Heritage Turkey Watch

The Kalakala still floats, for now, plus Seattle's plywood "space shuttle," demolition fight in Spokane, and other preservation news.

Despite good intentions, the Kalakala rots in Tacoma (March 2011).

Despite good intentions, the Kalakala rots in Tacoma (March 2011). Gexydaf

Space shuttle Atlantis: the last liftoff. Now, Seattle is getting a space shuttle trainer.

Space shuttle Atlantis: the last liftoff. Now, Seattle is getting a space shuttle trainer. NASA

My annual Heritage Turkey Awards generated far too many leads on possible Turkeys for 2012, and I will be reporting on some of those as the year progresses. But here's an update on some of the Turkeys I reported on earlier this month, good news and bad.

The Kalakala

There was some drama on the Hylebos waterway in Tacoma last week where the historic Art Deco ferry Kalakala is berthed. The ferry appeared to be listing, leaking oil and in danger of sinking, but it turned out storm winds and blown the vessel onto an adjacent barge and an oil sheen was from another source. Once the weather calmed down, the boat resettled into its near-derelict status.

It still awaits either improvements or removal ordered by the Port and the Coast Guard. It has been deemed an imminent hazard to navigation. If nothing changes, the Kalakala will be seized and broken up by the Army Corps of Engineers. Owner Steve Rodrigues has recently been fined $5,000 for failure to comply with the Coast Guard's order.

In the meantime, Rodrigues has been busy trying to line-up support for the boat. On Jan. 11, he sent an email to Washington State Department of Transportation head Paula Hammond asking for a meeting to propose a public/private partnership with the state to save the vessel by restoring it to operation and mooring it at Pier 48 on the Seattle waterfront near the Washington Street Boat landing. Hammond immediately replied that the state is in no financial position to consider such a plan and declined a possible partnership. "Simply put," she wrote, "the state has no money to work on restoring the aging Kalakala vessel. We are faced with a situation where we have no funds for capital preservation budget for our existing vessels and terminals beginning June, 2013. In addition, there are not enough operating funds to continue service at the current level of daily ferry runs."

Space Shuttle

I gave NASA a Turkey for not choosing Seattle's Museum of Flight as a home for one of its retired space shuttles. The consolation: a shuttle trainer, a full-size mock-up. The Museum has now taken formal ownership of the trainer. Reports Jack Broom in the Seattle Times, "It's 121 feet long, made of plywood and was used to train every U.S. space-shuttle crew over the past 30 years. And now it's ours." The trainer, in Houston, will be disassembled and flown in on five separate flights in May, and should be available for public viewing in June. Broom also reports that the Museum has also landed a Russian Soyuz re-entry module for display, the one ridden in by former Microsoft software innovator/space tourist/Museum of Flight patron Charles Simonyi of Medina.

Jensen-Byrd Building

The historic Jensen-Byrd warehouse in Spokane has been sold by Washington State University and is slated for demolition later this year, but preservation advocates have not given up hope that it can still be saved. According to Larry Cebula's Northwest History blog, Spokane's Historic Preservation Commission has ruled the building eligible for nomination to the city's historic register. The new owners can now be required to justify their demolition plans. Writes Cebula:

I think if the public outcry is great enough, we can either get WSU to reverse the decision, or perhaps scare off the developer by adding uncertainty and delays to the process. Keep up the pressure! Spokane Preservation Advocates has been spearheading the public effort to save this historic building, their advocacy page has information on how to contact WSU to protest this unnecessary destruction.

The Future 

Writer and preservationist Lawrence Kreisman gives an excellent, nuanced overview of historic preservation in last weekend's Seattle Times. Kreisman, who works with Historic Seattle, covers a lot of ground looking at the opportunities and obstacle preservation in Seattle faces. One project he mentions should have received a Turkey: Sound Transit's plan to destroy the "streamline moderne" facade of the old Standard Records & Hi Fi on 65th in the Roosevelt neighborhood.


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