Alki Homestead – West Seattle Blog… West Seattle news, 24/7 Wed, 15 Aug 2018 08:02:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 VIDEO: Alki Homestead’s neon sign readied for restoration Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:02:23 +0000

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.

Share This

]]> 1
FOLLOWUP: Alki Homestead ‘rehabilitation’ plan gets full Landmarks Board approval Thu, 17 Mar 2016 07:47:54 +0000 160209 A3.0
(Added: Drawing of east [front] side of Alki Homestead’s rehab plan – see full PDF here. See west side here, south side here)

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.”

The “protected” part of the building – “we’re just trying to restore that to the way it was,” Hamlett said, except for a fireplace which as discussed on Friday is in bad shape. “We’re going to restore the fireplace to what it looked like when it was a residence, as best we can” – there are no photos, he noted. They’re putting in accessible restrooms; but heating, ventilating, lighting “is not part of the permit we’re doing right now.” They’re building a stair that won’t be usable – they’re not expecting upper floor users to come down to the restaurant – and one in the back that will be.

The second floor, which is not landmarked, will have three studio residential units, all accessed from one stair on the back – they have requirements for emergency-exit windows – there will be a slot in each double-hung window to create that space.

They’ll rebuild the visible part of the chimney with river rock, same height, same shape, “and we wil use that chimney for venting, range hoods.” There also are “skylights that we’re adding, four skylights to the top of the facility.” And they’re building a wall with wood shingles – the existing building had some “up where the upper floor windows are.” The back door will be replaced, larger because of some space that will be created when the raised floor is removed.

For seismic purposes, “we have to brace the building.” So they’re building a “moment frame” on each of two walls – “wide flange beams and big steel tube columns.” They’re not covering up any of the existing windows or space; everything will be painted to match the logs. “You can see them a little bit but not stand out,” Hamlett promised.

They’re taking out existing fir flooring for some concrete work that needs to be done but will replace it.

He showed more samples and said they’ve been working on color matches for materials both inside and outside of the building.

Other discussions included materials that would be used, including the materials to be used for restoration, and even what the indoor sprinkler heads might look like.

The one public comment came from Clay Eals, executive director of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society: “We’re in full support of what they’re doing … very impressed with the creativity and the sensitivity … everybody knows this building is a challenge … they’re going the extra mile … continuation of the integrity of the work that’s already been done.”

Shortly after that, the board voted unanimously to give the project team a Certificate of Approval, certifying that the work would not take away from the landmark.

This is separate from the building-permit process, which is still under way.

Share This

]]> 8
Restoring the Alki Homestead: Landmarks Board committee briefed as next decision approaches Sat, 12 Mar 2016 03:54:16 +0000 IMG_2314

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:

They brought paint samples and other materials to show board members – matching the pre-fire colors “as close as possible,” but there will be color variations, since different parts of the building will have different walls/siding – shingles, shake, and logs. Overall, “it’s a very dark building,” one board member noted, and the owner and architect agreed.

Among the restoration/repairs/remodeling they mentioned: Work on the back patio, “leveling it out with a slope toward the alley,” making it accessible with a ramp, so the ADA-compliant entrance to the building will be in the back (on its west side).

The kitchen, which is not controlled by the landmark ordinance, will be replaced in the same spot. It’s not covered by the landmark ordinance, and they haven’t come up with the layout yet, Schilling said, as they don’t know who the tenant will be in the restaurant space. The bathrooms, also not covered by landmark-ordinance controls, will be redone to be ADA-compliant.

The existing rock fireplace will be removed – it had structural damage, they discovered – and rebuilt, “trying to restore it to what it was when (the Homestead) was the original house. “When we took the rocks out, we realized there was nothing behind it,” Schilling explained. The restoration will include a timber mantle, he said.

There’ll be a lobby in the back of the building with new stairs; for the landing, they’re hoping to get permission to use concrete instead of “plastic wood,” to “make a little-nicer roof for the door below.”

They also talked about the second floor – another “non-historic” part of the building, where they’re going to try to create “some interesting spaces.” It will have to have “emergency egress” windows, and they have a plan to make those work without it looking different from the outside. They’ll meet the energy code on the upper floor, “except for the windows,” and on the lower floor, they’ll add insulation where they can (though, it was noted, not with the existing logs).

A “historic chimney” is proposed for removal and recreation – it’s seismically unstable, Hamlett and Schilling said, and they don’t want to have to use any more guy wires, so they’ll make a “fake chimney” to preserve the look. The neon sign is slated for restoration and a plan has been drawn up, the committee was told, even with a plan to analyze traces of the gases in its tubing to help recreate its previous color.

Other changes will include a wall where the bar used to be, a wood-panel door leading into the kitchen, and behind the stairs, another new door. Overall, they’ve been working with old, historic drawings and working to “scale everything” to try to “get the right shape.” Nothing on the north side will change; on the south side, the trellis will be gone.

Board members’ comments were positive, including an assessment that the proposal is an “elegant solution” that will allow “the log building to stand out and sing.” Schilling and Hamlett were thanked for “the level of detail they were putting into the research.”

No one was at this morning’s meeting to offer public comment; Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals, who has been chronicling the Homestead renovations (and inviting people to share Homestead memories), was the only member of the public present at all. But next Wednesday’s meeting will offer another opportunity, if anyone’s interested. Here’s the agenda; it’s at 3 pm March 16th at City Hall’s Boards and Commissions Room, same location as this morning’s meeting but not the board’s usual meeting spot.

If and when the work is approved, Schilling and Hamlett said, “we’re pretty much ready to go,” hoping to start this phase of the work within a few weeks.

Share This

]]> 2
3 West Seattle landmarks get $ boost from Building for Culture Tue, 24 Nov 2015 01:47:27 +0000

(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.

Read more about the grant program here.

Share This

]]> 14
West Seattle 4th of July scene: ‘This Place Still Matters’ Sun, 05 Jul 2015 01:03:48 +0000

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.

Share This

VIDEO: See inside the Alki Homestead as restoration continues Thu, 11 Jun 2015 17:57:20 +0000

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.

Share This

]]> 4
VIDEO: Alki, Schmitz Park Elementaries help Southwest Seattle Historical Society celebrate start of Alki Homestead restoration Fri, 05 Jun 2015 18:13:33 +0000

(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.

Share This

]]> 5
Logs arrive for early restoration work at Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge Fri, 29 May 2015 00:26:24 +0000

(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.

Share This

]]> 8
VIDEO: What’s next, and ahead, for Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge, now that it has a new owner Sat, 14 Mar 2015 20:17:02 +0000

(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.

Share This

]]> 9
Alki Homestead sold. What’s next? Southwest Seattle Historical Society plans ‘major announcement’ tomorrow morning Sat, 14 Mar 2015 02:20:18 +0000

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.

Share This

]]> 9
‘How do I get to ‘yes’?’ prospective Alki Homestead purchaser asks Landmarks Board committee at first review Sat, 31 Jan 2015 04:19:16 +0000

(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:

That would be the idea of building a three-story, six-unit apartment building on what is currently the Homestead’s parking lot, south of the building at 2717 61st SW. That’s not the main appeal of the purchase, for him, he explained: “I didn’t buy this to put the 6-unit apartment building in the lot … there’s a lot of easier ways to build apartments.”

But the apartments would play a major role in the rest of the renovation, as architect Jeffrey Hamlett (below center, at Schilling’s left) noted toward the start of the meeting:

“Basically what we’re trying to do is to put a small apartment building on the south parking lot” to bring in income to finance the rest of the Homestead renovation. He and Schilling discussed several variations they had looked at, mostly working around the issues of entry – the current parking lot has a curb cut on 61st SW, but the city generally encourages parking to be accessed off alleys, and there’s one running along the west side of this property.

Parking is the point that has to be worked out here. It’s not the sort of situation that has arisen with projects in other neighborhoods – Alki has a “parking overlay” requiring 1.5 spaces for every residential unit – “highest in the city,” Schilling pointed out, while adding that he’s been told the Homestead itself would not necessarily require parking.

“No parking” is not an option, however, because of a unique condition of the property – an easement granted to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society/Log House Museum for part-time use of the Homestead’s existing 20+ parking spaces. So Schilling’s plans are to work in some parking to address that as well as the required parking for the residential proposal. He’s suggesting underground parking for the apartments and 16 parking spaces off the alley. To make room for those spaces, the apartment building would have to be fairly close to the property line fronting 61st, and that could affect the view of the Homestead from one direction.

Committee members asked about the city criteria by which the Homestead was designated a landmark in 1996, to see if that view is protected. One member said it doesn’t appear the proposed apartments “would overpower” the Homestead in terms of scale, overall. Another member noted that seeing a building south of the Homestead would be preferable to the current parking lot.

In public comment, Clay Eals from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society spoke, describing the Homestead as “our mother ship” – the Log House Museum was the carriage house for the Fir Lodge (it has long since been moved south). “Since the fire that closed the Homestead, we have been working on preserving (it) … and we are thrilled” at the prospect of Schilling purchasing and renovating the building. Eals said he and other SWSHS leaders have been meeting with him and “are very encouraged by this plan. … It’s fair to summarize our position that we have to keep our eye on the prize and the prize is the Homestead building and its front lawn … The easement (we have) is in perpetuity, with the owner of the building, and that transfers” with purchase, covering up to six hours a day, and was made when the Homestead as a restaurant did not open until 4 pm. When the LHM went from private residence to public museum, it had to have parking, Eals explained.

He said they are “willing to modify (the) easement, conditioned on restoration .. of the Homestead building.” He said they’d settle for fewer than the 23 spaces to which they currently have access, as “a statement of good faith on our part.” The Homestead, he reiterated, is his organization’s “top preservation priority.”

Rick Sever from the board of Historic Seattle, a former West Seattleite who said he’s been following the situation since the fire, called this the “closest thing I’ve seen that’s viable” since the 2009 fire. He too basically said that the prospect of saving the Homestead would outweigh the impact of the apartments Schilling wants to put on the lot.

Eugenia Woo, also from Historic Seattle, said she wanted to thank Schilling for his interest in doing this. Her group also considers saving the Homestead “a key advocacy issue … it’s been a saga.” (Part of that saga included the “This Place Matters” group-photo event in front of the Homestead on July 4, 2010.)

Eals took pains to ensure the committee understood that Schilling must make a decision soon on whether to go ahead. Schilling underscored that: “At some point I need confidence on whether this is something you’d approve.” It was reiterated that this part of the process is to indicate the committee’s level of comfort with moving forward. Schilling said he would like to “get parallel tracks going” for approvals so this doesn’t “take forever.”

Board members indicated they’d rather see the “compatible building” in the lot than parking and wouldn’t be opposed if some of the latter were lost. If there’s any way to move that future building back a bit from 61st, it would be ideal, but not mandatory, they said. The apartment building’s design shouldn’t be mega-modern, they added.

And then came the reminder that the board “will be more interested in what you plan to do with the historic building,” the Homestead itself, which had barely been discussed in the preceding hour. Schilling and Hamlett did say a new, smaller kitchen, possibly “dropped down,” would be part of the plan. Otherwise, Schilling mentioned his pre-submittal meeting with the city Department of Planning and Development last week – the Landmarks Board is under a different department, Neighborhoods. He brought up what seemed to be a conflict between DPD suggesting the Homestead will need seismic upgrades and the fact its interior is landmarked, posing a dilemma for how to seismically reinforce its log walls.

As for the Landmarks Board, Schilling asked the committee again, “How do I get to ‘yes’?”

Committee members said they were giving positive feedback on the concept of the apartment building next door, but they’ll have to hear about the rest of the project before it could go before the full Landmarks Board for a vote on yay or nay. Landmarks Board coordinator Erin Doherty promised she would work with Schilling in the meantime to help clarify how the rest of the process would go.

That assumes he’ll proceed with the purchase – a decision he told us earlier this week that he’d have to make within a month and a half or so.

BACKSTORY: The Homestead was a restaurant with a decades-long legacy until the January 2009 electrical fire that closed it and left its interior charred. Owner Tom Lin pursued restoration plans, including one that went to the Architectural Review Committee four times in 2011; its potential features had included an accessory structure on the west side and a third-floor view deck. He later canceled the project, and put the Homestead up for sale in 2013. Dennis Schilling, a Mercer Island real-estate investor/developer known best here for buying and fixing up the once-facing-demolition Shoremont Apartments on Alki, is the first publicly disclosed prospective buyer since then.

ARCHIVES: WSB coverage of the Homestead can be found here, newest-to-oldest.

Share This

]]> 6
Can the man who saved the Shoremont save the Alki Homestead? Wed, 28 Jan 2015 01:28:54 +0000

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.

Well, almost history – he has not yet finalized the deal to buy the Homestead; some things remain to be explored, and this Friday morning’s meeting downtown (40th floor of the Municipal Tower, 8:30 am) is among them.

We’ll hear more details at that meeting, but what Schilling summarized for us is a somewhat simpler plan than some of the alternatives that architects working for current owner Tom Lin had taken to the city in 2010-2011 (July 2011 was the last meeting, and at some point after that, the project was shelved).

Some of the log work, as has been previously pointed out, is damaged by rot that had nothing to do with the 2009 fire. If you’ve walked past the Homestead recently and noticed blue tape on some of the logs, Schilling marked some of the spots in need of repair.

That’s a corner where he would hope to take out the old damaged logs and put in new ones – peeled, native, notched fir logs, as were the originals.

So in the bigger picture, what would Schilling do with the Homestead if he decides to go ahead with the purchase and renovations?

The historic building itself, he said, would probably have to be a restaurant. (He does recall eating there once, likely in the 1990s, likely having had its famous chicken.) Because of the site’s split zoning, he is proposing building half a dozen apartments in the parking lot east of the building; its parking would be underground, and parking for the Homestead itself would be off the alley to the west.

But first, he needs to know what the city Landmarks Board – of which the ARC is a subset – would allow him to do, since, fire damage and all, the Homestead remains under the jurisdiction of landmark regulations. He says he’s been working with city staffers already, discussing hypotheticals and possibilities – as well as noting conflicts between city rules requiring bringing the building up to new codes, and the rules governing what can be done to protected historic features.

He’s also been talking with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, whose Log House Museum a half-block south was the carriage house of the building that is known now as the Homestead but started as the Fir Lodge. SWSHS, you’ll likely recall, has been a strong advocate for saving the Homestead/Fir Lodge, making the point publicly with a group photo on July 4th, 2010:

Even though not yet fully committed to the project, Schilling has already become concerned about some of the Homestead’s features – for example, the old neon sign on its roof, which he noticed was “flopping around” in the wind. He had asked if perhaps it could be taken down and stored safely until renovations began, and says the city told him no. So it’s now steadied with more wires. “I love old neon, I really do,” Schilling smiles, looking up at the sign. As for the entirety of the building: “I’d like to save as much of it as I can,” he says, adding later, “I’ve owned worse,” noting that he’s already handled more than one post-fire-restoration project. Last year, after fire ravaged a marina he owns in the San Juans, he got it repaired and back in operation within just a few months.

The historic Homestead, Schilling points out, “is not condemned; it’s damaged,” and he sees it as fixable, with an improvement or two if the city allows, perhaps a better patio out back – with some extension, he says, some water view might be possible. “If I could break even on it and save it, that would be pretty cool.” First, though, he has to get through a city process that he describes as somewhat “painful” – next stop, Friday’s meeting. He expects to decide within a month and a half or so whether the purchase will be a go.

7 years of WSB’s Alki Homestead coverage is archived here, newest-to-oldest.

Share This

]]> 25
West Seattle history: Alki Homestead listed for sale, again Fri, 06 Dec 2013 18:26:58 +0000

(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.”

Share This

]]> 11
City posts ‘stop work’ order after tree-cutting at Alki Homestead Wed, 23 May 2012 19:38:05 +0000

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.

After our first visit to the site yesterday afternoon to try to find out what was happening, our original tipster told us a “cease and desist” order had appeared. We went back to look; we didn’t find it but we did find evidence on the city Department of Planning and Development website that a complaint had been filed and was being investigated.

So we contacted DPD, whose spokesperson Bryan Stevens replied:

We sent an inspector out (Tuesday) after we received the complaint. It appears that four trees on site were removed. We posted a “stop work” order and required them to leave the remaining timber on site and provide us with an arborist report. At this point we haven’t determined whether the trees were considered exceptional, but we should know soon. On sites not undergoing redevelopment, exceptional trees cannot be removed unless they are deemed a hazard (via permit review process).

The city’s definition of “exceptional trees,” a six-page document, can be read here.

Homestead owner Tom Lin, with whom we spoke by phone late last night, says the trees that were cut were either dead or were in danger of falling into the building. He sent “before” photos. For context, we have a series of photos below, starting with two views from the apartment building across the street – the group photo organized by the aforementioned coalition of preservation groups in July 2010, with the Homestead’s then-existing trees clearly visible behind the posing group, and a photo we took from the same angle early Tuesday evening:

(WSB photo, July 4, 2010)

(WSB photo, May 22, 2012)
Here are photos provided by Lin, from right on the Homestead grounds, before he hired the tree crew:

Lin says a concern was raised in April by Clay Eals from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, headquartered less than a block from the Homestead in its old carriage house, on behalf of the 4-group coalition concerned about the former Fir Lodge. We had spoken to Eals earlier in the evening; he shared the e-mail he had sent Lin on April 9:

On behalf of our coalition of four local heritage organizations, I am checking in to see if you are aware of the fallen tree and power lines on the south side of the front lawn of the Alki Homestead. Apparently, the tree fell about a week ago. We are concerned about the safety of the situation. Please let us know of any action that is under way on this front. Thanks.

Eals says Lin didn’t reply. But then, while he says he doesn’t pass the Homestead site every day, he did become aware of this round of tree-cutting. Eals believes that it may raise a larger issue: “The trees on the Homestead property obviously were part of what was to be protected in the 1996 city ordinance regarding controls and incentives for the Homestead. While trees are not specifically mentioned, the ordinance mentions ‘the site, excluding minor plantings’. … You will notice that the ordinance also states that ‘in-kind maintenance or repairs of the (protected) features” is allowed without the landmarks board’s approval. Whether the cutting of the trees falls under this provision is a matter of interpretation’. In part, that interpretation requires information about the condition of the trees that we do not have and have not been given.”

That’s the ordinance that officially made the Homestead/Fir Lodge a city landmark in 1996; you can read it in its entirety here.

And that ordinance is why Lin cannot proceed with restoration/reconstruction work at the Homestead without approval from the city Landmarks Board; any owner of a landmarked property needs approval to make changes to its landmarked features. The Homestead project has not been scheduled for a formal hearing or vote; Lin and the architects he hired for the project, Alloy Design Group, have done what most project teams do before officially going before the board – they have taken it to the board’s informal Architectural Review Committee, meeting with them four times last year to seek guidance on what the board ultimately would allow to be done, with key issues including how much, if any, of the original logs can be salvaged. Lin takes issue with the process, saying that and other issues have been gone over time and time again, and that even without rehash, there is not enough time to consult with the board, with a half-hour scheduled for any project on the agenda, even a complex one like this.

Their last voluntary review with the ARC was in July 2011 (WSB coverage here). But Lin says the project has not been idle; he told us that he had just talked again hours earlier with consultant Mark Fritch, a log-home expert whose great-grandfather helped build the Homestead, has continued to do research, including a trip to Sweden last year. Lin said he and Fritch had also looked at a timber parcel that might have yielded the logs they expect to need for the project, but that the price wasn’t right.

Back to the tree-cutting that the city is investigating now. Lin tells WSB he is done with that work and that no additional cutting is planned; he said the evergreen on the northeast corner of the property was only to have limbs removed, not being prepared for removal. The other trees, he said, died months after the fire – he says they all died during the same month, but were now posing a safety risk – one was on the ground, one was causing problems with utility wires, one was in danger of falling into the Homestead structure itself, as he says is shown by the photos he provided (above). At the time they were discovered to be dead, he said, he “didn’t want to chop them down” – but now, with one having come down and the others in danger of tipping into wires or the structure, he felt he had no choice.

And as for the ongoing process – he says he hasn’t given up, but adds that he doesn’t have “infinite” time or money to devote to it. Yet it is not for sale, he says, while mentioning getting three inquiries this week as to whether it might be.

Meantime, in communication regarding the treecutting, Eals expressed optimism regarding the Homestead’s future: “Our coalition maintains its confidence that the Homestead, including its site, can be preserved and restored and our optimism that it will be. We also maintain our long-stated offer to meet with the owner of the property to offer support and assistance in guiding the preservation and restoration project through the city landmarks process to a successful outcome.”

Lin summarizes, “It has become a very lengthy process, but the goal is to still to bring the Homestead back … I haven’t deviated from that point. … We need to bring it back, one way or another. All I can do is figure out how.”

Share This

]]> 34
Alki Homestead: 3 ideas outlined for restoration/reconstruction Fri, 29 Jul 2011 19:02:02 +0000 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.

With Homestead owner Tom Lin on hand, as well as observers from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society (Clay Eals), Historic Seattle (Eugenia Woo), and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation (Chris Moore), the architects began by briefly discussing a survey of the state of the century-old building’s windows. The upper windows are in better condition than the lower ones, they noted, but overall, Squires said, the refurbish-vs.-replace plan won’t be clear until the overall restoration plan is.

And that’s what took up most of the rest of the discussion.

First, they mentioned completing a survey of the condition of the logs that comprise the Homestead structure, rating each one good/fair/poor.

Later, that became a bone of contention – with both committee members and observers requesting an explanation of the criteria for each category, as well as the methodology for how they were evaluated – because the logs’ condition is at the heart of whether the Homestead is destined for a future that tilts more toward restoration or more toward reconstruction.

As has been discussed in numerous previous evaluations, it’s not just the fire damage that is reported to have compromised Homestead logs, but also other factors over the years, including weather. Below the top three “courses,” the architects say, “there is a lot of exposure to the weather over the past century – a lot of rotting, a lot of crushing.” Weather isn’t the problem for interior logs, they said, but fire damage is.

And to complicate matters, they reiterated another point made previously, that unless some new technique is developed for some kind of patchwork, logs cannot be partially replaced – if a log is 20 percent damaged, it might as well be 100 percent damaged, for purposes of building or rebuilding a log structure like the Fir Lodge/Homestead.

How the logs are handled is at the heart of the three potential strategies they unveiled: Option 1, “Log by Log”; Option 2, “Support, Strap, Lift and Lower”; Option 3, “Shore Up and Span Over.” These were briefly described at the meeting, but there also was a handout with an extensive paragraph about each, so here’s the transcription. The “Core” refers to everything between the roof and the foundation.

For Option 1:

The existing roof will be removed, exposing the top log of the Core. The Core will be taken apart in separate pieces from top to bottom. Each log removed will be cataloged, tagged, and documented. The logs will most likely be stored and protected on-site while the new Foundation is poured. Once the new Foundation is completed, the restoration of the Core will begin with the replacement of all perimeter logs. Working from the bottom up, the Core will be restored log by log. If any of the original logwork is determined to be compromised beyond reasonable use, it will be replaced with a new log that matches in size and character. Once the Core is completed the Roof will be reconstructed.

For Option 2 (which the architects summarized as “the most aggressive”):

The existing Roof will be removed, exposing the top log of the Core. A large steel support structure will be constructed underneath the existing headers of all window openings in the Core. This structure will span the entire length of the Homestead. The existing Core logs beneath the headers will be hung from the steel support structure by use of industrial straps that wrap from the steel support beams, underneath the logwalls and back up to the steel beams. Once the core is completely strapped, the steel support structure will be raised via hydraulic jacks. The existing Foundation will be removed and a new Foundation will be poured. Logs at the base of the Core will then be examined to determine if they are structurally compromised beyond reasonable use. Any of the original logwork that must be replaced will be done so with a new log that matches in size and character. With the new log work in place, the Core will be lowered onto the new Foundation. After the Core has been successfully secured to the Foundation, the Roof will be reconstructed.

Option 3 (which the architects termed “the most creative”):

The existing Roof will be removed, exposing the top log of the Core. Shoring will be constructed underneath all existing log walls and the existing foundation will be removed. The new Foundation will be excavated and poured while the Core is supported by the shoring above. Once the new Foundation is complete it will support the existing logs and the shoring can be removed. At this time a new steel structure will be erected around the existing walls. The new steel structure will span above the top of the Core, and function to support both the original Core that are structurally unstable as well as and the new Roof structure. Once the steel structure and the Core is secured to the new Foundation, the Roof will be reconstructed.

Haizlip and Squires acknowledged the eventual process may turn out to be a hybrid: “The restoration solution is somewhere within these options.” In all options, they promised, “the chimneys plainly stay, all these options work around them.”

But in a line of questioning pursued by committee/board member Steve Savage, one big “missing factor” emerged – What will the city require in terms of seismic safety, and how would that affect the eventual appearance of the building, as well as the plan for restoration/reconstruction?

The architects said they had some preliminary discussion with the city Department of Planning and Development in two “pre-submittal” meetings (before the actual permit application is made) – the Landmarks Preservation Board is actually part of the Department of Neighborhoods – and that they are continuing to work with engineer Todd Ferbix.

Committee members said they would like to hear directly from the engineer regarding some of the issues, including specifics about the foundation and roof, which the architects insist must be replaced. Otherwise, looking at the project now, one quipped, is a “chicken and egg” situation – you don’t know which requirements are going to result in which results/effects.

Ultimately, the end result, according to the architects, is: “Visually, the idea the goal, is to see what you see now.”

The Architectural Review Committee is a sub-group of the Landmarks Preservation Board, and applicants are invited to bring their project to the committee for discussion before seeking a formal board vote, so today’s meeting did not end with any formal action, and in fact, committee/board members said they did not feel comfortable “signing off” on anything, even in this context, without hearing from the engineer.

Before the Homestead’s portion of today’s ARC meeting ended, there was an opportunity for public comment. Historic Seattle’s Woo said Option 1 raises concerns for her because, “What guarantees that the building would actually be rebuilt (once it’s taken apart) because once you remove all that, it’s gone?” She also wondered about the visual effects of steel supports – wondering if they might be hidden inside logs.

Washington Preservation for Historic Trust’s Moore – a West Seattleite – asked Homestead owner Lin about broken windows he said he noticed while walking on Alki last night. Lin said he visits the building frequently and just noticed the vandalism yesterday, so he believes it happened within the past three days, and regarding repairs, “I already talked to my contractor about that.”

There’s no date set yet for the next meeting.

Previous WSB coverage of the Alki Homestead is archived here, newest to oldest.

Share This

]]> 8