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Alki Homestead: 3 ideas outlined for restoration/reconstruction

July 30, 2011

From West Seattle Blog
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The process of discussing with the city how to restore/reconstruct the fire-ravaged landmark Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge is so far as painstaking as the actual project itself eventually may be.

This morning, in their fourth informal appearance before the city Landmarks Preservation Board’s Architectural Review Committee downtown, Alloy Design Group architects Mark Haizlip and Greg Squires presented the three options they’re discussing.

All three options assume that the Homestead’s roof and foundation must be replaced – though committee members indicated they’re not all convinced about the former.

With Homestead owner Tom Lin on hand, as well as observers from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society (Clay Eals), Historic Seattle (Eugenia Woo), and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation (Chris Moore), the architects began by briefly discussing a survey of the state of the century-old building’s windows. The upper windows are in better condition than the lower ones, they noted, but overall, Squires said, the refurbish-vs.-replace plan won’t be clear until the overall restoration plan is.

And that’s what took up most of the rest of the discussion.

First, they mentioned completing a survey of the condition of the logs that comprise the Homestead structure, rating each one good/fair/poor.

Later, that became a bone of contention – with both committee members and observers requesting an explanation of the criteria for each category, as well as the methodology for how they were evaluated – because the logs’ condition is at the heart of whether the Homestead is destined for a future that tilts more toward restoration or more toward reconstruction.

As has been discussed in numerous previous evaluations, it’s not just the fire damage that is reported to have compromised Homestead logs, but also other factors over the years, including weather. Below the top three “courses,” the architects say, “there is a lot of exposure to the weather over the past century – a lot of rotting, a lot of crushing.” Weather isn’t the problem for interior logs, they said, but fire damage is.

And to complicate matters, they reiterated another point made previously, that unless some new technique is developed for some kind of patchwork, logs cannot be partially replaced – if a log is 20 percent damaged, it might as well be 100 percent damaged, for purposes of building or rebuilding a log structure like the Fir Lodge/Homestead.

How the logs are handled is at the heart of the three potential strategies they unveiled: Option 1, “Log by Log”; Option 2, “Support, Strap, Lift and Lower”; Option 3, “Shore Up and Span Over.” These were briefly described at the meeting, but there also was a handout with an extensive paragraph about each, so here’s the transcription. The “Core” refers to everything between the roof and the foundation.

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