Our House Is A Very Nice House

Built in 1907, this simple Craftsman bungalow is characteristic of a popular West Coast style that continues to spark local enthusiasm. The style is marked by a low profile with a ridge parallel to the street and wide overhanging eaves on bulky brackets. First story clapboard (called beveled siding in the west) cladding paired with shingles on the second story marks just about all bungalows. Large plate glass windows hidden under a porch that protects living spaces from the hot summer sun are another distinctive feature. Our house looms over the street on a low rise created for sure by the grading of the street early on.

1918 1st N. viewed from the southwest.

With a 1937 photograph to confirm it, the exterior of the house is nearly unaltered from its original condition. We acknowledge having enclosed the back porch, built the bench and bookcase there, added a deck, two bathroom windows (and bathrooms), constructed the pergola over the garage (designed by The Johnson Partnership, c. 1992), added the cheek walls to the front porch, installed the garage door (a decent imitation of the 1907 look) and replaced the roof. The removal of the shingles in 1985 broke hearts. Economic realities and big leaks drove the decision.

Only 33 by 33, the home’s footprint accommodates a delightfully open plan on the first floor and four modest bedrooms on the second. The first-floor plan obliterates the boxy rooms and wasteful corridors of Victorian designs and proves that plans emerging simultaneously from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park studio were not revolutionary.

On the ground floor the woodwork is original, but since buying the house in 1985, we’ve acquired all the downstairs period light fixtures, including the dining room fixture with its Granite pattern Kokomo (Indiana) glass. The dining room retains its typical fir board and batten paneling, box beams, multi-paned window near the ceiling, and cantilevered bay window and built-in bench so characteristic of the time. The dining room sports an original built-in cupboard with leaded glass and cames and a great plate rail. The swinging door between the dining room and the butler’s pantry no longer swings on its own, but it is original. The kitchen, pantry, back porch and peek-a-boo toilet room display almost no visible signs of the original house.  The living room fireplace and mantel can be found in myriad Queen Anne homes of the period along with the small multi-paned windows that flank it. The windows of the front door, stairwell and dining room repeat the complex glazing.

1918 1st N. viewed from east.

Upstairs, refinished fir flooring looks good after we sanded out the painted floors that may have dated from 1907. The narrow corridor between rooms once terminated in a linen closet whose surviving doors have been adapted to hide linen in the closet in the main bathroom. A library ladder rises in place of the original linen closet to the sleeping loft, an architectural folly that has followed us from a number of previously owned homes. You can’t stand up there, and a futon is the only possible sleeping surface, but pleasant noise of rain on the (new) skylights and the summer light make it a great hiding place. The closets in the southern bedrooms are recent additions. They were required by the conversion of two walk-in closets into a second upstairs bath. The built-in bench in the southwest bedroom is part of that project. It mirrors the design of the one in the dining room. Have a look at the medicine cabinet in the main bathroom. It slipped down a few inches, so short owners could see their reflection in the mirror. The shelves behind the mirror are now totally out of whack.

1918 1st N. viewed from south. Bathroom window is new.

All plumbing  and heating systems in the house have been renovated since we moved here in 1985. Only the claw foot bathtub and the knob and tube wiring in first floor ceilings and floor survive from 1907. Gas lines hidden in the hall, living room and dining room ceilings are the only vestige of the gas and electric fixtures that dangerously illuminated those spaces, A library has been fashioned in the basement. The antique five-panel doors in the basement hall are new to the house.

1918 1st N. viewed from north

1918 First North has had relatively few owners; we know of only three since WWII. If you drive by, continue to the south on First North and check out the near twin house at 1513 First North, also built in 1907. It differs a bit from ours with cement block construction of the porch foundation which mirrors the wall at the sidewalk at our house, an additional room east of the dining room and slightly different fenestration patterns both upstairs and down. Both designs are surely from the same pattern book, architectural studio or contractor’s cheat sheet. Side sewer cards confirm the same construction date and contractor.

Every old house needs friends who value its preservation! We done our best to preserve the integrity of 1918 at least when viewed from the street.

Work Begins on Bleitz

It has been over two years since the Landmarks Preservation Board protected  the  Bleitz Funeral Home at 316 Florentia St. with landmark designation.  We wrote about the history of that business and building about the same time. You can find that article here.  ‘Today’ in the caption below referred to the building at the time of nomination.

 Since 2017, the building has stood empty and lonely in the embrace of a menacing chain link fence.  We’ve worried that nothing was ever going to happen and that we might lose the Bleitz entirely.

Well we are delighted to report that following the sale of the site to a second developer, work  began this week (August 12-16, 2019) with the demolition of the 1989 addition on the west side of the original 1921 building and the removal of the surface parking lot to its west.

After demolition of 1989 Addition. Photo: Author, 8/14/19.

The old parking lot will see the construction of a small office building while the original building will be converted into addtional office spaces.  The recently exposed western wall of the building will remain visible following construction of the new office structure. All of this work has been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Board.

Squibs from District 4

As part of Cathy Tuttle’s 2019 primary election campaign for Seattle City Council in District 4, I wrote a number of short pieces on the history of the district for the campaign website.

It seems a waste not to share them with our readers who love anything about Seattle’s rich history, and, as I once testified before the Landmarks Preservation Board when endorsing the nomination of the Old Spaghetti Factory, “You can see it from Queen Anne!” So here are all eleven  of them. They were published once a week between mid April and the end of the campaign. 

Home of the Good Shepherd

Home of the Good Shepherd on Sunnyside N.

From 1906 to 1973, the Home of the Good Shepherd building on Sunnyside Avenue and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd who ran it provided shelter, education and training for young pregnant women from around the country.

The sisters funded the Home of the Good Shepherd by taking in laundry from the Great Northern Railroad. They did the wash in the space under the truncated smokestack on the southern edge of the property.

In 1973, the City of Seattle and citizen activists prevented the 11-acre site from becoming a shopping center, created a park and gave the building to Historic Seattle to manage.

The Aurora Bridge

Aurora Bridge in 1932

State Route 99 skirts the western edge of District 4 and joins it to Queen Anne, Seattle and downtown Seattle over the George Washington Bridge.

Like the bridge connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, Seattle, Washington’s bridge opened on February 22, 1932 to celebrate the bicentennial of Washington’s birth. The Seattle bridge quickly adopted the nickname The Aurora Bridge. No surprise there since it was part of The Aurora Speedway, as the street was first called.

The bridge is a cantilever and truss bridge. According to Wikipedia, it is 2,945 ft (898 m) long, 70 ft (21 m) wide, and 167 ft (51 m) above the water. Its widest span is 475 ft. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places  in 1982.

1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition

Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: The view to Mt. Rainier

Designed by John Charles Olmsted as part of the landscape plan adapting the University of Washington campus for the 1909 Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition, Rainier Vista remains the single most important legacy of Seattle’s first world’s fair.

Despite massive reworking of its southeastern tip when the Montlake Bridge opened in 1925 (remember the eponymous cut opened in 1917), its redesign in the late 20th c. to accommodate a huge underground garage for the U.W. Hospital and its recent reconstruction as part of the opening of the light rail station at Husky Stadium, the grand view from Frosh Pond to Mount Rainier National Park in the far distance has always been protected and cherished.

Photographer:  Frank Nowell. University of Washington Special Collections


Houseboat at Ward’s Cove west of Eastlake Ave.

Houseboats have been a prominent part of Eastlake for generations. Wards Cove on Lake Union is a privately-held property located on the eastern shores of beautiful Lake Union in Eastlake, Seattle.

The site is located at the intersection of Fairview Avenue East and East Hamlin.

Borrowing the name of its cannery location in Alaska, Wards Cove repaired boats on Lake Union and even had salmon processing and canning operations here. The facility was redeveloped in 2009 and turned into a mixed-use project featuring a 10-slip marina for yachts 75 feet long or greater, two office buildings renovated to include 16,000 sq. ft of office and marina support facilities and 12 new houseboat moorings.

University Village

Aerial View of University Village looking north.

University Village was built at the southeast corner of Ravenna as an open-air lifestyle shopping center.

The 24 acre (97,000 m²) shopping center was built in 1956 across NE 45th Street on an earlier part of the Montlake, Seattle Landfill (operating in 1911 and 1922–1966). The development took out what remained of the marsh that was created by lowering Lake Washington when the Lake Washington Ship Canal was dug (1913–1916).

Some wetland was later partially restored as the Union Bay Natural Area with the UW Center For Urban Horticulture. Until the early 1990s, the character of University Village was filled with small businesses and the chain stores were all local: Ernst Hardware, Malmo Nursery, Lamonts department store, Pay ‘n Save Drugs and QFC supermarket. There was even a bowling alley, Village Lanes.

Many of the local businesses began to falter toward the end of the 1980s, however, and in 1993 the owners of the mall decided to sell and more national chain stores moved in.


Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park looking southeast

Gas Works Park occupies a 20.5-acre promontory on Lake Union. Between 1906 and 1956, the Seattle Light Company’s gas plant manufactured gas to light the region’s homes.

Of 1400 gas plants that once operated nationally, it is the only one to survive even marginally intact. In 1970, the city hired Landscape Architecture firm Richard Haag and Associates to convert the plant into a new Seattle Parks and Recreation site.

Kite Hill, first called The Mound, is part of Haag’s work. It is filled with reused rubble. The preservation of towers and the gas production machine including the former Pump House now known as the Play Barn are now among the most admired bits of Adaptive Reuse in the world.

Gas Works Park opened to the public in 1973.

Google Earth photo

 From Streetcars to Light Rail on Brooklyn

Streetcar tracks at Brooklyn Ave.west of AYP


As Sound Transit Light Rail rushes to open University of Washington Light Rail Station, we recall that it sits just under the terminus of a streetcar line that brought visitors to the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition on the University of Washington campus over the summer of 1909.

The Seattle Electric Company rushed to get Trolley tracks to the fair for its June 1 opening. It appears that the rush lasted all summer, for on September 24, 1909, the brakes failed on a streetcar hurrying to the exposition from Wallingford, Seattle. With 80 passengers aboard, the trolley jumped the track when its brakes failed at the corner of 40th St. and 14th Ave NE. (14th Ave NE became University Way, that now hosts the University Street Fair andUniversity District Farmers Market).

The car crashed into three concession buildings across the street from the main entrance of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, killing Frank Hull of Tacoma, Washington and injuring 55 men, women, and children.

 Photo: Paul Dorpat, Then and Now.

ASUW Shell House

A.S.U.W. Shell House

The ASUW Shell House on Union Bay Natural Area sits on the eastern edge of the Montlake Cut. This is where George Pocock constructed racing shells that the The Boys in the Boat powered to a Gold Medal at Hitler’s 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Built to be a seaplane hangar, the strangely shaped structure with flared sides is accessed through giant glazed barn doors that open as wide as the span of airplane wings. Built entirely of wood in 1917 by the U.S. Navy Region Northwest, the recently restored Shell House can now be rented for special events. The Seattle City Council recently designated the Shell House  a city landmark.

Historic 1932 image from Washington Rowing Archives Pocock Rowing Center George Pocock Memorial Rowing Center

The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway

The train station at Stone Way

The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway founded in 1885 by Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman (among others) is famous as one of the longest linear parks in the world. Today we call it the Burke Gilman Trail.

Beginning downtown on what was to become Railroad Avenue and wrapping around the base of Queen Anne Hill on trestles over mud flats, the train line crossed Ross Creek at 3rd Avenue West heading to Issaquah and Snohomish. One stop survives today where the trail crossed Stone Way. The plain board and batten structure houses Solsticio and Nola Seattle Beauty salon.

Magnuson Park

Aerial view of Sandpoint Naval Air Station


Do you ever run into the odd block of blacktop at Magnuson Park? Here’s why.

The Naval Air Station at Sand Point NAS, popularly known as Sand Point, opened in 1923 and was an active military base. It ceased operations in 1970 when the city acquired the site and renamed it Warren G. Magnuson Park after the senator who arranged its transfer.

Read more at: http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/Neighborhoods/HistoricPreservation/HistoricDistricts/SandPoint/SandPoint-Nomination-Report.pdf

Dick’s Drive In Restaurant

Dick’s Drive In on 45th St.

On January 28, 1954, Dick’s Drive In Restaurant opened to serve hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes on NE 45th Street. Dick’s Drive In represents the quintessential 1950s, and was started by Dick Spady (1923-2016) and two partners, Warren Ghormley & Dr. “Tom” Thomas, whom Spady bought out.

Dick Spady was born in Portland, Oregon on October 15, 1923. He served in the #Navy in World War II and attended Oregon State University on the G.I. Bill. He served in the Korean War as a commissary officer, where he learned a great deal about running a restaurant. Dick offered his employees the highest pay in the industry, provided 100% paid health-insurance coverage to all and gave employees more than a million dollars in scholarship funds. Spady also gave generous and unremitting support to homeless and community causes and had a passion for Aeolian Organs.

Photo: Cathy Tuttle