$4.15 million later, Capitol Hill’s Colman Automotive building restored to 1916 glory

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS except where noted)

It was like layers of heavy, pore-clogging makeup pancaked onto a face. For decades, the artificial mask suffocated what lay beneath and deprived passersby of its true beauty. No more. 

A four-month renovation project has successfully peeled off coats of stucco and metal paneling that concealed parts of the Colman Automotive Building building on Bellevue and Pine.

“It was just nasty metal corrugated siding,” said Michael Oaksmith, managing partner at Hunters Capital, the boutique real estate firm that is on a mission to further its investments in the neighborhood and preserve historic properties in the Pike Pine corridor.

Hunters Capital also acquired and renovated the structures that house Poquitos, Elliott Bay Books and Blick Art Materials.

“Our goal is to save as many historic ‘Auto Row’ buildings as possible,” said Oaksmith. “There’s just a charm that you can’t replicate.” 

In April, Hunters Capital acquired the building at 401 E. Pine for $3.85 million and set out to go back in time, to 1916 to be exact. That’s when the two-story building was developed by J.M. Colman, the Seattle man who made a fortune in timber and than diversified into real estate. Named after its developer, the Colman Building served as a garage for auto-related businesses and fit in perfectly amongst the car dealerships on Capitol Hill’s Auto Row.

In the 1950s, the building’s owner heaped a ton of stucco on the lower façade. The corrugated paneling came afterwards. For the next 60 years, the layers masked much of the first floor’s exterior. The second floor was spared and served as a hint of what was trapped below.

To free the original exterior, Hunters Capital consulted with the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, getting their advice on how to match the original architecture. Mallet Construction served as the lead contractor on the work, according to Hunters.

Contractors began peeling back the gray metal panels and stucco. In time, they exposed the beautiful brick columns and ornate shadow boxing beneath. They also revealed additional windows, which had been inexplicably covered up. 

“From the state we bought it in, we actually uncovered 30% more glazing,” said Smith.

Then, the job shifted to rebuilding much of the woodwork by hand. Another challenge was fabricating new metal corbels underneath the cornice because three of the eight were missing. 

“We had to go to an Iowa company that specializes in this kind of work,” said Smith. “We wrapped and shipped one over to them so they could replicate it.”

In all, Hunters Capital said it spent about $300,000 on the four month project. That’s on top of the $3.85 million it paid for the building. “We are really excited with the building, inside and out,” said Smith. “We just feel every dollar we put in to it was a dollar well spent.” 

Before (Image: Hunters Capital)

After (Image: Hunters Capital)

The tenants agree.

“All of our customers, clients and Pine Street neighbors love the new façade,” said a manager at Area 51, the furniture store that has a lease on the building through 2015. “It’s a magnificent jewel to behold.”

The State of Washington also recognizes the building’s historic value. In October, it placed the building, renamed the “Colman Automotive Building” in honor of its roots, on the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places.

Hunters Capital is not done yet. Oaksmith says the firm is eyeing several other properties on Capitol Hill to purchase and preserve. 

That should come as cool comfort for those buildings still trapped underneath a ton of “makeup” or those that face possible destruction and redevelopment.

On the List | Wildrose turns 28, MOHAI grand opening, Black Coffee open mic!3{2}(+7 more)

Houseguests getting antsy? The holiday display at Volunteer Park Conservatory continues through January 1st. There’s always the movie option. Playing this weekend on the Hill: Anna Karnina (Keira Knightley in a dress), Any Day Now (Alan Cumming in a dress), Hyde Park on the Hudson (1939 dresses),  and Chasing Ice (no dresses). Showtimes.

Have something people should know about? Add it to our community calendar

Thursday, December 27th

Friday, December 28th

Saturday, December 29th

  • Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) welcomes the public to a free MOHAI Grand Opening Celebration in
    their new home in South Lake Union Park (860 Terry Ave N) on Saturday, 10a – 8p. The celebration extends into the park itself with food trucks, historic boat tours, boat rides and entertainment. 
  • Seattle U family deal prices as men’s basketball takes on Idaho at Key Arena.
  • Baroque Celebration with Seattle Baroque Orchestra at Town Hall, 8 – 10p. 
  • Happy 28th to Wildrose! Celebrate 28 years with the number one Capitol Hill lady tonight.  DJs, burlesque, drink specials and more. Wildrose Bar, 8p to close. 
  • Say hi to  former hillebrity Matt Hickey (now living somewhere east) while he’s in town. Hickey for the Holidays at Barboza (under Neumos), with Trent Moorman and Radjaw.  Tech cray cray may ensue.

Sunday, December 30th

  • Rock-a-Raise, a Hurricane Sandy benefit dance party featuring DJ sets, burlesque by Gams Galore and Mitzy Sixx, and raffle prizes. Alex Grindeland from Comedy Sportz is the evening’s emcee. 

Monday, December 31st — New Year’s Eve

Blotter | Christmas gunpoint robbery on Capitol Hill, alley phone mugging, light rail art theft

  • Christmas night gunpoint robbery:A man reported he was robbed at gunpoint late Christmas night on Capitol Hill. According to police, the victim reported he was sitting outside his Belmont Ave E apartment around 11 PM Tuesday night when a man walked up to him, put a gun to his head and demanded his phone. The victim told police he quickly handed over his phone as the robber patted down his jeans. The victim said he only was carrying a key to his apartment and the suspect put his gun in his pocket and walked away southbound on Belmont. The suspect was described as a black male in his 30s wearing a dark grey hoodie and black denim jeans at the time of the hold-up. A search for the suspect was not successful.
  • Hilltop alley mugging: Mutual interest in the Seahawks and hand-rolled cigarettes didn’t stop a Hilltop-area alley robbery Sunday night. According to SPD, the victim said he was walking home through an alley to his apartment from a 15th Ave E bar Sunday night just before 10 PM when he encountered a man hanging out near an alley entrance. The man asked the victim for a cigarette and he obliged — stopping for a few minutes to roll the man a smoke and talk about the night’s big Seahawks victory. 

As they talked, the man asked the victim if he could give him $1 to borrow his iPhone so he could call his brother to pick him up. The victim handed over his phone and stood by as the man proceeded to pace around and chat before suddenly bolting away with the phone. The victim told police he gave chase as the suspect ran to a vehicle waiting for him at 16th and Harrison. As he attempted to get in the car, the suspect dropped the phone allowing the victim to catch up.

The victim told police he tried to brandish his folding pocket knife but dropped it. In the melee, the suspect then punched the victim in the face, sending his glasses flying. As the fight continued, another, much larger man emerged from the vehicle and told the victim to leave the shorter suspect alone. Both men were described as black males in their 30s. The victim told police he decided to back off and note the getaway Honda’s license plate number so SPD could track the vehicle down. Police searched for the car immediately following the incident but were not successful, according to the report.

  • Light rail construction wall theft: The Sound Transit art program wants to get word out about a theft that took place over the weekend involving one of artist Greg Boudreau’s works that was hanging on the big red construction wall. Somebody made off with the piece — “involving multiple layers of hand-cut stencils and aerosol paint” — and the program would like it back. Drop us a note at CHS@capitolhillseattle.com or contact Sound Transit art program curator DK Panif you can help track the piece down.
  • Grinch-y burglary: Not confirmed but a customer says indie book shop Spine and Crown was the victim of a break-in just before Christmas but remained open for business.

Capitol Hill food+drink | Pie Bar, Kedai Makan coming to E Olive Way

We know. You can’t eat another bite. But there’s always room for pie… bar. Send tips here.

  • Imagine a set of “identical mirror twins.” One is an “intoxicating mixologist” — the other, a baker of pies. No, this is not CHS’s 2013 HUMP! entry — Pie Bar is coming to Capitol Hill.

“We wanted to create something sinful,” says Alyssa Lewis. “There is nothing I love more than having a piece of my marionberry pie with a frosty Organic Fishtale Amber.”

Over the first months of 2013, Lewis and sister Natalie Delucchi will be hard at work creating Pie Bar in the space left behind by  Saley’s move down Olive Way. Look for an early spring opening.

At the overhauled shop, you’ll find beer, wine and cocktails and a menu piled hight with pies sweet and savory including fruit pies, savory pot pies, quiches and cream pies. A walk-up window will begin serving slices for those on the go every day at 2 PM. You’ll probably want to try the marionberry pie suffused with St. Johns Wort. Prices will run around $4 for a slice — $3.75 during a planned 3-6 PM happy hour. Whole pies will clock in at $17 or $15 for a goat cheese or a pork, basil cheddar quiche. 

We don’t which is which or who is who (Images: Pie Bar)

Meanwhile, as much as the idea invokes images of unfortunate things floating in your drink, you might also try a “pie infused” pietini. “What is a Pietini, one might wonder? It’s a fascinating experience!,” the sisters’ write-up on their venture puts forth. “Combine local distilled vodka with pie.”

OK, we trust you, sisters. We’ll try it… once. CHS is nothing if not good, giving and game.

After all, these two aren’t exactly new to the business. Lewis’s pies already drew a crowd to Magnolia of all places for her Seattle Pie Company shop. It shuttered to start 2012 with some crazy talk of starting a floating pie barge in South Lake Union. In the meantime, Lewis has been working to finish her book, Pie Girl, and “gunkholing” in the San Juan Islands. Delucchi and her husband Dustin, who runs a Granite Falls-based masonry and construction company, round out the partnership.

When it opens in spring. Pie Bar will be the second pie-focused entity on the Hill. Entrepreneur Dani Cone opened here High 5 Pie bakery and cafe at 12th and Madison in December 2010.

Pie Bar will join forces with new neighbors Speckled & Drake and John John’s Gameroom to form one of the quirkier strips of Capitol Hill nightlife. Speckled & Drake took over the old Living Room space to create a Brooklyn-infused, Pacific Northwest-style hangout, while John John’s brought the Add-a-Ball gang to Capitol Hill for beer and pinball. Looked at in aggregate, lower E Olive Way has traded a place hipster DJs really liked to hang out, the funky Faire Cafe and Gallery and crepes for a place hipster DJs really liked to hang out, pinball and pie. What this tells us about the future, we’ll let you sort out.

  • We can tell you more about the future of E Olive Way, however. It’s Malaysian.

Broadway Farmers Market faves Kedai Makan are supplanting Tacos Gringos and making its take on Malaysian street food the bar food solution at the expanding Montana.

KM’s Kevin Burzell and Alysson Wilson spilled some early details of the plan here: 

Official hours and menus are still in flux, but Burzell says he intends to carry on the Taco Gringos tradition of serving late-night drinking food–it will just be from a different continent.The tiny storefront, essentially a walkup counter with a trio of seats, may be a modest space, but it’s a huge step up from a tent and generator-powered burners. Kedai Makan hopes to be up and running in its new space by mid-January.

Earlier this year, CHS reported on Rachel Marshall’s decision to move her Rachel’s Ginger Beer operation off of E Olive Way to make room for her Montana venture to expand.

Kedai Makan will continue its search for a fixed-place restaurant space to call home. We thought KM might be one of those sniffing around the old Skelly & the Bean space after its turn rotating through the community kitchen.

As for Tacos Gringos, what is there to say? It sprung forth for late night chow needs in fall of 2007 and remained an aloof, chowhound experience. We don’t know who owned it but we’re sure somebody out there will miss the 8 PM openings and late night gamble on finding out if the tiny shop would actually be open. Or not. Adios, amigo.


This week’s CHS food+drink advertiser directory

LEGO Daycamps with 100,000 Lego pieces: Jan 2 to 4, 2013

Still time to sign up for some fun sounding LEGO daycamps at Miller Community Center:

a) LEGO Pre-Engineering for 5 to 6 year olds, Jan 2nd to 4th

More details of the company that runs them and of the actual program



b) LEGO Engineering Fundamentals for 7 to 12 year olds, Jan 2nd to 4th

 More details of the company that runs them and of the actual program


Call Miller Community Center, 330 – 19th Ave E., at (206) 684-4753 with any questions.

(disclosure: I’m on the volunteer council for Miller Community Center and know one of the instructors)

Capitol Hill Christmas Card 2012 — Melrose at Pine

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the Star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. — Linus, (Peanuts 2:9)

Happy holidays from CHS. We’re in quiet mode for Christmas but still around should news, etc. break. You can help out by sending mail, calling or texting (206) 399-5959 or letting us know via Twitter or Facebook if you see something others should know about.

We’ll be back to regular updates on the other side. If you’d like to send a season’s greetings to everybody, please leave a comment below.


A diorama Volunteer Park holiday

Pike and 10th video and film creative services firm World Famous has put together a fun little holiday video starring Volunteer Park and its landmarks. Sit back and enjoy the show from illustrator Karianna Johnson and director Thomas Price. The real-size Volunteer Park features a decorated Conservatory through the holidays complete with Christmas train and thousands of lights. It’s open 10a-3p Christmast Eve and Christmas Day.

Capitol Hill Christmas 2012 Open Thread — Including what’s open, Christmas Eve services

Below, find a brightly-wrapped package of Christmas Eve and Christmas things to do and more around Capitol Hill. We’ll add things as we find them so please comment, send us a note or holler via Twitter or call/txt (206) 399-5959 with additions. We’ll add more about what’s open on Christmas day, too, as Santa Claus approaches.

Christmas Eve Services

  • Grace Church Seattle — 1300 E Aloha — 5 PM — “Come join us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus by reading through various portions of scripture and singing carols together. Cider, hot chocolate, and cookies afterwards. Bring a plate of your favorite cookies to share. Childcare available.”

    • Most important Capitol Hill stories of 2012

    • Capitol Hill food+drink doubles down

    • The re-development of Capitol Hill

  • Calvary: The HIll’s Christmas Eve Service — Pravda Events 1406 10th Ave. Suite 200 — 10:30 PM: “Come join us as we ring in Christmas Celebration by singing Christmas Carols together and reading from the Christmas Story. All are welcome, even your kids if they are still awake.”
  • St. Mark’s — 1245 10th Ave E — Starting at 2PM — 4+ Holy Eucharists including a 2 PM session especially for little ones.
  • Seattle First Baptist — 1111 Harvard Ave — 5:30 and 10:30 PM — “Intergenerational” at 5:30 and candlelight at 10:30 PM.
  • First Covenant Church — 400 E. Pike — 11 PM
  • All Pilgrims — 500 Broadway E — “Monday, December 24 (Christmas Eve Worship) @ 6:30 pm – Family Carol Sing; 7:30 pm Service”

Community Lunch
Don Jensen of Community Lunch on Capitol Hill says the service never takes a holiday off. “We never close for any holidays, so we will be serving on both Christmas Day and New Years Day at noon this year if you would like to let people know, ” Jense writes. They’ll be serving again on Christmas Day starting at noon at 11th Ave’s Central Lutheran. You can learn more about the services and how to help here.

“James lives under the I-5 bridge in Seattle and eats with us regularly,” Jensen tells us. “He says ‘If your are homeless, you have nothing. This meal makes you feel better than anything.'”

The Seattle U swim team lends a hand (Image: Community Lunch)

More Christmas Eve feasting

  • Altura has a pricy but probably so so delicious dinner planned: “Join us for Chef Nathan Lockwood’s special Christmas Eve tasting menu, $105 per person, $65 to add wine pairings. Regular dinner menu not available. Open special hours.”
  • Julia’s is open! “Broadway location will be open until 10pm on Christmas eve.”
  • Jimmy’s on Broadway starts serving its special Christmas Eve (and Christmas) menu at 1p Monday including prime rib.
  • Anchovies & Olives — SPECIAL CHRISTMAS EVE EVE event :) Sunday night “Feast of the Seven Fishes” — “a traditional fish-centric family-style feast for guests to enjoy. Cost is $75/person. Dinner will be served from 5pm – 10pm”

Cocktails on Christmas?
Seattle Times includes a few Capitol Hill bright spots where you can find a 12/25 holiday treat including Liberty — “will serve tequila-sherry eggnog, the trendy holiday drink around the Northwest this year” — and Montana — “will serve holiday-themed cocktails, as well as a ginger hot toddy.” 


1 Year Ago This Week on Capitol Hill

Here are the top CHS posts from this week in 2011:

Blotter | Indecent Santa reported in Hill bar, SPD taser arrest on E Pike

  • 12/Jeff gunshot: Police responded to a report of gunfire early Sunday morning at 12th and Jefferson. When police arrived just after 4 AM, they found a group of people attempting to leave the scene. Officers were searching for one man who left the scene in an SUV. No injuries were reported in the incident.
  • Naughty Santa: Santa came early at a Capitol Hill bar busy with holiday revelers this weekend. According to witnesses and police radio, a contingent of SPD arrived at the crowded 11th Ave drinking hole Saturday around 1 AM to a report of a man in a Santa suit who had exposed himself. A half-dozen cops reportedly arrived to contact St. Nick. We don’t have details yet on whether an arrest was made.
  • Taser used in E Pike arrest: The holiday weekend got off to a rough start in Pike/Pine early Friday morning when a man was removed from an area bar and ended up in a struggle with police that ended with a taser being deployed by officers. According to the preliminary details released by SPD, the man was taken into custody in the 12:50 AM incident for booking on assault and obstruction charges. A medic crew was dispatched to the scene following the use of the taser, a standard procedure following the “use of force” tactic. We don’t yet have details on what lead to the man’s removal from the establishment.

    (Image: @theoriginalpuma via Twitter)