Friday, May 21, 2021

Paeonia veitchii

Paeonia veitchii (Veitch's peony) is one of my favorite peonies. I love the flowers & the leaves. It's a species of herbaceous perennial peony. It grows to about 30 inches tall & 30 inches wide, with slow & limited spread. It has a thick taproot & thin side roots, with deeply incised leaves divided into pointed segments. It has 2 to 4 slightly nodding flowers per stem. The flowers can be various shades of pink. It blooms in my Seattle garden for about 3 weeks from late May into early June. The seed pods are said to be decorative, but mine have never developed seeds. Like most peonies, it can live for decades. Unlike most hybrid peonies, it does not need staking. It is native to central China where it grows in relatively moist & partly shaded locations in open forest, grassy forest margins, between shrubs & on alpine meadows to almost 13,000 feet. It grows quite well in my garden, near sea level with afternoon sun. It can grow in no shade at all, but needs regular water in any location, even more water in full sun. I think it looks best between other perennials, ferns or small shrubs like heath, heather or Hebe. Mine grows with Alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle). I live in  Zone 8. It is also said to thrive in Zone 7 & Zone 6. It has been available from Far Reaches Farm. I got mine at one of the big spring plant sales in Seattle.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Paeonia mascula

April 2018

June 2018

July 2018

Paeonia mascula is my favorite peony. I've always preferred single peonies to those with big balls of petals. Single peonies & species peonies don't need to be supported. In my Seattle garden, Paeonia mascula blooms for about 10 days in mid-May. The flowers are 4 to 5 inches wide when fully open. Each flower lasts about 5 days before the petals begin to fall.  Even though the bloom is so fleeting, I wouldn't be without Paeonia mascula.  When I moved, I got more for my new garden.  Not only are the flowers beautiful, but the foliage is handsome throughout the season & colorful in fall.  The seeds pods are impressive when closed & colorful when open. The open pods have been called "jewel boxes."

Paeonia mascula grows to about 2 feet wide & 18 inches tall, with leaves that are divided into 3 oval leaflets. Flowers can be various shades of pink, sometimes verging on purple or red.  They can also be almost white. Paeonia mascula grows well in full sun or part shade with regular, light watering.  Soil should never be soggy. It grows very well in my zone 8 garden.  It is said to grow in zones 5 to 10, but probably is most successful in zones 7 & 8. Paeonia mascula is native from Spain to Iraq including France, Italy, the Balkans, Cyprus & Turkey. In its natural habitat, it grows between bushes in meadows & on hills. It also grows in oak, pine & beech forests. Paeonia is named for Paeon, the Greek god of healing & mascula comes from the Latin word for male.

Friday, April 23, 2021

West Seattle Junction/Alaska Junction, Seattle

Photos taken in May 2018

West Seattle Junction, Alaska Junction, or the Junction are the names used for the business district centered on the intersection of California Ave SW & SW Alaska St. The Junction is downtown West Seattle. But people call most of this area, "the Junction." The heart of the Junction is the 3 blocks on either side of California Ave SW from SW Genesee St to SW Edmunds. It developed at the intersection of California Ave SW & SW Alaska St, when two streetcar lines connected there in 1907.  Now it's a lively business district with restaurants, chain stores, supermarkets, veterinary clinics & many small specialty shops. 

Most of the older commercial buildings are 1-floor, like of the surrounding post-war houses. By 2020, West Seattle's population had grown to 80K. A number of 6-floor residential buildings invaded the business district & there were more than 70 businesses listed in the area. The Junction is geographically connected to many other businesses along Fauntleroy Way SW from SW Alaska St to 35th Ave SW. The eastern part of this sprawling business district is contained by the Genesee neighborhood that also surrounds the Junction. While many neighborhoods & business districts have well-established names, the City of Seattle sets no official boundaries.

In the near future, according to Sound Transit: The West Seattle Link Extension will provide fast, reliable light rail connection to dense residential & job centers throughout the region. A new downtown Seattle light-rail tunnel will add capacity for the entire regional system to operate efficiently. The West Seattle Link Extension adds 4.7 miles of light rail service from downtown Seattle to West Seattle Junction/Alaska Junction. There will be 4 new stations between SODO & the Junction. This is part of the regional transit system expansion approved by voters in 2016.

West Seattle Junction was swamp & forest until April 1907, when two streetcar lines intersected at California Avenue SW & SW Alaska Street. It soon became known as the Junction. Lots in the area sold quickly. By 1911, the Junction had become a business district with 3 grocery stores, 2 lumber companies, a hardware store, & 3 physicians, among other businesses. The dirt streets were lined with wooden structures of one floor. By 1920, the Junction had replaced the Admiral District as the largest commercial district in West Seattle. Older buildings were demolished & new ones were constructed at a rapid rate, some for the national retail chains Piggly Wiggly, Ernst Hardware, J. C. Penney, & F. W. Woolworth. The Spanish-style Granada movie theater opened in 1926 with 1,000 seats.

Seattle began removing streetcars in 1940, replacing them with buses. The Junction’s first traffic lights were installed in 1943. The West Seattle Bridge opened in 1984.  Jefferson Square (a 6-storey complex of stores, apartments & lots of parking) opened in 1987. It's main tenants were Bartell Drugs & Safeway. After that, there was a decline in businesses in the Junction. In 1994, the Seattle City Council Comprehensive Plan was adopted for business districts across the city. Growth was planned for urban villages in large, multi-floor residential buildings with ground-floor retail. By the end of the 1990s, new businesses had opened, including Capers, Elliott Bay Brewing, & ArtsWest Playhouse. The West Seattle Farmers' Market began operating in 1999.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Fremont Peak Park

Photos taken in June 2018

Fremont Peak Park is a small park in the Upper Fremont neighborhood of Seattle at 4357 Palatine Ave N, near the top of Phinney Ridge at its southern end. On a clear day, the view from here extends to the Olympic Mountains. The park has a very nice design. There are low, concrete walls that provide lots of seating & a good place to rest or eat. I got a sandwich at a nearby deli & ate it there. A small meadow, partially enclosed by low walls, lies at the center of the park. If you'd like to sit on the grass, this space (surrounded by trees) would be great for a picnic (or a nap).  Lots of big trees provide shaded areas even when the westering sun fills the park. 

Until 2001, this was a lot with 3 old houses.  The City of Seattle bought it. Seattle Parks & Recreation had the houses demolished, but kept the trees. A community initiative raised funds to help create the park. New plantings include native species that provide habitat for wildlife, including a Garry Oak (Quercus garryana). There are paths, walkways & stairs. This quiet park has no space for athletic games. You will find a lovely half-acre of landscape & an amazing view.  In a small concrete plaza, stone balls mark the solstices & equinoxes.  These sit near the edge of the slope, where views of land & water spread far & wide. 

Fremont Peak Park was envisioned as a neighborhood ‘walk to’ park, an urban oasis for people in the neighborhood. But I think this park is worth traveling some distance. I came here from 10 miles away & was glad I did. It is the goal of Seattle Parks & Recreation to build, improve & maintain parks throughout the city. Fremont Peak Park was designed by GGLO & Laura Haddad of Haddad|Drugan. The design won awards from the Seattle Design Commission & Americans for the Arts.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Franklin High School Seattle

West facade from S Mt Baker Boulevard

West facade

Southwest corner

Southwest entrance

South facade

Detail of ornamentation

Northwest entrance.  Photos taken in 2018

Franklin High School (3013 S Mt Baker Blvd) was designed by Edgar Blair (District Architect, Seattle Public Schools, 1910-1918).  The 4th school built as a high school in Seattle, it is a fine example of the Beaux Arts style, a type of Neoclassical/Greek Revival architecture.  The school is 4 stories tall.  Franklin High School opened in 1912 with 2.2 acres of land on the west slope of Mt Baker Ridge.  It was said to be the most beautiful school building west of the Mississippi.  While that may have been excessive praise then, it was certainly no longer true after a modern & utilitarian addition covered the west facade, overlooking the Rainier Valley, in 1958.  An addition closely matching the original architecture had been made on the south side of the building in 1925.  A 4.13-acre athletic field was added in 1916, 10.6 acres were added in 1925 & 12.7 more acres were added in 1942. 

In 1982, an engineering study warned that the building was vulnerable to earthquake damage. The school board voted in 1986 to demolish it. Students, alumni & Mt Baker neighborhood residents protested that decision. Seattle's Landmarks Preservation Board designated Franklin High School as a historic landmark & denied the request to tear it down. 

In the City of Seattle, a building, object, or structure may be eligible to be listed as a historic landmark if it is more than 25 years old and the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board determines it fits one or more categories.  Franklin High School met 3 categories: 1. It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, period, or a method of construction. 2. It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder. 3. Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood.

Bassetti Architects completed a renovation of Franklin High School in 1990 with seismic, safety, mechanical, & electrical upgrades. They removed the unattractive 1958 addition that covered the beautiful west facade & turned the space behind the arched windows into a student commons. An addition was built in the center of the U-shaped building with a new wall on the east side.  A new auditorium & classrooms filled that space. Other new additions were more classrooms, science labs, art studios, vocational tech labs & a media center.  The rehabilitation inspired other school districts to preserve landmark schools.  Awards included the 2001 Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Award of Merit; 1991 AIA Seattle, Award of Commendation; and 1991 Association of King County Historical Organization, Project Award.  

Bassetti Architects also restored the building's entire facade in 2015. That included the replacing damaged terra cotta tiles & corroded steel anchors, pinning with seismic anchors, re-pointing of mortar, & repairing the cornice.


Friday, March 12, 2021

Occidental Square Park Seattle

The Weyerhaeuser headquarters, offered for sale in 2020.

The old information kiosk, now gone.

Photos above taken in 2017

Photos above taken in 2018

Occidental Square (117 Washington St) is a city park covering 0.6 acres at the center of  Pioneer Square in Seattle, entirely paved with bricks & concrete pavers.  It was cobbled together when 2 blocks of Occidental Avenue S were closed to vehicular traffic & joined with half a city block behind the Grand Central Building, that had been a parking lot.  That happened in 1971, during the general renovation of Pioneer Square, Seattle's oldest neighborhood.  Dozens of mature shade trees now stand in graveled wells.  The park has 4 monumental sculptures (2 are totem poles) carved from cedar in the northwest coast native style.  A tasteful children's play area was added in 2019.  Construction of a wood & glass pavilion began in June of 2020 & was expected to be completed in Spring 2021.  It will cover a 30-by-90-foot area with a glass canopy supported by timber beams & steel columns. This sleek shelter will have an information center & can be used as an outdoor classroom, stage, or covered seating area. Events, such as a weekly crafts fair, live music, food trucks & art installations are normally scheduled during the summer, when you can also find tables & chairs, ping pong tables & a giant chess set during more quiet times of the week.  The Grand Central Building, a historic building with ground floor retail, opens onto the park.  Facing the park on the opposite side, is an elegant modern building of brick & glass built by the Weyerhaeuser Company as its new headquarters in 2016.  Many shops & restaurants can be found nearby.  Some flank the single block of Occidental Ave, now known as Occidental Mall (between S Main St & S Jackson St) closed to cars, nicely paved in brick & lined with historic buildings.

Friday, February 26, 2021

King Street Station Seattle

Photos above taken in 2018

Photo taken in 2017

King Street Station was built between 1904 & 1906 using concrete, granite, & brick.  The structure was financed by James J Hill who controlled Great Northern Railway & the Northern Pacific Railway. It was Seattle's 1st substantial passenger station, replacing a much smaller wooden building closer to the waterfront. A series of renovations in the mid-20th century removed marble walls & glass mosaic tiles, boarded up windows & replaced doors. The ceiling was lowered with a hanging framework of acoustical tiles & fluorescent light panels.  It reminded me of my junior high school, built in 1957.  That was the state of King Street Station as I greeted my grandma when she came to visit from Montana in the 1960s & 70s: shabby & unattractive.  I was amazed when I saw the restored interior in 2018. 

Increasing use from Sounder (commuter) & Amtrak (long-distance) passengers led to the improvement of King Street Station.  It was included in the Pioneer Square-Skid Road National Historic District in 1970 & listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  The City of Seattle purchased the property from the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad in 2008 for $10.  The BNSF Railroad carried freight only & leased the passenger facility to Amtrak & Sound Transit. The station's designation as a historic place prevented it from being demolished & replaced. The restoration project was completed in 2013 at a cost more than $55 million. 

In 2018, King Street Station had 25 daily train departures: 13 Sounder commuter trains south to Tacoma with 8 trains continuing to Lakewood (weekdays only). 4 Sounder commuter trains north to Everett (weekdays only). 2 Amtrak Cascades regional trains north to Vancouver. 4 Amtrak Cascades regional trains south to Portland with one train continuing to Eugene. 1 Amtrak Empire Builder long-distance train east to Chicago. 1 Amtrak Coast Starlight long-distance train south to Los Angeles.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Pioneer Building Seattle

South facade

West facade

with the Smith Tower.  Photos above taken in 2018

with the Pergola

with the Totem Pole. 2 photos above taken in 2014

The Pioneer Building is located at 600 1st Ave in Pioneer Square in Seattle.  It was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style with a facade of Bellingham Bay gray sandstone, red brick, terra cotta, & cast iron bays.  The building can be considered a transition between Victorian & Romanesque Revival styles.  Completed in 1892, the Pioneer Building was designed by architect Elmer Fisher, who designed several Pioneer Square buildings after the Great Fire of 1889.  It was the first of 3 buildings built by Seattle pioneer Henry Yesler & stands on the ground where Yesler built his 1st sawmill in 1853.  It was constructed with permanent partitions forming 185 office rooms.  Natural light flows into the interior through 2 atria.  The building became an important business location.  During the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897, there were 48 mining company offices there.  The Pioneer Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.  It was completely rehabilitated in 1973, then renovated in 1980 & 2016.  It has always been an office building.  The Underground Seattle Tours ticket office has been located in the Pioneer Building for many years.  

In June of 2020, these offices were listed for rent in the Pioneer Building:

1. Great one person office overlooking the co-working lounge. The Pioneer Building is located in the center of the cultural hub of Seattle. Walkable to abundant restaurants, cafes, antique shops, bookstores & boutiques, Pioneer Square is a vibrant neighborhood close to all major public transportation. 

2. 5th floor office with gorgeous south-facing view. With a peek at Century Link Field & walls with charming brick detail, this suite is great for companies with 8 to 15 employees. This comes with a conference room, kitchen, 2 large offices & open work space. The Pioneer Building is a historic landmark outstanding for its importance in Seattle's oldest business district & for the beauty of its architecture.

Right in front of the Pioneer Building is the small park called Pioneer Square, which is confusing because the whole neighborhood is called Pioneer Square.  It's not officially called Pioneer Square Park (which might help) & it's not even square, it's triangular.  It used to be called Pioneer Place.  Why did they change the name?  In Pioneer Square (the park) you can see a Tlingit totem pole, a bust of Chief Seattle, & Day/Night (two enamel-on-steel panels with Chief Seattle quotations in English & Lushootseed, created by Edgar Heap of Birds).  Best of all, you can see the Pioneer Square Pergola, a national historic landmark.