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Possible Water Taxi for SLU to Renton coming in 2020

As the region’s transportation woes worsen, some are dreaming of bringing back a version of the “Mosquito Fleet,” boats that ferried goods and people around Lake Union, Lake Washington, and Puget Sound between the 1880’s and 1930’s. (They got their name because they were so numerous.)

A step in that direction was a recent test run of a ferry between SLU and Renton sponsored by SECO Develop Inc. King 5 News covered the Wednesday promotional event as did Crosscut’s Mossback. As Mossback writes, “While Microsoft has its own private bus system for employees, SECO envisions a service that serves the broader public and gets autos off the road. ‘We want to connect our energizing hubs,’ says SECO’s Rocale Timmons, director of planning and development. ‘We need to find a way to catalyze innovative transportation solutions.’”

One passenger on the test run summed up the proposed new water taxi this way, “This is very smooth, it’s very fast, and it’s very convenient. This is the kind of innovation that’s really going to set Seattle apart in how it affects mobility.”

 

Stage Struck: Films featuring Lake Union

Not everyone gets to live on a movie set. Here, living around Lake Union we do, both literally and metaphorically.

In the literal sense, going up on the top deck of the building where I live in Eastlake, I can gaze down on the lake where Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles paddled a water cycle in 10 Things I Hate About You, the 1999 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, many years before playing the Joker in The Dark Knight killed Ledger. The movie also shot at Gasworks Park, as did Singles. Of course, there’s the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat on the other side of the lake and slightly to the south of where I stand. On the lake’s south end among the classic vessels docked at the Museum of History and Industry, you can still board the tug on which the 1933 Tugboat Annie was filmed, the Arthur Foss, the oldest tug in existence in the U.S. Tugboat Annie opens on Lake Union.

Looking over to the Aurora Bridge, I think of John Wayne living on a boat and having a shootout on the docks just west of the bridge in McQ, the 1974 piece of Seattle film noir in which Wayne played Detective Lon McHugh, the Dirty Harry of Seattle. It was his first cop role, one of his only two, and the fourth to last movie of his career. (The climaxing chase scene is idiosyncratically Northwest, on the beach out near Moclips.) Circling over to Wallingford on the slope rising above the lake, around 42nd and on Burke Avenue N., there’s the house in which John Lithgow and his family entertained a sasquatch in 1987’s Harry and the Hendersons.

Panning to the southwest, that magnificent flying saucer on stilts and surroundings have been the scene of more than one filming. Alan Pakula’s 1974 political conspiracy thriller, The Parallax View starring Warren Beatty, begins with the assassination of a politician at an event atop the Space Needle. And no one can forget Elvis dining there in the 1963 It Happened At the World’s Fair. There’s even a full Elvis album by the same name. I’m sure there’s a few other movies shot around the lake I’m missing.

Moviemakers are attracted to the lake and its surroundings precisely because of the dramatic and unique scenery – nearly a square mile of water surrounded on three sides by hills. (The fourth side, the south end, was a valley until the Denny Regrade, in which Denny Hill was sluiced down by up to 20 million gallons of water a day from the lake between 1907-11 to open up land for development.) Add to that the houseboat communities surrounding the lake, the unique setting of Gasworks Park, the Olympics off to the west, the skyscrapers of downtown to the south and southwest, and of course, the iconic Needle. Along with Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market, the lake is one of the city’s absolutely quintessential places, often aptly described as the heart of Seattle. The lake is outright the stage set for annual events that draw from the metro region including the Christmas ships and July 4 fireworks.

The world has many beautiful and scenic neighborhoods, but from my admittedly biased perspective, I think the Lake Union ranks in the global top percentiles of truly extraordinary urban vistas. At least a 95, and I would argue, a 98. Just walking down the hill, where I catch sight of the lake, is a stirring experience. Riding the 70 bus downtown, I’m always caught by the panorama of the lake that opens on Fairview in front of Zymo Genetics. On my walks by the lake on Fairview, I stop at the street end parks to take in the stunning views. The lake has many moods, whether the joyful sunniness of summer’s bright lit waters, the zen cool of a slate gray winter day, or its whitecapped boisterousness when a strong wind is blowing in. It’s a primal experience of nature in the midst of the city.

And one of constant motion and change. Some days, often in the gray months, the lake is quiet. Other days it is a cavalcade of marine craft of all sorts, from kayaks and paddle boards to motor boats, cabin cruisers, and sailboat regattas circling the lake. There are the ducks and other tour boats. Working boats from tugs pushing barges to Alaska fishing trawlers. Vintage and replica craft such as the restored Virginia V, last of the old mosquito boat fleet that served the Puget Sound before the ferries and one of the last two steamships operating on the continent, and the Lady Washington, coming in for the Center for Wooden Boats annual festival.

Maneuvering between them all, and flying above, of course, are the seaplanes. The lake has a long history with seaplanes. Bill Boeing personally flew the first Boeing aircraft, a seaplane, from the Boeing hangar dock at Roanoke and Fairview in 1916. Today the lake is one of the continent’s busiest seaplane airports, with 97 flights per day recorded in one recent year. If someone wanted to start this as a new operation, there would be all kinds of NIMBY opposition. But somehow, the sight and sound of seaplanes roaring overhead has become a comforting and familiar signature of the place. So much so that neighbors suggested seaplane images as decorations on freeway walls installed over recent years. (Suggestion not taken by WSDOT, which used more standard designs.)

Lake Union is a place that inspires and stirs, a joining of earth and water under the continually changing skies of Seattle, a vista to fire the imagination. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to live here are graced with a unique setting of great beauty, and a never-ending show. For making movies, the lake is a stage set extraordinaire, whether of the Hollywood variety, or the daily theater that is life.

Below other posters of movies mentioned in this piece. Did we miss any? Let us know – editors@lakeunionwatershed.com

 

 

A little marine biology that caught our eye

Eastlaker Craig MacGowan’s name popped up at the top of Danny Westneat’s Sunday Seattle Times column about a Garfield High School marine biology field trip forced to go rogue due to some bureaucratic red tape. MacGowan, a celebrated science teacher, long retired, also occasionally gives popular science talks about Lake Union for Eastlake Community Council public meetings. Maybe there should be one in the future on this latest adventure.

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The new firehouse has art, sustainability features, but no fire pole

After a couple of years of construction at Tenth Avenue and Roanoke St., the new Firehouse 22 opened its doors to the public Saturday afternoon for two hours, and although it was an ordinary gray and misty day, it was like a rare snow day seeing so many neighbors out walking to and from the event.

The brutalist front of the new firehouse conceals a friendly, open, comfortable, light-filled interior. The firehouse is like a home away from home for the firefighters, and after spending two years camped out in trailers under I-5 in Eastlake, a welcome home it is.

The entire structure is integrated with many sustainability elements including two cisterns that capture non-potable water that is filtered to use for washing fire trucks, flushing toilets, and watering landscaping. Solar panels provide about 16 percent of the station’s energy needs. The interior relies on a lot of natural light which is good for well-being. And it’s quiet despite being on a busy street; even with a crowd inside it felt calm. The bunks, which were not open to the public, were on the side of the building facing Roanoke. That side with a fortress front likely provides great sound proofing for resting.

There are amenities at the station that you’d find in some of Seattle’s newer apartment buildings and condos, but of a more modest scale: an exercise room and media room with four overstuffed recliners squeezed in.

Kids enjoy the exercise room.

Kids enjoy the exercise room.

The recliners were also a hit although you can’t tell that here.

There’s a spacious kitchen with lots of individual cupboards for the rotating staff, two large stainless-steel refrigerators, and an industrial gas stove; there’s an outdoor covered deck with black iron table and four chairs and a large grill. Sometimes, walking home from work along Roanoke in the evening I can get a whiff of something good cooking on the other side.

Kitchen

Kitchen

Alfresco dining area with grill in background.

Alfresco dining area with grill in background.

Unlike home it has a disinfecting wash room, large equipment rooms, and other reminders of dangerous work firefighters face.

One of the most interesting design features is an open central stairway that forms a large X using two stairwells. Reminding me of the Fidler on the Roof song of wanting a stairway that goes up and another one that goes down. This place has them (although not one just for show).

Looking at one leg of the X forming stairway.

Looking at one leg of the X forming stairway.

The grand stairway leads to a second floor that overlooks the barn for the fire trucks, which were cleared out that Saturday to create space for displays and kids’ activities. Outside there was a fire truck and emergency response truck that kids and adults were happily exploring.

The stairway leads to views of the barn.

The stairway leads to views of the barn.

One thing the structure doesn’t have however is a fire pole. “Not really safe,” explained the fireman I talked to. Many old stations do have them, he said, and use them though. But the two staircases allow for quick access to the fire trucks. Besides there are only four firefighters on duty at a time, so if one should get hurt sliding down a pole that would not be good.

Outside, and on display all the time, is the artwork sculpture, Drop of Life. The sculpture is made from fire hoses and their parts and really comes into its own at night when you can clearly see the LED lights reflecting off it, like an aurora. The artist Oliver Hess spent time with the firefighters to come up with ideas for artwork. He was struck by the varying intensities of energy at a firehouse and how things changed with the calls that came in. As one representative explained, it was always when someone was about to take a shower or start some other project that a call would come. Most are aid calls and then the rarer fire, she added. He mapped that activity into an algorithm for the light show that changes unpredictably but matches the feel of life in the firehouse from calm to strikingly intense.

"Drop of Life" sculpture as seen at night

“Drop of Life” sculpture as seen at night

“It was very memorable to me when visiting the fire station that there was a palpable anxiety and excitement about getting a call to action,” he wrote in his artist statement. “There was a feeling of superstition about the causal relationships between the way the firefighters spent their time and how likely it was that they would be called out to face danger and save lives.”

One thing that the artwork might also make you think about is the hose tower just beyond it rising over the building, a simple sustainable feature to air out and dry the hoses, but a towering reminder of the building’s basic purpose.

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Historic Wallingford opens to a packed house

Most of the seats were already taken before the launch party of the Historic Wallingford neighborhood organization at the Good Shepard Center had even started Saturday afternoon, Jan. 6. By the time it did start, it was standing room only.

Many people like myself didn’t even live in Wallingford but had ties to it. The couple sitting next to me, for instance, had met at Lincoln High School; they’d lived in separate neighborhoods outside Wallingford, the husband told me, and rode the bus to school graduating in the early 1950’s.

For me it was a shared rental house, a bungalow, on Bagley Ave. with some great housemates in the late 1980’s before a real estate boom pushed us out with the landlord planning to sell the place for an outrageous $80,000 or more! We still occasionally see each, calling ourselves Bagley House alums.

Someone in the crowd noted that Seattleites had so many ties to Wallingford that if you had a reunion it’d draw half the city at least.

The designated landmarks help feed that connection. The historic schools; Lincoln, Hamilton, Latona, and Interlake; the Good Shepard Center; and Gas Works Park. Plus, Wallingford has the most craftsman bungalows in the state. One of them makes up the image of the eye-catching Historic Wallingford logo. (Expect to see that image in yards around Wallingford as it was for sale as a yard sign and selling briskly as were the two poster size prints.)

After an introduction of board members and their credentials by Rhonda Bush (president), there was a brief slide show by board member Tom Veith, author of A Preliminary Sketch of Wallingford History. Besides Ms. Bush and Mr. Veith the board is made up of Paul Dorpat, Mike Ruby, Sharon V. Scherer, Pam Singer, Carl Slater, Kim England, Matt Hallett, and Sarah J. Martin.

During the slideshow, a lively discussion ensued. Someone opened a window to let in some cool winter air. There was a question about a certain apartment building featured that Mr. Veith tried to answer. “Well wait a minute,” said Paul Dorpat, “we have an expert on Seattle apartments in the audience.” It was Diana James author of Shared Walls – A history of Seattle apartment living. I didn’t catch her response but it drew a laugh.

One question that did give everyone pause was what are the boundaries of Wallingford? They’ve shifted over the years – stopping at Latona and Stoneway but now extending to I-5 to the west and Aurora to the east and to the lake, south and 56th to the north (the old Interurban helped to define that northern boundary due to its wider than average street).

The launch was a chance to get people together and involved. There were informational display tables around the room for people to browse and activities to sign up for. Historic Wallingford is planning several events in the coming months, including talks by Paul Dorpat, Keith Veith, and a bungalow tour. Stay tuned.

It’s an all-volunteer run organization at this point and volunteers encourage people to join on-line. Like any good structure, Historic Wallingford, looks to be well thought-out and designed, and the foundation that this meeting set, sound.

 

The room quickly became standing room only.

The room quickly became standing room only.

Afterwards people helped put chairs away and then looked at display tables around the room.

Afterwards people helped put chairs away and then looked at display tables around the room.

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The august Paul Dorpat, board member and author of the Seattle Times column Now and Then, ears always open, also had a table.

The august Paul Dorpat, board member and author of the Seattle Times column Now and Then, ears always open, also had a table.

Beautiful snow picture has not one but two surprises

A couple of days ago someone put up some exciting, if ominous, news on the Eastlake Social Club Facebook page: “Two bald eagles actively hunting lakeside today. They don’t limit themselves to wild animals so it is a good idea to bring small pets inside.” But there was no photo, so it was difficult to judge how true that post was.

Then with the snow over Christmas, Korah Stejskal shot a panoramic view of the neighborhood and posted it on the Eastlake Facebook site. A neighbor noticed a bald eagle in it perched on a utility pole. She commented about it, and Korah, thrilled, searched for it in her photo replying with a close-up shot: “Found it!” However it wasn’t the one the neighbor was referring to. “You got them both!” she said, and sure enough if anyone had any doubts, there’s photographic proof, and yes keep those small pets near….

 

Original panoramic photo of Eastlake in the snow.

Original panoramic photo of Eastlake in the snow.

One eagle atop a utility pole.

One eagle atop a utility pole.

 

Second eagle atop another utility pole.

Second eagle atop another utility pole.

A quasi-annual walk around Lake Union

After pie for breakfast and Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch a walk around Lake Union seemed a good idea. We started by dropping off some books at our local Little Free Library then headed down the hill. A long block of new construction at Fairview and Hamlin was a surprise to see finished. With more across the way.

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Roses were blooming at the P-Patch. Is that typical for November?

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A Thanksgiving gnome garden could be found just north of the P-Patch.

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Gnome Garden

 

Every time we cross the bridge Tom wonders about the scaffolding on this building. “It seems to have been put in place deliberately for the graffiti artists.”

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What’s new this year are all the shared bicycles around. Tom and I talk about signing up for them — would make getting around the lake a lot easier. “Orange, lemon, and lime,” he notes.

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In a lot of places people have knocked them over, but not in Fremont I notice once we get there. In Fremont bicycles are all standing, looking dignified, getting respect.

 

Ride the Ducks are out despite the grey skies threatening rain. A rare blue duck leaving the public dock at Sunnyside and 36th.

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This is one of my favorite views of the Space Needle on the Burke Gilman Trail, hovering above the trees.

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Like an alien space craft, I can’t even get a decent photo of it.

 

At Fremont we make a small detour to a small local cafe. We arrive just in time to get the only table inside before the crowds descend, about five more people.

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Back on the trail, the bridge looks especially nice.

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A sacred spot, the old wooden railroad trestle now has a picket fence gate blocking both ends to discourage walking on it, which is a good idea, as I found out the hard way a few years back.

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The controversial Westlake bikeway is settling in and seems already like its always been there.

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The bikeway brings with it some new art — here a beacon directing bicyclists and pedestrians to the Fremont Bridge.

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More art along the bikeway.

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At the other end of the bikeway, near MOHAI, a shimmering gateway.

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We stopped at the MOHAI Cafe for another break.

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Rain and dusk were falling after that.

 

But a reminder at South Lake Union that Christmas is just around the corner.

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Eastlake’s Own Seattle Chess School Reinvigorates,  Inspires Community

Many people walk by, stop and do a double take. There are young people sitting at tables, looking serious, deep in thought. In front of them is a chess board: an unusual sight in the era of smart phones and virtual reality, but a welcoming one nonetheless.

When Steve Ryan and Bill Schill opened the Seattle Chess School at Vybe Communications Hub, 2226 Eastlake Avenue, in July 2016, it was a culmination of their many years teaching students in the Seattle area and their passion for chess. Finally, they had a centralized location to teach students young and old, and have a meeting place in the community for all ages of chess players to gather and learn.  Ryan and Schill have been teaching students for ten years now, in local schools such as the Bush School, Seattle Prep and TOPS. Soon parents were seeking them out and opening up their living rooms for small tournaments.  This grassroots effort to educate students in chess is still apparent in the brick and mortar space they now call their own. Having a place people can step in and inquire, meet and learn has given a tangible space for their organization. Although they mostly teach youth, people of all ages come in asking to learn chess and hone their skills.

 

chess players

They use a tournament model, or Tournament Success Course to teach their youth. “Chess is a very individualistic activity… there is a little bit of a team concept at tournaments but it is ad hoc, kids are compared with other ones at other schools… anytime you add team competition, it is socially binding and therefore the games matter more [to the kids]”, Ryan says. The local tournaments have anywhere between 150-300 children competing for trophies and titles, Washington being a well-known area of chess interest.  Ryan and Schill believe this healthy competition motivates children to learn and enjoy chess. Although they do private lessons, Ryan believes the value lies in this model: “…doing a small focus class from top kids from different schools, and they can compete for fun with each other is more valuable than just private lessons”.  According to Ryan, children also gain verbal skills, social skills, as well as the ability to think more logically. Of course, these benefits aren’t just isolated to children. And of course, adults benefit too!

discussing chess

For Ryan, the long term goal for The Seattle Chess School is “… to elevate chess in the whole area. We are chess lovers; we think chess is a game which has numerous benefits. It is fun to play, and compelling to play it… you can begin at age six and still be in interested at age 80 to play it. It is social at all phases of life, and the game itself is a physical object”. Indeed, chess is a timeless activity. The community of Eastlake has surely embraced it as well. There has been a push to fix the public chess board on the Franklin Green Street (between TOPS and Rogers Playground) that was vandalized a few years ago. In addition, there was a regular Meetup group that met at Louisa’s before it closed. There is certainly an interest in the neighborhood. The Seattle Chess School may be the venue that is needed to foster this desire in the community.

funny hat chess players

For those who do not know how to play but are interested, Ryan says: “It is executive functioning in a game… you learn how to set a goal, the steps it takes to get to the goal, and how to adapt to changing circumstances…these are fundamental life skills. When people invest in learning the game.. .they gain a clarity and honed life skills that is applicable to life goals. People from all ages can benefit from it.” Eastlake has welcomed The Seattle Chess School eagerly – and looks forward to the additional community events and education it is and will offer.

The Seattle Chess School is located at 2226 Eastlake Ave E. Check out their website at seattlechessschool.org or drop in to say hi!

pondering the next move

Article  reprinted with permission from the Eastlake News.

Dick Wagner, 1933-2017:  Champion of Lake Union

Eastlake and Lake Union lost a dear friend and great champion with the April 20 death of Dick Wagner.  The Seattle Times obituary by Claudia Rowe tells how it all started:  Wagner grew up in New Jersey and was trained as an architect.  “But during the mid-1950s, en route to a summer job in San Francisco, he stopped in Seattle.  That sudden change of plans would alter the trajectory of his life and affect thousands of others.  He fell in love with the city, found a floating home to live in on the shores of Lake Union and eventually married one of his neighbors, the former Colleen Luebke.”

Dick and Colleen came to the lake when wooden boats were no longer dominant, and as the skills and commitment to build, maintain, and operate them were waning.  With genius and unstoppable verve, they threw themselves into preservation and promotion, founding the Center for Wooden Boats as a living museum where people of all levels of skill or income level could experience another era’s legacy aboard handmade wooden craft.   As Caren Crandell, first assistant director at the Center recalls in a tribute on its web site, “The goal was always to get a tool, an oar, a tiller, or a mainsheet in someone’s hand, so they could feel the wood, the water, or the wind as they discovered with amazement what they could do.”

Although Wagner was not an Eastlake resident (the family’s houseboat, the Old Boathouse, is in the shadow of the Aurora Bridge), he was important to Eastlake’s survival as a human-scaled neighborhood.  In the 1960s for the Floating Homes Association, Dick did drawings for parks at Eastlake’s shoreline street-ends—many of which became reality in the ensuing decades (a few still remain to be accomplished).   He also did drawings for traffic calming and greening of Fairview Avenue East, the earliest step toward the City’s 1998 designation of part of Fairview as a “neighborhood green street,” and the street design concept plan that the City is now reviewing.

Dick Wagner was a popular speaker at Eastlake Community Council meetings, as with a 2012 talk on “Mysteries of Lake Union,” based in part on his 2008 book, Legends of the Lake.  As ECC wrote in endorsement of grant funding for the Center for Wooden Boats, “No organization is better suited…to uncover Lake Union’s history and tell [its] story.  We regard CWB as the best organization of its kind anywhere.  The construction, restoration, and operation of a wooden boat require great care and an ability to tell its story.  In just that way, everything else that the Center for Wooden Boats does is equally well-planned, professionally produced, historically grounded, and effective at reaching a broader audience.”

ECC offers condolences to Dick Wagner’s wife, sister, two sons and grandchild. At his request, no public service was held.  But surely he would have been pleased that on May 21 a flotilla of historic wooden boats including the Virginia V, M/V Lotus, Tordenskjold, and hundreds of other smaller vessels sailed in tribute, between the Center for Wooden Boats and the Wagners’ Old Boathouse.

Donations in memory to Dick Wagner may be made to The Center for Wooden Boats (1010 Valley St, Seattle, WA, 98109), online at cwb.org, or by phone at 206-382-2628.  Please include “Dick Wagner Memorial” in the memo or notes line.  ECC has made such a donation and encourages others to do so.

 

Article written by Chris Leman, reprinted with permission from the Eastlake News

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sketch by Karen Berry

Susan Kaufman: An Open Heart

Last year became notorious for so many famous and exceptional people passing away. Even Eastlake wasn’t immune. One of its stars, Susan Kaufman, founder of the restaurant Serafina and its “bratty little sister,” as Susan called Cicchetti, passed away last July due to complications from cancer. She was 64.

“Creating community was the most important thing for her,” said her niece Kika Westhof, who was part of Susan’s Brooklyn and New Jersey roots.  Kika remembers seeing Susan a lot on the East Coast where the family lived and on the West where she and her sister helped out at the restaurant when they were about five or six bringing customers cups of coffee.

One of the first things Susan did before Serafina was even open, recalled Chris Leman, long-time neighborhood activist and Eastlake Community Council volunteer, was donate a dinner for two gift certificate to an ECC fundraising auction. After Serafina opened, Susan held many community appreciation gatherings at the restaurant, taking out a full-page ad in the Eastlake News in the form of a handwritten invitation to all.

She was involved in countless community events and activism including serving on the ECC board of directors and co-chairing the Main Street committee charged with developing the business district portion of the Eastlake Neighborhood Plan, a plan that was adopted by the city in 1998. In 2015 she helped with the redesign of welcome signs for Eastlake, signs that will soon mark major entrance roads.

Serafina

 

Serafina was a hit from the day it opened in 1991, popular in the neighborhood and regionwide, earning rave press reviews for its food, ambiance, music; known as a place to come for special occasions or to make any occasion special.

Before eating locally grown food became popular, Susan grew vegetables and herbs for the restaurant at her nearby home on Franklin Ave.

As Seattle Weekly contributor, Zach Geballe, noted in a personal tribute to Susan, his stepmom, last July shortly after she died, “… Italian food in Seattle was rarely more than spaghetti and meatballs, or maybe fettucine Alfredo if you were feeling bold. Her embrace of the rustic cuisine of Italy—a cuisine that may not have been hers by birth but was certainly a fixture in her life—helped pave the way for the legion of similar restaurants that have followed in its wake. Yet all I can think about in this moment is the profound impact she had on my life.”

Marilyn and Michael de Guzman, long-time Eastlake residents, echoed that sentiment. “She had a larger impact than most people on her surroundings,” one of them told me as we sat around the kitchen island in their home.

They could recall the exact moment Susan came into their lives and also what had been at the corner of Eastlake Ave. and Boston Street, before Serafina took root.

It had been a deli known as Nick and Sully’s whose owner, Lisa, sold the place to Susan and two of her business associates and took a job as a cook on a fishing vessel, the last they knew of her.

Brown paper went up on the windows of the vacant storefront, but you could tell the place was abuzz with activity. One day as Marilyn and Michael were walking by, the door was ajar. They poked their heads inside where they saw a lot of construction and a short, dark-haired woman working away.

“What’s going on in here?” Marilyn called into the space.

“Oh my god, you’re from New York!” cried the woman, Susan. “Come on in!”

“We loved her from the time we met her,” said Michael, “She was a good person to have in our lives.”

They saw Susan through a lot of life transitions: the opening of Serafina, her original business partners moving on, a marriage, the adoption from Mexico of her daughter, Isabella, divorce, the opening of Cicchetti, and cancer. She never stopped planning for the future, they said.

And “she never bit her tongue,” said Kika with a smile.  “She always said exactly what was on her mind.”

As a teenager Kika worked at Serafina during summers and eventually moved to Seattle to work there full time, rising to a management position. She has since moved on but keeps tabs on the restaurant. We spoke at a café near where she lives in Hillman City.

“In her Brooklyn way, she was a bold force that, maybe people in Seattle especially when she first came here (in the 1980s) weren’t used to. Everyone knew her when she went out in the neighborhood.  She was compassionate and interested in people. She had an amazing way of communicating with people.”

“She had a wonderful sense of humor,” Marilyn said.

She designated a group of her regulars, her consiglio or consiglieri, the de Guzmans told me with a laugh. Do you know what that is? Like the advisor in The Godfather?  Yes!

They explained; Susan’s consiglio was a group of about 12 people including them, whom she met with regularly to get feedback about the business. It changed over the years as people moved in and out of the area, and she was sincere about getting advice and listening, they said.

Not that she went along with everything the consiglio advised. David Weeks, the General Manager for both restaurants, wrote in an email, “When Susan dug her heels in…man!”

 

She had an idea of what she wanted for Serafina – the food, the place, the people, and she never stopped striving to achieve it. She knew how to hire people “who got the culture,” said Kika. A few of the servers have been there for over a decade, and others who’ve left come back to work again.

“She was good to people,” said Michael, adding “she was like an orchestra conductor trying to get each section to perfection.”

 

For inspiration and ideas, she took frequent trips to Europe, especially Italy, visiting wineries and restaurants, taking the chefs, or the wait staff, or the sommelier with her.

On one trip she went to Borgo Antico a restaurant in Florence that the de Guzmans loved and recommended. It was right under the apartment they had stayed at and waiters would shout up to their window when their table was ready. As Michael was telling me this story he pointed out two placemats framed, on the wall behind me. They had two different designs of Borgo Antico, from two different eras. One the de Guzmans had brought back, the other Susan had.

Michael took it off the wall to show me. Across the bottom, as if she wanted to get a word into the conversation, was her hand-written note, “Some memories stay with you forever. This one we get to share. Love always, Susan.”

Cicchetti

Eighteen years after opening Serafina, Susan opened a new restaurant, Cicchetti, next door. The following year, 2010, she was feted with the Nellie Cashman Business Owner of the Year award given by the Women Business Owners association. The legendary Cashman had been a nurse, restaurateur, gold prospector, and philanthropist.

Susan similarly had a wide variety of interests and passions she made successful. As a teenager she designed and made handbags that were sold at Bergdorf’s in New York. She started numerous businesses over the years; the seed money for Serafina came from selling off a salad dressing business; and she was an incredible photographer, said Marilyn.  Some of her photography is on display at Serafina.

“She was very empowering for other women,” said Kika. “She was a self-made woman who did everything on her own. She advised a lot of people. It was important to her to be a role model and help people figure out careers or personal things.”

“She was a mentor to hundreds of people,” added Marilyn. “If you had a problem, you went to Susan, and she helped you. She was a fast friend and took care of a lot of people.”

“She had a huge heart,” added Kika. “She cared so much for other people and it showed in how she managed the business, cared for employees and took care of her daughter.”

 

Last summer, when she heard the news that her aunt had just three weeks to live, Kika flew home from a sojourn in Spain. She helped her mother and Susan’s close friend Kokie take care of Susan. At first Susan was fine joking about how well she felt. “Are they sure I’m dying?” she asked. She saw friends and entertained just about every night as she always had; many people came by.

It was a good time, but by week three Susan was slowing down. She was ready, said Kika. She had fought breast cancer for twenty years, a recurrence happened every four or five years, but she would largely brush it off. “I haven’t finished yet,” she would say. But this time was different. She accepted she was dying, which made it easier for her inner circle to accept. Easier but not easy. A role model to the end.

chandelier

“Serafina was never better than in the last couple of years,” said Michael. “It was as if all the instruments seemed to come together.”

Always planning for the future, Susan had a succession plan in place for the restaurants.

It was her intention that the people who had been with the restaurant a long time, including her lawyer and accountant, carry on Serafina and Cicchetti. She did not want an outside buyer, Kika noted.

She set up a board of directors, which Kika’s mother, Lisa Frigand, serves on. Last spring, Susan hired David Weeks as General Manager. “She was looking for someone she could trust to carry out her legacy.”

Weeks along with Christian Chandler, Executive Chef of both restaurants, Cody Westerfield, Head Chef of Cicchetti, Annie Kuclick, Manager of Cicchetti, Kelley Kieser, Assistant General Manager for both restaurants, and Salomon Navarro, Sommelier, are involved in the day-to-day running of the restaurants.

The board of directors helps guide the bigger picture and of course there is the consiglio, and all the regulars, to keep everyone on track.  No one is shy about speaking up if they think things aren’t going the way Susan would have wanted them.

Susan left a big hole, said Kika, and it is still difficult for the people who worked with her, but everyone is helping out.

“My vision and ambition were greatly influenced by Susan prior to her passing,” wrote Weeks in an email. “We discussed many things about the culture and business that she had worked so hard to develop over the years. So her coaching me from the beginning, helped me understand what it is that she would have wanted. Susan welcomed every guest into these restaurants as if she were opening the front door to her home.

“All I want to do is freshen up both spaces and continue to offer great food, excellent hospitality, and wonderful drinks!  Christian and Cody have their menus dialed in,so I feel like we are doing well on that front.”

Most of the updates over the next few months will be aesthetic, he notes. Serafina is well-established, Cicchetti is the big focus.  “It is such a special place that Cody, Annie, and the rest of the crew have worked so hard for the last seven years to build.” He encourages the 98102 neighborhood to check it out.

The restaurants are in really good hands, added Kika with a smile, with their distinct vibe and atmosphere and where Susan would want them to be.

“Nothing’s changing,” said Marilyn, “She’s still there!”

 

 

 

Photo of Susan Kaufman above. Sketches of Serafina, Cicchetti, and Cicchetti’s chandelier by Karen Berry.