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Ericksen home makes 'most endangered' historic listing

The historic house on 216 Ericksen Avenue is one of six similar homes on the street.  - Sean Roach/Staff Photo
The historic house on 216 Ericksen Avenue is one of six similar homes on the street.
— image credit: Sean Roach/Staff Photo

A 106-year-old house on 216 Ericksen Avenue has been placed on the "Most Endangered Historic Properties" list compiled by the non-profit group Washington Trust for Historical Preservation (WTHP).

It is one of 13 properties that have been approved by the WTHP board because of its history and its likelihood of imminent destruction.

"We look at the urgency of the situation and the historical significance of the resource ," said Chris Moore of WTHP. "Obviously there is a desire to see this home preserved. It's reflective of the history of Bainbridge Island and it maintains a high degree of integrity and a lot of the original characteristics."

The home, constructed in 1903, is one of six remaining houses on Ericksen that were built to house workers of the Hall Brothers Shipyard in Winslow. Timbers from the shipyard were also used in the home's construction.

The building has been tacitly approved for demolition by members of the city's Planning Commission who narrowly voted to approve development plans two weeks ago that would raze the home to make way for a mixed-use commercial and residential complex.

Planning Commission member Gary Pettersen resigned from his position in protest of the proposed development, based on his belief that the historic home should have been preserved – as mandated in the city's comprehensive plan.

However, there are no regulations in place that mandate historic preservation in the Ericksen Overlay District and city's legal counsel has advised that there is no law-based justification for stopping the building's demolition purely based on its history.

City Planning Director Kathy Cook, who was not available on Tuesday, will have the final say on the development, and has yet to give the city's formal approval which would approve the historic home's demolition.

According to WTHP, the "fear is that more property owners will simply opt to demolish historic structures" in the downtown area "rather than work to retain the historic character by implementing development programs that utilize the existing buildings."

WTHP hopes that the building can either be relocated on site to accommodate for the new development, or located somewhere offsite so that it will be saved, Moore said.

Previously, the building's owner, Bruce Brunton, has offered the home free of charge to anyone who would relocate it.

However, historic preservationists contend that the building is part of a larger historic district that needs to be preserved.

The building, known as the BF Tabbott House, is part of a small and cohesive group of six early island wood-framed residences along Ericksen Avenue.

Properties are nominated by individuals and are considered by the WTHP board to be listed as endangered. The person or group who nominated the 216 Ericksen building opted to remain anonymous, according to Moore.

The endangered listing has no regulatory or legal authority, Moore noted, but he hopes it will move involved parties toward a collaborative solution that will save the home.

"We use the list to raise awareness and highlight the issues, both specifically and in general, of the preservation challenges around the state," Moore said. "We hope an arrangement can be made that will allow the owner to develop but also preserve the building and I think the city should take an active role to find a site or resource to save the building."

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