The View Crest Co-op 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 Co-op 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 co-ops 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 — and Queen Anne in particular — will have an additional designated 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.