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 E. 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 from 1964 to 1974. “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.”