News Clips— Toppled Teepee

WHO KILLED the Twin Teepees?

Many Seattle residents were stunned when the 1937 roadside kitsch restaurant was reduced to a pile of rubble on the last day of July. While considered a neighborhood landmark, the Aurora Avenue building was never formally nominated for city landmark status.

Blame a pair of loopholes in the Seattle land use code. The building wasn't large enough to automatically qualify for state-mandated environmental review. Its owners also applied for a separate demolition permit, again avoiding triggering automatic environmental review. (A formal development application would also mean posting a big white sign on the site describing the project, which might have spurred neighborhood opposition.)

Alan Justad, spokesperson for the city's Department of Design, Construction, and Land Use, says that had state environmental review been imposed, the Teepees would have met the city's criteria for landmarks consideration: a structure over 50 years old that appears to be architecturally significant.

Although no cathedral, the goofy Teepees were a significant reminder of Aurora's pre-Interstate 5 status as part of a major north-south highway (US 99). Generations of Seattleites and thousands of passing motorists dined at the restaurant near Green Lake over the years.

While it's true the land use planner on the case could have nominated the Teepees for landmark consideration, any resident of Seattle could have done the same thing. Don't blame The Seattle Times editorial board: The paper published an editorial last December practically begging someone to seek landmark protection for the Twin Teepees. It never happened.

Historic Seattle's Heather MacIntosh is now trying to set up an inventory of neighborhood historic structures. Volunteers are needed for this as well as to invest the approximately 40 hours of research required for each landmark application. MacIntosh hopes the demolition may spark interest in preservation, much like the loss of Pioneer Square's Olympic Block led to that neighborhood's historic designation in May 1970. "I think the loss of the Teepees in 2001 will get another generation of people enthused about paying attention," she says.

Oh, and despite quotes from property owner Robert Pierides that he wasn't sure what might replace the Teepees, his architect met with regulators in May to discuss plans for a four-story apartment/commercial structure.

James Bush

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