VIDEO: ‘What makes The Junction special?’ West Seattle Junction Historical Survey unveiled

(Heart of The Junction, 1926. Photo courtesy SWSHS)

9:02 AM: We’re at Husky Deli in The Junction, where the first-ever West Seattle Junction Historical Survey is being formally announced, with a gathering of local advocates, businesspeople, electeds, and more.

We’re recording video and will be publishing toplines live. (added 3:24 pm – here’s the video – the heart of the briefing starts 1:30 in):

For starters – the report and highlights are here. It’s in three parts: A survey of 58 Junction buildings that are 40+ years old; summaries of interviews with nine Junction building owners; summary of a public survey done last summer. As Clay Eals, executive director of the SW Seattle Historical Society, has just pointed out, it’s been almost exactly a year since this effort was announced. More to come!

9:07 AM: Community advocate Chas Redmond is opening the event with backstory – he was on the Southwest District Council when the idea first came up 3+ years ago. Current SWDC member Deb Barker (who also happens to be on the city Landmark Preservation Board) mentions that King County’s 4Culture helped fund this, and that the building survey was done by architectural historian Mimi Sheridan.

The buildings surveyed are between Genesee and Edmunds, mostly along California SW, some on 44th and 42nd. The survey categorizes buildings, primarily by whether they might be eligible for landmark status. Two wound up in that category (A) – the Campbell and Hamm Buildings in the heart of The Junction (NW and NE corners of California/Alaska – see them in the historical photo atop this story), built in 1918 and 1926 respectively. Six buildings are Category B – potentially eligible to be designated as landmarks, pending further evaluation – Hotwire/dental, Courtesy Accounting, JF Henry, ex-JC Penney, Curious Kidstuff, Technical Analysis. The rest of the 40+-year-old buildings were not considered eligible for potential landmark status.

9:15 AM: Susan Melrose from the WS Junction Association is introducing the building owner interviews – and she says the transcriptions are worth diving into; they often were the first time these owners had ever been asked about the buildings, how they came to own them, and more.

She’s followed by Eals, summarizing the public interviews done during events in the area last summer, on paper, with 260+ respondents who “were eager to share their observations and opinions – and every syllable of what they wrote is in the report.” The question included “favorite buildings” and Eals says they were named by their main tenants, Easy Street Records and Cupcake Royale, – the Campbell and Hamm Buildings mentioned above – were the leading answers. What’s worth preserving? History and small-town feel, he said – and 43 of the respondents had a one-word answer to that question: “Everything.” Eals says the logical question to all this is, what’s next? The Historical Society will answer that question in its own event at 11 am Saturday in The Junction, outside Key Bank if it’s not raining, at Husky Deli if it is. The interim time is in order for the survey to “be absorbed” and appreciated, he says.

9:20 AM: Now, the electeds (and an ex-elected). King County Executive Dow Constantine kicks it off, recounting The Junction’s century-plus history. (We’re recording video and will have it up within a few hours.)

With him, as you can see in our photo, are King County Council chair Joe McDermott, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, and former City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. Constantine says The Junction is always “where the community came together.” And, he notes, the survey is meant to help this area “move forward by honoring the past” and to “learn more about what makes this place so special to the community.” (He is a native West Seattleite, if you didn’t already know that.) He says 4Culture’s support of this involved a $10,000 grant. He says he’s “excited about the proactive approach taken by (those who did and oversaw) this survey.”

Councilmember McDermott, introduced by Constantine as another “old-timey West Seattleite,” calls West Seattle “truly a unique community.” But he stresses that for historical preservation, something has to have “meaning,” and the new report documents “what’s going on here, not just what used to go on here” – although he subsequently recounts memories including an early job here at Husky Deli. He says the report will assist with “an informed and solid conversation about meaningful use and historical preservation.”

Councilmember Herbold brings this into the context of a current issue, affordability (housing and otherwise), saying that “not just about saving these buildings because of why we love them, but because of what we want to retain moving forward – the affordability of this community, the use of local businesses … a place that is an economic engine for our local businesses.” She chairs the community that oversees economic development and believes it will be “useful to bring these findings to the council” including as assistance to other communities in Seattle struggling with these same issues. “For me, what this survey represents is hope” – for West Seattle and elsewhere.

Now, Rasmussen, who left the council a few months ago after deciding not to run for re-election. “We’re not just here to talk about saving buildings … but also we want to save what’s unique about this neighborhood, including the small locally owned businesses.” He talks about working with other areas, including Pike-Pine on Capitol Hill, which is “now one of the most successful neighborhoods on the West Coast. … When you save what is unique about (a) neighborhood, then you also save the local businesses … when you bulldoze a neighborhood or block, it is very difficult for local businesses (to move back in).” He points across the street to two new apartment buildings in this block, which now primarily have chains occupying or moving into its spaces. Just arrived, it’s announced, deputy mayor Hyeok Kim.

9:33 AM: Next up, business owners – Lora Swift of Hotwire Online Coffeehouse (WSB sponsor) and Ann Walker of Curious Kidstuff.

Swift says she is grateful and honored to have been part of this business community for 15+ years. “As I look around the room, I find that I’ve served coffee to most of you. … I hope to see everyone of you for the next 15 years.” Walker says the neighborhood “looked very different” when she opened her shop 18 years ago. She says she never realized when she started the store that it would go on so long, and she would have customers whose children are now customers with their own children. “It’s a lot of work, and it’s hard, but it’s so valuable,” she says, regarding running a small business.

9:37 AM: Next – two of the nine business owners who were interviewed, Menashe and Sons Jewelers (WSB sponsor)’s Jack Menashe, and Husky Deli’s Jack Miller.

Menashe says he grew up in Seward Park but was brought to West Seattle as a child every Sunday to have Spud Fish and Chips, and the family would drive to The Junction. He went into business here when he was 25, he says, fulfilling a wish voiced by his parents. He thanks those who supported him over the years and hails West Seattle as a “very, very loyal community” – saying the thanks for that goes to everyone in the community. “With all the changes in business, from forms of advertising with the Internet and all the different things and everything that’s happened to our city … many people outside West Seattle have come into this area for the unique area it is and the unique shops … and they love this area, the uniqueness, the older buildings … we can go everywhere (they say) but ‘please keep this area a unique, loyal area’ and that has stayed with me all these years.”

Miller says it’s not just the businesses – “Lincoln Park is not just a park, Alki is not just a beach … The Junction is not just a place to shop … we’re lucky to be here … I’m lucky to have been born into a family that has been here for 84 years. … We’re not just selling sandwiches and ice cream, there’s community here. It’s dear to us, and I’m hoping .. we have some kind of vision to preserve the feel, and loyal people here.” He recounts the story of how loyalty led to a Ben and Jerry’s franchise (where Cupcake Royale is now) not lasting long.

9:46 AM: The briefing is wrapping up; we’re the only news media here, and we ask whether the owners of the two buildings identified as potential landmarks, without even further evaluation, think about the concept. Eals says the Campbell Building (Cupcake Royale & more)’s ownership indicated potential support for preservation, but they so far have not been able to reach the Hamm Building (Easy Street & more)’s owners. All building owners, adds Barker, have been notified of the survey’s results. And as mentioned above, Eals reiterates to us, the Historical Society will have more to say on Saturday.

We’ll be adding more photos, as well as the video, of this event, after we get back to HQ.

20 Replies to "VIDEO: 'What makes The Junction special?' West Seattle Junction Historical Survey unveiled"

  • Peder Nelson March 2, 2016 (10:39 am)

    Thank you for covering this exciting story! A correction to the 9:46 AM update; the Campbell Building has Cupcake Royale as a tenant and the Hamm Building is Easy Street & More.


    • WSB March 2, 2016 (10:44 am)

      Yes, it is a big deal, and we’ll have followups to come. Re: the transposition, thanks, a reader also texted us about that but I haven’t had time to fix, we’ve been hurtling from one end of West Seattle to the other on breaking news in the half-hour since we left Husky Deli (N. Admiral to Arroyos), just about caught up so I should get to that in a couple mins. – TR

  • I. Ponder March 2, 2016 (11:15 am)

    I remember the day the fabulous Morton’s drugstore neon sign was taken down, to later be replaced by generic soulless signage. No outcry. I knew this community took its small town roots for granted. Wondering if anyone has a photo of that sign.

  • dsa March 2, 2016 (11:36 am)

    There is your rail.

  • I. Ponder March 2, 2016 (12:34 pm)

    Note bicycles at right. They worked then and still work today. And where are the parents of those kids. They seem unattended. Bicycles gave kids mobility. Nowadays most are chauffeured by fearful parents. Few bicycle to school.

  • West Seattle since 1979 March 2, 2016 (1:41 pm)

    I. Ponder, the owners of Morton’s sold it to Pharmaca–see above WSB article. Not sure what anyone could have done to prevent that, unless one of us would have had enough money to buy it, and even then it was probably a done deal by the time it was reported. 

  • Joe Szilagyi March 2, 2016 (3:31 pm)

    Are any of the buildings in the Junction proper historic landmarks, of the sort that can’t be torn down/upgraded without their exteriors saved for a facade? What about the ones where the interior needs to be preserved as well?

  • Triangle Resident March 2, 2016 (4:42 pm)

    Maybe Clay Eals can confirm this but I have been told that the north/south oriented building that makes up the American Legion Hall at 37th and Alaska was the original one room school house in West Seattle.  It was incorporated into the Legion building and the east/west building was an addition.  Seems some designation could be appropriate there.  Most people do not realize that the cannon out front is from World War I.  

  • Recovering Urbanist March 2, 2016 (5:18 pm)

    Joe S – are you suggesting that the whole of these buildings should be torn down? I know the urbanists would like to raze the entire area and replace it with buildings as big as possible (post-urban village expansion/upzone)? Maybe some of us neighbors need to petition for our Boeing Box houses (or rather entire blocks) to be designated as historic to save the neighborhoods from the HALA vision of high density, zero character around here.

    • WSB March 2, 2016 (5:26 pm)

      If you’re truly interested in finding out what’s possible, maybe drop by the Historical Society’s Saturday event (mentioned in our story) and see what they’re proposing. The Junction already is zoned almost entirely for 85′ mixed use, up and down California Avenue, so there’s no upzone needed, and the zoning’s been in place for quite some time – it’s a matter of whether property owners decide to keep their buildings.

      (added – see zoning toward top left )

      Buildings older than a half-century generally are reviewed for possible landmark status when there is a development proposal, but that isn’t necessarily protection from teardown – I very clearly remember the fight over the now-gone Ballard Denny’s, because some of its meetings at the Landmarks Board bumped up against a West Seattle issue I was covering. And take some time to read the survey (I’m going to dive in when I can carve out some time in the days before the Saturday event). Just to get to this point took an amazing amount of pushing-rock-uphill work by the small group of community advocates who are involved with groups like the Southwest District Council and SW Seattle Historical Society. They have not been stridently pro-preservation, either, but wanted to be sure that what is here was inventoried and studied before it was too late to evaluate, so there is room in the process for people of all views, as far as I can tell – TR

    • Joe Szilagyi March 2, 2016 (8:19 pm)

      No, I was just curious. I assumed some of them were landmarks or close to that, like the Easy Street, Cupcake Royale and Talaricos buildings. 

  • JayDee March 2, 2016 (9:43 pm)

    I am curious about the apparent regrade of Alaska Street east to Fauntleroy. It looks like a regrade: Streets paralleling it one block north or south are very hilly. I doubt the glaciers were so generous. And of course bicyclists love regraded streets.  So do streetcars.  Alas the past is indeed past and is rather mute.

  • TheKing March 2, 2016 (10:48 pm)

    As a teenager from the mid 80’s, the junction was cool. The bmx shop, Godfathers across the street, Skippers, Morton’s and my all time favorite….THE LUCK TOY. Best Chinese food ever. To name a few, back when the junction was awesome. 

  • cj March 3, 2016 (2:38 am)

    I remember New Luck Toy and Skippers.  Makes me kind of sad thinking what will disappear in the near future.

  • Gina March 3, 2016 (10:54 am)

    The little storefront with Prescriptions on the sign was a drug store. Morton’s took over in October 1961 and expanded. 

  • Eddie March 3, 2016 (8:49 pm)

    Kind of disappointed that the boundaries didn’t include the cool brick Central Park Condominiums (originally apartments) built in the early fifties at 44th and Alaska. Nice looking building.

  • heather March 4, 2016 (6:34 am)

    My understanding is that those trolly tracks were pulled out as a contingent of a tire company donating tires to city buses. 

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