by Kim Myran and Scott Jennings; copied from Queen Anne: Community on the Hill
Published 1993 by Queen Anne Historical Society, edited by Kay Reinartz
Reference/Images: Historic Apartments
ARCHITECTURE AND DEVELOPMENT ON THE HILL, 1890-1940
by Kim Myran
After the Great Fire of 1889, when Seattle began rebuilding, American architecture was in the second phase of the Eclectic Movement. The first, beginning about 1860, was related to the Gothic Revival and to the Arts and Crafts movement in Britain. The second phase, which lasted until about 1930, was more academic, influenced by the l’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. It sought inspiration from great past architectural periods, such as the Italian and French Renaissance, ancient Greek and Roman, and late Gothic. These architectural styles are much in evidence in the early apartments on Queen Anne Hill. World expositions at this time were instrumental in introducing the general public to new technological advances in science, industry, engineering, and architecture. The 1892 Chicago Columbian Exposition did much to heighten awareness of architectural styles. The 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific (AYP) Exposition had an impact on the Northwest, especially Seattle, that was as powerful as the Columbian Exposition nationally. A population educated by the AYP demanded buildings according to the current styles.
Located at the corner of Queen Anne Avenue and W. Highland Drive, the Gable House, One W. Highland Drive, was built in 1901 by Bebb and Mendel for Harry Whitney Treat. Inspired by the English Arts and Crafts Movement, the Gable House has a brick base while tawny bricks and stucco appear in the gable area half-timber detailing. Through the beveled glass windows is a grand view of Elliott Bay and the city skyline. The house was originally constructed with 18-inch I-beams in anticipation of a third story.
Between 1922 and 1970 the house was used alternately as an apartment building and a private residence. In 1975, Gary Gaffner, a lifelong Queen resident and developer with a strong interest in history, purchased the fine old house. Under Gaffner’s sensitive supervision the Gable House has been tastefully converted to apartments that respect the original design of the building.
The Chelsea Family Hotel was built in 1907 through the collaboration of Charles R. Collins, engineer, and Harlan Thomas, architect. Built to initially serve AYP Exposition visitors in 1909, the goal was to create an elegant building with spaces that would remind the guests of home, or a place one would want to call home. It would offer the refined visitor a quiet retreat from the hubbub of the city and a grand view of the Olympic Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Puget Sound. The Kinnear-only streetcar stopped across the street, and it was only a ten-minute ride to downtown Seattle, where a connecting car went north to the AYP site, on the University of Washington campus. For the first ten years, the hotel was the scene of many social occasions, including dinners, weddings, and Halloween parties. In 1913 a Montessori school was started at the hotel.
Around 1917 the elegant hotel was sold to an investment company, which converted it into apartments and closed part of the lobby and lower dining room. It was not well maintained and by the 1960s it had badly deteriorated.
After World War I the Northwest experienced tremendous growth. Several architectural styles were predominant in the apartments that were constructed as part of the building boom. The influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement continued and is seen in the popular English brick, half-timber style. The typical apartment building, designed by Fred Anhalt, a local builder, is characterized by this style and by close attention to landscaping around the buildings. In addition, bungalow and courtyard apartments became popular and were a step closer to the feeling of having one’s own place — even if it just meant a back stoop.
In 1925 a design and ornamentation concept was introduced to the general public at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris. The style was meant to complement the machine age and one of the principal characteristics was its emphasis on the future. It was one of the first popular styles in the United States to break with the revival traditions represented by the Beaux Arts period. Soon Art Deco themes and forms were used in literally every aspect of art and design from household appliances to building design.
The De Lar Mar entrance courtyard is entered through a wrought-iron gate, flanked by a pair of brick posts capped with terra cotta. In the courtyard there is a pond also trimmed in terra cotta and adorned with a statue of a maiden on a lamppost designed by Julian Everett. Entering the building, one is greeted by a mosaic tile oat of arms on the floor emblazoned with “De La Mar” and the sentiment “I think better by the sea” in Latin. Photo by Isabel Egglin
Photo: The Chelsea Family Hotel, 620 W. Olympic Place, is typical of the late Eclectic Movement. The Chelsea is a mix of English, Renaissance and Italian villa styles. The English element appears in the U-shaped plan, with the two flanking wings of the building establishing a symmetry that is repeated throughout the building in the bay windows, leaded glass transoms, and other features. The Italian influence is evident in the tiled arches that lead one from the entrance to the courtyard. This photo, taken at the building’s completion, shows the arbor for the rooftop. Courtesy Pemco Webster and Stevens Collection, Museum of History and Industry.
Note: The print edition includes a list of “Selected 20th Century Multi-Family Residences on Queen Anne Hill.” These include De La Mar Apartments (1906), Chelsea Apartments (1907), Kinnear Apartments (1909), Victoria Apartments (1921), Villa Costella (1928), Alexander Hamilton (1929), Anhalt Mediterranean Apartments (1930), the Queensborough, & Bayview Manor (1961)
Not on the list: Anhalt, Elfrieda (1932), Leslie, Lomita Vista (1907)
ARCHITECTURE AND DEVELOPMENT — 1940 to 1993
by Scott Jennings
Looking down on Queen Anne Hill late in 1940, one could easily have seen various buildings devoted to specific uses such as hospitals, hotels, clubs and apartments. At this time there were very few buildings over 40 feet high except on the south and north slopes, where some reached 60 feet. Uniformity of yard size in the residential districts would also have been obvious. These and other characteristics of the community’s buildings were shaped by a series of city zoning regulations determining allowed uses, lot coverage and building height.
In 1955 the existing Seattle zoning code was totally revamped, with new designations assigned to the zones. No longer was the language of the code succinct. Building heights were now limited by both an area’s classification and by the location of the building on its site. The effect of the new regulations was that high-rises became legal in some areas formerly restricted by lower height regulations. The code also required off-street parking for tenants, which in effect reduced the number of rental units that could be built on a parcel of land.
Architecture in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s was undergoing a transformation. Since the early 1920s, progressive American architecture was under the influence of the National Style. Originating in Germany at the Bauhaus School, under the leadership of Walter Gropius, the International Style was devoid of the ornament and decoration that had characterized architectural design for centuries. Concrete, steel, and glass were the most commonly used materials. Structural expression, glass banding, and a strong horizontal emphasis were trademarks.
Many found the International Style somewhat harsh and a radical change from the well-established norms of architectural design. Eventually, this harshness was softened by the influence of elements of Functionalism and Rationalism. In addition, regional and personal variations were expressed through color, lively surfaces, and textures.
Skyline House, 600 W. Olympic Place, won an American Institute of Architects award in 1956 for its designers, Durham, Anderson, and Freed. Built by E. S. Lovell, the original design incorporated 85 luxury units in an eight-story T-shape featuring multicolored balconies that offered residents a spectacular view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Range. The entry is defined with two massive columns which support the cantilevered apartments above, and the sound of gurgling fountains welcomed the residents as they entered the glass-lined lobby when the building was new. By the 1990s the building had been painted a drab mustard color and the fountains were filled with cedar chips, but the building continues to be an important Seattle example of an innovative period of architectural history.
By the late 1950s, Queen Anne Hill, with its good public transportation service and fine views, was often chosen as an ideal place for retirement. Bayview Manor, 11 W. Aloha Street, is designed to take advantage of the stunning location on Queen Anne Hill’s south slope. The main residential portion of the ten-story building forms a concave, south-facing curve. In designing the very large structure, John Graham and Co. used simple massing, long horizonal forms, a variety of textures, and the original use of primary colors to highlight the balconies.
Built on the site of George and Angie Kinnear’s mansion, reminders of the Kinnear era are a carved mantel near the library and some stained glass windows outside the chapel. Out on the grounds trees planted by Angie Kinnear continue to shade the site. The Italianate fountain topped by cherubs is all that remains of the extensive south-facing gardens that once surrounded the gracious home.
The 1970s were a time of struggle for Queen Anne between commercial interests and those wishing to preserve the neighborhoods. Battles were fought, laws were changed, and a few came out winners. Memories still linger for those who were deeply involved.
In the early 1970s the United South Slope Residents (USSR) formed a dynamic citizens’ group that successfully reversed the commercialization of the south slope residential neighborhoods. Headed by architect Art Skolnik, the ad hoc group was well-organized, well-connected and, equally important, well-funded when the need arose. A petition was circulated and 4,800 signatures were gathered demanding that all high-rise property on the south slope be down-zoned to low-rise. The stage was set for the battle to begin.
USSR joined in the court case, financing lawyers’ fees with grassroots fund-raising efforts, including tours of the community’s elegant old houses. The citizens were victorious, for the courts sided with city and upheld the denial of Polygon’s permit. The decision, based on environmental concerns, was a major one, since it clarified that all future projects would have to be evaluated on environmental grounds as well as zoning laws to obtain permits. USSR has remained a viable citizen’s organization since its inception as it continues its watchdog role, periodically reviewing controversial projects.
In 1974 the old Queen Anne Community Church building, several old neighboring houses, and Hansen’s Sunbeam Bakery were redeveloped into a restaurant-shop complex named the Hansen Baking Company. The buildings were connected with covered walks and a central court, complete with fountains, benches, and landscaping, provided a reprise from the outside world. The complex was not a successful venture and the Hill and Roats Co. acquired the property in 1988. After a bitter battle between the developers and the preservationists, the old church and baking company were demolished in 1993 as plans progressed for its redevelopment.
The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) was created in 1939 to provide low-income housing and related services for the people of Seattle, including the elderly, handicapped, and disabled citizens. Although noble in its cause, the authority’s projects are not typically welcomed by neighbors on the hill. Of the 10,000 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing units in Seattle, in 1992 there were 363 units in six Queen Anne locations:
Center West, 533 Third Avenue W, 1969, 92 units, designed by Price and Assoc.;
Olympic West, 110 W. Olympic Place, 1971, 76 units, designed by Sullam Smith and and Assoc.;
Queen Anne Heights, 1212 Queen Anne Avenue No, 1971, 53 units, designed by John Y. Sato and Associates;
West Town View, 1407 Second Avenue W., 1978, 59 units, designed by Dudly and Ekness; and
Michaelson Manor, 320 W. Roy Street, 1985, 57 units, designed by Architects Virgil and Bradbury.
At times zoning code changes made with the intention of creating a more pleasant environment for the community resulted in a proliferation of poorly-designed structures built with the sole intent of crowding the maximum development allowable on the parcel of land, thus increasing developers’ profit margin. Occasionally, good projects are built by competent architects and developers such as the Le Parc Condominiums, designed by Roger Newell and developed by James Paul Jones in 1992. The four-story 13-unit project, located at 1231 Fifth Avenue N. overlooking Lake Union, proves that it is possible to design within the constraints of the current zoning codes and create a pleasant environment for both the users and the community.
The Cornerstone condominiums epitomize what multifamily construction will be like in the years to come. In 1993 vacant land to build new projects is nonexistent. Zoning laws are firm and any future multifamily structures will have to be built on sites occupied by single-family homes located in multifamily zones, on industrial sites no longer able to expand, or on sites occupied by dilapidated apartment structures.
Fortune Development’s Cornerstone project, on Aloha Street and Fifth Avenue N., is built on the former site of the Green Garden Food Co., a pickle factory that had outgrown its facilities. The mixed-use project, designed by Lagerquist and Morris, has 35 condominium units with 52,000 square feet of commercial retail space on the ground floor.
Scott Jennings is a Florida-raised transplanted architect living on Queen Anne Hill with his wife Kim, also an architect, and son John. His hobbies include renovating historical structures and boating in local waters.
Kim Myran is an architect. Originally from Hawley, Montana she joined the Army after school and was educated at the University of Idaho. She lives in Seattle, is a captain in the Army Reserves, and resides in a historic building on Queen Anne.