UPDATE: You may recall our “Now & Then” column on the La Quinta Apartments from Jan. 28, 2021. The La Quinta tenants are attempting to buy the building, and today they announced that the sale of La Quinta to a developer has been successfully delayed to allow the tenants to prepare their offer. For more info, visit this link.
UPDATE: The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously on March 17, 2021, to designate the La Quinta apartment building an official city landmark. Congratulations!
Here is our “Now & Then” column from Jan. 28, 2021.
(click and click again to enlarge photos)
(Published in the Seattle Times online on Jan. 28, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Jan. 31, 2021)
U-shaped edifice courts its tenants in 1927 and today
By Clay Eals
How can a house feel more like a home if the home isn’t a house? That’s no trick question. It was a real concern for prolific Seattle developer Frederick Anhalt during the Roaring ’20s nearly a century ago.
Of note among some 45 buildings Anhalt constructed were 19 apartment complexes on Capitol Hill and in Queen Anne. Each exuded unique charm that eludes the modern tendency toward mega-unit boxes.
The first example of Anhalt’s approach and execution presides in our “Then” photo. Built in 1927, the La Quinta Apartments at 1710 East Denny Way in south-central Capitol Hill clearly reflect Spanish influences, with red-clay roof tiles and stucco embedded with colored stones and panels artfully arranged in arches.
Even more significant, however, is the early use of a U-shaped footprint surrounding an ample courtyard filled with foliage and places to sit. It’s long been a welcoming centerpiece for residents of the dozen apartments (two floors each), including units in the pair of turrets at the inner corners. This element creates the notion of “home” even today, when social gatherings are discouraged but an uplifting vision can provide at least the sense of belonging.
“I thought that people should have a nice view to look out to and the feeling that they were living in a house of their own, different from their neighbor’s,” the developer reflected in the 1982 book “Built by Anhalt” by Steve Lambert. “It didn’t seem to make sense … to spend a lot of extra money on a building site just because it had a pretty view in one direction. Somebody else could always put another building between you and your view.”
Small wonder that a for-rent ad in the Nov. 6, 1927, Seattle Times labeled La Quinta “the prettiest and best-arranged individual apartment building in Seattle.”
Today, tenants echo the sentiment. “I know all my neighbors, I talk to them all, I trust them,” says Chelsea Bolan, a resident since 2003. “You interact, you share, you see each other all the time.”
“There just aren’t places like this anymore,” says Lawrence Norman, who grew up there when his dad owned it in 1964-74. “It brings community together. That’s a special thing, and I think that should be preserved.”
Historic Seattle agrees and is nominating it for city landmark status. The first hearing is Feb. 3.
Heartily endorsing the effort is longtime architectural historian Larry Kreisman, who wrote the 1978 book “Apartments by Anhalt” and salutes the developer’s boomtime vision: “For an expanding middle class, Anhalt made dense city-living palatable.”
To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!
Below are five additional photos, a brochure, a landmark nomination, a support letter and, in chronological order, 10 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.
Special thanks to Eugenia Woo, Larry Kreisman and the residents of La Quinta for their assistance with this column!
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: La Quinta Apartments, 1929”
This brings to mind my first experience of Seattle courtesy of my now late wife. Her stepfather, Albin Johnson, built the Wagon Wheel Apartments on Linden just off of Green Lake. My then girlfriend took me to meet her mother, who resided in the manager’s apartment. Albin had put many Swedish style amenities in his interiors, including tiled window sills, and glass fronted cabinets over the pass-through counters.
When my mother-in-law liquidated Albin’s and her community assets in the down market of the mid-70s I don’t think she even cleared a quarter million on the 12 unit complex. God only knows what just that slice of land is worth in today’s market.