Admiralty House Antiques’ closing sale: Owner Fred Dau recalls ‘wonderful, wonderful people’

Story and photos by Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Admiralty House Antiques, the North Admiral shop that’s been open a day here, a day there, for many of its 40-plus years, opens for three final – and consecutive! – days starting tomorrow.

It’s the liquidation sale we first told you about three weeks ago.

Owner Fred Dau (above) says that at 97 years old, “I’ve worked long enough, I thought I didn’t need to go do more work.”

But what really forced the decision was the death of his wife Marjorie, the day after Christmas last year. “That stopped it all, anyhow.”

Admiralty House’s classic brick storefront is still full of what truly qualifies for some of those classic terms – knickknacks, bric-a-brac, trinkets, memorabilia.

Some of it, says Chris Foss, whose Foss Estate Sales is handling the liquidation sale, has likely never been out as inventory before.

Fred told us during a recent interview in the shop that a few special things are not for sale, though.

On the ledge for the little windows over the storefront are bottles. “My wife and I collected them, and a lot of them just came in and went up there. Some people brought us bottles as gifts.”

Fred drew a lot of community affection, we noticed while talking with him. Just in the short span of our conversation, two people poked their heads in the door – noticing he was there – and wished him well. One was a neighbor insisting on a hug.

“You’re looking wonderful,” Fred and the neighbor tell each other. After a few minutes, she takes her leave, saying she just wanted to let him know that “you’ve been a very good neighbor.”

Neighborliness is something Fred says he has long appreciated – and, with his wife, practiced: “We kind of worked with the idea that we would try to help anybody if we could … and it was all fun.”

He hasn’t been an antique-store owner/co-owner for his entire long life, though. He taught for more than 20 years at Denny (now International) Middle School, starting in industrial arts such as wood shop, Then, Fred says, a new principal arrived after a decade or so, and asked him to come work in the office as an administrator.

But even that wasn’t his first career. He was born in Lewiston, Idaho, and in young adulthood, he says, his jobs included farm work, raising cattle.

“I made money on some things, lost my butt on others, just kept going, got over here and I liked it,” he recalls. “Met a great amount of wonderful people. Never ran out of people that were wonderful.”

He says that often. If you fear your older years might lend themselves to crabbiness and bitterness – take Fred Dau as an example that it doesn’t have to be that way. We lost count of how many times he spoke during our interview of “wonderful, wonderful people.” And his memories of “the store and the friendships” are all positive too.

When you visit Admiralty House during the sale Friday-Sunday, look up as well as around. Fred’s memories stretched to rows of nails that protrude from the rafters – something we hadn’t noticed until he called attention to them. They all used to have things hanging from them, he says. And for as many items as could be found crammed into the store, he had customers, he remembers: “We always had a coffee pot going back there … we had just a lot of fun … they were all really good friends. Super people.”

OK, there was one not-so-super memory that he volunteers without us asking. “I only recall one person getting kicked out of the building. A guy came in drunk and put his old sewing machine on the counter. Broke the glass.”

Any secrets in the Admiralty House, something nobody has seen until now? we ask.

“No secrets,” insists Fred. “We never kept secrets. I’m a straight shooter … because that’s the only way a farmer walked … and I did that for years.”

Compared to the countryside where he worked as a farmer, though, Fred insists West Seattle is where he’ll live out his remaining years: “A lovely place. I love it.”

So once “every available item,” as sale manager/presenter Chris Foss put it, is sold over the next three days, what happens to the building?

It’s going up for sale, says Fred, who hopes to sell it “as quick as we can.”

Then he is “probably just going to sit down in my spot looking out over the beautiful water.”

Before we said goodbye to Fred, we asked Chris for a few more points about the sale. He notes that even those who have been to the shop will “definitely see things they haven’t seen before – things they never had out before, never got around to pricing.”

The web page for the sale describes it as “a little bit of everything.” Go there to see photos, and a list of some of the types of merchandise available. The sale runs 8 am-4 pm Friday, 9 am-4 pm Saturday and Sunday, at 2141 California SW.

Fred is such a positive guy, he makes a point of also speaking fondly of Chris, who at the time is standing a few feet away in the store where he already had been working for days to get ready: “I have a good man who’s going to do a good job getting this out of here.”

22 Replies to "Admiralty House Antiques' closing sale: Owner Fred Dau recalls 'wonderful, wonderful people'"

  • miws July 25, 2013 (12:35 pm)

    Thanks for sharing this, Fred and WSB!


    Fred certainly belies his age! Could pass for at least 20-25 years younger!



  • Wow July 25, 2013 (12:51 pm)

    97? Wow. That is almost unbelievable. If you would have said late 60s, I would have believed it.

  • Jim Clark July 25, 2013 (12:55 pm)

    I remember him at Denny in the 60’s took wood shop from him

  • BLB July 25, 2013 (1:11 pm)

    I’ve lived in West Seattle 40+ years, and I’ve never seen this shop open.

  • work downtown July 25, 2013 (4:27 pm)

    Wonderful story Tracy, thanks for the special effort.

  • tickingtimebags July 25, 2013 (4:43 pm)

    Ooh, I’ve wanted to go in here since I moved to WS last year. It looks like my favorite kind of store and it was obviously run by one of my favorite kinds of people. I’m sad to see it go and wish I could buy the space and use it for something amazing…but alas, I’ll have to sit by and hope it doesn’t get knocked down for another high-rise apartment building. Such a great space.

  • Lena July 25, 2013 (5:09 pm)

    This has always been my dream space to have a business out of as I felt like Fred and his wife had put such wonderful energy and love into it and I love the building. I just started looking for space two weeks ago to expand my existing business and was so hoping it would go up for lease. I am guessing that it will be beyond my means and go for a lot with it being commercial. I hope that whomever buys it will preserve it but worry that it will be demolished for something taller and larger:-(

  • tickingtimebags July 25, 2013 (5:38 pm)

    Ah, thanks WSB for pointing out the zoning info; I’m sure you tire of our constant harping about neighborhood change and “in with the new.” In any case, I hope the space remains for someone else to enjoy for another 45 years.

  • Twobottles July 25, 2013 (6:21 pm)

    Would be a great spot for a little gastro-pub (cue all the “Admiral doesn’t need another bar” naysayers)

  • katman July 25, 2013 (6:47 pm)

    Mr. Dau was my wood shop teacher in 3rd hall at Denny in 1964, his brother in-law Mr. Voris was my mechanical drawing teacher in 1963,,, 3rd hall at Denny.

  • Woodsman July 25, 2013 (6:54 pm)

    I had Fred as my Drawing instructor at Sealth high school back in the early seventies. Great guy. His shop has some old Christmas items that are collectables. See you this weekend my old friend.

  • Cclarue July 25, 2013 (9:35 pm)

    Great story! He doesn’t look a day over 67!! I would say doing what he loved must have played a part in that!!;)

  • Salamander July 25, 2013 (9:39 pm)

    Such an inspiration…I love everything about Fred.

  • leslie July 26, 2013 (12:44 am)

    so sorry to hear about his wife passing. The shop happened to be open the day I went by with a friend. Got to meet them – sweetest couple – apparently just before she passed. Neither looked their age, especially Fred. I hope he enjoys retirement.

    Also agree with everyone – it’s a cool building with promise. Hopefully someone who appreciates that will buy it.

  • Denny Student July 26, 2013 (6:30 am)


    I remember Mr. Dau as my counselor at Denny back in the mid-1970’s.

    I also remember a SAD showing by an 8th grade class where Mr. Dau was called upon as a substitute for our teacher, “Lily White” (I kid you not). We as a class were just terrible and majorly disruptive to a man who everybody admired and respected… except for that one hour during what was 1976-77 school year.

    I am excited to know that Mr. Dau is still kicking, but I wish I’d known of this place earlier!!

  • sc July 26, 2013 (8:25 am)

    my husband just purchased the lighthouse lamp that was in the front corner and never for sale. Mr. Dau, my husband and I will take special care of this treasure always!

  • Matt July 26, 2013 (9:43 am)

    I grew up one block from there and remember going in with my dad as a little kid. Always a fun shop to look through. I hope you enjoy your view of the water, Fred.

  • Elizagrace July 26, 2013 (11:04 am)

    sc, I saw your husband leaving with the lighthouse lamp as we were waiting to go in to shop. He looked so pleased and contented with his new treasure. I loved it! There were a lot of people who went in and bought up more than a house could hold, it was refreshing to see someone with such a distinct plan.
    Enjoy your lamp!

  • L. Gray July 26, 2013 (1:10 pm)

    Dad, my Dad…kindest man on earth. Lucky to have him and to read all of these comments from folks. He’s the best. L. Gray

  • sc July 26, 2013 (7:35 pm)


    Thanks for the note about my husband. Getting the Lighthouse lamp really made him feel like a child on the best Christmas morning ever!!!


  • Ray West July 28, 2013 (11:21 am)

    Another West Seattle landmark bites the dust. I’m sad to see it go, but I can understand the reason. I just hate to see yet another blah, over-priced condo go in. Good luck, Fred. Your business was a real asset to our community.

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