Alki Homestead’s future: An update from owner Tom Lin

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.

Thomas Lin

(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
Box 1720
Sandy, Oregon 97055
(503) 668-7130 Office
(503) 849-6316 Cell
(503) 668-3285 Fax
CCB #78488

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 .

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.

25 Replies to "Alki Homestead's future: An update from owner Tom Lin"

  • Diane March 25, 2009 (12:51 pm)

    thank you to both Tom Lin and Mark Fritch for your detailed letters, historical perspectives, and for responding quickly to protect further damage; clearly there are MANY who love this building and the restaurant, and anxious to offer support
    I applaud your dedication to preserving not only the building, but also the landmark restaurant; that is truly rare and wonderful

  • Mary T March 25, 2009 (12:51 pm)

    I really liked this post until I got to the last couple lines of the note from Mark Fritch, which were very condescending. I haven’t been following this story except in a passing way, with a little sadness that the Homestead was sitting empty and that in our two years here we hadn’t managed to visit it before the fire.

    I was going to suggest that I bet there are a lot of West Seattleites who would be happy to assist with the cleanup in what way we’d be qualified to. I just wish those last couple of lines hadn’t left me feeling like this : (

  • HomeOnBeachDrive March 25, 2009 (12:52 pm)

    Wow, I’m glad that mean old insurance company has finally gave them “permission” to put up a tarp and board up a window after 2 months. Golly, when my roof was damaged during a storm my agent told me I should put up a tarp to protect my house that day. I think Thomas should find a new insurance company.

  • Mary T March 25, 2009 (12:55 pm)

    Well, now that I read one of the previous posts about the Homestead and some of the ensuing comments, I guess that’s who Mark Fritch was referring to as needing to take a deep breath. Just letting you know; this was honestly the first post I’d fully read on the subject and was taken aback, not knowing what had come before.

  • CB March 25, 2009 (1:55 pm)

    I think Mr. Lin’s letter is a reaction to all of the busy-bodies who posted on this blog. Everyone seems to think this private property is their business. Yet, not a single person who complained opened up their check book to help out. Now everyone is going to get offended by his comments. Give me a break.

    I wish the best of luck to you Mr. Lin.

  • WSC March 25, 2009 (2:05 pm)

    FYI, Angelina’s has been for sale since last year as well…

  • WSB March 25, 2009 (2:08 pm)

    Yes we have reported that repeatedly. As I noted above, those are the only two CLOSED restaurants that have been listed for sale in West Seattle (also for sale, Garlic Jim’s and Yoshio’s Teriyaki). Not that he’s necessarily buying a closed restaurant – TR

  • Yes to Sam. March 25, 2009 (2:10 pm)

    This is BS. PUT A TARP ON THE PLACE NOW! Rain and snow are coming into the building and I personally know three people who have asked you to stop more damage from occurring and you haven’t done a thing. PLEASE act like you really care… in your actions not just your words! I’m sorry but I hope you sell the building. I’d like to support somebody else’s business. Unfortunately you have lost my business Tom Lin.

  • Stephanie March 25, 2009 (2:14 pm)

    I have about 5-6 tarps to loan Mr Lin if he needs them. I have wonderful memories of the our family visits to Homestead. We used to go every year with my grandparents. Thank you Mr Lin!

  • J March 25, 2009 (2:18 pm)

    CB, why should we open up our checkbooks? Tom has tarps, he doesn’t need us to buy him any! He just has to act in a responsible way like the rest of us adults.

  • JanS March 25, 2009 (3:00 pm)

    excuse me, but until you’re in Tom Lin’s shoes, I really believe that you should leave the personal judgements out of this. You all know nothing more than I do…you’re on the sidelines. Put as much energy into supporting Tom Lin in this huge undertaking, as you do pissing and moaning about how irresponsible he’s being.

    This is a wonderful supportive community…and the Alki people who have had it out for Tom Lin since he started business there, and dared to suggest a hotel in the area, do not support the real aspects of Alki, in my opinion. The Homestead will not be fixed overnight. It’s a long fall from a high horse sometimes.

    Please contact Tom Lin/Mark Fritch, and put that energy to work for this wonderful landmark when it’s needed…

    color me a concerned, supportive community member..I hope you all are, too.

  • p March 25, 2009 (4:10 pm)

    Agreed with JanS. If anyone doesn’t know, the city is a NIGHTMERE to deal with on any building issue. Plus add in private insurance and you have a perfect storm. Also, Tom is right, at this point his insurance company “owns” everything and they get to call the shots, if you like it or not.

  • J March 25, 2009 (4:23 pm)

    IT doesn’t stop him from putting a tarp up. The hole in the roof goes all the way to the first floor and has not been covered for WEEKS! It just takes a few tarps to stop more major damage. It’s negligence if you ask me. That’s my issue with him. Folks have even asked him to put it up but he’s not done anything about it.

  • okay March 25, 2009 (4:38 pm)

    I thought the letter from the log house builder stated that the rain will not damage the logs. All of the wallboard and carpeting is being replaced anyway.
    Calm down people!

  • Sam March 25, 2009 (4:56 pm)

    Is the tarp up yet? This fix is not major construction, it didn’t need a permit and the cost is minimal, so if it does not go up today then we know the true sincerity of Tom’s post. Unless of course he is at work and can’t get to the Homestead until Saturday…………
    Should the concerned citizens lay off Mr. Lin now that he is going to do something or is he only going to do something because there are so many concerned citizens in West Seattle?

  • HomeOnBeachDrive March 25, 2009 (5:38 pm)

    CB, JanS, P

    A. Just put up a tarp! I WILL loan him one if he needs it.

    B. This is NOT just ‘some’ building everyone is ‘meddling’ in. The man bought the property KNOWING this was a special protected historic property (it’s what made it worth more, because of the built in name recognition). He could have bought the old Pegasus Pizza on Alki (not historic) or any of the 99.8% of the rest of Seattle which is not protected as a historic structure. But he CHOOSE to buy the special protected building. He wasn’t “tricked” into it.

    COME ON GUYS! This is one of THE most historic buildings in the entire city, and you’re complaining that its immediate neighbors are being ‘busy bodies’ because they’re concerned the current owner isn’t protecting it? That’s not fair and you know it. If the roof on the Red Robin at South Center is leaking and they don’t put up a tarp, no one will care AT ALL. The fact that many folks on here can’t see any difference in that is SCARY!

  • HomeOnBeachDrive March 25, 2009 (5:42 pm)

    okay – I agree, we (me) should calm down. But you’ve gotta grasp the issue here. We’re not talking about the Safeway, or Shell gas station or such. This building, the Admiral Theater, and such are just a handful of original structures left. This particular one is one of the very oldest in the city. So it’s understandable (if annoying to some) that folks get freaked out over it when it “seems” to be neglected. I personally apologize to Tom or anyone else who offended by this, but it’s all out of concern and love for the building, not ‘attacking’ Tom for fun. :)

  • Thomas Lin March 25, 2009 (7:25 pm)

    Maybe it is time I should address the issues here. First of all, the insurance company gave me permission yesterday to do moderate cleaning. That we are talking about the content of the restaurant and the building. These include chairs, tables, pictures, plates, etc…. So the insurance company is actually doing me a favor for giving me permission early. There are not at fault.

    The building is my responsibility and I agree, the tarp we are now talking about should have been up. There was a tarp the day the fire was put out. However, because of the wind and weather, the tarp had a hole in it. Someone was supposed to replace it 2 weeks ago, but he didn’t show up. Then later, I discoverd that a tarp will last probably few weeks mabye a month at best.

    I found a contractor who can come on Friday to build a temporary roof. If anyone is really interested in helping out, be at Homestead 9am on Friday. He will start the work at that time.

    Again, I apologize for not putting up a new tarp earlier, but we are looking for a more stable roofing than a tarp.

    Tom Lin

  • JanS March 25, 2009 (9:02 pm)

    so…TARP people…happy? ohhh…sounds like gov’t. bailout – lol…

    thanks for chiming in, Tom…and apologies for the rudeness of some of our WS citizens…not the “Welcoming West Seattle” that I know and love. If I could physically help out(am in surgery recovery mode) on Friday, I would be there…I find this building to be fascinating, and would love to have a small hand in helping to preserve it.

    How about you, Homeon BeachDrive…gonna go help out? Yes, he bought it, knowing what he was buying…not you…but I can tell you care…so hopefully you can get your friends involved, too :)

  • Denny March 25, 2009 (9:09 pm)


    Thank you. Your continued willingness to be present and accountable in this conversation and effort is admirable and should be emulated by more of our community members & business owners.

    A fire, the cleanup, insurance, city government, a landmarks board, and helpful neighbors are more than enough to make many walk away or shut down.

    I certainly hope those who above and previously expressed such grave concern and ire about tarps and other things show up on Friday to lend a real hand. I wish I could.

    I continue to look forward to a basket of fried chicken and a dish of green beans in the not too distant future.

    Take care.

  • Meghan March 26, 2009 (7:39 am)

    It would be such a better world if some people weren’t so judgmental, so willing to just malign other people in a public forum (when they don’t really know what they’re talking about), and didn’t CHOOSE to ASSUME the worst in others.

    Perhaps Mr. Lin is a private person who doesn’t want to have to explain his every personal decision in a public forum. But like so many people in our community lately (e.g. people building or remodeling homes, certain developers and business owners), he’s been stripped of that freedom and personal liberty. He’s been forced to defend himself and justify his actions in a public forum. Shame on anyone who maligns someone else and questions someone’s ethics and integrity in public. May it happen to you some day.

  • Ron March 26, 2009 (11:22 am)

    To WSB

    I thought I put a good comment on last night that presented the other side–support for Tom Lin. You left the rantings of a fool on, but removed my input. So much for fair and balanced. You like people to write in as long as their views fit with your view of the world. Next time, I’ll save my efforts for something worthwhile.

  • WSB March 26, 2009 (11:27 am)

    We delete comments that break our rules. We don’t always catch all the comments that break our rules and do request help in flagging comments that break WSB rules. If you know of a comment that has been deleted, it broke our rules. Expressing support for Tom Lin is not breaking a rule – I believe that if you review comment threads following our various Alki Homestead stories, you will see that. So if that’s what you wrote, without insulting others in the discussion or using profane language, I invite you to submit it again – TR

  • Ron March 26, 2009 (11:58 am)

    Tom was insulted by some persons useing his full name and his reputation was also besmirched. If I insulted anyone it wasn’t done using their name and I certainly didn’t use profane language. I think some of your early comments on covering the Homestead may have even triggered some of the hostility towards Tom by your questioning the status of the property. Often your blog allows comments that foster class warfare such as some that were made towards people who live on Fauntleroy Cove. That’s not where I live, but if I did, I would have been very insulted. It’s your blog so I guess you can run it anyway you want. If people ever get wise to you, you may have few readers. Over and Out!

  • epl March 27, 2009 (3:06 pm)

    Finally someone who comments with intelligence, grace and foresight of the fire victim’s plight. Thank you!
    For those who commented “knowingly” about Mr. Lin need to, “just get that tarp up”, never once mentioned that you were going to gather your friends and neighbors, hit The Home Depot, buy tarps and show up to HELP.
    So, before casting stones and rightious opinions and instruction on what someone should/shouldn’t do, stick out your hand and Pay it Forward first.

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