E G R AY
LEFT: San Fermo restaurant, which opened in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in May 2016, is carved out of two 1880s houses that were relocated here from the International District and joined into a single L-shaped unit in 1976. BELOW: A year-long gut remodel by (from left) co-owners Wade Weigel and Tim Baker and designer-builder Eric Hentz of Mallet preserved as many original details as possible.
Written by AMANDA ZURITA : Photographed by GEORGE BARBERIS
WHEN WADE WEIGEL BOUGHT THE BALLARD PROPERTY IN 2014—A PAIR OF DILAPIDATED, PIONEER-ERA HOUSES DATING BACK TO THE 1880S and thought by
Historic Seattle to be the oldest intact residential buildings in the city—he and his partners (Jeff Ofelt, Tim Baker, and Scott Shapiro) weren’t expecting a cakewalk. Between them, the four entrepreneurs already had tackled the tricky build-outs and transformations of various local mainstays such as the Ace Hotel, Percy’s, the Cha Cha Lounge, and Melrose Market. Still, the obstacles the team uncovered as they transformed the onetime residences—which were moved intact from the International District to Ballard more than 40 years ago—into San Fermo restaurant challenged both their expectations and their timeline. “Each house had three different rooms on the first floor and a stairway that went up to the attic, and the two were connected by a narrow hallway,” says Baker, who
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oversaw the technical aspects of the year-long renovation, along with designer-builder Eric Hentz of Mallet Incorporated. “It was such a weird space.” The buildings’ all-wood construction (a rare example of the pioneer-era practice known as plank framing) and interior shear walls prevented the team from remodeling in a typical fashion. Without modern framing, the walls bore much of the buildings’ weight, so the crew couldn’t open up the cramped rooms without risking a collapse. To solve this puzzle, they installed steel moment frames before knocking down existing walls and loosening up the floor plan. They also had to tear up the floors and pour a new concrete foundation. “It’s these type of things that add layers of cost but aren’t very much fun,” Hentz acknowledges. Due to stringent historic preservation rules, the exterior had to remain largely untouched, so the team retained some elements such as an original window, its panes »