You’re invited to ‘stand up’ for the Alki Homestead on July 4th

June 8, 2010 at 8:00 pm | In Alki Homestead, West Seattle history, West Seattle news | 38 Comments

(Wikimedia photo of Alki Homestead, pre-fire)
Almost a year and a half after an accidental electrical fire gutted the historic, city landmark Homestead Restaurant in Alki, it remains empty; its owner has publicized a proposal to “reconstruct” it and add other commercial buildings on the property, but has not taken it to the next step of city Landmark Board approval, after an early review by its Architectural Review Committee last November. Now, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society is planning a Fourth of July event to call fresh attention to its plight – and inviting public participation in a big way. We’d gotten a few hints about it (as noted here) but tonight, the full announcement is public:

Independence Day event says ‘This Place Matters’ for Alki Homestead
Southwest Seattle Historical Society plans July 4 group photo in front of Fir Lodge

The people of Seattle will have a public opportunity to stand up for a century-old West Seattle city landmark at a mid-day rally on July 4, 2010.

The Southwest Seattle Historical Society has organized a mass photo event to take place at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 4, in front of Fir Lodge, the 106-year-old log structure that many have known for decades as the Alki Homestead restaurant. The building was damaged by a January 2009 fire and since then has sat vacant.

A crowd of neighbors, joined by prominent political leaders, will gather on the sidewalk and street in front of the structure at 2717 61st Ave. S.W., just a half block from Alki Beach. Participants will hold signs saying, “This Place Matters,” a slogan promoted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The resulting photo will be used in a poster that will be disseminated throughout Seattle and distributed widely online.

Those attending include King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, all residents of West Seattle, and other representatives of the Seattle City Council, King County Council, and Seattle city government.

The announcement continues after the jump:

Organizations represented at the photo event will include the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, which last year placed the Homestead on its “most endangered” list, and Historic Seattle.

“Historic buildings ground us in place and history,” says Judy Bentley, president of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. “This is a tangible way for those who support preservation and restoration of key buildings in our city to take a stand and educate others about why it is important to save this unique structure. The brief, fun event will capture an image that will inspire countless others. Come ready to hold a sign or just smile.”

The event takes place after the Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s annual membership picnic, which begins at noon at the Homestead’s original carriage house, now the Log House Museum. The public is invited to join the society and come to the picnic.

Fir Lodge was built of Douglas fir logs in 1904 for a local soap maker, William J. Bernard, his wife Gladys and daughter Marie. The building served as the early home of the Seattle Auto Club and in 1950 became the Alki Homestead restaurant. The Southwest Seattle Historical Society secured Seattle city landmark status for the building in 1996.

For more information on the event, call the Log House Museum of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society at 206-938-5293 or visit www.loghousemuseum.info.

WSB coverage of the Alki Homestead is archived here, newest to oldest.

38 Comments

  1. Does Landmark Status offer the property any protection aganst neglect? Could the city force a sale with the requirement that aspiring purchasers have a viable reconstruction/recovery/business plan? Or at least the means to “do right” by the property? It just seems kind of toothless otherwise. It seems they can prevent the Painted Lady’s owner from inappropriate development but I haven’t heard anything about compelling the Homestead’s owner to act to prevent this (arguably more signficant) landmark from going to pot.

    Comment by 35this35mph — 9:07 pm June 8, 2010 #

  2. I hate to cast a stone here but it would seem that the structure was not insured to replacement value or the repairs would have been completed by now. Whose fault is that?

    Comment by Dale — 9:38 pm June 8, 2010 #

  3. Is Tom Lin still the owner?

    Comment by tincanrocket — 9:42 pm June 8, 2010 #

  4. Unless something has changed in the past month or so, yes.

    Comment by WSB — 9:57 pm June 8, 2010 #

  5. What is the point of taking a group photo???
    To call attention to a damaged building?
    The Southwest Historical Society needs to understand that this is a privately owned property, they had the opportunity to purchase it when it came up in the market and they couldn’t come up with the $$$. Tom Lin did. It’s up to him to decide how to spend the insurance money and how he would like to rebuild. Tom’s plans will be reviewed by the Seattle Historical Society—–NOT the SW historical society which is more like a little club with no real authority in the matter. Mr. Lin has repeatedly sworn to bring back the original structure (with up to code ADA wheelchair access, a new kitchen, and a small inn), what’s wrong with that?!

    Comment by West seattleite — 10:00 pm June 8, 2010 #

  6. The Homestead will always remain in our hearts as a cherished piece of West Seattle. as a 3rd generation West Seattleite I understand the importance and significance of the Homestead and the need to keep that memory alive. However I think it’s important to look at both sides of the coin. Our neighborhood continues to get larger and with that the need for more job opportunities and ways to boost our economy. The Homestead is sitting on prime real estate and could be turned into an extremely profitable, relevant business such as a bed and breakfast or boutique hotel. We have the log cabin museum ran by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society already in place and could use space there, or to the side of the Homestead property to erect a plaque or dedication to this hundred year old establishment. But it’s time we start thinking forwards and secure this spot for the betterment of West Seattle.

    I loved the Homestead, believe me I have memories of that place that I will relish for the rest of my life. My roommate in fact is one of the former chefs there. But I’m also a realist who understands how important that property is and what a huge impact it could make on our economy, and more importantly the citizens here in our great town.

    Comment by Michael Adams — 10:12 pm June 8, 2010 #

  7. SWHS: put your money where you mouth is or go home. It’s private property and NOT yours… so stop acting like it is. Mind your own business.

    Comment by CB — 10:28 pm June 8, 2010 #

  8. Were they invited? Do they have permission to go on private property to take the photo or are they just staying on the side-walk?

    Comment by Noelle — 11:17 pm June 8, 2010 #

  9. Though the news release does not state this clearly, board member Jim Del Ciello mentioned at the Southwest District Council meeting last week that the street would be closed for the occasion (as in, with city permission) – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:40 pm June 8, 2010 #

  10. Mr. Lin’s plans and vision for this property are sound and would add a great deal to our community, INCLUDING respect and reference to all the Homstead has been… Let it now add MORE to our community. Without Mr. Lin taking this on. the building will rot away… I just hate seeing history rot away, but I hate seeing selfish politcs and pius historians (who don’t have the funds to buy the place at mkt value…) even more…..

    Comment by Dano — 12:06 am June 9, 2010 #

  11. The sidewalk is public property and they can stand anywhere and take photos of anything they please. BTW a “boutique hotel” at Alki – which Tom Lin has been trying to create for years; in spite of the fact that it’s forbidden in this district by the zoning code – is not going to solve Seattle’s, or Washington’s, or the United States’ financial crisis. Seattle’s financial situation will be exactly the same if Tom Lin builds his hotel or not. This is a straw man argument, another transparent attempt to garner community support for a contract rezone. yawn….

    Comment by visitor — 1:13 am June 9, 2010 #

  12. http://www.wa-trust.org/mostendangered/watch_list.htm

    Comment by homesweethome — 6:24 am June 9, 2010 #

  13. Is it the reconstruction plans, the additional building/code change, or both that are causing a slow down in repairs? Does anyone know? Do they have funding to fix the restaurant without building the hotel?

    Comment by Dan'a — 7:11 am June 9, 2010 #

  14. Looks to me like the owner took the insurance money that was supposed to be used to repair the historic structure, and is funnelling it into a development with some historic fluff to cover his real objective. Sad.

    Comment by west by southwest — 11:32 am June 9, 2010 #

  15. Dear fabulous WSB commenters: A reminder in this particular story. The Fire Department ruled the January 2009 fire accidental, as reported here shortly after it happened. They are the final word. Any comment speculatively trying to reopen the case will not leave the moderation queue. If you think you have actual information that suggests they should have reached another conclusion, please contact SFD directly – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:52 am June 9, 2010 #

  16. I just don’t get it! Can someone please explain to me what this circus on the 4th of july suppose to accomplish? The Homestead is GONE!!! Declared – TOTAL LOSS!!!, by insurance company and DPD. Are they going to pass the donation box around or everyone will have to sign a petition to Obama for a bailout? What is there to make awareness off??? Or is SFD co sponsoring the event to educate people not to use christmas lights all year around?

    Comment by Baba — 12:56 pm June 9, 2010 #

  17. My understanding is that the work of the SWS Historical Society, Historic Seattle, and others is to advocate for the preservation of historical landmarks. This is done in part by bringing public attention to propeties in disrepair; the Homestead is a prime example.

    There doesn’t seem to be any progress made on any kind of development. The point of this action seems to be to bring public attention and pressure for repair and preservation work to be done.

    Comment by Dave — 2:05 pm June 9, 2010 #

  18. Thank you Dave, I get this part. But Homestead has an owner, Tom Lin. So the point of this action on the 4th of july is to bring public (taxpayer) attention and pressure for repair and preservation of Tom Lins private property?

    Comment by Baba — 2:52 pm June 9, 2010 #

  19. Has anyone contacted Tom Lin directly? It seems like all the public pressure is fueling speculation unless we know the exact shape of the building. Has anyone obtained the studies completed by his engineer and contractor? Has anyone offered to help him out? Has any other commercial projects been proposed besides Alki Homestead reconstruction?

    Is anyone aware of any other plans for the site besides Alki Homestead restaurant reconstruction? If so, please step forward and let Tom Lin explain the alternative plan.

    It is so sad that over jealous sentiment can destroy a project even with best of intentions. I think we should deal with facts and not emotions. I believe Tom Lin had mentioned few times that if anyone wants to participate in the project, contact him directly. Has anyone done that?

    A demonstration serves no purpose unless the participants are willing to donate their time and effort. Anyone can carry a sign, but not everyone is willing to put in the energy.

    I believe his email is still the same. alkihomestead@yahoo.com. Contact him directly. I think I may just do that myself.

    Comment by AlkiResident — 3:04 pm June 9, 2010 #

  20. Yes, I’ve had a message out to him since last night. Neglected to add that to the story, sorry, I almost always note when we have a request for comment pending. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 3:19 pm June 9, 2010 #

  21. Since Tom Rassmussen, Greg Nickels and Dow Constantne are going to be marching with the historical society, why not ask them why there was no help when Mr. Lin was trying to wind his way through Seattle’s government to find out about the permits needed to proceed? He spent tens of thousands of dollars on the engineering studies,and is still paying mortgage and tax payments on the property. Anyone who was interested in the plans for rennovation could have attended the ACC meeting last September.

    Comment by AlkiMom — 3:33 pm June 9, 2010 #

  22. @AlkiResident, What help, time, effort and energy donation are you talking about? In his interview with West Seattle Herald on Apr.25th., Mr. Lin made it very clear: “I want strategic partners to come in and invest 30 to 40 percent (total). The restaurant’s second floor would be restored to a lounge. I would like to see a small inn, 18 rooms, plus retail on the first floor around the parking lot to the back, so when you are looking at the property from the street you would mainly see the Homestead, the anchor.”
    He didn’t ask anyone to snow up for a weekend brush cleaning or repainting party…

    Comment by Baba — 4:18 pm June 9, 2010 #

  23. What is there to know about the exact shape of the building when DPD is ready to issue demolition permit of Homestead at any time as long as Mr. Lin can prove he has financing for the new project? Am I the only one who reads West Seattle Herald???

    Comment by Baba — 4:34 pm June 9, 2010 #

  24. Actually if you look at the DPD file online (which I will link here in a minute) DPD has NO authority to issue a demolition permit until the Landmarks Board approves.
    .
    (added)
    http://web1.seattle.gov/DPD/permitstatus/Project.aspx?id=3010985
    .
    (note the “do not demolish” on the right side)
    .
    and
    http://web1.seattle.gov/DPD/permitstatus/Project.aspx?id=6236764
    .
    (note the: do not demolish without DON (Dept. of Neighborhoods, which includes the Landmarks Board) and DPD approval on the right side.)
    .
    No demolition permit even has been applied for, much less is there one on the verge of being granted, according to the master list of property actions, which you can see here:
    .
    http://web1.seattle.gov/DPD/permitstatus/default.aspx?a=2717,,61ST,AVE,SW

    Comment by WSB — 4:36 pm June 9, 2010 #

  25. and a hotel or “inn” is not allowed in the Alki business diestrict.

    Comment by visitor — 5:00 pm June 9, 2010 #

  26. I bet my previous comment will get deleted, but bottom line, folks, Mr. Lin is a smart man, his bet against the city will pay off, he will get his rezoning-demolition issues resolved. Mark my words! County, City, State etc,- NEED REVENUE MORE THEN EVER NOW!!!HE WILL PREVAIL!!!

    Comment by Baba — 5:23 pm June 9, 2010 #

  27. If you love the restaurant so much SHS, why not have a fundraiser instead of a photo op?

    I found Lin’s comments on the Herald site:

    http://www.westseattleherald.com/2010/06/09/news/homestead-inn-owner-tom-lin-supports-protest-sentiment

    Comment by Jim — 8:29 pm June 9, 2010 #

  28. Just like he prevailed up in the Admiral District when he purchased a property and tried to use it in a manner not consistent with zoning regulations? ha ha ha.

    Comment by visitor — 8:33 pm June 9, 2010 #

  29. I didn’t realize that Tom Lin owns something on Admiral District. Can visitor identify which one he owns? I would love to know.

    I am not trying to take sides over here. However, it seem like it is very typical of government bureaucrat. Big brother is watching you. It is nice to join the rally to score points with voters.

    The question is what have these politicians done to guide or help the project to move along? Ultimately it is the city that holds the big bat.

    Can Tom Rassmussen, Greg Nickels and Dow Constantne state what they have done before this coming rally? I know that Tom Lin has been on the news and meetings. It is easy to find out what he has done and what he has not done.

    How about these politician? What about the Historical Society? What have they done to help the project? Again, when you hide in the dark, no one can criticize you. When you are out in the open, you become a very visible taget.

    Alki Homestead has always been one of my family’s favorite restaurats for generations. We thought after Mrs Nelson died, the place was going to be closed. I believe Tom Lin kept it going for 4 more years. Now he is the villain? What happened to people like us who met him and appreciated him for keeping the door open? What has changed?

    Can’t we help him keep the door open for another 20 years? Can’t we be more constructive? What are we accomplishing by going negative? What good does it do to destroy his effort? Let’s try to be positive. Can’t some of us get together and meet up with him and see what the issues are? What can we do to help bring back the restaurant and building?

    Comment by LynnThomsen — 9:15 pm June 9, 2010 #

  30. Here’s what Mr. Lien said in the Herald article:
    >>The Alki Homestead matters to me, too,” said Lin. “I care so much about it I’m even shouldering the bills.”

    uhhhhhh. It’s your property, Mr. Lien. I think the bills are your responsibility. Paying your property bills is not a community service volunteer exercise.

    Comment by visitor — 9:59 pm June 9, 2010 #

  31. So what I am understanding is that the Historical Society wants the place opened up exactly the way it was with no changes. Just throw down a carpet and paint the burned walls. Yeah.. So are they planning to march into City Hall and demand that it be left “as is” so THEY can have the exact building with no upgrades or improvements? Will the city or better yet the Historical Society cover any lawsuits when the crumbled walls and foundations give way? Why oh why didn’t the Historical Society BUY the place when it was offered to them? They should find a sugar daddy who will buy it as is and hand it over for them to do with as they wish. Bully politics.

    Comment by AlkiMom — 10:13 pm June 9, 2010 #

  32. Once again, dear commenters who are not making it out of the moderation queue: If you believe you have evidence of wrongdoing by someone, on any side of this situation or in anything else, for that matter – that’s for the authorities to know, not for accusations/insinuations/”I heard that …” in the comment section following a WSB news story. Can’t speak for any other news sites’ rules, but as the saying goes, “that’s how we roll.” Thanks again!

    Comment by WSB — 11:11 pm June 9, 2010 #

  33. Some commenters seem to be under the mistaken impression that ‘the little club’, the Southwest Historical Society, wants Mr. Lin’s business opened back up as a restaurant. The SWHS’s approach seems to be (as someone else posted) to advocate for the preservation of historical buildings. The Homestead restaurant was a business which operated in the building built in 1904. The Fir Lodge structure is what’s landmarked (not a restaurant business) and that’s what’s protected and can be preserved. Mr. Lin has brought one new construction specialist forward as his advocate. It’s possible a preservation specialist would advocate for fixing/repairing the existing structure. (my car was ‘totaled’ once as far as the insurance company was concerned; I repaired it and drove it for years afterwards.)
    those who don’t believe that some architecture is worth preserving won’t be swayed. Some commenters seemed to be missing the point, however. If the building is to be demolished and re-built–no matter how closely to the original it can come (and Mr. Lin’s stated plans don’t sound like a similar structure–it will be a loss to Alki, West Seattle and the world of architecture in general.

    Comment by Alan — 12:54 pm June 10, 2010 #

  34. I check in with the WSB from time to time to see what some of the public opinion is with the Alki Homestead. I am the ‘log construction consultant’ that Tom Lin hired. I have been very interested in the Alki Homestead since before I knew that Tom owned the structure. I have been building log homes for over 40 years and it was only a few years ago that I discovered that it was my great grandfather that built the Alki Homestead. I do, as some people pointed out, prefer new construction of log structures to doing restoration work. I prefer this because I do my own design work and I can create structure that will not fail for the same reasons that the Alki Homestead was failing prior to the fire. But to suggest that I would encourage the demolition of a structure because I have a ‘preference’ for new construction is false. While I am currently working on a ‘new construction’ project, my next three projects are all dealing with restoration work.

    I’m not doing these projects because I need the work. I should be building my own home right now. I’m doing these jobs because the structures merit the work. I don’t take on jobs just to separate an owner from their money. I have to believe that the structure has the redeeming merit to justify the work invested.

    I, of all people, would love to see my great grandfather’s work preserved. I also come from that same long line of pragmatic, frugal Swedes that will try to recycle anything that has a minuscule amount of value. If I truly thought that this structure could be safely and authentically restored in a way that could even remotely be justified financially, I would make that recommendation. Sadly I cannot make that recommendation. Anyone who is a log structure restoration specialist that would make that recommendation should have their past clients polled to see how well their projects turned out. It is easy to make promises as to the cost of a restoration project and then see the owner be “change ordered” to death. I would not do that to a client. I’ve lost a number of jobs over the years by telling a client the truth only to see the clients burned by another builder who was less than honest.

    Some people have suggested that I have a vested interest in building a new Alki Homestead. Yes, I would love to recreate a structure that my great grandfather built over 100 years ago. However, from the very beginning of my involvement in the Alki Homestead, I have made it very clear that I would gladly recuse myself from any future involvement with the reconstruction OR restoration of the Homestead if anyone questioned my findings or intentions. I made this clear in my conversations with both Tom Lin and Andrea Mercado a number of times. I further stated this in my report on the structure and several other writings I have done with regard to the Alki Homestead. I suggest that you ask any other log home restoration specialist if they would make the same promise prior to writing their assessment of the structure.

    My sense is that this process has gone on far too long. The longer this process takes, the more the history, reputation and memories of the Homestead will be tarnished no matter how the property is put back into use. I’m pretty sure that my great grandfather would say the same thing.

    Comment by Mark Fritch — 1:17 am June 12, 2010 #

  35. The SW Seattle Historical Society, Historic Seattle, and dozens of politicians, along with the head of the Chamber of Commerce all want this place restored, not rebuilt, not brought back as the Homestead Restaurant. So why not have a giant fundraising event and buy it? Then you can restore it to the original status, no matter what the engineers say. You have your own experts who say it can be restored. So buy it and restore it. No more chicken, no more memorable dinners, no more weddings, no more family gatherings or other events that made the Homestead Restaurant such a special place for generations of local families. You will have a historic old log building – another museum. If you can’t do that, stop bullying the owner, who wanted to bring back the memories and the other things that made the restaurant special since 1950.

    Comment by AlkiMom — 1:06 pm June 13, 2010 #

  36. I love the Homestead. And of course I’m a history buff. However this is going to turn into a wine tasting and Prius car show. Give me a break! Buy the place from Tom if you love it so much. He’s trying to rebuild. Give the guy some time, nobody can get a loan these days. I will be there on the 4th laughing at this SSHS membership “picnic” (witch hunt)…..

    Comment by Guy — 7:08 pm June 13, 2010 #

  37. It’s a shame how quickly so many proud Alki and West Seattle natives will turn their back on such an icon to the beach community.

    I doubt the whole point of this is to turn into two camps- flaming and hating on each other’s ideas and opinions. Why can’t it be a collaborative and productive process? Does it have to be a blame game, and he-said she-said?

    Instead of seeing the event as a political scheme and witch hunt, perhaps try to see it as a visibility campaign? This structure is on the endangered list, and that should mean something to anyone with ties to the area. “This Place Matters” campaign is to remind you that it’s there and that it has an important place in many people’s past- and obviously current history.
    I doubt the historical society is trying to duke it out with Tom Lin, but more of a demonstration that the community is there and cares about what he does decide to do. I think it’s crucial to be proactive and vocal about how you want things to be in your community, especially so if you don’t have the money or the assests.
    If you go to the log house’s webpage, they have a video of an entire wall and support beams being replaced. If it was possible whenever they did that, why isn’t it possible now? Aren’t lumberjack’s lookin’ for work like every body else?
    Please everyone, don’t give up on a rare, unique, and meaningful building such as the Homestead. It’ll be a shame when it’s demolished and made into some modern and unimpressive facility.

    Comment by a nice girl in a big town — 2:28 pm June 15, 2010 #

  38. I will be there, laughing at this “witch hunt” as well… And I will talk with others to convince them that the SWHS is just a mean spirited, unrealistice, bullying group of sour pusses. If you want the place….. BUY THE PLACE, and do what you want…. Otherwise, if the owner wants to let it rot while financing comes through, so be it.

    Comment by Dano — 11:30 pm June 27, 2010 #

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