By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
For the first time since its move from a redevelopment site, the Stone Cottage welcomed a crowd of visitors this morning. Historic Seattle is hosting events that spotlight recipients of its Preservation Awards, and the volunteer group that rescued the stone-studded beach bungalow is among them. So this morning – seven months after the specialty moving firm Nickel Bros towed it off its original site – more than three dozen people gathered at the Port of Seattle lot where the century-old house, up on blocks and behind fencing, awaits its future.
Three West Seattleites from Save The Stone Cottage LLC told its story. Entrepreneur John Bennett recapped its history, from how its quirky owner Eva Falk decided to cover it in rocks, to how local advocates first tried to buy it 20 years ago to the recent rescue operation.
Community activist Deb Barker, describing the cottage as always having been “a twinkle in West Seattle’s eye,” talked about the fundraising effort that underwrote the move. Save The Stone Cottage, you might recall, did much more than just launch a GoFundMe account and ask for donations – they held events and contests, overcoming the obstacles posed by pandemic restrictions. It all led up to the August night in which the Stone Cottage was towed carefully off its site across from Don Armeni Boat Ramp and eastward on Harbor Avenue. Not a single stone fell off, Barker noted.
So what’s next? Mike Shaughnessy addressed that. The group is in a “resting period,” he explained, as they strategize how to get it a permanent home. Shaughnessy said they’re still hopeful that the city will support locating it on the little-used lawn between the Alki Bathhouse and Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza (itself the result of a community-funded campaign). It would. be donated to Seattle Parks, with – like the plaza – an endowment to cover maintenance costs. Save The Stone Cottage expects to launch a new fundraising campaign within half a year or so, seeking funding for that as well as to restore the structure and make it ADA-compliant on its future site.
Before the fencing was opened for a close-up look, there was Q&A time. Once moved, what would the Stone Cottage be used for? If the plan to move it to a city site, that would be worked out with Seattle Parks – some kind of space for public programming as well as an interpretive feature to share its history. Is it safe at the temporary site, and how long can it stay there? With multiple gates, fencing, and security, they’re confident of the former; the latter, they expect at least three years if necessary – they pay “a small amount” monthly to use the space. What about seismic and other danger? The current supports are seismically safe, said Jeff McCord of Save The Stone Cottage, who was the team’s structural-moving expert. If the cottage indeed ends up at Alki Beach Park, it will be on a raised at least 18″ so that it’s not affected by king tides and sea-level rise.
There were also questions about the structure itself. Its interior is “equally as artsy” as its exterior, and has features including a cedar support wall; two stained-glass windows that Eva Falk had repurposed from somewhere are in storage for future restoration. What kind of siding did it have before the stones? Probably some kind of shiplap wooden siding. For those interested in a detailed interior look from before the move, Save The Stone Cottage has 360-degree walkthrough video that will eventually be published on its website (where you can take a closer look now via the video created by filmmaker BJ Bullert).
Before attendees walked over for a closer look at the Stone Cottage – and a pile of cobblestones from its old walkway – one asked what they could do to help convince Seattle Parks to work with them; Shaughnessy had said the process was making progress until the pandemic interrupted (here’s our January 2020 report on their pitch to the city Parks Board). Now, “every little bit” of advocacy helps, was the reply. Meantime, the Stone Cottage’s advocates are drawing up a plan for a new start – both theirs and the Stone Cottage’s, in hopes it will securely stand as a tribute of Alki’s beach-bungalow past.