A sketch of the Kinnear Mansion (destroyed) serves as the logo of the Queen Anne Historical Society and appears at www.qahistory.org along with many photos of the house. The logo celebrates the longtime relationship of the society with the Bayview Retirement Community and its ties to the Kinnear family. For about 25 years, the society has benefited from a rent-free space for storing its archives at Bayview. The renovations now underway require the society to relinquish its space and seek a new one.
As the primary real estate developers of the land on the southwest slope of Queen Anne, George and Angeline Kinnear had a major impact on our neighborhood. Their 1888 house at 809 Queen Anne Ave. N. was quintessential Queen Anne style. It sported the mandatory tower, multiple gables, clapboard siding, intricately turned columns and spreading front porch that mark the style. The Kinnears designed it as an advertisement for the kinds of homes they expected to see on the lots of their subdivision. Their home sat on a 2.5-acre site.
The family’s influence resonates today at Kinnear Park which they gave to the city in 1893 and which is Seattle’s second park after Denny Park. Its impact is also seen in two other tiny parks. One of them, a small strip along Queen Anne Drive just below the Bayview, retains a few trees planted by the Kinnear family and the wall which lined the edge of their property. The other small park, at Prospect and Second Avenue West, held the cistern which provided water for the Kinnear home. (The elevation drop to the house created enough force to provide water to the third floor). Also, still standing in the neighborhood are the 1908 De La Mar Apartments that Charles and Angeline constructed for their guests to the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.
When George Kinnear died in 1912, his son Charles moved into the home and lived there until he died in 1956. The Charles Kinnear family had strong ties to the First United Methodist Church and gave their home site to the church for the care of “older adults or children.” The Methodists created a not-for-profit to run the retirement home. It may have also started the foundation that covers housing costs if residents run out of money. The church worked with the community to build the ten-story residential community designed in 1958 that opened in 1961. While the church gave the building to the not-for-profit, it retained ownership of the land. The relationship of the building to the land is a strange historical wrinkle that had to be ironed out before Bayview could initiate its current projects.
The original Bayview building was designed by John Graham & Co. while John Graham Jr. was still practicing. Graham Jr. — Space Needle, Nordstrom and Macy upper stories, Northgate Mall — was one of the most successful and influential architects in Seattle’s history. The company designed many important Queen Anne buildings including the Victorian Apartments on Highland Drive. Graham created a tall building made taller still by its location above Uptown-Lower Queen Anne where Queen Anne Avenue begins its steep climb. It had three wings. The east and west wings rose to ten stories while the bisecting wing to the north was held to nine stories. If the Kinnear home expressed the essence of the Queen Anne style, the retirement home did the same for what is known as mid-century modern. Bayview sports a Roman brick veneer and on the south facing façade elegant balconies from which residents have phenomenal 180o views of downtown, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, the Olympics and Elliott Bay. Surely no one living on the south slope of the hill remembers the great views before Bayview went up, but now folks living on that slope and in the retirement community are ironically worried that the high-rise building proposed for Roy Street between First West and Queen Anne Ave. will block theirs.
This is not the first time the Bayview has expanded. In 1995, it gave up the front lawn shown in the 1974 photograph to a three-story building that spreads across the entire southern side of the original building and creates elegant terrace gardens facing Elliott Bay. This addition, designed by Dale Anderson of Tsang Partnership, also made room for a daycare center, which meets the original terms of the Kinnear gift and provides an exceptional opportunity for intergenerational caregiving. The project now underway, designed by Rice Fergus Miller, adds dwelling units and a memory care unit in the crook of the east and north wings. It sacrifices the common lounge and balcony on every floor at the intersection of the wings. Our Archive, which connects via dumbwaiter to the kitchen and served as a place for distributing meals to third floor residents, is being incorporated into a redesigned dwelling unit. Other improvements include a new swimming pool and refurbished public spaces at the entry level.
Charles Kinnear would have been surprised that his clever scheme to keep the retirement home associated with the First United Methodist Church thwarted its redevelopment plans. Bayview has borrowed the money to renovate and add to its campus through the State of Washington Housing Finance Commission. The program lends not-for-profit agencies funds for capital projects, but they must be owned in fee simple. Fee simple means that the land and the building belong to a single owner. It took a long a time for the Methodist Church to give up its land ownership of the land, but the church eventually sold it for a dollar. Once Bayview owned the building and land in fee simple, it could borrow the required money.
Now, as it seeks a new location for its Archives, the historical society is indebted to the Bayview Retirement Community for its longtime generosity. As one might expect in today’s hot real estate market, finding even a small 200 square foot office in our neighborhood is no small feat. The society has been looking for nearly half a year and has only until the end of June to find a new spot, so any help will be appreciated. In the meantime, Bayview assures the society that it can continue holding its board meetings on the building’s tenth floor where the spectacular views are enough to cheer us up even on dark rainy days of winter.
MICHAEL HERSCHENSOHN is president of the Queen Anne Historical Society (qahistory.org).