A Soap Manufacturer's Log Mansion on Alki Point

One of a handful of photographs taken for the Bernard family of their new Alki Point log mansion in 1905. The group was handed to me for copy by Doris Nelson who took over the mansion in 1960 and continued to operate it as a restaurant until her death in 2004. The rest of the photos will be attached below the copy I wrote (with a few changes) for Pacific Northwest's April 10, 1994 issue. (CLICK to ENLARGE)

The Alki Homestead

Except for its listing in the Seattle Tour Map, the Homestead Restaurant doesn’t advertise.  It doesn’t need to.  The menu is traditional American, with basic entrees such as steak and pan-fried chicken, biscuits, vegetables, potatoes – usually mashed – and apple pie.  What brings customers in is as much the place as the plate.  The Homestead and its carriage house are two of the last three surviving log structures on Alki Point.  (In the 15 or so years since this was first published two others have been found.  Neither is on Alki Point but rather up the hill.  When the addresses are available we will share them – here.)

This view of the Homestead was photographed in 1905 when it was the new home of W. J. Bernard, a Seattle soap manufacturer.  Its builders soon gave it up, however; missionary work interested Mrs. Bernard more than the duties of managing the social calendar of a capitalist’s mansion.

In 1907 Seattle’s New Auto Club bought the log mansion and its adjoining carriage house.  Getting from Seattle to West Seattle by motorcar was then still an adventure and most members made it a two-day excursion.  The clubhouse gave them a night’s lodging and a large kitchen for preparing club meals.

Driving to West Seattle soon became both easy and passé’ and the motorists abandoned their log clubhouse to common uses – a boarding house, family home and since 1950, a restaurant.  Doris Nelson, its present owner, has been with the Homestead since 1960

One of Seattle’s most vital and effective heritage organizations, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, is working to acquire the Homestead’s sizable log carriage house for a museum.  Considering that Alki Point is (at least one of) the birthplace(s) of Seattle and that the settler’s first structures were rough-hewed, using this log survivor for a museum is a most well-chosen and promising act of preservation.

(Doris Nelson died of pneumonia on Nov. 18, 2004.  Following her death it was hoped, as noted above, that the West Seattle Historical Society might manage to acquire the Homestead and use in, in part, for an expansion from its Log Cabin Museum, which was originally the carriage house for the Bernard family.  Instead, property developers Patrick Henly and Thomas Lin purchased the Homestead and also kept it going as a restaurant of the same style and menu that Doris had developed.  Then the fire of Jan. 16, 2009 made its interruption.)

Bernard family home porch, 1905.
Fireplace & Piano. Sheet music for "I'm On the Water Wagon" & "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (Click to Enlarge)
Library and fireplace

Finally – we think – how to get to West Seattle before the trolley arrived in 1907.  Ferry City of Seattle takes on passengers at the West Seattle dock on Harbor Avenue.  Actually, the ferry continued to run long after the streetcar arrived.

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