Washington Hall in 1937. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Archives
Washington Hall in 1937. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Archives
As part of an effort to raise the remaining $2.2 million needed by the end of June to finish the restoration of the 106-year-old Washington Hall, Historic Seattle is hosting a benefit concert on March 29.

Built in 1908 by the Danish Brotherhood, a fraternal organization of immigrants from Denmark, the building (153 14th Ave.) has historically served as a hub for a variety of social and cultural activities, open to all. Since Historic Seattle acquired Washington Hall in 2009, saving it from demolition, the nonprofit has taken actions to restore it.

With a new roof, seismic stabilization of the south wall and funds to build an elevator secured, the final phase of Historic Seattle’s capital campaign includes the renovation of the former boarding house at the back of the building. The space will serve as an arts hub for community groups and artists in Seattle’s Central Area.

The final phase of the campaign will also make it possible to fund full restoration of the main performance hall (including the flooring, stage and balcony), life and safety systems for the entire structure and a fully restored exterior entry and lobby.

“I think it will be a great thing for Seattle,” said musician Dave Holden, who will perform at the upcoming benefit concert. “They’re trying to restore it near to when it was a glorious dance hall.” 

Family connections

The site of the earliest documented jazz concert in Seattle, with Miss Lillian Smith’s Jazz Band (on June 10, 1918), Washington Hall has also hosted such artists as Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Marian Anderson and John Lee Hooker. Audiences will have another opportunity to witness history being made at the Seattle landmark, as four generations of Holden musicians take the stage together, for the first time in a public performance.

“The Holden family has a really strong, deep connection to Washington Hall,” said Van Diep, the building’s rental manager.

The idea for the upcoming concert came about after the Holdens contacted Diep about having their family reunion at the hall last summer, due to its longstanding roots there — living across the street for over 20 years, going to performances there and performing there themselves for years.

“As kids, we were growing up right across the street, and many times we would watch our dad walk across the street in his tuxedo to perform,” Holden remembers.

His father, Oscar Holden, who played clarinet in Jelly Roll Morton’s band and arrived with the group in Seattle in 1919, remained in Seattle until his death in 1969. Also a pianist and often called the “patriarch of Seattle jazz,” he performed with many touring musicians, including Louis Armstrong.

Holden recalls a night that Armstrong visited them at their house and subsequently performed with his father at the Washington Hall. His father also performed there with such artists as Count Basie, Nat “King” Cole, Sarah Vaughan and Cab Calloway.

“It was a big deal in the neighborhood. People used to come from all over to go the Washington Hall,” Holden said. “It used to be quite the place. It was like the Cotton Club of the Seattle area.” 

Concert information

The concert will also feature special guests The Teaching, with Evan Flory-Barnes, Josh Rawlings and Jeremy Jones. The unofficial studio band for Macklemore’s Grammy-winning album, “The Heist,” the band performs a mix of traditional jazz with hip-hop, funk and pop.

The Washington Hall Benefit Concert will take place on March 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Washington Hall. Advance tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/591745 or at the door.

For more information about Washington Hall and to contribute to the restoration, visit www.washingtonhall.org.

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