Demolition of a handsome 100-year-old Seattle house video

Eileen Gunn sez, "This is a moving video of the house of a friend of mine being torn down on Capitol Hill in Seattle to make way for a light rail station. I drove by the house tonight and it was gone. I thought, 'At least I don't have to watch it being torn down.' But when I got home, I found she'd sent me an email: 'Life is so strange. Today, a complete stranger sent me this video of the demolition of my house on East Denny Way, and, of course, I couldn't not look.' So I watched it. I figured I owed a 100-year-old house that much. The video is by Brad Kevelin, on the CHS Capitol Hill Seattle blog."

Demolition: more photos and video (Thanks, Eileen)


  1. God, I hope they salvaged the old growth fir first. Would be such a shame for that to all go to a landfill.

  2. Dood.
    I just walked past it and noticed the giant amount of space that used to be filled with house. And there was a strange smell in the air from all of the debri…

  3. And I thought that loosing that piroshki resturant on Broadway was bad.

    Seattle is decades behind where it needs to be in terms of public transportation.

  4. Apart from the sadness of seeing homes being torn down I just couldn’t bear seeing all that material being wasted. Almost everything there could have been salvaged and that just makes it even sadder.

  5. This kind of thing wouldn’t happen here in Germany. Even though they have tons of stuff that’s hundreds of years old they should be protecting, they’re talking about protecting crappy new stuff built in the 1960’s and 1970’s as “historic buildings” (link in German, but you can enjoy the photo)

  6. Happens all the time in Aus. I’m all for public transport and buildings do have to be taken down sometimes, I just wish that people used salvage teams a bit more. You can often get a salvage team in to pull a place down for free. They take everything away, do less damage to the site and create less noise (usually). They take a bit longer but they have big benefits.

  7. I live in Seattle, and this made me sad. I know everything changes, but I don’t know… And thanks “Germany” yeah right, nothing shitty ever happens in your country.

  8. I thought about salvage, too. They had the place boarded up for months so that looters wouldn’t get in, and then they just smashed it. It probably had foot-thick beams in the basement. Not to mention the hardware and great old Craftsman windows.

    I think the big Doug fir is still there, but they will probably “harvest” it. They’re worth thousands of dollars: even the city knows that. It’s not old-growth, though. Capitol Hill was clear cut in the 1880s. An old-growth Dough fir would be more like 500-800 years old. This one was probably about the same age as the house.


    Likewise in the UK. People keep getting Listed Building Status (i.e. protected) put on concrete crap that blights the area.

    The preservation lot are always claiming that they are examples of modernist/brutalist/other-pretentious-crap school of architecture that should be preserved for posterity, without ever considering that it is also ugly and universally hated by the locals.


  10. Once knew a boat builder who was already salvaging old homes in the sixties; he was complaining about the difficulty of finding good wood forty years ago. He passed away not to long ago in his late nineties.

  11. “…without ever considering that it is also ugly and universally hated by the locals.”

    You can be damned sure that the neighbours thought the same thing about the Pyramids, Roman villas and Georgian terraces. I wouldn’t argue with your aesthetic judgement one iota, but who knows what people of the future will think? And if there aren’t any examples left for them to see, that would be a pity.

  12. It’s always sweet for a European to watch Americans getting nostalgic about things that are 100 years old.

    I live in a house that’s just over a hundred years old and it’s modern. The house next door is over 400 years old…

    Anyway, yes it’s seriously depressing to think that all those materials have been destroyed. All that wood…

  13. Are people really getting depressed about a house getting torn down? Seriously? It’s a pile of wood, people. An old, inefficient, pile of wood. I understand that a person who lived there might be a little sentimental, but I get no more depressed about this than I do seeing a Ford Pinto junked. Not everything that is “old” deserves to be preserved, and certainly the removal of this house is completely undeserving of this video treatment that attempts to evoke some sort of civil rights era struggle against god only knows what.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too; you want efficient homes, and end to sprawl, and clean public transportation. Well, some things are going to have to get taken down to make room for all that. Let’s not get maudlin about a house.

  14. The sadness is for the waste of material goods that are now rare and getting rarer. The lumber in that building was cut from trees older and thus larger than any tree on a commercial tree-farm is allowed to get these days. The glass, wiring, radiators, even any interior detailing, could all have been sold for reuse-there by offsetting the cost of the demolition and reducing the amount dumped in some landfill.

  15. @#14 Hear, hear.

    I’m an urban planner who likes old cities, and even I think historic preservation can get entirely out of control.

    I’m all for preservation of select structures, and for preservation of historic urban forms, but wholesale historic preservation of neighborhoods is almost always done as a tool to prevent any development or change. It’s only slightly veiled NIMBYism.

    I would assume that much of the materials are still being _recycled_ if not salvaged. Most demolition waste gets reused these days, at least on the projects I have contact with. In any case, the heat that escapes from a house like that every few years is more than enough to cover the cost of sourcing new wood for a new house.

  16. @# – “Capitol Hill was clear cut in the 1880s.”

    Uh, yeah, but the wood they made houses with came from other, exotic, far-away, still wooded places with old growth.

    Places like Issaquah.

  17. Hmmm… my boyfriend’s apartment building was across the street on Nagle. I wonder if it’s gone yet. It was a dump, but a lot of good memories there…

    Still I so love the idea of finally being able to take the train from the airport when I see him – cabs are so expensive.

  18. I don’t know anything about this house in particular. But I do know that Seattle DOES have a civil rights struggle going on with the city’s use of imminent domain to seize properties. In particular, we have a case where the city posted something on the internet to warn someone that their house was being seized to be used as a transit parking lot. That was a couple years ago, and all they have done in a lot of these lots is just raze the lot- then begin complaining that they don’t have the money to go farther! Seattle has been paying lip service to light rail for ages, and we’ve seen no real progress.
    Portland is half our size, poorer, and has an absolutely kick ass light rail system. They don’t have a ferry system to support though. Or the ocean…:)

  19. Reiterating that, dear Jesus on high, Seattle needs better public transportation. I’ll let them tear my left arm from its socket if it means I don’t have spend 3 hours round trip on a multi-bus commute to go the 12 miles to Bellevue and back.

    Oh, and the music track on this video is over-the-top ridiculous.

  20. I’m not a fan of the light rail. In some cities maybe its just the thing. In other places I think an expanded bus service might do better. Its way more flexible, its cheaper, its building on something that’s already there. The list goes on. Why not spend the stimulus money on more and better buses, bus stops, hell, why not spend the money on the fares themselves instead of making the poorest of the poor cough up their last dollars to access public transportation that we all know is what people should be doing anyway. Make it free for the people to ride and maybe we really would start seeing fewer cars on the road. New construction of huge road projects is so disruptive to city traffic. I’d rather see lots of small projects… sidewalk repair and installation, tree installation. My GOD, there are so many little things that would make things so much better. I wish “they” would…

  21. I for one am glad to see homes replaced with light rail and let’s not forget that they also closed up that disgusting Jack in the Box next door to that house. Seattle’s pro-sprawl, anti-mass transit policies have gone on long enough – the less said about the disastrous monorail project the better – it’s good to see something actually happening.

  22. Living on the Hill I have been depressed/a bit horrified by the rampant demolition of beautiful old buildings and places that, while not all that much to look at, contained local businesses or housed artists that were part of the local culture.

    And what has this been replaced with? Condos constructed out of mismatched materials, designed by artitectural flunkies who apparently have never heard of color theory. The units are priced for upper class vapid yuppies and aging professionals, and the street level businesses are aimed at those same people. A perfect little sanitized community in a concrete cube. Hyper-modern vomit. Gentrification.

    I had always wondered how they were going to fill all those units with a tanking economy. The answer of course was that they couldn’t. Sales signs for condo units stayed up, and sometimes lots went up for sale or were abandoned, or in the case of the Bimbo’s-Bus Stop-Kincoras-Art house block, simply turned into a one level parking lot.

    To sum up my semi-related venting: I am done with short-sighted developers fucking up my neighborhood.

    However, Seattle needs a better mass transit infrastructure, and Sound Transit is the only entity that seems to know what it’s doing (the people planning the monorail expansion certainly didn’t). I’m sorry to see cool old houses go, and have the face of the neighborhood changed by this, but seeing as how this project will ultimately benefit people in the neighborhood and the city as a whole, I really can’t complain.

  23. I used to live on Seattle’s Beacon Hill; I remember being sad at the demolition of about five perfectly good, adorable mid-20th-century houses for the light rail station there. That said, Seattle really does need better public transportation and I have been glad to see the steady progress of the light rail project.

  24. @PeterNBiddle – Uh, yeah, yourself. I was responding the person who suggested that the standing tree in the video was old growth, not commenting on the components of the house.

    That’s not an old growth tree, although it is a nice, tall second-growth tree, and there are far too few of them left on Cap Hill.

  25. So many Seattle commenters here! I live across the street from this condemned block and have been wondering since it was vacated and boarded up when demolition would begin.
    It seemed a shame to close all those businesses that were doing so well, and a double shame to kick people out of their housing, a moment sooner than absolutely necessary.

  26. The saddest and hardest to watch part of the video was when THE MOTHERHUMPIN’ BILLY JOEL started.

    That is just mean.


  27. Um, Deltasleep@22? Seattle doesn’t have the ocean; that body of water is called Puget Sound. The ocean is about a hundred miles due west of Seattle. Y’know, over on the other side of that mountain range you can see when you look west? Now, in fairness, if you sail 40mi north up the Puget Sound to Admiralty Inlet, turn northwest and sail another 50mi or so out the Strait of Juan de Fuca, you end up at the ocean. But the Sound isn’t the ocean. Portland has their rivers, and we have the Sound. Neither of us has the ocean. Welcome to Seattle, btw, now go look at a map.

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