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Fremont, anyone?

Ok, we still haven't managed to go back to the house we were outbid on, so no pictures of that for you yet.

But we recovered sufficently to make an offer on another house!


Contingent on inspection, etc, we're buying this place. Closing is June 23, we'd take possession 5pm Saturday June 26, 1999.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled web page.

Melissa and I have long had a preference for staying near Capitol Hill, where we've been living for the past four years. Unfortunately, Captiol Hill itself is totally out of our price range, so we've been focusing on the Central District, Madison Valley, and Madrona, which are pretty much the neighborhoods bordering the south of Capitol Hill. We'd be further from the places we really like (we consider 15th to be our front yard, and love strolling down to Broadway) but still within a quick drive or a long walk.

But we knew that maybe we'd have to widen our net a bit.With this in mind, this Sunday morning, I asked Melissa "what do you think of Fremont?" Fremont, y'see, is another of Seattle's great neighborhoods. We'd been having these conversations about different neighborhoods on and off since we started thinking about buying a house.

If you're not familiar with Fremont, let me give you a very brief introduction. It's a neighborhood just north of the Ship Canal, which is in turn north of Queen Anne, which is the hill just north of downtown Seattle. It's about where the UW is, but west of I5 instead of east.

Fremont's slogan (it's printed on the "Welcome to Fremont" signs the city puts up) is "The Center of the Universe". It also refers to itself as "The Republic of Fremont." Of course, such a place has active community organizations. Among the small shops, coffeehouses, pubs and restaurants in the main part of Fremont are a rocketship and a statue of Lenin imported from the former USSR. Fremont is also the home of the troll, which hides under the bridge, turned into a giant statue as it was in the act of crushing a VW Bug.

The Rocket The Fremont Troll Lenin himself

You can also, if you're feeling more technocratically inclined, read the official Fremont Neighborhood Plan on the City of Seattle website. Or read what Microsoft's has to say about "wacky, earthy and artsy-fartsy Fremont." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's neighborhood profile is probably the best place to get an overall sense of the neighborhood. You can also read the explanation for why the sculpture "Waiting for the Interurban" includes a dog with a particular man's face.

There's an outdoor cinema once a week all summer; it used to be in a parking lot (BYO chairs) but this year a second has sprung up at Adobe's new building. Here's a snip from Fremont's on-line tabloid, which you should visit;

Wow! You're all invited... every Friday this summer, you'll know where we'll be.

Anyway, Melissa and I aren't super familiar with Fremont, but we know lots of people who love it, and our impression of it in the limited number of times we've been there has been quite good. So we were both feeling open to looking at Fremont.

I then went through the listings. Almost nothing new in our area that we could afford. A few houses we liked the sound of in the University District (no, you don't get bonus points for figuring out where that is), a few in Fremont, one in Central, and one in Ballard. Went out crusing around to look at them, and saw two we wanted showings of.

The University District house was much more house than we were looking for. More on that some other time, if I ever feel like talking about a house we were tempted by (and scared by--for some unknown reason I got a strong "Money Pit" vibe from it). (While looking for that link, I read of a much stranger and more fascinating Money Pit. Check it out.)

The Fremont listings turned out to be busts, but across the street from one was a house for sale that we liked the look of. Take a look for yourself:

picture of the house on Bowdoin Lane

Pretty nice, eh? Cute little place. No front yard to speak of, and the back yard is a patio. The gray area in the background of the picture is Queen Anne hill (must have been an overcast day when this picture was taken, normally it's clearly visible).Speaking of distant views, behind the left of the house is the Aurora Bridge, a peekaboo view of the downtown skyline, and the Ship Canal bridge (I-5). Immediately behind the house are two blocks of houses stretching down a hill to the main drag in Fremont. I won't go into details, because I have scanned the house's flyer:

It's all true. The place is in very nice shape. The fellow who owns it now has been there since 1986 (he paid under $70k for it--he's making quite a nice profit!) and is very sad to be leaving the neighborhood (he'll miss it a lot) but he has no choice. He is engaged, and his fiance also owns a house, and hers is bigger, so she wins! He is a fellow sub-amatuer bass player, and his hobby is riding and maintaining his BMW motorcycles. When we came in to the house for the showing, he hadn't gotten our agent's call since he had been surfing the web all morning. My kind of guy.

The place was in very nice shape (yes, I know I just said that, but it really is!) and everything is done well, though not fancily. The kitchen and bathroom floor he has had tiled, much like my Mom's Crest Terrace kitchen is. There's quite a bit of counter space for the size of the kitchen - I could have a much easier time cooking than in our apartment. In the living room, there's a nice stone fireplace with bookshelves built into the wall around the fireplace. When he moved in, he pulled up the carpet and found a nice wood floor! He simply had it waxed and hasn't touched it since. And it looks great, but you won't yell at your friends to take off their shoes. The living room also has nice big windows that let in plenty of light, no mean feat on the north side of a building in Seattle on a rainy spring day.

It is, however, small. The upstairs has four rooms: living, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom. None are large. Down a narrow, short (I had to duck for the last step) staircase is a finished room --where the current owner has his computer) and an unfinished (or finished to the level of a workshop--painted, clean concrete floor and lots of cabinets) basement. There's a separate garage, with room for our car and then some storage. The basement is packed with storage space. Closets, cabinets, all over. Nice and clean, too.

The back yard is not a yard. (Put that together with the front yard, oops, garden, and you end up with: no yard.) It's an enclosed patio. But a very nice one! The current owner had an architect design walls and an overhead trellis at one end, and had an old-school woodworker who lives on Vashon Island come over and build it. It's nice. He's got a smiling Buddha statue in one corner, and it fits. It's right next to the garage, which has a flat roof (you can see it off to the right of the house in the photo above). I'm thinking of putting a steep stair up from the patio to the top of the garage, putting a railing up, and making it a second deck. Others in the neighborhood who have flat-roofed garages have done this, so it should be OK. And voila! A two-tiered deck! With a view on one part, and private on the other!

If you've read Christopher Alexander's Pattern Language, you'll appreciate that this house embodies many of the patterns identified in that book. Follow the links if that makes no sense to you and you'd like to find out what it means. Another site with a good explanation for some of what's nice about this place is the Not-so-big-house, based on the book of the same name.


11:00 PM
Monday, May 31, 1999
Seattle, Washington

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