Established in 1974 by city ordinance, Historic Seattle is a public development authority. It works to reuse and reimagine historic properties for new purposes, “standing up for buildings that nobody else would protect by pursuing full-scale redevelopment of places”. In 2017 alone, the organization served 225,000 people through its eight historic properties and held more than 35 educational and advocacy program events hosting 1,500 people—in addition to reopening Washington Hall.
Without organizations like Historic Seattle, the fabric of this city will be lost. The connection to the past, our direction for the future, would be completely erased if it weren’t for us trying to save buildings like Washington Hall.
— Kji Kelly, Executive Director of Historic Seattle
One of such properties was Seattle’s Washington Hall. Built in 1908, the Hall has served as a hub for social and cultural activities for diverse communities ever since. It has taken on many lives, as a dance hall, then an affordable rental facility, to becoming a popular performing arts venue. Despite its continuous use and place in Seattle’s Central District community, the hall was in disrepair and facing demolition in the early 2000s, a full 100 years since its construction.
Thanks to contributions and a short-term loan, Historic Seattle purchased the hall and had it listed in the National Register in 2010. While Historic Seattle is supported largely by contributions and fundraising campaigns, when projects require a large injection of capital, the organization turns to a lending partner, like Beneficial State Bank, who was also committed to building healthy, interconnected communities. And in May 2016, after working with Beneficial State Bank to secure funding, Historic Seattle completed a $9.9 million restoration, reopening Washington Hall to the community, fully restored as a permanent home for community arts, heritage and cultural organizations.
“It took a lot of time to find the right people that wanted to take the time to understand what we were trying to do, who shared our vision,” Kelly says.