Complaints about traffic and noise have prompted a Kirkland man to turn off the lights — 175,000 of them — at the “Hawk House,” which has attracted thousands of visitors.
The celebrated “Hawk House” in Kirkland — an elaborate football-themed Christmas display that attracted thousands of visitors — will be dark this holiday season, a victim of its own success.
Neighbors complained last year about traffic, noise and flashing lights — 175,000 of them — from Thanksgiving through Christmas. The fierce Seahawks logo that seemed to float above the house’s dark roof was lighted into the new year, through the playoffs.
Drivers slowed to take pictures. They parked in the neighbors’ driveways and along both sides of the usually quiet residential street. Tour buses from as far away as Bainbridge Island idled out front.
Last year, the city of Kirkland asked the owner and creator, Anthony Mish, to dial it back a bit. Mish shortened the hours, lowered the volume on the synchronized music and turned the whole display off a couple of nights a week. Signage helped direct traffic in and out of the neighborhood.
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But Mish, a contractor, said he saw the way things were going, like going three-and-out late in the fourth quarter with a 14-point deficit.
“It got too big for the neighborhood,” he said.
But the prospect of actually going dark has bummed him out.
Mish got his start working with his father, who each Christmas built Santa’s Workshop and the Dickens Victorian Village for Macy’s in downtown Seattle. He was also a huge fan of Clark Griswold, the overly ambitious father played by Chevy Chase in the film “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” who covers his house in Christmas lights only to blow out the city power grid.
“I used to love that movie,” Mish said.
He decorated his house with wall-to-wall lights, then joked to a friend that what it needed was a Seahawks logo.
“My friend said, ‘No way you can do that,’ so I had to prove him wrong,” Mish said.
After several unsatisfying attempts, he mounted a 14-by-35-foot Seahawk in LED lights on four panels. One garage door featured a big “12,” and the other a Super Bowl trophy in shining white lights.
He also opened up his Kirkland home to let visitors see his more traditional interior decorations, including a Christmas village with a miniature train and a Seahawk Santa who’d pose for photos with kids.
In exchange, he collected canned food, toys and cash donations for charities, including Toys for Tots and Hopelink.
The setup for the whole display took over 400 hours, he said, with an additional 200 hours spent opening the house to the public and 150 hours to take it all down.
The neighbors’ complaints, after all that work, left Mish depressed. He says he timed how long it took to get to his house when there was no display versus going through traffic during the holidays when the house was lighted up. He calculated a delay of about two minutes.
City of Kirkland officials also felt bad.
“It was a pretty amazing show,” said Michael Cogle, deputy director of the city Parks and Community Services Department. “It became known in the region as a go-to place for holiday lights.”
But Cogle said the location, on a relatively narrow residential street with limited access, raised concerns about police and firefighters getting through in an emergency. And, he said, quite a few neighbors complained.
The city told Mish that he would have to apply for a special-events permit this year, which could limit the hours of operations even further.
“We weren’t opposed to him continuing, but obviously this was more than the typical guy decorating his house for Christmas,” Cogle said.
Mish decided to pull the plug. He spent the offseason trying to make amends with neighbors. But he agreed with the city that the light show had grown too big for his street.
Now he’s trying to find a venue that would allow for an even bigger display, maybe as many as 1 million lights, with ample parking and good access and an indoor venue for an interior display, possibly with a banquet room that families or companies could rent out.
He’s also looking for a financial backer to help offset all the costs.
“I want to create a new holiday tradition, something that people will come back to year after year,” Mish said.
But as stores festoon their aisles and Christmas lights start going up around the region, Mish is trying to be philosophical about what will be a dark season for him.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said.