Rails to Trails Around the World

I have been amazed by how well people advocating for safe walking and biking streets share good ideas. It is not just Queen Anne Greenways and Ballard folks or even my many friends in Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. The connections are in fact worldwide among pedestrians, bicyclists, urban planners and traffic engineers. Astounding as it may seem, good ideas such as the conversion of obsolete railways to modern safe walking and riding paths is a world-wide phenomenon that I’ve experienced here on Queen Anne and far away in the south of France.

In the U.S., everyone learns about the great transcontinental railroads that connected the cities of the American east with the west. We tend to forget though the profusion of little lines that connected isolated places like Monte Christo, Snohomish or Snoqualmie to the main lines and helped them move the raw materials like copper, wood and coal on which their economic lives depended.We also often overlook the role of these little lines in supplying isolated places with goods manufactured east of the Rockies. For example, the totally out of place mansion in Yakima known as Congleton’s Castle features furniture, a heating system and even a kitchen stove all made in Duluth, Minnesota, the Congleton family’s home town. …Continue reading “Rails to Trails Around the World”

Are Historic Districts or DADUs the Best Way to Preserve Queen Anne?

Torn by the perceived conflict between preserving Queen Anne’s historic character and of increasing urban density, I waver between historic districts and backyard cottages as the best way to preserve historic fabric. Across the country, we find contiguous districts such as the Ballard Avenue Historic District and thematic districts where scattered buildings of the same general type, style or age are protected as if the buildings were contiguous. Both types of districts protect all the buildings within their boundaries.

The relatively absence of individual landmarks and historic districts in Seattle underlies my angst. Ours is no longer a young west coast city, yet we have but eight historic districts and only the Harvard-Belmont District includes residential properties. The rest are commercial neighborhoods (Ballard Avenue, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, International District and Columbia City) or former military bases (Fort Lawton and Sand Point). Seattle has no neighborhood historic districts like Queen Anne, upper or lower and no thematic districts. …Continue reading “Are Historic Districts or DADUs the Best Way to Preserve Queen Anne?”

Our Sweet Queen Anne Cottages

“At First Avenue West and West Garfield Street, these Craftsman bungalows are of minor significance individually.  As a group, they provide a rhythm and consistency of scale.” Steinbrueck and Nyberg

No one understood better than Victor Steinbrueck and his colleague Folke Nyberg how much Seattle or Queen Anne’s historic working-class housing defined the city. The six identical working-class Craftsman bungalows they referred to in their 1975 poster still stand on West Garfield Street between the alley and First Ave. W. Four of them face north on Garfield; one sits on First Avenue W. while the sixth one backs up to it from the alley. As Steinbrueck and Nyberg suggest, the historic value of buildings often lies more in the urban patterns they create than in their individual distinctiveness.

The pattern Steinbrueck and Folke captured.

In 1975, Victor Steinbrueck embarked on a project with Folke Nyberg and Historic Seattle to identify and publish a series of ten posters inventorying Seattle’s outstanding historic buildings. Queen Anne was lucky to get one of them. In fact, the Queen Anne Historical Society and its volunteers, some of whom are still active today (6/2018), worked on the project. Completing their survey in the early days of the American historic preservation movement, Steinbrueck and Nyberg were hell bent on recognizing that along with the high style buildings often favored by the movement, the vernacular ones were those that really defined a neighborhood’s historic character. The poster authors understood profoundly how a sense of place can give meaning to a community like ours. As Historic Seattle notes on its website, “Each inventory includes photographs and brief descriptions of common building types, significant buildings, and urban design elements.” …Continue reading “Our Sweet Queen Anne Cottages”