How are you, Sweet-n-low? Has the weather changed for you there, as it has here in the Pacific Northwest? We’ve had freezing temperatures and days with low fog. So beautiful. Especially when walking and running. Running? Yup. Or, better yet, I should say, ‘rugging’—my more accurate combo for my running/jogging. I am again trying to get back into the running swing. It’s free, I feel free, and it realIy gets my heart pumping, all while managing to checking out my surroundings. My mantra: slow and easy= no injuries…or heart attacks. But a couple of days ago it was balmy, with wind. Now, nonstop rain. Who knows? Anywhos do!
Need some really exciting news? What could possibly be that exciting, you ask? Well, get ready, because it’s big. Big excitement. McMenamins, that robust Portland based hospitality company, is finally starting their rehab project on the old Tacoma Elks Temple building.
‘The Elks Temple was built in 1915-16 when fraternal organizations were an important part of the community and had the money to build beautiful buildings such as this one. It was designed by É. Frère Champney, a graduate of the École des Beaux-Arts, in the second Renaissance Revival style.
Adjacent to the building is a stairway called the “Spanish Steps” that winds up the hillside adjacent to the building. These steps, modeled after the Scalinata di Spagna in Rome, were rehabilitated in 2011 by a grant from WSDOT and the Federal Highway Transportation Enhancements program’
This is the same building that has been vacant and leaky since I was a kid. In fact, I don’t remember a time when it was actually a functioning club. And, more recently, it sat even longer after the McMenamins bought it—I think it has been something like 6 years or so. 6 years is a long time for a structure to sit, allowing it to continuing to ponder its years of neglect. Like so many buildings in Tacoma, while driving or walking by, you could swear you could hear it moaning a low despair.
Here is McMenamins’ new footage about their project:
The fact that it is still standing, though, points to the solidness of its construction (I have known a rumor for years that it has a swimming pool on one of the upper stories! What?!!!), which is one of the reasons I respect McMenamins’ business philosophy: they buy old, well built properties often facing unknown futures and refurbishes them to their yesteryear glory while installing a feasible business within. They work with what is there and build to functionality.
In 2009, Tacoma experienced a not so happy story, one that many Tacomans wish not to repeat. A neglected, six story, on the National Register of Historic Places, Burnham & Root building, the Luzon, was torn down despite its historical significance as an example of early architectural designs that led to the modern skyscraper-- it was one of the first buildings in America to have steel columns. What’s now in its place? A parking lot. Yup. Still there, in all its UNIQUE (ha!) glory.
A local gallery had a show celebrating the Luzon right after the demolition. Here is a photo of the building before it was gone and the artwork I created, part of my Photo Extensions series—I used a photo I took of the building prior to its demolition and extended their colors across the surface.
So grateful this will not be the Elks Club’s storyline.
Another reason, speaking from a muralist's view point, why I think this news is so grand is they are BIG supporters of hand painted imagery on their walls. Pretty much on every practical surface. Do you know how rare this is? As you know, I have lots of attitude regarding the nonexistence of original art in people’s homes. My business is, of course, hand created so you'd think most of my clients would own other original art. You'd be surprised, as I am, that this is not always the case. These days buying a print (and I'm not referring to an artist signed and numbered piece--that's great because it means it's a limited addition...almost, kinda sort of close to an original), like a giclée print (I've had the unfortunate opportunity to inform many 'painting' purchasers that their 'painting' is NOT an original painting but rather a giclée print with clear gel smeared or brushed onto the surface to give it a hand painted, brushed texture...people, this is NOT real!), is so easy and CHEAP...or at least CHEAPER. We artists are having a hard time convincing art collectors to pay possibly a bit more and investigate a bit longer for that perfect, only-one-in-existence artwork. I commend those who do! There is even 'mural wallpaper' now. Oy vey! So the fact that McMenamins takes great care in investing in custom, hand painting makes me scream with joy!!! Welcome to town, I say!
And an additional stream of good news came last week. McMenamins is slated to take on the Old City Hall building too, which is located just below the Elks Temple and the Spanish Steps!!! It's another gorgeous building that's long overdue for some loving care. Yip-a-doodle! Looking forward to what McMenamins has planned!
Keep warm, dry and lovely.