By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The family whose members lived at 1123 Harbor Avenue SW for decades called it the “Rock House.”
Now, as the “Stone Cottage,” the quirky little unofficial landmark has inspired a fight for its future..
We’ve been reporting for almost two years on local preservation advocates’ hopes of saving it, now that a redevelopment project on its site is about to begin.
Today, the West Seattleites leading the Save The Stone Cottage campaign formally launched a crowdfunding effort to cover the cost of moving it twice – first to a holding site, then to its yet-to-be-determined permanent new home.
They held two media briefings for the launch – one outside the 90+-year-old Stone Cottage, one online.
Participants included members of the original owner Eva Falk‘s family. Granddaughter Patrice Hollrah, who once lived there, enthused, “We are thrilled that people are working to save the Rock House.” Her grandmother lived there until 1997, and kept it as a welcoming place for any and all who needed some place to stay.
Now – it needs its own new, permanent home. Chainqui Development is planning a new residential building on the site, but advocates insist the developers are not the villains here – in fact, they’ve donated $20,000 to the Save The Stone Cottage campaign, and company rep Jenny Tsen has participated in work parties getting the building ready to move, like the one we photographed last month.
The plan is for renowned building-moving firm Nickel Bros to move it to a holding site on nearby Port of Seattle land. That’ll cost monthly rent. After arrival – probably in mid-January – it’ll be wrapped in plastic, ready to ride out however long it takes to find a permanent home.
There was talk last year of pitching the Parks Department to provide a site. City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, participating in today’s briefing, said she was hopeful those conversations might resume next year.
Will it survive the move? John Bennett, the West Seattle entrepreneur who has saved and renovated rundown old buildings on both sides of the Duwamish River, offered optimism – “I think we can get it from Point A to Point B without destroying it” – while acknowledging there are “no guarantees.” Nickel Bros’ reaction, it was noted, was “We’ve moved three-story brick buildings – this is nothin’.” The building is covered with more than 15,000 stones, hauled from Alki’s beaches. The mortar that affixed them to the house was a mix of sand and cream of tartar.
Those stones are connections to this area’s first people, said Ken Workman, a Duwamish Tribe member who is a descendant of Chief Seattle. He was born nearby, and observed, “When I come here, I’m coming home.” The stones retain the memories of the Duwamish people, he added, after “thousands of thousands of years” during which the Duwamish have lived ‘on the seven hills of Seattle.” He declared that the Stone Cottage is no less than an extension of the Duwamish people’s longhouses, and saving it is “a great and magnificent thing.”
But the advocates can’t do it alone, noted Deb Barker. You can “help preserve the story,” she said. Imagine Eva and her family collecting those stones and turning it into a labor of love, a place of love.
“This place is important – this place matters,” added County Councilmember Joe McDermott, also among the supporters taking part today, as was former City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.
That phrase evoked memories of a successful preservation campaign further west, also near the West Seattle shore – the one to save the Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead. That building found new life, and this one can too, some kind of “adaptive reuse,” as Bennett put it.
There’s time to dream and plan, once the Stone Cottage is off the site. To inspire some of those dreams, one of the cottage’s supporters, BJ Bullert, made short videos including this one: