By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The pandemic forced a pivot for the century-old Highland Park Improvement Club and the community members who tend it.
There was no time for breath-catching after the sudden stop to events, for this community-owned-and-maintained facility that relies on them – including rentals – to pay the bills. HPIC quickly found itself filling a void by filling bellies. Even before closed schools got their meal programs up and running, HPIC sprang into action as a food-distribution center for families.
They were serving up to 600 lunches a week. Not just grab-and-go; before long, a local chef was cooking up hot to-go meals. A “community fridge” was in place. And as the weeks and months went by, HPIC became a center for much more.
HPIC took advantage of the downtime under part of its roof – the space with the stage – by working on long-needed renovations/repairs. But they’re pricey – so this Saturday (May 22nd), 4-8 pm, HPIC invites you to its first community event since pre-pandemic times – a modified version of its annual wine-and-more fundraiser. Instead of Highland Park Uncorked, this year it’s Highland Park Decanted, and it’s a two-fer: Outside, a pop-up bar – inside, a tour. We got a preview mini-tour courtesy of HPIC’s Kay Kirkpatrick and Julie Schickling.
“Now we’re seeing the horizon,” Kirkpatrick observed. Just in time, as donations haven’t made up for what it costs to run the historic building, let alone cover the maintenance and improvement it needs, and ongoing expenses like property taxes and utilities. So that’s why they’re inviting you over.
During Highland Park Decanted on Saturday, a neighbor’s “mobile bar van” will be set up to serve Highland Park attendees on the patio. Tours will be given inside (donations requested). Might be the only time you’ll get to see the ceiling looking like this – much higher than what you might recall if you’ve been to HPIC events:
And you will learn the story behind the mysterious red square.
Don’t miss the chance to peer into the basement.
HPIC’s caretakers can tell you tales about what they’ve found while doing all this work. Like the long-lost $1.58. Unfortunately, that won’t go far toward covering the costs – like the $21,000 replacement cost for the roof, currently sporting blue tarp (not seen here, but you can imagine):
Part of the roof has already been replaced, under the HPIC solar installation. And indeed, some of this is about modernization – getting fossil fuels out of the HVAC, for example. Stewarding HPIC and its site is also important for community resilience – it’s now an Emergency Communication Hub, too:
Helping keep HPIC going, and moving forward, were grants it’s received to make it possible to start all the work – from 4Culture, the Department of Neighborhoods Matching Fund, COVID cultural relief, for example. “We are so appreciative of these grants that have been immensely important for our infrastructure projects and also for helping us get through this period of not earning income,” Schickling says.
But those only go so far. Now it’s the community’s turn to chip in. Here’s how you can be part of it: Show up at HPIC (1116 SW Holden) Saturday between 4 and 8 pm. Masked/distanced tours start every 15 minutes. Go here to buy wine and/or merch, or even just donate without attending, though they’d love to see you. (More backstory here.)