Capitol Hill Mid-Century Modern — Historical Society adds new era to its preservation efforts

(Image: Lana Blinderman)

The Capitol Hill Historical Society has focused its research and preservation efforts on buildings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Now the group can turn some of its attention to a more recent, diverse architectural history: Mid-Century Modern multifamily residential buildings constructed from the post World War II-era up until the late 1970s.

“I’m very excited about this kind of being a step in the direction of closing the historical gap between that auto row-era and today,” said Tom Heuser, board president of the nonprofit. “We have this kind of interlude period between now and then that hasn’t been very well covered and I think this is definitely a springboard for more of that.”

The Pike/Pine auto row-era has been of particular focus, a period in the first part of the twentieth century when the Pike/Pine corridor became the hub of car dealerships in Seattle.

This project is funded with a $10,000 King County 4Culture grant and will consist of a ten-building survey of Mid-Century Modern architecture, including Brutalist and California Modern styles.

Photographer and CHHS member Lana Blinderman initially proposed the project idea to Heuser after noticing that some mid-century buildings seemed to be disappearing.

“You know some of them are being remodeled and not in a way that is accurate or true to the original style and some of them were just being demolished,” Blinderman said. “I thought: ‘Wow, nobody’s documenting these buildings and this is just such a loss, and despite all the mid-century revival that people seem to be crazy about there was no organized documentation happening.’” Continue reading

Street Critic | 17th Ave is as good as it gets

The Barbara Frietchie

The Barbara Frietchie

Great urban landscapes are typically comprised of a collection of good buildings and landscapes instead of superlative singular designs. 17th Ave, between E. Union and E. Spring, is just such a landscape and warrants a visit. On this stretch of 17th, one will find a half dozen apartment buildings which individually may stir only a passing (if admiring) glance, yet as an ensemble are a gift to behold. Many of the buildings were built (and perhaps designed?) by the same developer, Samuel Anderson, in the 1920s.

The most conspicuous of the apartments, owing both to its advantageous corner location at the intersection of 17th and E Spring and to its equally proud corner entry, is The Barbara Frietchie. It is one of the very few co-ops in Seattle. More common in New York City, co-ops were a form of apartment ownership that pre-dates condominiums. Perhaps its New York roots account for its being the most visible – ostentatious, even – of the bunch? Its unique quarter-round entry portico set in a subtractive corner is another feature that hints of its big-city aspirations. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Street Critic | St. Joseph’s art deco mastery

(Images: John Feit)

Few building typologies have the history or endurance of the basilica. First appearing about the 2nd Century BCE, the basilica evolved from its initial, secular roots as a building housing courts and other civic functions to the archetypal building form for Christian houses of worship. Capitol Hill’s own St. Joseph’s church, at 19th Avenue and Aloha Street, is both an outstanding example of the basilica typology as well as of art deco architecture. Continue reading

Street Critic | The Diabolical Diagonal — the architecture of the angled streets that climb Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill streets and building parcels are almost uniformly delineated by an orthogonal grid; however, when confronted with the second part of our neighborhood’s name the ubiquitous grid revealed its limitation as an all-inclusive planning tool and left city planners little choice but to utilize diagonal streets to ascend and descend our heights. Diagonal streets present a foil to the well-ordered grid, yet most buildings conform to the grid even when the site is an unconventional shape. There are reasons to stay square when designing a building, but design opportunities are sacrificed when the only nod given to an atypical, non-orthogonal site is to design an orthogonal building and treat its diagonally bounded site simply as a remainder to be ‘planted-up’.

The Hill’s longest and steepest diagonal street, Belmont Avenue, exhibits a variety of design solutions to the grid’s disruptive diagonal. The first approach, illustrated in two variants below, plays to both diagonal and grid in a manner that preserves the conflicting geometries. The third solution is a rarely seen hybrid approach where the geometries of grid and diagonal are blended and create unexpectedly complex forms. which gave us a pair of delightful mid-century apartments. Continue reading

Harvard Belmont District Tour: The Rich Life on Capitol Hill

Have your cake and gossip too as we visit Seattle’s only residential Landmark District featuring a wealth of upscale, early 20th century architecture. Harvard/Belmont is a veritable portfolio of the finest designers of the day: Charles Platt of New York and Hornblower and Marshall of Washington, D.C., as well as prominent area architects, including John Graham, Sr., Charles Bebb and Carl Gould, Kirtland Cutter, Andrew Willatsen, Arthur Loveless, Freed Anhalt, and A. H. Albertson. They provided innovative plans, a high level of craftsmanship and beautifully landscaped courtyards, which gives this neighborhood its distinctive character.

Tickets are free, but will sell out, so please register to confirm your spot!  The tour will be offered at 10 and 11 am on May 4.

Other free tours are also offered this day, as part of Sights of Seattle. Get to know your city through the lens of architecture on this weekend of free walking tours. Whether you’re new to Seattle or have lived here all of your life, we invite you to discover new things about the city you call home. Put on your walking shoes, grab a camera and embark on your own architecture adventure by joining one or more of our many tour options including several downtown tours or tours of our treasured neighborhoods.

More Info on Free Tours:  https://seattlearchitecture.strangertickets.com/events/94201798/sights-of-seattle

Harvard Belmont/J. McKean

 

Federal Avenue Tour: Understated Elegance on the Park

The Olmsted Brothers’ visionary park plan led Seattle’s prominent leaders and their renowned architects to design homes nestled against blossoming Volunteer Park on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The homes reflect the changing tastes, lifestyles, and times just before and after World War I. Stroll Federal Avenue and learn about these stately monuments to early 20th Century prosperity. On this tour you’ll see a variety of classic architectural styles from notable architects of the day, including Carl F. Gould, Bebb & Mendel, & Joseph S. Cote’ and Andrew Willatsen.

Tickets:  $12

SAF Members, $18 General Public, $25 Cash Walk ups/day of, if available.

SAF Fed Ave Tour/Photo: Evan Chakroff

Street Critic | Navigating E Olive Way’s terrain

Olive Way’s Flatiron

A charm of living in a hilly city like Seattle is witnessing how the street grid and the buildings they define adapt to challenging topography. A typical adaptation is to have streets break from the prevailing orthogonal grid by introducing a diagonal street that makes a hill easier to ascend. In the early 20th Century, Manhattan’s Fuller Building became – and most likely remains – the most celebrated example of a building’s form adapted to an adjacent diagonal street (albeit in dead-flat Manhattan). Today it is known as the Flatiron Building, a reference to its resembling an early type of clothes iron. Capitol Hill has its share of buildings which have adapted to challenging street grinds and terrain. An inspiring pair are found on Olive Way as it cuts a diagonal between Denny and Howell. Continue reading

Design review: Trading a 1929 Capitol Hill apartment building for a 2019 version on Harvard Ave E

Wednesday night could bring the final design step in the process for a Capitol Hill circa late 2018 trade of necessity — a 1929-built, two-story masonry apartment building with eight units making way for a planned 2019 or so-built, four-story apartment building with 25 “small efficiency dwelling units” and 13 standard apartments.

The development from Hybrid Architecture and the family trust that owns the property is slated to come before the East Design Review Board Wednesday night:

Design review: 740 Harvard Ave E

Parking for 17 vehicles is proposed. And, of course, the existing structure is slated to be demolished. Continue reading

Street Critic | Capitol Hill’s concrete sentinels

The Shannon View from Southeast (Images: John Feit)

Cast-in-place concrete was the touchstone modernist material. When combined with steel reinforcing it allowed for the long-span and tall buildings that late 19th and early 20th Century architects dreamt of. Furthermore, and unlike the steel buried in its slurry, concrete did not corrode or lose strength in fires allowing for it to have a forthright expression without the need for any protective paint, coating, or enclosure. It was able to be left bare and pure as both structure and enclosure. It achieved, in other words, all that could be hoped for in a modern material. Its apogee in the United States was from the late 1950’s until the mid-1970’s and Belmont Avenue East has three consecutive mid-rise condominium buildings – the Shannon, the Highlander, and the Lamplighter – that pay homage to that era. Their mid-century designs have a surprising upside, too. Continue reading

Design review: 19 new townhomes on 12th Ave E, 111 units on 10th Ave — UPDATE

Much has been made of the condo revival of 2018 but on Capitol Hill over the past decade, the king of new home ownership has been the townhouse. Wednesday night, a project destined to create 19 more of the homes along 12th Ave E will take what could be its final pass in front of the design review board.

Design review: 506 12th Ave E

The project to turn the land currently home to the six-unit Lance Apartments at 506 12th Ave E has been in motion since developer Isola Homes bought the land in 2016 for $3.5 million. Ownership has passed across a couple Isola-related LLCs over the years including a transaction in the King County records that shows one Isola-related LLC buying the property from another for $5.3 million in July 2018. Seems like a good deal. The project is now set up for development company Mirra Homes to create four, three-story townhomes featuring a total of 19 units and parking for 19 vehicles. Continue reading