Updates: Alki Homestead fire out, Christmas lights blamed

(scroll down for latest information, continuing to add it as we get it)

(photo by David Hutchinson)
ORIGINAL 6:23 AM POST (which was headlined “Alki Homestead fire out”): That’s according to Helen Fitzpatrick of the Seattle Fire Department, who says flames were coming from the rear of the restaurant when crews arrived. Crews were sent out about 5:20 am. The Homestead’s log-house building on 61st SW south of Alki SW (map) is a city landmark (since 1996); the restaurant business was up for sale last year and we had reported just before the holidays (11/25/08 WSB report here) that its owner, Tom Lin, had found buyers. According to the Fire Department, no one was in the building at the time of this morning’s fire. More details and photos shortly. 6:43 AM UPDATE: Another photo from David Hutchinson, this one showing the fire-response vehicles lined up all the way onto Alki Ave. Witness reports say firefighters had to cut into the building while fighting the flames. No word of any injuries.

6:49 AM UPDATE: Co-publisher Patrick has an update from SFD spokesperson Fitzpatrick at the scene: The fire broke out on the 1st floor and flames did shoot up through the roof. No idea yet what caused it. Damage is mostly confined to the 1st floor (which of course is the restaurant’s main floor). 61st remains blocked off from Alki Ave to SW Stevens (Log House Museum).

7 AM UPDATE: Most of the fire vehicles are starting to pack up to leave. We’re not being allowed around back of the building so far, so it’s too soon to say just how extensive the damage appears from the outside.

7:06 AM UPDATE: Fitzpatrick says there’s “significant smoke and char damage on the first floor” and some damage in the attic area. Investigation into the cause continues.

7:22 AM UPDATE: Patrick just talked with owner Tom Lin at the scene. The message he wanted to reaffirm: Nobody is hurt – in the past there were tenants renting some space in the building but that space has been vacant for a while. Tom knows his office was damaged but doesn’t know the extent of the restaurant damage yet and so has no idea when it’ll reopen. He told us that he lives nearby and heard the sirens; when he realized how close they were, he went over to look and was shocked to find out it was the Homestead. Patrick asked about the in-progress sale mentioned in our November report; Tom said it hadn’t closed yet but the prospective purchaser had been actively preparing for some potential remodeling work, and the restaurant had been scheduled to close soon because of that (as he’d told us in November). Patrick adds that the fire damage is not visible from outside, at least from the front of the restaurant; Tom believes the thickness of the log structure kept the flames from actually breaking through the framework, aside from the aforementioned attic damage. (added later – video we shot as a TV reporter was interviewing him with the same questions we’d asked some time earlier)

7:38 AM UPDATE: Owner Tom just told Patrick investigators believe the fire was electrical in origin.

8:01 AM NOTE: We’ll have more photos back shortly, more clearly showing the damage from outside. Regarding the mention of the attic, we’re reminded that we covered a special sale at the Homestead last April (here’s our story, with photos); many of the items had been brought out of storage in the attic.

8:15 AM UPDATE: Adding more photos. First, this is from behind the restaurant, showing the roof damage – that’s right behind the famous vertical neon sign:

Looking at the roof from the front, only a little damage can be seen, right around the chimney:

Here’s a wide shot of the restaurant’s century-old building – from this angle, if not for the fire trucks, you wouldn’t have known there’d been a fire:

By the way, if you’ve never been inside the Homestead, here’s a photo of the interior.

10:29 AM UPDATE: From Dana Vander Houwen at the SFD: The fire is blamed on “excessive draw of power for Christmas lights plugged into a single outlet” and damage is estimated at $400,000.

11:45 AM UPDATE: From an opening to the courtyard on the alley behind the restaurant, you can see this sad scene – burned items from inside the restaurant.

27 Replies to "Updates: Alki Homestead fire out, Christmas lights blamed"

  • Magpie January 16, 2009 (6:39 am)

    I must have heard 10 sets of sirens going down California and I knew it was somewhere near Alki. Hopethis isn’t the demise of the restaurant and that the damage wasn’t so extensive that it has to be torn down.

  • Anonymous January 16, 2009 (7:06 am)

    Well. Given the recent amount of high profile fires on Alki Beach, and in the immediate area, and the fact that this occured at such an early hour of the morning, leads me to believe this was arson.

  • WSB January 16, 2009 (7:10 am)

    There hasn’t been a major fire on Alki in six months, since this one:

  • James Mahler January 16, 2009 (7:56 am)

    It is difficult for anyone lose their business even temporarily. I once met Tom Lin (owner) who is delightful person with grand plans for Alki. I wish him all the best. James

  • 56bricks January 16, 2009 (9:32 am)

    I lost my business to a fire 14 years ago. Kansas resolve! Good now!

  • Kristin January 16, 2009 (10:15 am)

    2 firetrucks were still there when I left around 8:30 this morning…did not see any smoke though.

    It’s amazing the firetrucks didn’t wake me up, I live right across the street!

  • Elizabeth Carpenter January 16, 2009 (10:43 am)

    Oh No! I soooo hope that they can save this treasured landmark. I was looking forward to the new restaurant. There is so little left of old Seattle – it would be criminal to lose The Homestead.

    And – all the lights plugged into one outlet in an old building – what were they thinking? Let this be a warning for all of us to check our own set up for what’s plugged where.

  • Jo January 16, 2009 (10:46 am)

    Kristin, I didn’t hear the firetrucks either and I live just 1/2 block away across from Log House Museum.
    Although, my cat must have, because I woke up at 5:45 with her sitting on my chest staring at me.
    Sorry about the fire damage, the Homestead is a beautiful building.

  • WSB January 16, 2009 (10:58 am)

    Patrick went back over a little while ago to see if he can find out anything more about the extent of the interior damage.

  • WSChick January 16, 2009 (11:27 am)

    Wow, this is unfortunate…as a long time former employee (who worked for years w/ Mrs. Nelson),I hope that it is possible to restore…Regardless of what opinions I have of the current owners, this is a sad day.

  • rnl January 16, 2009 (11:46 am)

    This business had been for sale for ages, maybe it is arson?

  • WSB January 16, 2009 (11:49 am)

    As mentioned in our story, we had reported in late November that the owners had found a buyer; he told us this morning the sale hadn’t closed yet but the prospective buyer had been continuing to proceed with plans to do some remodeling. And as noted above in the 10:29 am update, the fire department confirmed it was an electrical fire – Christmas lights.

  • pam January 16, 2009 (12:01 pm)

    Seeing that the fire was started by Christmas lights – it’s not really a surprise I guess. There were always extension cords running from one place to the other. The wiring should have been taken care of a long time ago. It’s so sad – just loved the ‘grandma’ feeling of the Homestead and even though the sides (gravy, vegetables and soup) aren’t the same as they were in the past it is still a great place for dinner.

  • Kristin January 16, 2009 (12:21 pm)

    Yeah, ironically I was up around 4:30-5 but for other 3yo related issues…maybe they only had the alarms on the trucks when going through traffic, didn’t see the need closer to the ‘hood.

  • Cami January 16, 2009 (1:04 pm)

    Didn’t hear a thing this morning!

  • wylie January 16, 2009 (2:01 pm)

    damm, I wanted fried chicken for dinner!

  • In the know January 16, 2009 (4:00 pm)

    FYI—-the Homestead was built in 1903 and has very old wiring. It wasn’t arson, just an accident.

  • glocson January 16, 2009 (5:09 pm)

    That is horrible!!! I love that place. Old wiring will do that…. Sad sad day!

  • BGJ January 16, 2009 (8:29 pm)

    I wonder if it was caused by that film crew that was blowing things up at Seacrest the other day?

    They should have taken their Christmas lights down within a reasonable timeframe after Christmas! Now, if we can just get the Major to take down his Christmas lights . . .

  • Not Surprised January 16, 2009 (11:44 pm)

    Unfortunately I am not surprised. The current ownership seems to CUT corners in quite a few places… unfortunately that has been the trend with every project they’ve worked on around Alki Beach (this guy AND his business partner). I’m still so happy we don’t have to deal with a major hotel on the beach… which is what they were fighting to do a couple years ago.

    Having said that, I am really sorry to hear about the cicrumstances though. I hope it’s restored back to the way it was… and I hope the entire building is sold to new ownership.

  • glocson January 17, 2009 (6:30 pm)

    Not suprised… how dare you! They did nothing wrong. That place was more than just a restaurant. How dare you bad mouth Tom and Patrick! The inside of that place is a total loss.

  • BORN&RAISED WEST SEATTLEITE January 18, 2009 (9:31 pm)

    Wow aren’t we fast to judge!! Yes the place is old and the electrial is probably old too but don’t we all get a few too may uses out of our x-mas lights. The sad part about it is the Homestead will never be the same….very sad!!

  • just wait..... January 19, 2009 (10:09 pm)

    Just wait—-the hotel is coming whether you like it or not.

  • Homestead Chief January 21, 2009 (10:02 am)


    Julie Zombro Chris Long Brian Nowka Manoj Bhandari Melissa Watson Fernando Rodriguez

    We would like to be be hired as a collective team..
    OUR restaurant is gone. WE had kept the Homestead ALIVE..

  • HotelorNotell January 21, 2009 (11:03 am)

    If Tom Lin really wants to put a hotel on Alki he has his work cut out for him. The Homestead building is the most important structure to and for the people of the Pacific Northwest. There is no going back, the people of this region need a beacon of history to call their own. Not to say that history belongs to the people of West Seattle but that the people of West Seattle deserve their history and their fried chicken.

  • ltalkires January 21, 2009 (4:55 pm)

    FYI—The site for the hotel is the block where Slices and Coastal sit! If people would read Tom said the Homestead will be back as it was!


  • Loyal Customer January 25, 2009 (7:11 am)

    We have been loyal customers of the Homestead for over 20 years. Doris was an amazing woman, excellent business person and a friend. Her passing was a sad time not only for us, her family and friends, but for the Homestead Restaurant itself. Tom Lin became the new owner and I truly believe his intentions were to continue the “Homestead Tradition”
    as best he could. All of you must know that the operational economics of maintaining this restaurant have been difficult for him to say the least. Yet he kept it open, he preserved the ambience and charm, and kept, or hired employees that could help him do just that. The fire is now yet another sad chapter in the life of this unique piece of history. I urge all who read this to support Tom in his efforts to repair and reopen the Homestead. To do otherwise will only increase the chance of this wonderful, long standing, unique piece of West Seattle History to disappear forever. And that my friends, would truly be a tragedy.
    It is now time to put aside any personal animosity, stop the criticisms, the no hotel chants, and concentrate on the oldest piece of history that West Seattle has. No matter if you are a resident, business person, city official or customer, Tom Lin needs your support, advice and friendship to restore the Alki Homestead and its rightful place as the historic beacon in West Seattle. Whenever and wherever a tragedy occurs, Americans are the first to lend a hand and I think it is about time we get started with Tom and the Alki Homestead.

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