Patrick Robinson
Alki Homestead owner Dennis Schilling pointing to the area that was damaged in the 2009 fire, now repaired. A new log beam above him was brought in and will be painted to match the others.

SLIDESHOW: Alki Homestead remake taking shape; No completion date set but repairs are well underway

The Alki Homestead, a landmark and repository of many memories in West Seattle is slowly taking shape under the guidance of owner Dennis Schilling who officially took ownership of the historic property from Tom Lin in March of 2015.

The building, once known as the Fir Lodge was originally built in 1904.

It went through numerous changes throughout the years, including enclosing the porch, adding a second story, and an external kitchen, but it all fell into doubt when flames destroyed some of the interior and roof in a post Christmas fire in 2009.

Efforts to get approval for restoration plans were made but it wasn't until Schilling was able purchase the building and fashion a restoration plan that met with the Landmarks Preservation Board's approval that bringing the building back could move forward.

Today, two year later Schilling says, "The steelwork is done, no more steel is coming in," referring to the massive interior steel beam framework now in place that is part of the building's earthquake retrofit. The original bathrooms are being replaced by two ADA compliant bathrooms, the external kitchen steel framing is done. Logs that needed replacement have been installed and the original fireplace, which was "in terrible shape with cracks running all through it" has been carefully dismantled and will come back. The large stones that once sat atop it will not return, but the wooden mantle will be reproduced. It may not however be a functioning fireplace though a gas option is possible Schilling said.

"There actually is a foundation under the building but what we did, on the advice of an engineer, is dig down like 18 inches below the foundation and then we scooped out a little but under it and poured it so the the new foundation kind of cups underneath it and then we drilled a gazillion holes in here and epoxyed steel into the old foundation. So this is now fairly well tied together. The old foundation has been significantly upgraded."

On the list yet to be done is a lot.

That's why Schilling can't yet commit to a date for completion. "In construction it's feast or famine and right now everyone is feasting," meaning finding a sub contractor for certain specialized work has been a challenge. Specifically the electrical work including lighting and more urgently the installation of a sprinkler system, which requires a plumber with that kind of experience and the construction to make it work.

Floors need to be finished on both the main floor and the second floor where three studio apartments will be built. Not to mention the construction of the apartments over the current parking lot, which was part of the financial arrangement to make the restoration possible. Also on the list are the roof, (with skylights) and finally the iconic Alki Homestead sign.

All this and it's still unclear if The Homestead will come back as an actual restaurant.

Schilling said he's had some interested parties (they would ostensibly lease the space), and there will be a kitchen built but until he can set a more clarified date for completion, anyone else's plans, such as a company wanting to operate a restaurant there, will have to wait. He has said it might end up being an event center where weddings, meetings and other gatherings could take place.

So don't get your hopes up for the return of the famous Homestead fried chicken just yet.

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