West Seattle redevelopment: Century-old house, once proposed for Parks purchase, coming down

Thanks to Bruce for the tip that a 106-year-old North Admiral home is being torn down today. The building at 1521 Sunset Ave. SW was most recently a rental four-plex, according to official records. (To see how it looked pre-demolition – including a stone fireplace inside – check out its webpage on the King County Assessor’s site.) According to the city Department of Planning and Development website, a new single-family home is planned on the site, which was sold in 2011 for just under $1 million. The year before that, as reported here in coverage of the March 2010 Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting, community members had proposed that the city use Parks and Green Spaces Levy money to buy the site and keep it as open space. Preserving the site as an overlook had been discussed for years – it’s in the Admiral Neighborhood Plan. But the application for levy Opportunity Fund money in 2010 received a low rating, and the proposal didn’t make the cut for funding.

67 Replies to "West Seattle redevelopment: Century-old house, once proposed for Parks purchase, coming down"

  • Diane July 22, 2013 (2:10 pm)

    I don’t remember anything about this from the Admiral group
    sure hope they had someone come in from architectural salvage to save all the beautiful wood inside

  • LivesInWS July 22, 2013 (2:19 pm)

    What a shame. Was it not kept in liveable condition? The photos show apparently good materials and workmanship.

    I expect it will be replaced with a box structure slapped together with materials not half as good as materials used when that torn-down house was originally built.

  • wakeflood July 22, 2013 (2:20 pm)

    Hope someone had the opportunity to take out some of that beautiful craftsman detail woodwork before the dozers started??

    You just can’t find wood like that anymore, not to mention the cost to have finish carpentry like that reproduced.

  • Heather July 22, 2013 (2:21 pm)

    Wow. Doesn’t look like ANY materials were pulled out for salvage…what a shame…that was some really usable casework in there.

  • islewrite July 22, 2013 (2:46 pm)

    Here’s something to ponder: The two modern houses, built in the last year just to the left (south) were built by the guy who does the majority of yard infil homes thruout the city. He told the neighbors he was going to build a craftsman when he bought the lot. Instead: Up went the two modern homes. I grew up in this neighborhood and have spent time in this beautiful home that is coming down. Huge river rock fireplace to die for. Beautiful woodwork. Sad sad sad and piggy. I dread to see what happens here.

    • WSB July 22, 2013 (2:56 pm)

      Just one caution, please, dear commenters – I do not have ANY idea if materials were salvaged, so please don’t assume, and comment on the basis of such an assumption, that they weren’t. That sort of information isn’t available in city permits etc., which are all I had to base research on – I hadn’t been tracking this particular site, and the tip that it was being demolished came out of the blue. – TR
      And in fact (adding to the first half of this comment), I finally found the construction company’s name on one of the permits for the project.
      They mention salvage during the demolition phase (see the “Going Green” tab):
      I’m going to try to reach them to ask about this. – TR

  • SUDS July 22, 2013 (2:50 pm)

    I understand that sometimes buildings are just all used up and replacement is the only alternative. And I don’t know (other than the photos on the KC Assesors site) how it was, structurally. But if it was even halfway decent, a little imaginative reconstruction could have gone a long way towards preserving this (former) gem.

  • Yardvark July 22, 2013 (3:00 pm)

    Looks like it was a very beautiful house. This seems so wasteful and unnecessary.

  • marianne July 22, 2013 (3:05 pm)

    How could someone do this? There is NO replacement for that kind of beautiful craftsmanship. New boxes arriving on Sunset way too often.

  • anonyme July 22, 2013 (3:06 pm)

    Clearly the brick isn’t being salvaged, and it’s beautiful old clinker brick. I would have loved to have had those garage doors…

    I remember seeing this house on real estate listings. The interior had incredible Craftsman beams and woodwork.

  • mbanana July 22, 2013 (3:14 pm)

    This makes me so sad. I walk by this house often since I live in the neighborhood and was hoping that since the front door had been replaced with a piece of plywood that meant the new owners were remodeling it. Clearly I was mistaken.

  • funkietoo July 22, 2013 (3:17 pm)

    Thank you WSB. My first thought was also ‘hope they contacted Re-Store’ for salvage opportunities prior to tear down.

    Looking forward to hearing about your conversation with the contractor.

  • Rockford Columbo July 22, 2013 (3:22 pm)

    Out of all the many homes in the Admiral that I was fond of and so wished that I could afford to own, this house, it’s setting and funky yard was towards the top of the list. The stonework visible to the passerby was so charming. I get it that houses have life
    spans…but this really bums me out, Knowing that yet another sterile, unwelcoming, un-cool-box called “modern” will likely replace this old girl makes it even worse.

  • JanS July 22, 2013 (3:28 pm)

    I used to clean house for the people next door to this house. It was lovely. A shame that someone thought it not good enough. I love old houses like this one was.

  • Diane July 22, 2013 (4:08 pm)

    reminds me of the wonderful old home that was demolished to build Admiral Safeway; so so sad

  • Diane July 22, 2013 (4:18 pm)

    and there are 2 excellent architectural salvage companies much closer to WS; Second Use and Earthwise
    right down on 4th Ave S, just north of the bridge http://www.earthwise-salvage.com
    and down on 6th Ave S, blocks north of the bridge http://www.seconduse.com

    • WSB July 22, 2013 (4:30 pm)

      Construction company replied quickly: I am mobile so can’t add immediately to the story:

      The house at 1521 Sunset was being demolished today in preparation for a new home. We had Restore come in before demo and salvage- oak floors, beams, door casing, light fixtures, and some plumbing fixtures. The owner’s also plan on using a few salvaged items in the new home- bear claw tub, mantle, and some sliding doors.  

      Brent Heath
      E and H Construction

  • JO July 22, 2013 (4:37 pm)

    WSB, thanks for the speedy response to the salvage question. I’m glad some of the pieces will have a new life. Do you know how or if they will be recycling the brick? It would be cool if they would allow folks to come take some of them away.

  • NW July 22, 2013 (4:52 pm)

    Important worth mentioning too are plants outside ,especially native plants, which could be destroyed are still salvageable. Now is a great opportunity with demo workers there the next few days to see if any are available somebody please go by and ask them if you go to nurseries and price out a mature native swordfern they can go for $30 to $50. There is still plenty of time to salvage from this lot.

  • Curtis July 22, 2013 (5:33 pm)

    There is simply nothing like the content in the West Seattle Blog. Tracy Rules. You might want to figure out a bit more of a visually flattering format that allows you to sell different levels of advertising because the product/slash service offered here is outstanding. Where else would West Seattle get an answer to such a question?

    • WSB July 22, 2013 (6:13 pm)

      Curtis – We do sell different levels of advertising. Four, in fact. But that aside, thanks for your kind words. Yes, we’ve had this design for way, way, way, way, way too long (8 years in December). But since readership and participation continue to grow and WSB is considered one of the nation’s most successful news services of this type (not a measure of $, though we run in the black, but of a variety of factors), we’ve been very measured about evaluating the right way to evolve. Getting there … TR

  • Heather July 22, 2013 (6:14 pm)

    Thank you for the update on the architectural salvage. Sounds like people will take then brick and garage doors if they’re left. It might very well be a beautifully designed home that replaces this structure…lots of jobs.

  • smokeycretin9 July 22, 2013 (6:40 pm)

    I hope they put up one of those super modern rectangles.

  • nemobeansmom July 22, 2013 (6:43 pm)

    WOW this is just terrible…to think the person/people/family who built this home did it probably all by hand not like today’s standards. Just think how much love went into building that home! :>(

  • Eugene July 22, 2013 (7:39 pm)

    What a beautiful old house! It’s a shame that it got torn down, regardless of what replaces it. But the previous and new owners are free to do as they please.

  • kgdlg July 22, 2013 (7:44 pm)

    I know this is hard to believe, but the home that will replace this one will likely be wayyyyyy more energy and water efficient as well as more structurally sound. Just because something is old doesn’t mean that it was better built. New homes, while many of us may disagree with them aesthetically, are simply built to muh higher standards in every way today (code wise). Now they may not have the same level of mill work and old fashioned touches, but this is part of why people build new.

  • WestSide45 July 22, 2013 (7:47 pm)

    To all those who think it is just terrible to demolish a building (which was not wanted by the new owners) and build something the new property owners are paying for…why didn’t you buy the place yourself and then leave it be? It may seem wasteful and capricious to knock something down which outwardly appears perfectly fine, but, it clearly was not fine by them. The public sometimes gets to impose its will upon private enterprise, but that did not happen here. Let it go.

  • Genessee neighbor July 22, 2013 (8:08 pm)

    So sad to lose another piece of history and I suspect there will be another Sunset Ave. McMansion going up. Too bad but I’m glad they salvaged some of the interior. Can’t find wood like that anymore. Thanks for the report TR.

  • nemobeansmom July 22, 2013 (8:17 pm)

    These “older” homes are what West Seattle was all about. Some of the 1st homesteaders built SEATTLE here in West Seattle and it’s just said to see so many of these homes be demolished and I think that’s what most of us are feeling.???

  • Born Here July 22, 2013 (8:43 pm)

    glad some materials could be salvaged for others. Please join me in welcoming them to the neighborhood. Be grateful they are building a wonderful single family residence.

  • Ferryboat July 22, 2013 (8:45 pm)

    The gasp that just came out of me gave a jump to my husband! I lived in the Mage house for 3 years in the early 2000s before we married. I loved my second story apartment in what had been the master bedroom. The apartment was on the left side of the photo with the deck over the sunroom. My sitting room had once been an open sleeping porch on the water side, I had a lovely fireplace, and two stained glass windows. I’m disheartened that the house was not saved. I had always held out hope.
    Mr. Mage lived in the house into his 90’s. I had been told that Mr. Mage’s father had built the house, and others in the Admiral area (white house one door to the north). His parents divorced and during the depression the house became a boarding house. Many people over the years lived in the wonderful craftsman home with lovely woodwork and such charm. It was the perfect apartment for a young college grad.

    Inside the front door was a wonderful sliding door that opened into the main livingroom of the house with a large river rock fireplace. I never saw all the apartments, but the studio on the third floor was very charming as well. An English gentleman named Peter lived in the basement apartment for over 30 years, I believe. He was a teacher at Sealth in the 70s (with my mom) and then went on to teach in the community college system.
    I enjoyed my time in the home and my husband and I were both sad to loose the wonderful view in 2004. I’m happy to know that the woodwork, floors, etc. were salvaged. RIP Mage house.
    TR–maybe you can get the KC Parcel photo from the 50s or 60s. I know I have one, but I’m not sure where it is right now.

  • Chris W July 22, 2013 (9:09 pm)

    Thanks for sharing part of this home’s history, Ferry.

  • Diane July 22, 2013 (9:24 pm)

    @Ferryboat; thanks for sharing the wonderful history of this house

  • miws July 22, 2013 (10:20 pm)

    Thanks for sharing your memories, Ferryboat.


    I’d bet that the English Gentleman Peter, that taught at Sealth, was Mr. (Peter) Whelan.



  • wsn00b July 22, 2013 (11:29 pm)

    > “These “older” homes are what West Seattle was all about”


    50-100 years from now, these new homes (modern matchboxes or otherwise) will be what West Seattle will be about and even then these will be getting replaced by newer structures. West Seattle is not about the house structures as much as they will be about the people and what the people do.

    Respect the past but don’t always stay stuck in the material aspects of it. Anticipate the ever changing future – which is more about people enjoying safely(in better/safer houses) and contributing to the West Seattle community.

    The new houses will have as much of a chance as establishing their own history as the old houses did in the same way that kids have an opportunity to improve upon their parents’ history.

    Millwork, old wood, etc are not that important in the bigger picture.

    Rest In Pieces old house.

  • Hank July 22, 2013 (11:54 pm)

    These old homes are a dime a dozen in seattle. I’ll take one of the modern cement boxes over one of these homes. If he had any sense he wod build 4-8 town homes. It’s a shame it looks like the owner will continue to waste that piece of land

    • WSB July 23, 2013 (12:37 am)

      Hank, if you are serious – Can’t build townhomes there; it’s single-family zoning.

  • TypoWS July 23, 2013 (12:22 am)


    Typo in your name?

  • cj July 23, 2013 (12:51 am)

    When I first moved here there were all these beautiful brick old style homes all up and down my end of Cali and now they are gone. I do not think these old style homes are a dime a dozen and I doubt if any new buildings will have the same materials. I guess if someone wants it gone then its junk to them no matter what you say. I try to imagine what this place will look like in 30 years with relics of shoe box multi housing made with cheaper materials that likely wont last near as long.

  • TypoWS July 23, 2013 (1:29 am)

    @cj Well said.
    @hank – ha ha
    @wsn00b – Are you well traveled? How did you do in history?

  • Alkene July 23, 2013 (4:56 am)

    Emblematic of West Seattle.

  • Driez206 July 23, 2013 (6:50 am)

    it sucks that an old home goes down, but at least it’s going to be 1 single family home. They are not splitting the lot into three and cramming three huge houses 4 inches away from each other. Thank goodness for the small favors.

  • save-a-ratathon July 23, 2013 (7:56 am)

    Really? I’m surprised to see this “news” on the WS Blog. To put the home owners and contractor on the defensive is really not fair.
    For those of you who are looking to salvage things….well, after truck loads of salvage items were removed from the house – there is something left: Rats. Lots of displaced rats now need a new turf. Please come and save the rats!

    • WSB July 23, 2013 (8:36 am)

      Save-a-Rat: We’ve been reporting on redevelopment big and small for six years. Wouldn’t be news for a regional news organization but for a community news publication serving a peninsula in the throes of change, yes, it’s news. Especially, in this case, given the home’s history, in a multitude of ways, and I know that noting the Parks and Green Spaces Levy proposal and the mention in the decade-plus-old neighborhood plan are only scratching the surface of its history … I wish I had enough of a grounding in local history to know more about its original owners/builders/residents, the Mage family – not much online, though I have contacted the Southwest Seattle Historical Society in hopes of finding out more. – TR

  • Cowpie July 23, 2013 (8:03 am)


    Are you sure about that? Developers are known to say what the neighbors want to hear and then do the opposite. For a developer it’s all about the money. They can care less about the neighborhood impact. I’m sorry to say that, but after 26 years as a site civil engineer it’s what I experience…..sad!

  • rrevvbbevv July 23, 2013 (8:34 am)

    A couple questions that maybe this wonderful knowledge base can address. The builder of this home 106 years ago also built two others on Sunset, a couple on Palm, one on Prince, one on California Ave, and maybe a couple on Cap Hill (and likely others I don’t know about). The bricks are distinctive, as well as the adorned Craftsman style.

    1. Anybody know the name of the original builder?
    2. I’ve heard those bricks were bricks reclaimed after the Great Seattle Fire. Anyone know about this?

    The photos from the link show this to be a sound, solid structure. Its demolition is a shame. As for why I didn’t buy the place when it was on the market, I cite the example of British teacher Peter, who rented: I’m a teacher, too. Not in my price range . . .

  • james July 23, 2013 (10:02 am)

    Where’s the anti-density crowd and why are you not rejoicing that a multi-unit dwellling is turning into a single family residence. :)

  • Gina July 23, 2013 (10:26 am)

    From the Historical Seattle Times database, accessed through spl.org website:

    The Seattle Times, 04/21/1941, page 21.

    Mrs. J.B. Mage

    Mrs. Bernice I. Mage, 66 years old, sister of State Treasurer Otto A.Case and pioneer resident of Seattle and Eastern Washington, died yesterday in the Maynard Hospital after a long illness.
    Mrs. Mage was born in Chatfield, Minnesota. She came to this state in 1882 and settled in Eastern Washington. She moved to Seattle with her family in 1888 and was here during the Seattle fire.

    Surviving also is her husband, J.B. Mage.

    Funeral services were set for this afternoon in the Arthur A. Wright and son chapel under the direction of Daniels and Brinton. Cremation followed.

  • Gina July 23, 2013 (10:41 am)

    Seattle Times, 08/23/1913 page 8.

    After lying three years at Port Hadlock, the well known schooner J.M. Weatherwax has come to Seattle to be converted into a power schooner for use as a halibut fishing vessel.

    The Weatherwax is now moored in the stream and shows no signs of the severe buffeting she received when she became waterlogged three years ago in putting to sea from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On that occasion the schooner had to be taken back to Hadlock. There a survey revealed that her hull was in good condition. After lying at Port Hadlock for several months she was put on the beach and copper painted. Recently the Weatherwax was purchased by J.B. Mage of 1515 Sunset Avenue, West Seattle, from S.B. Peterson and Co. of San Francisco, her managing owners. The price paid is said to have been approximately $3,000. The Weatherwax will be practically rebuilt in Seattle and a high powered engine installed.

    • WSB July 23, 2013 (10:47 am)

      Thanks, Gina! I will have to investigate that archive and add to the WSB bucket o’research spots. All I came up with yesterday – and I didn’t use it because I didn’t have much context for who Carroll Mage was, though now I’d imagine a child of the people you’re pulling up stuff about (again, I apologize, I have only 22 years of WS residence and I negligently didn’t pay a whole ton of attention to history until WSB) – was a collection of HistoryLink.org snippets mentioning Carroll Mage reminiscing. This one speaks to the home-building on Sunset: http://www.historylink.org/_content/education/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=3500

  • Kayleigh July 23, 2013 (10:42 am)

    Absolutely stunning interior woodwork! Very sorry to see this home go. The newer homes have virtually none of that charm. You either appreciate things that are old and have history and uniqueness and a sense of time and place—or you don’t, I guess.

  • Admiral resident July 23, 2013 (11:29 am)

    Frances Farmer lived in an apartment here as a teenager according to her sister’s biography “Look back in love”. This was before they bought the house on 47th.

  • miws July 23, 2013 (11:50 am)

    The price paid is said to have been approximately $3,000.


    in 1913
    Has the same buying power as:
    in 2013.




  • Heather July 23, 2013 (12:28 pm)

    Really interesting to hear about the history from different angles – thanks to all who posted.

  • datamuse July 23, 2013 (12:43 pm)

    I love old houses–spent most of last week in one, in fact, back in coastal Maine. I loved it even though the plumbing is antiquated and often inadequate, the wiring is dicey enough that plugging in a fan could blow a circuit, the ventilation was insufficient for a mid-July heat wave that kept temperatures in the 90s for the entire week, and the house is a historic site so retrofitting to install A/C and Internet is impossible.
    My point here is that old houses take a lot of work, even when they’re well built from quality materials, as this one was. They aren’t self-maintaining entities, and it’s reasonable if you’re the property owner to ask if that’s something you’re up for.
    And I love brick houses too–grew up in one in fact–but they have an unfortunate tendency to shatter during earthquakes, such as the Big One we’re due for any day now.

  • sc July 23, 2013 (12:56 pm)

    In the obituary for Bernice I. Mage her husband is listed as J.B. Mage. I found a Junius Brutus Mage who graduated from Knox College, Illinois, class of 1890! In the alumni book he is listed as living at 4203 West Hill Street, Seattle, WA.

  • Gina July 23, 2013 (3:06 pm)

    The obituary for Mrs. Mage’s mother (Mrs. Case) gave her last residence as the Mage Apartments at 42nd and Hill. J.B. Mage may have had a Masonic connection, one of the classifieds that I saw was advertising for help in apartment in Zenith for Mr. Mage and wife. (Zenith, a neighborhood of Des Moines had the Masonic Home.)

    Streets that ran East to West in West Seattle had W for directionals once upon a time. As did all the streets in Magnolia. Made for much merry confusion.

  • Nathan July 23, 2013 (3:18 pm)

    I’m pretty sure Frances Farmer lived at the Mage Apartments at 42nd and Hill, and not on Sunset.

  • Gina July 23, 2013 (4:59 pm)

    1940 Seattle City Directory lists Mage Apartments, Aug Anderson caretaker, 1512 Sunset Ave.

    Also Max W. Mage, married to Adele C., opr. PSP&L Co, 2437 55th Ave SW.

    Max Mage was a graduate of West Seattle High School, class of 1925.
    Both addresses listed as Mage Apartments in 1923 Seattle City Directory.

  • Ferryboat July 24, 2013 (5:54 pm)

    Both of Carroll Mage’s children lived in WS when I lived in the house. One about 2 blocks away from his father. I was told that Mr. Mage was a meteorologist. It’s exciting to see that so many people are interested in digging up more history on the Mage family and their part of WS history. It would be great if one of the Mage children would contact WSB for more information.

  • Rockford Columbo July 24, 2013 (8:15 pm)

    @kgdlg — 7:44 pm July 22, 2013 –
    While the replacement house may be structurally superior, to say that it will be waaayyyy more efficient in terms of energy and water useage is premature. The new house will surely be huge in terms of square footage needing to be heated, and likely cooled as well. There will also likely be lots of bathrooms, with big soaking tubs and dual head showers so water usage will probably not go down much. But the big bugaboo in the tear-it-down and rebuild with energy efficient and modern code compliant construction practice is that it does nothing to take into account the embodied energy that was in the framing materials that came from ancient, old growth Douglas Fir trees that were cut down to build it, and all the various other elements that took a lot energy to produce back in 1907. Having what will very likely be two adults and a designer dog or two living in a building that will probably be twice as big as the one that was just demolished and housed a number of people in energy saving shared wall situation does nothing for what gets passed off as ‘sustainability’ these days. It is another example of greenwashing.

  • Tom Mage July 25, 2013 (9:49 pm)

    Dear Folks,

    The home under discussion belonged to my family for all but the last 2 years of its existence. My grandfather built it at the turn of the century, with much input on design from his first wife and my grandmother, Amy Laura Mage. They later bought 4-5 adjacent lots to the south so that their four sons (Jack, Max, Carroll, and Tom–now all deceased) would have a larger yard for sports and games.

    Mage family lore has it that my grandfather, Junius Brutus Mage, graduated at the head of his law class (Knox College in Illinois) and the talent–had he pursued it–to become a concert pianist. He practiced law for a year and decided that was not for him. So, he moved to Seattle from Havana, Illinois, became a carpenter and began building houses in West Seattle.

    My parents, Betty and Carroll lived on the main floor for many years while renting three upper floor apartments as well as a basement apartment. The family home was converted to apts during the depression as people needed inexpensive housing and the family the added income. Even up to the the present day, the apts were bargain rentals.

    I’ve very much enjoyed reading the comments and expressions of interest that people have posted about the Mage home. I’m pleased to know that she was appreciated by so many others.

    I would be happy to answer, if I’m able, any follow-up questions you might have. I’d also be glad to talk with the WS Blog person as one commenter suggested.

    Sincerely, Tom Mage

    • WSB July 25, 2013 (9:57 pm)

      Thanks, Mr. Mage! I will e-mail you. – Tracy (WSB editor/co-publisher)

  • Michael Mage July 25, 2013 (11:12 pm)

    Thanks all for sharing your comments. For those of you who are interested, here’s a photo of the original Mage home (link here: http://tinyurl.com/1521mage). Unfortunately, the photo is undated. However, J.B. Mage and Amy Laura Mage can be seen on the front porch (before it was modified). Two unidentified children are also in the foreground. While they could be two of the four Mage sons (most likely Jack and Max), they could easily be neighborhood kids as well. Best, MM

  • LivesInWS July 26, 2013 (10:47 am)

    Michael Mage — thanks for sharing that lovely photo!

  • WShistorian July 27, 2013 (12:57 pm)

    Thank you for your enlightening posts, Tom and Michael. I was wondering if there were any family stories about renting to the Farmer family? (As in Frances.) When people say that they lived in the “Mage Apartments,” do they mean on Hill Street or Sunset?
    Thanks a bunch.

  • sunsetgirl July 27, 2013 (2:49 pm)

    I grew up across the street. Live close by. I know the builder very well, he has done several projects for us and they are not only excellent, high quality builders, but they are GOOD people who I hope the community will support. The cost to upgrade and reinforce the house for earthquake and to meet current codes was likely not feasible. The sad truth is it is often more economical to start over, and with any project that involves significant costs you have to think about the proper foundations to ensure slope and earthquake risks are addressed. Its easy for some to throw out comments that imply no one cares about the old homes, but there are many factors to consider.

Sorry, comment time is over.

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