Patrick Robinson
Holding up a photo of the Alki Homestead as it originally looked, Southwest Historical Society Exec. Director Clay Eals spoke at a press conference announcing the sale of the historic building and the tentative plans to restore it. At left are former owner Tom Lin and new owner Dennis Schilling.

Alki Homestead sold and on a path for restoration; Project requires apartments to be built next door

The Alki Homestead is hopefully on its way to being restored. At a press conference held at West Seattle's Log House Museum the announcement of the sale of the historic building was made on March 14.

New owner Dennis Schilling said he bought the building from Tom Lin because it's interesting and challenging. "Why do something that's mundane or boring?"

The sale of 1904 log building, first known as Fir Lodge and for the past 65 years as the Alki Homestead restaurant, was closed on Friday, March 13.

Schilling, who does not know how long restoration will take, is consulting with a structural engineer before taking the first hands-on steps at restoration, and he is studying a variety of uses for the Alki Homestead, including reopening a restaurant there, once it is habitable. "I've had suggestions that it be an event center and other things so we shall see. You don't want me running a restaurant," he said. If it does go ahead as a restaurant it would be leased to another operator for that purpose.

"I may hit some roadblocks along the way," said Schilling who was surprised at the turnout for the press conference, "so don't call me a hero yet."

A Mercer Island resident who restored the Shoremont apartment building on Alki Avenue Southwest in 2012, Schilling entered into contract with Lin to purchase Alki Homestead last December.

A crucial factor in his decision to close the transaction was an agreement he forged with the Southwest Seattle Historical Society to modify the easement the historical society holds for the Alki Homestead parking lot.

The historical society board has agreed that Schilling can use part of the parking lot to build an apartment building of up to six units to help him finance the restoration. The agreement is contingent on Schilling’s restoration of the Homestead guided by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board.
Eals was asked if the neighbors had been consulted or included in the process of understanding the impact of yet another apartment building going up. He said the primary goal was to "keep our eyes on the prize" of restoring the Homestead. Schilling made clear that the apartments, something he has wide experience in, are a fundamental part of the project since it would not be financially feasible without them.

The agreement leaves the historical society with a scaled-down number of parking spaces for use by staff for the nearby museum.

In January 2009, a portion of the interior of Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead was damaged by an electrical fire, and the building has been closed and dormant since then.

“We are thrilled that the Alki Homestead will be brought to life again,” said Marcy Johnsen, president of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. “We are grateful that Dennis Schilling has stepped forward to restore this treasure, and we thank everyone who has aided this quest, including the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen and our Alki Homestead coalition partners at Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and 4Culture.”

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