Eastlake

Sold: Roanoke Terrace Apartments

According to the Daily Journal of Commerce, the 1968 Roanoke Terrace Apartments at the corner of Eastlake Ave. (2600) and Roanoke St., across from the tennis courts, recently changed hands for just under $6.8 million.

Don’t worry; it’s not a tear down, but the new owners, Shilshole Development, do plan to renovate the four story, 16-unit structure. The average unit is 970 square feet; and the average price per unit pencils out at $424,475.

There are 14 parking spaces.

“Also in the same neighborhood,” notes the Journal, “Shilshole Development is redeveloping the old Ross Labs site, at 3138 Fairview Ave. E., with a small renovated office building and 103 new apartments”

Roanoke Terrace Apartments seen from the tennis court side of the street, and way above seen from Eastlake.
The old Ross Labs.
What the new building at 3138 Fairview Ave. E. might look like (just below and to the north of Lake Union Cafe).
Another chance to learn  about the “Mammoth” development at 2715 Eastlake

A centerpiece development for Eastlake is receiving a lot of excitement and pushback from the community. It will replace two buildings at corner of Louisa St. and Eastlake Ave., the strip mall that houses the Mammoth bistro and the retro SPRAG office structure next door. There’s excitement for the new potential landmark design that the architect Hewitt is known for delivering and for street level activity with the retail and housing that will come. The pushback comes at how tall the new construction will be, possibly six stories and the largest in Eastlake, blocking views from Rogers Playfield and the Green Street, and how affordable the housing will be.

The developers are open to public feedback. A February 28 open house introduced developers, Washington Holdings + Pollard and architect to the community with photos of past work. A preliminary concept was also on view with a timeline. Demolition is expected next summer, 2020, with a new building opening Summer 2022.

There’s another community outreach meeting on Friday, March 8, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the SPRAG building at 2517 Eastlake Ave.

More opportunities for public feedback are expected.

preliminary site plan

Hewitt designs

Bottom image is the new multi-family on Stoneway.

Eastlake project, home to Grand Central Bakery.

sketch by Karen Berry

The Castle in Eastlake

It’s one of the most significant buildings in Eastlake, yet it is easily overlooked, lost amidst the newer, larger buildings surrounding it.

But I remember riding in the car as a kid with my parents and wondering if one of the many bridges we always seemed to be crossing over would be the one with the castle at the end of it, hoping it was. And sometimes the building would appear like something out of a fairy tale. I strained to get a good look at it as we sped by. I always wondered about the stories behind it.

Turns out there are a lot of them. The building at the south end of the University Bridge, at the corner of Eastlake Ave. and Furhman St., has stories to tell of bankruptcy, illegal activity, a mysterious death, rock ‘n roll legends and those are just the things that made it into the local newspapers.

It’s been known by the businesses that occupy the ground floor: Rapunzel’s Tavern, Scoundrel’s Lair, Romio’s, Borsalino’s and now Sebi’s. It’s never had a common name. The condos above it are known as the Martello.

But the real story behind this building is the man who built it or rather remodeled what was, in 1928, a single-family house. Frederick Anhalt was a self-educated developer and architect. He died in 1996 at the age of 101, but the legacy of his buildings known as Seattle castles endures.

Anhalt had several careers over the course of his life from butcher to landscape nursery owner. His development career grew out of a stint in commercial real estate and started with a crew building bungalow court apartments on Beacon Hill and Queen Anne. A pivotal point was a two-story apartment at 17th and Denny built in the Spanish style that was popular at the time. With each building he kept learning new things, but he wanted to make his mark and design something suitable for the Pacific Northwest climate; he settled on bricks and natural cedar roof shingles for materials. The castle-like design he came upon serendipitously.

“I started looking around for ideas as to the style I would use,” Anhalt said in an interview about his life, for the book, Built by Anhalt. “While I was doing this, I met a young girl who was selling books and I asked her to find any books she could on beautiful apartments.  She came back several days later and told me that she couldn’t find anything like that, all she had was a book about English castles.  Well, I took one look at that book and I knew I’d found my style of building.  I went through that book and picked a window I liked here, a door there, and something else over there.”

His goal was to build apartment buildings that were different from what was on the market at the time. “I wanted to get away from the long halls that reminded me of tenement buildings,” he said, where everything looked the same, “and the only way you knew what apartment was yours was by the furniture.”

He thought people should have a nice view to look onto too but knew he couldn’t guarantee it. “Somebody else could always put another building between you and your view.” So, he built his apartments around a view that he created with landscaping. “I could make things look the way I wanted them to that way, which is hard to do when you’re dealing with a view of Mount Rainier or Puget Sound.”

The building in Eastlake (the only Anhalt around Lake Union) is a bit of an anomaly, not brick but stucco-clad and with no courtyard. It was the result of another building’s mishap on Capitol Hill, but it marks one of the many turning points in Anhalt’s career.

Anhalt was ready for a new phase and wanted to build even more beautiful buildings. He took a break from developing to get his thoughts in order and sent his crew out to put up the Del-Teet Furniture store on Broadway. It didn’t require any effort on his part because the plans were already drawn. (The building’s facade is still there today by the way – next to Dick’s; it’s now known as Hollywood Lofts.)

There was such a hurry to open the Del-Teet store that the store manager, a fellow by the name of Skewes, moved the furniture in as soon as the plasterers left. “And that got me another job,” Anhalt said.

“In all the humidity of that wet plaster, everything mildewed. Skewes was fired and decided to open his own store in an old house he’d found down by the University Bridge. I must have felt a little responsible for his problem, because I agreed to remodel it for him, which wasn’t something I would usually do.  It’s a lot easier to build a new building than to remodel an old one. Especially one that’s fifty years old like that one was. I must have done a good job on it though, because it’s still there today.”

 

The building is still there, fortunately for Eastlake, but the furniture store, Skewes-Rudolph Furniture Cor., Inc, went through a long bankruptcy in the early 1930’s if the liquidations ads of the time are any indication.

Anhalt went on to build his most famous apartment buildings after that. First the 750 and 730 Belmont structures that Lawrence Kreisman highlighted in a March 2000 article for the Seattle Times. “These ‘apartment-homes’ were charming and romantic, with individualized floor plans, up-to-date amenities such as parking garages and gracious, home-like touches – separate entrances off semi-private landscaped courtyards – that brought in the renters.”

730 Belmont

 

750 Belmont

Anhalt liked the 730 Belmont so well he built out one unit for himself. But his favorite building, the one that marks the pinnacle of his castles is the one built after, at 1005 Roy St.

That building and the one across the street that went right up with it, the 1014 Roy, were built with largely free and discarded brick seconds.

Anhalt likely would be considered a green developer today for creatively reusing and making do. “I always had my eyes open for things that nobody else had a use for, figuring that if something was cheap enough I’d find a use for it.”

One of the places where he bought bricks occasionally overcooked a batch and dumped it on a vacant lot. By the time Anhalt took note, the pile covered about four acres. The company offered them to him for the price of delivery, thinking Anhalt could use them in his landscaping.

“The only thing wrong with those bricks was they didn’t look like regular bricks. They were different colors and a little melted in spots, but most of them had enough flat that they could be used. I even had the bricklayers put them in a little cockeyed, to add to the effect,” said Anhalt.

“Ten-O-Five East Roy was built that way, and in my opinion it’s the finest apartment building ever built in the city of Seattle,” he added.

1005 Roy St.

1005 Roy St. seen from the west

The Anhalt on the corner of Eastlake Ave. and Furhman St. has a lively history.

According to news reports in the Seattle Times about the building, a man was arrested for having a slot machine there in 1935, “charged with having gambling paraphernalia and released on $40 bail.” In 1936 “a well-known restaurant” called The Town House made the news due to a change in lease. In the 1940’s floor lamps were offered for sale in the display room. In 1966, almost as a testament to the times, a tenant, Raymond Paul McCarthy, 26, was charged with 2nd degree burglary for robbing a pharmacy and taking “a variety of drugs.” He had the misfortune of being seen by police as he was running away.

Beginning in July 1967, it was occupied by Llahnguelhyn, a coffee and live jazz joint.

The Short Galleries opened there in October 1969 (when phone numbers were still letters as in EA3-9830, the gallery’s number) with an exhibition of seven Northwest artists. John Voorhees the art critic for The Seattle Times gave the gallery many glowing reviews over the following years.

Then in 1975 it became Rapunzel’s Tavern. A year later a fire broke out in its upper floors; the tavern was untouched, but news of the fire made the front page of The Seattle Times when an unidentified woman’s body was found in the gables.

In 1986 it became Scoundrel’s Lair and thanks to its proximity to the U.W. was one of the focal points of Seattle’s emerging “grunge” scene. Shedding some light on the time, in a series of columns called Schoolhouse Rock for the U.W. alumni magazine in 1996, Charles R. Cross former editor of The Rocket, noted how much things had changed in ten years, “With so many successful bands in the Northwest in the past decade, more aspiring rockers think of music as an actual career. A decade ago, most of the Seattle scene bands all started off thinking they were going to have day jobs instead of music careers–and education at universities played a role in that. Today, when superstardom seems ordinary, fewer bands in the area seem to have ties to the University because many young musicians expect (sometimes wrongly) that they will be able to make a living from playing music….”

“But as time marches on, the history books remind us of a time when you could see Nirvana at the HUB for a buck, when Soundgarden was playing just up the street at the Rainbow Tavern, and when KCMU was the only station worth punching in on your car radio. It was an era of innocence when the measure of success was determined by playing a show at the Scoundrel’s Lair (now a pizza place, across from the Red Robin on Eastlake, and a longtime UW hangout) to 20 of your friends and fellow students.”

Time marches on, and our old structures provide a window to the past.

Perhaps the residents living in the Martello, who are lucky enough to own a piece of this Seattle history, will consider nominating it for historic preservation, to ensure that future generations can enjoy spotting it as they go by wondering about its story.

 

 

 

If you have further information about the Anhalt in Eastlake or elsewhere, we’d love to hear from you. Write to us at editors@lakeunionwatershed.com.

 

Sketch by Karen Berry.

 

This story was revised from one that first appeared in the Eastlake News fall 2012 issue.

 

Hamlin Deal

According to today’s Daily Journal of Commerce, Hamlin Place apartments at the corner of Hamlin and Franklin (2800 Franklin Ave.) sold recently for just under $2.2 million. The corner lot is roughly the size of three or four residential lots in Eastlake, and with residential lots topping out at $1.5 million, the Hamlin sale appears to be a steal. Actually, it’s likely an internal business deal, as the DJC writes,

The seller was DK Hamlin Place LLC, which acquired the property in 1995 for $905,000.

The buyer was RL Hamlin Place LLC, which is associated with a private investor on Mercer Island.

Brokers were not announced. The buyer and the seller, who share the same surname, were partners in the 1995 investment. The deal was worth about $134,781 per unit.

The DJC goes on to note the building was constructed at the same time as I-5, 1959.

The four-story building has 16 units and an equal number of surface parking spaces.

With that much surface parking and an up zone increase that will allow the property to grow 10 feet taller and slightly wider, it’s ripe for possible re-development, but plans at this point are unknown.

Front view of 2800 Franklin Ave.

Side view

16-space rear parking lot

Bronze shoes guerrilla art comes to Seattle

A Portland art, activism, and resistance project has found its way to Lake Union shores. Bronze children’s shoes have shown up on the fence in front of TOPS Seward School near the Louisa Street bus stop and on a tree along the Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop at Roanoke Street. A note attached to both sets reads, “These bronze shoes represent the children separated by I.C.E. They serve as a reminder to all of us, and their families, that they are precious, and we will not forget them.”

They’re part of a movement started by artist Aimee Sitarz who wanted to channel her outrage at the Trump administration policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexican border. She began bronzing children’s shoes and hanging them around Portland, not without some controversy. The project has also been featured in a couple of Portland galleries. Photographer K. Kendall writes about Sitarz’s work:

I’ve spoken before of Aimee Sitarz and her bronze shoes–evoking both the bronzed baby shoes popular with middle-class families in the 1950s and the horrible scenes of abandoned shoes near the concentration camps of the Holocaust. The two ideas come together in Aimee’s imagination because she wants us to remember the children incarcerated by the Trump administration immigration policies.  So she keeps on making “bronze” shoes and hanging them in public places, to remind people.

Now others are taking up the cause, requesting bronze shoes from the artist and hanging them around their city.

For more information, see the project’s Facebook page at Bronze Shoes Installation Project.

Bronze children’s shoes hanging from a tree at Roanoke Street and Fairview Avenue.

Update: As of yesterday the shoes at Roanoke Street were missing.

 

Bee’s Knees: It’s Pollinator Week!

The Eastlake Community Council is hosting an I-5 Colonnade Open Space clean-up event this Wednesday, June 20, from 9 to noon, and it is a good way to celebrate National Pollinator Week, which is June 18-24 this year. Another good way is to plant native plants. “Research suggests native plants are four time more attractive to native bees than exotic flowers,” says the Xerces Society, and they have a handy list of NW natives that do just that – attract bees.

If you’d like to go further but are not quite ready to become an apiarist, you can create bee habitat. It requires food (those native plants), fresh water source, and nesting places. The Green Queen has the how to’s in her blog post Make your garden bee-friendly.

Begun eleven years ago by a unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate, National Pollinator Week has “grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles,” according to the Pollinator Partnership, the organization announcing the week.

Seattle was officially recognized as the eighth bee city in the country in 2015 by Bee City USA. There are now 70 bee cities, and they provide annual reports. “These reports are bursting with inspiring stories,” says Bee City USA, “of communities planting pesticide-free habitat rich in diversity of locally native plants, discussing their community’s pest management policies with pollinators in mind, and hosting events for young and old to create awe for and greater understanding of the plant-pollinator collaboration that makes our planet bloom and fruit.”

Seattle has a few nationally recognized events happening, too, organized by the nonprofit The Common Acre:

Pollinator Field Day, June 18 @ Beacon Hill Food Forest

Save the Pollinators Symposium, June 19 @ Rainier Arts Center

Meet the Bees, June 21 @ Centro de la Raza

Help Build Pollinator Habitat, June 24 @ Duwamish River Valley

Pollinator Poster 2018 available at pollinator.org/pollinator-week.

Have a comment, suggestion, or other news tip? We’d loved to hear from you.  Email us at editors@lakeunionwatershed.com

Featured sketch by Karen Berry

It will be bad, but not that bad; all the more reason to prepare

About that big earthquake that’s coming our way, “It will be bad, but not that bad,” said Bill Steele of the University of Washington’s Pacific NW Seismic Network at an Eastlake Community Council Emergency Preparedness public meeting earlier this year.

The “not that bad” that he was referring to was the quote from The New Yorker article, by Kathryn Schulz, “The Really Big One” that went viral, where our region’s FEMA director said, “…everything west of I-5 will be toast.”

What the FEMA director meant, said Steele, is that counting on infrastructure (water, electricity, gas, phones) and, because many roads will be destroyed, access to supplies and emergency resources – that would be toast. Imagine the Colonnade collapsed, Steele said. It, along with other parts of I-5, and local roads, will likely be impassable.

In a follow-up piece, “How to stay safe when the big one comes,” Schulz discussed the impact the FEMA’s director’s quote had had and what it really meant and suggested changing the metaphor, “So a better analogy than toast,” she wrote, “is this: the Cascadia earthquake is going to hit the Pacific Northwest like a rock hitting safety glass, shattering the region into thousands of tiny areas, each isolated from one another and all extremely difficult to reach.”

And what would Lake Union do in the big one? While there won’t be a tsunami, there likely will be a seiche, a lot of sloshing, like when you tip a bowl of liquid back and forth. Steele showed a video of a swimming pool in Mexico captured on a hotel camera during a 2010 earthquake, where the water rolled violently back and forth.

Steele is all about preparing for earthquakes at least as much as we can. One of the chief things he’s working on is an emergency alert system; it could give a one- to two-minute warning about the Cascadia earthquake. Some of the warnings would be automatic, for example shutting off natural gas. Others would enable communications for stopping surgeries and transportation systems. But any kind of warning is still in the early stages, which is to say right now there would not be any warning except a lot of dogs barking.

In Seattle we sit on three potential earthquake zones. The one that strikes the most fear in people’s hearts, the one described in Kathryn Schulz’s “The Really Big One,” is on the Cascadia subduction zone and that has the potential to be bad to worse depending on how strong it turns out to be. The Cascadia zone runs from just south of Oregon up to Vancouver B.C. and is roughly from west of I-5 to the Pacific Ocean.

In the worst-case scenario, Schulz reports, FEMA is anticipating that nearly 13,000 people will die when the big one strikes – a combination of both earthquake and tsunami; another 27,000 will be injured, and over a million people will lose their homes and need immediate shelter; another two and a half million will need food and water.

But earthquakes are as unpredictable as other natural disasters, Steele said, destroying one building or road and leaving another one intact. You just don’t know.

 

“In the I-5 corridor it will take between one and three months after the earthquake to restore electricity, a month to a year to restore drinking water and sewer service, six months to a year to restore major highways, and eighteen months to restore health-care facilities,” Schulz’s writes.

With all that infrastructure gone it’s hard to imagine where to begin, but a few people around the city are doing just that – imagining – and planning. They’re forming hubs, centralized meeting places for catastrophes.

Cindi Barker a volunteer with Seattle Hubs spoke after Steele’s presentation. She began by asking people to raise their hands for what skills they have – Medical? Electrical? Plumbing? Ham Radio? Don’t have any of those skills? Not to worry – have you organized a wedding or a big Thanksgiving dinner? You have organizing skills! And if you can cook? Cooks will be needed in any large power outage for mass meal preparation.

Carpentry? Architecture? People knowledgeable in buildings will be needed to judge if a structure is safe. People who work with youth will be needed to organize activities for kids. The list goes on.

Eastlake has two designated Hubs where people can meet to organize and share information and resources – Roger’s Playfield and the P-Patch (all city P-Patches are designated Hubs). The difference between the two is that Roger’s has an organized group behind it. Whereas the P-patches will simply become gathering centers.

But right now interest in preparing for the event that may or may not happen in our lifetime is a little low. An April 28 city-wide drill did not have an Eastlake or any nearby drill location.  Amy O’Donnell one of the organizers for the Rogers group says she and a couple of other people participated in in the drill at the Ballard Hub. But it may be that word has just not gotten out well enough yet. If you’re interested in getting involved in the Eastlake Hub, contact O’Donnell at Eastlake.hub@gmail.com.

If you do nothing else, Baker said, begin stockpiling water – you can live three weeks without food but only three days without water, and stockpile any lifesaving prescriptions.

Baker said we have to assume that we could be on our own for days, perhaps weeks, without power, water, and emergency services. The city has priorities about what roads get fixed first, using the Green Gold map they use to clear snow. Known arterials, the city’s spine will need to open first. Most likely water and power will get turned on in hospitals and in the densest areas although any utilities that are easy to fix, the low hanging fruit, will also likely get fixed first no matter where they are.

The hubs will be set up for the disasters. What about using the Internet? Someone asked. “If there’s internet service,” noted Baker, “I won’t be outside in the cold and rain under a tarp with a clipboard.”

This article was first published in The Eastlake News.

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.

IMG_2958

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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