When contractors were working on the Chophouse Row project in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood back in 2013, they made a startling discovery. Buried several feet below the eclectic mix of historical buildings they discovered the foundation of a small house—the remnants of a pioneer settlement dating back to the late 19th century.
Contractors began calling the structure “Grandma’s House,” and when the project hit some inevitable construction delays, the crew joked about Grandma’s ghost coming back to slow their progress.
In 2017, Liz Dunn, D eveloper and Owner of Chophouse Row, commissioned an art piece for the courtyard space above the site of “Grandma’s House.” Dunn asked local curator, Greg Lundgren, to help select the artist. The vision for the piece was something that would create a sense of community, while honoring the site’s history. After reviewing a number of proposals, Seattle-based architecture firm, SHED Architecture & Design , was selected to design the piece.
When the firm heard about “Grandma’s House” they knew the piece needed to tell the story, “our site specific installations take inspiration from our surroundings and attempt to reveal something that hides beneath the surface, something present but unseen or unnoticed,” said Prentis Hale, Principal of SHED Architecture & Design.
To produce the piece, SHED projected the silhouette of a gable cabin onto the various surfaces of the courtyard corner then applied cedar wood planks within the artwork boundary. When visitors move through the space, the angled outline of the structure becomes increasingly distorted and unrecognizable. But from a precise vantage point, the cedar planks come into alignment to reveal the gabled cabin. SHED named the piece “Ghost Cabin” to pay homage to the site’s mysterious history.
“Like a ghost, it’s aura is ever-present but ephemeral,” explained Hale, “its form is there and then not there, visible only to the curious.”
Cedar planks were selected as the primary material to honor the ancient forests that used to cover the neighborhood. The Duwamish People sourced Cedar from Capitol Hill during the 19th century to build longhouses. With the Ghost Cabin installation, the Cedar planks take shape once again at the site of their original home.
Ghost Cabin has brought new life to Chophouse Row. What was once a simple courtyard has become a destination in itself. It is now a central gathering space for friends, meetings, musical events, and farmer’s markets. All these years later, Chophouse visitors are enjoying this site’s original structure in a whole new way.