Tuesday, November 11, 2014

2014 NEIGHBORHOOD CAMPAIGN: Kirk House Restoration Part 1

When I think of Bellevue and the eastside in general I think of a deeply-rooted conservatism, suburban love of the preservation of property values and a regular trips to the shopping mall.

In the mid 50s, however, it was seen as the best option if you were an architect newly returned from Europe and a crash course in the International Style courtesy of World War 11.  You wanted to start a family, you wanted to experiment with structure, new materials and the naturism of Asian philosophy and you had no money.  If you were Paul Kirk, you found your clients in the forested hills on the eastside.

Kirkland Kirk House (no relation to Peter Kirk)
Kirkland Kirk House

Across the street from us sits a stunningly simple two-bedroom residence with a central solarium or courtyard garden. Dramatically situated on the edge of a ravine it is hidden from street view behind a large laurel hedge.  In fact, if you plug in the street address, here is the view from the curb in Google Street View:

2007, over 50 years later

Penetrate the hidden entrance, however, and you discover a mid-century cube with an inner courtyard completely unchanged since 1955:

It’s been empty since 2007, when we moved down the street.  At the time, it was on the market and you could view the interior during frequent open houses.  We could still enter the house's interior up until this spring (2014) when a padlock was put on the house, and a rather mysterious sign:

This was in response to a break in and vandalism which occurred earlier in the year:

The stout little house bravely stood up to the worst assault of Silly String, chalk and soda pop the neighborhood kids could inflict on it.  Not a single window has broken, despite all the glass.

Update:  The City Code Compliance Department has been contacted to trim the laurel hedge to improve sight lines for pedestrians and cars using the street at this point in the road, where it curves and meets an intersection.  There are no sidewalks here and frequent foot traffic by bus riders, school children and other residents means that the neglect here can become a safety hazard.  Other than that, there are no breaches of code compliance and though the house is clearly abandoned it isn't perceived as a nuisance.  Even the taxes were paid this year.  But by whom?

Update:  I contacted the original 2007 realtor at 360 Modern, who was also a friend of the owner.  Around that time the house was going into foreclosure because owner Valerie was unable to keep up the payments.  The realtor told me that Val died suddenly without relatives or a will.  Flash forward seven years and the evidence of neglect can clearly be seen. 


 In addition to becoming the target of break-ins and vandalism, it is at great risk of structural damage during winter storms.  If it hasn’t already started to leak, the flat roof soon will.  At that point it will be too late to save the house due to the high cost of repairs.

Update:  several experts from King County Historic Preservation office have been by to assess the condition of the house in recent weeks and have commented that it's in "surprisingly good shape."

The inner courtyard, a hallmark of Kirk's innovative approach to letting the sun as well as the garden view in at the center of the house, sharing it with all four sides through generous windows and doors.

Original kitchen and appliances

Update:  May 26, 2014
Pending lawsuit, according to King County Records.
Taxes have been paid through April.
Currently in foreclosure, expected to be sold at auction.

Wait!  No, its not in foreclosure, its in pre-foreclosure!  Recontrust, the current "owner" was found to be a subsidiary of Bank of America (a huge no-no when legally BofA was supposed to use an "independent" trustee.)  Recontrust is no longer allowed to do business in the state of Washington.  I've been instructed to either hire an attorney or contact the local BofA rep or both.

Update:  June 17, 2014  Last night I presented a proposal for a community historic preservation project to get the community thinking about preserving a piece of their heritage.  The general feeling was that the City should buy it.  The City, represented by Ying Carlson, feels that would take a while.  It could go up for auction at any time.  


I would like the Kirk House to become a magnet for lovers of mid-century modern architecture everywhere and to provide the neighborhood with a much-needed exhibit and gathering space as well as an opportunity for people to continue up the hill and visit our neighborhood shopping center:  

It could provide the cultural catalyst needed for more shoppers from outside the neighborhood to patronize our local merchants.  (Kirk House is the small pink circle at lower center)

It could be acquired as a much-needed park for the neighborhood.
It could also become a key feature in connecting the network of green spaces and schools in our neighborhood.

 It could become a demonstration garden for shade gardens or the landscape of the Pacific Rim.

These houses are being torn down on a daily basis here in Bellevue.  The acre of land could legally be cleared and up to four or even five houses built there.

It’s a beautiful little jewel-box of a house, perfect for hosting meetings and exhibits.  It deserves to be rescued.

Join me in supporting the Kirk House Restoration project.

1 comment:

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Kirk House is really an inspirational and stunning house without any doubt. i just checked the photos of this house and i am amazed that exterior is not much different even after 50 years. Although, the interior is so wonderful and innovative.