clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Turner-Koepf House—known as Beacon Hill Garden House—is up for landmark status

The nomination follows a community-led preservation effort

A listing photo from when the home was on the market.
Courtesy of Cooper Jacobs

The Turner-Koepf house, otherwise known as the “Garden House” or the Jefferson Park Ladies Improvement Club, is up for city landmark status after a long historic-preservation effort led by neighborhood group Beacon Arts. The Victorian home was first built in 1883, and it’s possible it’s the first home built in Beacon Hill, but it’s certainly one of the oldest in Seattle. The home’s grounds, which cover three lots, have some of the oldest pear trees in the state—five are more than a century old.

Beacon Arts submitted the nomination in early January along with historic preservation firm Northwest Vernacular.

While the house has been found to have historic significance by the city—and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places—there’s fear that in a rapidly changing city, it could be redeveloped without a city landmark designation. (Properties on the federal register can be torn down by private owners.) The home was put on the market in the fall, further stoking fears that a new owner could dismantle the home, the gardens, or both, although it was listed below appraised value in hopes of finding a sympathetic owner.

Most recently, the house has served as a clubhouse for the Washington State Federation of Garden Clubs (WSFGC), which rents the building out for events like weddings and reunions. But the home was originally built to resemble an Italian villa for judge and real estate mogul E. A. Turner. When Turner died in 1898, Frederick Koepf, the chief draftsman in the city engineer’s office at the time, bought the home remodeled it into the Queen Anne style, which was fashionable at the time. This is how it gained the more traditional hallmarks of the Victorian era: a turret, leaded-glass windows, and fish-scale shingles.

In 1927, the Jefferson Park Ladies Improvement Club transformed the space into a community center—then, in 1977, it was bequeathed to the garden club. The group voted to sell the property back in June, and county records show that it was sold in October for $1.44 million.

While landmark status doesn’t wholly prevent a building from being demolished, it makes demolition unlikely—or at least impractical—in many cases. It means that major changes have to go through a long and complicated approval process that the Landmarks Preservation Board has the authority to approve or deny (although denials can be appealed to the Hearing Examiner).

The Landmarks Preservation Board will hear the Garden House’s case on Wednesday, February 20 at 3:30 p.m.

This article has been updated to show sales information.