by Kirby LindsayThe Fremont Historical Society meets on the second Saturday of each month at 11 a.m. in the basement meeting room of the Fremont Library (731 North 35th St.) Beyond discussions of current projects – often concerning the collection and protection of historical data about Fremont – meetings can reveal resources visitors may not know.
In May, Vicki Shuman, of Seattle By Foot, wanted to learn more about the commercial buildings in downtown Fremont. Carol Tobin, a local historian, immediately referred her to a ‘Fremont’ in the branch library, and a book called the Historical Survey and Planning Study of Fremont’s Commercial Area. The book contains a wealth of basic information, collected by Tobin in 1991.
Otherwise Known As
The McKenzie Building sits at the northeast corner of Fremont Avenue North and 34th Street (addresses of 3400-3412 Fremont Ave N and 702 N. 34th.) The name can be read above a doorway in this building, owned by Joe Bellotti, but most Fremonsters today refer to it as the Costas building.
According to Tobin’s information, the Shorey House – a rooming house/hotel – originally stood on this site, and later the Hotel Dixon and then the Ewing Hotel. The site also housed the Fremont post office from 1901 to 1913. Photos of the building then, according to Costa Antonopoulos, owner of Costas Opa Restaurant, more closely resembled a two-story house, rather than a hotel, and a large deck ran along 34th Street (then called Ewing Street) to look down at the water.
Tobin’s survey describes the current building on this site, the McKenzie building (a brick, terra cotta, and stucco building with a steel marquee suspended by decorative tie bars) dated 1927. Past tenants have included Bob’s Royal Café, Fremont Café, Library Tavern, The Dance Machine and Bananas.
Antonopoulos has heard of a Greek café – possibly Bob’s Royal - that once occupied a small section of the 34th Street side of the building. Other long-time Fremonsters tell tales of husbands who, once upon a time, could tell their wives they were going ‘to the
The Rise of the (Family) Restaurant
Antonopoulos took lease of the burned out space, for his dream of a Greek restaurant. He remodeled it for two years, repairing fire damage – including filling holes in the concrete floor – removing a false ceiling, sandblasting the wooden beams and posts and building a mezzanine to allow for more seating.
“People like the atmosphere,” he said recently, and customers came – to one of the only family restaurants in the area at that time. “There was nothing for lunch here,” he recalled, and his restaurant served only dinner. “No business here,” he described, “and parking everywhere. We never expected to have so much success.” In 1991, he opened for lunch, around 2008 the restaurant added breakfast on weekends and this summer he built outdoor seating along North 34th Street.
In 1985, Antonopoulos fixed up the space next door to his restaurant, in the building. East-West Antiques had previously occupied it. After sandblasting the wood elements, and installing restrooms, he opened a deli that sold groceries and pizza. He gave up the space in 1990/91 and it became Barlee’s, a family restaurant, and now Tawon Thai.
Besides Costas, the McKenzie has been longtime home to another anchor business in Fremont – Dusty Strings. Originally a center of manufacturing for dulcimers, with a small retail outlet, Dusty Strings relocated their workshop to Interbay and now the store, along with their practice and performance areas, fill out the large basement.
In 2004, Antonopoulos did another extensive remodel of his restaurant, and today Costas, Dusty Strings and Tawon Thai welcome visitors to Fremont – and the McKenzie. To learn more on the buildings, and history, of Fremont, check out a Historical Society meeting – or attend their free Streetcar Walking Tour on Thursday, July 22nd, which sets off from the corner of North 34th Street and Phinney Avenue North at 7p.
- Fremont, By Foot
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 2, 2010
- Making Beautiful Music (History of Dusty Strings In Fremont)
- by Kirby Lindsay, August 9, 2000 in The Seattle Press
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.