Happening now: Alki Homestead post-fire cleanup, repairs

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).

23 Replies to "Happening now: Alki Homestead post-fire cleanup, repairs"

  • jsrekd March 27, 2009 (11:38 am)

    Thank you to the Tunison brothers – had the “work party” been on a weekend my family would be there. Unfortunately, we work M-F.

  • James March 27, 2009 (12:10 pm)

    This is awesome… but really, why can’t Lin clean up his own business? This is actually a BUSINESS. He’s got money. Why can’t he do his own work. Why is he asking where the volunteers are? We should volunteer to help him because he’s not capable? I just don’t get it. Volunteering because you want to is one thing, but asking WHERE ARE THE VOLUNTEERS is another. This is your deal, Lin. C’mon guy.

  • S March 27, 2009 (12:16 pm)

    This is really nice about the volunteers (very cool!) but I’m soooo sick of Tom Lin. We never heard why he didn’t put the tarp on the building when it was snowing and raining in record amounts. Augh.

  • WSB March 27, 2009 (12:32 pm)

    S, he says that he had a tarp on the roof originally, shortly after the fire. (You can see some plastic blowing around on the southwest side, from the alley.) The record snow happened before the fire (that was in mid-December; this happened in mid-January). And he showed me a slew of phone/text messages where he’s been trying to get this work done for about a month. I cannot speak to day-to-day, week-to-week, what its status has been and why, but his contention is that it has not been sitting idle from neglect – TR

  • Johnny Davies March 27, 2009 (12:56 pm)

    Good point James. And further: wouldn’t a PAID work/cleanup crew be part of the insurance claim reimbursement? I believe it would, but could be wrong. When my business experieced an equipment theft, we were reimbursed for everything, even estimated lost revenues.
    I don’t know the man, or his principles, but one thing seemed odd to me on the Firehouse/Game idea. He seemed to ask that someone else do all the research & tasks. He had the idea, he would pay for the game systems, but was attempting to outsource all the boots on the ground work. Just struck an odd chord with me. Maybe it says something about his believed status or something. Maybe he’s an idea man, not a roll up his sleeves man? I dunno – but I’ll give him credit for having nice thought about the firefighters.

  • alki_2008 March 27, 2009 (2:06 pm)

    James/Johnny – have you read the preceeding articles on here about the Homestead? Where people were saying they would help if they could, just let them know when & where? Have you had a major issue and had to deal with homeowner’s insurance and the rules surrounding all that?

    There WAS a tarp on the roof…but it blew off with all the wind. It’s not like this is the only thing Tom has to deal with. He’s been working hard to buy another restaurant so that his employees can have a place to work. How come you guys don’t give him props for that?!

  • Johnny Davies March 27, 2009 (2:25 pm)

    Alki_2008: Please don’t read venom in my post, my intention wasn’t to go at the guy. Since his issues are public and this is a forum, I figured I’d post my two cents.

    If Mr. Lin had his business covered with a homeowners policy – I’d be shocked. I imagine that isn’t the case. And yes, I personally have brought a business through a large insurance claim (not a fire), re-read my post. Its the insurance companies best interest to get the co. back working again and off insurance $.

    Yes, I read the other posts.. Seemed to me there is a lot of public frustration surrounding the handling/care of the structure. I just was echoing James’ statement that it seemed strange: why a volunteer effort, only after public outcry?

    I think buying a restaurant is great. It’ll employee some Homestead unemployed, it will buy a business that now sits vacant. Great points. But he’s not buying the business solely in charity to his Homestead employees.

    Lastly, I did give him props – for the Firehouse/Game idea – didn’t I? I just mentioned a discordant gut feeling that came with it.

  • 22blades March 27, 2009 (2:27 pm)

    I am not quite sure about soliciting people’s volunteer time for a private business, especially after a comment like ” where are they?”. He bought a business that was in need of repairs. He didn’t do them. He gambled his investment & worker’s livelyhood & lost. In the meantime, he’s tackling another start-up? Maybe I’m a skeptic but I don’t believe his motives for another start-up to be all out of benevolence for his workers.

  • WSB March 27, 2009 (2:31 pm)

    I have clarified the original article after a followup conversation with Tom Lin, to excerpt the exact quote from his post in that earlier comment thread. He did not consider that a “challenge,” which was the word I originally used (along with a link directly to the comment) nor a request for help. He is adamant that he will take care of this himself, and has been handling it himself without making public comment for the past month-plus, but since so many had expressed concern, he thought it worth mentioning that volunteer help would be welcome, not that it was required or even requested.
    He also says that the Historical Society had not sought to talk with him about its concerns before sending out the press release that triggered this week’s round of coverage; we are checking with them for their comment on that – TR
    (Edited at 10:20 pm Friday to add Historical Society response: Judy Bentley listed several specific occasions in March when Historical Society leadership met/talked directly with Tom Lin, adding, “We sent him a letter on March 18 detailing our views. He has had conversations with members of our Advisory Council. All of these things happened before the press release. Ron Richardson, a member of our Executive Board, was at the Homestead this morning and had a long talk with him.”)

  • Oasis Construction March 27, 2009 (2:44 pm)

    We would like to volunteer skilled labor to assist the ownership in minimizing future damages (i.e. tarp blowing away, etc). If the responsible party would call me directly @ 206.225.7571 it would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • CB March 27, 2009 (2:57 pm)

    This guy can’t win. He does everything right, and the selfish know-it-all residents of West Seattle continue to find fault. What happened to helping neighbors when they are down on their luck? God forbid I ever have a house fire… I can only imagine the complaints. Everyone who complained, including the Historical Society, should be ashamed of themselves.

    WSB: I think you guys also deserve some fault for feeding this. Next time, get both sides of the story before publishing, even if it takes a couple of extra days. You made Mr. Lin look like a bad guy, even though he has been been doing everything right. The world does not revolve around your blog. Have some respect for your community, or you run the risk of loosing credibility.

  • WSB March 27, 2009 (3:15 pm)

    CB, we put out calls and e-mails immediately. The Historical Society issuing a news release was news, and we published it. As did the other news source in West Seattle:
    We report the news and we pursue as much information to add to it as possible. Context is vital in news coverage, and the additional facts we included about city permits and citation, as well as history of the fire, was all context. How any individual reader reacts to a news story is their decision and I can’t control that. Some people chose to criticize Mr. Lin; some people chose to criticize the Historical Society. And thousands of people who read the story chose not to comment at all.
    I do take issue with reporting the news, as it happens, being characterized as not showing “respect for (our) community.” I contend that we show respect for our community by covering it thoroughly, every neighborhood, every neighborhood group, every issue – at least, the ones we find out and that are brought to our attention – in ways big and small, from lost cats and dogs to book drives to, yes, controversies over historical properties. Not reporting the news as it happens is what would cost us credibility, as would inaccuracy.
    But that’s simply my reaction to what you have written, as you have expressed your reaction to what we have reported. Thank you for taking the time to say what you feel – TR

  • JanS March 27, 2009 (3:26 pm)

    I’m tired of the attitudes of James, etc., who absolutely LOVE to criticize Tom Lin at every turn. You have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, and, his business, as he as stated, is now owned by the INSURANCE Company. If you’ve ever had a devastating thing happen to your home, you’d know that it’s the insurance company who calls the shots, not Tom Lin.

    I thought our west seattle community was better than this, essentially calling Tom Lin a liar beause you think you know better.

    I just drove by there a bit ago. I’m recovering from abdominal surgery, am not capable of doing what needs to be done there.

    James…have you beejn inside? do oyu know what’s being or not being done? really, really know? here’s a challenge. Go talk with Tom Lin..he might be open to letting you know where things stand on a personal level.

    and 22blades…how many people do you know who would actually go out and acquire another business so his employees don’t loose their livlihoods? He didn’t burn his business down on purpose..how dare you question him and his motives. I think what he’s doing is spot on.
    Let’s hope that if something catastrophic happens to the place where you work, that your boss would do the same for you.

    CB…I’m with ya re: the rudeness directed by the community towards Mr. Lin…

  • Grateful March 27, 2009 (3:32 pm)

    I think we are forgetting the big picture here that there were no injuries to the firefighter’s or the employee’s. I love the Homestead, I have been going there for over 15 years and for the past 4 years almost once a week. In fact my daughter at one time lived in one of the apartments upstairs and by the grace of God neither she nor anyone else still lived there at the time of the fire.
    I truly believe that the Homestead will be re-built but it will take time and in order to do it right it will take even longer than everyone thought, and I will wait.

    Just remember everyone is safe most importantly my daughter .The Homestead can be re-built and I will be there for the grand opening savoring the thought of home-style chicken and over poured drinks!

  • GiGi March 27, 2009 (3:49 pm)

    Thank you Terry and crew from Paradigm Builders for starting the job of putting up more than a “tarp” but something more secure over the hole in the roof, and for all the other jobs you’re doing to keep The Homestead from being further damaged. We West Seattle residents appreciate you! And the Tunison brothers too! We are lucky to have such awesome people in this community.

  • alki_2008 March 27, 2009 (5:01 pm)

    Hi Johnny, you’re right. I miswrote when I wrote ‘homeowners’. I guess I was just trying to convey ‘insurance’ claims in general. It seemed that Tom addressed the lack of clean-up already, in that the insurance company had some restrictions that discouraged him from a big ‘clean-up’ effort. Maybe there was some miscommunication there or something, but you’ve gotta admit that dealing with an insurance company about a large claim (like a fire) can be confusing the first time around…so maybe misinterpreting something isn’t a character flaw. ;)

    I’m sure there is some personal interest in obtaining another business, but I’m sure the Homestead employees are glad that Tom is taking the time and accepting the risk that’s involved in buying another business right now. It may benefit Tom in the long-run, or it may not…but either way, his employees will benefit either way. If he invests in the business and it goes belly-up in 1 year, then Tom will lose his investment…but his employees will have been employed for that 1 year.

    And then there’s the Xbox. Yeah – let’s rant on Tom because he’s willing to fork over money so the firefighters can have something nice for their downtime. But…because Tom isn’t an expert about Xbox, then let’s get on his case for soliciting help from the “community” that the firefighters serve. I guess we should also complain about our parents/grandparents when they ask us to hook up the DTV converter that they bought. How dare they don’t know enough about electronics to do the “boots on the ground” work themselves. So many assumptions and judgements here…geesh!

  • JanS March 27, 2009 (5:46 pm)

    and since Tom Lin announced that he’s going for an alternative restaurant to help out his employees, I’ve been thinking “Make it the Admiral District, PLEASE make it the Admiral District” – lol…that yummy fried chicken within walking distance sure sounds great. But wherever it is…I’m sure I’ll be there :)

  • Thomas Lin March 27, 2009 (8:34 pm)

    First of all, if you want to talk about me, just call me Tom and not Mr Lin. It makes me feel old.

    There is a saying in Chinese “you throw a brick out and hope to attract jade”. This means you offer something insignificant and hope something better will come of it. Look how many postings we have received? Look how much more we appreciate the work these people have done for us? I certainly have been a beneficiary from these firefighters. The truth is I don’t play computer games and I don’t own a XBox. I just know they are pretty popular.

    I have noticed someone suggested maybe a ping pong table or a gym equipment. I know someone has already started doing research finding out what they need and what we can offer. Another person has volunteered to install these games. I hope it is our group appreciation and not just my personal thank you.

    I have never asked for volunteers to help me with the clean up. I only said “If anyone is really interested in helping out”. I know it is a private business and I have dealt with it in my own private way. I corrected WSB about the word “challenge” they used. I don’t think I ever challenged anyone to fix my problem.

    I will have to keep the new location for this new “venture” secret. It is not a big place and it centainly is not meant to be permanent. Infact, the employees found this place and are spearheading the deal. We have not secured the location yet and I am keeping my fingers crossed. By the way, there is a possibility that this new place will be employeed owned or at least partially employeed owned.

  • AreYouKiddingMe?! March 28, 2009 (2:57 pm)

    I am absolutely appalled at how self-righteous some of you are. None of you, as far as any of us can tell, have been burned out of your business or lost your jobs because of it. I’m sure this business was not only an investment of money and time for Tom, but of heart. And, although in the process of selling when this happened, the devastation I’m sure was certainly no less felt. Who are you to judge any portion of this terrible accident unless you were on the inside or were invited to be by Tom himself. I’m embarrassed to tell people I’m from West Seattle when the subject of The Homestead comes up because of what has been written here and how the “complaints” of a few, have morphed into such snarkey criticism toward an individual; most people are saddened about what happened and hopeful the restaurant will reopen…soon.
    STOP casting stones, get off your asses and help, or keep your opinions and conjecture to yourself.
    This issue and story are now no longer about a preservation of historical building and loved restaurant or a tarp you believed would preserve it, it’s become personal.
    Thanks Tom for clarifying for those less astute in the obvious. Oasis and the others who’ve graciously volunteered your expertise. Best of luck. My family, many of our friends and I are anxiously waiting the Homestead’s triumphant return.

  • Meghan March 28, 2009 (3:45 pm)

    Why so many people choose to utilize their time and energy criticizing and maligning other people they don’t know from Adam is just something I’ll never understand. To openly question someone else’s motives, ethics, and actions in a public forum is morally reprehensible. They must have truly miserable lives.

    Thank you AGAIN, Tom, for taking even more time away from your business endeavors and family life to write YET ANOTHER letter correcting, explaining, and defending yourself. It’s a shame that you have to do it. But perhaps the repetition will actually help some of these people become less negative, mean-spirited, and judgmental. (I’ll bet you $10 most of them think they’re “good people” and some of them probably even go the church).

  • Dano March 28, 2009 (5:28 pm)

    I think the folks that will REALLY feel the sting of all this are the people associated with the Historical Society. I for one, will NEVER support them with money or donations…. Their behavior (and especially the comments made by the woman who seems to be in charge….) have stained them as being mean spirited and nasty. They should reflect on how their personal communications will damage the cause of preservation in our neighborhood. While the initial intent may have been well meaning, they behaved as if buildings are more important than people….. Which will never be the case. Too bad….they now have a terrible reputation.

  • James March 28, 2009 (6:05 pm)

    CB and Jan S, The problem is… we DO have an idea of what is going on behind the scenes. I just hope it doesn’t get any worse. (There have been problems bubbling up to the surface throughout the last few years with Tom Lin for a reason.) I just hop it does not continue.

  • Cynthia Burke March 29, 2009 (12:59 pm)

    Hi – My name is Cynthia Burke, formerly Cynthia Tunison – My nephews (great guys that they are) are Josiah, Marcus and Taylor Tunison – I was very proud to see them volunteering there time to assist a person in need. Having been raised in West Seattle and owning a small business near Lincoln Park, I am somewhat shocked after reading the comments – all I can say is Wow – West Seattle has changed!! – I am currently living in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands and when something of this nature happens, whether business related or just personal, the whole community shows up to help and happily!!! No negative comments about what should have been done, no venting about personal clashes, just honest neighborly help. Restaurants donate food for the helpers, money comes from those who can’t donate their time and on and on. I am constanly amazed at the outpouring of community on this tiny island. I applaud the volunteers and know that they are feeling quite content with how they spent their time at the end of the day. Love you Marcus, Josiah and Taylor (and I know Elias would have been there if he was in Seattle!!!)
    Love – your Aunt Cyn

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