Determined to out-San Francisco San Francisco, Seattle's Landmarks Board has declared a boarded-up Denny's a landmark. The property owner was understandably "chagrined," seeing how it had paid $12 million for the lot with the intention of selling to a condo developer.
The debate before the Landmarks Board: Was the restaurant's architecture authentically "Googie" (no affiliation with Google)?
Its soaring, parabolic roofline is evocative of the "Googie" architectural style that started in Southern California and dominated in the 1960s, an era of American optimism amid the Cold War race to conquer space, said Alan Michelson, head of the University of Washington's architecture library and a preservation supporter.
The Googie style got its name from a Sunset Strip coffee shop designed in 1949 that featured upswept roofs, large plate-glass windows and boomerang shapes and starbursts.
Judith Sobol, a preservation consultant hired by [the owner's] team, and architect Larry Johnson said the Ballard Manning's structure was not a quintessential Googie-style building, citing a smorgasbord of various styles, including Polynesian, Scandinavian and Googie elements.
Johnson drew chuckles when he referred to the building's style as "Scandigooginesian."
Preservation-board members were divided over whether the building was truly Googie and decided to avoid basing a landmark designation on its architectural style.
"I think the building is whimsical, not Googie," said board member Molly Tremaine, who voted against the landmark designation. "It doesn't say 'I'm an architectural wonder.'
Not convinced the building was sufficiently Googie, the Board instead decided the building should be saved because it is "an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood" and contributes to the neighborhood's identity.
Not surprisingly, the Board's chairman lives near the would-be condo development.