Landmark status for 1919 Edgecliff Apartment Building

Tacoma City Council Tuesday unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to place the Edgecliff Apartments on the city’s historic register.

According to the historic landmark nomination prepared by Katie Chase and Michael Sullivan of Artifacts Consulting, Inc., the building, located at 1 North Broadway, was constructed in 1919 at a cost of $75,000 paid for by Dr. Edward A. Rich. It was home to the Rich Reconstructive and Tacoma Medical and Surgical Clinic (known locally as the “Tacoma Clinic”) and was one of the first private medical clinics in the region. Dr. Rich, an orthopedic surgeon who served as Chief of Orthopedic Service at Camp Lewis during World War I and Supervising Orthopedic Surgeon for the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C., moved to Tacoma in 1908 and hired the prominent architects Frederick Heath, George Gove, and Herbert Bell to build a home for him and his wife, Ethelwynn, in what is known today as Tacoma’s North End neighborhood.

In 1924, the Tacoma Clinic closed. Dr. Rich hired Heath, Gove and Bell to complete a $105,000 renovation of the structure, turning it into a 30-unit apartment building. The architects designed some of Tacoma’s most notable old buildings. According to the nomination, 10 buildings designed by these men are included on Tacoma’s local register of historic places.

Dr. Rich died in 1933 at the age of fifty-six while working on his boat at the Tacoma Yacht Club. According to the nomination, Dr. Rich’s boat exploded while he was repairing a fuel line. He was rushed to Tacoma General Hospital with severe burns. He died of his injuries on March 22, 1933.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, the building’s owner, Howard Welborn, said he purchased the property with his wife, Florence, this year. “This is a long-range project for us,” said Welborn. “Every time we get a vacancy, the apartment goes in for a total remodel.” He added that the building’s roof is expected to be replaced next year.

According to historic preservation officer Reuben McKnight, placing the building on the historic register will allow the property owner to take advantage of a tax incentive. “This is a tax incentive that in effect artificially reduces the property tax assessment for a period of 10 years based on the amount invested in the property,” McKnight told councilmembers. “It’s designed to allow property owners to gain equity back in their building at a lower operating cost while benefitting the city in the long run because it comes back onto the tax rolls at a much higher rate than it was previously.”

McKnight added that any modifications to the building would be reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Councilmember Marty Campbell, who owns Stadium Video one block away from the Edgecliff Apartments, applauded the investments being made in the building. “On a more personal note, I’m excited to have seen this property being rehabilitated,” he said. “I’m glad to see this becoming a marquis property in the Stadium District. Thank you.”

Chase and Sullivan first presented the nomination to the Landmarks Preservation Commission July 14. During that meeting, the commission found the nomination met the landmarks designation criteria and scheduled a public hearing. That hearing was held July 28. The commission then approved the nomination and forwarded it to City Council for a final vote.