WEST SEATTLE REAL ESTATE: Why Falconridge Farm is for sale

Story and photos by Linda Ball
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

You might not be aware of, or know where – or what – Falconridge Farm is.

An oasis in the midst of an ever-growing city, the equestrian property on 4.2 acres in the Highland Park area is on the market for the first time in decades, asking price $7,600,000. After hearing about the listing from a reader, we set out to find out why it’s up for sale.

The owners, Dr. Jean Nokes and her husband Milt Ghivizzani, have lovingly tended to the property for decades. The property is for sale because Dr. Nokes is no longer riding. But especially for her, their history with this property is rich with memories; she gave us a tour.

Nokes’ childhood home is set on a hill that overlooks Falconridge Farm. She comes from a long line of people working with horses. Her grandfather Nokes was an accomplished horseman from logging in the woods, eventually becoming a chauffeur in the horse and buggy days. He bought “high steppers,” or trotters for his employer and her grandfather Elfrink raised race horses. Her father was the eldest of 10 children, but out of this huge family, Jean was the only one to get the “horse bug.”

Jean had another bug though, which was to study medicine and become a physician.

“It was difficult for her; they would close classes so women couldn’t take them.” said Boni Buscemi, the Realtor with Realogics Sotheby’s Realty, who is the listing agent for Falconridge Farm. Jean chose Boni to represent the property because she has an equestrian background.

Jean put herself through medical school teaching classical piano. One of her students, a 14-year-old girl, had lupus, which led to kidney failure. “There was nobody doing dialysis,” Jean said. “They were doing experimental dialysis in the Swedish Hospital basement but it was cost prohibitive.” The girl, Caroline, became the test patient for in-home dialysis. Jean would go to her home to teach her piano, but she was inspired to choose nephrology as her specialty. Eventually, Group Health hired her, and she developed its kidney and transplant program.

With school behind her, she was able to come back to her love of horses. She began cobbling the farm together in 1969, buying one city lot at a time. When she had eight lots, she built the barn. Then she kept on adding to the farm until she had over four acres. “There was nothing here – no Kenyon Street, no roads,” she said.

When first opened, she called the facility Noel Arabians and raised 56 Arabian horses. She bought her own first horse, after she finished med school. The family home was sold to one of the people who boarded their horse with her, who subsequently sold it to another mutual horse friend. In 1976, Jean married her first husband, but sadly, within three years he died. She threw herself into her career, and leased the farm out for eight years.

She came back to it only to find it overrun with weeds and trash. The bill for the dump was almost $10,000. Her current husband Milt, to whom she has been happily wed for 32 years, offered to rebuild the farm, which was a laborious task. Jean said he dug every posthole by hand – not at all insignificant considering the volume of fencing at the facility.

She had a covered riding arena built in the late ’70s, which was damaged in her absence, but it’s all up to speed now, and one of the most impressive indoor arenas anywhere, with mirrors stretching along one wall to reflect the beautiful view of the Cascades. In their heyday, the grounds looked like a cross between a golf course and Butchart Gardens, Jean said.

The gardens are a bit overgrown now, which breaks her heart, but Jean’s horse, Cielo, a mare she’s had for 20 years, and one other horse, are still there and Jean is still teaching students dressage riding, which she calls “equine ballet.” She had about 12 horses boarding at Falconridge as of last December, but they’ve moved out due to the plan to sell the property.

It’s home to other animals: Luna, Dr. Nokes’s very old, three-legged cat also lives there. Luna gained fame for riding the horses for up to 16 hours a day and was featured on the International Discovery Channel. Milton had a pet rooster named Othello, who would sit in the arena on a fence where he could see himself in the mirror.

Othello is gone now, but is buried on the edge of the arena, with a plaque in remembrance.

Jean is hoping the property will appeal to someone in the equestrian world. “This would be a beautiful estate,” she said.

Indeed, there is plenty of room to build a home and keep the arena, barn, tack room, and other facilities. But there’s also a chance it could become a housing development – developers have been looking at it, though after all of the love, work and memories made at Falconridge, Dr. Nokes says she is not going to jump at the first offer. She was deeply touched when a group of about 25 neighbors got together recently to discuss forming a non-profit, perhaps a horse rescue, that would somehow let it live on. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

59 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE REAL ESTATE: Why Falconridge Farm is for sale"

  • Don September 8, 2017 (2:00 pm)

    Hi Doctor Jean, Loved reading your fabulous history…..sad you’ve got to leave it behind….but it will always be living and lodged in your memory banks…and now, this story has left a little bit for the rest of WS to remember. Love, Cousin Don

  • Scott A September 8, 2017 (2:35 pm)

    Thanks for the reporting.  It’s a great story to learn about this place.

    Adding up all of the square footage of the 19 parcels does add up to the 181,319 sf that the listing mentions.  If lot boundary adjustments were done to create 7,200 sf lots there would be 25 of them (assuming no steep slopes or other limitations preclude certain areas from development).  At $7.6 million that’s $304,000 per lot.

    Assuming the 6th Ave SW right-of-way is still a public space I assume a developer would have to be build a public street there if the properties were to be developed as housing or at least allow public access to the right-of-way.  Looks like there’s a slope at 6th and Elmgrove that might make a street impractical but at least pedestrian access.

  • Swede. September 8, 2017 (2:59 pm)

    That’s a really great history. Sad they have to sell. Even more sad the realtors listed it saying ‘build a whole community’ instead of trying to save it as-is. 

    • Scott September 8, 2017 (3:21 pm)

      I agree, very sick and sad that they listed it that way. 

  • ensign marvin September 8, 2017 (3:14 pm)

    Just looked at the listing, sad the 1st words are ‘attention developers’. Great story. Nice to see a hidden jewel, that’s been so lovingly kept. Here’s hoping the buyers are able to keep it so. 

  • West Seattle Dad September 8, 2017 (3:32 pm)

    This is an amazing story.   With the current housing shortage a new development would be welcome.    With the money from the sale a much larger plot of land could be acquired for horses in the country.  The land in the city is needed for people.

    • Ann September 8, 2017 (7:39 pm)

      I disagree.  The green spaces are valuable and people need them.  West Seattle is over built and becoming more so everyday.  Perhaps, you are a developer.

    • John September 15, 2017 (2:46 pm)

      In reply to West Seattle Dad. I believe West Seattle has too many condos, and people there already. Overcrowded.

  • HP Neighbor September 8, 2017 (3:45 pm)

    We have loved walking by the farm and watching the horses over the last 10 years. Its such a great green space mixed in with housing. Hopeful that developers don’t buy it. 

    Good Luck Jean and Family and thank you for sharing your farm with the neighbors. 

  • Kelly September 8, 2017 (3:51 pm)

    I live less than a block away and would be very interested in joining with the other neighbors.  It will be really sad if this property, with all of its wonderful history, is developed.  

  • Admiral Mom September 8, 2017 (4:16 pm)

    I wish I had known about this gem! After moving to West Seattle last year, we have fallen in love with this bustling but still quant neighborhood. The only thing we really missed was the ability to ride horses close by. I know there is a housing shortage, but a stable like this would be amazing for our area. I know tons of children and adults who would love to take riding lessons without have to leave the city. I hope it stays true to its beautiful history.

    • Lisa Sferra September 9, 2017 (8:46 pm)

      We have a farm in Rainier Beach and offer lessons and leases in a small program. http://Www.SeattleFarm.com

      • WSB September 9, 2017 (8:53 pm)

        Hi – I tested the URL as we always do if people put URLs in comments – and seattlefarm (dot) com goes to a parking page – Looks like your actual website is http://seattlefarmllc.com ? – TR (editor)

  • Laine Brown September 8, 2017 (5:04 pm)

    I was blessed to be the farm manager of this beautiful facility from 2013-2015. Dr. Jean taught me so much in that time as did the horses and their owners. I’m saddened to see it empty and for sale now but I’m hoping a horse person will snatch it up and keep it going. Thank you Dr. Jean for hiring me that day and letting me be a part of the farm, it sincerely made me a better person.

    • JESSICA GASPERINI September 12, 2017 (2:30 pm)

      Hi there.  Do you have contact info for Dr. Nokes?  I am interested in buying the farm (and keeping it as such) but prefer to contact her directly?

      • Trileigh September 12, 2017 (6:56 pm)

        Go Jessica! I’m sure many of us would be thrilled for you to do that.

        • Abby September 22, 2017 (12:40 pm)

          So agree!! Would be wonderful if it could be saved

      • Shari S September 14, 2017 (1:24 pm)

        This property is such a gem! If there’s enough interest in saving the farm, I’d be willing to help to create some kind of non-profit and do fundraising, as long as we have a hand full of folks willing to volunteer their time to make this happen. It’s a crazy idea…but I’m game if others are willing to help.  Let’s save the farm!

        • Julie M September 15, 2017 (6:13 pm)

          I’m in!  I have a horse background and would love to help out! 

      • Bill Kaufman September 16, 2017 (10:49 pm)

        Susan Callahan could put you in touch: 206-355-1229

      • Julia September 19, 2017 (8:08 am)

        Hi Jessica, Our organization (a fledgling therapeutic riding center) is in touch with Dr. Jean and we are also interested in using the property for our program but are would need of raising the money through our non-profit. If you are interested in talking more with me please call me 206-353-9278.  – Julia Montagnet

  • Kathleen September 8, 2017 (5:04 pm)

    Just when I think I know everything about the history of West Seattle a story like this comes along! I wish I had known about this hidden gem years ago. Thank you for reporting on this!

  • Kayk September 8, 2017 (6:31 pm)

    This place has been so special to have in the neighborhood I hope it can be spared from development.

  • claire nolan September 8, 2017 (7:43 pm)

    Oh how i wish it could stay the way it is. Im so glad you followed your dreams. You are an inspiration to all.

  • Marianne September 8, 2017 (9:08 pm)

    We live extremely close and would be willing to join the rest of the neighbors to preserve it! 

    • Julia September 19, 2017 (8:09 am)

      Hi Marianne, Our organization (a fledgling therapeutic riding center) is in touch with Dr. Jean and we are also interested in using the property for our program but would need to raise the money through our non-profit. If you are interested in talking more with me please call me 206-353-9278.  – Julia Montagnet

  • Mark September 8, 2017 (10:40 pm)

    Wow I lived a stones throw from the site for 20 years and was not fully aware of the site.  I saw horses once in awhile.  

    Creating/saving it as say an Urban Working Farm of some manner would be nice.  

  • Trina September 9, 2017 (6:44 am)

    I do hope the nonprofit comes through.  It would be sad to see this go to developers. 

  • anne September 9, 2017 (6:59 am)

    I have fond memories visiting this place with Klaus a few times in the 80’s….a magical place. Cheers to you Dr. Nokes!

  • Angela September 9, 2017 (8:15 am)

    We have a riding facility for the handicap and autism/special needs here in Portland that is very successful.  It is run by volunteers and sponsored by the public.  Nike, Intel….  The name of the stable is Forward Stride.  It been running strong for years!!  They have over a thousand volunteers. It is a great opportunity for youths (13 and up).  Because of the urban location of this property it has the potential for such a successful program.    

    • Julia September 19, 2017 (8:11 am)

      I’m actually trying to do just that with our therapeutic riding program.  It’s a tight timeline but if I can get some sponsorship I think we can do it.  Dr. Jean is fully supportive of the idea but of course we will need to come up with the funds to buy the property to actually do it.  I was thinking that the location right in the city would really benefit a lot of families because we do have a wonderful therapeutic riding place in a neighboring suburb but it’s heavy traffic to get to it and unfortunately the need is so great they have a pretty long waiting list.

  • Jen September 9, 2017 (11:40 am)

    Our family lives close by and would be interested in participating in a non-profit to help save this amazing place! Is there an organized effort? Does anyone have any information about it? I would hate to see developers come in a destroy it.

    • Schanon September 9, 2017 (1:07 pm)

      Contrary to your belief 7 million does not buy much in the area for horse properties.  Having a gem like this in the city is such a rare and wonderful thing.  We need more fresh air and connection to other living creatures.  You can always find a place to live, but you can so rarely find a diamond in the rough. 

    • Mercede's mom September 11, 2017 (5:20 pm)

      I am the owner of the other horse currently on the property (her name is Mercedes), I work in Housing so I can speak for both sides. I really hope folks can get together to preserve this place as is. It is a sanctuary in the mist of a growing city.  Housing is important, but so is green space and balance. My horse has been my balance to a stressful busy life and has been my best friend during the hardest times of my life. Before moving to Falcon Ridge I had to travel hours round trip to see her. Thank you Dr. Nokes for giving me the ability to have my horse close to home.  I also live in West Seattle.  Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in preserving Falcon Ridge. 

      • Jessica Gasperini September 12, 2017 (1:19 pm)

        I had NO idea this was even there.  I live nearby in South Park and grew up riding horses that we boarded at a very similar type of farm.  I’m sure this is nuts on my part but it would be a dream of mine to have this kind of property in the city.  If there are people who are serious about either joint ownership or setting up some kind of non-profit, please contact me.  I am NOT a developer, just a person with a fair amount of equity in a house I’m willing to sell. :)

      • Julia September 19, 2017 (8:13 am)

        I’ve been talking to Dr Jean about the possibility of this being the site for the therapeutic riding center we are starting.  It would be a perfect location right in the city.  If you want to talk more please give me a call – 206-353-9278 – Julia Montagnet

  • Janet September 9, 2017 (1:57 pm)

    I worked there for about 2  1/2 years in the late 70’s. I sure looks a lot nicer now than when I was there. We had more horses( 35 when I first got there) than we had stalls so there was a constant horse shuffle going on.  Also with a general mix of  males and females there was not a gelding( neutered male horse) in the bunch. THAT made for an interesting day for sure!!!

    I started a dozen or more of the youngsters. Crazy Arabs they say..There was only one crazy one in the bunch and I believe it was testosterone poisoning that caused it!

  • Julia T September 9, 2017 (2:19 pm)

    Like Laine above, I was blessed to meet Dr. Jean years ago and became another very fortunate member of her barn family. I cherished every moment spent with the horses and in that magical hidden sanctuary–a step back in time. Once a protected place like this is gone, it is lost forever to people, to wildlife–a loss beyond measure as it is truly a jewel. I had always imagined it as a perfect therapeutic riding facility in the future , a city park, or an educational working farm.

  • Emperor Watcher September 9, 2017 (2:41 pm)

    Little Bits is another organization centered around riding for handicapped kids. Hopefully they have seen it, or been contacted.

    • Julia September 17, 2017 (8:54 pm)

      We’re starting a non-profit therapeutic riding center on Vashon Island and believe me we have thought about trying to figure out how to raise enough to buy this property..  Though I think it would be hard to come up with that much that quickly for a fledgling non-profit.  Little Bits is actually very rooted in their current facility in Redmond and I don’t think is planning to move. They have a wonderful program out there though.  Would be great to see someone turn that into a therapeutic riding facility so easily accessible to residents in this area.

  • Brenda walden September 9, 2017 (5:58 pm)

    Wish I could buy this!  I live in West Seattle and own a horse and have over 20 years of horse experience. This is my dream place to own and run a facility.  

    • Jessica Gasperini September 12, 2017 (1:20 pm)

      I think there may be a few of us who feel this way.  Any interest in getting together and seeing what we might be able to do as a group?

  • Jana Wiley September 9, 2017 (6:40 pm)

    It was my fortune to have ridden there a few times. Dr. Nokes was a lovely host for a great clinician, who was teaching. It would be fitting to have it remain horse property, as it is set up for that, but sadly I know all too well that things do not often stay the same.

  • Tracie Salvadore Montgomery September 9, 2017 (7:35 pm)

    I bought my first house in West Seattle in the 90’s so I could board my horse at this oasis. Dr. Jean and Milt are wonderful people and I think of them often. I am so glad to hear they are alive and well and so is Cielo! Best of luck, Dr. Jean. I know in your heart you would love it if another equestrian could buy your farm and continue the magic!

  • Scott A September 9, 2017 (8:40 pm)

    For anyone who might be interested in pursuing the agricultural “current use” designation to receive significant property tax discount check out this site that provides a map to all of the properties receiving this discount (shown as tan parcels) as well as “open space” discounts (shown as purple parcels).  There are very few properties in Seattle that receive this discount so I hope people who are stewards of private open space or agricultural land in the city take advantage of the discounts.  

    http://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/stewardship/sustainable-building/resource-protection-incentives/incentive-program-map-viewer.aspx

    I added up the 2017 property taxes paid on all 19 parcels: $1,662 and the reduced taxable value of all the lots is $174,973.  All data is from Parcel Viewer: http://gismaps.kingcounty.gov/parcelviewer2/

  • Lisa Sferra September 9, 2017 (8:41 pm)

    Wonderful piece. Thank you

  • Dana September 9, 2017 (10:35 pm)

    My home’s backyard abuts the horse pasture (I live on 5th Ave. SW). I had no idea until this article that she is selling. I LOVE hearing the horses kicking their stalls at night and, when he was there, Othello crowing in the morning. I worked from home and my office looked out on the horses, so I could see one getting frisky now and then.

  • Heather Williams September 11, 2017 (5:08 pm)

    I was fortunate enough to have boarded here and learned so much from Dr. Jean – lessons I still use today!  To cram a bunch of houses here would be a shame and a disrespect to the soil and folks around it.  There is no room for more humans there in my opinion.  It will make the neighborhood more crowded than it is.  It was hard enough getting in and out with no more houses as it was.   I will always cherish my days there.  The place has a special magic to it.

  • Dog park advocate September 11, 2017 (7:11 pm)

    Sounds like a good place for a new off-leash dog park (public or private)!

    • JanS September 11, 2017 (8:11 pm)

      absolutely not.This farm needs to be preserved. It is unique to West Seattle. There are other places to allow dogs to go play off leash. The public would ruin this wonderful property.

  • Jackie September 12, 2017 (10:30 am)

    So sad to see this up for sale. I loved seeing the horses ride through our neighborhood.  If houses do end up being built on the property, traffic would be horrible getting through Kenyon St especially during a snowstorm when folks without 4WD can’t drive up and leave their cars stranded. I hope a nonprofit does come through as well.

    Wishing you all the best Dr. Nokes and family.

  • Doug Howes September 12, 2017 (9:03 pm)

    Great to hear you and Milt are still enjoying everything.  Remodeled your house years ago and visited the horse farm.  Remember the dancing horses, you playing the piano and just good ok Milt thanks.

  • Peggie and Steve Hunnicutt September 13, 2017 (3:08 pm)

    PEGGIE (NOKES) HUNNICUTT

    Brother Don brought this article to our attention.  “To everything there is a season.”  Sounds as if you created great memories at Falconridge.  Our daughter Candace broke and trained her own Appaloosa mare and won several awards for Western Equitation and just loves all animals in spite of allergies.  So, it may run in the family?  Sending a big hug and BEST Wishes that your property finds an owner wonder filled  and deserving enough. 

  • closterhouse September 14, 2017 (1:21 pm)

    as a neighbor I had hoped the farm would stay intact.  I can only imagine how many more cars and traffic will be racing around our streets if it is converted to a housing area.  it was one of the reasons we live in that area.  sadly the writing is on the wall for this peaceful oasis in a very crowded hectic city. 

  • Andy September 14, 2017 (5:34 pm)

    Little more than a year ago my 4 acre farm in the Bridle Trails area bowed to the pressures of development when the adjacent properties were packaged for housing.

    The horse community fought bravely to prevent the necessary up-zoning required but, alas, no one came forward with funds equal to the value of land within 5 minutes of Bellevue and 15 minutes from Seattle.

     The sad reality is financial in more ways.  Given suburban real estate taxes, city codes and other delights, maintaining a horse facility is labor and materiel intensive.  Without economies of scale, a small farm cannot sustain itself without seeing red.  Finding a buyer willing and able to assume such a facility takes on a non-profit charity without tax free status.  I have 29 years of balance sheets to prove it!  Mine was a labor of love and its passing still grieves me.

  • pagefive September 15, 2017 (10:04 am)

    I would encourage people/neighbors who are interested in preserving this property to contact King County Parks & Recreation. They have a budget for purchasing property in unincorporated King County. While Parks doesn’t provide support for programs, they could (in theory) purchase the land and partner with a non-profit to manage the stable. Thinking about King County’s emphasis on equity and social justice, you might consider developing a proposal that includes providing opportunities to underserved and at-risk youth to help run the stable. There may also be funding to support such a program through the Best Starts for Kids Initiative.

  • Julia September 17, 2017 (8:50 pm)

    We’re starting a non-profit therapeutic riding center on Vashon Island and when I saw this I immediately thought it would be the perfect place for our center! Unfortunately, we’re just getting started so it’s unlikely we’ll be able to pull it off.  But one can wish! I’ve heard from some women who boarded their horses there years ago and they have wonderful memories of Dr. Nokes and the farm.  If something crazy happens and we can suddenly raise 8 million dollars we’ll jump at the opportunity!

  • Reis September 19, 2017 (7:22 am)

     Hey Eddie Vedder – What a cool place for the school kids to learn about horses and farming! 

    • Julia September 19, 2017 (8:15 am)

      Ha :)  Well, if his family would like to help spread the word for raising money so our therapeutic riding center can buy it have them contact me!  206-353-9278  Julia Montagnet

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