After both of the stories we published here the past two days about concerns regarding the Alki Homestead‘s future (here and here), we mentioned trying to reach owner Tom Lin for his comment on his plans for the landmark restaurant, two months after the fire that closed it. Here’s what he just sent us:
It has been 2 months since the fire at Alki Homestead and I appreciate everyone’s concern as to what to do with the property. Hopefully this will provide some insight as to what is going on.
My main concern is to find a place for my employees to work. It has not been easy due to the economic condition of the market. I have looked at over several restaurants that are for sale in West Seattle and finally found one that everyone likes. I presented the letter of intent yesterday and hopefully it will work out. The employees are thrilled to have the opportunity to work together as a team again — over 10 of them. It is not going to be named Alki Homestead. However, the spirit will be kept alive until Homestead reopens.
It will be a long road ahead to restore Alki Homestead. The insurance is still in the process of getting settled. I have to say that the insurance companies I am working with are professional and extremely helpful. They have a process that they have to go through in order to settle the claim. It just takes time and they are doing the best they can.
I called my insurance adjuster yesterday and asked them to release the property. They called back immediately with permission to go ahead with a modified cleanup. I can start cleaning up the place, but I should keep the contents intact until the insurance settles. Technically, the insurance companies own the property inside the building because they are paying for it.
Where do we go from here? I have been working with my architects and Mark Fritch of Mark Fritch Log Homes. Mark sent a letter to West Seattle Herald on March 24th. I hope you will have a chance to read it. Mark is the great grandson of the original builder, Anton Borgen, who helped build Alki Homestead and Log House Museum.
I met up with the board of Log House Museum a month ago. Their position is to restore the building regardless of the “use” of the building. They believe that as long as a viable business can pay the rent, then the building is saved.
I disagree with that view. The building is the shell, but the spirit is the Alki Homestead. To bring back the building without Alki Homestead is like visiting your grandmother’s house after she passed away, kind of empty. I have owned it for 3 years. I am the one who has seen:
1, Customers celebrating their 50th anniversary because that is where they had their wedding rehearsal.
2. The Ericksons, who have been coming every Friday night for the past 27 years.
3, The couple who celebrated their 75th anniversary, and they met at the beach when they were 16 years old.
The stories go on and on.
Maybe all of you can help me preserve the spirit of the property as well as the historical use of this great site. Maybe the Log House Museum can have their annual gala at Alki Homestead Restaurant in the future, instead of holding those events at other non-historic venues, as in the past 2 years.
I believe action speaks louder than words. If you would like to help with the project, then let’s be constructive. We need to stay positive and move forward. A lot of work needs to be done. Let’s bring Alki Homestead Restaurant back and let’s make this project something we can all be proud of.
(added 1:35 pm – We’ve just spoken with Lin by phone; he won’t elaborate on which restaurant he’s looking into – the two closed restaurants that have been for sale in West Seattle for months are the former Beato and Blackbird.) He also attached a WSB-addressed version of the letter he mentioned, from Mark Fritch, a great-grandson of the builder of the Homestead and the Log House Museum – read on to see it in its entirety:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Mark Fritch Log Homes
Sandy, Oregon 97055
(503) 668-7130 Office
(503) 849-6316 Cell
(503) 668-3285 Fax
Letter for West Seattle Blog
I’m not quite sure where to begin. Maybe it would be best to start near the beginning. Please bear with me as this may take a bit to present. My name is Mark Fritch, I was born in Snohomish and I grew up in a family sawmill business, I’ve worked in the woods logging and spent 8 ½ years at WSU where I received a BS in Forest Management, a BA in education and an MS in Forestry. I’ve taught at the university level and I also taught vocational forestry for five years in a small high school in western Oregon. I built my first log home in 1969 at the age of 18. I’ve taught over 30 log building courses over the years in many environments. I have built new log homes as well as done quite a bit of restoration work on historic log homes and other log structures. I do all of my own design work, handcrafted logwork and I general contract my own projects. I’m not just an “SUV and cell phone contractor” either. I put on a tool belt and work right along side of my crew. Our work is second to none and my entire business is based on the principle that, “If it isn’t working for all of us, it isn’t really working for any of us.” We are currently rebuilding my website, but you can look at some of my work on my website which is www.loghomz.com .
I’m not really sure why my father wanted a log home so badly back in 1968, but he bought the property and then had my college buddy and me go to B.C. to work for a good portion of the summer on that first log home. That structure is now nearly 40 years old. Oddly enough, the house is nearly old enough to start thinking of it as historical. It has a lot of history and is very important to me. I have no idea what prompted Dad to spend the time and money to build with logs since we owned a sawmill and could have had all the lumber that we wanted. I have wondered as well why I was drawn to this type of construction myself when I had plenty of education and could have chosen a much easier and lucrative path than building log homes.
There are many possible reasons that I chose this as my career or maybe the career chose me. After my first house I became fascinated with log buildings and photographed every one that I could find. I am essentially self-taught in log construction. In the early 1970’s there was no where to go to learn to build log homes. There were no schools, no instructors and few if any books. Only later did these start to arrive. Maybe I was predisposed to log and timber work because my mother’s maiden name is Timmermann which is German for timber framer. Maybe it’s because I found out about a year ago from my dad’s 77 year old cousin that my grandfather, Roscoe Fritch, had built at least one log church in Fairbanks, Alaska in 1948. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that I found out about five years ago that my great grandfather, Anton Borgen, built the Log House Museum and the Homestead. Anton worked on at least one other log home that I’ve found in Seattle.
I’ve been to the Log House Museum and The Homestead a number of times now. I first came of my own interest and then several times at the request of Tom Lin. Even before the fire Tom and I had been talking about how to best repair, protect and improve The Homestead. As with many old structure of this kind, the original builders had no idea that they would ever become historic sites. The foundations were poor at best or non-existent. Many old houses simply had outhouses and no plumbing other than bucket, a ladle, a basin and a chamber pot. Bathrooms were generally add-ons to the back of the building or tucked into closets (i.e. water closets). Kitchens were little different and the Homestead is an example of this with the poor kitchen arrangement that is present. Electrical was brought in using the old tube and knob wiring system with cloth and tar covered wires that are considered serious fire hazards now. Fire sprinkler systems were unheard of when the Homestead was built. Much has been learned about construction in general and log construction in particular in the last 103 years.
Tom Lin and I have been meeting with an architect and speaking with people from the City of Seattle to determine what the correct sequence of events will be. These are not over-night activities. The Building Codes Division is requiring that the structure be brought up to current codes with regards to plumbing, electrical, ADA, fire systems, seismic, public health and safety and more.
The repairs will take time and should not be rushed. It is not a quick process and the fact that it is a log structure greatly compounds the process. Tom Lin has been working on this since the fire. Let me say that again, Tom Lin has been working on this since the fire. The structure is not being damaged further in its present condition. The hole in the roof is smaller than the area that was damaged by the fire inside. Anything that is damp now will have to be replaced anyway. The structure will need to be opened up to an extent that allows for the structural repairs. There is nothing sacred about old 1960’s sheetrock and cheap carpet.
Things are happening at The Homestead even if many of you on this blog don’t think so. The best people with more than enough experience and expertise are involved on the project. It is also important to remember that Tom Lin is the owner of the Homestead and that all costs and responsibilities ultimately fall on his shoulders. I encourage all people on this blog to be polite and patient. There are a lot of emotional and wild opinions and accusations being bantered about here. While it is fine to be emotionally attached to the Homestead, there are certain real world realities, obligations and codes that need to be addressed. The City of Seattle will not be basing their requirements on those emotional pleas. They are bound by law to deal with the public well-being and they will mandate that all fire and life safety issues be addressed in any proposal presented.
I’ve made an initial review of the structure and will most likely do more work as required. Until such time as it is clear what is required by the city of the reconstruction, I am not offering any opinions. What I do offer is that you can count on Tom to have the best intentions at heart.
As to my involvement, you can also count on at least three facts. First, I understand what it is like to deal with a fire loss. My own home was burned to the ground three years ago and I am still dealing with its reconstruction, the codes and insurance companies. Secondly, I know logwork, as in, “No ****, I know logwork.” Last of all, I don’t think you will find a qualified log builder on the planet that is more committed to honoring The Homestead, its hopes, its dreams and its memories than the great grandson of the original builder. Maybe logwork for me is a genetic issue. Maybe everyone should take a deep breath or two and let the responsible parties do what is needed.