I’ve always had a deep appreciation for historic homes. It’s one of the reasons that I love living and working in Tacoma, with its abundance of intact architecturally significant historic buildings. It’s no accident that Tacoma still has so many incredible old homes. In part, it’s because city leaders recognize and appreciate that historic homes are an important part of Tacoma’s identity AND because the city is committed to protecting and preserving its old homes. In fact, the city’s Historic Preservation Office just won a state-wide award for the outreach programs that they’ve developed to strengthen public understanding of the importance of historic building stock to the fabric of a community. As a City Commissioner on the Landmarks Preservation Commission, I’m grateful for the opportunity that I’ve had to support the city’s efforts.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding landmark preservation and how it can and cannot impact homeowners in Tacoma. This disinformation is due in part to the fact that many real estate brokers aren’t as well versed on the topic as they should be. In an effort to help better educate the brokerage community, I’ll be leading an informational workshop for local real estate brokers on Monday, July 8th in association with Windermere and the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission. We’ll cover the potential benefits that landmark designation can have for homeowners and some of the guidelines that owners of landmarked homes must follow when making external modifications. We’ll also discuss the ways in which historic restoration and adaptive reuse can pave the way for increased investment capital in the community.
If you have any questions about buying or selling a historic home, please give me a call. I’m happy to assist.
For More Information Please Visit: cityoftacoma.org/HPEvents
Waterfront living isn’t unique to the Puget Sound region, but it’s definitely part of what makes working as a Realtor in the area so special. Jeff, Miles and I have listed and sold some really great waterfront properties over the years. They’ve each had features you would expect to find with a waterfront property, but they’ve also had personal histories that have made each house unique – and uniquely personal to us. Here are three of our favorite waterfront sales.
First up is a Raft Island Modern that was rebuilt from the foundation up in 2008 for an artist friend of ours and her husband. The architect for the project was their son, which made owning and living in the house extra special for them. Some of my favorite things about this house are the open volumes of space, the mix of repurposed wood and steel, the huge windows overlooking Henderson Bay, the expansive wrap-around deck and the artist studio up above the house. It’s rare to find this combination of drama, elegance and craftsmanship on the water, which made this home a pleasure to list and sell.
Waterfront homes aren’t just limited to the saltwater shores of the sound. There are also lots of fantastic lakefront homes in the area. A buyer client of ours recently purchased a beautiful, historic home in Lakewood with 130 feet of water frontage on desirable Gravelly Lake. Our client was looking for a home that was big enough to entertain her kids and grandkids, and this house definitely delivered. Features include a spacious gourmet kitchen, a formal dining room, comfortable sitting areas and several decks with views of the lake. This gated property also includes a dock and a two car detached garage with a guest apartment above.
The last home on our waterfront “tour” is a spectacular west-facing property in Poulsbo that we sold to friends of ours a few years back. The house was originally built for a glass artist in 1997, and his handcrafted light fixtures and stained glass windows can be seen throughout. This property embodies the best of the Pacific Northwest lifestyle – sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains, easy access to the water for paddle boarding and kayaking and an abundance of oysters, mussels and crab just waiting to be harvested. We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy many a feast over the years at this one of a kind waterfront gem.
There are a lot of things to consider when you’re buying or selling a waterfront home – soil stability and drainage, bulkhead condition, tideland rights and moorage capacity to name just a few. That’s why it’s important to partner with a Realtor who has experience with waterfront homes and a good working knowledge about what makes them unique. If you’re thinking about buying or selling a waterfront home, we’re here to help.
Mark Pinto is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere Professional Partners, specializing in residential real estate in Tacoma, Gig Harbor, University Place and Lakewood.
Mark Pinto: (253) 318-0923
Tacoma was recently featured in a report by KIRO-7 news’ Kevin McCarty. McCarty notes,
“Tacoma has always been a beer town… and these days business is booming”. “Several independent craft beer makers are reviving the city’s historic brewery district. Craft breweries large and small are popping up in and around the city’s historic brewery district along Pacific avenue in roughly the same area that once housed three large brewers a century ago. Heidelberg, Columbia and the original Pacific breweries once operated very close to an area now seeing an explosion of beer makers. From 19th street to south 55, large independent breweries are up and running or in the works with several small micro-brewers also dotting the area. Recently Gig Harbor based Seven Seas has announced they’ll open a large scale operation after converting an old warehouse near S. 21st and Jefferson streets.”
For those of us that love beer and Tacoma… this is certainly a “win-win.”
One of the things I love most about selling real estate in downtown Tacoma is introducing clients to the different condominium buildings there – some shiny and new and others tastefully restored. The Vintage Y at 714 Market Street falls into the tastefully restored category. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was designed by prominent local architect George Bullard and built in 1909 to house the Tacoma chapter of the YMCA. As one of the first chapters in the Pacific Northwest, the Y provided its members with athletic facilities and a robust vocational education program. The YMCA vacated the building on Market Street in 1977, and it was ultimately converted into luxury condominiums dubbed the Vintage Y in 2005. Building amenities include a secure lobby and parking garage, a roof-top deck with barbecue, an outdoor patio, a fitness room and a guest suite.
The Vintage Y is located in the heart of Tacoma's historic theater district. Nearby venues include the Pantages, the Rialto, Theater on the Square and the Tacoma Armory (all managed by the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts) Upcoming Broadway Center events include the Heritage Blues Orchestra at the Rialto, Spectrum Dance Theater at the Armory and The Capitol Steps at the Pantages. The theater district is also home to the Grand Cinema, which offers an excellent selection of first run independent films. Corina Bakery conveniently located next to the Grand on Fawcett, is great for a quick bite before or after the movies. Deanna Bender’s Over the Moon Café on Opera Alley is one of my favorites for a casual lunch or special dinner. The service is great, the décor is eclectic and the food’s delicious. When I’m in the market for some new household furnishings, I like Giraffe and Dwelling, both on St. Helens.
Another great thing about the Vintage Y is its proximity to 27-acre Wright Park – a jewel of a green space that includes an arboretum, a playground, a running path and a pond complete with a bridge and waterside benches. If you haven’t checked out the Vintage Y, the Theater District or Wright Park lately, you should. Well worth the visit. For more information about living at the Vintage Y and properties currently available for purchase, visit www.401vintagey.com.
There are a lot of misconceptions about historic homes and historic districts in Tacoma. As a Realtor, a former board member of Historic Tacoma and a current member of the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission, I’m often asked about the potential impact that historic designation might have on a property. Many people worry that historic designation is a negative thing. I believe (and I think the data supports me on this) that just the opposite is true. Inclusion on the historic register has been proven to increase the value of a property and also allows for property tax credits related to home renovations. For me, Tacoma's historic buildings and neighborhoods are a big part of what makes it so special, and I think it’s important to protect that heritage. Below are some common misconceptions about properties included on the historic register and homes that are contributing structures in a designated historic district.
Misconception #1 – I can’t make any changes to the house.
FALSE – Interior changes to a property on the historic register do not require any additional approval above and beyond regular city permitting. If you want to remodel a kitchen or a bathroom or upgrade plumbing, electrical or heating, the permitting and approval process is exactly the same as any non-historic home in Tacoma. Exterior changes to the home do require approval from the Landmark Preservation Commission (a process called design review). For guidelines about the type of exterior changes that require design review, visit the City of Tacoma Historic Preservation website.
Misconception #2 – I can’t replace any windows or doors in the house.
FALSE – While it's true that you can't replace existing wood windows with vinyl or metal windows, you are alowed to replace rotting or deteriorated windows with wood replacements. Existing wood windows can also be repaired. Older windows may be painted shut, sash chords and weights may not be operating properly or windows may be missing putty that holds the glazing in place. These issues can be easily and inexpensively addressed with repairs, saving you thousands of dollars in replacement costs. Of note, the life expectancy of a vinyl window is only about 20 years. Properly maintained wood windows last a lifetime. Studies also show that single pane wood windows with well fitted exterior storm windows provide the same energy efficiency as dual glazed windows. For more information about wood windows versus vinyl, please check out my blog “Why replacing wood windows is a costly mistake.”
Misconception #3 – It’s harder to sell a historic home because of all the restrictions.
FALSE – A number of studies have been done over the years showing that property values increase dramatically when a neighborhood is designated as a historic district. A study conducted in Tucson, AZ showed that home values in a historic district there were 30% higher on average than similar homes in non-historic neighborhoods and that homes in the historic district appreciated at a rate that was 15% greater than their non-historic counterparts. It pays to be historic! For additional findings, visit the American Council on Historic Preservation.
Misconception #4 – The “historic police” will tell me what I can and can’t do to my house.
FALSE – As long as you maintain your home properly, you'll never have to worry about additional scrutiny, and trees and landscaping don't fall within the scope of historic protection. The good news for historic properties located in Tacoma is that there is now a mechanism in place to protect structures on the historic register from neglect and ruin. The purpose is to avoid demolition of the structures. Click here to learn more about Tacoma’s Historic Property Maintenance Code.
Misconception #5 – All old structures are considered historic.
FALSE – There are only about 1,300 structures in Tacoma that are on the local, state, or national historic registers. Only structures individually listed on the Tacoma Historic Register or located within a Tacoma historic district are protected. Designated historic districts in Tacoma include the Wedge, North Slope, Old City Hall and the Union Depot/Warehouse district. Salmon Beach is on the Washington Register, and Stadium District is on the National Register.
I’ve outlined a number of benefits to owning a historic home – from increased property values to the protection of our city's heritage. If you’d like to learn more about how to place your home on the historic register, or would like to learn about the implications associated with buying or selling a historic home, please contact me or visit the City of Tacoma’s Preservation website at http://www.tacomaculture.org/historic/home.asp.
Jeff Williams is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes. Jeff is also a former board member of Historic Tacoma, and currently serves on the City of Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Commission. Click here to email Jeff or give him a call at 253-303-1135.
As a commissioner for the City of Tacoma's Landmarks Preservation Commission and a former board member of Historic Tacoma, I've had a lot of experience with historic properties. I've also been buying, renovating and selling historic homes myself for more than twenty years (45 houses and counting). Not surprisingly, clients often seek my advice when they're thinking about buying an older house. With the busy spring home buying season upon us, I thought it might be a good time to share some thoughts about what to consider when buying a historic home. Below, I describe some of the “big ticket” replacement and repair costs that you may incur during the restoration of an older home. It's important to note that there are loan programs and tax credits available to help defray some of these costs if you are buying a historic home in Tacoma.
2. Old houses aren’t usually insulated. Builders didn't really begin insulating homes until the late teens and early twenties, and even then they generally just added cellulose (paper pulp) to the exterior walls and attics at very low insulating levels. If you’ve ever demolished the ceiling in an older home, you'll know what I’m talking about. You’re probably still discovering bits of the pulverized paper in your hair, ears and clothes. If you’re doing a major remodel to a home, it makes sense to strip off the old interior plaster down to the studs so that the wiring and plumbing can be updated and insulation can be added. If you’re not doing a major renovation, my advice would be to simply add insulation to the attic and underneath the first floor to increase the insulation value as much as possible. Learn more about insulation at energy.gov.
3. Are the mechanical systems up to date? When buying an old house, people often encounter things like knob and tube wiring, galvanized and lead pipes, oil burning furnaces the size of a Winnebago and broken sewer lines. Older systems aren't necessarily a problem, but a thorough pre-purchase home inspection can identify failing systems in need of immediate attention. Be sure to factor the cost of plumbing, electrical and heating system upgrades into the purchase price of a home before you make an offer, and make sure you can afford to repair or replace these systems as it becomes necessary during your ownership.
4. Original windows and doors are great. Leave them alone! Nothing frustrates me more than buyers who immediately think they have to replace all of the original doors and windows in a house. It is significantly more cost effective to repair original windows and doors and install storm windows. They’ll be just as energy efficient and will last exponentially longer than their cheap vinyl counterparts. For more details regarding wood windows versus vinyl, check out my blog post regarding that subject here.
5. How many layers are on the roof? Many older homes in Tacoma originally had wood shingle roofs with no underlayment to support a modern roof. Over time, home owners have simply shingled over the original roof. If a roof has three layers or more, it's no longer a candidate for re-shingling. The roof will have to be completely torn off, and an underlayment of plywood or particle board will need to be installed before the new roofing material can be added. Tear offs are three times as expensive as simple re-shingling so it's helpful to know how many layers a roof has before writing an offer to purchase an older home.
Driving through Tacoma’s stylish Stadium district is a popular activity for out of town visitors and Tacoma residents alike, this writer included. The Stadium Seminary National Historic District was first listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and occupies the area between North I Street and the shoreline and between First Street and North Tenth Street. The district takes its name from Stadium High School, an iconic Hewitt and Hewitt designed French Renaissance structure originally built as a hotel in 1891. Construction of the hotel was halted before completion by an economic downturn in 1893. When a fire burned much of the existing structure in 1898, the city of Tacoma decided to re-purpose the building as a school. Stadium High School opened in 1906.
Jeff Williams has owned a historic 1900 Victorian in the heart of Stadium since 2005. He is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes. Click here to email Jeff or give him a call at 253-303-1135.
As a member of the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission, former board member of Historic Tacoma and a long time restorer of historic homes, Jeff is frequently asked by friends and real estate clients about restoring their houses. In Tacoma, and across the country for that matter, many home owners believe vinyl windows are an inexpensive solution to replacing deteriorating, wood windows. But, we now have evidence that the replacement of wood windows is a costly mistake.
Jeff thinks most will agree that original wood windows are important architectural features in any historic structure. They are the "eyes" of the building. They convey a sense of craftsmanship and detail that cannot be achieved with substitute materials. In Jeff's experience with renovating and selling historic homes, he finds that buyers are willing to pay a premium for an older home with well maintained operational original wood windows than those with cheap vinyl replacement windows. Jeff cites the fact that the majority of his restoration projects involve removing vinyl siding and inappropriately sized vinyl replacement windows.
Jeff believes that windows are replaced by homeowners if they begin having operational problems: they stick or rattle, latches break, glass is broken, sash cords break and the windows have to be held open with a stick, let in outside air, or need to be painted. However, these problems are the simplest, most cost-effective to fix. More often than not, wood windows can be easily repaired to operate correctly and last another hundred years.
Vinyl Windows Wood Windows
Here are just a few of the problems associated with vinyl windows, and why they're not "maintenance-free."
With the aforementioned problems associated with vinyl windows, it's clear that vinyl replacement windows aren’t a cost effective long term solution. According to Mark Huppert, technical director of the Preservation Green Lab, “a number of existing window retrofit strategies come very close to delivering the energy benefits of high-performance replacement windows – at a fraction of the cost, from weather stripping and sealing, to installing exterior storm windows or interior cellular shades, almost every retrofit option offers a better return on investment than outright replacement.” Jeff's rule of thumb is the 50% rule. If a window sash is less than 50% deteriorated, it probably is cost effective to repair. If more than 50% deteriorated, replace it with a new wood sash window that matches the existing window.
If you’d like further information and access to the complete study by conducted by Preservation Green Lab visit http://www.preservationnation.org/information-center/sustainable-communities/green-lab/saving-windows-saving-money
Kellogg-Sicker Building (aka Browne's Star Grill)
Address: 1114-16 Martin Luther King Jr.Way
Construction Date: 1906
Architect: Carl August Darmer
Address: 1110-1112 Martin Luther King Jr.Way
Construction Date: 1904
Architect: Carl August Darmer
A pioneer architect in Tacoma, Darmer was responsible for designing a number of prominent buildings in the city, including several hotels, the first Chamber of Commerce Building, the German Lutheran Church on South I Street, First Presbyterian (when it was located at South G and 10th Streets), the Unitarian Church on South Tacoma Avenue, the 1893 Synagogue for Beth Israel, the Point Defiance Park Superintendent’s House and several early school buildings. By the 1950s much of Darmer’s work had been replaced by newer construction. These two commercial structures are rare extant examples of Darmer’s work.
Darmer was born in Stralsund, Germany on July 19, 1858 and studied architecture at Hoexter College. In 1882 Darmer traveled to the United States, and was employed as an architect in the firm of Curlett, Mooser and Macy in San Francisco, CA. In 1884 Darmer moved to Tacoma and formed the architectural firm of Farrel & Darmer. Darmer collaborated with a number of other architects, including Charles N. Daniels and John C. Proctor during this time. Darmer worked in Tacoma from 1885 until his retirement in the mid 1930s. He passed away in Tacoma in 1952.
Builders Frank G. Kellogg and Robert Sicker hired Darmer to design the building and J. G. Dickson as the contractor. Like many commercial buildings of the era, the structure housed retail establishments on the main floor and residential units on the second floor. Three main types of tenants occupied the building for most of the twentieth century; dry good stores, grocery stores, and physician/dental offices.
By 1968 Browne’s Star Grill was operating from this location. The restaurant had originally opened as a cigar and newspaper stand on 1219 Pacific Avenue. Francis Browne remained owner of the establishment until 1977. The popular neighborhood restaurant continued until it was forced to close its doors when the City of Tacoma purchased the building in 2005.
Herman Carl Pochert financed the building, which was designed by Darmer and built by the Knoell Brothers construction firm. There were a number of businesses that occupied the building, ranging from shoe stores, to vaudeville theatre, a carpet store, and a hotel. John Samuelson, a native of Sweden, ran Samuelson’s Shoe Store at this address for almost 35 years. Click here to view a photo of the Pochert Building from Tacoma Public Library's collection.
A review of businesses housed in both buildings highlight the multi-ethnic diversity of the neighborhood with Scandinavian, Middle Eastern and Japanese business owners. Historic “K” Street had a strong booster organization. By the 1960s urban flight had left this once bustling area of Tacoma increasingly underutilized. In 2005, the City purchased half the city block, including these two buildings. The four parcels were then going to be sold to a private developer for demolition and construction of a mixed-use building. The Kellogg-Sicker and Pochert buildings have been vacant and in decay since the City obtained ownership of the property. The buildings are in the heart of what once was a thriving commercial district.
In partnership with the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council and the MLK Sub-area Plan Steering Committee, Historic Tacoma submitted a nomination for the buildings to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places in October 2012. The first hearing before the Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled for February 13, 2013 with the public hearing tentatively scheduled for about one month later. Historic Tacoma is currently working with a private developer and the Tacoma Housing Authority, each of which is looking to redevelop the properties.
Photo credits: Gerry Sperry