As you likely already know, the Hugo House building will be torn down this spring and a six-story mixed-use development will be built on the site. The Hugo House is scheduled to reopen in the new building sometime in 2018. (Mary Ann Gwinn published a preview of the new House in the Seattle Times last week.) But until today, we didn’t know where the House would be operating during the interim.
This afternoon, the House and the Frye Art Museum made a joint announcement that once construction begins in mid-2016, Hugo House will be moving into “a building owned by and adjacent to the Frye Art Museum at Boren Avenue and Columbia Street on First Hill.” The House will maintain their full schedule of classes in the Frye-owned space, and they’ll partner with Town Hall, Elliott Bay Book Company, and the Sorrento Hotel to present their regular array of readings and book launches and literary parties. According to the press release, “Hugo House will launch several new programs during its stay on First Hill, including manuscript consultations and writing-group matchmaking.”
Every time the Hugo House move is mentioned online, it’s always chased with comments by people who say that they’re sad the House is going away, and that they’re less likely to attend House events in the future because the character of the old House is disappearing forever. On the one hand, this is understandable: Seattle is very sensitive to change right now, and writers in particular tend to be very change-averse. But I’d just like to say that the cliche about cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face was tailored for situations just like this one: if you’re looking to penalize a nonprofit writing organization for adapting to the changes in the city around it, you might want to rethink your priorities.
We’ll have plenty to say about the old Hugo House in the months ahead — I’ve had a lot of good times in that building — but we’re also very excited about the possibilities that the new space provides. And this partnership between the Frye and the Hugo House offers up some very interesting opportunities as well. In a time when Seattle seems to be becoming more and more Silicon Valley-style libertarian, it's heartening to see that our arts organizations still have each others' backs.