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Seattle’s Chinatown-International District

Status: In the works!

Year Listed: 2022

Location: Seattle, King County

Located in the heart of Seattle, the Chinatown-International District (C-ID) has a long and rich history dating back to the late 1800s. Chinese immigrants first came to the region in the late 19th century to work in the booming lumber mills, fishing operations, and railroads. These immigrants established the first Chinatown in Seattle south of Pioneer Square. In 1889, this Chinatown was destroyed in the Great Seattle Fire, and the Chinese community relocated to a new Chinatown on South Washington Street. In the early 1900s, the City of Seattle underwent a major regrading project called the Jackson Regrade, which caused the Chinese community to relocate once again, this time to the current location of Chinatown-International District on King Street. Despite being completely bisected when Interstate 5 was constructed in 1969, the neighborhood has become a hub for the Asian community in Seattle, with a diverse mix of businesses, cultural institutions, and residential buildings. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of eight local historic districts established by the City of Seattle.

Today, however, the neighborhood is facing still new challenges. Sound Transit, the public transit agency serving the Seattle metropolitan area, is currently undertaking the third phase of its multi-billion-dollar regional Link light rail expansion, which will require the construction of a new tunnel under the Chinatown-International District. Sound Transit is considering two alignments for the tunnel: Fifth Avenue or Fourth Avenue. If built under Fifth Avenue, the tunnel construction will take place in the heart of the neighborhood and have a devastating impact on the Chinatown-International District’s Asian businesses and residents. The Fourth Avenue alignment, while not without impacts, would largely take place on the edge of the district, on the west side of Union Station.

A coalition of neighborhood businesses, community organizations, residents, and supporters called Transit Equity for All—alongside such partners as Historic South Downtown (HSD), Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), the Wing Luke Museum, and the Uwajimaya supermarket corporation—is urging Sound Transit to give the Fourth Avenue options a more thorough consideration and to remove the Fifth Avenue options from the table. Transit Equity for All is led by Betty Lau and Brien Chow, two longtime community leaders who are concerned about the future of the neighborhood. “This is our third and final Chinatown,” said Betty Lau. “The original Chinatown was forced from the waterfront onto Second and Washington. Then Chinatown was forced to move to the current location. If we’re forced out again, where are we going to go?”

Our decision to add the Chinatown-International District to our Most Endangered Places list highlights the importance of preserving this unique and vital neighborhood. It is crucial that any plans for development or infrastructure consider the C-ID’s cultural and historical significance and do everything possible to minimize the impact on the community. The C-ID has already endured too many disruptions and must be protected so that it can continue to thrive and serve as a vital part of Seattle’s diverse community.

Official Sound Transit Publications: https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/west-seattle-ballard-link-extensions


Transit Equity for All [advocacy group]

Petition to Move Forward on 4th Ave [4500+ signatures]

Email Sound Transit Board [comment letter template included]




4th Ave S, Yesler Way, Interstate-5 and 8th Ave S, and S Dearborn St. [The endangered place is Seattle’s Chinatown International District as it relates to Sound Transit’s Link light rail extension through 4th or 5th Avenue and the adjacent construction zones]

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Seventh Church of Christ Scientist

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 2007

Location: Seattle, King County

In 2007, congregants of the 7th Church of Christ Scientist on Seattle’s Queen Anne hill, grappled with the reality of diminishing membership rolls coupled with increasing maintenance costs for their historic sanctuary. The congregation chose to sell to a developer with plans to construct four single-family homes, prompting inclusion in the Washington Trust’s Most Endangered List. As structures owned by religious organizations are exempt from local landmark ordinances, the developer placed responsibility on the congregation for demolishing the historic church prior to acquiring the property. But neighbors appealed the demolition permit, allowing time for the Washington Trust, through an agreement with the congregation, to seek a buyer interested in preserving the building. Fortuitously, this coincided with the Seattle Church of Christ’s search to find a permanent home for its growing congregation. The rest is history: the Seattle Church of Christ enjoys a robust congregation and is a proud steward of the historic sanctuary.

The Showbox

Status: Most Endangered Places

Year Listed: 2019

Location: Seattle, King County

Completed in 1917, the building now known as the Showbox was originally built as the Central Public Market, a competitor to the nearby Pike Place Public Market. In 1939, the building underwent a substantial Art Moderne remodel and opened as a performance venue, “The Show Box.” For the next 80 years, the building continued mainly as a performance venue, with brief stints as other ventures and a few periods of vacancy.

The period of Showbox history many people will remember began with new management in the late 1970s. During this time, the Showbox featured Punk Rock and New Wave-era bands, eventually becoming the premier rock venue in the city. In the 1990s, the Showbox also held comedy shows in addition to continuing to nurture Seattle’s growing rock scene. The Showbox has changed management several times in the recent past, but it continues to be a pioneering music venue and a key feature of Seattle’s identity as a music city.

When it was announced in 2018 that a developer is making plans for a 44-story tower on the site of the iconic Showbox theater, the Seattle community exploded in opposition to the project with the campaign to #SavetheShowbox garnering attention from nationally-known musicians in support of preserving this icon of Seattle’s musical culture.

Due to Seattle’s landmark ordinance and environmental review processes, the developer was compelled to nominate the Showbox for landmark status with no intention of preserving it or incorporating the building into their development. Historic Seattle, a local partner of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, commissioned and submitted a landmark nomination ahead of the developer to ensure it would be well researched and take a nuanced approach to the layered history of the building.

The Showbox was unanimously designated a landmark last year in July 2020, but the campaign to #SavetheShowbox is far from over. The best way to save a building is through a good owner, and that’s why we are hopeful that the pending joint purchase offer from Historic Seattle and Seattle Theatre Group will be accepted.

First United Methodist Church

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 2003

Location: Seattle, King County

The 1907 Beaux Arts First United Methodist Church is the only historic church left standing in Seattle’s downtown commercial core. While eligible for national, state, and local landmark status, the church has successfully fought such designation at the local level.

There are times we simply fall in love with buildings and cannot help ourselves. Such was the case for Kevin Daniels and First United Methodist Church in Seattle. Looking to capitalize on valuable land prices, the congregation sought to sell their half block downtown, with the goal of constructing a new church elsewhere scaled to meet their needs. Advocates in turn sought local landmark status for the historic sanctuary to stave off demolition, but state Supreme Court rulings prevent such listing without owner consent.

Recognizing demolition as imminent, Kevin worked with local elected officials, congregation members, and advocates to return trust to the process and ultimately purchase the site. After waiting patiently through the recession, Kevin and his team re-introduced the historic house of worship at a gala event last fall. Now a dynamic events venue, The Sanctuary stands in the heart of downtown as a truly heroic success story.

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Sand Point Naval Air Station

Status: Saved!

Year Listed: 2009

Location: Seattle, King County

The history of Sand Point Naval Air Station begins in 1920, in the wake of World War I. Seeking to build an airbase in Puget Sound, King County Commissioners and U.S. Navy officers broke ground on a site at Sand Point, near Lake Washington, then outside Seattle city limits.

Over the next several years, the air station grew. Bill Boeing tested his first airplanes from Sand Point. In 1924, it was chosen as the launch and end points for the first aerial circumnavigation of the world. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh landed The Spirit of St. Louis at Sand Point and was treated to a ticker tape parade in downtown Seattle. In the 1930s, Works Progress Administration projects to fill in Mud Lake and Pontiac Bay, as well as Civilian Conservation Corps building projects, enabled the Navy to increase the number of buildings to 17. During World War II, Sand Point served as the headquarters of the 13th Naval District which oversaw the front lines in the Pacific, and the air station’s population ballooned to 8,000 personnel.

After World War II, activity at the air station slowed considerably, and it was ultimately decommissioned in 1970. In 1975, a large portion of the air station’s land was given to the City of Seattle, which was eventually developed into Magnuson Park, named in honor of longtime U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson, a former naval officer from Seattle. Over the next few decades, the runways were demolished and some of the air station’s historic buildings were torn down; others fell into disrepair, their futures uncertain.

In the late 2000s, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation joined with community groups like Friends of Sand Point and Sand Point Arts & Cultural Exchange (SPACE) to advocate for the preservation of Sand Point’s historic buildings, listing Sand Point Naval Air Station on our Most Endangered Places list in 2009. Those advocacy efforts led to Sand Point’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 and to its designation as a historic district by the City of Seattle in 2011—making Sand Point Naval Air Station Landmark District Seattle’s eighth historic district, and the first one added in more than three decades.

Thanks to the Friends of Sand Point, SPACE, the City of Seattle’s Historic Preservation Program, Seattle Parks and Recreation, and many more community partners for their help in preserving these important historic sites.

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Harborview Hall

Status: In the works!

Year Listed: 2012

Location: Seattle, King County

Located in the First Hill neighborhood, Harborview Hall stands as a fine example of the Art Deco style in Seattle and a notable work of architect Harlan Thomas. But perhaps more important is the role Harborview Hall played in training multiple generations of nurses, serving as the base for the University of Washington’s School of Nursing from 1931 to 1961. Despite this, the master plan in place for the Harborview Medical Center Campus called for the Hall to be demolished, replaced with an open plaza. Complicating matters is the fact that King County owns the buildings on the medical campus, but responsibility for facilities management falls to the Harborview Medical Center Board of Trustees.

Under the leadership of County Executive Dow Constantine, King County intervened, asking the Trustees to allow the county time to assess the economic feasibility of redeveloping Harborview Hall. In November 2016, the county included $2.5 million in the budget to convert the building to a homeless shelter. While the project experienced significant delays due to code-compliance issues, an overnight shelter opened in late 2018 on the first floor only. King County Council is still exploring ways to upgrade the building to be an “enhanced” shelter which would be open 24 hours a day with case managers to connect shelter residents to housing and behavioral health services.

As for the rest of the building, there are no immediate plans but the Council is exploring ideas to convert it to low income or affordable housing. Executive Constantine’s office has estimated that a renovation of the entire building that would fully comply with code standards is around $15 million. The county is still determining the building’s long-term plan, a process that County Councilmember Rod Dembowski expects to take at least five years, with the shelter occupying the space in the interim.

We are excited to see the shelter open and are calling this campaign a save — for now. We’ll be keeping an eye on the building and will reopen the advocacy campaign if needed!

In the news:

‘It should have been open a year ago’: Homeless shelter to open in Seattle’s Harborview Hall — but it hasn’t been easy” – The Seattle Times, July 30, 2018

Harborview Hall finally put back to use as homeless shelter set to open” – Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, December 2, 2018

Harborview Hall opening to welcome up to 100 adults and their pets to warm, safe shelter on First Hill” – King County Press Release, December 20, 2018

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Battelle/Talaris Campus

Status: Most Endangered Places

Year Listed: 2013

Location: Seattle, King County

Developed in the late 1960s, the Battelle/Talaris property is architecturally significant to the region as an example of Pacific Northwest modern architecture that represents the move toward environmentally responsive design. David Hoedemaker of NBBJ was the project architect. He attributes the influence of Eero Saarinen with whom he previously worked, as well as Paul Kirk and Al Bumgardner on his own work. Richard Haag, the award-winning designer of Gas Works Park, designed the landscape. By 2001, Battelle Research outgrew the location, which subsequently served as home to the Talaris Institute, an organization dedicated to early childhood development.

Concerned with losing the site’s delicate balance of the built and natural environment to development, a group of  neighbors formed Friends of Battelle/Talaris. The Friends, who have closely partnered with Historic Seattle, successfully nominated the property as a City of Seattle Landmark in 2013. Various redevelopment plans have been proposed to the Landmarks Preservation Board, but none have moved forward.