Oddly, the Queen Anne Club located on the southeast corner of Queen Anne Avenue and Garfield (1530 Queen Anne Ave. N.) is among few neighborhood buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It has been listed since 1983 and remains architecturally and historically an exceptional Queen Anne building. Better than just about any other building on the hill, it hides its original purpose behind a neo-classical façade and a clever adaptation to a steep hillside site.
Although honored by the listing on the National Register, Queen Anne residents recognize that it offers no protection, should the building’s owner want to alter it or tear it down. Only last year, members of the Queen Anne Historical Society’s Landmark Preservation Committee worried that major changes were in the works for the clubhouse and talked with building managers about not altering fenestration and other exterior features.
Sadly, the law cannot stop an owner from modifying or demolishing a building listed on the National Register, for only when federal dollars are to fund changes, does it offer modest protection that may slow the work down. Since designation as a City of Seattle landmark offers the only reliable protection, we should be moderately alarmed that the clubhouse is not designated.
Ever since the Olmsted Brothers omitted Queen Anne from their 1903 plan for Seattle parks and boulevards, people on the hill have had to badger city hall to address community needs. In those days, paving streets was, for example, a major issue and so was the location of the public library. The Queen Anne Club was formed to sustain the work of those community organizations that defended neighborhood infrastructure and the quality of life on the hill. Even today that need remains.
A community project
The Queen Anne Club formed in 1922 with the intent of having more neighborhood influence with the City of Seattle government. Streets, sidewalks, streetlights and parks were all big issues in the 1920s.
After four years of lobbying, the city’s $42,500 purchase of the first part of the West Queen Anne Playfield (Big Howe) — which included the former stables of the Queen Anne Riding Club —was one of the first successful improvements to happen with club backing.
Newspaper articles spoke of coming to club meetings to listen to the radio about the results of the 1924 presidential election (Republican Calvin Coolidge won with 54 percent of the popular vote).
The club also sponsored an annual community Christmas tree celebration, where hundreds of children received stockings filled with candy, while groups of carol singers sang throughout the neighborhood.
Feeling proud of their accomplishments and aware that their increasingly active club calendar — full of business meetings, dances, teas, card parties, bazaars, fairs, seasonal events — required a suitable gathering place, members determined that the club needed a permanent home.
While many community groups met in school buildings, church basements or other public places, some had built clubhouses to serve their specific needs. Typically, these were wood-frame buildings of residential in scale that served as meeting places. The oldest existing examples in the city date from around 1910
By the end of 1924, the club had bought land from the city, drawn up plans and begun to raise the $40,000 it expected the building to cost. The first pledge drive of $15,000 was easily oversubscribed. Subsequent events raised more money.
The Queen Anne News ran articles inviting residents to “do your bit in making the admirable project a brilliant success.” A September 1927 headline called out to neighbors, “Join Queen Anne Community Club Today! It is a duty you owe to the Hill.” A $25 pledge got you a life membership. By November 1927, 800 of the 4,000 families living on the hill had joined, and club leaders still hoped to complete the building without a mortgage.
Construction began on Sept. 12, 1927. About 1,000 people attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony on Oct. 30 that featured a speech by Mayor Bertha K. Landes.
Eight months later, on May 11, 1928, the dedication ceremony drew more than 2,000 people. Gov. Roland Hartley spoke, as did Mayor Landes and Mayor-elect Frank Edwards. The dedication was followed by a ball the following night.
The Queen Anne Club was proud of its achievement and called it “the biggest community project ever attempted in Seattle.”
An inside look
Otis Hancock is recorded as the builder. Although there is some press associating John Graham Sr. with the building’s design, it is not listed among his work. But there is little doubt that Hancock was its architect.
Hancock moved to Seattle from Duluth, Wis., in 1907, after attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Following Naval service during World War I, he entered architectural practice in Seattle, working with Arthur Loveless, B. Marcus Priteca and Frank Fowler.
This building was designed during his 1925-1933 partnership with Frederick V. Lockman.
Hancock maintained an individual practice from 1933 until his retirement in 1971.
The Queen Anne Club built an impressively large brick building, extending 110 feet along Queen Anne Avenue North. The plan is irregular, though basically rectangular. The clubhouse is two stories high, of wooden construction and faced with red, pressed brick laid in common bond.
The north and south gable ends each have a single round window under a boxed cornice and frieze with returns.
The west façade has a classical portico at the main entry. Four cast-stone pilasters carry a handsomely detailed entablature, which once proudly displayed the club name. Cast-stone columns support an ornamented pediment. A larger pediment above the boxed cornice crowns the central composition. Rectangular window openings — with six-over-one, double-hung sash — have cast stone sills and are crowned by flat arches of brick with cast-stone keys.
The east façade digs into the hill and is almost impossible to see from the street.
Originally, interior spaces served the functions of a community, social and cultural center. The ground floor consisted of a lobby, men’s lounge, men’s cloak room, trustees’ room, a banquet room with a capacity of 400, a custodian’s apartment and mechanical rooms.
The upper floor contained the auditorium, with a seating capacity of 716, a ladies’ parlor and tearoom, ladies’ check room and restroom and kitchen.
On the exterior, a deck has been added on the southwest corner of the second floor, while the paneled entry doors and leaded sidelights have been replaced. Although the exterior remains largely intact, the interior has been dismantled.
Changing hands, uses
James M. Bailey, a city attorney, was president during the five years it took to construct the clubhouse, from idea to building. With the new facility, membership grew to 2,000 families, but the club’s poorly defined mission left it somewhere in the middle between being a community and entertainment center and community-improvement association.
During the Depression, the club struggled. It held on to the building until 1942, when the Federal Old Line Insurance Co. bought it and converted it to office use.
In 1952, the clubhouse accommodated the studios of the Queen City Broadcasting Co. KIRO-TV made further modifications in 1957 and built its television tower at the south edge of the property.
In 1969, ownership transferred to Community Services for the Blind.
Since 1982, it has had various commercial and office uses.
In 1985, ProRobics, now known as Seattle Gym, moved in downstairs, while Pasta Bella, an Italian restaurant, took over the upper level in 1994.
Since 2012, Seattle Gym has used the entire building.
Alas, the club’s name, once inscribed on the upper pediment, is no longer visible.
For more information, visit www.qahistory.org.
MICHAEL HERSCHENSOHN is president of the Queen Anne Historical Society. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.