By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Next Wednesday afternoon, the full city Landmarks Preservation Board will formally consider the Alki Homestead‘s restoration plans. As a prelude, Homestead owner Dennis Schilling and his architect Jeff Hamlett spoke this morning with the board’s Architectural Review Committee – almost exactly one year after we first reported that Schilling was the historic Fir Lodge‘s new owner, and more than seven years after the fire that ravaged and closed what had been a beloved restaurant.
What is before the board now isn’t the full site plan, which is eventually expected to include apartments to the south of the city landmark. But because much of the Homestead is protected, changes and repairs have to get approval from the board as well as from city staff.
The committee meetings are open to the public but informal, so this morning’s session was a discussion more than a presentation. And this stage of the review generally follows months of discussions between building owners and city staffers:
They brought paint samples and other materials to show board members – matching the pre-fire colors “as close as possible,” but there will be color variations, since different parts of the building will have different walls/siding – shingles, shake, and logs. Overall, “it’s a very dark building,” one board member noted, and the owner and architect agreed.
Among the restoration/repairs/remodeling they mentioned: Work on the back patio, “leveling it out with a slope toward the alley,” making it accessible with a ramp, so the ADA-compliant entrance to the building will be in the back (on its west side).
The kitchen, which is not controlled by the landmark ordinance, will be replaced in the same spot. It’s not covered by the landmark ordinance, and they haven’t come up with the layout yet, Schilling said, as they don’t know who the tenant will be in the restaurant space. The bathrooms, also not covered by landmark-ordinance controls, will be redone to be ADA-compliant.
The existing rock fireplace will be removed – it had structural damage, they discovered – and rebuilt, “trying to restore it to what it was when (the Homestead) was the original house. “When we took the rocks out, we realized there was nothing behind it,” Schilling explained. The restoration will include a timber mantle, he said.
There’ll be a lobby in the back of the building with new stairs; for the landing, they’re hoping to get permission to use concrete instead of “plastic wood,” to “make a little-nicer roof for the door below.”
They also talked about the second floor – another “non-historic” part of the building, where they’re going to try to create “some interesting spaces.” It will have to have “emergency egress” windows, and they have a plan to make those work without it looking different from the outside. They’ll meet the energy code on the upper floor, “except for the windows,” and on the lower floor, they’ll add insulation where they can (though, it was noted, not with the existing logs).
A “historic chimney” is proposed for removal and recreation – it’s seismically unstable, Hamlett and Schilling said, and they don’t want to have to use any more guy wires, so they’ll make a “fake chimney” to preserve the look. The neon sign is slated for restoration and a plan has been drawn up, the committee was told, even with a plan to analyze traces of the gases in its tubing to help recreate its previous color.
Other changes will include a wall where the bar used to be, a wood-panel door leading into the kitchen, and behind the stairs, another new door. Overall, they’ve been working with old, historic drawings and working to “scale everything” to try to “get the right shape.” Nothing on the north side will change; on the south side, the trellis will be gone.
Board members’ comments were positive, including an assessment that the proposal is an “elegant solution” that will allow “the log building to stand out and sing.” Schilling and Hamlett were thanked for “the level of detail they were putting into the research.”
No one was at this morning’s meeting to offer public comment; Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals, who has been chronicling the Homestead renovations (and inviting people to share Homestead memories), was the only member of the public present at all. But next Wednesday’s meeting will offer another opportunity, if anyone’s interested. Here’s the agenda; it’s at 3 pm March 16th at City Hall’s Boards and Commissions Room, same location as this morning’s meeting but not the board’s usual meeting spot.
If and when the work is approved, Schilling and Hamlett said, “we’re pretty much ready to go,” hoping to start this phase of the work within a few weeks.