Bleitz Funeral Home: Inside and Out

The Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) designated the Bleitz Funeral Home at 316 Florentia St. a city of Seattle landmark earlier this year.  During the preparation of the nomination, the developers supported the nomination of the 1921 portion of the building, hoping the LPB would not stand in the way of demolishing the 1989 west side addition.  They succeeded there.  Now they are faced with convincing the LPB of the need to replace most of the original windows.

The Queen Anne Historical Society’s Landmark Preservation Committee toured the building inside and out on Wednesday, November 22, 2017.  The interiors have been completed gutted, with the building stripped out on all floors to the concrete walls.  Only the wooden floors and a north-south row of studs on the first and second floors remain.  As is often the case in buildings whose interiors haven’t been landmarked, the views are the interior’s most interesting features.  To the north, the building hovers over the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the Ship Canal Trail that ends just below it at the Fremont Bridge.  The view to the north includes the passing ships on the canal and the dramatic (soon-to-be-illuminated) opening and closing of the bridge.  The view across the canal to historic (and modern) Fremont is also quite nice.  To the east, the vista takes in the George Washington Memorial Bridge (Aurora Bridge) and sweeps across Lake Union, Capitol Hill and the University District.  Jacob J. Bleitz (1867-1939) showed prescience in siting his funeral home.  He understood the value of a great location — even in the business of dying.

On the interior, the windows are all that remain of Bleitz’s historic fabric.  The entryway on the north and primary façade facing Florentia has colorful leaded stained-glass fenestration and doors.  The west side has lovely leaded windows on the main floor which are currently obscured.  A setback between the historic building and the multi-story office building proposed for the existing parking lot will make them visible following project completion.  The developers intend to restore and preserve these windows.  The simple one-over-one double-hung windows on the 2nd floor of the west façade as well as those on the east and north façades are of little interest, even though the wooden frames and probably most of the glass are original to the building.  The developers propose to replace these windows with vinyl-clad wood double-paned windows that match the look of the originals.  They believe that this is a cost-effective way to retain the historic feel of the building while minimizing ongoing maintenance.  Much as the Queen Anne Historical Society values the preservation of historic integrity, we do not oppose this choiceWe believe that the preservation of the easily-visible original windows on the primary south façade, along with the leaded windows on the west façade, seems a fair trade, especially because the building will now be preserved in perpetuity.

The city’s 2004 survey of historic Queen Anne buildings describes the exterior of the Bleitz Funeral Home as follows:

This concrete building has an unusual Tudor-influenced style.  The main mass of the building is 2-1/2 stories with a hip roof, clad with standing-seam metal.  Large gabled dormers are on the east, south and west elevations.  The south gable has elaborately carved barge-boards; the other two dormers once had half-timbered detailing, which has been painted over.  The building is topped by a large sign saying “Bleitz Funeral Home” — a sign has been there since at least 1937, when it said “Bleitz Funeral Parlors.”  The main entry is on the south, through a narrow two-story anteroom section and a one-story Tudor arched porch.  Adjacent to the east is a matching Tudor-arched portal for vehicles.  The anteroom, porch and portals all have stepped parapets and are subtly decorated with tiles in geometric patterns.  The east elevation has a large chimney and an entry approached by a walkway covered with a gabled canopy.  Windows throughout are multi-paned sash in a variety of configurations, with concrete sills.

On our tour of the exterior, there were no surprises since only the western façade is not visible from the surrounding streets.  As for it, we were able to document its condition as we passed through the connecting hallways from the soon to be demolished 1989 addition.

We await the Landmarks Preservation Board’s decision on the window replacement plan, so that preservation of the historic building can begin in earnest.