AKA: Presbyterian Ministries, Incorporated, Parkshore Senior Living Community, Madison Park, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses - apartment houses; built works - dwellings - housing - housing for the elderly

Designers: Cawdrey and Vemo, Incorporated, General Contractors (firm); Graham, John and Company, Architects and Engineers (firm); James William Cawdrey (building contractor); John Graham Jr. (architect); Nels Vernon Nelson (building contractor/carpenter); Bjarne Vemo (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1962-1963

15 stories

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1640 43rd Avenue East
Madison Park, Seattle, WA 98112

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The 225-unit Park Shore Apartments was one of two highrises built on the western shore of Lake Washington during the 1960s (the other being the Washington Park Tower erected 1966-1969 just to the south), taking advantage of amazing views of the water and mountains. John Graham and Company, Architects and Engineers designed this Modern skyscraper apartment tower, erected between 1962 and 1964. Madison Park residents fought the construction of the two highrises that blocked views of the water and were believed to destabilize single-family residential values.

Building History

The Seattle architectural firm of John Graham and Company, Architects and Engineers, designed this Modern apartment tower for the Presbyterian Ministries, Incorporated, charity. Graham had become very busy designing retirement facilities during the late-1950s and early 1950s, designing Bayview Manor in Seattle for Seattle First Methodist Home, Incorporated, completed in 1961, and collaborated on the design of the 126-unit Olympic Gardens in Bremerton, WA with Branch, Branch and Garrison, Architects. (See Alice Staples, "'Retirement Home' Apartment Buildings Mushrooming in Seattle Area," Seattle Sunday Times, 12/04/1960, p. 39.)

They worked with the Seattle construction company Cawdrey and Vemo on the project. For Cawdrey and Vemo, Nels V. Nelson (1905-1988) was the construction superintendent. Construction began around 04/1961 and concluded by 10/1963, with the first tenants occupying apartments on Friday, 11/01/1963. The Park Shore Apartments were formally dedicated on 12/27/1963. (See "Presbyterians to Dedicate Park Shore," Seattle Daily Times, 12/26/1963, p. 17.)

A newspaper article in the Seattle Sunday Times of 11/03/1963, indicated that tenants had begun to move into the Park Shore and described the building and its amenities: "Movers bustled through corridors in the 15-story Park Shore retirement home yesterday as tenants began occupying units in the $6-million structure. Sixteen person, including four couples, moved in Friday, and about a dozen yesterday. By the end of the month, 175 will be in residence, said Leonard Downie, president of Craftmaster, Inc., management agent for Park Shore. The home at 1630 43rd Av. E. is owned by Presbyterian Ministries, Inc. Downie said 155 of the 225 units have been leased. A tenant pays between $9,600 and $10,850 for a lifetime lease on a one-room unfurnished apartment with a kitchen alcove and bath. Leases on one-bedroom units with lanais sell for between $18,500 and $20,900. Tenants pay $135 a month for maintenance, three meals daily in a dining room, maid service, laundry and limited nursing and infirmary care. With the exception of the infirmary floor, the Park Shore is much like a luxury apartment building. Steps are wider than usual and there are handrails and heat lamps in the bathrooms. There is a non-denomination chapel in the basement. A 'Top o' the Park' social lounge with a covered shuffle-board court is on the 15th floor. The staff, which ultimately will number 85, is headed by Rev. Verne B. Newhouse, 62, a Presbyterian minister. His secretary is Mrs. Frances Daly. Newhouse said tenants of all faiths are accepted. About 35 per cent of those who have signed leases are Presbyterians, he said. The tenants range in age from 60 to 90. Downie described the Park Shore as a 'new concept' in that tenants are not required to sign over their assets to the home. Nor will they be forced to move should they become unable to pay the monthly fee, he said. 'Once we accept them they are our responsibility for life,' Downie said. The first to move in Friday was Mrs. Hebe Sheridan, 72, formerly of Helena, Mont. Her husband, the late Charles L. Sheridan, served a Montana State treasurer, she said." (See "Retirement Home: First Tenants Move In," Seattle Sunday Times, 11/03/1963, 4th section, p. 45.)

Discussion of the project began to appear in the Seattle newspapers in 06/1960. At that time, the building was only to have been 12 floors and cost $4.5 million. (See Alice Staples, "$4.500,000 Lake Apts. for Elderly Set," Seattle Daily Times, 06/21/1960, p. 1.) Neighbors began to complain about the height and scale of the Park Shore project even before it was completed. An editorial appeared in the Seattle Daily Times of 09/16/1963: "A thoughtful and knowledgeable citizen (whose request for anonymity will be respected) has written to The Times taking note of our editorial position against permitting Seattle to be become a 'walled city' of high-rise apartments on waterfront tracts. The letter-writer's purpose was to make a suggestion with which The Times agrees wholeheartedly. In preference, the writer points out that the Park Shore Apartments at Madison Park, the erection of which has precipitated a heated controversy, was built by interests which had purchased the property AFTER the zoning had been completed. The property became eligible for high-rise apartments when the city adopted a new zoning code in 1957. 'My purpose in writing is to encourage the City Council to review Madison Park zoning. The residents there would become extremely irritated if suddenly there were a multiple-story building erected to the north of Park Shore (apartments) under the present zoning and still another to the south. All this is possible now. But if it should occur, there would be a general uprising of the neighbors and they would petition to stop the building after the permit had been issued.'

The Times editor continued: "Complaints about the high-rise apartment already constructed at Madison Park serve no useful purpose. But those citizens who are irritated because of the presence of the structure are well advised to take action to assure that they do not again learn belatedly that they are too late to effectively oppose additional structures. The advice might be well heeded by the residents of other parts of the city not familiar with the complexities of the zoning code, which was revised in many respects by the municipal government five years ago." (See "Sound Advice on Zoning Code, Seattle Daily Times, 09/16/1963, p. 10.)

A month earlier, City Councilwoman Myrtle Edwards (1894-1969) wrote a letter to the editor of the Times providing further background on building heights on the Madison Park waterfront. She indicated that initially Madison Park community groups supported the idea of altering zoning regulations for the waterfront, when they were reappraised by the City of Seattle in 1957: "Recent correspondence, including letters to the editor, indicates considerable misunderstanding concerning the issue which was before the City Council when several Madison Park residents tried to prevent the constrcution of the Park Shore Retiremen Home. Perhaps an account of some of the facts will clarify the case. Some time in 1956, a request came to the City Council from some Madison Park residents to rezone property along the shore for high-rise apartments. The Council denied the request. Later, when we were holding hearings in connection with the new zoning law to implement the comprehensive plan, some members of the Madison Park Community Clun presented us with a resolution proposing another plan to zone the shore for R.M.H. (multiple residence high density) based on slightly different boundaries. They felt that an apartment development could improve the business conditions in the area. We again view the property and after considerable discussion reluctantly granted their request. The complete zoning ordinance was then published in the papers before adoption in 1957. The property was subsequently shown on the map as R.M.H., its legal zoning designation. After that, anyone looking for R.M.H. property to develop would have every legal right to buy property in question, and that is what happened in 1960. When some of the residents of the area heard what was to be built on the shore, they then asked to have the property zoned out from under the new owner. At the hearing on that request, the past president of the Community Club attested to the earlier action by the club. Surely in 1960, we had to abide by the zoning laws on the books which had been properly placed there three years earlier. How could anyone rely upon the total zoning laws if they could be changed at any moment because someone didn't like the new owner? Personally, I do agree that such a tall building on the shore is unpleasant to behold, but we had no alternative. Mrs. Harlan H. Edwards, City Council." (See "High Rise," Seattle Daily Times, 08/05/1963, p. 10.)

Building Notes

Originally, the name of the building was written "Park Shore Apartments," but this had changed to "Parkshore" by 2022.