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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”

The Space Needle’s New Views

Posting by Rosalie Daggett and Marga Rose Hancock

As a beacon of the 1962 Century 21 / World’s Fair and a marker for the Seattle Center, the Space Needle holds a prominent place in Seattle history and its identity.

The John Graham Company (John Graham Jr. (1908-1991)) developed and designed the Space Needle, with architects John Ridley (1913-1997) and Victor Steinbrueck (1911-1985) and with structural engineering services provided by the Pasadena-based firm of John K. Minasian (1913-2007) and by Harvey H. Dodd & Associates, Seattle. Graham employee Lester Poole (1929-2018) recalled working with the team designing the Needle’s unique beams: “Howard Wright emphasized the critical schedule, asking ‘What have you got that can get this done quickly?’ We came up with the concept of three I-beams joining at flange corners. And people talked a lot about innovation in concrete.”
 

Inspiration for the Needle came from a sculpture by David Lemon “The Feminine One.”

At the time of its 1962 construction, the Space Needle became Seattle’s tallest structure — exceeding the Smith Tower, which until then had ranked as the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

As part of the World’s Fair 50th anniversary observance in 2012, Knute Berger had a residency on the Needle’s top level, and wrote the book Space Needle: The Spirit of Seattle.

Among other documentation of the Needle: B.J. Bullert’s Space Needle: A Hidden History; and Space Needle About/History.

The 2017-19 renovation, known as the Century Project, designed by architect Alan Maskin with the Seattle architectural firm of Olson Kundig, added a revolving glass floor below the top viewing level, as documented in 2018 by KING 5 “Remaking an Icon.” This glass floor on the R-level, known as the “Loupe,” became the world’s first and only revolving glass floor in the air, at 500 feet. 

On a brisk winter day, two ladies walked down Queen Anne Hill together to take in the new views and they pondered: next time you visit the Space Needle’s R level, will you wear a skirt?

Note: The Queen Historical Society Landmarks Preservation Committee met with the Space Needle Corporation to review the early proposals for the Space Needle’s recent renovations, and monitored design development.  Society representatives spoke at Architectural Review Committee and Landmarks Preservation Board meetings leading to granting of the Certificate of Approval.

The Interbay Opportunity: When We Need Good Urban Planning, We Botch It.

Following the decision by the Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) on November 1st denying landmark status and assuring demolition of the delightful Art Deco Williams & Company Potato Chip Factory at 1405 Elliott Ave. W. in Interbay, a friend snidely remarked that Seattle always seems to botch its efforts at urban planning. Agreeing that we’ve got nothing like London Docklands, les Halles in Paris or la Convergence in Lyon, I took exception to my friend’s comment noting that he couldn’t condemn Seattle planning efforts since the city hadn’t really attempted urban planning since the doomed 1911 Bogue Plan.

The distinctive tower will soon be gone at William & Company!

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Now, I think I may have that wrong. Seattle has some good examples of successful urban planning. Sadly, it all appears to have been done privately. The cluster of Amazon skyscrapers in the old Denny Regrade/Clise tract with its green globes, Mary’s Place, bevy of lunchtime dining spots, cool Amazon Go! store and super safe protected bike lanes on 7th and 8th is not botched urban planning. That’s also true for South Lake Union. Hey, how about those new Google buildings at Mercer and Fairview?

The age of the Williams & Company Factory required getting the LPB’s opinion in anticipation of its demolition. The factory lies in largely human-made stretch of land (yup, it’s nearly all fill from Harrison Street north to the Ballard Bridge) that includes at its southern edge Smith Cove’s large piers fishing and cruise ship activities and that wobbly bridge connecting Magnolia to the rest of the world. This tract is undergoing massive development without anyone paying attention. From what I can see, no one is doing any urban planning there. Worse yet, the number of government agencies dealing with the zone is not coordinated. It feels kind of scary. I call it silo planning. The LPB’s participation underscores a lack of planning. Its decision was made in the absence the factory’s place in the context of the larger neighborhood and its future.

 

Expedia Explorer at transportation hub.

 

Expedia, for example, is just moving into its massive offices west of the railroad tracks and taken over the old Blackstock site at Prospect Street for a transportation hub it operates independent of Metro. Follow the blue Expedia Explorers zipping (ha!) along Mercer to find this intrusion. Expedia surely had SDOT cooperation in creating this bus turn around. My complaint is that this happened in the absence of an urban plan for the corridor.

 

Dravus and Interbay Apartments

 

Sound Transit (car tab stories notwithstanding) is studying a light rail route through Interbay. It may follow the route of Elliott Ave. and Interbay, or it could run along the edge of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway tracks. It will build a large station where the tracks meet Dravus. The route will cross into Ballard on a new bridge across Salmon Bay or an unlikely tunnel. This planning is also happening absence a plan for the larger neighborhood.

If you need more examples, remember (1) the huge shopping mall where Whole Foods and smaller tenants flank a large parking lot; (2) the quasi suburban big box stores along W. Armory Way, (3) the tract of land along W. Armory Way the Army wants to sell; (4) the large self-storage facility coming to completion on the northern edge of the Magnolia Bridge; (5) the multiple new and cheap apartment houses just added to the spaces where Dravus crosses Interbay and that the Seattle Monorail (remember it?) destined for a train yard; and finally, (6) the rumbles from the Port of Seattle about redeveloping its property upland of Smith Cove.

The Port of Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal south of the Ballard Bridge and the BNSF tracks, train yard and shops (the elephant in the room I almost failed to mention) are reminders of this corridor’s industrial past. Both agencies build and tear down net sheds, piers, gas tanks, locomotive storage sites and much, much more with little public input or apparent city oversight. Ugly as their various components might be, they could be preserved and cherished in a well-planned redevelopment zone.  

 

The BNSF trainyard, the elephant in the room

 

With apparently little or no consideration of what else is happening in the zone, SDOT also has another, albeit wonderful, uncoordinated project nearby. Within the last year or so, city traffic engineers have constructed a protected bike lane along the east edge of Government Way from the heronry at Kiwanis Memorial Preserve Park all the way to the BNSF railyard. Just where the trail exits the yard and scoots along the edge of Smith Cove Waterway, it hooks up to Expedia’s new bike and pedestrian trails. Then where the trail turns to the east at the southern end of the waterway, Expedia has built a fantastic amphitheater with glorious views of the city skyline and Mt. Rainier. The new bike lanes and this clever redesign of the shore are wonderful additions to the city and provide a great place to watch Mt. Rainier at sunrise and sunset (or the implosion of the Kingdome if it were still standing). My gripe is that much as the new trails prove Seattle has traffic engineers, landscape architects and urban planners capable of fantastic designs, none of the redevelopment happened as part of a marvelous well-coordinated plan.

Imagine if the city had prepared an urban plan as well done as Expedia’s new campus for the entire swath from Harrison Street to the Ballard Bridge. It would have surely enhanced Martin Selig’s beautiful black boxes and sculpture garden at W. Roy St. west of Mercer Place, and it would have found ways to protect (among several great Art Deco industrial buildings) the Williams & Company Factory, the 1922 Wilson’s Machine Works, both dating from the early filling of Smith Cove, Champion Party Supply building or the neat drive-through market (now Builder’s Hardware).

This list goes on. The essential message confirms my friend’s nasty thought that without urban planning and well executed designs, everything is random, everything is poorly planned and executed. Alas, without even trying, Seattle has botched it in Interbay!

The View Crest Coop Apartments win grant from 4Culture

(Editor’s note:  The Queen Anne Historical Society welcomes work by guest authors interested in the history of the  people and places of Queen Anne. Hugo Cruz-Moro is the first in what we hope is a long line of  guest contributors. We look forward to city landmark status for this  apartment building.) 

By Hugo Cruz-Moro

The View Crest Coop Apartments are set back from Blaine Place adjacent to Kinnear Park in Queen Anne on a lot formerly occupied by the Butterworth family mansion. We have lived in the building since October 2014.

View Crest Coop Apartments in 1952. Looking south.

When we moved in our one-bedroom apartment wowed us with its million-dollar views and access to a large park-like backyard and gardens. The building’s common areas reveal unconventional traffic patterns which serve all units equally while eliminating the entrance lobby ubiquitous in apartment buildings of this era. Although the humble brick-clad facade is at first easily dismissed due to its lack of mid-century space-age inspired adornments, the four-apartment module strategy used to hug the site’s topography reveals a more elegant, but less common modernist approach to architecture.

Unfortunately, the building suffered from years of deferred maintenance. In order to eliminate the need for painting, the original twelve-inch old-growth red cedar lap-siding that sheathed the rear elevations had been covered over with marble crete soon after the building was converted to coops in 1961. The replacement of the single pane casement Fenton windows with inappropriately installed double panes in 1987 led to leaks and other water intrusion symptoms that ultimately required a mobilization of the board to develop a capital improvement plan.

The idea to access the original plans led me to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections where on a set of micro fiche plans I spotted the name B. Marcus Priteca on the architect’s seal. After I Googled the name and did some perfunctory research in the Seattle Public Library’s Special Collections, I learned that Marcus Priteca, FAIA (December 23, 1889 – October 1, 1971) had been born in Glasgow, Scotland of Jewish heritage.[1] (Twenty-year old Priteca came here in 1909 to check out the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and stayed). Priteca was a theater architect best known for his work for Alexander Pantages. In all, Priteca designed 22 theaters for Pantages and another 128 for other theater owners. A formidable character, “Benny” Priteca was a true Seattle bon vivant whose creations have great regional as well as international importance   

I thought that perhaps a structure of View Crest’s use and scale might be important enough to be officially acknowledged and included in Seattle’s inventory of Priteca works.

Looking west toward Kinnear Park. Work reveals old growth cedar planking.

 

As a studio and public installation artist I was familiar with 4Culture, and the resources they provide to the community. (4Culture is largely funded by the state’s Hotel-Motel Tax).  Heritage Projects grants are an important component of their program. They are aimed at documenting, sharing and interpreting King County heritage. View Crest applied for and was granted $10,000 to engage The Johnson Partnership to provide a historic structure report meeting the National Park Services Standards with the goal of nominating the building to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board for its consideration of the View Crest as a city landmark.

The east wing during construction. Looking east.

            We look forward to a successful outcome. It will not only benefit the coop members directly with tax benefits related to the capital improvement project and eligibility for additional restoration and preservation grants, but Seattle, Queen Anne in particular, will have an additional destinated landmark of historic and educational importance.

A future project for me outside of the studio is renaming Blaine Place after a long-time resident of the View Crest, the indomitable Ruth Ittner (1918-2010). Go ahead Google her.