(As of 8:22 am Thursday, story now contains full details from both hearings)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Hamm Building – built in 1926, currently anchored by Easy Street Records – was designated a city landmark by a unanimous vote of the Landmarks Preservation Board tonight at City Hall.
And its across-California neighbor, the Campbell Building – built in two phases a century ago and currently anchored by Cupcake Royale – is halfway on the road there, with the board voting unanimously tonight to approve its landmark nomination. Next step: An April 5th hearing on finalizing landmark status
We were at City Hall for both votes, five months after the Southwest Seattle Historical Society formally proposed landmark status for the buildings; details to be added to this report later tonight.
ADDED 11:11 PM AND 8:22 AM: Details, as promised, starting with the Hamm Building hearing (then Campbell):
Both hearings were part of the regular meeting of the board, whose members are volunteers, officially appointed by the City Council. They vote not only on nominations and designations, but also on other business such as work to be done on protected parts of landmarked properties.
The Hamm Building was up first.
Flo Lentz and Sarah Martin, who had put together the nomination document for SWSHS, recapped the reasons they believe the building deserves landmark status. “Development in The Junction had everything to do with development of its transportation network,” and in 1907, that network gained a “strategic spot” at California and Alaska. One year later, West Seattle real-estate seller and civic booster WT Campbell acquired two lots there and after some interim structures, this one was completed in 1926. Campbell, however, had trouble in The Depression and had to sell it in 1931 to Aline Hamm.
What the presenters stressed was that even after 91 years, the building maintains “key features” including buff-colored brick and terra-cotta ornamentation. The transom windows over the Easy Street Records entrance are “original and operable,” though not the ones over the café entrance to the north. Windows on the building’s south side (facing Alaska) are set in historic openings; the offices and apartments inside have “original ceiling heights.” They summarized, “it’s a familiar visual anchor … in the West Seattle Junction.”
Also with a presentation, representatives of the family that owns the building, saying that why they were not there to oppose the building getting landmark status, they want the record to be clear on everything that has been changed in the building, “so we have a full record of what the building is.” (This can be an issue when owners of landmarks want to make improvements or repairs.) This presentation was fairly short, just running quickly through looks at various aspects of the building.
In public comment, nine people spoke in support of the landmark designation. Half identified themselves as members of the We Love The Junction Task Force, describing the Hamm Building as “literally the crossroads of our West Seattle community,” an “inspiring example of an anchor building,” “a jewel.” Also offering her support, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, thanking the board for their service to the city and urging the to approve the designation.
Brooke Best offered an “Ode to Easy Street,” and the last speaker, Trent, said it’s vital to preserve “what was” so visitors can see “who we are and what we represent.”
The board members’ deliberations had little suspense – each one in turn said they would support the designation, with words of praise such as “so much still intact,” “shining example of what transit-oriented development could be,” “elegant.” And then, the unanimous vote, after the reading of the official motion to designate the Hamm Building as a landmark:
Board unanimously votes to designate Hamm Building a city landmark. pic.twitter.com/6q1uXBbGXi
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) February 16, 2017
Next — details from the Campbell Building hearing (added 8:22 am):
The proposal to designate the Campbell Building a landmark is about its namesake as well as about its architecture and history, the SWSHS team told the board.
They explained that it was built in two increments, 1911 and 1920. The architects, Wilson and Loveless, draw plans for the full building, but for reasons unknown, only half of it was built at first. And when the 1920 half was built, the permit was sought by a different architect, Voorhees (who had designed the Hamm Building).
The Campbell Building’s early tenants included a newspaper called the West Side Press, as well as a bank, clothing and shoe stores, Campbell’s own real-estate office, and more; it was well-known from the 1970s through 1990s for the apparel store LaGrace.
They talked a bit about Campbell himself – not only was he a real-estate seller, he also was a school teacher and principal, and a city councilmember. As mentioned above in the Hamm Building hearing recap, he lost that building in 1931, and in 1934, he lost the Campbell Building and another of his holdings, the Arcade Market building adjacent to the north.
Moving on to the details of the building, the presenters talked about its concrete foundation and brick walls, as well as the cast-iron trim that lines the top of the building as well as its “historic transom windows” and interior features.
The building was “probably the most significant of (WT Campbell’s) life,” the presenters declared.
The board also heard briefly from a spokesperson for the building’s owners, the Calvo family. They too are “not opposing the nomination,” but they wanted the board to know that the family has been “very involved in maintaining the building,” including recent tuckpointing for its brick exterior and a new roof. The south-side awnings that went away recently will be back after restoration.
Public comment followed, again opened by SWSHS board vice president Peder Nelson, who hailed the “positive influence” that the Campbell Building will continue to be for The Junction’s future. Crystal Dean, also from SWSHS and its We Love The Junction task force, said that protecting it is “imperative.” Other comments of support included former SWSHS board president Marcy Johnsen noting that “we can’t let this occasion go by without a salute to WT Campbell, the ‘Mr. West Seattle’ of his day – he had an enormous impact on West Seattle.”
In board deliberations, each member voiced support for the nomination. Matthew Sneddon observed that the building represents a “lost type” of development in cities, “homegrown, low-level, nonetheless a part of something substantial.” Kathleen Durham said she agreed this building was a statement on Campbell’s behalf: “Clearly he was saying ‘this is going to be a place, and I’m going to leave that’.” Emily Vynanek called it “an interesting building you wouldn’t necessarily expect in that type of area.” Deb Barker (a West Seattleite) talked about a memorable brick building that caught her attention many years ago, “an architectural history lesson for the eyes,” and mentioned that the interior of the second floor, where she had visited an office at some point, “was like stepping back in time.”
Rob Ketcherside hoped to learn more by the second meeting on the building about Campbell’s significance for the entire city, “not just West Seattle.” Given the timing of his active years, for example, Ketcherside wondered if Campbell had been involved in the 1907 annexation of West Seattle (which had briefly been a city in its own right). He also wondered if the neighboring Arcade Market building would be coming down the landmarking road too.
(Note: The full Junction survey that led to the Hamm and Campbell landmark nominations is here; they were the only two considered to be prime candidates.)
He continued, “This building is really fantastic, so clearly a landmark – the owners have taken such care.” He also had warm, wry words for the people who attended the hearing: “You could have spent your evening writing letters to your congressmembers and senators about more pressing matters!”
Finally, board chair Jeffrey Murdock said he was glad to have been able to consider “such a great building as my last building as a board member.” He called it one of the “top 7” he had seen in seven years on the Landmarks Board.
Before voting unanimously in favor of the nomination, the board also decided to consider the interior hallways for possible inclusion in the proposed designation, which they’ll take up on April 5th (3:30 pm, Boards and Commissions Room on the lower level of City Hall).