bordeaux House was built in 1903 as a single-family residence. The primary structure of the house is wood frame, with a reinforced concrete foundation. The building is two-and-one-half stories tall, with a full basement. The main footprint of the house measures approximately 41 feet by 56 feet, with the long axis of the house oriented in a north-south direction. The house faces west onto 14th Avenue. A one-story wing measuring approximately 12 feet wide by 16 feet long is located at the northeast corner of the house. The main mass of the house is set back about 37 feet from the west property line, and about 30 feet from the south property line. One-story-tall covered porches are located at the northwest and southwest corners of the house, and each measure approximately 8 feet by 18 feet, with their long dimensions each oriented in an east-west direction.

The eight-bedroom home’s neighborhood just south of Volunteer Park has been a focus of historical recognition and preservation in the city where it faces the James A. Moore House already designated for landmark protections across the street. CHS reported here on property owners working to bring further cementing of the street’s place in Seattle history with efforts to gain federal recognition and a place for Millionaire’s Row on the National Register of Historic Places.

But change has forced its way even onto this street of multimillion mansions. Earlier this year, CHS reported on the nearby demolition of a 1900s-built single family-style house to make way for a planned modern, three-story replacement. A block east and a few blocks south, zoning has invited increasing density on 15th Ave E including a five-story mixed-use development that will soon begin construction to replace the old Hilltop Service Station.

The 14th Ave E mansion is not currently being planned for development or demolition. Instead, the nomination proposal is one of the occasional on Capitol Hill not connected to development as a homeowner tries to establish protections on a property. Owners the Renschler family put the home on the market a few years back for $3.39 million but apparently found no takers. In 2019, the Seattle Times featured its interior remodel in a weekend magazine spread.

If protections are eventually granted, the would extend to the building’s exterior and the property’s grounds, according to the staff report. In addition to the protections, designation can make a property eligible for grants and tax credits.

Wednesday’s landmarks meeting will be held online and begins at 3:30 PM. You can attend virtually and speak during the public comment portion of the nomination proposal or submit your comments via email:

Virtually attend the meeting (all attendees will be muted upon entry) via this WebEx link: b6a59c
Listen to the meeting by calling 1-206-207-1700 and enter meeting access code: 146 323 2427
You may submit written public comment any time. We encourage you to submit written comment well in advance of the meeting to give the Board sufficient time to review them.

UPDATE 11/19/2020 10:05 AM: The grand old house will move forward in the process. The board voted unanimously to consider the property for designation, the Capitol Hill Historical Society reports. “Many thanks to the Renschlers for their excellent stewardship of the house, Adam Alsobrook for his excellent report and Marvin Anderson for his research contributions,” the group writes. The house will come back before the board again in January, the group says.

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Ryan Packer
Ryan Packer
2 months ago

If you were to buy this house without landmark protections, you could tear it down and build a new one but not rent out its massive segments as apartments. Totally obscene.

2 months ago

I’m pretty sure JAS did a renovation of this property 5ish years back. Knowing the work they do, I’d say this means it is no longer of historic interest.

2 months ago
Reply to  Carey

Still looks pretty darn historic from the outside.

2 months ago

Interesting article! Appreciate the update.