How to designate a landmark: The Boyd Building

View from the northeast shows historic windows on upper floors and in the three southern bays.


Once upon a time in 1920, former Queen Anne resident, Frederick L. Boyd built the Boyd Building at 995 Westlake Ave. N. Just this spring, to the apparent dismay of its owners, the Boyd was designated a Seattle landmark. The story of the designation has fairy-tale qualities with a prince of a building and some strange goings on.  Coincidentally, it provides a good lesson about how historic buildings become designated landmarks.

It helps to know that this relatively simple warehouse/factory building sits close the shore of Lake Union on the eastern edge of Queen Anne in South Lake Union. You’ll find it facing generally north at the spot where 8th Ave. N. splits off from Westlake to heading south. Most of us know it as the American Meter & Appliance building. …Continue reading “How to designate a landmark: The Boyd Building”

Bayview Reinvents Itself

A sketch of the Kinnear Mansion (destroyed) serves as the logo of the Queen Anne Historical Society and appears at (upper left hand corner of this page) along with many photos of the house. The logo celebrates the longtime relationship of the Society with the Bayview Retirement Community and its ties to the Kinnear family.  For about 25 years, the Society has benefited from a rent-free space for storing its archives at Bayview.  The renovations now underway require the Society to relinquish its space and seek a new one.

As the primary real estate developers of the land on the southwest slope of Queen Anne, George and Angeline (Denny) Kinnear had a major impact on our neighborhood. Their 1888 house at 809 Queen Anne Ave. N. was quintessential Queen Anne style.  It sported the mandatory tower, multiple gables, clapboard siding, intricately-turned columns, and a spreading front porch that mark the style.  The Kinnears designed it as an advertisement for the kinds of homes they expected to see on the lots of their subdivision.  Their home sat on a two-and-a-half acre site.

The family’s influence resonates today at Kinnear Park, which they gave to the city in 1893 and which is Seattle’s second park after Denny Park.  Its impact is also seen in two other tiny parks.  One of them, a small strip along Queen Anne Drive just below the Bayview site, retains a few trees planted by the Kinnear family and the wall which lined the edge of their property.  The other small park, at Prospect and Second Ave. W., held the cistern which provided water for the Kinnear home.  The elevation drop to the house created enough force to provide water to the third floor.   Also still standing in the neighborhood are the 1908 De La Mar Apartments that George and Angeline constructed for their guests to the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.

When George Kinnear died in 1912, his son Charles moved into the home and lived there until he died in 1956.  The Charles Kinnear family had strong ties to the First United Methodist Church, and gave their home site to the church for the care of “older adults or children.”  The Methodists created a not-for-profit to run the retirement home.  They may have also started the Foundation that covers housing costs if residents run out of money.  The Church worked with the community to build the ten-story residential community designed in 1958 that opened in 1961.  While the Church gave the building to the not-for-profit, it retained ownership of the land.  The relationship of the building to the land is a strange historical wrinkle that had to be ironed out before Bayview could initiate its current projects.

The original Bayview building was designed by John Graham & Co. while John Graham Jr. was still practicing.   Graham Jr. — Space Needle, Nordstrom and Macy upper stories, Northgate Mall – was one of the most successful and influential architects in Seattle’s history.  The company designed many important Queen Anne buildings including the Victoria Apartments on Highland Drive.   Graham created a tall building made taller still by its location above Uptown-Lower Queen Anne where Queen Anne Avenue begins its steep climb.  It had three wings.  The east and west wings rose to ten stories, while the bisecting wing to the north was held to nine stories.  If the Kinnear home expressed the essence of the Queen Anne style, the retirement home did the same for what is known as mid-century modern.  Bayview sports a Roman brick veneer, and on the south-facing façade elegant balconies from which residents have phenomenal 180o views of downtown, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, the Olympics, and Elliott Bay.  Surely no one living on the south slope of the Hill remembers the great views before Bayview went up, but now folks living on that slope and in the retirement community are ironically worried that the high-rise building proposed for Roy Street between First West and Queen Anne Ave. will block theirs.

North Elevation showing new two-story memory unit to the left. Image courtesy Bayview Retirement Community

This is not the first time the Bayview has expanded.  In 1995, it gave up the front lawn shown in the 1974 photograph to a three-story building that spreads across the entire southern side of the original building and creates elegant terrace gardens facing Elliott Bay.  This addition, designed by Dale Anderson of Tsang Partnership, also made room for a daycare center which meets the original terms of the Kinnear gift and provides an exceptional opportunity for inter-generational caregiving. The project now underway, designed by Rice Fergus Miller, adds dwelling units and a memory care unit in the crook of the east and north wings.  It sacrifices the common lounge and balcony on every floor at the intersection of the wings.  The Society Archive, which connects via dumbwaiter to the kitchen and served as a place for distributing meals to third-floor residents, is being incorporated into a redesigned dwelling unit.  Other improvements include a new swimming pool and refurbished public spaces at the entry level.

Charles Kinnear would have been surprised that his clever scheme to keep the retirement home associated with the First United Methodist Church thwarted its redevelopment plans.  Bayview has borrowed the money to renovate and add to its campus through the State of Washington Housing Finance Commission.  The program lends not-for-profit agencies funds for capital projects, but they must be owned in ‘fee simple.’  Fee simple means that the land and the building belong to a single owner.  It took a long a time for the Methodist Church to give up its ownership of the land, but the church eventually sold it for a dollar.  Once Bayview owned the building and land in fee simple, it could borrow the required money.

Now, as it seeks a new location for its Archives, the Historical Society is indebted to the Bayview Retirement Community for its longtime generosity.  As one might expect in today’s hot real estate market, finding even a small 200-square-foot office in our neighborhood is no small feat.  The Society has been looking for nearly half a year and has only until the end of June to find a new spot, so any help will be appreciated.  In the meantime, Bayview assures the Society that it can continue holding its Board meetings on the building’s tenth floor, where the spectacular views are enough to cheer us up even on dark rainy days of winter.

April 2021:  “Space Needle architect’s life plan community celebrates 60 years of transforming lives

Huh? My mother-in-law’s an ADU?

There was a lot of chatter this summer of 2016 over the proposal to allow the construction of three-story Detached Alternative Dwelling Units (DADUs) on modest sized lots now hosting single family homes. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) tend to be independent dwelling units in an attic or a basement with separate doors and appropriate emergency exits. Realtors call an ADU a mother-in-law.

Some people fear that these new dwelling units will change our neighborhoods by increasing density and expediting the loss of the neighborhood’s historic character. Interestingly, the historic character of Upper Queen Anne especially the area west of Queen Anne Ave. with alleys includes a large number of alley houses. A brief tour of the area north of Smith between First and Third Avenues revealed at least 15 alley houses, all of which add to the historic character of Upper queen Anne. At least two of these alley houses are brand new, and three of them on Galer between 1st and 2nd West are really for the birds.

These Alley Houses are for the birds.
These alley houses are for the birds

It may turn out though that the increase in DADUs (Detached ADU) and ADUs has an effect not unlike what happened in response to the Urban Villages created as part of the 1993 Comp Plan. Although written primarily to prevent urban sprawl in rural King County, the plan forced multi-family apartment buildings and condos into the Urban Villages and successfully protected single family homes and the historic neighborhoods in which they are located. Upper Queen Anne and Uptown were both designated villages with the Uptown village encouraging more commercial development than Upper Queen Anne’s.

I am particularly interested in the DADUs constructed long ago in our neighborhood and which now in their own right add its historic character. In many cases, the DADUs are located along the alley edge of simple single family homes and may have replaced early garages. Of course, that conclusion may indeed be speculative, for many of the houses in the neighborhood were constructed before cars were the prevalent way to get around. As is more likely, the alley houses expanded the main home on the lot making room for growing families or newlyweds. The house at 2004 First Avenue N. is said to have been a wedding gift for a newlywed child.  Even if it isn’t an alley house, the gift idea lends credence to my guess. …Continue reading “Huh? My mother-in-law’s an ADU?”