How Time Flies

About ten years ago, I posted an article on qahistory.org about the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation.  That article simply gave the definition for these key words: Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction.[1]  Now as in 2012, Queen Anne has no examples of restored or reconstructed buildings.  Knowing the meaning of those three R’s (and a P too!) is useful as people plan work on historic buildings, landmarks or not!  It is helpful to know that taste plays no role in applying the standards.

It is useful to look at three recently altered Queen Anne properties and evaluate them against the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.  It helps that one of the projects, the Queen Anne Exchange (formerly the Garfield Exchange), is a city landmark and subject to all the constraints landmark designation puts on the owner/developer.  Of the three examples, the work on that building falls closest to the line between Preservation and Rehabilitation.

These examples differ from one another in significant ways.  The Garfield Exchange (preservationists prefer original names), located at the southwest corner of 4th Ave W. and W. Garfield, is an industrial building in the heart of a single-family neighborhood that has been converted to residential use.  It is additionally significant because along with the Queen Anne branch of the Seattle Public Library and the Masonic Temple, its predecessor as a telephone exchange, it is one of three city landmarks sited within spitting distance of one another at basically the same intersection.  The second more modest example at 2406 Queen Anne Ave. N. is an almost totally rebuilt house that serves as a buffer between the commercial and residential buildings of our primary thoroughfare.  The third example at 2002 1st Ave. N. on the northwest corner of Newton St. is also a buffer of sorts especially because of the looming Safeway project that is to get underway this summer of 2021, but its site high over the street gives it a distinctive prominence.  Even after egregious modifications, it is still a relatively good example of the Secretary’s definition of Rehabilitation.

The Garfield Exchange

Like a number of similar buildings constructed in Seattle and throughout the region, the Garfield Exchange was designed to house heavy machine switching equipment.  Construction began in May 1921, and it was completed the following September at a cost of $138,000 (The Seattle Times, 9.2.1923).   It went into service at midnight on September 2, 1923, when it took over 6,100 lines from the older exchange office diagonally across the street (now the Masonic Center under reconstruction in June 2021).

Queen Anne Masonic Center. June 2021. QAHS

The Garfield Exchange building is u-shaped.  Its two arms are separated by a narrow courtyard that runs north south and which is not visible from the street.  It was constructed as a one-story building on a basement.  In 1929, a second story was added to the first.  Pacific Telephone &  Telegraph exchange buildings generally featured Beaux Arts and classical revival design elements.   Queen Anne’s has a relatively more elaborate east façade, with a projecting entry porch with symmetrical opposing stairs, and an entry surround embellished by ornamental terra-cotta.  It is made with steel and concrete framing and deep reinforced concrete floor slabs.  The Garfield Exchange was relatively fire-resistant with masonry cladding and concrete fire proofing.  Windows were typically large  double-hung types. The brick laid up in English bond with clever use of soldier courses is a noteworthy feature of this functional design.

The Garfield Exchange building remained in service through 1967, when Pacific Northwest Bell no longer needed the equipment and found that the “demolition costs and restrictive zoning offset the commercial value of the land.”  Subsequently, the company donated the Garfield Exchange to the Seattle Public Library which used it as storage building. (The Seattle Times, 9.6.1978).[2]

North elevation with penthouses and new garage seen from public library. Photo QAHS

Renamed the Queen Anne Exchange in 2020 by the Faul Company its developers, the generally abandoned interior of the structure has been converted to apartments.  It opened in May of this year (2021).  BuildingWork, the project architect, included a complete seismic retrofit, restoration of the historic brick and terra cotta façade, a new top floor addition, a new parking garage in the basement, multi-family residential units, a common roof terrace, all new mechanical and electrical systems and full life-safety and accessibility upgrades.  The building’s beautiful façade, concrete floor structure, tall floor-to- floor heights, and generous vertically proportioned windows are particularly well-suited to its transformation to residential use.  Dramatically, the Landmarks Preservation Board gave the developer permission to add a penthouse, replace the historic windows and add a garage in the basement.  At the behest of the Queen Anne Historical Society, it did not allow a long straight stair to the street that would have replaced the elegant symmetrically opposing stairs that have been saved.

Terra cotta entry and wonderful stair Queen Anne Historical society helped protect. Photo QAHS.

The changes to the building including the replacement of windows and the penthouse additions are consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.  Perhaps because it is visibly accessed from Garfield Street, the garage in the basement is a bit hard to swallow, but it too is consistent with the standards and almost entirely below grade.  There is also a touch of Restoration here, for architect Matt Aalfs, the principal and owner of BuildingWork, found an identical example of the building in Wallingford from which he was able to borrow the profile of the rebuilt cornice.  Best of all, the new cornice is made of lightweight materials and, once installed, won’t fall off like the terra cotta it replaces.

New windows and brackets waiting for the new cornice

2406 Queen Anne Avenue North

2406 Queen Anne Ave N. Front looking eastward before any work. King County Parcel Viewer

The small house located just north of Local Eats and Barg French Cleaners is on a narrow lot and is a critical buffer building forming the transition from the commercial zone along busy Queen Anne Avenue and defining the single-family residential neighborhood that spills down the hill towards the Lake Washington Ship Canal.  The visibility of both the front and back yards from neighboring streets and the alley increases dramatically the significance of its buffering qualities.

Excavating for the new foundation. Note gable truss work.

After gutting the interior down to the studs, owners Paige and Trevor ripped off the two modest ca. 1950s additions on the rear of the 1905 house and replaced them with a two-story addition that adds welcome space and a second-floor bathroom. The overall goal the owners have in mind is the rehabilitation of the historic spirit of the house!

Demolition underway with Paige and Trevor

They report, “We reconstructed all the details from the original rear gable truss on the addition.”  The brackets under the rear porch were built to match the ones on the front porch, and the front porch ceiling will be replaced with salvaged unpainted beadboard like the rear porch ceiling.  Comparing the photograph from the King County Parcel Viewer that predates the work to the recent image of the rear of the house reveals the consistency of the rehabilitation with the house as built.  With the price of lumber through the roof but wishing to use material that harmonizes with the building’s original look, the owners were delighted to discover through another preservation enthusiast on the hill eucalyptus siding from Latin America that closely matches the look and feel of the fir siding originally on the exterior of the house.

Rehabilitated house showing new gable truss, addition and deck. Looking west from the alley.

Painting the house various shades of green nicely reflected, “both Victorian and Craftsman era homes since ours has nods to both.  But it also feels a little modern,” Paige noted.  This project offers a model of what rehabilitation can be while following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.  I can’t wait to add the photo of the finished street façade and garden.

2002 First Avenue North

View of 2002 1st Ave N. looking eastward at the restored balcony. King County Parcel Viewer

The rehabilitation of this imposing American foursquare on set high above the northeast corner of First North and Crockett is the work of former owners.  In 1985, long before they purchased the house, I planted a large bamboo garden outside our kitchen window to hide house’s vinyl siding and ugly trim from our view.  The need for the bamboo gives you an idea of how much work it took to rehabilitate this stand out building.  Bob and Janet, the owners responsible for the transformation, stripped off the vinyl siding and refinished and rebuilt the exterior surfaces including the front door.  Luckily, the folks installing the vinyl hadn’t stripped away all the clapboard or damaged too much of the stucco first used to protect the house from the weather.  Bob carefully removed all the paint on the original materials and varnished the solid oak front door being careful to preserve the metal scroll that holds the doorknob and the lock.  This scroll is indeed a Queen Anne feature.  There’s one on our house and quite a few others around the hill.  Check out for example the large and welcoming one on our branch of the public library.  Bob and Janis’s most creative touch involved the reconstruction of the narrow balcony on the second floor on the west facing façade.  It harmoniously blended with this early 20th house and was based on research the couple did by patrolling just about every street on the hill looking for models they might adopt. Unfortunately, recent owners undid the good work on that façade that still shows up on the county’s Parcel Viewer, so you can compare it to what’s there now.  Otherwise, the house remains a good example of what the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards call rehabilitation.

2002 1st N. Balcony replacement of ca. 2018. Note leaded windows in balcony door. Photo QAHS

[1] The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, 1995:

Preservation is defined as the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property.  Work, including preliminary measures to protect and stabilize the property, generally focuses upon the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction.  New exterior additions are not within the scope of this treatment; however, the limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a preservation project.

Reconstruction is defined as the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location.

Rehabilitation is defined as the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.

Restoration is defined as the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period.  The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project.

[2] The description of the Garfield Exchange is based on the nomination to the Landmarks Preservation Board prepared by BOLA Architects in 2016.