West Seattle, Washington
(January 16 photo taken at Homestead fire scene by David Hutchinson)
A new update this morning from Alki Homestead owner Tom Lin – who wants help in showing gratitude to the firefighters who responded the morning the historic restaurant caught fire:
Alki Homestead-Volunteers Wanted
I have been swamped with work since the fire and it would be great if someone with the connection can help with the following tasks.
The day of the fire, I remember there were about 10 fire trucks from 3 or 4 fire stations putting out the fire. It is very important to show how grateful we are for what they have done and how quickly they responded. I thought it would be nice to install a X Box or Wii in every station. It must be pretty boring to sit in the station at times and a good computer game could ease the boredom.
1. We need to find out if that is permitted to install the games in the stations.
2. We need to find out which stations these firemen came from.
3. We need volunteers to install these games.
4. If we can’t install the games, suggestions as to what can we do to show our appreciation.
I will provide the systems and games.
Tom’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
After both of the stories we published here the past two days about concerns regarding the Alki Homestead‘s future (here and here), we mentioned trying to reach owner Tom Lin for his comment on his plans for the landmark restaurant, two months after the fire that closed it. Here’s what he just sent us:
It has been 2 months since the fire at Alki Homestead and I appreciate everyone’s concern as to what to do with the property. Hopefully this will provide some insight as to what is going on.
My main concern is to find a place for my employees to work. It has not been easy due to the economic condition of the market. I have looked at over several restaurants that are for sale in West Seattle and finally found one that everyone likes. I presented the letter of intent yesterday and hopefully it will work out. The employees are thrilled to have the opportunity to work together as a team again — over 10 of them. It is not going to be named Alki Homestead. However, the spirit will be kept alive until Homestead reopens.
It will be a long road ahead to restore Alki Homestead. The insurance is still in the process of getting settled. I have to say that the insurance companies I am working with are professional and extremely helpful. They have a process that they have to go through in order to settle the claim. It just takes time and they are doing the best they can.
I called my insurance adjuster yesterday and asked them to release the property. They called back immediately with permission to go ahead with a modified cleanup. I can start cleaning up the place, but I should keep the contents intact until the insurance settles. Technically, the insurance companies own the property inside the building because they are paying for it.
Where do we go from here? I have been working with my architects and Mark Fritch of Mark Fritch Log Homes. Mark sent a letter to West Seattle Herald on March 24th. I hope you will have a chance to read it. Mark is the great grandson of the original builder, Anton Borgen, who helped build Alki Homestead and Log House Museum.
I met up with the board of Log House Museum a month ago. Their position is to restore the building regardless of the “use” of the building. They believe that as long as a viable business can pay the rent, then the building is saved.
I disagree with that view. The building is the shell, but the spirit is the Alki Homestead. To bring back the building without Alki Homestead is like visiting your grandmother’s house after she passed away, kind of empty. I have owned it for 3 years. I am the one who has seen:
1, Customers celebrating their 50th anniversary because that is where they had their wedding rehearsal.
2. The Ericksons, who have been coming every Friday night for the past 27 years.
3, The couple who celebrated their 75th anniversary, and they met at the beach when they were 16 years old.
The stories go on and on.
Maybe all of you can help me preserve the spirit of the property as well as the historical use of this great site. Maybe the Log House Museum can have their annual gala at Alki Homestead Restaurant in the future, instead of holding those events at other non-historic venues, as in the past 2 years.
I believe action speaks louder than words. If you would like to help with the project, then let’s be constructive. We need to stay positive and move forward. A lot of work needs to be done. Let’s bring Alki Homestead Restaurant back and let’s make this project something we can all be proud of.
(added 1:35 pm – We’ve just spoken with Lin by phone; he won’t elaborate on which restaurant he’s looking into – the two closed restaurants that have been for sale in West Seattle for months are the former Beato and Blackbird.) He also attached a WSB-addressed version of the letter he mentioned, from Mark Fritch, a great-grandson of the builder of the Homestead and the Log House Museum – read on to see it in its entirety:Read More
(WSB photo from January 16)
Two follow-ups this afternoon, the day after our Monday report about the Southwest Seattle Historical Society‘s announcement of concern regarding the fate of the Alki Homestead restaurant, an official city landmark, closed since fire heavily damaged its interior two months ago. We just talked with inspector Michael Griffin in the city Department of Planning and Development regarding the complaint filed last week about the building’s condition (noted online here). He tells WSB he has inspected the site and its only potential violations are that its roof and some windows are open to the elements, so building owner Tom Lin will be given a warning notice to take care of those problems. If he doesn’t, then a citation would follow. Aside from the roof/window openness, Griffin says, the property is “neat and tidy.” Meantime, we checked with the Historic Preservation division of the city Neighborhoods Department, to find out what role they might play, if any, in this situation. Landmarks coordinator Beth Chave tells WSB that she talked with Lin “about a month ago” to go over the review process required for repairs/changes on a landmarked property like this but hasn’t seen an application yet, so doesn’t have an “active file” about the Homestead site. (Meantime, owner Lin has not yet answered our requests for comment.)
(WSB photo from January, shortly after the fire)
Two months after the fire that closed the historic Alki Homestead restaurant, repairs have yet to begin, according to city online records which show no permits have been applied for, though records do show a complaint was filed with the city last week about the building’s condition/status. This morning, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, which operates the nearby Log House Museum, has issued a news release expressing concern about the Homestead’s future:
Because of community uncertainty over the fate of the Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead Restaurant after an early-morning fire damaged the building on Jan. 16, 2009, the Executive Board of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society states the following:
The Southwest Seattle Historical Society advocates protection and preservation of significant historic structures on the Duwamish Peninsula. We nominated the Alki Homestead Restaurant building for city landmark status and the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designated it a Seattle landmark on Oct. 18, 1995. Then and today, the building needs preservation.
The Alki Homestead, known 100 years ago as Fir Lodge, is a Seattle icon. It was the anchor of a beachfront estate created by the Bernard family. The carriage house that became the historical society’s Log House Museum is the only remaining structure of five outbuildings on that estate. Both the Homestead and The Log House Museum are–and should remain–vital and intertwined sites in our Seattle history for generations to come.
We support the building’s preservation. We urge:
-that the building be protected immediately in its damaged state: that the roof be covered, broken windows boarded up, and the entire structure protected from the elements and from intrusion;
-that the yard and landscape be maintained, perhaps with help from neighborhood volunteers; and
-that all landmarked features be preserved in the restoration of the building.
We are confident that there are many ways in which the building can be used to insure that it has an economically viable future. We urge community support of a vision that restores the landmarked building and sustains the site as a valuable element of the Alki community, the Duwamish Peninsula , and the city of Seattle.
After the fire, Homestead owner Tom Lin had said he still hoped to proceed with a sale of the restaurant operation – not the building itself – which was in the works before the fire; he also said it might take more than six months before the Homestead could reopen. We have a message out to him for comment on the Historical Society’s statement, and the status of plans for repairs/sale, and will let you know what we hear back.
That’s per Rebekah Denn in Devouring Seattle at seattlepi.com – she mentioned this morning that chef Johnny Zhu had just taken a new job as executive chef at Monsoon East in Bellevue, and also noted our earlier report that he was believed to be the prospective buyer of the Alki Homestead. She updated at mid-afternoon after talking with him, writing: “He and Rose are indeed still interested in Alki Homestead, but the fire there has set their timeline back. They’re pursuing it — and looking for investors, btw — but it’s not a done deal.” (As we reported 1/19, owner Tom Lin believes it’ll take at least six months to fix and reopen the Homestead.)
(WSB photos from Friday morning)
Four days now have passed since the early-morning fire that heavily damaged the interior of the historic Alki Homestead restaurant; yesterday, owner Tom Lin estimated in this update for WSB that it would take more than six months to repair and reopen. This morning, he just sent us another update, including some information related to the cause of the fire, listed by Seattle Fire Department investigators as too many Christmas lights plugged into one socket:
I just want to clarify why we never took down the Christmas lights. We lost reservations for over 600 people the week before Christmas due to the snow storm. Many of the customers called and asked Homestead to keep the lights up till the end of January. The fire was caused by the combination of old wiring, Christmas lights and other unforeseen factors. I don’t think any one is at fault.
I met up with the buyers of Alki Homestead today and many issues were discussed. Johnny and Rose still would like to proceed with the purchase of Alki Homestead after it is restored. However, the following conditions will have to be met:
1. The restaurant has to come back as Alki Homestead or there is no goodwill, hence they will not be interested.
2. If the build-out is more than buyers’ original budget due to fire, the seller may have to make up for the shortfall.
3. Buyers will be included in the restoration process to ensure the integrity of the building.
4. Buyers will not have their names released until documents are signed pertaining to the above conditions.
I appreciate all the support from the community. So far, I believe we can still meet our payroll. It is just nice to know that people are thinking of our employees especially when the job market is really tough now.
We have a followup question out to Tom — who sent the update a short time ago — regarding the buyers, who for the first time he publicly identifies as “Johnny and Rose.” Based on some intel we received when Tom first described the anonymous prospective buyers as a husband-and-wife chef team living in Fauntleroy, we believe “Johnny” is Johnny Zhu (background here, via LinkedIn). More updates to come; we also are asking Tom a question one WSBer posed – whether there’s any way to donate to help the Homestead staff.
(Friday morning photo by David Hutchinson)
Three days after fire damaged Alki’s historic Homestead Restaurant, its owner has a clearer picture of the road ahead to getting it reopened. As we reported Friday morning, investigators say the $400,000 fire was an electrical accident – sparked by too many Christmas lights plugged into a single socket. Tom Lin, who bought the Homestead after longtime owner Doris Nelson passed away, provides this update on what’s happening now with the restaurant (an official Seattle landmark), its employees, and the prospective new owner he was in the process of selling it to when this happened:
The dust has finally settled after 3 chaotic days. I know many people are interested in knowing what is going on with Alki Homestead after the fire, and I will update as much as I can as we proceed with the cleanup.
First of all, I must thank the Fire Department and the Police Department for the prompt response time. I believe the phone call was made at 5:20 AM and they had the fire out by 5:40. I don’t think anyone can ask for more than that. It was such a blessing that fire started at 5 AM instead of 5 PM and no one got hurt.
At 6 AM, my longtime employee, Bonnie, who worked for Mrs. Nelson for 17 years and has worked for me for 3 years, showed up in tears wanting to talk to the Fire Chief. She had one request, she asked if anyone could get the reservation book so she could call all the customers who had reservation for the weekend. A “firewoman” went inside, grabbed the charred reservation book and handed to Bonnie.
After examining the damage, I think it will take longer than 6 months to reopen Alki Homestead. The damage is quite extensive. I believe the entire roof needs to be replaced. The middle part of the second floor will have to come down. There is a big hole in the ceiling of the first floor where the fire went up and that also punctured a hole in the roof.
This is our photo from Friday showing that damage:
The ceiling of the main dining room is pretty much charred. The fireplace actually stopped the fire from spreading to the left side of the dining room. All the tables and chairs are gone. Luckily, the dining table that is over 100 years old is still standing. The King and Queen’s chairs are ok. The PI clock and the sideboards are charred. All the chandeliers are melted. I think we can salvage the pictures of the Barnards.
I will know more next week after we get the official damage report. I have already instructed the general manager, Chris Long, to supplement employees with their salary for at least 3 months. It is more than a job for most of them and we will not leave them on the street at any cost.
I know we have lots of gift certificates outstanding. We will try to get other restaurants in Alki to honor them or we will redeem the gift certificates with cash. I will post the details soon. If any restaurants would like to honor our gift certificates, please e-mail me.
I have spoken to the buyer of the restaurant business and he is still interested in taking over, except it will be on a later date. I will disclose the buyer’s identity later in the week after our meeting tomorrow. We will be renegotiating the terms of the sale and hopefully come to an agreement.
I bought Alki Homestead because I wanted to preserve the part of history that has been very important to this neighborhood. Some people may still want to treat me like an outsider, but I have as much at stake as anyone else who lives here. In any event, our goal is to restore the restaurant and hopefully make it better. We will get a better facility that will meet the ADA standards, from the bathrooms to the handicapped ramp. Hopefully wheelchair customers won’t have to go through the kitchen and hopefully the bathrooms will be big enough to accommodate wheelchairs with no steps going up and down. This may be our chance to update the restaurant, think positive. Both Alki Homestead and the pan-fried chicken will return.
So much for the thoughts tonight, hope to get some feedback soon. My e-mail is email@example.com.
For those who’ve never been inside, this Wikimedia photo shows what a special place it’s been:
But just hours after the fire, so many of those interior fixtures, as Tom mentioned, were in a charred heap outside:
We will be following up with Tom for those future updates he mentioned.
Eerily, we can’t help but note that it’s just a few weeks till the first anniversary of the fire that closed another beloved West Seattle restaurant for months – the Charlestown Cafe fire in February 2008 – that one, too, an accident; the Charlestown finally reopened almost five months later.
(scroll down for latest information, continuing to add it as we get it)
(photo by David Hutchinson)
ORIGINAL 6:23 AM POST (which was headlined “Alki Homestead fire out”): That’s according to Helen Fitzpatrick of the Seattle Fire Department, who says flames were coming from the rear of the restaurant when crews arrived. Crews were sent out about 5:20 am. The Homestead’s log-house building on 61st SW south of Alki SW (map) is a city landmark (since 1996); the restaurant business was up for sale last year and we had reported just before the holidays (11/25/08 WSB report here) that its owner, Tom Lin, had found buyers. According to the Fire Department, no one was in the building at the time of this morning’s fire. More details and photos shortly. 6:43 AM UPDATE: Another photo from David Hutchinson, this one showing the fire-response vehicles lined up all the way onto Alki Ave. Witness reports say firefighters had to cut into the building while fighting the flames. No word of any injuries.
6:49 AM UPDATE: Co-publisher Patrick has an update from SFD spokesperson Fitzpatrick at the scene: The fire broke out on the 1st floor and flames did shoot up through the roof. No idea yet what caused it. Damage is mostly confined to the 1st floor (which of course is the restaurant’s main floor). 61st remains blocked off from Alki Ave to SW Stevens (Log House Museum).
7 AM UPDATE: Most of the fire vehicles are starting to pack up to leave. We’re not being allowed around back of the building so far, so it’s too soon to say just how extensive the damage appears from the outside.
7:06 AM UPDATE: Fitzpatrick says there’s “significant smoke and char damage on the first floor” and some damage in the attic area. Investigation into the cause continues.
7:22 AM UPDATE: Patrick just talked with owner Tom Lin at the scene. The message he wanted to reaffirm: Nobody is hurt – in the past there were tenants renting some space in the building but that space has been vacant for a while. Tom knows his office was damaged but doesn’t know the extent of the restaurant damage yet and so has no idea when it’ll reopen. He told us that he lives nearby and heard the sirens; when he realized how close they were, he went over to look and was shocked to find out it was the Homestead. Patrick asked about the in-progress sale mentioned in our November report; Tom said it hadn’t closed yet but the prospective purchaser had been actively preparing for some potential remodeling work, and the restaurant had been scheduled to close soon because of that (as he’d told us in November). Patrick adds that the fire damage is not visible from outside, at least from the front of the restaurant; Tom believes the thickness of the log structure kept the flames from actually breaking through the framework, aside from the aforementioned attic damage. (added later – video we shot as a TV reporter was interviewing him with the same questions we’d asked some time earlier)
7:38 AM UPDATE: Owner Tom just told Patrick investigators believe the fire was electrical in origin.
8:01 AM NOTE: We’ll have more photos back shortly, more clearly showing the damage from outside. Regarding the mention of the attic, we’re reminded that we covered a special sale at the Homestead last April (here’s our story, with photos); many of the items had been brought out of storage in the attic.
8:15 AM UPDATE: Adding more photos. First, this is from behind the restaurant, showing the roof damage – that’s right behind the famous vertical neon sign:
Looking at the roof from the front, only a little damage can be seen, right around the chimney:
Here’s a wide shot of the restaurant’s century-old building – from this angle, if not for the fire trucks, you wouldn’t have known there’d been a fire:
By the way, if you’ve never been inside the Homestead, here’s a photo of the interior.
10:29 AM UPDATE: From Dana Vander Houwen at the SFD: The fire is blamed on “excessive draw of power for Christmas lights plugged into a single outlet” and damage is estimated at $400,000.
11:45 AM UPDATE: From an opening to the courtyard on the alley behind the restaurant, you can see this sad scene – burned items from inside the restaurant.
We reported back in March that the Alki Homestead restaurant was on the market – the restaurant, not the building. Now, there’s word from owner Tom Lin that he’s found a buyer:
I believe we have found the right buyer for Alki Homestead Restaurant. It is a husband and wife team who live near Fauntleroy Ferry in West Seattle. They were voted as one of the up and coming chefs in Seattle by Seattle Magazine. If the deal goes through, they will take over the restaurant early next year and close it down for few months during the remodeling.
The name will still be Alki Homestead Restaurant and the tradition will be kept alive. It has been very challenging for me the past few years as I am not a restaurateur. My general manager Chris Long has done a tremendous job at maintaining the family-style dining at Alki Homestead.
The potential new owners are now working on the architectural drawing. Alki Homestead will be getting a facelift next year. I truly believe it will be a better place after all (is) said and done.
Lin posted that to the Alki Beach Community Yahoo! Group earlier this morning, and since his note to that group ended with a question about how to post it here, we have taken the liberty of going ahead and re-posting. We also have a followup question out to him, seeking more information about the prospective buyers – online research shows one Seattle chef couple getting a lot of media attention as up-and-comers, but so far we haven’t found any indication of West Seattle residency, so it may not be them. The other followup question – whether the sale is indeed for the business and not the century-old building, which is how it was originally listed (the building itself is an official Seattle city landmark; Lin bought it two and a half years ago, a year and a half after longtime owner Doris Nelson died. Back in April, the Homestead sold off some of its art, crystal, and other items (WSB coverage here). 9:54 AM UPDATE: Just got a note back from Tom Lin – he explains he wants to “keep the buyer’s name anonymous as the deal is not totally sealed yet,” but he wanted to get the word of an impending deal out so that people could enjoy the Homestead for the holidays, before the aforementioned temporary closure next year, and he reiterates the prospective buyer “intend(s) to keep the name and style of food.”
Received this from Alki-area businessperson Tom Lin:
A group of local high-school students asked me to help them develop a viable summer business project. They have come up with a few propositions so far. Among them:
1. Shaved Ice (snowcone) at Alki.
2. Paid Parking at Alki during busy sunny days.
3. Alki Dog Walking Service
4. Car Washing
They are looking for help with all aspects of business development. If you have any suggestions or experience in the above fields,
please call Lucas at 206-226-9964 or send me an e=mail, Thomas Lin, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be a meeting for all interested parties at Alki Homestead Restaurant 11:30AM Sunday May 18. If you are over age 16 and are interested in starting your own business, you are welcome to join the group.
This is a project for the youth to start a business venture that is profit driven. If you have a creative mind, please come and join
us. However, all the advisors are volunteers.
Please RSVP if you are interested in this project: email@example.com
17 years in West Seattle and we’ll confess we have never been inside the Alki Homestead (on 61st SW, just south of the Alki Bakery building). Curiosity about what came down out of storage for the forum-announced antique sale (continuing through 7 pm tonight) finally changed that, less than an hour ago — we dropped in right as the doors opened at 3 pm. Resisted the impulse to scoop up this entire table of $1-each servingware:
There’s furniture, paintings, silverware, crystal. And a bake sale with elegant offerings. We asked Homestead management if they might do this again if everything doesn’t sell; they said probably not in this format — whatever’s left over when this sale ends at 7 pm today will likely go back upst
ALKI HOMESTEAD: A post in the WSB Forums brought first word of an “antique” sale there 3-7 pm today. (By the way, the business – not the building – is still for sale; this listing was renewed just yesterday.)
The updated CL listing makes it clear “just the business” (not the building) — but however you slice it, the Homestead is for sale, two years after it last changed hands. $495,000, according to this version of the listing.