The Campbell and Hamm buildings – in West Seattle’s primary business district, The Junction © 2016 Southwest Seattle Historical Society

The Campbell and Hamm buildings – in West Seattle’s primary business district, The Junction © 2016 Southwest Seattle Historical Society

As our region rides its biggest boom cycle since the 19th century Gold Rush and construction cranes fill our skies, many communities are coming together to figure out ways to grow and change while also preserving the historic character of our neighborhoods. What does that work actually look like in action?

Often, preserving a historically significant building or space starts with something critical, yet unglamorous: surveys and studies! Funded by our Preservation Special Project grant in 2014, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society partnered with four other West Seattle organizations to conduct the West Seattle Junction Historical Survey. A professional architectural historian assessed more than 50 buildings lining California Avenue, identifying two that are strong candidates for landmark status.

The Campbell Building, located at 4218 SW Alaska St, built in 1918, now occupied by Cupcake Royale, and the Hamm Building, located at 4302 SW Alaska St, built in 1926, currently occupied by Easy Street Records, help define the character—old and new—of the West Seattle Junction. They house local, small-business tenants and provide rental housing at lower rates than the new buildings that seem to pop up overnight in and near the Junction. Long-time West Seattleites support the preservation of these cornerstone buildings, but, SWSHS argues, so do newer residents—their surveys found that historic buildings like the Campbell and Hamm were a big draw for those who had moved to the neighborhood recently.

At the beginning of this year, the SWSHS received another grant through the same program, this time to research and write a Landmark nomination for each of the two buildings. Written by recently retired 4Culture staff member Flo Lentz, the nominations were submitted to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board in September—stay tuned to the SWSHS to find out the future of the Junction!