West Seattle, Washington
If you live in one of West Seattle’s many older houses and have a bit of curiosity about who lived in your house way back when, here’s an unlikely tool: The city database of “side sewer cards.” Look up your address and you’ll find an image of the hand-drawn, hand-written records showing where your house connects its “side sewer” to the nearest main city pipe and who owned it last time it was inspected (check the back of the “card” for that info). And if yours goes back far enough that the person who originally owned it is likely to have left the planet by now, you can look ’em up on the Social Security Death Index.
Yet another historic West Seattle house is on the market — a side note on this article reveals that this is your big chance to buy the “Hainsworth House” (our WS History page has a link to its backstory). And as far as we can tell, nobody’s ponied up yet for Beach Drive’s historic Satterlee House or its acreage-riffic front yard — but there’s been a price cut; the SH listing is now down to $995K, from $1.2m, where it had been since splitting off from the no-price-cut-yet front yard (originally last summer the two were bundled for $3m).
Old news to some, since apparently this has been out there for a few weeks, but we just happened onto it while making a periodic check of the site for the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, the organization behind a variety of community improvements including most famously in the past year the Youngstown Arts Center transformation: DNDA’s longtime executive director Paul Fischburg is leaving, and they’re looking for somebody new. (We wrote to ask what he’s moving on to; he forwarded us a copy of his announcement memo, which mentioned that he’s leaving after 10 years with no particular plans, but will enjoy some down time while mulling the future.)
A shiny new city land-use alert sign (the posts look like they just came out of the lumberyard) is now up in front of the Schuck’s/Hancock Fabrics parking lot that eventually will make way for Fauntleroy Place. No new milestones on its city DPD tracking page; the architect’s site (it’s craftily framed; follow “what we do” to “business/commercial” to “mixed use” and find Fauntleroy Place there) says construction will start in 2008 — we wondered, is it really that far away? Maybe so, given that several city agencies/commissions still seem to have some questions (or so you’d gather reading the last page of these minutes from last month’s meeting of the city Design Commission).
Noticed a fair amount of signs around WS lately touting “Verge Condominiums.” Didn’t realize till a morning drive along Harbor Avenue today that “Verge” is the building across from the piles o’ harbor stuff we always referred to as the “slag heaps” (caveat, I can’t find proof of exactly what’s in those piles). What’s more, it’s got an over-the-top marketing campaign. Signs in front of the building mention (paraphrasing now) “smelling salt spray,” among other fantasies. Checked out the Verge website after the drive and it’s really almost funny. For one, the waves on the home page are open-ocean, “surfing Waimea” type waves, not the “ferry wake” wavelets of Alki. For two, the typestyles are beautiful but they really needed to hire a proofreader (helloo, it’s macchiato, not machiatto; 2 misspellings apiece on this page and this page; then on this page, besides the misuse of “it’s,” the photo of the guy staring quizzically at the Fine Cuisine is good for a laugh).
Redevelopment can be a fine thing. However, you’d think they could sell these condos quite nicely without trying to paint the neighborhood as the next best thing to the OC.
Two sightings tonight on our side of West Seattle have us in eye-rolls:
(1) A set of teardown-turned-condos on the east side of Cali Ave now bears a name on a big advertising banner: “NOMO 12.” Took us a block or two to figure out that “NOMO” has nothing to do with Hideo the baseball player or Stan Boreson’s basset. Though we can’t find an online reference to confirm this, it HAS to be “NoMo” as in “North of Morgan (Junction),” a la all those pretentious names you find in NYC, Belltown, other trendy or wannabe-trendy neighborhoods. Cringe.
(2) Someone has peppered power poles on the south end of Cali Ave with laminated bright red flyers shouting, COYOTE WARNING/MULTIPLE COYOTE SIGHTINGS IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD/KEEP PETS INDOORS! Heaven & stars, all the flyer’s missing is a picture of Wile E. Coyote with a big circle/slash “no” symbol through his face. We suppose “keep pets indoors” is a more appropriate exhortation than oh, say, “shoot on sight,” but really now. The anti-wildlife hysteria is a little out of control. Keep your pets indoors is a great idea so they won’t get run over; that’s a bigger threat than hungry wildlife. Hmm, maybe we’ll go make up some flyers along the lines of CAR WARNING/MULTIPLE CAR SIGHTINGS IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD/KEEP PETS INDOORS …
Even with the acceleration in teardown-to-townhome construction, West Seattle still has thousands of homes dating back to the ’50s, and earlier. We found out some of our house’s history not long after moving in — I was out doing some garden cleanup one day, when a man walked up, asked me a few questions about the house, then revealed his father was the original owner/builder. He told us his dad had to go off to serve in World War II not long after the house was done; after the war, he said, his dad moved into the homebuilding business bigtime, and the family eventually moved to California. (Whenever I find myself bemoaning our house’s relatively tiny size, I think of its original residents, who were double our number and apparently got along just fine!)
After this encounter, we did more research on the house by going to some government building (memory fails me) and looking up its original building permits. (You should still be able to do this nowadays; check these places for starters.)
I mention all this as an excuse to link to a few interesting house-history sites we’ve encountered recently while doing online research. One is this site set up by real-estate agents for a Fauntlee Hills home that sold earlier this year (though the site is still active, please note the listing is not); they went to great lengths to create a site with the house’s history and even old marketing materials for the area (if you’re not familiar with Fauntlee Hills, it’s the group of brick houses just east of Fauntleroy Church and the old school-turned-community center, uphill from the ferry dock). Another is the site a local developer created a few years back for a 1923 Craftsman home he rescued from impending teardown, then moved a short distance and renovated. And the third is a site for a home whose history is still in progress, a rather dramatic renovation project we’ve seen along the south end of Cali Ave. Very nice of these folks to share the houses’ history with the rest of the world!
(Apologies to Joyce Kilmer.) As someone absolutely passionate about being a truly green greenie — as mentioned before, if you looked at our house from Google Earth, you would barely see its roof amid all the trees and shrubs we’ve allowed to grow around and over it — I’m skeptical about Hizzoner‘s new “WE (HEART) TREES” campaign, lovingly (and mostly uncritically) previewed in the P-I and Times this morning. One even more fabulous way to slow tree loss would be to apply tougher standards to the rampant infill that’s under way in areas like ours. On the slopes over Lincoln Park, in the past few years, we’ve seen acres of greenery fall to developers’ backhoes (here’s just one example), replaced by oversized houses (do 2 or 3 people really need 3.5K sf?). How about we save a little more greenspace than just what’s left in our parks? Dare to look at an “undeveloped” lot and consider that maybe its highest and best use is to stay “undeveloped.” There’s more to “environmentally critical” than streams and wetlands.
From a Times story today about Seattle house-hunting, an alarming paragraph that seems to malign our fair side of the bay:
They drove to West Seattle to see a house in their price range. In the neighborhood, they saw a sign posted outside a convenience store near the high school that said something like, “We know you students are thieves. Only one student inside at a time.”
They couldn’t see themselves living there.
OK, which high school would that have been? Neither West Seattle HS nor Sealth HS has a convenience store within a block or so, unless my memory is failing me. Perhaps a high school temporarily housed at Boren? Although I can’t think of any convenience stores adjacent to that campus either …
If you share my sadness at every fine old house that is swept away to clear space for condos, or twinge a little when a franchise moves into a business space once held by a local original … even while knowing deep inside, “the only thing constant is change” … check out the second half of this post on chasBlog. My hat’s off to him (and in this case, perhaps a Mariners trident logo hat would be appropriate).
Not long after I posted about the apparently doomed historic house at 4532 42nd SW (thanks to “WS Guy” for the comment on that post, enlightening me about its history — my copy of the wonderful “West Side Story” is in tatters and I need to find a “new” one), we were startled by this sight: The historic “Satterlee House” on Beach Drive is up for sale again, billed as a “$3 million fixer” with suggestions as to how some of its massive front-lawn space could be developed. It’s been five years since the slugfest over a plan to put cottages on that land; now the MLS listing suggests it could be used as “possible 3 building sites with completed short plat.” Whatever happened to the campaign to save the house and its site as is? Isn’t there any kazillionaire around here with a few spare bucks (I wish I did!) to preserve a little history? (or are they ALL on Lake Washington?)