Thursday, January 3, 2008

Remember the Hat 'n Boots?

There has to be a better way. I came across the article below describing how Seattle's landmark committee is considering designating the Ballard Denny's as a historical landmark (Apparently due to its architecture, not the food). After spending the summer in Europe, I cannot deny that unusual buildings, architecture, history, etc. should be preserved.

However, while I was reading this article, the only thing that I kept thinking about was the decline of the Hats 'n Boots in Georgetown. Recently, the pair of kitchy loos have been moved to a Georgetown park where they are undergoing renovation. I can't help feeling that this would have been a much better move 15 years ago before the Hat 'n Boots property sat vacant, the structures declined in condition, and were ongoing targets of vandalism.

When something's historical past is not tied to its geography, such as the architecture of the Ballard Denny's, then, if feasible, it should be moved to another location where it can be appreciated and protected without tying the hands of the property owner who unwittingly purchased the property before its designation as a landmark.


Landmarks board: Former Ballard Denny's worth saving

If affirmed, status would block planned demolition

Thursday, January 3, 2008
Last updated 9:51 a.m. PT


Old Ballard Denny's


The restaurant at 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street in Ballard was built in 1964 as Manning's Cafeteria. An example of "Googie" architecture, it is shown here the day after reopening as a Denny's in 1984.

The boarded-up former Denny's Restaurant in Ballard deserves protection as a Seattle landmark, or at least serious consideration for landmark status, a city board decided on Wednesday.

The owners of the building, at the corner of 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street, have a deal to sell it to developer Rhapsody Partners, which has applied to replace it with an eight-story building that would contain retail space and 261 homes. The owners applied for landmark review only to head off a possible nomination down the road.

But the Landmark Preservation Board voted 8-1 Wednesday to move forward with the nomination and, if the board affirms the decision at its Feb. 6 meeting, demolition would be blocked.

Some board members cast their votes seeking more information about the building, but most seemed more decisive.

"There's absolutely no doubt in my mind (that) it's a local visual landmark," board member Stephen Lee said. "This is such a profound sculptural element in our community."

Larry Johnson, the Seattle architect who prepared the nomination for the building's owners, said it is an example of "Googie" style architecture, which got its name from a Sunset Strip coffee shop designed in 1949, and was notable for flamboyant elements designed to attract passing motorists. The building started in 1964 as Manning's Cafeteria and then was a Denny's from 1984 until September.

Johnson argued that many of the building's original Googie elements were lost and, even if the building were in its original condition, it would not be distinctive enough to warrant landmark designation.

Louie Richmond, a spokesman for Rhapsody Partners, was more blunt in his assessment of the building.

"I find it very, very depressing," he said outside of the meeting. "I find it very, very ugly."

But other architects and Seattle residents say the building is an important work by a noted architect, Clarence Mayhew, a distinctive part of the community and a part of the history of Manning's Cafeteria, which expanded to more than 40 franchises on the West Coast before folding in the 1970s.

"It was very much about pop culture, but that doesn't mean it's not significant," said Eugenia Woo, a board member of Documentation and Conservation of the Modern Movement in Western Washington, which supported the landmark nomination.

The restaurant "is one of the best of perhaps a half-dozen Googie survivors in the region," Alan Michelson, the head of the Architecture and Urban Planning Library at the University of Washington, wrote in a report to the board. "It remains an important artifact of the automobile era in the U.S., and its vibrant, space-age forms crystallized the era's enthusiasm and faith in commerce and technology."

After the meeting, a representative of the building's owners expressed confidence the board would ultimately decide against making it a landmark.

"This is an eyesore and a decrepit building that should be torn down and replaced," said Marc Nemirow, a senior executive with the Benaroya Co., which leads the partnership that owns the building.

He declined to speculate on what the owners might do if the board affirms the nomination, saying: "We don't have a Plan B."


The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board is scheduled to make a final decision Feb. 6 on the landmark designation of the former Denny's and Manning's Cafeteria in Ballard. The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. in Room 4060 of Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Ave. Details:

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