Landmark nomination in the works

Paul Slane first noticed the old house while walking his dog in the early months of this year. The home at 225 14th Avenue East, with is striking columns and neo-classical look, stands out in a neighborhood with far fewer of the older, classic homes than are found closer to Volunteer Park.

"I had commented to a friend that this was such a great house," he said. "I thought for sure that a developer must have his eye on it."

In truth, a developer did have an eye on the property. In March, when this paper ran a story about a possible development project slated for the location, neighborhood efforts were focused on saving the two large sugar maple trees that have a commanding presence on the eastern side of the property. The city had put tree protection notices on them, which prohibits their removal. While the city arborist's office has determined that one of the trees was not in optimal health, both trees remain.

Slane certainly appreciated the trees. But he felt more passionate about the house itself. And he wanted to find a way to save the structure. His lengthy efforts may lead to the building being declared a Seattle landmark by the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board. The board will meet next week to consider the house's nomination.

Sloan, who has lived on Capitol Hill for most of his adult life, has a degree in urban planning and a longtime interest in historic preservation. A member of the preservation group Historic Seattle, he gave a presentation about the house to the group, received moral support and took a class in preparing landmark applications.

He then worked to learn as much as he could about the house. The research took a great deal of time. It wasn't easy to discover who had built the structure. But Slane came across a house on 17th Avenue East and East Republican Street that was nearly identical in most respects. Confident that the homes were the work of the same person, he learned that the builder was Fred Fehren, who built more than 700 catalog homes between 1900 and 1905, and whose company sent house plans across the country.

By June, Slane submitted a detailed application to the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board. In order for a building to be designated a landmark, it must meet at least one of six standards outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. Slane makes the case that two, maybe even three, standards apply to the building he refers to as the Cooper House after John O. Cooper, the house's first owner, who lived there from 1905 to 1912.

One standard requires that a building "embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, period, or method of construction." Another requirement is satisfied if "it is an outstanding work of a designer or builder."

Slane also believes that the house fits a third standard as "an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the city and contributes to the distinctive identity of such neighborhood...." He notes that there are few notable old homes near the Cooper House, which makes its presence more striking and more essential.

"The research was an exciting process," Slane said. "There were lots of dead ends. But there were also great new discoveries and lots of fascinating information."

In a somewhat surprising turn, Slane recently received a call from The Dwelling Company, the Mercer Island-based development group that bought the property. (The company also has two other projects under way nearby.) The company told Slane that they'd like to meet with him before the landmark hearing. He's open minded about how that meeting will go.

"They told me they didn't want to fight the community," he said. "It seems they may want to come up with an agreement about the house before the nomination hearing. So far, they seem sincere, and I feel hopeful about this. They actually just closed on the property last week, so maybe they got a bad rap on this."

Slane is optimistic that the landmark board will nominate the house, and cautiously optimistic that the board will approve the nomination a month later. He's spent months working on the project but he's tried not to get too attached. On that count he hasn't been entirely successful. At one point Slane posted fliers about his efforts around the neighborhood. He received many passionate replies, including one from a woman who lived in the building 27 years ago.

"I told myself I'd do what I could do, and if it doesn't work out at least I've tried," he said. "This house is a hidden gem. I couldn't just say 'go save this house' without trying to be part of a solution for the building."

The Seattle Landmark Preservation Board will decide on the Cooper House nomination on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The board meets at 700 5th Ave., room 4080, at 3:30 p.m.

More information about Historic Seattle is available at

Doug Schwartz is the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at or 461-1308.

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