Tuesday, September 11, 2012

beyond bricks and mortar

Please watch this short video prior to reading this posting Harborview Hall Video

Harboview Hall is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. It was placed on
the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation's 2012 Most Endangered Historic Properties list. 

Too often, the pros and cons of saving an historic building revolves around architectural significance, structural integrity, obsolescence, and the cost to bring it up to code and its systems into the 21st century. 

What sometimes gets lost or is relegated to a minor role in these discussions is the value the building has had to generations of residents and workers and the direct and indirect impacts on the economic, social, and cultural identity it has brought to the area. 

For several years, Historic Seattle, an organization I am passionate about, has been involved with a number of local groups in making a case for preserving Harborview Hall on First Hill.

King County built Harborview Hall to support a new concept in nursing curriculum pioneered nationally by the first Dean of the UW School of Nursing, Elizabeth Soule, It put students next to a hospital (via an underground tunnel) where they would complete the newly required two years of hospital experience. 

A 1932 Seattle Times article was critical of the building calling the building more lavish than a luxury hotel, with "fudge kitchens, electric elevator, private rooms for each student, beautifully appointed recreation rooms, and a drawing room with a fireplace."

Former Harborview Hall residents are universally dismayed at plans to demolish the building. Patricia Ross, who was sworn into the U.S. Surgeon General's Nurse Cadet Corps on the steps of Harborview Hall in July 1944, lived there and did three-month rotations to all area hospitals. In an email she said, "through our work and training we saved the collapse of the health care system across the country." This was done right here in Harborview Hall. 

"Harborview Hall reflects the architecture of the hospital," said Ms. Bakeme, age 83, Class of 1952, "and they (have) the tunnel joining them-they are...married. How could they possibly take one away?"

We are trained in real estate to look at real property and apply the "best-use" approach to its development/use. The current plan is to demolish Harborview Hall and replace it with a plaza. However, King County is working on a proposal to preserve and rehabilitate the former residence for the UW School of Nursing students. As discussions fly around this proposal, I encourage everyone involved to look at the intrinsic elements of this building - I firmly believe it is not just about bricks and mortar but so much more. 

Historic Seattle is dedicated to educating, advocating and preserving. For more information please visit www.historicseattle.org

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

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