They don’t build ‘em like they used to

Freed House refuses to go away, as an icon, and as an issue

They should start calling it “the little house that could.”

Despite the winds, and rain, of time, and the indifference of a Sammamish City Council unwilling to take decisive steps toward its preservation, the Freed House refuses to go away, as either a physical structure or as an issue the city will have to deal with.

Tuesday night’s city council study session ended with rousing applause for Councilmember Michele Petitti’s impassioned polemic against her fellow councilors, present and past, for their failure to do anything to ensure that one of the few remaining connections to Sammamish’s past was not left to rot.

“For anything to happen, for any money to go down, the house has to have a home,” she said. “And the best place for it is the lower Sammamish commons.”

Earlier, the council listened to a presentation by Mary and Ella Moore, part of “Save Freed House,” a subcommittee of The Sammamish Heritage Society (SHS), outlining their plan for how the house could be preserved and turned into a resource for Sammamish.

A key to their plan was grant funding from King County and state historic conservation agencies who the Moores said were eager to see Freed House resurrected.

In order to secure that grant funding, however, the SHS needs the city to identify a future home for the house. Additionally, the city needs to apply for the house to be listed as a historic landmark by King County — a designation required in grant applications.

“After that we will be looking at several sources of funding, both private and public,” Mary Moore said. “But they want to know where the house will go. And so do we.”

The previous council had identified the lower commons as the preferred location for a restored Freed House. But its move there from its current home by the side of 212th Avenue Southeast was postponed last year when the council decided it would not pay the $250,000 cost of building a foundation, moving the house, and providing a temporary roof. (The Sammamish Reporter of April 30 stated the council decided not to fund the relocation and restoration of the house. This was not the case — the city was not asked to fund the restoration, only the relocation) – Ed.

“We’ve talked about this for years, and we always thought the commons was a good place for it,” Mayor Don Gerend said, indicating that debate about the house’s future should not be about where it would go, but what it would cost. “What stopped it was the price tag. Now you’re saying you can get rid of the price tag.”

Save Freed House is seeking ways to restore the house largely independent of city coffers.

On Tuesday night, they asked the council that the city pay $7,600 for a temporary roof to protect the house from severe weather. Beyond that, the group was confident that through grants and community support they could turn the Freed House into a working city landmark without further expense to the city.

Mary Moore said that, as a nonprofit organization, they had received estimates to move the house far below those quoted to the city.

A restored facility would be rented out for various uses, with the city earning the income, as they do with Beaver Lake Lodge.

Mayor Don Gerend, who along with Councilmember Tom Odell toured the inside of the house last week, noted that if the city was to do nothing and just let the house stand where it was, it would cost $7,500, for security and other provisions.

Despite assurances from the Freed House subcommittee that the funding support was there, Councilmember Nancy Whitten repeated her claim that the house could become a “black hole” for city money.

“You move it on to city property, then you don’t get funding for it and we’re stuck with it,” she said.

However the usually astute Whitten made a miscalculation of the level of support for the house, when she questioned whether there were many people who cared about Freed House beyond the two women standing before her.

A fraction of that support made itself heard after Petitti vented her frustration at the city’s unwillingness to even fill out paperwork with King County to help SHS move ahead with the project, describing it as a “Catch 22.” Before they do anything, the council wants the Heritage Society to show them where the money will come from. In order to secure the money, the Heritage Society needs the city to have the house designated as a landmark.

“I don’t know why we can’t cross this little bridge before us?” Petitte said. It was then the council heard from the dozens of residents who had come to lend their support for Freed House, sitting toward the back of the chamber. They were high school students, retirees, working parents and young singles, together at city hall urging the council not lose sight of the diminishing light that is the Plateau’s history.

No decisions can be made at council study sessions. The council will consider Freed House at a future meeting.