Editor’s Note: April 2012

Entrepreneurial Spirits Haunt Seattle’s Buildings

By Katherine Koberg March 23, 2012 Published in the April 2012 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Andre Mora

IN THE EARLY ’90s there used to be the sweetest, most romantic restaurant on First Avenue called Cafe Sophie. Diners entered through the stone archways in the middle of the block between Stewart and Virginia and set foot into a rococo wonderland, thick with ambience. Ornate framed mirrors bedecked the deep forest green walls, small table lamps shed an intimate glow, and, along the north side of the room, tables nestled in alcoves curtained behind heavy velvet drapes—how romantic is that? In the back, another dining room, a library of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

But what I remember most is that the main dining room felt cavernous, its sparsely arranged tables making the place seem emptier than it actually was. It closed, then reopened under new owners, then died.

Given Seattle’s penchant for recycling, in the intervening years a succession of restaurants has rotated through that spot, which, thanks to James Ross Gardner’s riveting tale of the Butterworth mortuary, I now know was the country’s first full-service funeral emporium.

Today the Butterworth Building is a regular stop on the Market Ghost Tour. Though some attribute the turnover in restaurants to the spirits that have haunted the place since its days as a mortuary, it may be just as likely that, since the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s only so much a tenant can do to make the space suitable for eating and drinking. As I write, the newest reincarnation is in the planning stages: an offshoot of Kells, the Celtic bar on the Post Alley side of the building.

Coincidentally, another reimagined building, a former church, makes an appearance in this issue, in Laura Cassidy’s spring fashion report. The Ballard structure (pictured) began life in 1907 as the Second Swedish Baptist Church, and before it became a private residence and art venue in 2005, it was home to at least four other spiritual institutions. It served as an artistic setting for our photo shoot, and it’s now on the market, poised for whatever use its future owners decide.

Lastly, we pay our respects to another iconic structure, the Space Needle, which turns 50 this month. What is it about the flying saucer on stilts, which began as a sketch on a napkin, that makes it a powerful symbol of our city’s aspiration and ambition? For starters, writes architecture critic Lawrence W. Cheek, she’s got great legs.

Filed under
Show Comments