Followup: Alki Homestead owner makes his decision: It’s for sale

July 3, 2010 at 9:12 am | In Alki Homestead, West Seattle history, West Seattle news | 31 Comments

With a rally/group photo planned tomorrow afternoon at the Alki Homestead, organized by local preservation groups including the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, owner Tom Lin says he’s offering those groups first crack at buying the fire-ravaged landmark, now that he’s decided to sell it, a few weeks after he told us he was considering that option. Here’s the text of his letter (from this PDF):

Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge is being offered for sale to Seattle’s concerned historical organizations such as:

Historic Seattle
Southwest Seattle Historical Society
The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation

Sale Price – $2,000,000 An endowment fund of $500,000 would be provided from these funds by the current owner Tom Lin

Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge was offered to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society under the same terms in 2004 by the previous owner, Doris Nelson, according to her family.

These historical organizations claim to have more extensive resources and the expertise needed to ensure that the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge retains its historical place in the community and would not be torn down.

Tom Lin will accept offers from interested historical organizations no later than July 31, 2010. Beyond July 31st the property will be offered to the general public at a different sale price and terms.

Contact Information: Tom Lin at

Lin had been trying to proceed with a plan to rebuild the historic log building and add other uses to its site – uses without which, he says, it wouldn’t be financially viable; he discussed his challenges in this story we published two weeks ago. This morning, he tells WSB, “It has been over a year and a half since I have tried to bring Homestead back. The cost has become a burden. I had a long conversation with [previous owner] Doris Nelson’s estate yesterday. They understand the dilemma I am in and they respect my choice. In fact, [they] had already told SWSHS to buy the building again 6 months ago … I think when I spoke to you a few weeks ago, I told you I was pretty close at giving it up. Now it is time. I hope they can address that during the rally.”

The rally – to which Lin tells us he finally did get an invitation, after he pointed out to Historic Seattle that he had not received one – is scheduled for 1:30 pm tomorrow on the sidewalk and street (which will be closed for the event) in front of the Homestead. Clay Eals from SWSHS says there’s been one change in the slate of political leaders scheduled to be there – City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will be out of town, but County (and former City) Councilmember Jan Drago will be there, which Eals notes is “quite fitting because (she) was the Seattle City Council sponsor of the landmark designation ordinance for the Alki Homestead building in 1996.”

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


  1. This will be a dream come true for the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. They have wanted this building for years. With hundreds, maybe thousands of people that they expect for the rally and photo, they should easily be able to mobilize the historic community to buy this building. And the endowment fund should help cover the simple restoration that their experts say can be made. The society’s interest has always been in the building, not the restaurant. So here is a final opportunity to add this jewel to their crown and prove to the community that it can be restored to its former grandeur without rebuilding. Thanks to Tom for allowing the society to show us how a restoration will be done. It will be sad to lose the popular Alki Homestead after 60 years, but we’ll have the memories…

    Comment by Aleta W — 10:56 am July 3, 2010 #

  2. How is the building worth the same amount it was in 2004, before a fire and 1.5 years of neglect, exposed to the elements without a roof?

    Comment by Huindekmi — 11:36 am July 3, 2010 #

  3. my thoughts exactly Huindekmi

    Comment by Diane — 12:07 pm July 3, 2010 #

  4. For what it’s worth, to the point of value – as Tom Lin pointed out in our interview last month, the county has not changed its assessed value for the property in three years, although it assigns only a token $1,000 value to the structure itself, with the lion’s share (almost $1.5 million) to the land:

    Comment by WSB — 12:14 pm July 3, 2010 #

  5. Thanks TR for clarification

    Comment by Diane — 12:29 pm July 3, 2010 #

  6. Well, I think that for all of the people who have had so many comments about how they could better handle this property, this is their chance to own it and take care of it.

    Comment by coffee — 12:34 pm July 3, 2010 #

  7. I hope that the Historical society can find a way to buy this property. I am not privy to even guess what it is worth but the link provided by WSB confirms the purchase price was $1,241,200 on 5/18/2006. The assesors office further mentions the business was listed on Craigslist for sale on 3/17/08 at $495,000.

    The recession/depression is Real Estate took hold somewhere in between. I hope there is way out for Mr. Lin and a way in for the Historical Society.

    Comment by Dale — 12:35 pm July 3, 2010 #

  8. Such a great proposal. Tom Lin can remove himself from the project, SWHS can take over, and the public can get their beloved Alki Homestead Restaurant back.
    I think SWHS should address their interests in purchasing the property tomorrow at the rally. In the past, I personally thought the rally served no purpose other than gathering people infront of Homestead and taking pictures.
    Now SWHS have a chance to say publically what is their position in purchasing the property and how they intend to restore it.
    Can Tracy contact them and get some soft of feedback before the rally?

    Comment by Mike — 1:45 pm July 3, 2010 #

  9. I hope they manage to save it.

    When I first came to West Seattle there were many beautiful old homes on California that are gone now.

    Comment by cj — 2:06 pm July 3, 2010 #

  10. Aleta – so are you saying it won’t be restored into a restaurant but used as a historical building only? Just clarifying….

    Comment by pam — 5:20 pm July 3, 2010 #

  11. From pennsylvania, I hope it is preserved..I fondly remember when I lived in Alki in the early/mid 1940′s and it was on my paper route.

    Comment by Donald Lundberg — 6:13 pm July 3, 2010 #

  12. In this economy the Southwest Seattle Historical Society (or any one else who wants to try to save the Homestead) will have their work cut out for them. Opening a restaurant is tough work & a lot of LUCK, even in the best of times.

    Comment by Noelle — 6:38 pm July 3, 2010 #

  13. Pam – there’s been no mention of a restaurant in the notices from the SWSHS or other organizations. That has never been the goal of the historical society — only to restore the building itself back to its original condition. It would give them a bigger museum for all the artifacts of the region… I’m sure that’s what the public really wants – right? We can see pictures of the restaurant, as it is a past part of the building’s history.

    Comment by Aleta W — 7:44 pm July 3, 2010 #

  14. I see this as a cynical ploy on Tom Lin’s part. He gets to wash his hands of responsibility for underinsuring his building and business and frame the SWSHS as the “bad guys.” They are attempting to draw attention and public scrutiny to the fact that a building deemed worthy of historical landmark status has been allowed to deteriorate. Personally I love(d) the Alki Homestead. I would like to be able to dine there again. However if the owner cannot meet their obligations to maintain the structure to the standards mandated in the historical landmark provision then there ought to be a clause in the law to relieve said owner of ownership and sale of the building to an owner who can and will. I am mystified by the venom and cynicism on this board by Tom Lin’s supporters. Do people really see him as a victim? Insurance people! You gotta have it!

    Comment by 35this35mph — 9:10 pm July 3, 2010 #

  15. 35, I am sure you are speaking from vast personal experience. So Tom is responsible for decades of decay to 106 year-old logs.. Hmmmm The building caught fire and the rotting wood burned. Somehow it’s Tom’s fault that the logs were in serious decline when he bought the place? The HS had the chance to buy it at the same time he did. It could have been a developer who bought it, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It should have been fixed decades ago. He’s allowing the HS or some other organization to have a chance to restore a treasure because they say it can be fixed. Why is that so evil?

    Comment by Glenn — 10:24 pm July 3, 2010 #

  16. 35this35mph. I suggest you check how Log House Museum is being insured. I am sure you will find that their insurance will not cover all cost of restoration as well. If you read the previous posting, you will know that no insurance company will insure fully a historical building. I suggest you ask your insurance company and get all the facts. Why are business owners are always at fault? Don’t we all work for some type of business big or small?

    Comment by Mike — 10:26 pm July 3, 2010 #

  17. Man, there sure are some optimistic people posting about this. Anyone who thinks that sufficient funds are going to be raised to buy the property, complete the repairs and operate the building as a museum is dreaming.
    Look around. Haven’t you ever wondered why there are so few successful historical museums? That model just doesn’t work like it used to.

    Comment by nwgal — 12:06 am July 4, 2010 #

  18. Lots of stuff doesn’t add up here.

    “Sale Price – $2,000,000 An endowment fund of $500,000 would be provided from these funds by the current owner Tom Lin”

    Zillow shows the property at 2717 61st Avenue Southwest Seattle, WA 98116, as listed for sale in 2008 at $445,000 and did not sell. What has increased the value since then?

    Why the endowment fund? Why not just sell the property outright?

    Comment by Doug — 7:23 am July 4, 2010 #

  19. Doug, we reported on the sale listing in 2008. It was not the structure/land. It was just the actual restaurant business itself.

    Comment by WSB — 7:27 am July 4, 2010 #

  20. Thanks WSB, that helps, and I can understand why it wouldn’t sell at that price. However, I still don’t understand the $2 mil price tag. Scanning zillow, you can look up and down Alki Ave SW and see most properties, including structure and land, in the $400K-$600K range, with nothing over $1 mil.

    What would make this place sell for $2 mil on the open market? Why should the historical society pay more than market value?

    Comment by Doug — 7:41 am July 4, 2010 #

  21. Caveat, I am not offering this info to support or “defend” the price but just in case those interested are not aware of these lookup tools. It’s a sizable lot – 14,000+ square feet – according to the same King County page we linked earlier, with the assessed value (all but $1,000 in the land, not the structure) at almost $1.5 million for the past few years
    For comparison, the Shoremont – now currently up for sale after the feds took over the bank that owned it following a loan gone awry – is assessed for almost that much, also in a “building worth only $1,000″ situation, and its parcel, according to the county, is 8,100 square feet (albeit water-facing)
    The Shoremont changed hands more than two years ago for more than $2 million.
    Just data points. Only other major Alki parcel listing we’ve tracked in the past is on the market again – the Duke’s site further east on the beach. Listed for $3.1 million; building has a penthouse over 2 floors of restaurant/bar. 2,800 square feet parcel, says the real-estate listing
    Zoning may not be comparable – I haven’t looked at that – and certainly can affect value.

    Comment by WSB — 7:57 am July 4, 2010 #

  22. I’m sad, no more of there “famous” chicken. Please sell/give the recipe to a local restaurant to continue.

    Comment by eatmorechicken — 8:07 am July 4, 2010 #

  23. Wow, the more I read about the history of this place, the more tragic it gets. This poor guy buys the place and after selling off some of its art, crystal, and other items, tries to sell the business. After months on the market he locates a mysterious buyer who he protects the anomynity of prior to closing the deal, and then less than 2 months later an electrical fire guts the place. On top of that, during one of the worst real estate recessions in history, the county assessor continues to increase the property value of the land.

    Tragic stuff.

    Comment by Doug — 8:12 am July 4, 2010 #

  24. I just googled (Alki Homestead buyer) and I found out who the buyers of Homestead were. I am sure there are more information I can find if I dig further.

    One of the things I dislike about some of the postings on the blog is that certain people make up stories and tie issues together without checkintg the facts. The best example is that Doug thought the building was forsale for $445,000. Anyone who have been to that restaurant would know that an entire block of property on Alki with a business would sell for lot more than $445,000.

    Still unhappy with the answer, Doug decides to scan Zillow and came up with the property price of $400,000 to $600,000. Ummm. 14,000 sq of commercial property on Alki going for that price? Even a condo of 1,200 square feet would cost more than that.

    Still unhappy with the answer, Doug just started putting all his information together and blamed on it recession? That to me is tragic stuff.

    Let’s all try to be more responsible when we post. Let’s try to keep the integrity of the blog. It is time for you to stop Doug. Quite before you embarrass yourself further.

    Comment by AlkiResident — 9:40 am July 4, 2010 #

  25. Having grown up in the Alki area in the 50s and 60s, I remember always asking to go to the Old Homestead on my birthday – we usually did. I loved the fried chicken. After a move to Los Angeles in the 80s I still remember it fondly (the chicken and the Old Homestead). I hope that the building -(which, as I recall was one of the first in the Alki area) – is restored and kept from the wrecking ball forever.

    Comment by Barbara — 1:42 pm July 4, 2010 #

  26. I watched all of the speeches from the fringes but still couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. I applaud the historical society for their concern. Now quit beating up on the owner and buy it yourself. Someone said there are millions of dollars in grants out there. Get one and buy it.
    Then you will have the building and you can restore it the way you want.Cutting the grass and triming the bushes isn’t going to magically make everything okay. But you folks know what you’re doing so get out there and drum up some funding. I’m sure you will have it fixed in 3 months or so, like you expected the owner to do.

    Comment by Glenn — 2:39 pm July 4, 2010 #

  27. I know that when Tom bought the Homestead, he bought the business, all of the equipment, Goodwill, fixtures, building and land. A successful restaurant like The Homestead can sell for $300,000-$400,000 and a struggling Garlic Jims in West Seattle did sell for $115,000 recently.
    The price he wants is too high. He has received numerous checks from the insurance companies, probably not near what he paid for it, but he has received money some money from the insurance companies that has not been put back into the building to fix it up. He is trying to make a huge profit when he bought at the height of the market and now, in its condition should only get under one million. As a decent comparable for character and size, not condition, The Villa Heidleberg is selling for 1.3 Million and is a successful catering company and B&B.
    Let him put it on the open market, then have the historical society buy it at a fair market value.

    Comment by Dale R. — 12:48 pm July 5, 2010 #

  28. AlkiResident:
    “One of the things I dislike about some of the postings on the blog is that certain people make up stories and tie issues together without checkintg the facts.”

    I sure am glad you would never do such a thing.

    “The best example is that Doug thought the building was forsale for $445,000.”

    Yeah. Imagine. Thinking that MLS and sales records are accurate. Of course, you have a citation showing that MLS and the sales records are wrong, yes? You wouldn’t be making something up, would you?

    “Anyone who have been to that restaurant would know that an entire block of property on Alki with a business would sell for lot more than $445,000.”

    A few things here:
    * They might think that, yes. But how would they know?
    * It’s not an “entire block.” Looking at the parcel maps, I’d estimate parcel 762120-0006 as being about 1/8th of that block. Unless you know something King County doesn’t.
    * And, in fact, Doug’s point was that it didn’t sell, even at that “low” price. That is, whatever personal feelings you may have, the market didn’t agree with you then — it thought the price was too high.

    “Still unhappy with the answer, Doug decides to scan Zillow and came up with the property price of $400,000 to $600,000. Ummm. 14,000 sq of commercial property on Alki going for that price? Even a condo of 1,200 square feet would cost more than that.”

    Yeah, there he goes, checking the facts before he posts. Seems like I was just reading someone recommending doing that… Now if only they’d follow their own advice.

    And, hey, in that spirit, it turns out all recently sold properties in Alki have gone for between $286K-$550K. So much for “even condos” “cost(ing) more than that.”

    “Still unhappy with the answer, Doug just started putting all his information together and blamed on it recession? That to me is tragic stuff.”

    You have a better theory for the current state of real estate sales? Let’s hear it.

    “Let’s all try to be more responsible when we post.”

    You first.

    “Let’s try to keep the integrity of the blog. It is time for you to stop Doug. Quite before you embarrass yourself further.”

    Hm. Yeah, that would be “quite” embarrassing indeed. Posting all those facts that have been checked, and then having someone say they’re wrong because… because… because they just are, darn it!

    Comment by Laszlo Toth, Jr — 3:25 am July 6, 2010 #

  29. Dear unhappy resident, thanks for your concern. I don’t feel at all embarrassed, I just have some questions about the curious recent history of this property and the proposed asking price. I appreciate WSB’s informative responses. However, I still do not see $2 mil as a reasonable price for the historical society to pay for this highly revered historical landmark. Perhaps if the insurance money was applied to restoring the place, as far as that money went, the property would have more value. Maybe even through in the revenue from the sale of the items from within the building.

    Now that you’ve mastered google, please dig further. Tell me more facts regarding who these proposed buyers were.

    Comment by Doug — 6:33 am July 6, 2010 #

  30. We had identified the then-reported prospective buyers here (and at one point in an e-mailed statement that we published in January 2009, Tom Lin had used their names as well). You can find it in the Alki Homestead coverage archive (click Alki Homestead under the headline of this story – or search our site for Alki Homestead buyers); at least one citywide news source picked up the story from WSB as well. However, that was more than a year ago and they are not involved currently that we know of.

    Comment by WSB — 6:42 am July 6, 2010 #

  31. I had read the article which mentioned “we believe “Johnny” is Johnny Zhu”.

    Let’s just hope this beloved historical site, which holds fond memories for so many, can be restored and not end up being turned into condo’s.

    Comment by Doug — 8:57 am July 6, 2010 #

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