Steinbrueck on Ballard Denny's


Former city council member Peter Steinbrueck may be Seattle's landmark crusader, but he's going to sit the battle over the Ballard Denny's out, at least for now. Says Steinbrueck: "I haven't taken a position on the merits of that particular building. Let the landmarks process take its course. I have full faith in that process."

The city's preservation board last week gave the building the preliminary thumbs up for landmark status. They'll be touring the restaurant this month and making a final decision in February. Those who want the building saved say it's a terrific example of "Googie" style architecture, a genre of design with its origins in southern California in the late 1940s and noted for futuristic elements that attract passing motorists. (The Space Needle, Seattle's most famous example.) The Ballard building was built as a Manning's Cafeteria in 1964. It became a Denny's in 1984 after neighborhood residents convinced the national chain not to tear it down.

Steinbrueck says what he's discovered about the culture for preservation 'round here is that people seem to care less about architectural edifice of unique design and more about a structure's connection to community and history.

...So the Denny's should be a slam dunk, right? (Steinbrueck's not so sure.)

"It could. I put it to some extent in the same category as the Hat and Boots and the Twin Teepees," Steinbrueck says. "I can't say myself how important the Denny's is. It shouldn't be saved just because it was a Manning's."

Though he's only been free from the demands of the council for only a few weeks, Steinbrueck says he's found himself in demand on the landmarks front. "But I'm not getting involved in this battle," he says, adding that Capitol Hill's Oddfellows Hall is the building he's particularly concerned about right now.

Meantime, the initiative Steinbrueck started last year to landmark dozens of downtown buildings continues to lumber through the process, with the first 37 nominations still under consideration.

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