West Seattle, Washington
Il Nido, Chef Mike Easton‘s mega-popular restaurant at the historic-landmark Alki Homestead, is up for one of the food world’s most prestigious awards. The James Beard Foundation announced its 2020 Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists this morning and Il Nido is on the list of 30 nationwide up for Best New Restaurant – the only one from Seattle. Il Nido opened last May. See the full list of semifinalists here. The nominees are announced March 25th, and the awards will be presented May 4th in Chicago. West Seattle has had three Beard Foundation semifinalists in the past decade – Mark Fuller (of what was then Spring Hill and is now Ma’Ono) in 2010, photographer Christopher Boffoli in 2012, Bakery Nouveau founder William Leaman in 2013.
10 years ago – months after the fire that ravaged its interior – the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge (2717 61st SW) appeared on an “endangered properties” list. But now it’s been rescued, restored, and reopened, and it’s won an award. Kathy Blackwell, president of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society board, reports Historic Seattle will be honoring the landmark at its Preservation Celebration this Thursday. It’s the winner of the Beth Chave Community Investment Award. One of its owners, Matt Schilling, will be there to accept the award; he and his father Dennis Schilling led the work to restore it after buying the historic log structure four and a half years ago.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tonight, the Alki Homestead reopens as a restaurant, almost 10 1/2 years after a fire shut it down.
While the new restaurant, Il Nido, is in a bright spotlight because of its owner’s reputation and talent, we thought the moment shouldn’t pass without remembering the years of concern that the city-landmarked Homestead – 115 years old and originally known as the Fir Lodge – would never reopen and might not even be salvageable.
We also thought you might want to see inside, since you won’t get a chance without reservations to dine at the restaurant, already booked a month out. (Thanks to Chef Mike Easton for letting us visit briefly today to photograph the interior hours before his restaurant’s first night.)
First – the past decade of history (go here to look even further back). Old West Seattle’s collective hearts sank at news of the January 2009 fire, blamed on faulty Christmas lights. Then-owner Tom Lin had been in the process of selling the beloved home-style restaurant. Post-fire, he told WSB that it would likely take “more than six months” to repair and reopen.
No one likely could have imagined it would take a decade.
The sale did not go through. By March, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society expressed public concern about the landmark’s future. By May, the Homestead was on an annual “Endangered Properties” list. In September 2009, Lin briefed the Alki Community Council on possibilities for the Homestead’s future – maybe a restaurant, bar, spa, B&B.
Its future was still a question mark by July 4, 2010, when 150+ people gathered for that group photo outside the Homestead, declaring “This Place Matters.” The following January, on the two-year anniversary of the fire, preservation groups reiterated their concerns – “Somebody has to speak for the building.” Later that month, Lin and architects brought a new plan to a committee of the city Landmarks Preservation Board, and advocates declared they were “thrilled.” Questions lingered about whether, and how, the building could be salvaged, but proposals went through four public reviews in six months until things went quiet again.
Then in December 2013, almost five years post-fire, the Homestead was listed for sale. A prospective buyer emerged more than a year later, Dennis Schilling, a Mercer Island real-estate investor known locally for buying and restoring Alki’s Shoremont Apartments, once proposed for demolition and site redevelopment. That spring, it was announced triumphantly that Schilling was going ahead with the purchase. He promptly set about doing some of the restoration work himself.
(Dennis Schilling, Alki Homestead owner – May 2015 photo by Clay Eals)
In June 2015, another group photo outside the Homestead – this time celebratory:
(Photo by Jean Sherrard, courtesy SWSHS)
Students from Alki and Schmitz Park Elementary Schools gathered for what the SWSHS dubbed a “group hug.” But while the building had been saved, its future wasn’t yet clear. Its “rehabilitation plan” won city Landmarks Board approval in March 2016. Would it eventually reopen as a restaurant? The answer finally came last September, when Chef Easton announced the plan for Il Nido. A few days later, the Homestead’s famous neon sign returned from 2+ years of restoration:
Inside, the work of turning the Homestead back into a restaurant began. Easton told us at the time, “It initially seemed to be such a big project, just how much restoration needed to happen – I wrote it off as more than I wanted to do. But the building sort of has a haunting effect on you.” Now the work is done, and we visited for photos as final touches were readied for Il Nido’s opening.
Whether or not you ever dine at Il Nido, you might want to see what’s happened inside the Homestead:
(For a kitchen view, here’s Easton’s own Instagram photo.) The grounds have been re-landscaped:
And we’re told they hope to open the back patio in July. But first – it’s opening night, as a new chapter in the Homestead/Fir Lodge’s history begins.
Eight months after West Seattle-residing Chef Mike Easton announced he would open Il Nido in the historic Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge, he revealed today that it’s opening tomorrow (by reservation). He is renowned for Il Corvo downtown; in the announcement last September, he described the plan for Il Nido as “absolutely Italian, driven by market produce.” As we reported days after that announcement, when the Homestead’s refurbished neon sign was returned and reinstalled, Il Nido will be the main tenant, but Dennis Schilling, who bought the Homestead (damaged in a 2009 fire) in 2015, is still the building’s owner.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Alki Homestead‘s neon sign is back atop the landmark log building by the beach.
Among those there to watch as Western Neon returned it this morning were Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive directors present and past, Jeff McCord and Clay Eals:
And the couple who just announced they will open the restaurant Il Nido at the Homestead, Chef Mike Easton and Victoria Easton:
The return of the sign – which Western Neon says it will illuminate tonight – is the latest milestone in the restoration of the former Fir Lodge since Dennis Schilling bought it in 2015. The sign came down in July 2016. SWSHS helped Schilling obtain a grant to partly fund the restoration.
Work to restore the building, which was operated as a restaurant until a fire did major damage almost 10 years ago, continues. After news that the Eastons would open a restaurant – sibling to their popular Il Corvo in Pioneer Square – we talked with him to get more details.
To be sure you’re clear, Schilling will continue to own the building – Il Nido will be its major tenant. Easton explains that he and his family have lived in West Seattle for three years, near Lincoln Park: “We are so happy to live there.” Ever since moving here, the Eastons have been looking for a WS location to open a restaurant. “There’s not a whole lot of commercial real estate [suitable for a restaurant] and whatever does come up is always sort of a handshake – none of the good spots never really hit the market. I had the good fortune of someone mentioning the Homestead was getting restored and would eventually be looking for a restaurant.”
So he found Schilling and introduced himself about a year ago, and the rest is history. It wasn’t an immediate click, though. “It initially seemed to be such a big project, just how much restoration needed to happen – I wrote it off as more than I wanted to do. But the building sort of has a haunting effect on you. Ever since the first time I looked at it, I was unable to stop thinking about doing a restaurant there.”
After meeting Schilling, Easton walked through the Homestead. “As striking as the outside was, the inside was what really struck me – the look and feel.” He’s seen some of the old photos “and the burned remnants.” As noted in the first coverage of his plan, the famous stone fireplace will be restored.
On to the restaurant itself. Since Il Corvo downtown – which has been open for seven years – is lunch only, and Il Nido will be dinner and brunch, he will be involved with both. But Il Corvo “needs less and less of my attention,” he says. “We have an incredibly good team,” led by Chef David Crutcher, and, says Easton, he primarily just checks in.
He’s looking forward to being able to do more and different things at Il Nido, since Il Corvo is so focused on chuning out “well over 300 bowls (of pasta) a day in four hours – we make almost 100 pounds of pasta every morning.” There are “handmade shapes” that he looks forward to making for dinner at Il Nido without having to hit the scale of Il Corvo; “we’ll be able to invest more” at the new restaurant, with a price point higher than Il Corvo’s “selling a bowl of pasta for just under 10 dollars … we can’t have an army of people making tortellini” at that rate.
Another difference: While Il Corvo has something different daily, Il Nido’s menu will change a little less often. As previously mentioned, seasonal produce will heavily factor into it.
In case you were wondering about parking – the lot adjacent to the Homestead will be available for the restaurant, Easton confirms; the SWSHS Log House Museum will continue to use it too, and since its hours are noon-4 pm Thursdays-Sundays, that’s mostly a non-overlapping time, but “we’ll negotiate how to share on the weekend” when Il Nido is open for brunch.
Now, it’s on with restoration and preparation, in hopes of a spring opening. We ask what’s left to do inside. “Everything!” laughs Easton. “It’s still quite a bit of a construction site. Dennis and his son Matt are doing an outstanding job on the restoration,” which includes bringing it up to all current codes – sprinklers are included.
“My wife and I are just very excited to take this on – she is a very big part of our business. I’m not the solo talent.” She handles “everything that isn’t cooking,” he adds.
As for him – this will be the next exciting development in a restaurant-industry career that goes back to his very first job at age 16. So Chef Easton brings a long history to a new venue in a building with history.
The transformation will be chronicled on Instagram at @ilnidoseattle.
ADDED THURSDAY NIGHT: The sign, lit!
(WSB photo, 2013)
Almost 10 years after a fire shut down the Alki Homestead, its food future has been announced. Not fried chicken. Just out of the WSB inbox:
Mike Easton and his wife Victoria are expanding their Italian reach to West Seattle. The couple has taken over the old Alki Homestead and is turning it into an Italian dinner destination near the shores of Elliott Bay.
Il Nido, which means “the nest” in Italian, will join the Easton flock, complementing the brisk lunch service at Pioneer Square’s Il Corvo (“the crow”) with a more substantial sit-down, family-friendly dinner experience in a historic log cabin that has been feeding the West Seattle neighborhood for generations. “It’s going to be sort of our permanent, home-base restaurant,” says Easton. “The nest just seemed to make perfect sense.”
The iconic Alki Homestead was initially built as a residence in 1903. It transitioned into a family restaurant in the 1950s and earned landmark status in 1995. In (January 2009), a fire shut down the old structure, which remained untouched until 2015 when it was purchased by Dennis Schilling, who began the long restoration process.
“We really want to try to bridge the gap between the 100-year-old feel with a little bit of the 21st century,” says Easton. That includes beautiful live edge, chunky full slab tables supplemented by more modern chairs and fixtures throughout the 3,000 square-foot space.
The signature river rock fireplace in the main dining room is getting rebuilt to its original standards. And an intimate bar with half a dozen seats will be added to the front lounge area. At Il Corvo, we tried to create a space that wasn’t stuck in any time period,” says Easton. “Il Nido should also have that timeless feel.”
In addition, the original neon art-deco Alki Homestead sign will be reinstated atop the restaurant after a successful refurb by Western Neon (this Thursday).
The menu at Il Nido will be absolutely Italian, driven by market produce. “I really like to create a menu that makes vegetables truly shine,” says Easton. It’ll also be a place that will allow Easton and his crew the opportunity to create a bit more of the delicate, intensive handmade pastas that they just haven’t had time to make. “You don’t see tortelli or ravioli on the menu at Il Corvo very often because it would take an army of people to make enough to put it on as a lunch special. Thankfully, we’re so busy, we don’t have the time to do that.”
As for when Il Nido will be open for business, Easton says it all depends on the restoration process. “I’d love to see it open in time for spring, but that’s a pretty ambitious goal.”
Il Nido will be open for dinner five nights a week, along with weekend brunch.
Our archive of Alki Homestead coverage is here. That includes coverage of the 2009 fire, the subsequent changing of ownership, celebration of the building’s history including the 2015 “group hug” photo, and the removal of the aforementioned sign for restoration two years ago.
As part of the Alki Homestead / Fir Lodge restoration and remodeling, the former restaurant’s neon sign has finally been taken down, to await its part of the facelift. The sign had been vandalized before the operation to bring it down. The video was published late last night by Clay Eals of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, who included this information in the extended caption:
On Monday morning, July 18, 2016, Alki Homestead owner Dennis Schilling, his son Matt and five-member crew removed the building’s iconic neon sign so that it can be restored as part of the landmark building’s overall renovation and restoration. The removal took just shy of two hours.
The sign restoration will cost $25,000 to $30,000, and the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which secured city landmark status for the building 20 years ago, helped Schilling in 2015 to obtain a $15,000 grant from 4Culture for the project. … The neon sign is being stored temporarily inside the Alki Homestead. (The restoration work will cover up the graffiti with which vandals defaced the lower portion of the sign in late June 2016.)
The rest of the restoration work has been proceeding through the city system; a construction permit was granted in May, after the city Landmarks Board OK’d the “rehabilitation” plan for the 112-year-old building – heavily damaged by a 2009 fire that closed its restaurant operation.
The rehabilitation plan for the historic Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge has cleared a huge hurdle: Wednesday afternoon at City Hall, the Landmarks Preservation Board gave its unanimous approval.
This came five days after the plan went to the board’s Architectural Review Committee (WSB coverage here), one year after Dennis Schilling bought the landmark, seven years after its beloved restaurant was closed by a fire.
Architect Jeff Hamlett walked the board through the plan, with the same points made on Friday, plus a little more elaboration: “We’re going to try to restore the old Homestead to a period when (it was a residence). … We’re going to totally remove the bar, use (the space) to put in some new parking and an accessible entrance to the ground floor, tear down the existing kitchen to the foundation and rebuild a new kitchen on the foundation.”
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:
(WSB photo from February)
Three landmark buildings in West Seattle are getting a boost from a county cultural-grant program.
(SW Seattle Historical Society photo from May: Dennis Schilling, Alki Homestead owner, with logs for restoration)
Here’s the announcement from West Seattle’s County Councilmember Joe McDermott, one day before county and cultural leaders gather to celebrate the list of grants that includes these three:
Renovation of the Admiral Theater and restoration of the Alki Homestead highlight a list of the projects in West Seattle and throughout King County that will receive funding to help maintain their buildings and preserve the arts and heritage programs that are held inside.
“As a lifelong West Seattle resident, I grew up going to the Admiral Theatre and Alki Homestead,” said Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott. “I am proud to promote the rich cultural history in West Seattle through the Building for Culture grant program.”
The Admiral Theater received $95,000 towards a renovation that will see the number of screens double from 2 to 4. The 111 year old Alki Homestead was awarded $83,000 towards its complete restoration, after a fire destroyed it in 2009.
The funding for maintenance, repairs, and preservation were allocated from the Building for Culture Program and unanimously approved by the County Council. Building for Culture is a partnership between King County and 4Culture, King County’s cultural services agency, using bonds backed by the hotel-motel tax to build, maintain, expand, preserve, and improve new and existing cultural facilities.
After the Council approved the creation of the Building for Culture Program, 4Culture put out a request for proposals to nonprofit arts, heritage and cultural organizations and eligible public agencies, as well as owners of national-, state-, or local-designated or eligible landmark properties. 4Culture then convened independent peer panels composed of arts, heritage, and preservation professionals, and other community representatives to review applications and make the final selections.
Facilities receiving funding in West Seattle are:
Admiral Cinema LLC – Admiral Theater Renovation – $95,000
Delridge Neighborhood Development Association – Elevate Youngstown – $100,000
Dennis Schilling – Restoring the Alki Homestead –
$83,000$45,190 (correction from CM McDermott’s office on 11/24/2015)
The bonds supporting these projects are made possible by early retirement of the Kingdome debt. State law requires that hotel-motel tax revenues King County collects this year after repayment of the Kingdome debt be directed to arts and cultural programs.
With the first phase of the Alki Homestead‘s restoration under way, the years of uncertainty about its future are receding further into memory. But today, there was a tribute to one moment along the way: Five years ago on the 4th of July, a big group photo outside the landmark log building proclaimed “This Place Matters” and to underscore their belief that its future eventually would brighten. Today, during the Southwest Seattle Historical Society‘s annual picnic at the Log House Museum – the Homestead’s old carriage house – there was a break to take an anniversary photo, with participants of all ages affirming that “This Place Still Matters.”
Today’s group was not big in size but was certainly big in heart. The top photo is our take from the sidewalk; an official photo from across the street was taken by Jean Sherrard, who was also the photographer five years ago, as well as four weeks ago when a thousand students came to the Homestead for the photo dubbed a “group hug” (WSB coverage here). A copy of that was part of today’s photo too:
The Homestead also was feted today in the choice of main dishes for the SWSHS picnic – fried chicken!
P.S. Another step in its path to restoration will come next Friday, when the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmarks Board will look at the newest plans during its 8:30 am meeting on the 40th floor of the city Municipal Tower downtown.
Thanks to Clay Eals, executive director of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, for sharing the video and the following report as the first round of restoration work continues at the city-landmark Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge:
Alki Homestead owner Dennis Schilling and his crew, including his son, Matt, worked on Wednesday, June 10, 2015, to haul out no longer functioning kitchen equipment and other detritus and to build and test an outdoor wooden shelf or sling to hold new logs in position when rotted logs (with blue tape) on the southeast corner are replaced. (The kitchen is not part of the city-landmarked features of the building, and replacement of the southeast-corner logs was given administrative approval by city landmarks staff in January.) Restoration work on the 1904 city landmark began this spring and will continue steadily through the summer and beyond. The Southwest Seattle Historical Society will provide periodic video updates such as this one.
Schilling, who previously gained West Seattle fame for restoring the once-marked-for-teardown Shoremont Apartments on Alki three years ago, bought the Homestead in March, as first reported here. You can check out the SWSHS’s ongoing reports on this page of the organization’s website; WSB coverage of the Homestead, going back even before the 2009 fire, is archived here, newest-to-oldest.
(Substituted Friday night: Jean Sherrard‘s panorama, courtesy SWSHS – see WSB view at story’s end)
ORIGINAL 11:13 AM REPORT: We’re on the lawn at the Alki Homestead / Fir Lodge, where a short ceremony and photo op has just wrapped up, to mark the start of the Homestead’s restoration.
(WSB Instagram clip as students arrived at the Homestead; more visuals on IG)
Students from Alki and Schmitz Park Elementaries walked over here to be part of a “group hug for the Homestead” photo coordinated by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.
Joining them were two West Seattleites serving in county and city government, County Executive Dow Constantine and City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.
The Homestead’s new owner, Dennis Schilling, was here too, and SWSHS executive director Clay Eals (with Rasmussen and Constantine in the photo added above) emceed.
From the two schools’ leadership: SPES assistant principal Liora Minkin and Alki principal Shannon Stanton:
P.S. This was also an anniversary of sorts – one year ago tomorrow, these same two schools gathered a half-block away outside the Log House Museum – home to SWSHS and the Homestead/Fir Lodge’s former carriage house – to celebrate the unveiling of the restored Admiral Way totem pole that now stands on the east side of the LHM’s grounds.
ADDED 1:30 PM: Adding photos, and our video of the quick speeches will follow (about 15 minutes total – added 7:21 pm, below).
(Added Saturday – the SWSHS version, shot from above)
Councilmember Rasmussen led the crowd in a chant about bringing back the Homestead’s famous fried chicken (new owner Schilling has said he’s not sure yet what kind of business the restored lodge will be home to); Executive Constantine told the kids to be sure to smile, since the photo will be part of history, and noted that while he’s a Schmitz Park alum, he’s not sure where his daughter Sabrina will be going in four years, since his house is on the Alki/Lafayette line.
(Dennis Schilling, Alki Homestead owner, shows the logs he has just transported to its parking lot)
Two and a half months after Dennis Schilling bought the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge, there are visible signs of its upcoming restoration. Thanks to Clay Eals, Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director, for the photo and update:
Fifteen fir logs arrived in the Alki Homestead parking lot this afternoon, awaiting use in replacing damaged logs in the southeast corner of the building.
The logs are stored in a trailer that owner Dennis Schilling drove from Mountain Log Homes in Kalama, north of Portland. Each log is about 16 1/2 feet long.
Schilling said work will begin soon on shoring up the interior of the southeast corner of the Homestead to allow eventual replacement of damaged logs that have been marked for several months with blue tape.
In preparation for this work, Schilling’s crew installed anchor fence to surround the front entrance of the Homestead as a protective measure.
There is no set schedule for the log replacement, but some of the work may begin by the time of a group photo to be taken of 900 students from Alki and Schmitz Park elementary schools the morning of Friday, June 5, 2015. As part of the brief event, speakers will include King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen.
Schilling has been consulting with a structural engineer, and his crew has installed temporary power and begun cleaning out non-landmarked, fire-damaged materials from the kitchen. Soon his crew will measure roof angles in preparation for repair, along with eventual restoration of the iconic Alki Homestead sign.
More backstory on this page of the SWSHS website – and going even further back, in our archive of WSB Alki Homestead coverage, including the January 2009 fire that has left it vacant for more than six years.
(WSB photo: New owner Dennis Schilling looks at SWSHS’s Clay Eals holding historic photo of Fir Lodge)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“Is this a dream?”
That’s what City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said was the reaction he couldn’t shake, when he learned that the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge has a new owner and that its restoration is on a path to reality, six years after the fire that left the landmark closed, vacant, and deteriorating.
He was among those speaking this morning on the steps of the Fir Lodge’s former carriage house, now the Log House Museum, at a media briefing to formally announce the historic log building has a new owner, as first reported here last night. That new owner, Mercer Island builder/investor Dennis Schilling, also was there along with former Homestead owner Tom Lin and historic-preservation advocates including Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals. (Added) Full video:
In his prepared speech, Eals declared, “Our theme this morning is gratitude, and in our book, everyone involved is a hero.”
SWSHS board president Marcy Johnsen enthused during her turn at the podium, “I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
The historical society’s interest in the Homestead/Fir Lodge included an easement granting parking rights for the LHM, and its agreement to give up some of that made this possible, as Schilling hopes to fund the renovation by building a small apartment building in that lot. He expressed gratitude that SWSHS was “giving up some of the parking so I can afford to pay for the remodel … I’m doing this to try to restore the building … it’s pretty exceptional.”
Schilling also had warm words for Lin, as they worked to make the deal happen. Lin said, “We had many (prospective) buyers along the way, and I turned down many buyers because I didn’t think they were appropriate … when I first met Dennis, I knew he had a track record (from restoring the Shoremont) … It took us six years to find the right buyer.”
Expressing relief as much as excitement were advocates from what Eals described as the “Homestead coalition,” the regional organizations who have been working on this. One of them, Chris Moore from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, recalled the Homestead being included in the “Most Endangered Historic Properties” list six years ago. “As we all know, preservation does not happen overnight … it has been a long history … we preserve buildings because … ultimately we love what they represent, their stories. What is wonderful about this event is that … all of you are now part of the Homestead and part of that story.”
Michael Herschensohn from Historic Seattle says this building is “critical to the fabric of (the city’s history).”
Also speaking, Flo Lentz from 4Culture, and West Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Dennis, who said she’s thankful that in addition to all the memories people have shared, that there will be future chances to make new memories.
Councilmember Rasmussen was the final speaker: “All of us have been hoping for this day and weren’t sure we would see this day. … I hope the (new owner) realizes we’re pulling for you, we want to see you succeed … If you should hit a few bumps along the way, call me at any time, and I’ll be there to help you.” He says he has always had a staff person assigned to the project.
Eals concluded by holding up the iconic This Place Matters photo from the event five years ago urging restoration of the Homestead, noting that many of those on the porch this morning were here when almost 200 people were gathered in the street in front of the Homestead for a group shot on July 4, 2010. This was our view that morning:
Eals said other events are ahead, including another advocacy rally on July 4, 2015 – “This Place STILL Matters.” Then he invited questions.
We asked what had been asked in comments on last night’s story – will the day come when people will be back inside the Homestead for fried-chicken dinners? Schilling replied: “I hope so, I don’t know exactly what the commercial business will be on the first floor, I hope it will be a restaurant, I don’t know anything about operating restaurants,” but he would hope to find someone to lease it to to make it a restaurant. By the way, if you never got a chance to go there in its heyday as a restaurant – here’s a video published to YouTube by SWSHS, courtesy of Schilling:
Someone asked about the potential 6-unit apartment building proposed for the parking lot next to the Homestead. “Is anybody speaking for the neighbors regarding ‘giving away’ the last potential open space (on the block)?” Eals addressed that, saying the “prize” is restoration of the Homestead, which will be expensive; the SWSHS had an easement for use of the parking lot and has been involved because of that. “This issue of restoring the Homestead has been before us for six years, and it’s a huge financial undertaking. … There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear, what’s going to happen to the Homestead?”
What’s next for the restoration? Schilling was asked. He talked about the complicated city process involving the Landmarks Review Board and its Architectural Review Committee, so regarding the timeline, “Your guess is as good as mine.” (We reported in January on his first public meeting with the ARC.)
Eals wrapped up by saying he loved that it was raining because “the best things in Seattle happen in the rain.”
Here’s the official news release:
You can also read it on the SWSHS website. Meantime, we recorded the entire briefing on video that we’ll add to the story when it’s processed later today/tonight. We’ll also continue covering the Homestead’s road to restoration; we have an ongoing coverage archive, in reverse chronological order, here.
9:36 PM: The video of this morning’s event is now embedded in the story, between paragraphs 3 and 4.
The city-landmark Alki Homestead officially has a new owner, according to documents filed with the county, dated today: Fir Lodge LLC has purchased it for $1,250,000. Fir Lodge, of course, is the historic name of the log building at 2717 61st SW. And the LLC is in the name of Dennis Schilling, with whom we talked back in January about his prospective purchase of the Homestead, closed since a fire damaged its interior six years ago.
Schilling is a Mercer Island-based investor who already has a success story in Alki, having purchased and fixed up the once-threatened-with-demolition Shoremont Apartments, just blocks east of the Homestead. His interest in the historic lodge came more than three years after former owner Tom Lin‘s proposed renovation plan went idle following multiple reviews with members of the city’s Landmarks Board, which has jurisdiction over changes to buildings and sites that are under city landmark protection, as this one has been since 1996. Schilling has been talking with the Landmarks Board and other city reps about his hopes of renovating the building and possibly building a few apartments on part of its current parking lot; we were there as he talked with the board’s Architectural Review Committee in late January.
New ownership is only a first step into the Homestead’s future, but we expect to find out much more about what’s next for it tomorrow morning, as the Southwest Seattle Historical Society – which has been working for years to save the Homestead – has announced a media briefing with “a major announcement” at 9 am, and we’ll be there. SWSHS has many ties to the Homestead/Fir Lodge, not the least of which is the fact that its headquarters building, the Log House Museum a half block away, was its carriage house decades ago.
ADDED SATURDAY MORNING: The official news release is on the Log House Museum site; we’re at the LHM news conference where the sale and restoration plan are being officially announced.
(2012 WSB photo of Alki Homestead, with part of parking lot visible at left)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If you own a city landmark, what you do with it is subject to a set of rules that can delve into details as minute as window trim.
And you usually have to go before the city Landmarks Preservation Board to get approval before renovations/changes. If they’re significant enough, before you ever get to the full board, you’ll need to deal first with a subset of the board, its Architectural Review Committee.
This morning on the 40th floor of the city Municipal Tower downtown, that committee met with someone who isn’t even a landmark owner yet: Prospective Alki Homestead (Fir Lodge) purchaser Dennis Schilling, who, as reported here earlier this week, has to decide soon whether to go ahead with a deal to buy the 111-year-old log structure, vacant since an electrical fire six years ago. He made it clear he is seeking reassurance that he won’t be buying himself a long-drawn-out process; toward the end of the discussion, he asked flat out, “How do I get to ‘yes’?”
He didn’t get a specific answer on that, but he did get positive feedback on the part of the proposal that had to be evaluated first:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“It’s fixable, in my opinion.”
So says Dennis Schilling of the historic West Seattle landmark he’s considering buying and repairing, the Alki Homestead (originally Fir Lodge), vacant since the fire that charred its interior six years ago this month.
This Friday, Schilling takes a new repair/restoration/renovation plan to the city Landmarks Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee. The meeting agenda is the first public document pointing to his involvement with the Homestead; after finding the damaged landmark on the ARC agenda for the first time in 3 1/2 years, we looked up the Department of Planning and Development files for the site and found Schilling involved.
If you can’t place his name, Schilling is the Mercer Island man who saved the Shoremont Apartments, blocks east of the Homestead, as first reported here in 2011. That classic brick building was at one point proposed for demolition and replacement with an ultramodern-style building. He bought it instead, fixed it up, and says everything’s “been great” since then.
One day while visiting Alki to go to the Shoremont, Schilling told us in an interview outside the Homestead today, he noticed the big “for sale” sign that’s been up for months. (He explains that every time he goes somewhere, he tries to “not drive home the same way twice.”) The rest was history.
(WSB photo, taken this morning)
Thanks to Richard Hesik for spotting the listing and sending the link: Almost five years after the electrical fire that damaged and closed the historic-landmark Alki Homestead, it’s listed for sale, again. It had been on the market before the fire; a year and a half afterward, owner Tom Lin said he would put it back on the market, but no listing ever appeared. He then engaged a team of local architects to pursue a restoration plan that went before the city Landmarks Board Architectural Review Committee four times (reports are in our archive of Homestead coverage) before the project went dormant. Now, the 110-year-old former Fir Lodge, a city landmark on a 14k-square-foot lot, is listed for $1,850,000, with Paragon Real Estate Advisors‘ flyer declaring that the Homestead is “now waiting for a new owner to bring it back to life and carry on the legacy,” while also noting, “The list price does not include the cost of rehabilitation of the structure.”
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
After four public reviews in six months, there’ve been none in the past 10 months for the plan to fix/rebuild the city-landmarked Alki Homestead. But the site is back under scrutiny because of tree-cutting that has drawn a complaint to the city, which subsequently posted a “stop work” order so it could investigate.
We learned about this Tuesday afternoon, when a nearby resident called to tell us a tree crew was at the Homestead site (2717 61st SW). She wondered why, asking whether work was finally beginning on the rehabilitation/reconstruction of the site. We went over to investigate; the crew was gone, but in subsequent hours, running late into the night, we obtained information from the city, from a representative of the coalition of historical-preservation groups that’s been watching the site, and from Homestead owner Tom Lin, who also provided photos of the trees before they were cut, and spoke with us about where the project stands, 3 years and 4 months after the electrical fire that closed the Homestead, a historic lodge open for decades as a popular restaurant.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The process of discussing with the city how to restore/reconstruct the fire-ravaged landmark Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge is so far as painstaking as the actual project itself eventually may be.
This morning, in their fourth informal appearance before the city Landmarks Preservation Board’s Architectural Review Committee downtown, Alloy Design Group architects Mark Haizlip and Greg Squires presented the three options they’re discussing.
All three options assume that the Homestead’s roof and foundation must be replaced – though committee members indicated they’re not all convinced about the former.
For the first time in more than three months, the proposal to restore/reconstruct the historic-landmark Alki Homestead (originally the Fir Lodge) will return to the city Landmarks Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee next week. This will be its fourth review before the committee, which holds informal reviews with project teams – multiple times, if they request it, as has been the case here – before they take proposals to the full board for a vote. Two and a half years now have passed since the fire that ravaged the Homestead’s interior; here’s our report on the most recent review of the proposal to restore/reconstruct it for use as a restaurant/banquet facility (our full coverage archive is here). This next review is listed as a “briefing on proposed building elements condition survey”; it’s set for 9:35 am next Friday (July 29th) on the 40th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower downtown.
(WSB photo from 1/16/2011)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It’s come up before, and now it’s come up again:
To reopen the city-landmarked Alki Homestead (originally the Fir Lodge), will it take restoration, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or some combination of all of the above? The scope of the proposal came up this morning downtown as owner Tom Lin and his architect team from Alloy Design Group returned to the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmarks Preservation Board for a third review, with historic-preservation advocates watching from the sidelines.
The same question arose when Lin and a different architect brought a different proposal to the committee a year and a half ago, as reported here. Back then, they were proposing adding “other uses” to the site – a bar, maybe a bed-and-breakfast – but that plan was scrapped, and the new plan is all about bringing the Homestead back as a restaurant and banquet facility.
But how can it be done, when it needs a new foundation and a new roof – and some degree of replacement inbetween? “Tricky” is one word that was used.