Seattle Pacific University received the Superior Institutional Preservation award for its Alexander Hall restoration work.
Seattle Pacific University received the Superior Institutional Preservation award for its Alexander Hall restoration work.

As Seattle has welcomed more than 100,000 people in the last decade, and as we witness much of our beloved neighborhood falling to wrecking balls, many people quietly labor to preserve Queen Anne’s historic buildings and special places.

To recognize those people, the Queen Anne Historical Society created an annual awards program, the first ceremony taking place on May 23, a sunny evening at the historic Swedish Club overlooking Lake Union. The club’s location on the eastern edge of our hill is appropriate since awards went to people from every nook and cranny of Queen Anne; upper, lower, north, south, east and west.

The first award kind of put the icing on the historic cake. Called the Historic Taste of Queen Anne, it went to Chris and Holly Prairie, owners of the amazing Nielsen’s Pastries, which contributes both local character and delicious baked goods to the Uptown community. Started 55 years ago by John Nielsen at a downtown location, and now owned by the Prairies, the shop at 520 Second Ave. W. is famous for the almond paste-filled kringles and other delights Nielsen first brought from Copenhagen in 1965.

Seattle Pacific University president Daniel Martin accepted the Superior Institutional Preservation award for SPU’s outstanding work on Alexander Hall. Designed by John Parkinson and built in 1891, the brick building started out as an unreinforced masonry building that was sure to fall in a major earthquake. Recognizing its significance as the oldest educational building on the West Coast, SPU rebuilt the Richardson Romanesque-style structure that makes the university worth a visit.

Since 2006, Picture Perfect Queen Anne has demonstrated how creative community organizing can enhance a neighborhood. Started over dismay at the rough quality of the streetscape along Queen Anne Avenue, the group held community meetings to brainstorm design possibilities that resulted in the Queen Anne Avenue Streetscape Master Plan. It reflected a desire for an attractive and safe commercial core that included gathering places with seating, street-level vegetation, smooth sidewalks, less litter, safer street crossings, public art, pedestrian-level lighting, clear street signs and human-scale storefronts. It has influenced new construction since 2006. Picture Perfect Queen Anne has planted and maintained beautiful gardens at Galer Stairs on the northwest corner of Boston, and four corner beds at McGraw. We happily presented the organization’s board with the Creating Cultural Heritage award.

The Frankly Fabulous award went to John Links and the team that restored the Villa Franca on Ninth Avenue West. Modernizing systems while protecting the historic fabric of the 14-unit Spanish missionary-style apartment house and the great views to the mountains and the Sound deserved recognition. Designed in 1928-29 by William Whitley and developed by Frederick Anhalt, Seattle’s most famous real estate developer of the 1920’s, the revitalized Villa Franca is a fantastic jewel in Queen Anne’s crown.

Dave and Jenny Smith won the Preserving Cultural Heritage award for their fine restoration of the historic features and phenomenal half-acre site of the Pratt House, a large Classic Box on the northeast corner of West Kinnear and Third Avenue West. The Smiths have daylighted the steep, winding pathway that rises through the garden, from the curb to the front door, through massive granite boulders that reach to the sky and marvelously restored the spaces that had been chopped into multiple apartments. Built in 1909 for Arthur and Dora Pratt, this house was featured in “Homes and Gardens of the Pacific Coast, 1913," which noted its “commanding position on Queen Anne Hill with a wonderful panorama of the city,” and described it as “finely constructed with a broad porch and large window space." 

The late Gary Gaffner was honored with the Counterbalance award, as the savior of the Treat House at One West Highland Drive, and as the only person we know to have traversed the Counterbalance tunnel on foot. Ever gregarious, Gaffner, who took credit for founding the Queen Anne Historical Society, was instrumental in protecting parts of the Pike Place Market, and served for years as president of the Friends of Discovery Park. He would have been thrilled by the recent opening of Capehart forest and trails in Discovery Park.

In an era of rapid development, the Queen Anne Historical Society strives to preserve the historic character and unique beauty of Queen Anne. Our awards program seeks to praise those who make our community better and encourage those who are engaged in the work now.