Clay Eals, former editor of the West Seattle Herald and member of the Southwest Historical Society talks about the beginnings of the building that later became the Alki Homestead. The photo he is holding shows it as it was in 1913.
SLIDESHOW: 'This Place Matters' highlights the historic significance of Alki Homestead
Large crowd gathers for photo and video event
By Patrick Robinson and Greg McCorkle
In an event on July 4 sponsored by the Alki Loghouse Museum and Southwest Historical Society "This Place Matters" brought together politicians, and preservationists joined by community members to highlight the historic significance of the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge, a building that has been the subject of some controversy as to its operation and potential rescue over the past few years.
The building, located at 2717 61st SW, was built between 1903-1904, and is constructed of Douglas Fir logs and was originally named the Fir Lodge.
A brief history of the building can be found at HistoryLink.org.
The building became a restaurant in 1950 when it was purchased by Swend Neilson and Fred Fredricksen , who dubbed it the Alki Homestead. Walter E. and Adele Foote purchased the business in 1955 and sold it to Doris P. Nelson in 1960. It was Nelson who created created the atmosphere and theme for the Homestead that was decorated with antiques, serving family style cooking. It became famous for fried chicken dinners.
The City of Seattle, Landmarks Preservation Board, with the approval of Doris Nelson, voted to approve the designation of the Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead as a Seattle landmark on October 18, 1995. Council member Jan Drago was behind the effort to add the building to the Table of Historical Landmarks which was accomplished on August, 16, 1996.
Nelson, who died in 2004, lived on the property with her children and in fact had her ashes scattered on the propety.
In March 2006, the building was sold by the Nelson estate for $1.2 million to property developers Patrick Henly and Thomas Lin. They ran the restaurant just as Nelson had and business was reportedly good.
On January 16, a fire, linked to faulty wiring, severely damaged the building and despite the rather brief duration of the event, the fire damage and deterioration of the structure over time have made it highly expensive and problematic to repair/restore. It has stood vacant ever since.
Since that time attempts have been made to sell it and it has been inspected numerous times but no real movement has taken place to restore the historic structure.
Lin, on July 3, 2010, offered to sell the building to any local historic preservation agency for $2 million and vowed to provide an endowment in the amount of $500,000 to help fund the building's restoration. See the Herald's coverage here.
Despite the gray weather a diverse group of people gathered on the site to show their support for the preservation and restoration of the building.
In attendance were Andrea Mercado; Director of the Log House Museum, Clay Eals; member of "This Place Matters", representatives from Historic Seattle, King County 4Culture, and Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
There was the feeling of optimism in the air fueled by the up beat nature of the local residents which overcame the dreary weather.
Standing in support of the community were current King County Executive Dow Constantine, State Senator Joe McDermot, and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels -all West Seattle residents. Also in attendance was King County District 8 Council member Jan Drago.
The most poignant story of the day came from former mayor Nickels when he recounted his days as a six year old having fried chicken diners at the Homestead in the early 1960’s. “ My family was struggling and the Homestead Restaurant was a place we could come to eat and be together as a family”. Mr. Nickels also talked about the importance of history in our community-
“You have to remember where you came from”.
Photo gallery for this story