Local benefactor steps in for Bowen Viewpoint restoration

It's been close to three decades since a series of 11 tiles designed by notable artists were visible on the rounded walkway in front of the Betty Bowen Viewpoint at Marshall Park at the end of West Highland Drive.

That's changed now, thanks to Barbara Houston, who has ponied up the $10,000 to $11,000 needed for the restoration work. The work will include a plaque that will identify the individual artists who designed the tiles for the viewpoint park, which was designed by noted architect Victor Steinbreuck.

The project is also part pay-back and part labor of love for Houston. "I feel a special connection to this viewpoint because Betty and Victor helped me in my career when I was a feature writer at the P.I.," she said.

Houston, who started out at the Post-Intelligencer as an assistant to the late columnist, Emmett Watson, used Steinbreuck and Bowen as sources for stories, she said.

And in Bowen's case, the source was a larger-than-life character in the Auntie Mame vein and a patron of the arts who - among other acts of largess - paid to have the manuscript of Tom Robbins' "Another Roadside Attraction" typed up for publisher perusals. She'd also helped the artists such as Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Richard Gilkey who provided the artwork for the viewpoint.

Bowen died in 1977 of a brain tumor, and Houston has another connection to the woman that's more substantial than memories. "I bought her home a year after she died," Houston said of Bowen's old Craftsman on West Prospect Street just a couple blocks away from the viewpoint.

Houston first contacted her longtime landscape architect Tom Zachary for help finding someone to tackle the restoration project, she said. Houston really wanted to give back to the Queen Anne community, Zachary explained. "This is all her dream."

It took a while, but Zachary finally found tile artist Laura Brodax to do the work. Brodax - who made the mosaic of late King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng for the new Harborview wing - first pressure-washed the tiles and the surrounding sidewalk, she said.

Then Brodaz and her crew dug out the concrete frames around each tile and replaced them with new concrete frames, and she's also installing cedar slats between the walkway and the lawn, the artist said.

"The (identifying) plaque's going to be really well designed and professionally handset, Brodax added.

Houston is pleased with the work, saying that colors that haven't been seen in the tiles for years have reappeared. She also feels a deeper connection to Bowen and Steinbreuck.

"I'm sure that had a way of getting in touch with me from beyond and telling me to clean this up," Houston said last weekend as she gazed fondly at the newly restored tiles. "I thought this is the moment I can get this cleaned up and shining for them again."[[In-content Ad]]