The MHN Blog is a companion to the Maritime Heritage Network, a not-for-profit, comprehensive website of maritime heritage organizations, attractions, and activities in the Pacific Northwest. The blog highlights news, activities, and resources useful to the entire maritime heritage community. All views expressed are the author's own. Opposing views are welcome.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Mayor Uses C/ID Preservation Announcement to Cover Wawona Debacle

The timing of Mayor Greg Nickels' announcement today of money for preserving historic buildings in the Chinatown/International District suggests an attempt to distract preservationists from his proposal to "demolish and dispose" of the historic schooner Wawona. Today, Nickels' office said a $12 million pool of loan and grant money would help rehabilitate the Alps Hotel and the Hong Kong Building. The announcement comes less than a week after revelations that Deputy Mayor Tim Cies threatened Northwest Seaport, owner of Wawona, with destroying the vessel if it is not moved by September 30. (See Wednesday, June 14 MHN blog entry and following entries.) The vessel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Washington State Historic Register, and it is an official City of Seattle Landmark.

While I applaud any progress in the preservation arena, today's announcement lays bare the two-faced attitude of the mayor's office toward historic preservation. If preservation somehow fits the mayor's agenda for density and downtown ecomomic development, he will work for it. If there is something in the way, even if it is recognized by the nation as historically significant, he will brush it aside. He demonstrates his attitude toward the vessel clearly in his comments on the Seattle Channel on June 14. (Click here to see the video. You will need RealPlayer.)

Fortunately, preservationists have at least one friend on the city council willing to speak out. And we know that others on the council are sympathetic. Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck raised the Wawona issue before the council this morning, saying to me in an e-mail that "the mayor cannot simply and unilateraly destroy a national historic landmark like this." Steinbrueck also urged Councilmember David Della, chair of the council's Parks Committee, to ask Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds to explain his departments' actions and policies regarding Wawona. I hope Bounds, Ceis and the mayor are called to account on this issue and other examples of mismanagement of Seattle's singular and irreplaceable history.


Anonymous Bob Fisher said...

The timing may not be all politics. Today the Wing Luke Asian Museum is having a ground breaking ceremony for the construction of its new museum in the now being renovated Kong Yick building. The other two buildings metentioned, the Alps and Hong Kong were purchased by a private individual a few years ago and qualified for the loan packages also set up a few years ago by the city to assist with ID renovations.
Interestingly, Wing Luke, the city Councilman, was a strong proponent of preserving the Wawona - 45 years ago! In that time private donations should have been collected to restore the vessel or at least match public funds.

8:16 AM

Blogger Joe Follansbee said...


Thanks for your comment. And congratulations on the ground-breaking! The Wing Luke Museum is a vital part of our heritage landscape.

I'm so glad you mentioned Wing Luke as a supporter of Wawona. In my research, I learned that he wanted to turn what is now Gas Works Park into a maritime heritage museum with Wawona as its centerpiece. But he was rebuffed by the Parks Department. Sound familiar?

Again, thanks for the comment. Let's keep the dialog going!

8:43 AM


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