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  • Ellen Mirro

Our office: a brief history

Today we’re launching an occasional series of posts about the Roosevelt District, looking at individual buildings to highlight changes that have occurred in the neighborhood over the years.

We begin on our home turf, with The Johnson Partnership’s office, located at 1212 NE 65th Street. The original one-story concrete- and glass-block building was constructed in 1946 and began life as a dentist’s office. Over the next four decades the space also housed an optometrist, an escrow company, and a branch of Kelley’s Telephone Answering Service.

Larry and Lani bought the building in 1984. Before setting up shop, a lot of work was needed to get the place into shape. This included catching up on years of deferred maintenance and airing (and scrubbing!) out decades of cigarette smoke. Relics from the previous tenants included a massive phone switchboard, an intricate plumbing system left over from the dentist’s days, and a less-than-welcoming sign declaring “You loot, we shoot.”

After fifteen years in the original building, we wanted to create a new office that embodied and conveyed both our architectural and neighborhood values. Demolition began in April 2000, and we occupied the new space in January of the following year. We strove for an exterior design that was distinctive yet also harmonized with the overall look of the neighborhood. We decided on high ceilings and an open floor plan to give the feel of a modern studio. We reclaimed many of the original glass bricks to retain a connection to the original building. After much hacking and pulling, a thicket of blackberries and assorted scrub at the back of the lot gave way to create our “Secret Garden,” a shady haven and bird sanctuary amidst the busy intersection of 65th and 12th.

The new building has a footprint of 1,344 square feet–the maximum size we could fit on our lot based on the neighborhood design guidelines in place at the time. A glance around at the many nearby buildings that have gone up in the past five years shows how these guidelines have changed since 2000. With the Sound Transit light rail station under construction, lots of new residences going up and businesses opening, we anticipate plenty more changes in the neighborhood over the next few years. We’re glad that our business and our building will remain a part of the community for years to come.

A King County Tax Assessor’s photo from 1946 shows the original building shortly after its construction.

The office, shortly before demolition in 2000.

Demolition underway!

The distinctive purplish brick was made by a Native American-owned brickworks on Lummi Island.

A wall of windows and an open stairwell maximize the soft northern light.

Secret garden, secret birdbath

A neighbor left us this nice note shortly before the new building was finished.

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