The Theodora in Northeast Seattle

The Theodora is on 35th Ave NE nearest to the corner of NE 68th Street.

The Theodora is on 35th Ave NE nearest to the corner of NE 68th Street.

The Theodora building in northeast Seattle, located on 35th Ave NE closest to the corner of NE 68th Street, is going through a transition to new use.  The Theodora Home was formerly low-income housing operated by the Volunteers of America, which had been on the site in a series of buildings since 1914.  The present Theodora, built in 1965, has been sold to a private developer who will renovate it as a regular apartment complex.

The sale of the Theodora was finalized in March 2015 and the building has been designated as a historic landmark under Seattle’s historic preservation program.  The nomination report, describing the building and its design, can be read here.

The present Theodora, built in 1965, was designed in an architectural style called Northwest Modern, with its use of exposed wood, overhanging roof and clean lines.  The horizontal lines of the structure and its projecting form toward 35th Ave NE makes the building appear to float.   The exterior includes stained wood, with strips of windows at the first and second floors, heavy timber beams that project from the building face at both floor levels, and a flat roof with projecting eaves. The Theodora is nestled in its site by plantings on all sides to give the feeling that the building is an organic element in harmony with its outdoor areas trees and patios.

The Northeast Branch Library was built in 1954 in Northwest Modern architectural style.

The Northeast Branch Library was built in 1954 in Northwest Modern architectural style.

Along 35th Ave NE at the intersection of NE 68th Street the Theodora is adjacent to two buildings by premier architects of the style of Northwest Modernism, the Northeast Branch Library (designed by Paul Thiry) and the University Unitarian Church (Paul Hayden Kirk).  The Northeast Branch Library at 6801 35th Ave NE is the only other Northwest Modern structure along 35th Ave NE which has been designated in the historic landmarking program (2001.)

The architects of the Theodora were Grant, Copeland & Chervenak.  In 1964 this firm designed the Forest Sciences Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, with exposed wood beams and glass screens similar to those on the Theodora.

At the June 17, 2015 meeting of the City of Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board a presentation was given by the Clark Design Group, the architects for the renovation of the Theodora.  Portions of the Theodora which have been “landmarked” include the primary façade: the exterior along 35th Ave NE with its distinctive horizontal form and contrasting glass screens.  Some portions of the interior will also be preserved, including the atrium, fireplace and lounge.  As these areas are renovated, geometry and materials must match the original.

Presentation by Clark Design Group at the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board meeting on June 17, 2015.

Presentation by Clark Design Group at the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board meeting on June 17, 2015.

A proposed addition to be built at the southern end of the complex must match the original Theodora buildings in style and in scale.  The site itself with its plantings has been reviewed, with exceptional trees marked for preservation and an overall site plan to refresh the landscaping.  The site plan includes more lighting to be installed on walkways, patios and entries around the building on all four sides.

Conceptual drawing of proposed addition to the Theodora on the south side (left side of this photo.)

Conceptual drawing of proposed addition to the Theodora on the south side (left side of this photo.)

At this writing the Clark Design Group is applying for permits for construction at the Theodora, including interior renovations.  The proposed construction of an addition at the south end of the property must meet with approval of its design both by the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, and by the Department of Planning & Development for permitting.

Things are changing along northeast Seattle’s main arterial of 35th Ave NE.  In 2012 to 2015 the Future of 35th Ave NE Project, a cooperative effort of the adjoining neighborhoods of Bryant, Hawthorne Hills, Ravenna, View Ridge and Wedgwood, worked to put together a plan for “having a say” as buildings along the commercial corridor age and are replaced.  The Final Report which summarized the findings was presented to Seattle City Council with a request for a “legislative rezone” of the commercial intersections along 35th Ave NE at NE 65th, 75th, 85th and 95th Streets.  Some effects of the proposed rezone would require that buildings in these zones (commercial intersections), have street-level retail, restaurants and services to create a pedestrian-friendly area with residential units on the upper floors.

Congregation Beth Shalom at 6800 35th Ave NE will host a community meeting on Wednesday, June 24.

Congregation Beth Shalom at 6800 35th Ave NE will host a community meeting on Wednesday, June 24.

The next step in the Future of 35th Ave NE process is a meeting called by Seattle’s Department of Planning & Development (DPD).  DPD is assessing the possible changes in zoning on 35th Ave NE at the intersections of NE 65th, 75th, 85th and 95th Streets to create a well-thought-out plan of development for business spaces.  The meeting hosted by DPD will be held across the intersection from the Theodora, at Congregation Beth Shalom, 6800 35th Ave NE on Wednesday, June 24th.   Update:  Here is a summary of what was presented on June 24th  during the discussion about zoning along 35th Ave NE.

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The Landscape in Our Pacific Northwest History

The history of the exploration of our Pacific Northwest region is built upon its landscape, including rivers, mountains, natural resources and the use patterns of traditional cultures.  Two recently-released books tell stories of local history, fur traders, explorers, geology and the sites which have been preserved.

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Under the Midnight Sun at the Klondike Gold Rush Museum in Seattle

The Gold Rush of 1897 was an event which rocketed Seattle out of an economic depression because the city advertised itself as the launch point to the Yukon.  Forever after, the economies of the City of Seattle and the North Country, including Alaska, have been linked.

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Old Houses in Seattle History

Around Seattle’s neighborhoods there are old houses which embody the history of the city’s development and growth.  In Seattle’s fast-growing years of the 1880’s it seemed that carpenters were everywhere and today we can still see examples of early, carpenter-built wood-frame houses.

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The Little Free Library

Walking along a sidewalk in the Wedgwood neighborhood one day, I saw what appeared to be a fancy front-yard mailbox…or was it a birdhouse?  Upon closer examination I saw that the structure had a door with books visible inside.  Over the book box door was a plaque which said, “Little Free Library.”

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House Histories of the Fremont Neighborhood in Seattle

Fremont is easily reached from downtown Seattle by traveling along the west shore of Lake Union.

Fremont is easily reached from downtown Seattle by traveling along the west shore of Lake Union.

Fremont in Seattle was one of the city’s first neighborhoods with its own identity.  It was founded as a land development, like a suburb, with the name of Fremont taken from the home city of two investors who came out from Nebraska.  In 1888 these men formed a business partnership with local investors to develop the site in a very advantageous location, reachable from downtown Seattle via a streetcar line along the west side of Lake Union (Westlake Avenue).

Information about Seattle’s historic neighborhoods like Fremont can be found on the Department of Neighborhood’s Historic Preservation page.  There is a database of historic properties by address, or you can put in the neighborhood name such as Fremont, and see all of the buildings which have been “surveyed” (reviewed for historic info).

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How Birds Fly

From earliest times, people have been fascinated by how birds fly.  Seattle’s Museum of Flight is presenting a special exhibit on the “mechanics” of flight (bird anatomy) and the inspiration which birds have given to man’s efforts to become airborne.  The How Birds Fly exhibit is at the Museum of Flight now through September 4, 2015.  Check the museum website for open hours, parking info and admission prices.

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