Thanks to the generosity of its new owners, a priceless piece of Seattle history is now exactly that — priceless. Being offered free to...
Thanks to the generosity of its new owners, a priceless piece of Seattle history is now exactly that — priceless.
Being offered free to anyone who will move it is the former Hunts Point home of 1950s hydroplane legend Stan Sayres, hailed as the “father of Seafair.” Designed in 1949 by renowned Northwest architect Roland Terry, the low-slung, light-filled rambler is a nearly museum-perfect example of 1950s luxury living. All 6,860 square feet of it.
The structure itself is worth as much as $800,000.
But whether the Sayres house indeed will be saved — or fall to the wrecking ball, as so many others have done to make way for new homes — is far from certain. The complex reasons offer a window into why good intentions alone often aren’t enough to save usable, or even historic, homes.
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The old Sayres place sits tucked away behind a metal privacy gate on the very tip of Hunts Point, an exclusive Eastside millionaires community. Even by Hunts Point standards the land is exceptional — two acres, 248 linear feet of low-bank Lake Washington waterfront offering 270-degree Seattle views.
Besides the home, there’s Sayres’ old boathouse where he kept his two Gold Cup-winning hydros, Slo-mo-shun IV and Slo-mo-shun V. So strong is the hydros’ cachet that a vintage metal lapel pin featuring Slo-mo IV recently sold for $3,577 on eBay.
“Slo-mo invented summer in Seattle,” Feliks Banel, deputy director of Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry, said when he first heard Sayres’ home was for sale. “You can’t talk about the 20th century in Seattle without talking about hydroplanes.”
Sayres died in 1956.
Before selling the home earlier this week, real-estate agent Wendy Lister of Coldwell Banker Bain guided numerous potential buyers through it. Many responded to its special pedigree.
“It’s amazing the number of people who had a dream of restoring this home because of Stan Sayres and Roland Terry,” said Lister. “This house is such a part of Seattle. But no one ever took that next step.”
When it went on the market three years ago, the sellers initially asked $25.8 million and placed no restrictions on its use. Still, John Fox, the son of its last owner, the late Margaret Fox Kelley, confided he hoped the oversize lot wouldn’t be broken up and one house replaced by two huge mansions.
In that regard, he has his wish. The new owners are Andre Radandt and his wife, Lisa Bolthouse Radandt. They cinched the deal for $17.5 million and plan to replace the existing home with one slightly larger — but still one-third smaller than the 12,000-square-foot structure allowed on the site.
The Radandts, who have four young children, are relocating from Bakersfield, Calif. Andre Radandt is the CEO of Bolthouse Farms, one of the world’s largest carrot producers. The mostly family-owned business is reportedly worth more than $700 million.
The Bolthouse agricultural empire — they make fruit juices and smoothies, too — began in 1915 in Michigan. It’s there that Lisa Radandt, a descendant of the founder, came to appreciate the power of historic preservation.
She and her husband restored a house they own there, while all around them smaller homes were being replaced by megahouses.
“People thanked us for not tearing it down,” said Lisa Radandt. “We learned a lot from that in terms of value and history.”
Still, coming from elsewhere, the Radandts weren’t connected to Northwest history and decided they preferred a new house to Sayres’ structurally sound but dated four-bedroom home.
They saw value in somehow preserving it, however, which is why they’ll give it away to anyone who’ll move it by next summer.
“The last thing you want to do is come in and upset the community by not caring,” Lisa Radandt said. “You at least have to make a good-faith effort.”
Whether it’s worth it, however, will be much in the eye of the beholder.
Radandt marveled at some of the home’s features — its hidden closet in the master bath for drying nylon stockings, for example. “Nifty! That was a smart lady,” she said of the late Madeleine Sayres, who had the home custom-designed with many special touches.
There are hidden cabinets behind detailed walnut walls, a curved living room designed to drink in the lake view, a soaring marble fireplace and a kitchen with roll-up cabinet doors and stainless-steel counters, all original.
The steel, stone and brick house also has its original radiant-heat floors and Thermopane windows — top-of-the-line amenities when it was built 55 years ago. There is, however, the matter of the his-and-her pink and blue toilets. Radandt laughed and said she wasn’t interested in keeping those.
Touring the home, appraiser Bob Chamberlin calculated that its materials, size and workmanship — not its origins — make it worth up to $800,000.
“The history doesn’t give it extra value,” said Chamberlin, senior residential appraiser for Bruce C. Allen & Associates. A combination of “compelling architectural design and a prominent architect would.”
After appraising many custom-designed luxury homes around here, he doesn’t think this one rises to that standard.
Interestingly, when architect Terry, a luminary of midcentury Northwest architecture, was asked about the Sayres home a few years ago, he could scarcely remember designing it. Rather, he recalled its spectacular waterfront lot.
Dell Davis, president of D.B. Davis House Moving and Raising in Everett, is confident the home can be moved.
Compared to an entire strip mall he once moved, “this house is not that big,” he observed during a walk-through. “So what you look at is what makes the most sense dollar for dollar. In today’s market, you’d have to go a long way to find the kind of quality you see in this house.”
At one story, the home isn’t too tall to be moved along streets. But its shape — several wings off a central core — makes it far too wide.
Thus Davis thinks the best option would be to divide it into sections and barge them out. That’s how musician Kenny G’s former Hunts Point mansion was relocated to Bainbridge Island in 1996.
A considerable amount of engineering would be required to successfully divide and barge the house. “Ballpark, it would be $500,000 to $750,000 to move it,” Davis calculated.
Then there’s the cost of a lot to put it on.
All that is why John Fox, who has many happy memories of living there with his family, said he hopes the old house gets moved, but accepts it may not.
“I’m a realist,” Fox said. “You have to be nowadays.”
Anyone interested in removing the house can contact Wendy Lister at Coldwell Banker Bain: 425-450-5206.
Elizabeth Rhodes: firstname.lastname@example.org