Yesterday, I took a quick look at the beginnings of Frederick Anhalt’s time in Seattle, and how he came to be a builder.
I learned the story from two books, both hard to find and long out of print.
The best-known work is the Seattle Department of Community Development edition of “Apartments by Anhalt,” which I understand to be a reprint of a 1930 advertising circular. It’s been some time since I saw this book, and as I recall it also adds background material.
The book was also reprinted in 1982.
The other book, Built by Anhalt, is a biography. Published in hardback in 1982, it’s based on a series of interviews given by Anhalt specifically for the book. This is my main source; shortly after moving into our apartment I came across a copy in a used bookstore. Currently, a neighbor is borrowing the book – when I get it back I’ll check my facts.
Both of these books are exceedingly hard to find in local used bookshops.
Picking up where I left off, after working with the Loveless architectural firm, Anhalt grew disenchanted with the stucco exterior and Spanish colonial style that is the signature for these buildings. In the book I cite, he notes that the architecture is well suited to a sunny and dry climate but poses maintenance problems in the Pacific Northwest.
He settled on the Tudor style, which in the twenties was also quite popular. Unfortunately, I can no longer recall which building in the neighborhood is his first, but it was successful. Rather than selling the building or having built it for a third party, Anhalt retained title and acted as managing landlord for the building.
As soon as the building was rented, he took the capital and used it to begin another. As I recall, he had some difficulty getting banks to loan him the money because of his unorthodox business plan. His intention was to build a large number of buildings over a short period of time to service the high-end urban rental market, providing full-service maintenance on the buildings and charging premium rents.
His insight was that if he conducted a long-term building campaign, instead of a series of disconnected projects, he could hire very skilled craftsmen on a salary basis and move them from site to site as well as using them in a maintenance capacity. With this in mind, he worked with an architect, selecting structural and decorative elements from an architectural pattern book intended to provide British Victorian builders with architectural elements for the country manor trade. Generally speaking, these architectural elements in the Anhalt buildings have been scaled down by anywhere from a third to half the size they appear in genuine medieval or Tudor revival buildings. While sometimes complicating the interior spaces of the apartments, this also has the unexpected effect of making the apartments appear larger than they are, especially when viewed in a photograph or without furniture.
His initial capital shortages, however, led him to construct the first few buildings as inexpensively as possible. Many of the buildings he’s responsible for feature textured, or ‘clinker’ brick. He claims that these bricks were discounted and his initial use of them was an economizing measure. One of the cheapskate features of these older buildings is a total lack of sound insulation inside the buildings. We live in the last building Anhalt constructed without it, and believe me, we miss it.
The first building that Anhalt constructed under the fully-realized ‘luxury apartments’ business plan is the building that faces the Safeway parking lot at the top of Capitol Hill at the intersection of 14th and John. Built on a small lot, Anhalt was able to rent a large tent to cover the entire property while the building went up, and he posted guards to keep the curious out. He did all of this as a publicity stunt, and the tent, and speculation thereon, was duly reported in the local media.
He publicized the grand opening, and by his account, the line to view the completed building stretched to Broadway – a distance of several blocks. The building was completely rented by the end of the first day, and Anhalt had a long list of people waiting for his next building.
This changed his access to capital, and he began planning much larger buildings – the four buildings near the north end of Broadway represent the fruits of this planning. Before they were constructed, however, many of the rest of Anhalt’s smaller buildings were completed. I’ve never seen a map or comprehensive list of the structures, but I know of at least eleven, one of which is in the University District, and I believe there are several more.
The buildings at the north end of the Hill are the last four that Anhalt constructed in this period. In addition to the two buildings at the north end of Broadway visible from the front door of the Deluxe, (look across the intersection to the east, beyond the service station) there are two – or two and one-half – more buildings on the downslope of Belmont, including the building that Anhalt designed to include his private residence.
The extra one-half is a very large multi-story building just upslope from the first of these. This building was initially planned by Anhalt to be his largest, if I recall correctly (and I might be off base geographically). He was forced to sell the land before construction began because after the stock market crash of October 1928, the depression set in. The large building retains many Anhalt touches, presumably a consequence of his ex-employees, but internally the apartments are very run-of-the-mill nineteen-twenties homes.
Which brings me to the topic of the interior architecture of the Anhalts, something I’ll tackle tomorrow.