Capitol Hill Modern: Project Update

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Entrance to the Highland Condominium, photo by Lana Blinderman

Image by Lana Blinderman


Primary objectives:

1. To start identifying, researching, and photographically documenting the most notable mid-century modern multifamily residential buildings constructed on Capitol Hill between circa 1945 and the late 1970s.

2. To increase awareness and representation of this historically significant and yet consistently underrepresented period of construction on Capitol Hill within the field of historic preservation and among the general public.

Rationale for our temporal boundaries:

While mid-century modern architecture has its roots in the 1930s, we chose circa 1945 to the late 1970s because the style didn't really start taking root on Capitol Hill until after World War II with buildings like the Red Lion Apartments at 328 Bellevue Avenue E (built 1948) and appears to have continued as late as 1978 with Brutalist buildings like the Melrose East Condominiums at 150 Melrose Ave E.

Capitol Hill Boundary map, courtesy Lorn Fant

Geographical boundaries:

I-5 on the west E Roanoke Street and Interlaken Park on the north 23rd Avenue E on the east

E Madison Street, Broadway and Union on the South

Note: Most buildings will be located south of Volunteer Park and North of Pine.

Preliminary historical context statement:

On Capitol Hill, the first buildings of this style were built to house veterans returning to civilian life--many of whom likely came to live on Capitol Hill while attending the recently formed Broadway-Edison Technical School. In the late 50s and early 60s, many arose as motels (or "short-term rentals" more generally) to house the visitors of the 1962s Seattle Century 21 World's Fair and were later converted into apartments. Thereafter, they were built as long-term rentals to house the growing baby boomer generation who were coming of age in the 1960s.

This statement will shift and grow as the project progresses.

Key project events to date:

April 23 - 4Culture generously awarded us a $10,000 preservation grant.

May 7 - Process of building identification began.

May 20 - Interviewed by Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

June 28 - Featured in Capitol Hill Seattle Blog

Progress Report

Capitol Hill Modern by the numbers:

Highlighted boundary map indicating area surveyed thus far.

Area completed (yellow) ~ 530 acres or 0.8 Square Miles

Buildings identified so far - 157

Buildings constructed in 1940s - 5

Buildings constructed in the 1950s - 67

-2 constructed pre-1910, but remodeled to mid-century style

-1 demolished

Buildings constructed in 1960s - 81

Buildings constructed in the 1970s - 4

Total time - 22 hours 36 minutes Avg time per building - 8 minutes, 38 seconds

Methodology: (If you want to see some of my favorite buildings thus far, skip this section)

National Register Bulletin no 24. Courtesy Susan Boyle

As described in the U.S. Department of Interior's standards, (I get to read this physical copy thanks to my colleague and mentor Susan Boyle) reconnaissance surveys have typically been carried out by driving through neighborhoods and photographing and taking notes on buildings that appear to meet specific criteria and researching them later. (AKA a "windshield survey") However, through the power of Google street view, this part of the survey process can be carried out from home, dramatically reducing the amount of time required and the environmental impact. It also allows for the surveyor (in this case me) to research the buildings as they encounter each one and enter it into the database before continuing to the next building. Step 1: Locate Building Virtually go up and down North/South running streets in Google street view and stopping at buildings that appear Mid Century. In this case, the Red Lion Apartments at 328 Bellevue Avenue E. Now, just in case a mid-century building is hiding on an east/west street and doesn't face both streets on a corner lot like the Red Lion does, I take brief detours down the east/west streets while I go along the north/south routes.

Step 2: Verify Construction date in the building's property report on King County Parcel Viewer.

Step 3: Update existing resource or create new property.

The Wisaard database gives you the option to search for your resource (in this case the Red Lion) to see if it has already been