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Jakob Bjarnason Ceremony 5-10-17 13A

Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

It helps when you ask someone with the ability to find an ideal solution.

Last summer I’d finally sat down to read the Spring issue of the Nordic Heritage Museum’s Nordic Kultur magazine. Long a fan of this museum, I’d always been intrigued by one of their displays about an early 20th century Ballard police officer named Jakob Bjarnason.

Something about his eyes and slight smile always made me pause. There was something… whimsical and honest in those windows to the soul. Something that made me think I would have liked to have known him.

Enter page 42: Big Jake Bjarnason: The Gentle Giant by Friðrik Þór Guðmundsson. This well-written article by a relative of Bjarnason’s told the story of a respected local cop who had immigrated from Iceland. He actively worked to honor his native culture and heritage while working and helping raise his daughter’s sister. Big Jake also had a wonderful sense of humor.

Standing at well over seven feet tall, Bjarnason was an imposing presence with a heart to match. When he died suddenly in 1927, 2000 people attended his funeral. That speaks volumes. Unfortunately, his grave was marked with a small temporary marker that, local history buff John Haggem told me, cost a dollar. Haggem and others also found that the birth date listed on the marker was off by a decade.

Guðmundsson’s piece said that the marker is now covered by grass. When I read that, I got out of my chair, slapped down the magazine, and said, “That isn’t right.” It isn’t. No one should be forgotten. Especially not someone who dedicated their life to service and family. So I added “get Jake a proper marker” to my never-ending historical to-do list.

Later in the year, I contacted the Nordic Heritage Museum and Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, not knowing that others, including John Heggem, had the same idea. I asked how we could get Big Jake a proper marker. Little did I know that Officer Jim Ritter, who heads the police museum, would find an even better answer than I could have envisioned.

In short order, Officer Ritter designed a grave marker that honored Bjarnason’s service to both the Ballard and Seattle Police Departments. For those outside of the Seattle area, Ballard was its own entity until May 29th, 1907 when it was absorbed by the City of Seattle. Those against annexation flew their flags at half-mast that day. 110 years later, some of us locals still sport “Free Ballard” bumper stickers.

Quiring Monuments of Seattle donated their services to make the marker come alive. Evergreen Washelli, the Nordic Heritage Museum, the Icelandic Club of Greater Seattle, and the Washington State Archives became involved. I jokingly nicknamed this coalition Team Jakob (nod to the silly Edward vs. Jacob meme of years past).

Friðrik Þór Guðmundsson poured more heart, soul, and research into this effort. David Johnson of the Icelandic Club had me traipsing around the Crown Hill Cemetery looking for examples of 1920s Icelandic grave markers (before I knew Ritter had designed a fitting tribute). Our fabulous Washington State Archivist Steve Excell and his “cold cases don’t stand a chance” genealogy expert Dr. Jewell Lorenz Dunn focused on demolishing a brick wall that had prevented investigative journalist Guðmundsson from finding any of Big Jake’s sister’s offspring.

I and others had visited Jakob’s grave site in the cemetery. It took me a while to find his marker mid-winter as it was covered with debris again. Once found, I noted that his resting place above the Seagull Pond had a direct view of Home Depot.

I also had to get out a measuring tape because I couldn’t fathom how a man who was 7’4″ could have been buried in that spot without using his western neighbor’s head as a footrest. But once Evergreen Washelli explained it was clear that there was enough room. One thing I remain partially stymied by is finding an inside out pair of Carhartt pants nearby, but cemeteries deal with the strangest things.

In the meantime, Ritter was tapping his media contacts and setting up a day to remember. The talented Arnfridur Sigurdardottir became involved as the team’s (other) Icelandic language specialist. As things moved along, it became apparent that Evergreen Washelli, Quiring, and Officer Ritter were cooking up something special.

On April 5th, KING 5 broke the story Ballard’s ‘Big Jake’ receives overdue recognition. You can read John Heggem’s letter there. KING 5 has done a great job covering this process yet one error appeared in this account and the most recent. May 10th is Big Jake’s birthday, not the anniversary of his death. He passed away 90 years ago on October 6th.

On April 12th, the Washington State Archives disclosed that they had located living descendants of Gudridur Bjarnadottir, later known as Grace Ryan Bell, Bjarnason’s sister. All this time the relevant genealogy records on the web had been tied to a wrong person. These relatives were surprised to find out they were a part of this story and made plans to attend the May 10th ceremony at which the new marker would be dedicated.

As someone who believes that bagpipes should be part of every major life event, be it childbirth, a new car purchase, or a Bar Mitzvah, I hesitated to suggest having pipers present since Iceland seems to be the only country on earth without a history of bagpipes. I come from generations of public servants and have that background myself so it’s not a party without the pipes.

I was delighted to learn that Ritter had arranged for the Seattle Police Department Honor Guard and pipes and drums to be present. Score! This man thinks of everything. He also asked Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole to officiate. Guðmundsson, in the meantime, had contacted his newly found relatives and Team Jakob (okay, only I called it that) began inviting others.

One of the invitations went to the people who currently reside in Jakob’s home. Friðrik had shared Jakob’s registration papers from World War I and I realized the address was still valid. As a history buff, I’m used to making such cold calls and following up with supporting documentation, so I contacted the male resident. I asked if a 7’4″ man could have maneuvered well in their home. He said he’s tall and he’s never had a problem. I still wonder if Jakob had to duck through every doorway. Sadly, this neighborhood could be rezoned, which means yet another historic Ballard home could be lost to soulless boxlike condos.

Wednesday was May 10th, which would have been Big Jake’s 143rd birthday. Despite having experienced the wettest six month stretch in Seattle history with freak thunderstorms the week prior, Wednesday was a stunning sunny 70 degree day. Mother Nature was on her best behavior, bathing that morning in an almost magical glow.

At 11 A.M., Wednesday, May 10th, 2017, a crowd gathered to give Jakob Bjarnason, the Gentle Giant, the rest of his funeral, this time with a marker designed to last.

Enter the Seattle Police Pipes and Drums.

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Here Friðrik Þór Guðmundsson, who started it all and flew out from Iceland for the event, meets cousin Daniel Bell’s family for the first time. It was a joyous occasion that KING 5 captured some great video of. Bell’s family brought photos of relatives that Guðmundsson immediately recognized.

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A view of the venue before the ceremony. Evergreen Washelli always puts on classy events and donated their time and services to honor Bjarnason this day.

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The Seattle Police Honor Guard added a reverent and respectful air to the ceremony.

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While some malign bagpipes as the secret behind crop circles, there are few sounds more glorious when you are celebrating a life. Or otherwise. It stirs the blood.

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Officer Jim Ritter prepares to speak.

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Ritter pointed out that Jakob Bjarnason was practicing community-oriented policing long before it was cool. He knew his community, he was involved in his community, and his community respected him for it.

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Friðrik and Daniel, together at last, listen to Ritter speak about their uncle. One of the men who made this possible, John Heggem, is in the foreground. I later learned that John’s mother and other relatives are buried just a hop, skip, and a jump from Big Jake. For Jake, that could be just a couple of strides.

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Chief Kathleen O’Toole addresses the audience.

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Friðrik’s turn. He gave a rousing speech about his Uncle Jakob, pronouncing his name Yah-cawb as the Icelanders say.

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The man of the hour, Jakob Bjarnason himself. The Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum owns this bust of Big Jake. Evidently the matching set of Jake’s hands is missing. Anyone have a couple of giant plaster hands in their attic?

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It’s possible that Bjarnason’s original funeral could have looked very much like this.

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Jakob at the microphones. Having “him” there added depth to the celebration of his life. It already felt like he was looking down upon this smiling and “his” presence made that more real.

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Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Officer Ritter present Friðrik and Daniel with an American flag.

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Friðrik explained that because Daniel is more closely related to Jakob, he would offer the flag to him.

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The moment arrives… the Evergreen Washelli crew backed their tractor into position to place the permanent marker.

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Jakob’s bust watches the marker’s placement from the podium.

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Friðrik and Daniel peel back the protective plastic to reveal Quiring’s amazing craftsmanship.

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The Honor Guard looks on.

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Jakob appears to admire the handiwork.

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One of these officers said he had served the City of Seattle for 47 years!

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Not only did Arnfridur Sigurdardottir read a poem in Icelandic written by Jakob’s neighbor, but local Icelanders attended as well.

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This is what teamwork looks like. Well done, Seattle PD and associates.

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Bonus: Ritter drove an original 1970 Plymouth Seattle Police cruiser to the event. Some of us got a kick out of discussing the particulars and asking him to pop the hood later. Evidently the car was located out of state and brought back to Seattle.

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Here it is… the culmination of months of hard work. Now visitors will know who Officer Bjarnason is. When you live a life of honest service, people will remember you nearly a century after you die. And beyond.

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Post-ceremony, Friðrik gives another interview in this idyllic setting.

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Evergreen Washelli had clear signage everywhere including on the way to the indoor reception.

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Cool cake! The inside was marbled with what appeared to be several different flavors. Thank you again to Evergreen Washelli for hosting this.

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Daniel is holding a copy of the essay Jakob wrote just before dying courtesy of the Nordic Heritage Museum. It was explained that Jakob was a contributor to the local Icelandic journal and was expounding upon his belief that Leif Erikson was Icelandic, not Norwegian.

Feeling unwell, he went into the bathroom to shave, probably to prepare for a doctor visit. He collapsed and died of heart trouble. He was only 53 years old.

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The Gentle Giant’s birthday ride. One of his relatives, looking in the window, quipped, “He can’t possibly be 7’4″!”

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And so the festivities ended. Generous donations and Team Captain Jim Ritter made this a day to remember. Please check out KING 5’s feature Descendants travel far and wide to honor legendary Seattle police officer.

Iceland

Translation:

I pray I may rest
where the priests and the best
of farmers have trod,
with faith in God
and themselves strong as stone —
as strong as my own! —
and where life flows bright
amid bounties of light.

-Icelandic poet Jónas Hallgrímsson, Home

Happy Birthday Big Jake. You’ve certainly given those who’ve come after you some mighty big shoes to fill.

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Update: Friday, May 12th. We were having to pack up our desks at work for a move. I pulled a pair of seldom-used work gloves out of my bottom filing cabinet drawer and gasped when I saw what they said.

You’re welcome.

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*************************************************************************************Disclaimer: This is a personal, nonprofit blog and it is not endorsed by any participants in this project or parties in this story. I do hope that the museums and organizations mentioned will benefit from their roles in this amazing project. 

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©2017 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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On Wednesday, August 17th, Kirkland, Washington’s Trueblood House was moved around the corner to a temporary location until a buyer can be found. KIRO News had their helicopter in the air for the actual move and cameras on the ground.

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The move began at 11 A.M. It was supposed to take up to three hours. By the time I arrived at 11-something, the house was already in its new location and crews were putting the lines back up that had been taken out of the way.

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This is a historic home in need of a savior. It housed Kirkland’s first doctor and has been nicely maintained.

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The speed of these linemen gave me an even greater appreciation for how hard they work during storms to restore service.

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And there she is, sitting on a truck trailer until she can be set down and fenced off.

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Not something you see every day…

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Somehow this reminded me of the house in Up. How many balloons would you have to tie to that to get it airborne, anyway?

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The rich blue of the house and the golden yellow of the truck was a beautiful contrast on a sunny day.

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Nothing fell out from underneath… there were just some cobwebs and slightly rumpled insulation.

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Planters were still sitting on the back porch like, “nuttin’ to see here… move along…”

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The windows all seemed to remain intact including the stained glass beauty in the front.

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Bucket trucks abounded.

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Note the dangling porch post on the right. The porch had to be otherwise supported.

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She’s made it this long, folks… as long as Washington’s been a state. Let’s keep her alive.

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It was a little surreal to see a gate to nowhere. Although it could be a gate to a magical fairy garden…

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Imagine how nice this would look on that vacant piece of land you don’t know what to do with. Yep, this provides just the right ambiance for family holidays.

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The truck that made the massive haul.

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In a way, wouldn’t it be fun to just drive this around town, hanging out the windows and waving at people?

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Lots of things had to be pieced back together.

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The neighborhood seemed to have a little party going on. The now previous owners of the Trueblood home worked to save it and are pleased that they will be able to build their family a new home.

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That’s where the Trueblood House was.

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More great work by Frontier and the cable guys. No poles had to be taken down, they just moved some lines.

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And there she sits until someone buys her. At 1400-some square feet, she’s not small. She has an amazing story and will provide shelter and joy for years to come if a caring old home lover adopts her.

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Fantastic job everyone!

She’ll have to move again, but hopefully it will be the last time. She is part of a dying breed; some historic homes in Kirkland aren’t even protected and can be torn down at will.

For $116,500– and a little land and some moving expenses– the Trueblood House can be yours.

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A real building is one on which the eye can light and stay lit. -Ezra Pound

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

 

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Trueblood House 8-16-16 1

Tomorrow, August 17th, 2016, at 11 A.M., the 1889 Trueblood House in Kirkland, Washington is going to move a block or so. The power lines in front will come down and it will be carefully rolled forward to 7th Avenue between two poles, one of which already has a pronounced lean.

The owner offered to give the house to anyone who can move it. He plans to build a larger home on the site. There seem to be a few potential buyers talking to the moving company, but for now, the house is being moved around the corner to a temporary location very close to where it was built.

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Want a cool old house? Make an offer.

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Bothell Fire KING 5

Bothell Fire, July 22nd, 2016 from KING 5 News

Yesterday, in the early morning hours of July 22nd, several explosions were heard in the area of 102nd and Main Street. Neighbors looked out their windows to find the historic Mercantile Building, which was being expanded into multistory apartments, engulfed in flames.

Morning traffic reports warned drivers that State Route 522 was shut down near Kaysner Way. Nearly 100 firefighters from Bothell and neighboring agencies including Kirkland, Northshore, Woodinville, and Redmond converged on a three-alarm fire that was being spread by wind.

If you know Bothell, Washington, you probably think of its quaint downtown core before you think of the bigger name stores further north and east. Rows of older buildings line Main Street for blocks with, for the most part, no separation between them. Banks, pubs, a clothing store, a furniture store, art galleries, antique shops, and various eateries create a small town feel despite massive new construction nearby.

Midday a trip down 522 showed warning signs that something was wrong.

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Power and internet were knocked out in parts of downtown by the fire. Crews worked hard to restore service.

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The fire continued to smolder. The stench of burning building blanketed the air. Note the crane at the left. More on that soon.

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Today crowds gathered downtown to make sense of what had just happened. Bothell Public Works had an eductor truck on Main Street. These vehicles are like giant vacuums and are often used to clean out storm drains. There was a great deal of foam and debris to clean up and the Sammamish Slough is just down the hill.

I’d heard Alexa’s Cafe was damaged but am not sure. So far I haven’t heard the same about the Three Lions Pub immediately to the right. It was open and looked intact.

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Looking east down the north side of Main Street.

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Seeing this sale sign made me realize how hard some of these businesses are going to be fighting to stay alive. Some might be done for.

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Approaching ground zero on the southwest corner of 102nd and Main. This is what’s left of the Kozy Corner Cafe and the poor trees around it.

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This is (was) the Mercantile Building, recently rechristened The Mercantile as its interior was gutted and rebuilt to support the residential units on top of it. Most locals agree this is where the fire started and many suspect that it was arson although there have been no official reports to that effect yet. The bridge and senior center nearby are okay.

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Fires are strange. Some things burn, others don’t. This particular tree actually looked less singed than others despite the intense heat right next to it.

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The crane being used on The Mercantile project melted.

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Bothell Fire still had a truck on scene.

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Note the melted Honey Buckets.

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Someone I was talking to said, “look at the bushes behind us.” Despite being across the street, the bushes were crispy, including the rhodie to the left.

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Looking up Main to the east towards Sundance Energy, which I originally heard was destroyed, then heard was saved.

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The driveway to the back of the Logsdon Building was closed. Lynn Logsdon, the dear woman who owns the building, was kind enough to fill me in on the conditions of some of the buildings around hers. Hers, despite being right across the street, was unscathed. I know that prayers often go out for the safety of this place.

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From the west side, the First Lutheran Church with its beautiful cross appeared to be undamaged.

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Walking around the block, I found a crowd gathered at Sundance Energy, which is temporarily operating out of a different location. Across the street is the Frontier building which sounds like is a loss. I was surprised to see the two propane tanks on the front of that trailer intact given some other damage farther north on the property.

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From Sundance, which is uphill from 102nd, you could see the roof of the Mercantile Building.

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The landscaping along Main was decimated and the Wells Fargo signs melted.

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Note the damage to the trailer. I’m not sure what the charred pieces are in the background.

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The Mercantile across the street.

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The roof is just a mess. It’s obvious how hot the fire was.

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The front of Sundance’s property looks like an ebony moonscape.

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Nobody’s going to be using that picnic table or… barbeque (?) again.

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Sundance will need community support to get back up and running. They are housed in older buildings that I’m amazed weren’t lost.

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There appeared to be pry marks on the door, likely from the firefighters’ entry.

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Sundance wisely had some literature about their services on a table. Note how the table is warped and pitted from the heat and embers.

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The roof on this back building was damaged more than the others.

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Wow. This recycling bin was a significant distance from Main Street. It could have been moved, but it seemed to be in its logical place next to the dumpster.

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Zulu’s was one of the businesses damaged by the fire. Two other area businesses are donating their proceeds on July 25th and 27th to help them and the Kozy Corner. Some of us lookie loos decided to go in for a beverage and one woman bought jalapeno poppers for the group. Strangers might not normally talk to each other in this area, but today, we were family.

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The Frontier building. Note the van from the disaster recovery company and the damage along the right roof line. We discussed how many under 30 might not know what that blue and white box is for other than recognizing it as something Dr. Who rides around in.

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Everything is closed. Don’t even try. Police and security are maintaining an active presence on this stretch.

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More charred remains from the front of Sundance Energy.

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Bothell Public Works had multiple vehicles on scene and by all accounts did a knockout job during and after this event. It’s not just Public Safety who handles emergencies. Public Works is always close behind.

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Looking out at Zulu’s deck with its awning still curiously intact.

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Water damage inside Zulu’s.

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Zulu’s had the best view of the Mercantile’s roof. There are hot spots to the right and left.

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Upon closer examination, Zulu’s tent was pitted with holes from the fire.

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The Mercantile’s roof looks like it was hit by a bomb.

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Fried foliage, cooked crane.

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The view to the west over the fence at Zulu’s.

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A lot of businesses have had to air out their buildings.

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One little pot of fake flowers was still standing behind Sundance as if in defiance of the fire.

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People of all ages gathered to talk this through and see the smoke. We all probably went home smelling like it too.

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Wells Fargo was damaged as well.

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The first evidence that something was amiss at First Lutheran.

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A closer view. But they’re coming back tomorrow.

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Being a Public Safety-Public Works hybrid, I remain amazed at how quickly my cohorts can mobilize and organize at times like these.

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Still working hard 38 hours after the place exploded. We literally have some of the best first responders on Planet Earth here.

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Good job. Often passed by without a second thought, we are reminded of how important our fire hydrants are at times like these. Some have stood as sentinels for decades.

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It’s just not something you see every day. Soon after, a couple of Bothell firefighters came walking up the street and we all gave them a hearty round of applause. I wish we could have done the same for the Public Works crews inside their sweepers and Vactors.

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It’s therapeutic to meet people and compare notes. You can tell who the engineers are.

Per my education I instinctively listen for those who seem to know too much about the particulars. We don’t know that this was arson, but some arsonists like to return to the scene to gloat over their work or brag about their knowledge. There are different motivations for arson and various types of arsonists, but a small subset experience a high similar to sex from setting fires. I considered those deviants, the thrill seeker type, the revenge seekers, the wannabe heroes, and the profiteering types after being here.

I realized later I was in behavioral profiling mode, noting who was where and how they were feeling. All seemed like concerned locals or business owners. No one stood out.

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Singed beauty.

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One man pointed out that besides the obvious damage to Wells Fargo, the ATM had bubbled.

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The remaining highest point of the Kozy Corner. Two women told me how they’d just moved their bridal store business out of the upstairs and some friends moved into that space.

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It was surreal to see only the O in the open sign left and hanging down in front of a dangling TV.

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More survivors.

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Returning to the antiques store, which did have to be aired out, there was no trace of smoke inside. It was strangely normal compared to the carnage just outside.

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The first booth I walked into had this Fire! Fire! book front and center. There’s some irony. The proprietor confirmed that the book was coincidentally in that spot before the fire started.

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Now this is appropriate. How firefighters protect people and property.

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These “open for business” banners were everywhere. Some businesses stayed open late because of the people roaming downtown to see the fire. I strongly suspect that Larry and Susie Ormbrek of Sign Up, Sign Co. are behind the speedy production and distribution of these banners.

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Bothell is a well-loved place with a lot of supporters. Mills Music, by the way, survived. The clothing store space, Banner Bank, and another building adjacent to the Kozy Corner are said to have water damage even though they look okay from the outside. A wall of the Kozy Corner is tilted towards the clothing store as well.

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It is truly amazing how much of Main Street was saved. Two or three blocks could have been lost had it not been for some epic teamwork. The damage is stunning as well, but it could have been exponentially worse. The fact that it was contained as well as it was is a testament to the training and caliber of our local fire departments.

Please patronize local businesses and keep an eye on the Bothell Chamber of Commerce website for fundraisers and ways to support the community. They have this posted already:

Day of Support for Bothell’s Kozy Corner Cafe and Zulu’s Board Game Café
Beardslee Public House and Wildwood Spirits Co. would like to announce
a Kozy Corner Café and Zulu’s Board Game Café Day of Support July 25 & 27. 

All profits from Beardslee Public House on Monday, July 25 and all profits from
Wildwood Spirits Co. on Wednesday, July 27 will be given to the owners of the
Kozy Corner Café and Zulu’s Board Game Café to help them rebuild. 

Twitter has continual updates and some jarring video.

There is a GoFundMe page for the Kozy Corner, whose staff is now unemployed.

Bothell has a long road back to normal but they’ll stay afloat. They always do, as a community and city, as this mural suggests. Whether all of the 20 or so businesses impacted by this fire do remains to be seen.

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Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. -Scott Adams

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Union Jack

Kudos to my British cousins for putting their national security and therefore the well-being of their own people first, which is the foremost duty of a civilized nation.

Cue Andrew Roberts in the Wall Street Journal (h/t NWO):

Surely—surely—this is an issue on which the British people, and they alone, have the right to decide, without the intervention of President Obama, who adopted his haughtiest professorial manner when lecturing us to stay in the EU, before making the naked threat that we would be sent “to the back of the queue” (i.e., the back of the line) in any future trade deals if we had the temerity to vote to leave.

Was my country at the back of the line when Winston Churchill promised in 1941 that in the event of a Japanese attack on the U.S., a British declaration of war on Japan would be made within the hour?

Were we at the back of the line on 9/11, or did we step forward immediately and instinctively as the very first of your allies to contribute troops to join you in the expulsion of the Taliban, al Qaeda’s hosts, from power in Afghanistan?

Or in Iraq two years later, was it the French or the Germans or the Belgians who stood and fought and bled beside you? Whatever views you might have over the rights or wrongs of that war, no one can deny that Britain was in its accustomed place: at the front of the line, in the firing line. So it is not right for President Obama now to threaten to send us to the back of the line.

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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St. Edward 1

Just across a shining sea from the Emerald City, up a meandering path through an enchanted forest, sits a castle.

Ages ago, an order of religious men built this castle to train their priests. It had a divine purpose. There they lived and worked.

Decades passed, and almost half a century later, its original purpose waning, a large governing council purchased the fortress and its surrounding land to give to the people for their enjoyment.

But as is the case with many kingdoms whose rulers write more checks than their subjects can cash, funds to maintain the grand old building were sparse.

The castle fell into disrepair. The people flocked to its large lawn and acres of woods and the local wild animals were grateful for the safe haven as much of the rest of their world was being torn apart by development. But inside the great walls, the elements were seeping in to slowly break the building down.

Rescue attempts were formulated and discussed. Councilors and merchants tried their hand at daring plans to salvage the most iconic piece of architecture in the area. But the people could not agree on whether their money should be spent trying to save this landmark or if they should allow the merchants into the enchanted forest to ply their trade.

Here we are. And there she stands, unsteady but proud, water damaged but determined to survive, waiting patiently for a savior.

Ten years ago, I finally gained access to the building during an emergency exercise. As a medical team leader in an earthquake drill similar to the one occurring right now, Cascadia Rising, I was triaging “patients” as all the faults of the building started jumping out me. “Get those people away from the window,” I remember saying, because in a strong earthquake the vintage glass would rain down on the victims.

But there was more. The obvious water issues. The bits and pieces coming loose. The suspicious old pipes beside and above. Strange spots on the ceiling. Peeling paint and creepy radiators. A general state of disrepair despite the resident park rangers doing everything they could with what they had. Most of the building was and still is off limits. They don’t give tours. They say it’s for safety reasons. I like to believe they have a dragon living in the basement.

The castle of which I speak is the St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Washington. High on a hill above Lake Washington in the middle of a  300 plus-acre state park, it is one of the most historically significant buildings in the area. Kenmore doesn’t have a lot of notable historic buildings and in an era where quaint old homes with spacious yards are being razed to accommodate soulless oversized boxes, the park is a much-needed refuge.

Throughout the park are trails of varying degrees of difficulty. There are ball fields. There’s an amazing playground and a grotto where weddings are held. It has medieval-looking stone benches and a sort of combination pizza oven/sacred altar. When my cousin’s boyfriend proposed to her there, she started screaming in glee, and two men came running through the woods to rescue her.

Weddings are held there and in the seminary. The city holds summer concerts on the expansive lawn. Cultural and community groups gather for celebrations. Generations of families have played in the park. At night bats and birds, eagles and deer, raccoons and squirrels go to sleep amongst the trees after the humans have left.

Washington State Parks, the state agency the land and building belong to, has been up front that there are no public funds to save the seminary. In a series of public meetings, they’ve solicited community input as to whether private investors should be involved or the building mothballed or torn down. They’ve cited the millions of dollars it would take to restore and retrofit the building. A wall could be left up as a monument, they’ve said, but to remove this iconic piece of architecture would be to rip out the heart and soul of the park.

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Citizens have many passionate opinions on whether to save the St. Edward Seminary. A few show up at public meetings with their torches and pitchforks to disrupt, to criticize the government, to be heard, to pontificate. The ever-vigilant Kenmore police chief Cliff Sether has had to intervene at least once at community meetings. But most local residents respectfully voice their legitimate concerns about how a building of this size and age can be best handled in one of the last best wooded pieces of the sprawling Seattle suburbs.

It’s crystal clear that the building cannot be saved without private intervention. McMenamins tried. There was some sort of tech company that got involved. St. Edward’s next door neighbor Bastyr University had an interest for a time. Citizens have brainstormed ideas on how to raise enough money to save the building but keep it in the public’s hands. So far the only idea that sounds halfway logical belongs to Kevin Daniels.

Who’s Kevin Daniels? If you’ve heard of Starbucks Center, Merrill Place, Union Station, or the Frye Art Museum, you know Kevin Daniels. Kevin is a soft-spoken real estate guru who has a genuine passion for preserving historic buildings. A couple of his projects have been so ambitious that given the requirements and regulations involved you might look at him and say, “dude, you’re crazy.” But Daniels and his team have plans for St. Edward, and while it’s not the absolutely ideal use of the building, right now it’s the only practical way to save it.

Someone asked Daniels recently why he’d want to buy a shuttered Depression-era concrete building with quirks like internal gutters and he offered several solid answers. Most notably, he was married on the grounds. The seminary is exactly the kind of the project that he dives into and wrestles through until every detail is resolved to his (and the government’s) satisfaction. He has faced rampant rumors and open disrespect but remains willing to attend community meetings to address concerns from all sides.

Specifically, Daniels wants to turn the seminary building into a lodge-style hotel and restaurant. The restaurant would be accessible to the general public, and for us public utilities aficionados, yes, he plans to voluntarily install an appropriate grease interceptor to help protect the grounds. This would make the seminary the gathering place it was intended to be when Washington State Parks purchased it all in 1976. The hotel would have its own parking and there would be a cooperative effort to ensure that parks visitors stay in their allotted parking and vice versa.

Citizens have expressed concerns about the increase in visitors to the park and the possibility of drunk people stumbling around where their children play. There are traffic concerns. There will be environmental impacts. There are questions as to how many dump trucks full of debris will be headed down Juanita Drive through Kirkland since Kenmore’s bridges across the Sammamish Slough in the other direction need millions of dollars of help themselves. Kudos to Mayor Dave Baker for his work on the bridge upgrades, by the way. Trump can make a deal? Ha. Baker can.

Daniels assures people that all of this is being studied and they will have numbers to present to the public. The public has also been assured that events can still be held on the grand lawn, like concerts and the Skandia Midsommarfest. While it’s possible there could be a few drunk rowdy people, that’s what law enforcement is for, whether that winds up being the park rangers on the premises or the local police. Leasing out the seminary as a hotel is a leap of faith as far as a business venture, but it is going to allow the building to become a public gathering spot, and you bet park goers will stop for a drink or a bite. Daniels also plans to acquire the 10 acres at the northwest corner of the park that everyone trespasses on now. It will become park land, saving it from becoming more soulless boxes with no yards.

My family has Finn Hill roots– Finn Hill being the name of the 400-foot high half-Kirkland, half-Kenmore mini-mountain St. Edward sits on– and if someone randomly asked me what I thought about making the seminary building a hotel, I’d scoff. As a conservative highly protective of plants and animals, my knee jerk reaction might be, “that’s crazy.” Even after learning of Daniels’ plan, I had my reservations. A hotel in the middle of a state park? Would that just invite trash and bad behavior and elitist out of towners who freak out when they see the woodland creatures many of us are used to?

Then I learned Chris Moore approved of the Daniels Real Estate plan. He and his team have been handing out orange “Save Our Seminary” t-shirts, a great way to raise awareness. That was the tipping point for me. Moore, Executive Director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, is the guy you must know if you care at all about historic buildings in our state.

Moore is the expert I email any time I hear of an issue with an old building because he inevitably is willing to talk to the owner or knows somebody who can facilitate a discussion about how to circle the wagons to save it. Somebody wants to tear down a theater in Everett? Somebody’s renovating the Kirkland Cannery? What’s going on with that historic house the developer might tear down? He has his finger on the pulse of the historic preservation in our region and really knows his business. So for him to have combed through the details of Daniels’ seminary plans and come out with a very public “yes” was exactly what I needed to know.

The government doesn’t have enough of our money to make this happen and has many other matters to attend to right now, namely making our crumbling public infrastructure a priority. My gut tells me the Daniels plan to turn Kenmore’s castle into a hotel and restaurant is its last chance. Is there any other money on the table? Is there another developer out there with this kind of vision? Is there someone else as tolerant and patient as Daniels willing to be put through the wringer for crimes he never committed?

A discussion of the seminary is not complete without addressing some of the feelings community members have about the Catholic church’s victimization of children. It has been discovered that a group of priests who came out of that seminary were responsible for child molestation. They were– and perhaps still are– shameless predators who need to be held fully accountable for the violation of innocents. A few people see the seminary as a monument to pedophilia and believe it should be torn down. Some believe a high degree of penance is in order.

But Washington State Parks is not responsible for that. The City of Kenmore is not responsible for that. Daniels Real Estate is not responsible for that. The St. Edward Seminary is being given a fresh start. It has an opportunity to be reborn. It is being reinvented and repurposed. This is a victory over whatever darkness came out of it before. This is also a prime opportunity for the Archdiocese of Seattle to specifically address what happened and detail what’s being done to bless the survivors. Windows long closed will open. Doors propped shut decades ago can be torn down. It’s time for walls, both literal and metaphorical, to be demolished so that the light can get back in.

Ultimately, this hasn’t been a seminary for a long time and any negative history should not stop revitalization attempts. It should instead encourage them. I understand why people feel so strongly about this, but if what was once used as a curse can be forged into a blessing, let’s seize that opportunity. With proper law enforcement and community cooperation, this building can become a happy place. Besides its recreational use, we never know, in an age of power grid hacking, possible EMPs, and lurking war, what purpose that building might serve in an emergency. I suspect it has a greater importance. In time we will know.

It’s taken 40 years for the right leadership and money to come along to morph this brick beauty into the people-friendly place State Parks intended it to be. While I don’t know if the local clergy would bless a place where alcohol is served, why not invite priests and pastors from local churches to bless the reborn building? This could be done during a grand opening celebration to which the whole community is invited. A grand opening celebration could also be an opportunity to raise funds for survivors or to collect goods or donations for local charities.

If this plan goes sideways, I would likely be among its first critics. I am fiercely protective of local wildlife and yes, staunch conservatives can also be tree huggers. As a coworker of mine pointed out, knowing how I feel about the local environment and how we’re driving the wild animals out, it says something that I can live with this plan. Increasingly locals are complaining about how many small furry mammals there are outside or how inconvenient trees are (they cause yard work). I wonder why they don’t go live in a flat lifeless desert if the Pacific Northwest’s natural environment causes them so much angst. The trees and animals were here first. Some of us Puget Sounders like it that way.

Again, I wish State Parks could make that building into an amazing conference center or something more public, but they can’t, so Daniels seems to have the next best solution. To save Kenmore’s castle, there has to be some give and take. No one’s going to get everything they want. Kevin Daniels has been very open and very fair, plus he’s already chalked up some major successes with similar projects. If you have questions, ask him. If you feel that city council members need to provide facts or figures, email them. If you know of a way to help, speak up. This process and all information must be transparent. With a project this controversial, there is no room for secrets. There can be no surprises.

Once upon a time, a derelict castle on a hill was given new life. The demons of the past were purged. The yellowed tapestries were replaced with new works of art. Its walls were braced, its roof reinforced, its deep places dried out. Leaders dreamed of tomorrow over their meals. Locals and guests strolled in and out, finding a new unity in a central gathering place. Conversations and ideas were born. Coalitions formed to ensure proper protection of the non-human residents on the grounds and that extended into cooperative efforts deeper in the community.

Can you see it?

With a little cooperation, diplomacy, and transparency, the castle can be given a new song.

The heart of the park can beat again.

St. Edward 3

I call architecture frozen music. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Daniels Real Estate’s plans for the seminary can be found here.

Thank you to Daniels Real Estate, the Kenmore City Council, Washington State Parks, Friends of St. Edward’s, The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and various community groups for their work to find a mutually beneficial solution.

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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Tonight the unmistakable crunch of backhoe on wood and metal led to taking these last intact photos of the house on the northeast corner of 10th and Market in Kirkland.

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This dated home, 4 10th Avenue, was built in 1955 according to King County records. Next door to some swanky newer buildings, it’s sat empty for a while and seemed to be an unkempt rental house before that. I’d often thought about how cute it would be with a little care. Every year blackberries explode near the curb and hang over the sidewalk.

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Once upon a time, a World War II veteran and his industrious wife raised three children here or so I would like to believe. You could imagine the laughter within the walls and the stories the previous occupants could tell. Now it looks like three days after an EMP attack when neighbor begins to turn on neighbor in a quest to survive.

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The backhoe stopped for a moment to allow a direct glimpse into the carnage. While the condition of the property has long been out of character in what’s become an expensive, attractive neighborhood, it’s still depressing to see it go. Most of the older homes around here are being torn down and even some historic homes nearby are in danger of being lost forever.

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The older homes like this that are being lost are often replaced with much larger multistory boxlike structures that don’t have the character of the originals. This demolition is also a reminder of the loss of affordable housing in the region.

To many leaders, affordable housing is packing human beings like sardines into apartment buildings with little noise protection or privacy. Not terribly long ago, affordable housing was actually being able to buy a quaint little house with a yard for your kids and large dog to play in. Now the middle class struggles to even achieve that as they are tapped to subsidize others’ housing.

Average rent in Seattle for a one bedroom unit is over $1600 now. The median home price is over $550,000. That’s more than half a million. It’ll burst at some point, and then we’ll be asking why we built monstrosities with 2000 more square feet than we actually needed. On treeless lots, unnecessarily destroying wildlife habitat, while we claim to be so environmentally sensitive.

And quirky little ’50s homes with trees and bushes and a little garden in the back will start looking mighty appealing again. If there are any left.

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There is something permanent, and something extremely profound, in owning a home. -Kenny Guinn

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©2016 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

 

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