Patrick Robinson
The historic Alki Homestead, given landmark status by the City of Seattle in 1996, is up for sale. But restoring the deteriorating and fire damaged building will be a costly project.

Alki Homestead goes on the market again for $1.85 million

Owner Tom Lin still wants to see it restored

Ever since a serious fire in 2009, the Alki Homestead, the famous West Seattle landmark and former restaurant, has sat vacant and deteriorating. But the owner Tom Lin has made multiple efforts to bring it back. Designs were drawn up, meetings with the Landmark Preservation Board were held, plans were revised but little real progress was made.

Local investors inquired after Lin announced last June he wanted to sell it, and the property was withdrawn from the market while negotiations proceeded. But that deal fell through.

Now, Lin is ready to sell to any restoration minded buyer and has put it on the market again with Paragon Real Estate Advisors for $1.85 million.

It's still Lin's intention to sell it to an investor who plans to restore the building to something even better than its former glory. That means a genuine restoration but with modern amenities like ADA restrooms and possibly a modern external kitchen. There's an incentive for a new owner too. Lloyds of London who carried the insurance policy on the building will pay $435,000 damages on the fire but only if the building is "restored." Beyond that a tax credit is likely available, granted through the offices of the Washington State Dept. of Archaeology and the U.S. Dept. of the Interior.

The real issue is one of economic viability. The Homestead has 3,195 square feet on the first floor (including the present kitchen area) and 2,550 square feet on the second floor (Note: the interior of the second floor is not designated as historic since it was added later). How many dinners, banquets and rentals and at what cost would it take to service the debt in both the original acquisition cost and the estimated cost of restoration? The cost to bring it back, complete with a new external building to house a kitchen, bathrooms, an elevator and more would be in excess of $4 million including the initial building and land cost. Adding that new structure would make the floor space exceed 7500 sq. feet.

Just restoring the existing building would be $1.6 million according to Lin but it would not be viable since only limited access would be available to the second floor.

The Paragon marketing package for the Homestead contains a succinct history of the building (see the full marketing package at the link above):

The Alki Homestead was designed by Fred L. Fehren and was constructed between 1903 and 1904 to serve as a country estate for the family of Gladys and William Bernard. The Alki neighborhood of West Seattle is known historically for being the initial landing point of the Denny party and the birthplace of the city of Seattle. Mr. and Mrs. Bernard, who were prominent Seattleites, fell in love with Alki after spending several summers vacationing there and decided to build a permanent year-round residence. The Fir Lodge was built in a Rustic Style which was popular at the turn of the century and was designed to combine attributes of a summer cottage with the amenities of a thoroughly modern home. With the Fir Lodge built as their home, the Bernard’s also constructed a smaller log structure a short distance away to serve as the carriage house which still stands today and is currently the home of the Log House Museum and the headquarters of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.

In 1907, the property was sold to the Seattle Auto and Driving Club and during their ownership the property served as a rendezvous point for club members after their long drives from the city. In subsequent years, the Fir Lodge’s wooded setting was incrementally urbanized by the appearance of tourist venues and residential development and the property served as a boarding house, a veteran’s home and finally the Homestead Restaurant in 1950. From 1950 until 2009, when the property was damaged by an electrical fire, the property was occupied by the Alki Homestead Restaurant which served simple, American comfort food and was a popular gathering spot for families and a place to come together and celebrate special times. Since the closure of the restaurant, the property has sat vacant and while there is tremendous support from the community and from various heritage and preservation organizations, there is a need for new ownership and new direction to revitalize and bring life once again to this amazing piece of our history."

It's possible that a combination of other funding sources might be pursued by historic preservation groups but thus far they have appeared to be minimal since the Homestead is a private enterprise.

The Southwest Historical Society, now led by Executive Director Clay Eals, has made several statements of support for the preservation and restoration of the Homestead and released this statement:

"We at the Southwest Seattle Historical Society are encouraged that Tom Lin has engaged Paragon REA as the real-estate brokerage for Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead and that a marketing effort is under way to sell the building and property to a heritage-minded buyer.

While there has been little change in the condition of the building and property over this calendar year, we have been working behind the scenes during 2013 in our ongoing effort to facilitate and achieve the restoration of this 109-year-old landmark with integrity and practicality.

As part of that work, we have continued to draw upon the expertise of other organizations in the Seattle and regional heritage community, including Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and 4Culture.

In mid-November, representatives of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society met with Tom Lin and the two Paragon REA brokers who are marketing Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead, and we are excited to be part of this next phase of cooperation.

Our position has not wavered in the nearly five years since the January 2009 fire that damaged a portion of the building. We have offered and continue to offer to any current or future owner our support and expertise -- including assistance with any proposals to be considered by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board -- for the protection, preservation and restoration of Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead.

There is no question that Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead is a unique log structure that holds great significance for the heritage of West Seattle and Seattle as a whole. We remain confident that it can and will be saved for and enjoyed by the generations who will be here long after we all are gone.

-- Clay Eals, executive director, Southwest Seattle Historical Society

You can follow the Alki Homestead on Facebook here.

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