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Liberty Bank Historic Landmark Hearing Wed. Feb. 5th @ 3:30PM

Liberty Bank Historic Landmark Hearing

Wed. Feb. 5th @ 3:30PM


On February 5th the Landmarks Preservation Board will consider the nomination for the former Liberty Bank building. The meeting will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will be held at Seattle Municipal Tower (700 – 5th Avenue, Suite 1756).

If you know anyone who is interested in providing public comment they can do so in person at the meeting, or by submitting written comments. Although the notice says to provide comments before 5:00pm the day prior to the meeting, people are encourage to do it early, even up to a week in advance. Whenever possible, Historic Preservation staff prefers to send comments to the Landmark Preservation Board members well in advance of the meeting so they have time to read them all.

All comments can be emailed to Erin Doherty at erin.doherty@seattle.gov. They also can be mailed or dropped off to Erin’s attention to:

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
Attn: Erin Doherty
700 5th Avenue, Suite 1700
PO Box 94649
Seattle, WA 98124

For people who would like to offer verbal comment at the meeting, individuals will have three minutes to speak, and organizations will have five minutes to speak.

Here is a sample letter of support:

Dear Ms. Doherty and members of the Landmark Preservation Board:

I write in support of the Landmark Status Application filed by Omari Garrett for the Liberty Bank Building at 24th Avenue and Union Street.

Liberty Bank operated in our neighborhood at a significant time, addressing the needs of African Americans who had been denied access to banking and victimized by legalized practices of redlining and restrictive covenants. The founders of the bank recognized the importance of building an institution that would serve the community and invest in the community. Thebank was a pillar of the community during a time that bridged an era of segregation and discrimination to an era of increasing opportunities. It was unique during its time and today it retains a unique significance in the history of Seattle and American history.

The bank building is significant to the neighborhood vitality too. The Africatown Central District of today is more diverse than it was 40 years ago and many of the distinctly African American businesses are no longer part of the community. Yet I hear from major landlords and developers that the neighborhood’s African American cultural heritage remains an economic asset, a unique feature of the neighborhood that attracts residents of all races and increases the economic viability of their projects. Thus the neighborhood’s economic vitality depends on retaining the African American character of the neighborhood even as gentrification makes it more diverse and less distinctly African American.

While individual businesses may close or move, the history remains. It is up to us to remember it, to preserve it, and to pass it on to future generations. The Liberty Bank Building is a cornerstone of that history, a building that encapsulates the whole story of Africatown better that any other non-Church institution or building in the neighborhood. Please preserve it.

Landmark status for CD’s pioneering Black-owned bank up for consideration amid affordable housing plans


Landmark status for CD’s pioneering Black-owned bank up for consideration amid affordable housing plans
by Bryan Cohen

1968 To preserve and rekindle a piece of Central District history, or prepare for the current and future needs of residents in a increasingly expensive neighborhood. That’s the debate at the heart of a bid to preserve the former, and now empty, Liberty Bank building at 24th and Union.Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 5.44.51 PM

On Wednesday the Landmarks Preservation Board will decide if a nomination to save the bank building should move forward. The application (PDF) cites the building as the “first banking institution for African Americans in the Pacific Northwest region.”

Longtime Central District/Africatown activist Omari Garrett filed the preservation petition. For Garrett, the fight to save the bank runs deeper than just preserving a building.

“Our children are not on the street shooting each other because they don’t have a place to stay. They don’t have Black institutions to look up to, they don’t see Black bank owners,” Garrett said. “Housing is not our problem in the central area. Our problem is identity and having cultural institutions in Africatown.”


Landmark board to weigh controversial nomination in the Central Area

liberty bank

The nondescript brick structure opened in 1968 as the home of the first and only bank established to serve African Americans during a period of pervasive redlining, and its closing last spring marked the end of an era, of sorts.

Now the city of Seattle’s Landmark Preservations Board is considering a nomination to designate the building a historic landmark.

A hearing is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Ave.

Omari Tahir-Garrett, a Central Area resident and community agitator, nominated the structure for landmark status, citing among other things what he called its distinction as the site of the Northwest region’s only African-American bank, called Liberty Bank.

His real goal, he acknowledges, is to suspend gentrification in the Central Area and slow developers, who historically have not flocked to the area in any significant numbers.

Liberty was founded by a group of individuals of different races, including Garrett’s father, an African-American engineer.

In 1988, regulators closed Liberty and reopened it with new capital as Emerald City Bank to continue to serve the community. That bank failed in 1993 and was acquired by KeyBank.