West Seattle, Washington
(WSB photo from February)
Three landmark buildings in West Seattle are getting a boost from a county cultural-grant program.
(SW Seattle Historical Society photo from May: Dennis Schilling, Alki Homestead owner, with logs for restoration)
Here’s the announcement from West Seattle’s County Councilmember Joe McDermott, one day before county and cultural leaders gather to celebrate the list of grants that includes these three:
Renovation of the Admiral Theater and restoration of the Alki Homestead highlight a list of the projects in West Seattle and throughout King County that will receive funding to help maintain their buildings and preserve the arts and heritage programs that are held inside.
“As a lifelong West Seattle resident, I grew up going to the Admiral Theatre and Alki Homestead,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott. “I am proud to promote the rich cultural history in West Seattle through the Building for Culture grant program.”
The Admiral Theater received $95,000 towards a renovation that will see the number of screens double from 2 to 4. The 111 year old Alki Homestead was awarded $83,000 towards its complete restoration, after a fire destroyed it in 2009.
The funding for maintenance, repairs, and preservation were allocated from the Building for Culture Program and unanimously approved by the County Council. Building for Culture is a partnership between King County and 4Culture, King County’s cultural services agency, using bonds backed by the hotel-motel tax to build, maintain, expand, preserve, and improve new and existing cultural facilities.
After the Council approved the creation of the Building for Culture Program, 4Culture put out a request for proposals to nonprofit arts, heritage and cultural organizations and eligible public agencies, as well as owners of national-, state-, or local-designated or eligible landmark properties. 4Culture then convened independent peer panels composed of arts, heritage, and preservation professionals, and other community representatives to review applications and make the final selections.
Facilities receiving funding in West Seattle are:
Admiral Cinema LLC – Admiral Theater Renovation – $95,000
Delridge Neighborhood Development Association – Elevate Youngstown – $100,000
Dennis Schilling – Restoring the Alki Homestead –
$83,000$45,190 (correction from CM McDermott’s office on 11/24/2015)
The bonds supporting these projects are made possible by early retirement of the Kingdome debt. State law requires that hotel-motel tax revenues King County collects this year after repayment of the Kingdome debt be directed to arts and cultural programs.
With the first phase of the Alki Homestead‘s restoration under way, the years of uncertainty about its future are receding further into memory. But today, there was a tribute to one moment along the way: Five years ago on the 4th of July, a big group photo outside the landmark log building proclaimed “This Place Matters” and to underscore their belief that its future eventually would brighten. Today, during the Southwest Seattle Historical Society‘s annual picnic at the Log House Museum – the Homestead’s old carriage house – there was a break to take an anniversary photo, with participants of all ages affirming that “This Place Still Matters.”
Today’s group was not big in size but was certainly big in heart. The top photo is our take from the sidewalk; an official photo from across the street was taken by Jean Sherrard, who was also the photographer five years ago, as well as four weeks ago when a thousand students came to the Homestead for the photo dubbed a “group hug” (WSB coverage here). A copy of that was part of today’s photo too:
The Homestead also was feted today in the choice of main dishes for the SWSHS picnic – fried chicken!
P.S. Another step in its path to restoration will come next Friday, when the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmarks Board will look at the newest plans during its 8:30 am meeting on the 40th floor of the city Municipal Tower downtown.
Thanks to Clay Eals, executive director of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, for sharing the video and the following report as the first round of restoration work continues at the city-landmark Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge:
Alki Homestead owner Dennis Schilling and his crew, including his son, Matt, worked on Wednesday, June 10, 2015, to haul out no longer functioning kitchen equipment and other detritus and to build and test an outdoor wooden shelf or sling to hold new logs in position when rotted logs (with blue tape) on the southeast corner are replaced. (The kitchen is not part of the city-landmarked features of the building, and replacement of the southeast-corner logs was given administrative approval by city landmarks staff in January.) Restoration work on the 1904 city landmark began this spring and will continue steadily through the summer and beyond. The Southwest Seattle Historical Society will provide periodic video updates such as this one.
Schilling, who previously gained West Seattle fame for restoring the once-marked-for-teardown Shoremont Apartments on Alki three years ago, bought the Homestead in March, as first reported here. You can check out the SWSHS’s ongoing reports on this page of the organization’s website; WSB coverage of the Homestead, going back even before the 2009 fire, is archived here, newest-to-oldest.
(Substituted Friday night: Jean Sherrard‘s panorama, courtesy SWSHS – see WSB view at story’s end)
ORIGINAL 11:13 AM REPORT: We’re on the lawn at the Alki Homestead / Fir Lodge, where a short ceremony and photo op has just wrapped up, to mark the start of the Homestead’s restoration.
(WSB Instagram clip as students arrived at the Homestead; more visuals on IG)
Students from Alki and Schmitz Park Elementaries walked over here to be part of a “group hug for the Homestead” photo coordinated by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.
Joining them were two West Seattleites serving in county and city government, County Executive Dow Constantine and City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.
The Homestead’s new owner, Dennis Schilling, was here too, and SWSHS executive director Clay Eals (with Rasmussen and Constantine in the photo added above) emceed.
From the two schools’ leadership: SPES assistant principal Liora Minkin and Alki principal Shannon Stanton:
P.S. This was also an anniversary of sorts – one year ago tomorrow, these same two schools gathered a half-block away outside the Log House Museum – home to SWSHS and the Homestead/Fir Lodge’s former carriage house – to celebrate the unveiling of the restored Admiral Way totem pole that now stands on the east side of the LHM’s grounds.
ADDED 1:30 PM: Adding photos, and our video of the quick speeches will follow (about 15 minutes total – added 7:21 pm, below).
(Added Saturday – the SWSHS version, shot from above)
Councilmember Rasmussen led the crowd in a chant about bringing back the Homestead’s famous fried chicken (new owner Schilling has said he’s not sure yet what kind of business the restored lodge will be home to); Executive Constantine told the kids to be sure to smile, since the photo will be part of history, and noted that while he’s a Schmitz Park alum, he’s not sure where his daughter Sabrina will be going in four years, since his house is on the Alki/Lafayette line.
(Dennis Schilling, Alki Homestead owner, shows the logs he has just transported to its parking lot)
Two and a half months after Dennis Schilling bought the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge, there are visible signs of its upcoming restoration. Thanks to Clay Eals, Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director, for the photo and update:
Fifteen fir logs arrived in the Alki Homestead parking lot this afternoon, awaiting use in replacing damaged logs in the southeast corner of the building.
The logs are stored in a trailer that owner Dennis Schilling drove from Mountain Log Homes in Kalama, north of Portland. Each log is about 16 1/2 feet long.
Schilling said work will begin soon on shoring up the interior of the southeast corner of the Homestead to allow eventual replacement of damaged logs that have been marked for several months with blue tape.
In preparation for this work, Schilling’s crew installed anchor fence to surround the front entrance of the Homestead as a protective measure.
There is no set schedule for the log replacement, but some of the work may begin by the time of a group photo to be taken of 900 students from Alki and Schmitz Park elementary schools the morning of Friday, June 5, 2015. As part of the brief event, speakers will include King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen.
Schilling has been consulting with a structural engineer, and his crew has installed temporary power and begun cleaning out non-landmarked, fire-damaged materials from the kitchen. Soon his crew will measure roof angles in preparation for repair, along with eventual restoration of the iconic Alki Homestead sign.
More backstory on this page of the SWSHS website – and going even further back, in our archive of WSB Alki Homestead coverage, including the January 2009 fire that has left it vacant for more than six years.
(WSB photo: New owner Dennis Schilling looks at SWSHS’s Clay Eals holding historic photo of Fir Lodge)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“Is this a dream?”
That’s what City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said was the reaction he couldn’t shake, when he learned that the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge has a new owner and that its restoration is on a path to reality, six years after the fire that left the landmark closed, vacant, and deteriorating.
He was among those speaking this morning on the steps of the Fir Lodge’s former carriage house, now the Log House Museum, at a media briefing to formally announce the historic log building has a new owner, as first reported here last night. That new owner, Mercer Island builder/investor Dennis Schilling, also was there along with former Homestead owner Tom Lin and historic-preservation advocates including Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals. (Added) Full video:
In his prepared speech, Eals declared, “Our theme this morning is gratitude, and in our book, everyone involved is a hero.”
SWSHS board president Marcy Johnsen enthused during her turn at the podium, “I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
The historical society’s interest in the Homestead/Fir Lodge included an easement granting parking rights for the LHM, and its agreement to give up some of that made this possible, as Schilling hopes to fund the renovation by building a small apartment building in that lot. He expressed gratitude that SWSHS was “giving up some of the parking so I can afford to pay for the remodel … I’m doing this to try to restore the building … it’s pretty exceptional.”
Schilling also had warm words for Lin, as they worked to make the deal happen. Lin said, “We had many (prospective) buyers along the way, and I turned down many buyers because I didn’t think they were appropriate … when I first met Dennis, I knew he had a track record (from restoring the Shoremont) … It took us six years to find the right buyer.”
Expressing relief as much as excitement were advocates from what Eals described as the “Homestead coalition,” the regional organizations who have been working on this. One of them, Chris Moore from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, recalled the Homestead being included in the “Most Endangered Historic Properties” list six years ago. “As we all know, preservation does not happen overnight … it has been a long history … we preserve buildings because … ultimately we love what they represent, their stories. What is wonderful about this event is that … all of you are now part of the Homestead and part of that story.”
Michael Herschensohn from Historic Seattle says this building is “critical to the fabric of (the city’s history).”
Also speaking, Flo Lentz from 4Culture, and West Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Dennis, who said she’s thankful that in addition to all the memories people have shared, that there will be future chances to make new memories.
Councilmember Rasmussen was the final speaker: “All of us have been hoping for this day and weren’t sure we would see this day. … I hope the (new owner) realizes we’re pulling for you, we want to see you succeed … If you should hit a few bumps along the way, call me at any time, and I’ll be there to help you.” He says he has always had a staff person assigned to the project.
Eals concluded by holding up the iconic This Place Matters photo from the event five years ago urging restoration of the Homestead, noting that many of those on the porch this morning were here when almost 200 people were gathered in the street in front of the Homestead for a group shot on July 4, 2010. This was our view that morning:
Eals said other events are ahead, including another advocacy rally on July 4, 2015 – “This Place STILL Matters.” Then he invited questions.
We asked what had been asked in comments on last night’s story – will the day come when people will be back inside the Homestead for fried-chicken dinners? Schilling replied: “I hope so, I don’t know exactly what the commercial business will be on the first floor, I hope it will be a restaurant, I don’t know anything about operating restaurants,” but he would hope to find someone to lease it to to make it a restaurant. By the way, if you never got a chance to go there in its heyday as a restaurant – here’s a video published to YouTube by SWSHS, courtesy of Schilling:
Someone asked about the potential 6-unit apartment building proposed for the parking lot next to the Homestead. “Is anybody speaking for the neighbors regarding ‘giving away’ the last potential open space (on the block)?” Eals addressed that, saying the “prize” is restoration of the Homestead, which will be expensive; the SWSHS had an easement for use of the parking lot and has been involved because of that. “This issue of restoring the Homestead has been before us for six years, and it’s a huge financial undertaking. … There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear, what’s going to happen to the Homestead?”
What’s next for the restoration? Schilling was asked. He talked about the complicated city process involving the Landmarks Review Board and its Architectural Review Committee, so regarding the timeline, “Your guess is as good as mine.” (We reported in January on his first public meeting with the ARC.)
Eals wrapped up by saying he loved that it was raining because “the best things in Seattle happen in the rain.”
Here’s the official news release:
You can also read it on the SWSHS website. Meantime, we recorded the entire briefing on video that we’ll add to the story when it’s processed later today/tonight. We’ll also continue covering the Homestead’s road to restoration; we have an ongoing coverage archive, in reverse chronological order, here.
9:36 PM: The video of this morning’s event is now embedded in the story, between paragraphs 3 and 4.
The city-landmark Alki Homestead officially has a new owner, according to documents filed with the county, dated today: Fir Lodge LLC has purchased it for $1,250,000. Fir Lodge, of course, is the historic name of the log building at 2717 61st SW. And the LLC is in the name of Dennis Schilling, with whom we talked back in January about his prospective purchase of the Homestead, closed since a fire damaged its interior six years ago.
Schilling is a Mercer Island-based investor who already has a success story in Alki, having purchased and fixed up the once-threatened-with-demolition Shoremont Apartments, just blocks east of the Homestead. His interest in the historic lodge came more than three years after former owner Tom Lin‘s proposed renovation plan went idle following multiple reviews with members of the city’s Landmarks Board, which has jurisdiction over changes to buildings and sites that are under city landmark protection, as this one has been since 1996. Schilling has been talking with the Landmarks Board and other city reps about his hopes of renovating the building and possibly building a few apartments on part of its current parking lot; we were there as he talked with the board’s Architectural Review Committee in late January.
New ownership is only a first step into the Homestead’s future, but we expect to find out much more about what’s next for it tomorrow morning, as the Southwest Seattle Historical Society – which has been working for years to save the Homestead – has announced a media briefing with “a major announcement” at 9 am, and we’ll be there. SWSHS has many ties to the Homestead/Fir Lodge, not the least of which is the fact that its headquarters building, the Log House Museum a half block away, was its carriage house decades ago.
ADDED SATURDAY MORNING: The official news release is on the Log House Museum site; we’re at the LHM news conference where the sale and restoration plan are being officially announced.
(2012 WSB photo of Alki Homestead, with part of parking lot visible at left)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If you own a city landmark, what you do with it is subject to a set of rules that can delve into details as minute as window trim.
And you usually have to go before the city Landmarks Preservation Board to get approval before renovations/changes. If they’re significant enough, before you ever get to the full board, you’ll need to deal first with a subset of the board, its Architectural Review Committee.
This morning on the 40th floor of the city Municipal Tower downtown, that committee met with someone who isn’t even a landmark owner yet: Prospective Alki Homestead (Fir Lodge) purchaser Dennis Schilling, who, as reported here earlier this week, has to decide soon whether to go ahead with a deal to buy the 111-year-old log structure, vacant since an electrical fire six years ago. He made it clear he is seeking reassurance that he won’t be buying himself a long-drawn-out process; toward the end of the discussion, he asked flat out, “How do I get to ‘yes’?”
He didn’t get a specific answer on that, but he did get positive feedback on the part of the proposal that had to be evaluated first:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“It’s fixable, in my opinion.”
So says Dennis Schilling of the historic West Seattle landmark he’s considering buying and repairing, the Alki Homestead (originally Fir Lodge), vacant since the fire that charred its interior six years ago this month.
This Friday, Schilling takes a new repair/restoration/renovation plan to the city Landmarks Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee. The meeting agenda is the first public document pointing to his involvement with the Homestead; after finding the damaged landmark on the ARC agenda for the first time in 3 1/2 years, we looked up the Department of Planning and Development files for the site and found Schilling involved.
If you can’t place his name, Schilling is the Mercer Island man who saved the Shoremont Apartments, blocks east of the Homestead, as first reported here in 2011. That classic brick building was at one point proposed for demolition and replacement with an ultramodern-style building. He bought it instead, fixed it up, and says everything’s “been great” since then.
One day while visiting Alki to go to the Shoremont, Schilling told us in an interview outside the Homestead today, he noticed the big “for sale” sign that’s been up for months. (He explains that every time he goes somewhere, he tries to “not drive home the same way twice.”) The rest was history.
(WSB photo, taken this morning)
Thanks to Richard Hesik for spotting the listing and sending the link: Almost five years after the electrical fire that damaged and closed the historic-landmark Alki Homestead, it’s listed for sale, again. It had been on the market before the fire; a year and a half afterward, owner Tom Lin said he would put it back on the market, but no listing ever appeared. He then engaged a team of local architects to pursue a restoration plan that went before the city Landmarks Board Architectural Review Committee four times (reports are in our archive of Homestead coverage) before the project went dormant. Now, the 110-year-old former Fir Lodge, a city landmark on a 14k-square-foot lot, is listed for $1,850,000, with Paragon Real Estate Advisors‘ flyer declaring that the Homestead is “now waiting for a new owner to bring it back to life and carry on the legacy,” while also noting, “The list price does not include the cost of rehabilitation of the structure.”
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
After four public reviews in six months, there’ve been none in the past 10 months for the plan to fix/rebuild the city-landmarked Alki Homestead. But the site is back under scrutiny because of tree-cutting that has drawn a complaint to the city, which subsequently posted a “stop work” order so it could investigate.
We learned about this Tuesday afternoon, when a nearby resident called to tell us a tree crew was at the Homestead site (2717 61st SW). She wondered why, asking whether work was finally beginning on the rehabilitation/reconstruction of the site. We went over to investigate; the crew was gone, but in subsequent hours, running late into the night, we obtained information from the city, from a representative of the coalition of historical-preservation groups that’s been watching the site, and from Homestead owner Tom Lin, who also provided photos of the trees before they were cut, and spoke with us about where the project stands, 3 years and 4 months after the electrical fire that closed the Homestead, a historic lodge open for decades as a popular restaurant.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The process of discussing with the city how to restore/reconstruct the fire-ravaged landmark Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge is so far as painstaking as the actual project itself eventually may be.
This morning, in their fourth informal appearance before the city Landmarks Preservation Board’s Architectural Review Committee downtown, Alloy Design Group architects Mark Haizlip and Greg Squires presented the three options they’re discussing.
All three options assume that the Homestead’s roof and foundation must be replaced – though committee members indicated they’re not all convinced about the former.
For the first time in more than three months, the proposal to restore/reconstruct the historic-landmark Alki Homestead (originally the Fir Lodge) will return to the city Landmarks Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee next week. This will be its fourth review before the committee, which holds informal reviews with project teams – multiple times, if they request it, as has been the case here – before they take proposals to the full board for a vote. Two and a half years now have passed since the fire that ravaged the Homestead’s interior; here’s our report on the most recent review of the proposal to restore/reconstruct it for use as a restaurant/banquet facility (our full coverage archive is here). This next review is listed as a “briefing on proposed building elements condition survey”; it’s set for 9:35 am next Friday (July 29th) on the 40th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower downtown.
(WSB photo from 1/16/2011)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It’s come up before, and now it’s come up again:
To reopen the city-landmarked Alki Homestead (originally the Fir Lodge), will it take restoration, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or some combination of all of the above? The scope of the proposal came up this morning downtown as owner Tom Lin and his architect team from Alloy Design Group returned to the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmarks Preservation Board for a third review, with historic-preservation advocates watching from the sidelines.
The same question arose when Lin and a different architect brought a different proposal to the committee a year and a half ago, as reported here. Back then, they were proposing adding “other uses” to the site – a bar, maybe a bed-and-breakfast – but that plan was scrapped, and the new plan is all about bringing the Homestead back as a restaurant and banquet facility.
But how can it be done, when it needs a new foundation and a new roof – and some degree of replacement inbetween? “Tricky” is one word that was used.
The architects who are working on the plan to renovate the Alki Homestead, closed since an electrical fire in January 2009, will return to the city Landmark Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee this Friday morning. It’ll be the third time they appear before the committee, which doesn’t vote, but rather advises applicants on their project before they get to a vote of the full board – whose approval is required for an official city landmark to proceed with renovations/modifications. The meeting is open to the public and is scheduled for 9:30 am this Friday at the Municipal Tower downtown; here’s our report on the first review in January, and the second review last month. The proposal seeks to renovate the historic Fir Lodge as a restaurant, with banquet facilities, and an added structure to its rear (west side) that would house the kitchen among other things.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At the Muni Tower downtown, the architects working on the proposed restoration of the closed-by-fire-damage Alki Homestead appeared today for the second time before the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmarks Preservation Board.
No vote was taken – meetings of the Architectural Review Committee are informal gatherings for architects, property owners, and developers to get feedback before bringing complete proposals to the full board, which has to sign off on projects affecting official city landmarks like the Homestead (historically known as the Fir Lodge). But the discussion represented another step toward restoring and reopening the Homestead, a popular restaurant for decades before a January 2009 electrical fire put it (for now) out of business.
As was the case at the January review, the architects from Alloy Design Group (above) made the presentation, with Homestead owner Tom Lin in the audience. When they appeared last month, the focus was on the overall concept of what they intend to do – this time, the focus was on the “accessory structure” that is being proposed on the east side of the Homestead, to hold its kitchen as well as an elevator for accessing proposed banquet facilities on the second floor. As the architects explained, they need feedback on what will be OK with the “accessory structure” before they can figure out the plan for restoring the fire-damaged Homestead building itself. And that’s part of why projects come before the committee before going for an official vote – to get feedback on whether they’re going down the right road.
Much of the discussion centered on a proposed third-floor view deck, 598 square feet. Here’s a rough sketch from this morning’s informal presentation:
Alloy’s Mark Haizlip and Greg Squires suggested that a third-floor deck would bring back a historic aspect of the Homestead – the reason the Fir Lodge was located on that site in the first place – what was then a view of Elliott Bay.
For those tracking the future of the Alki Homestead (historically known as the Fir Lodge) and owner Tom Lin‘s new plan to restore it – the project is scheduled for another review before the Landmarks Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee, a required step before the full board votes on the project (their approval is required because the Homestead is an official city landmark). The agenda for the meeting has just arrived. It’s open to the public, with this item scheduled at 10 am next Friday (February 25th) on the 40th floor of the city Municipal Tower downtown. (Here’s our recent coverage – last month’s committee meeting here, a look into the city files regarding the restoration plan here; our Homestead coverage is archived here.)
(WSB photo from 1/16/2011)
From the city Municipal Tower downtown, here are the toplines from the first public meeting to reveal details of the new plan for the Alki Homestead. It was brought to the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmark Preservation Board. Though the committee does not vote, the board will have to approve a plan before any permits can be issued for work to proceed on the Alki Homestead, aka the historic Fir Lodge, closed since an accidental electrical fire two years ago.
We wrote about the restoration proposal on Monday, after reviewing new additions to the file here at the Municipal Tower.
(Alloy Design Group principals at left – Greg Squires, seated, and Mark Haizlip, standing)
Though the new architects from Alloy Design Group made it clear they were not here to discuss intricate details of how the Homestead would be “restored,” they did verify that restoring it and reopening it as a restaurant is the goal now, and that the previous proposal involving other components on the site – a spa, a bar, a “small inn” had all been mentioned in 2009 – is “water under the bridge,” declaring that they were brought in for “a fresh start.”
They asked the board to indicate support for the two-story structure they want to add on the west (rear) side of the Homestead to house its kitchen and possibly access (elevator/stairs) to what’s envisioned as an upper-level banquet facility (the building previously had upper-level apartments) – they say it will have an 890-square-foot “footprint,” not much larger than the “non-historic additions” they want to remove from the site; as for its height, they said it was not expected to reach the 30-foot maximum allowed for the zoning on part of the site.
After the presentation, representatives of the four groups that spoke to the media at the Log House Museum on the 2-year anniversary of the Homestead fire, reiterating their concern for protecting and restoring the landmark, all stood up to say they’re “thrilled” that the discussion is now about restoration rather than demolition. However, what would be involved in “restoration” is clearly up for much discussion – the architects say the building needs a new foundation, and that depending on how much of the existing logs were reusable, some “new material” will have to be brought in. Homestead owner Tom Lin was at this morning’s meeting but did not speak to the committee.
Next step – the architects are expected to return to the Architectural Review Committee on February 11th, for more discussion/review of the project before a potential future vote on whether the board will grant the required “certificate of approval.”
For the first time in more than a year, the city Landmark Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee is about to be briefed on the proposed future of the fire-damaged Alki Homestead (historically known as the Fir Lodge). A review is set for this Friday morning at the city Municipal Tower downtown; that’s the first step toward the approvals required to alter the structure, since it’s a city landmark; the Homestead was last brought before them in November 2009. Shortly after the recent 2-year anniversary of the accidental fire that shut down the Alki Homestead restaurant, the language regarding the project changed on the project’s city webpage; instead of mentioning “reconstruction,” it now reads “Restoration of the Historic Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead Restaurant, removal of the non-historic accessory structures, and new construction of an attached facility at NW portion of the site.” Before finding out about this review, we had in fact just checked on this project at city Department of Planning and Development headquarters downtown, and they told us the plans haven’t been submitted to DPD yet, so this Friday may be the first official look. (Added: Since we’re still downtown, we’re going over to the Landmarks Board office to take a look at what they have on file.)
ADDED 5:35 PM: The restoration project’s description, according to what we subsequently found on file at the Landmarks Board office downtown – read on:Read More
10:55 AM: We are at the Log House Museum, steps away from the Alki Homestead (above), where 4 groups are announcing their updates on the Homestead’s status, on the 2nd anniversary of the fire that closed it. Historic Seattle says it still hopes to find a way to buy it. The 3 other groups say they have asked the city to step in to prevent further damage to the building. More to come after the media briefing.
12:58 PM: Our video clip contains the complete, unedited 17-minute briefing (including Q/A). It was led by Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s Clay Eals, who, toward the briefing’s end, summarized the event’s purpose: “We are speaking for the building … somebody has to speak for the building.” Full story to come; here’s an updated link to the official news release.
ADDED 1:50 PM: The snug first-floor central space of the Log House Museum was filled with media (including citywide TV crews), historic-preservation advocates, and SWSHS volunteers for the occasion. Speaking, from left, at a table facing cameras were Chris Moore from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Flo Lentz from 4Culture, Rick Sever from Historic Seattle, and Eals.
Notably absent was the building’s owner, Tom Lin, who says expert studies he’s paid for show that the building is too far gone for restoration, and would need “reconstruction.” The groups participating today said Lin had been notified of the event by e-mail and was invited to be there – as an observer, however, not as a speaker. Last summer, he had announced he would put the building up for sale, and extended an exclusive monthlong window for these same 4 groups to purchase it. Historic Seattle’s Sever would not comment during today’s briefing on the status of any negotiations and whether any talks had occurred recently, repeatedly saying “due diligence” prevented specific commenting. He also would not identify the “private investors” that were mentioned.
Regarding the request to the city regarding protection of the structure, we were told that came in the form of a letter to the Department of Planning and Development, which enforces code compliance; specific concerns were described as including being open to the elements, accessible to potential vandals, and having “waste” left around the site. Whatever complaint was filed, it’s not showing yet on the official DPD page for the Homestead/Fir Lodge site (2717 61st SW), which does note previous complaints (from unknown complainants), all listed as “case closed.”
The third major initiative announced today was creation of a new poster featuring the “This Place Matters” photo taken outside the Homestead/Fir Lodge last July 4th. Volunteers are going around putting up copies – we followed former Log House Museum director Andrea Mercado, her daughter Ruby and other young volunteers immediately after the media briefing, as they put up the first one at Sunfish Seafood a few blocks away:
So now what? As Sever repeated before the briefing ended, “In real estate, the door’s always open.” Whatever happens next, the Homestead, for now, remains closed.
Tomorrow marks two years since the fire, blamed on a Christmas-lights malfunction, that blackened the inside of the city-landmark Alki Homestead and forced its beloved restaurant to close. While its owner has proposed “reconstructing” the historic log structure and including other businesses on the site, and even took steps toward applying for a permit, it’s been 14 months since that proposal went before the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmark Preservation Board, whose signoff is required – and it has not reappeared in that venue.
Last July, owner Tom Lin announced he would sell the Homestead, offering it first to preservation/cultural groups, then to the general public. No public listing ever appeared, and no deal has ever been announced. We have left Lin messages asking for comment on its status, but no reply. However, an announcement came Friday afternoon from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, headquartered half a block away at what was the Homestead’s carriage house: They plan a media event Sunday morning, on the fire anniversary:
A coalition of four heritage organizations — the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, Historic Seattle, 4Culture and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation — will hold a press conference to provide updates on the potential for protection, preservation and restoration of the city-landmark 1904 log building known as Fir Lodge and the Alki Homestead Restaurant.
Those are the same four Lin mentioned in his July announcement offering the Homestead for sale. They also were part of last July’s “This Place Matters” photo gathering, part of this nationwide historic-site-awareness campaign. But at the time, at least one of those organizations made a point of saying they’re not in the building-buying business. So what’s their plan? They’ll discuss it at the Log House Museum, 11 am Sunday.
That’s our view from the third floor of the apartment building across from the Alki Homestead, as the official ‘This Place Matters’ photo was taken as part of a rally organized by preservation groups including the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, whose headquarters are in what was the Homestead (originally Fir Lodge)’s old carriage house. By our rough count, around 200 people had gathered by the time the photo was taken. (6:10 pm update: We used our photo-from-above to count: 162.) The photo was preceded by short speeches from those groups’ reps as well as King County Executive Dow Constantine, State Sen. Joe McDermott, County Councilmember Jan Drago, and former mayor Greg Nickels. This came one day after Homestead owner Tom Lin (whom we did not see at the event) announced he’s putting the Homestead up for sale (WSB coverage here), starting with a one-month offer for $2 million to preservation groups. We talked to reps of two – SWSHS executive director Andrea Mercado told WSB they have no official comment yet on the offer; Washington Trust for Historic Preservation field director Chris Moore (a West Seattleite) says his group “unfortunately” doesn’t buy buildings. ADDED 5:53 PM: Video of the politicians’ speeches. SWSHS’s Clay Eals said they’d been asked to speak for 30 seconds each (here’s Eals with a historic Homestead photo during a pre-rally talk at the Historical Society’s annual picnic):
By our count, most of the rally speeches ran closer to a minute-thirty, still relatively brief. Here’s former mayor Greg Nickels:
King County Executive Dow Constantine, more formally dressed than he was in his appearance at the Admiral 4th of July Kids’ Parade three hours earlier, alluded to that as he began:
Next, State Sen. Joe McDermott – a West Seattleite like Nickels and Constantine, and also a candidate for the County Council seat vacated last year by the now-executive:
Finally, the former city councilmember who currently holds the County Council position for which McDermott is running (though she’s not seeking to keep it), Jan Drago, who – Eals pointed out – sponsored the council resolution that made the Homestead a landmark:
Regarding the crowd count, always a thorny issue in any story in which turnout might matter (ever seen those protest stories where police say 2,000 and organizers say 10,000?), our estimate was a rough count, looking at the photo we took with the view from above. Just because we love precision when it’s possible, we’re working right now to blow it up and print it out so we can do an exact count. We can tell you unequivocally that the “nearly 100” in the lead line of KING’s story is too low. 6:09 PM: Finished the photo count: 162. Have adjusted the headline. MONDAY MORNING: As noted in comments: The “official photo” is now online. You can click on it, then click again, for a very high resolution version. We are told Historic Seattle counted 199 in the mega-high-resolution version, to which we didn’t have access yesterday. So we are going to revise our headline to “more than 150” and leave it there, for WSB purposes … no time to print and count yet again … this isn’t an election; we’ll leave the counting from hereon out to the folks who are directly involved.