Post navigation

Prev: (11/16/22) | Next: (11/16/22)

Set to be replaced by affordable development and with a complicated history of women’s health, Broadway’s Wilshire Building considered for landmarks protections — UPDATE: Rejected

From the nomination packet

The Seattle Landmarks Board is slated Wednesday to decide if the 119-year-old gabled parapets and semicircular bay windows of Broadway’s Wilshire Building are worthy of consideration for protections that could complicate a seven-story affordable apartment project planned to replace it.

The board will take up the nomination of the 200 block Broadway E commercial and apartment structure in an afternoon session to decide if the two-story commercial building home to the shuttered Jai Thai restaurant, a collection of businesses including a Mud Bay pet supply store location, and 14 upper floor apartment units should move forward in the landmarks process. The property’s owners were required to pursue the review as part of the city’s development process.

UPDATE: With many of its features significantly altered over the years and lacking an architectural and cultural history compelling enough to sway the vote, the building was rejected in the nomination process by the board Wednesday and will not move forward in the process, clearing the way for an easier path to demolition.

Old timers will remember it as the Broadway Rexall. CHS reported here in January on the historical significance of the old building and the affordable Broadway Urbaine project planned to rise on the block with its fast track through the city’s design review process thanks to its hoped-for addition of much-needed affordable housing.

Cannon Commercial is joined in the development by TAP Collaborative and $3 million in affordable housing funding from the city announced in 2021’s round of Office of Housing grants. A company registered to Joe Cannon and TAP’s Rebecca Ralston purchased the property for $6.25 million in 2018, according to King County records.

While the city’s land use approval process is still underway, the landmarks review could determine what if any protections should be afforded the 1903-built mixed-use building. Even then, the city’s landmarks protections are sometimes no match for market forces and waves of development. The Broadway Urbaine project is being planned with a full demolition and removal of the Wilshire.

The structure’s case for landmark status could be solid from a historical sense as “one of the earliest extant buildings in the Broadway business district,” according to a city review of the property.

There is also the building’s complicated place in the city’s history as a center for women’s health:

By 1915, the upper floor was occupied by the Rex Sanitarium.40 As advertised under Physicians & Surgeons in the Seattle Times classified section, the “Rex Sanitarium for Women” treated “Chronic, nervous, convalescent and surgical cases.”

“The Rex Sanitarium broadened the scope of care for women beyond maternity care,” the report on the building abruptly concludes, noting that in the early 1950s, a business operating in the “sanitarium” space placed regular advertising in the Seattle Times for a “haven for girls in trouble,” promising “confidential, No Charge” service.

“The advertisement ran in the ‘personals’ section of the classified rather than ‘physicians,'” the report notes.

After years as a “sanitarium,” from around 1952 to 1955, the research shows Planned Parenthood Center of Seattle was running a maternal health clinic on the building’s second floor. When Planned Parenthood moved out, the building’s place in decades of women’s health in Seattle ended.

The report’s conclusions on the “scandalous” life of original designer of the building Henry Dozier are also worth a read.

Whether the board will see value in preserving the architecture of the old commercial building that has spent its later life hosting restaurants and shops remains to be seen.

In Wednesday’s session, the board will vote on whether to advance the nomination for a full review likely next year.

You can review the full nomination packet on the Wilshire Building below.

 

SUBSCRIBE AND KEEP CHS PAYWALL-FREE -- $1/$5/$10
We love providing community news on CHS free for thousands of readers. What sustains the effort are voluntary subscriptions from paying supporters. If you are enjoying CHS, SUBSCRIBE HERE and help keep CHS available to all. Become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with no paywall. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.

 
Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
21 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andrew Taylor
Andrew Taylor
10 days ago

Please, no more façadism
(noun the principle or practice of preserving the fronts of buildings that have elegant architectural designs; the construction of a modern building behind its old or original front.)

Reality
Reality
9 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Taylor

Facadomy has proven to be better than the alternative. It maintains the streetscape as something familiar and generally seems to attract more interesting commercial tenants.

Concerned lifelong resident of Capitol hill.
Concerned lifelong resident of Capitol hill.
9 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Taylor

façadism Is a hell of a lot better than total destruction if a building that can be seen in photos a 113 years old.

d.c.
d.c.
10 days ago

I’d like to keep as many of these as possible. While the definition of “historic” is arguable there are plenty of buildings that don’t even come close and no one in the neighborhood would mind being replaced. Tons of cheap junk built in the 70s, 80s, 90s, ugly and non-functional — replace them with the ugly box-type shrines to density, who cares? But stop knocking down or gutting places that have an actual Seattle identity.

Jack
Jack
10 days ago

I say tear it down, but I am concerned that the recent developments have not picked up businesses that enhance the neighborhood. There are some notable exceptions like Glo’s but mostly we get more dentists?

James
James
10 days ago

Keep the façade!!!! Tired of this town tearing down its culture. Aren’t there parking lots you can build on first?

Thomas Lockwood
Thomas Lockwood
10 days ago

The article mentioned 14 apartments in the old building & 7 floors of affordable apartments in the new building. Hmm, what does Seattle need the most? Another historic landmark w/14 probably substandard apartments or a brand new 7 floor building all up to current codes? Seems obvious to me

Concerned lifelong resident of Capitol hill.
Concerned lifelong resident of Capitol hill.
9 days ago

philistine

Below Broadway
Below Broadway
9 days ago

“Affordable apartments” goes one of two ways here: It will be momentarily sub-market priced housing until the building is sold and the contract changed – like what happened at the Joule / Patent 523 about 10 years ago – Or it will be turned over to LIHI or other homeless housing management, and turned into a crime zone and drug overdose den, like 420 Boylston Ave E became in 2022 after LIHI took it over and created an SPD / SFD hot-spot for OD and other drug abuse related incidents.

At no point will the revision be as good for the neighborhood as the current building has been over the years. Just another degradation of a once-great street and neighborhood.

Brett
Brett
10 days ago

This is one of only a handful of cute buildings left on Broadway and should be kept and fixed up. Perhaps my thoughts would be different if new developments on the hill actually looked well-made/interesting. The replacement would be a big bland box completely identical to so many others. Think Pride Place further south on Broadway. Literally hideous. Some of you seem so eager to completely destroy the aesthetic of our already increasingly bland city. I will never understand it. Affordable housing should not have to equal hideous housing. Especially on Broadway. Why are we destroying our main corridors with bland boxes and bland empty retail spaces? This wouldn’t fly elsewhere.

Marcy
Marcy
8 days ago
Reply to  Brett

Well said! Thank you!

Kshamas Screech
Kshamas Screech
7 days ago
Reply to  Brett

Agree totally

CKathes
CKathes
9 days ago

It’s clear from comparing the two photos that many of the (arguably) distinctive features this building once had are gone. Are those who insist on preserving it ready to spend the money to restore it to its 1903 glory? Otherwise, what’s the point?

I get the need for judicious historic preservation — seriously, I do — but I’m sorry, cities exist primarily to meet the needs of those living in them now. We can’t put every two-story building in town off-limits to redevelopment in a housing crisis simply because of its age. We just can’t.

bobtr
bobtr
9 days ago
Reply to  CKathes

Which is why exactly no one is proposing that we do.

Nandor
Nandor
9 days ago
Reply to  CKathes

Are you blind… the finials on the roof are gone and the brick has been painted, but (arguably) this building is one of the most well preserved on Broadway… the lovely bay windows and arches are all there… the storefront windows are probably even intact under that awning..

Myron
Myron
9 days ago

NIMBY’s will hear about affordable housing being built and will try to turn literally anything into a historical site to stop it.

zach
zach
9 days ago

This is a lovely old building, it appears to be in good condition, and is interesting architecturally. I hope the Landmarks Board approves it.

Must every last old building in Seattle be sacrificed to the god of development/density?

zach
zach
8 days ago
Reply to  zach

Fie on the Landmarks Board for rejecting this building!

Below Broadway
Below Broadway
9 days ago

This building has been an important anchor of Broadway Ave and Capitol Hill for 90 years, shuttered restaurant or not. It should be preserved. Facade only won’t do a thing for the mom and pop businesses the neighborhood depends on.

When it’s all over with we’ll have another soulless 5 over 1 with another unaffordable batch of apartments and no replacement for the business spaces, though they’ll probably convinced themselves the new phone store or vape shop is exactly the same.

Meg206
Meg206
7 days ago

My vote is to preserve, whenever possible.

Marshmellowpie
Marshmellowpie
7 days ago

What does Seattle consider affordable apartments?