(Supporters of landmark status pose in front of the Campbell Building during a “We Love The Junction” event in February)
By Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
The Campbell Building on the northeast corner of California and Alaska in the heart of The Junction is now an official city landmark, after a unanimous vote during Wednesday’s Landmarks Preservation Board meeting at Seattle City Hall.
After the board voted in February to nominate the historic building – which currently houses Cupcake Royale and three other storefronts facing SW Alaska Street, along with residential and office space upstairs – for landmark status, this was the last step toward protection for the century-old building.
Although the board agreed the building is associated in a significant way with the cultural and economic heritage of West Seattle, it did not agree to designate its interior for landmark protection – just the outside of the building.
Sarah Martin, the consultant hired by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society to work on the proposal for protection, called the Campbell Building distinctly characteristic of its time. Martin explained that construction took place in 1911 and 1920, so the Campbell Building was built in two phases.
Although connected at the east end of the lot line, the building to its north, the Arcade Market, is not included in the landmark designation. That said, what is unusual is that the Arcade Market is accessible from inside the Campbell Building on the second floor; there are no exterior walls between them on the eastern end. Representatives of the Calvo family, the Campbell Building’s owners, brought this information to light. Additionally, a narrow hallway off the main entrance on the Alaska Street side of the Campbell Building has been altered; it used to be a much wider hall with a lobby, accessed through double outside doors that are long gone, replaced by a single door.
For those reasons, the owners did not support designation of the interior of the building since it has been altered. The family had no objection to the exterior being landmarked. “The style hasn’t been established – the interior doesn’t embody characteristics of the 1920s,” said Jesse Clausen on behalf of the Calvo family. She suggested that the Arcade Market building should have been nominated with the Campbell building due their unique status of connecting.
Leading the show of support from West Seattleites was Peder Nelson, vice president of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society board and co-chair of the “We Love the Junction” campaign, spoke on behalf of “hundreds of people in West Seattle who support the designation of the Campbell Building as a city landmark.”
There was some head-scratching by the Landmark Board’s members as to the contributions of W.T. Campbell himself, the building’s namesake, a teacher and principal turned real estate developer who served on the Seattle City Council from 1924-1928. There was some question as to his significance in Seattle history; Brad Chrisman of the “We Love the Junction” task force said W.T. Campbell was the “Mr. West Seattle of his day.” He said Campbell played a prominent role as a member of the City Council in pushing for better transit, streets, and bridges to connect Seattle with once-independent West Seattle. Some members of the Landmark Board still were skeptical of his significance, but that didn’t affect their unanimous decision to landmark the building. Campbell lost the building to the bank in 1934 because of financial trouble during the Great Depression.
Another member of the “We Love the Junction” task force echoed what several others said, thanking the Calvo family, who has owned the building since 1943, for taking such good care of it: “It is striking how the photos of the building from a century ago are so similar to those from the present day.”
Marcy Johnsen, former SWSHS board president, also praised the owners for their care of the building. Like many others, she referred to The Junction as the jewel of West Seattle.
Last month the Hamm Building, home to businesses including Easy Street Records and Virago Gallery, was granted landmark status, so The Junction now has two landmarks, across the street from each other. The board will now work with both owners on plans called “controls and incentives” regarding specifics of the buildings’ protected features and how to deal with them in the future.
To see a map showing all Seattle landmarks (not yet updated with the Campbell and Hamm Buildings), go here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: In addition to reporting on a freelance basis for WSB, Linda Ball is a volunteer with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.)