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Dragons on Lake Union all day Saturday, July 25

“Dragons traditionally believed to be the rulers of rivers, lakes and seas” are coming to Lake Union in the form of an all-day festival of Dragon Boat racing. The races benefit Team Survivor Northwest. There will be food trucks, entertainment, and activities for kids. Head down to South Lake Union for the festivities between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Free admission.

It will be a surprise at least for the moment

Artist Jennifer Dixon who’s been hired to create the public art for the Westlake Cycle Track doesn’t know yet what it will be, but if it’s like any of her other art work, it’s sure to be delightful.

The cycle track, which is in no way controversial, ahem, will be a two-way, 1.2 mile path that runs along the walkway near the lake. It will start just after the Fremont Bridge and end at Lake Union Park. It will displace about 10 to 20 percent of the parking along Westlake and will be started this November with completion scheduled for early next year. The artist’s job is to fit the public artwork in along with the construction.

Jen Dixon at MOHAI Meet the Artist Open House

Jen Dixon at MOHAI Meet the Artist Open House

There is public artwork all along Westlake now, Spur Line, by Maggie Smith. Parts of Spur Line will be relocated to make way for the bike path, said Dixon, at an artist reception and open house Tuesday night at MOHAI. That artwork reflects the history of the area and lake she noted, adding, there isn’t a whole of room for her to work with, so she may do something at either end of the path.

Dixon’s past work is whimsical and fun playing off flip books and amusement parks. Will she create something equally quirky to entertain on Westlake? Something that might be an engaging compliment to Spur Line?

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Reflecting on everything the lake represents from native people to the modern day, “The lake is a jewel,” she said, “in the middle of Seattle.”

 

Ideas for High Capacity Transit between Roosevelt and South Lake Union

In case you missed it, the city of Seattle held two open houses this week to get public input on the concept of high capacity transit, either rapid street car or rapid-ride bus service, from Roosevelt to South Lake Union. It would run down Eastlake Ave. The city is also looking at where bicycle routes should go on the segment, as Eastlake may be getting pretty crowded.

The point is to get the HCT in place when Link light rail opens at Roosevelt Station in 2021. That may seem like a ways away, but in transit development time that’s like the blink of an eye.

People

There were no firm plans; the city was just gathering input and with that would develop several concepts and then narrow those down for further public input, likely in November.

Plenty of people were at the open house Tuesday in the U. District. I can only assume that a like number were at the open house in South Lake Union the night before.

The city staff members were taking suggestions, talking to people and encouraging them to write ideas down on post-it notes and place them on a map of the segment.

If you have an idea – bike route, station stops, etc., it’s not too late to let the city know. “There is no firm deadline for public comment at this point,” wrote Alison Townsend, Transit Strategic Advisor, in an email. “But, if you want your ideas considered as we begin developing alternatives, sooner rather than later would be better. We will probably dive into alternatives in about 2 weeks. So, if you could get your ideas in the next few weeks, that would be great.”

Send ideas to:

roosevelttodowntown@seattle.gov

More information:

www.seattle.gov/transportation/roosevelthct.htm

Some open house signage:

Narative

 

Flowchart

 

 

Can this house (and garden) be saved?

Some things keep Cass Turnbull up at night. The fate of the historic Bittman House at 4625 Eastman Ave. in Wallingford is one. She wrote a blog post about it for Wallyhood:

It’s keeping me up at night thinking that a developer is going to raze the garden, chop down her Heritage Trees and bulldoze that wonderful house–the likes of which will never be made again in Seattle…

A lot of other people are losing sleep over it as well. The post has gotten 249 recommends and 68 comments so far.

At the time the post was published, April 23, the home was in limbo, the owner, Marilyn Bechlem, had recently died and Cass who had been Ms. Bechlem’s gardener grew worried that this house would slip through everyone’s radar and be demolished for Seattle’s latest construction boom.

Marilyn’s Wallingford house is a sort of legend among neighbors. People have wondered for many decades who owns that house, and what is hidden by the overgrown trees and shrubs. It has the air of a mansion in a romantic novel and it has cast a spell over many people.

The house is now for sale with a gentle "No Trespassing" sign on the gate.

The house is now for sale with a gentle “No Trespassing” sign on the gate.

Neighbors have rallied under the spell of this house with an outpouring of love and nostalgia for it, its owners, and the garden. A landmark nomination form was quickly written up and submitted. Talk of crowd sourcing to pay for the over 50 years of deferred maintenance was bantered about. People pledged their time in the form of free labor for work around the place. People who had walked by and never noticed the home before were in awe. A Wallingford gem had been discovered.

The house was designed and built by Henry W. Bittman, a famous Seattle architect, whose work, writes Caterina Provost-Smith in Shaping Seattle Architecture, “adorned the north end of Seattle’s downtown with a string of terra-cotta jewels and contributed more than 250 new and remodeled buildings to business and civic districts throughout Washington and Alaska.”

He is best known for the United Shopping Tower, now the Olympic Tower, an historic landmark, and the Terminal Sales Building. He is also responsible for the King County Court House and Eagles Temple.

The Tudor house at 4625 Eastman Ave. is believed to be his “first foray into residential architecture.” He built if for himself and his wife, Jessie, “an active, college-educated woman and an award-winning horticulturist,” writes Provost-Smith. The gardens she planted on the property’s .33 acres were the ones Cass would eventually tend.

For the Bittmans, who never had children, the house was a social gathering place, where they entertained lavishly. Notes Provost-Smith, “They crowned each year with an elaborate New Year’s Eve party, where, at the stroke of midnight, a specially designed dining table would split open and a sculpture commemorating the year would arise and revolve.”

Today hidden within the overgrown garden the house is like a battered time capsule. It’s little changed from the time when the Bittman’s lived in it over a half a century ago.  True,

The copper downspouts have been stolen, the irrigation doesn’t work, there is a tarp over the greenhouse, the walkway is buckled, a concrete retaining wall leans outward toward the ally.  But that neglect also means that everything is still original. The gutters are made of wood. The shingles are wood. There are original appliances in the kitchen. The outside is nice but the impressive part is inside–there is a painted mural and leaded windows, incredible wood work, vaulted ceilings, and bay windows in the study that open outward….

Beneath the wood-beamed Cathedral ceiling, amongst the stain glass windows and doors, between the original light fixtures and sconces, are murals of Lake Union, how it looked before all the development, how it must have looked just as Seattle was rising.

I only got brief looks inside the house because Marilyn (only the second owner of the house) was an extremely private woman. Even those neighbors with whom she spoke regularly were never allowed inside. As I entered the living room for the first time, I stopped, looked around and said, “Wow.” Marilyn said, “People always say that.” I took in what I could while following Marilyn to the underground garages to get to the water shut off (I was going through a secret passage!). She took me upstairs to the bedroom so I could see if we could improve the view from her tiny balcony (a real balcony!).

The heirs to the house also spoke up in the comments section of the blog both surprised by the neighborhood outpouring and a little taken aback. They explained it was complicated estate, but they were on it and considering the house in light of what their sister and aunt would have wanted.

Long before seeing the inside of the house  I had fallen  in love with the garden, which was why I had been hired. It had been totally overtaken by invading holly, laurel, Oregon grape, blackberries, and vines. Beneath it all hid a collection of perfect, 60-year-old ornamental shrubs and trees. My crew and I worked there one day a month for over a year to dig it out. It was the secret garden, and it was my job to restore it to Marilyn’s satisfaction—not an easy task. It was both hard and delicate work. Marilyn liked the overgrown look and was quite protective of every plant that the original owner, Mrs. Bittman, had planted there. Marilyn, a spry 82 year old,  knew where each plant was and would walk fearlessly through the tangle on uneven ground to show us things and to check on our work. She could hear a comment made 15-feet away. So it was quite a challenge.

The house is up for sale now, and the chief selling point is, fortunately, not the development rights, but the history.

(Click the following link to view the listing and lots of great photos of the property:
http://www.matrix.nwmls.com/DE.asp?ID=14286202580 After you open it up click on the small camera.)

As pricy as the house is, a cool $1,800,000, plus the cost of all the needed improvements to bring it into the 21st century, new wiring, plumbing, some new configuration inside too, it has one modern selling point–in the form of three classic garages. For a house that has a walkability rating of 90 that’s a lot of parking.

But Cass is still nervous, she worries that potential buyers will split up the property, keep the house but sell off the two plots beside it to pay for the renovation. “That would be a terrible shame,” she writes.  “The two really need to be kept together, like an old married couple.”

If that happen, says Cass, if they stay together and both house and garden get landmark status, “Then I’ll sleep like a baby forever.” A lot of other people will rest easy too.

 

A double garage (pictured) and a single garage are part of the property.

A double garage (pictured) and a single garage are part of the property.

This shook us up

Eric, a writer for the Wallyhood blog gives a good explanation of the three types of earthquakes that could rock Seattle:

Like Nepal, and unlike California, we live in a tectonic plate crumple zone. At a broad level, California and Oregon are shoving us into Canada.

That crumple action means you can expect one of 3 types of earthquakes here. The most frequent and least serious type is like the 2001 Nisqually quake — deep underground, with movement that will knock over brick chimneys, topple TV’s, and maybe collapse aging viaducts or a building in Pioneer Square.

The second type is a magnitude 9 mega quake that will happen when the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the coast moves, similar to what happened in Japan. If that goes you will feel very long lasting and powerful waves from side to side, with most of the danger being to older, taller structures, plus tsunami flood zones along the coast.

Finally, the most dangerous type of quake here in Seattle is a shallow quake nearby, most obviously along the Seattle Fault, with violent shaking leveling older buildings in large numbers.

The Seattle Fault most catastrophically ruptured in AD 900, causing West Seattle to rise up by 20 feet relative to Wallingford and triggering tsunamis in Puget Sound. Regardless of the type of quake, Wallingford is fairly lucky compared to other parts of Seattle. We are not in a slide zone and are not on top of an old lake bed that is likely to liquefy during the quake, so we won’t suffer from the worst amplified shaking.

See the whole post with images on Wallyhood. One person commenting says they’ll be using Green Lake in emergencies as a potable water source (using camping filters). Would Lake Union also work? Not likely according to another commenter, Anna, who experienced the Christchurch Earthquake and has this advice about being prepared:

1. All natural water bodies will be contaminated with raw sewage. If a big quake damages the sewer network, the least worst solution is to pump the overflows into the nearest natural water body (so it doesn’t back up through people’s toilets). IF water has to be trucked in, it will need to be boiled or treated before drinking, so you will be able to use your camping gear then. Just remember – you can’t filter whats not coming out of the tap. Have some bottled water in the house.

2. How will you get home? Multi-story parking garages will be off limits pending structural assements, so your car will be stuck for 2-3 months. Unless the city is training transit workers to be emergency responders, buses will probably stop (as it did in CHCH), trains will have to stop, pending line inspections. Christchurch (pop 400,000) is flat, with a regular grid of streets. Complete gridlock set in within 15 minutes. a half hour drive through the least affected parts of the city took 2-3 hours. Travel times into the worst areas were up to 12 times longer than usual.

3. Who will get the kids (or grandma)? All three million people in the area are going to be trying to check on thier families and friends. Don’t expect to get a dial tones. Texts will probably go through, but with long delays, and may arrive out of order. Have a plan you can implement without talking to your partner.

4. Keep some cash in the house. Even in a really big quake the city will not be uniformly flattened. some buildings will be fine and some will be destroyed. Those shopkeepers who can open, will, but they won’t be able to process plastic.

Finally, a ‘zombie apocalypse’ is funny joke, but it’s a poor model for disaster response. Humans are social animals. connecting with others is how we make sense of what we have experienced. Those who have come through in good shape will want to acknowledge their good fortune by lending a hand, but top-down emergency management organizations are ill-prepared to handle these impulses.

In case you missed it, Mossback’s piece on Crosscut provides a personal and historical look at Seattle’s past earthquakes. And for more unsettling insights, both Mossback and Eric recommend the book Full-Rip 9.0 .

Remembering the first Earth Day

Forty-five years ago today as a 17-year-old growing up in the Philly area I hitchhiked down to Fairmont Park to take part in the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.  I had been reading The Environmental Handbook, created for the event. For all the problems it depicted it also portrayed remarkably hopeful possibilities for building a sustainable world.  In the midst of the fractures of the Vietnam War era, there was a ray of sunlight in all this.

Sitting on a grass hill on a sunny day with the Philadelphia skyline in the background, I heard an inspiring line-up.  Where else could you see Allen Ginsberg and Edmund Muskie on the same stage?  The range embodied the essential significance of Earth Day, the unification of what had been many disparate movements – wilderness and wildlife preservation, anti-pollution, opposition to freeways, worker safety, etc. – into a unified “big tent” environmental movement that led to an environmental revolution.

Earth Day 1970

More than two dozen environmental acts were passed in the wake of Earth Day, laws to strengthen protections for clean air and clean water, the Endangered Species Act, the law that mandates environmental impact statements for large projects.  It was the foundation for the environmental protections we have today. Earth Day planted the seeds of my own work as a sustainability writer and advocate from the 1980s to today.

A young man was there that day.  I’m sure he was on stage but I can’t say I recall him.  It was Denis Hayes, the first organizer of Earth Day.  He was travelling by train up the East Coast with Muskie, Ginsberg and the crew visiting different rallies. I later made my way to Seattle and came to know Denis as president of the Bullitt Foundation. Denis has wryly shared with me his ironic feelings about being primarily known for something he did in his 20s. But those in the know understand he’s done a lot more since.

As Jimmy Carter’s solar energy head, Denis shaped what is now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  When Ronald Reagan came in to rip the solar panels Carter had installed off the White House roof and tear down the renewable energy programs Carter had started, Denis successfully preserved the core of the most important research efforts. We owe a great deal of today’s clean energy revolution to the seeds he planted, and saved.

As president of Bullitt Foundation, Denis was a seminal funder of climate work in the Northwest, how I got to know him.  Safe to say without important start-up and continuing funding from Bullitt the regional climate movement would not be the powerful presence it is today.

Over recent years Denis led construction of the world’s greenest office building, the Bullitt Center, which generates its own energy from a solar roof and its own water from a rain-gathering system.  It is a true zero-energy building.  He also has a new book out, Cowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment.

Though most people might know Denis from Earth Day, clearly he’s never stopped being a sustainability pioneer.  So it was a pleasure to see him give a short talk at the Earth Day Climate Action Festival at Seattle Central College on this 45th Earth Day.  Under a sunny sky, and appropriately for the heavily youthful crowd, Denis called on a new generation to seize the day.

2015 Earth Day at Seattle Central College

2015 Earth Day at Seattle Central College

“Today we’re talking about passing the torch to a new generation,” he started.  “That has probably never happened in history.”

Instead, the new generation is going to have to wrestle the torch out of the grasping fingers of those who hold it now.  Much as his and my generation had to seize its own day, “The new generation is going to have to struggle.”

Denis overviewed the environmental crisis that was emerging in the years before the first Earth Day, pollution, pesticides, freeways ripping through cities, and compared it to China today.  These were national struggles that yielded national victories.

“What you have facing you today is very different that what was facing us,” he noted.  “You’re addressing global issues,” such as climate, ocean acidification, overfishing, migratory species. To address these, “We have to come together not as a nation, but as a people.”

Denis called to a moral obligation to stand up for the poorest. “Those who have done the least to change the planet will suffer the most.”

“The important stuff is always done by young people,” Denis said to the young crowd.  “This is not just a rally.  This is the beginning of a revolution.”

Truly we need as profound a global sustainability revolution as the environmental revolution spurred by the first Earth Day.  And many young people are coming to the fore to make it happen.  Denis is still in the fight, and so I am and many of our generation.  But it is the young who are our hope and inspiration.  You will seize the torch, and our aging bodies will keep up with you as long as we can.  Now as then – For the Earth.

–Patrick Mazza

 

Reprinted with permission from Cascadia Planet.

From Charm to Ruins to Waste

Eastlake is seeing a lot of demolition, but the hardest to watch fall are the old vintage houses and apartment buildings. I’ve probably been watching too many “Rehab Addict” reruns, being addicted to “Rehab Addict,” but something about seeing those old houses brought back to their former glory makes me high. Nikki Curtis, the show’s star, goes out in search of old wood flooring, doors, and built-ins to replace what’s been torn out of old structures, that cry, according to her, “Make me pretty again!”

So when there was a recent post on the Eastlake Social Club Facebook page about the sunny yellow bungalow on Minor Ave. being brought down (pictured above), I hoped that at the very least parts of it would be recycled or salvaged to find a new home in a house being restored or maybe repurposed to add some character to new construction.

After the demolition of the house on Minor Ave.

After the demolition of the house on Minor Ave.

But it turns out that was not the case as neighbors commented. Well how hard could it be to salvage the special architectural features of a house, was there a demand for it?

Not hard at all, and yes.

The demolition debris -- in it: smashed windows, iron railings, lots of old wood, and even a new washing machine, according to a neighbor.

The demolition debris — in it: smashed windows, iron railings, lots of old wood, and even a new washing machine, according to a neighbor.

The city of Seattle encourages it. And there are all kinds of good reasons for doing it – keeping the waste out of a landfill for one, providing jobs for the local reuse and recycling industry for another.

And that industry is hungry for salvage – architectural, plumbing, lumber, you name it.

The salvage shop closest to Lake Union, RE Store, over in Ballard no longer exists (although they do have a store in Bellingham), but there are two others, both in the SODO district, that are doing a lively business. Earthwise is a little hidden gem on 4th avenue near the West Seattle Bridge; it’s fun, like stumbling onto a Pee-Wee Herman set, and vast. Items are haphazardly and creatively arranged drawing you in.

Earthwise in SODO -- happy to salvage.

Earthwise in SODO — happy to salvage.

A few blocks away on 6th Avenue, the arty setting of Earthwise, gives way to a Home Depot-like atmosphere at Second Use. Second Use is huge with aisles and aisles of items inside and out, and was busy, this Saturday, with a line of pick-up trucks out front and customers loading goods.

A helpful clerk at Second Use let me know that stock turns quickly, usually within two weeks, so if I wanted something, I shouldn’t wait, and that the website is updated with some two hundred items daily, with measurements down to the eighth of an inch.

So what to do when there’s word of a vintage, unique structure that’s going to be torn down? The store manager for Earthwise told me over the phone that they’d love to hear about it. They’d be happy to reach out to the owner or contractor for permission to remove whatever non-structural items might sell. And Second Use had large moving vans in the parking lot at the ready waiting for calls.

Second Use, also in SODO, with trucks at the ready.

Second Use, also in SODO, with trucks at the ready.

Another option before demolition, one in the architect’s hands, would be something like Ada’s Technical Bookstore on Capitol Hill. It’s a wonderful example of combining new and existing architecture, taking the old Horizon House bookstore and morphing it into something bigger and modern. Ninety percent of the original wood was reused in the new structure. Last year, Ada’s won a Historic Seattle award for “Preserving Neighborhood Character.”  It would be great to see more of that kind of creative, adaptive reuse of old houses and apartment buildings that adds density but keeps the neighborhood charm.

 

Breaking News:  A little more searching on the web, and it turns out that the RE Store itself has been salvaged. It has a new life as Ballard Reuse.

 

Apartments and retail next to perch at old Red Robin site?

The Daily Journal of Commerce reported Thursday that developers Michael Heijer and Robert Hardy are eyeing the old Red Robin site at 3272 Furhman Ave. E. for a 63 unit apartment complex with 1,800 square feet of retail on the first floor and 15 underground parking spaces.

Original Red Robin restaurant at 3272 Furhman Ave. E. Photo by cdmilton

Original Red Robin restaurant at 3272 Furhman Ave. E. Photo by cdmilton

The Eastlake Community Council is holding a public meeting about this site as well as another at 2203/2209 Eastlake Ave. E. on Monday, Feb 2, at TOPS Seward School, 2500 Franklin Ave. E. from 7 to 9 p.m.

If you miss that meeting, according to DJC, another design review for the Red Robin site will be held at Seattle University in the Case Commons Building, room 500E, on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.

Red Robin flew the coop in 2010 when owners of the chain closed the original restaurant location despite its popularity and historical significance. The building remained empty with talk over the years of a new restaurant or even perhaps a market. Likely the building’s maintenance problems that the chain’s owners said were too costly to upgrade also hindered any new occupant. A 2007 sink hole in the parking lot probably didn’t help sell the site either.

Red Robin site after demolition this summer. Photo by Rick Miner

Red Robin site after demolition this summer. Photo by Rick Miner

The restaurant had an illustrious history becoming one of Seattle’s early business successes in the 1970’s and 80’s. And it had a sort of Seattle grittiness before morphing into something more family friendly and becoming a household name. The original Red Robin was a tavern and its mascot a joint-smoking cartoon red robin.

Smokin' Red Robin mural. Photo by cdmilton

Smokin’ Red Robin mural. Photo by cdmilton

The Eastlake Ave Blog reported on the Red Robin closure and wondered if the outdoor sign or any other piece of the building would go to MOHAI. Still waiting to hear.

 

Lake Union Steam Plant building turns 100

The Lake Union Steam Plant that now houses ZymoGenetics turns one hundred years old this year. It’s been called the monument on Lake Union, and its story is, well, monumental. It’s one of auspicious birth – built at the start of the electric age; heroic life – providing emergency power for the city; shocking death – discovery of toxic waste; and finally resurrection – the renovation into a modern biogenetics laboratory. It begins like many great stories with a prequel – the Hydro House.

Hydro House

Squeezed between ZymoGenetics and an old renovated warehouse the gnome-like structure of the Hydro House on Eastlake Avenue is easy to miss and a delight to find. It was built in response to a young city’s growing energy needs and to a possible failure in the Cedar River dam.

Hydro House in 1912; notice 40" pipe being installed on left. Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

Hydro House in 1912; notice 40″ pipe being installed on left. Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

At the turn of the 19th century, electricity was changing people’s lives in ways analogous to today’s technological revolution. As with information technology, Seattle took a leading role in electrical power. The first light bulb in Seattle, also the first west of the Rockies, “flickered to life” in just 1886, according to a HistoryLink essay. Some twenty years later, in 1905, the Cedar River Falls hydroelectric facility became “the nation’s first municipally owned hydro project,” according to Seattle City Light.

The early users of electricity, industry and commerce provided steady growth for the utility. But by the end of the first decade, a new market was opening – the home. No sooner were additional generators planned for the Cedar River station than it was apparent even more would be needed.

“The support given the municipal plant by the Seattle citizens was so enthusiastic that it became necessary to plan extensions almost as soon as service began,” a 1931 City of Seattle Department of Lighting Annual Report notes in its history section.

By 1910 city engineers decided to just tap all the energy potential of the Cedar River site by means of a large concrete dam. But there was a risk involved with the dam, a potential failure of one of the dam’s reservoir walls. To provide enough power to the city while resolving that issue, Seattle needed a back-up power source and planned for a coal-fed steam plant on the south end of Lake Union.

In 1911 voters approved financing for the initial phase of the Steam Plant. Yet it too couldn’t be built fast enough. Since actual power from the Steam Plant was still a few years away, the possibility of building a small hydro facility on the site was re-introduced. The idea for a hydro project on Lake Union had first been raised in January 1902 to power city street lights. But its funding instead went toward the much larger Cedar River Falls hydro electric project.

Now the timing was right. The Hydro House was quickly built and put into service by 1912 for a cost of about $30,000.

The Hydro House was innovative. It used the latent power of the Volunteer Park Reservoir. Overflow water propelled by gravity fell through a 40-inch pipe some 3,400 feet long with a drop of 412 feet to generate 1,500 kilowatts of power. Technically it was the city’s second electrical generating facility.

In reality, “the unit was too small to be a real factor in supplying the rapidly increasing demand but it was the first auxiliary power source for the City,” again according to the 1931 report, “and paid for itself many times over during its first three years as a standby plant in emergency.”

The Hydro House as it is today viewed from Eastlake Avenue.

The Hydro House as it is today viewed from Eastlake Avenue.

The Hydro House, originally called the Power House, is now a local landmark structure. In 1987 architect, preservationist and former Eastlake Community Council board member Susan Boyle nominated both it and the adjacent Steam Plant for landmark status in a well-researched, 15-page, single-spaced, typed nomination form.

The building was designed by Daniel Riggs Huntington, the City Architect from 1911-1925, who also designed many other still-standing historic structures. The Fremont Library, also a Huntington design, bears a familial resemblance to the Hydro House. Both are Mission Revival Style structures. Although, “the Lake Union Power House was a contradictory hybrid,” notes Boyle, “a new building type [electrical] clothed in an old style.”

Boyle describes the Hydro House as “a single story, wood and concrete frame structure with a basement level below the grade of Eastlake Avenue. The primary elevation is the east one on Eastlake Avenue (original drawings show no indication of Fairview Avenue, which was built later on pilings). The building is stucco-clad, clay tile, gable-roofed structure, with its ridge running parallel to the street.”

She notes that there are two small concrete towers on the structure that originally contained cross arms for transmission lines.

“The original roof towers clearly expressed the use of the building and the simple symmetrical arrangements of elements spoke of its utility, but the building’s size and style gave it a domestic character.”

A window outlook sat squarely on the roof ridge, for visually monitoring those early transmission lines. The thick north and south concrete walls of the Hydro House rise to form low roof parapets that were likely “designed to serve as fire walls to separate the Power House from neighboring buildings.”

An inset entryway was changed shortly after construction. “A pair of panel doors with a glass transom was originally set into the front opening at the east elevation to provide a small covered entry,” writes Boyle. “This was changed in 1914 when the doors were moved forward to their present location on the face of the building.”

Other changes include “the removal of grillwork and installation of windows at the two dormers and gable ends. When the building ceased to operate as a generating plant, the cross arms and exterior wires were removed. But for these changes, the exterior of the Power House today is original.”
As for the interior, only the original concrete walls and roof trusses remain.
Comparing the design of the Hydro House with the neighboring Steam Plant “clearly suggests the revolutionary character of the later building.”

The Hydro House was quickly eclipsed when the initial phase of the Steam Plant was completed in 1914. The Hydro House’s main floor, formerly a storage area (with the generators in the basement), became a lunch and locker room for Seattle City Light steam plant employees. And its loft became a darkroom for the city’s Engineering Department staff photographers.

The Hydro House continued to serve as an emergency back-up power source for some 18 years. In 1932 it was finally shut down entirely. Its generators were said to have been sold to a Christian radio station in Ecuador calling itself “The Voice of the Andes.”

“The only remnant of power generation within the Power House,” writes Boyle, “is a braced concrete pier in the basement that once supported the turbines.” Another remnant exists outside, beneath Fairview Avenue, amidst the pilings and partially submerged in Lake Union’s shallow waters, the large outflow pipe of the generators.

Hydro House today viewed from Fairview Avenue. Sketch by Karen Berry.

Hydro House today viewed from Fairview Avenue. Sketch by Karen Berry.

Today the Hydro House has a new life, owned by ZymoGenetics, and leased out as a restaurant to The Great Northwest Soup Company. In this way it still functions as it once did as a lunchroom to employees in the larger building. The restaurant is open to the public Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. While enjoying a breakfast or lunch at the Hydro House, you can look up to see those original roof trusses and also wander outside onto a modern patio for a view of Lake Union.

Next: “Life of a Steam Plant.”

A version of this article was first published in the Eastlake News, the Eastlake Community Council’s newsletter.

Crazy Horse’s pipe centers multifaith ceremony at St. Patrick’s

Envision a priestess of the Goddess, a rabbi, a Sufi, a Methodist minister, a Lutheran pastor, a Quaker, a Hindu, a Muslim, Native American leaders and representatives of several other faiths passing around a pipe that once belonged to Crazy Horse, making prayers and sharing insights as the pipe came to them. All in a Catholic Church!

The 28th Interspiritual Celebration of Gratitude at Thanksgiving

The 28th Interspiritual Celebration of Gratitude at Thanksgiving

It happened in the neighborhood last Sunday. The 28th Interspiritual Celebration of Gratitude at Thanksgiving took place at St. Patrick’s with the theme, a Ceremonial Call to Illumine and Restore the Sacred. It was centered on the Sacred Pipe Ceremony. Hereditary Chief Phil Lane Jr, an enrolled member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, noted that his tribe has had Crazy Horse’s pipe in its possession for several decades. But they are only bringing it out now.

This is a time when prophecies of Crazy Horse and other elders are being fulfilled, Lane said. After 500 years of darkness a spiritual renewal is bringing people of many faiths together to protect the Mother Earth. So Native people are beginning to share more of their ways with us. Bringing out the pipe was one manifestation of that.

Seattle spiritual leaders pass around Crazy Horses pipe

Seattle spiritual leaders pass around Crazy Horses pipe

Native spirit was at the center of the event. We were welcomed by Ken Workman, a member of the Duwamish Tribal Council and a fourth generation grandson of Chief Seattle. Sundance Chief Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation gave an extended talk with some deeply poignant moments. His son, Cedar George, was at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School when the tragic shooting happened recently. Healing was one of the intentions of the event. Rueben broke up for a moment describing how much he hurts for his son. Cedar spoke about how his grounding in Native spiritual ways gave him the strength to endure and help his classmates.

Native leaders from right to left: Ken Workman, red scarf; Phil Lane; Rueben George; Cedar George

Native leaders from right to left: Ken Workman, red scarf; Phil Lane; Rueben George; Cedar George

Rueben George and Phil Lane are both leaders of the Nawtsamaat Alliance of Native and non-Native people. The Alliance is taking a stand against oil and coal trains, ports, terminals, and pipelines in order to protect the Salish Sea, the inland waters from Puget Sound through the Georgia Straits.  This stance was the background of the Ceremonial Call. Faith communities such as those represented in the Sunday ceremony increasingly understand the Earth is sacred. They are prominent in the movement against coal and oil expansion because they understand that fossil fuels threaten our climate and our waters. Rueben talked about the growing movement coming together to protect the waters, noting how 25 years after the Exxon Valdez spill, Prince William Sound is still polluted. That could happen to our waters if we let the fossil fuel industry’s insatiable greed have its way, he said.

I have to admit I’m a recovering Catholic who rarely passes the door of a Catholic Church. But it’s no surprise I found myself at St. Patrick’s. The church is committed to keeping alive the ecumenical and progressive vision of the early 1960s Vatican II conference. This must have been challenging through the conservatism that has prevailed since, but the tradition of openness seems to be returning with Pope Francis. Maybe I’ll find my way back for a regular mass. It would make my mother happy.

Sunday’s Ceremonial Call was deeply moving, indeed stirring gratitude this Thanksgiving season. In a world where so much seems enveloped in darkness, this brought light.