West Seattle, Washington
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.
With a rally/group photo planned tomorrow afternoon at the Alki Homestead, organized by local preservation groups including the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, owner Tom Lin says he’s offering those groups first crack at buying the fire-ravaged landmark, now that he’s decided to sell it, a few weeks after he told us he was considering that option. Here’s the text of his letter (from this PDF):
Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge is being offered for sale to Seattle’s concerned historical organizations such as:
Southwest Seattle Historical Society
The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
Sale Price – $2,000,000 An endowment fund of $500,000 would be provided from these funds by the current owner Tom Lin
Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge was offered to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society under the same terms in 2004 by the previous owner, Doris Nelson, according to her family.
These historical organizations claim to have more extensive resources and the expertise needed to ensure that the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge retains its historical place in the community and would not be torn down.
Tom Lin will accept offers from interested historical organizations no later than July 31, 2010. Beyond July 31st the property will be offered to the general public at a different sale price and terms.
Contact Information: Tom Lin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lin had been trying to proceed with a plan to rebuild the historic log building and add other uses to its site – uses without which, he says, it wouldn’t be financially viable; he discussed his challenges in this story we published two weeks ago. This morning, he tells WSB, “It has been over a year and a half since I have tried to bring Homestead back. The cost has become a burden. I had a long conversation with [previous owner] Doris Nelson’s estate yesterday. They understand the dilemma I am in and they respect my choice. In fact, [they] had already told SWSHS to buy the building again 6 months ago … I think when I spoke to you a few weeks ago, I told you I was pretty close at giving it up. Now it is time. I hope they can address that during the rally.”
The rally – to which Lin tells us he finally did get an invitation, after he pointed out to Historic Seattle that he had not received one – is scheduled for 1:30 pm tomorrow on the sidewalk and street (which will be closed for the event) in front of the Homestead. Clay Eals from SWSHS says there’s been one change in the slate of political leaders scheduled to be there – City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will be out of town, but County (and former City) Councilmember Jan Drago will be there, which Eals notes is “quite fitting because (she) was the Seattle City Council sponsor of the landmark designation ordinance for the Alki Homestead building in 1996.”
Previous WSB coverage of the Alki Homestead is archived, newest to oldest, here.
To preview next Sunday’s 4th of July “This Place Matters” group photo on the street/sidewalk in front of the Alki Homestead – the Southwest Seattle Historical Society‘s plan to show community concern about its future – Paul Dorpat‘s “Seattle Now and Then” in today’s Seattle Times (WSB partner) looks at the Homestead and its history, while previewing the event. Dorpat published even more Homestead history on his own website the yesterday, recalling it as “A Soap Manufacturer’s Log Mansion on Alki Point.” (His site also republishes the Times piece with a few “Web extra” photos.) Here’s our original June 8th story about the photo plan; here’s our June 20th story about where the Homestead stands from its owner’s perspective.
Two weeks from today is the 4th of July, the day the Southwest Seattle Historical Society plans a rally of sorts outside the Alki Homestead to take a group photo to publicize how many people are concerned about the landmark’s future. Its owner Tom Lin, meantime, says concern is great, but contends nobody’s contacting him directly to help save it from sitting, idle, indefinitely, as it has for a year and a half since the electrical fire that charred its interior and closed the restaurant. As noted in our original report on the Historical Society’s plan, we asked him for comment – to respond, he sat down with us this past week at an Alki coffee shop:Read More
(Wikimedia photo of Alki Homestead, pre-fire)
Almost a year and a half after an accidental electrical fire gutted the historic, city landmark Homestead Restaurant in Alki, it remains empty; its owner has publicized a proposal to “reconstruct” it and add other commercial buildings on the property, but has not taken it to the next step of city Landmark Board approval, after an early review by its Architectural Review Committee last November. Now, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society is planning a Fourth of July event to call fresh attention to its plight – and inviting public participation in a big way. We’d gotten a few hints about it (as noted here) but tonight, the full announcement is public:
Independence Day event says ‘This Place Matters’ for Alki Homestead
Southwest Seattle Historical Society plans July 4 group photo in front of Fir Lodge
The people of Seattle will have a public opportunity to stand up for a century-old West Seattle city landmark at a mid-day rally on July 4, 2010.
The Southwest Seattle Historical Society has organized a mass photo event to take place at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 4, in front of Fir Lodge, the 106-year-old log structure that many have known for decades as the Alki Homestead restaurant. The building was damaged by a January 2009 fire and since then has sat vacant.
A crowd of neighbors, joined by prominent political leaders, will gather on the sidewalk and street in front of the structure at 2717 61st Ave. S.W., just a half block from Alki Beach. Participants will hold signs saying, “This Place Matters,” a slogan promoted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The resulting photo will be used in a poster that will be disseminated throughout Seattle and distributed widely online.
Those attending include King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, all residents of West Seattle, and other representatives of the Seattle City Council, King County Council, and Seattle city government.
The announcement continues after the jump:Read More
Right in the middle of West Seattle’s bright beautiful Saturday morning, its headquarters for history – the Log House Museum – got some love from a small but dedicated cleanup crew – below, that’s Southwest Seattle Historical Society president Judy Bentley and a young volunteer in the next photo, checking out the “to do” list.
For the latest roundup of what the Historical Society is focusing on – including a current pledge drive – you can check out their most recent newsletter (PDF) here. And expect to hear more soon about the Alki Homestead awareness event announced by board member Jim Del Ciello at this past week’s Southwest District Council meeting. Meantime, the museum’s open Thursdays-Sundays, noon-4 pm, 61st/Stevens (map), and well worth a visit.
Today marks exactly one year since the landmark Alki Homestead restaurant caught fire in the early morning; Fire Department investigators traced the fire to faulty Christmas lights. No one was hurt, but the beloved restaurant has been closed ever since. What happens on the site next will require approval of the city Landmarks Preservation Board, because of the Homestead’s status as a city landmark. Working with a team of experts who say the structure is too damaged for restoration, Homestead owner Tom Lin has been working on a proposal to instead reconstruct it and add other structures on the site, as first outlined in a presentation to the Alki Community Council in September (WSB coverage here), then brought to the Landmarks Board’s Architectural Review Committee in November (WSB coverage here). The Landmarks Board will have to have a full hearing before voting on whether to approve the development proposal; no date has been announced yet. The project will also require Southwest Design Review Board approval, according to the permit applications recently filed with the city Department of Planning and Development. Here’s the land-use-permit page, summarized as “reconstruction of Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead Restaurant”; here’s the construction-permit page, which summarizes the proposal as “Reconstruct restaurant and structure, remove existing surface parking and add below grade parking, commercial/retail space, and a small inn,” same as outlined in the September and November presentations.
That’s the question members of the city Landmarks Preservation Board will want to see sorted out, as became clear during this morning’s meeting of the board’s Architectural Review Committee. This was the first public meeting at which Tom Lin, owner of the fire-damaged landmark, and his consultants have discussed its status and its future since a comprehensive presentation before the Alki Community Council two months ago (WSB coverage here). The meeting also provided a reminder of the fact the historic building’s future is of interest outside West Seattle – those who offered comments included representatives from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, which five months ago declared the Homestead among the state’s most endangered buldings, and Historic Seattle; the Southwest Seattle Historical Society was represented as well. Read on for details on what was discussed and what the landmarks board – which has jurisdiction over the site’s future because of its landmark status – will do next:Read More
Because the Alki Homestead is a city landmark, any change to its landmark-designated features must be approved by the city Landmarks Board – and the first step in this case is a meeting with its Architectural Review Committee. We’ve just confirmed with city Landmarks Board coordinator Beth Chave that Homestead owner Tom Lin is scheduled to take his proposal for the closed-by-fire property before the ARC next Friday, for the first public presentation since he discussed it with the Alki Community Council in mid-September (WSB coverage here). No final decisions will be made, as this is truly a group that reviews proposals and offers suggestions to those working on them, before they are brought up for official board action, but it’s a public meeting, 8:30 am, Room 4070 at the Municipal Tower downtown.
From Thursday night’s Alki Community Council meeting: Three major topics – a followup to the Alki Homestead proposal presentation that anchored the last meeting; a report on how an airline’s proposal to change flight patterns would affect the area; and accountability for Statue of Liberty Plaza now that the Plaza Project Committee has phased itself out. Read on for details on all three:Read More
(Wikimedia photo of Alki Homestead, pre-fire)
Two weeks after Alki Homestead owner Tom Lin stood before the Alki Community Council to discuss his proposal for the fire-ravaged landmark’s future (here’s our story) – possibly a restaurant/bar/B&B complex – the Southwest Seattle Historical Society has forwarded news outlets a letter they and other groups have sent to Lin. It expresses concern for its condition and a request that it be “restored … to its pre-fire condition.” It’s similar to a statement the SWSHS issued last March, two months after the fire (read that statement here). Here’s the full text of the letter:
Dear Tom Lin:
We are writing to you today to express our collective concern regarding the state of the Alki Homestead Restaurant, a City of Seattle Landmark, also known as the Fir Lodge Estate. As a result of the fire in January, 2009, this site is now included in the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Most Endangered Property List,” announced in May this year. The Washington Trust, together with other preservation and community organizations noted below, have indicated their support for the preservation of this landmark.
Given the state of the Homestead and the on-going damage that inactivity brings to the structure, we collectively urge you to decide and act upon your vision regarding this property.
We collectively ask that you (1) take immediate action to prevent further decay by securing the property and building from vandalism and protecting it as the rainy season approaches; (2) restore the Homestead to its pre-fire condition as befits a city landmark.
We firmly support preserving “a bit of old Seattle” (as Doris Nelson referred to the Homestead) and we believe the community of West Seattle and the City of Seattle will be enhanced by retaining this amazing Seattle landmark. We look forward to working with you to restore the Homestead to its rightful place on Alki. The Southwest Seattle Historical Society stands ready to assist you at every point in preserving the Homestead/Fir Lodge site.
President, Southwest Seattle Historical Society
Director, Log House Museum
Jennifer Meisner, Executive Director
Washington Trust for Historic Preservation
Association of King County Heritage Organizations
Jim Kelly, Director
Patricia Mullen, Executive Director
West Seattle Chamber of Commerce
We have e-mailed Lin a request for comment/response and will publish anything we hear back.
(Long-form full report has been added following this first short summary)
Quick summary from Alki Homestead owner Tom Lin‘s presentation that just wrapped up at the Alki Community Council: His architect and engineers say so much of the building was damaged in the January fire, compounding long-pre-existing deterioration, that the landmark would need to be “reconstructed.” Lin proposes doing that and adding 25,000 square feet of other buildings on the 15,000-square-foot site, with the potential end result a new Homestead, plus a bar/lounge “Seattle Auto Club” and a bed/breakfast “The Fir Lodge” (both names from its past), plus a wellness center/spa. The Landmarks Preservation Board will have to sign off on any proposal. Where will the financing come from? Lin says he hasn’t started working on that yet, but says that the perceptions nothing’s been happening at the site since the fire are incorrect, as the evaluation and planning work has been happening all along. Full report to come. ADDED 2:20 AM FRIDAY: Read on for the long-form story, with more photos:Read More
Three major community meetings are ahead this week in West Seattle, all extending an invitation to you, two with speakers/guests bound to be of high interest:
TUESDAY – WEST SEATTLE CRIME PREVENTION COUNCIL: After a summer hiatus, the grass-roots group that brings together law-enforcement leaders and community members each month will reconvene Tuesday night, 7 pm, Southwest Precinct meeting room (Delridge/Webster; map). Special guest this month: King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg (left). If you have questions about what happens to crime suspects once they’re arrested and why, this is the person you want to hear from – his office decides on what if any charges are filed, and how to prosecute the case.
WEDNESDAY – DELRIDGE NEIGHBORHOODS DISTRICT COUNCIL: Reps from key community groups and organizations in the eastern half of West Seattle will gather at Youngstown Arts Center (4408 Delridge; map), 7 pm.
THURSDAY – ALKI COMMUNITY COUNCIL: When the ACC meets at Alki Community Center this Thursday at 7, they’re expected to hear from Tom Lin, owner of the historic Homestead Restaurant, closed since a fire eight months ago. Because of the building’s landmark status, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society has expressed concern about its future post-fire, and brought up the situation at the Sept. 2 Southwest District Council meeting. After ACC rep Tony Fragada told the SWDC that Tom Lin would be briefing the Alki group this week, they tabled the topic to wait and see what’s planned for the property and how best to offer help. The public is welcome at the meeting too, though you have to be an ACC member to vote on anything (membership information is here).
What else is up this week? Check the WSB West Seattle-wide Events calendar page any time.
No major public meetings tonight, but tomorrow night, you might want to show up for the Southwest District Council‘s monthly meeting at the South Seattle Community College board room if you’re interested in libraries or landmarks: The agenda includes a Friends of Seattle Public Library rep talking about the SPL budget – hot considering this is the week the libraries are shuttered to save $ – and a Southwest Seattle Historical Society rep discussing what’s up with the landmark Alki Homestead Restaurant, closed since the fire last January. Also on the agenda, Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, and a discussion of the candidates’ forum the SWDC and its counterpart the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council plan to co-sponsor before the November election (as reported here last month). The council meets at 7 pm Wednesday, board room at SSCC (campus map here; map of the Robert Smith Building, containing the board room, here).
Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has just officially announced its 2009 list of the “state’s most endangered historic properties,” which includes the fire-damaged Alki Homestead – one of four Seattle “resources” on the list, along with the P-I Globe. Washington Trust sent media organizations a preview of this for planning purposes last week and we honored its requested “embargo” of the list until this afternoon’s planned announcement, which explains:
Inclusion in our annual list is intended to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities facing historic resources across the state and to encourage collaboration with all stakeholders to develop preservation strategies. In numerous instances, Most Endangered status has worked to facilitate solutions that promote the historic significance of sites while retaining important resources as viable, functional components of our neighborhoods and communities.
So what else does today’s announcement mean for the Homestead? We are at the media briefing right now and will add more later. Meantime, it’s been 4 months since the fire — blamed on an accidental electrical malfunction involving Christmas lights — that closed the Homestead. City records do not yet show an application for repair permits, but they do show that the complaint filed because of roof and window areas “open to weather” was resolved earlier this month and the case is closed.
ADDED 2:30 PM: Video from this afternoon’s announcement – starting with a special sign noting the Homestead’s inclusion, then to comments from Andrea Mercado from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society:
Afterward, she told us the group has been in touch with Homestead owner Tom Lin through an intermediary, and is working with him to make sure he has all the available information regarding potential financial help for restoration. Also at today’s announcement, West Seattle-residing King County Council Chair Dow Constantine – who is on the Washington Trust board – with a few words about the Homestead and more about a Vashon property on the list, the Vashon Elementary Gym:
Read on for the full text of today’s announcement, including the complete list:Read More
Meet Marcus, Josiah, and Taylor Tunison, brothers who went to high school at West Seattle’s own Seattle Lutheran, volunteering their time right now to help clean up the historic Alki Homestead‘s fire-ravaged interior. In a WSB comment thread earlier this week about concern for the Homestead’s future, 2 months after the fire, owner Tom Lin said this:
I found a contractor who can come on Friday to build a temporary roof. If anyone is really interested in helping out, be at Homestead 9 am on Friday. He will start the work at that time.
This morning, four people did that – three of them, the young brothers you see above. A professional work crew is also there:
That worker subsequently invited us inside to see what’s happening – the cords in this photo, next to the huge stone fireplace, lead up through an opening in the roof, which workers are trying to get covered:
The most striking image of the morning remains that of the three young brothers who just showed up to help:
Lin wondered – where is everyone else? He says that contrary to perception, the insurance company he’s working with has been “great” – and finally just this week gave him a green light to do some cleanup, even though the insurance company itself technically now owns the “contents,” including fire-damaged items that the young volunteers are helping bring out. We will check back later in the day to see how this is going; Lin had to leave the site for a while for an appointment at the restaurant he says he is taking over so that his Homestead employees will have work — “Ten people are going to get a job from that,” he called out to us, as he walked to his car. (He is not yet publicly naming the restaurant.) If you want to help with the cleanup happening right now, the Homestead is on 61st just south of Alki Ave (map).
(January 16 photo taken at Homestead fire scene by David Hutchinson)
A new update this morning from Alki Homestead owner Tom Lin – who wants help in showing gratitude to the firefighters who responded the morning the historic restaurant caught fire:
Alki Homestead-Volunteers Wanted
I have been swamped with work since the fire and it would be great if someone with the connection can help with the following tasks.
The day of the fire, I remember there were about 10 fire trucks from 3 or 4 fire stations putting out the fire. It is very important to show how grateful we are for what they have done and how quickly they responded. I thought it would be nice to install a X Box or Wii in every station. It must be pretty boring to sit in the station at times and a good computer game could ease the boredom.
1. We need to find out if that is permitted to install the games in the stations.
2. We need to find out which stations these firemen came from.
3. We need volunteers to install these games.
4. If we can’t install the games, suggestions as to what can we do to show our appreciation.
I will provide the systems and games.
Tom’s e-mail is email@example.com.
After both of the stories we published here the past two days about concerns regarding the Alki Homestead‘s future (here and here), we mentioned trying to reach owner Tom Lin for his comment on his plans for the landmark restaurant, two months after the fire that closed it. Here’s what he just sent us:
It has been 2 months since the fire at Alki Homestead and I appreciate everyone’s concern as to what to do with the property. Hopefully this will provide some insight as to what is going on.
My main concern is to find a place for my employees to work. It has not been easy due to the economic condition of the market. I have looked at over several restaurants that are for sale in West Seattle and finally found one that everyone likes. I presented the letter of intent yesterday and hopefully it will work out. The employees are thrilled to have the opportunity to work together as a team again — over 10 of them. It is not going to be named Alki Homestead. However, the spirit will be kept alive until Homestead reopens.
It will be a long road ahead to restore Alki Homestead. The insurance is still in the process of getting settled. I have to say that the insurance companies I am working with are professional and extremely helpful. They have a process that they have to go through in order to settle the claim. It just takes time and they are doing the best they can.
I called my insurance adjuster yesterday and asked them to release the property. They called back immediately with permission to go ahead with a modified cleanup. I can start cleaning up the place, but I should keep the contents intact until the insurance settles. Technically, the insurance companies own the property inside the building because they are paying for it.
Where do we go from here? I have been working with my architects and Mark Fritch of Mark Fritch Log Homes. Mark sent a letter to West Seattle Herald on March 24th. I hope you will have a chance to read it. Mark is the great grandson of the original builder, Anton Borgen, who helped build Alki Homestead and Log House Museum.
I met up with the board of Log House Museum a month ago. Their position is to restore the building regardless of the “use” of the building. They believe that as long as a viable business can pay the rent, then the building is saved.
I disagree with that view. The building is the shell, but the spirit is the Alki Homestead. To bring back the building without Alki Homestead is like visiting your grandmother’s house after she passed away, kind of empty. I have owned it for 3 years. I am the one who has seen:
1, Customers celebrating their 50th anniversary because that is where they had their wedding rehearsal.
2. The Ericksons, who have been coming every Friday night for the past 27 years.
3, The couple who celebrated their 75th anniversary, and they met at the beach when they were 16 years old.
The stories go on and on.
Maybe all of you can help me preserve the spirit of the property as well as the historical use of this great site. Maybe the Log House Museum can have their annual gala at Alki Homestead Restaurant in the future, instead of holding those events at other non-historic venues, as in the past 2 years.
I believe action speaks louder than words. If you would like to help with the project, then let’s be constructive. We need to stay positive and move forward. A lot of work needs to be done. Let’s bring Alki Homestead Restaurant back and let’s make this project something we can all be proud of.
(added 1:35 pm – We’ve just spoken with Lin by phone; he won’t elaborate on which restaurant he’s looking into – the two closed restaurants that have been for sale in West Seattle for months are the former Beato and Blackbird.) He also attached a WSB-addressed version of the letter he mentioned, from Mark Fritch, a great-grandson of the builder of the Homestead and the Log House Museum – read on to see it in its entirety:Read More
(WSB photo from January 16)
Two follow-ups this afternoon, the day after our Monday report about the Southwest Seattle Historical Society‘s announcement of concern regarding the fate of the Alki Homestead restaurant, an official city landmark, closed since fire heavily damaged its interior two months ago. We just talked with inspector Michael Griffin in the city Department of Planning and Development regarding the complaint filed last week about the building’s condition (noted online here). He tells WSB he has inspected the site and its only potential violations are that its roof and some windows are open to the elements, so building owner Tom Lin will be given a warning notice to take care of those problems. If he doesn’t, then a citation would follow. Aside from the roof/window openness, Griffin says, the property is “neat and tidy.” Meantime, we checked with the Historic Preservation division of the city Neighborhoods Department, to find out what role they might play, if any, in this situation. Landmarks coordinator Beth Chave tells WSB that she talked with Lin “about a month ago” to go over the review process required for repairs/changes on a landmarked property like this but hasn’t seen an application yet, so doesn’t have an “active file” about the Homestead site. (Meantime, owner Lin has not yet answered our requests for comment.)
(WSB photo from January, shortly after the fire)
Two months after the fire that closed the historic Alki Homestead restaurant, repairs have yet to begin, according to city online records which show no permits have been applied for, though records do show a complaint was filed with the city last week about the building’s condition/status. This morning, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which operates the nearby Log House Museum, has issued a news release expressing concern about the Homestead’s future:
Because of community uncertainty over the fate of the Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead Restaurant after an early-morning fire damaged the building on Jan. 16, 2009, the Executive Board of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society states the following:
The Southwest Seattle Historical Society advocates protection and preservation of significant historic structures on the Duwamish Peninsula. We nominated the Alki Homestead Restaurant building for city landmark status and the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designated it a Seattle landmark on Oct. 18, 1995. Then and today, the building needs preservation.
The Alki Homestead, known 100 years ago as Fir Lodge, is a Seattle icon. It was the anchor of a beachfront estate created by the Bernard family. The carriage house that became the historical society’s Log House Museum is the only remaining structure of five outbuildings on that estate. Both the Homestead and The Log House Museum are–and should remain–vital and intertwined sites in our Seattle history for generations to come.
We support the building’s preservation. We urge:
-that the building be protected immediately in its damaged state: that the roof be covered, broken windows boarded up, and the entire structure protected from the elements and from intrusion;
-that the yard and landscape be maintained, perhaps with help from neighborhood volunteers; and
-that all landmarked features be preserved in the restoration of the building.
We are confident that there are many ways in which the building can be used to insure that it has an economically viable future. We urge community support of a vision that restores the landmarked building and sustains the site as a valuable element of the Alki community, the Duwamish Peninsula , and the city of Seattle.
After the fire, Homestead owner Tom Lin had said he still hoped to proceed with a sale of the restaurant operation – not the building itself – which was in the works before the fire; he also said it might take more than six months before the Homestead could reopen. We have a message out to him for comment on the Historical Society’s statement, and the status of plans for repairs/sale, and will let you know what we hear back.
That’s per Rebekah Denn in Devouring Seattle at seattlepi.com – she mentioned this morning that chef Johnny Zhu had just taken a new job as executive chef at Monsoon East in Bellevue, and also noted our earlier report that he was believed to be the prospective buyer of the Alki Homestead. She updated at mid-afternoon after talking with him, writing: “He and Rose are indeed still interested in Alki Homestead, but the fire there has set their timeline back. They’re pursuing it — and looking for investors, btw — but it’s not a done deal.” (As we reported 1/19, owner Tom Lin believes it’ll take at least six months to fix and reopen the Homestead.)
(WSB photos from Friday morning)
Four days now have passed since the early-morning fire that heavily damaged the interior of the historic Alki Homestead restaurant; yesterday, owner Tom Lin estimated in this update for WSB that it would take more than six months to repair and reopen. This morning, he just sent us another update, including some information related to the cause of the fire, listed by Seattle Fire Department investigators as too many Christmas lights plugged into one socket:
I just want to clarify why we never took down the Christmas lights. We lost reservations for over 600 people the week before Christmas due to the snow storm. Many of the customers called and asked Homestead to keep the lights up till the end of January. The fire was caused by the combination of old wiring, Christmas lights and other unforeseen factors. I don’t think any one is at fault.
I met up with the buyers of Alki Homestead today and many issues were discussed. Johnny and Rose still would like to proceed with the purchase of Alki Homestead after it is restored. However, the following conditions will have to be met:
1. The restaurant has to come back as Alki Homestead or there is no goodwill, hence they will not be interested.
2. If the build-out is more than buyers’ original budget due to fire, the seller may have to make up for the shortfall.
3. Buyers will be included in the restoration process to ensure the integrity of the building.
4. Buyers will not have their names released until documents are signed pertaining to the above conditions.
I appreciate all the support from the community. So far, I believe we can still meet our payroll. It is just nice to know that people are thinking of our employees especially when the job market is really tough now.
We have a followup question out to Tom — who sent the update a short time ago — regarding the buyers, who for the first time he publicly identifies as “Johnny and Rose.” Based on some intel we received when Tom first described the anonymous prospective buyers as a husband-and-wife chef team living in Fauntleroy, we believe “Johnny” is Johnny Zhu (background here, via LinkedIn). More updates to come; we also are asking Tom a question one WSBer posed – whether there’s any way to donate to help the Homestead staff.