Charlene K. Roise has assessed a broad variety of cultural resources, ranging from nineteenth-century hydropower systems to Cold War jet aircraft of the Strategic Air Command.

She is President of historical consultants Hess Roise. At the time of this presentation, she was also Vice Chair of the Advisory Board the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The historic building
A professional preservation historian on the architecture

Seattle Empire Laundry was landmarked only after its partial destruction was permitted

On July 1, 1998, a developer seeking to alter the Seattle Empire Laundry from artists' housing to condominiums made a 55-minute presentation to the Seattle Landmarks Board. Afterwards, preservation expert Charlene Roise attempted to speak on the building's historic architecture in accordance with the requirements of nomination.

Instead of allowing this scheduled presentation, the Landmarks Board gave Ms. Roise only ten minutes to speak extemporaneously, with frequent interruptions.

No mention was allowed of the existing tenants' intention - to buy the building, preserve it and retain it as artist housing - or of the financial backing and support they had assembled for this purpose.

Below is the full presentation Ms. Roise had intended to make before the Seattle Landmarks Board.

Today, I will talk first about the nature of industrial buildings, and then turn to early twentieth-century laundry buildings in general and the Seattle Empire Laundry Building in particular.

The Context of Industrial Buildings

Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century commercial and industrial buildings do not always grab our attention the way other building types of that era do. And yet these functional structures can provide a good deal of important information about our cultural heritage, albeit in a more subtle way. Much more so than residential buildings, the hardworking commercial and industrial buildings of the early 1900s epitomized the dictum of contemporary architect Louis Sullivan, "Form Follows Function."

These buildings, in fact, tend to fall more within the realm of engineering rather than architecture. A bridge, for example, is the epitome of form following function. The function of some buildings is almost as easy to read. For example, a late nineteenth-century fire station, now a theater, displays two elements clearly required by its function: broad doors to accommodate fire engines and a tower to dry fire hoses. In other cases, the clues are not as apparent. If this building didn't have a sign indicating that it was a tobacco warehouse - about the last thing you'd expect to see along the Mississippi River in rural Wisconsin - most people would probably not have a clue as to its identity. However, the reflective silver paint is a hint: it helps deflect the sun's rays to keep the tobacco inside cool.

Commercial laundries are another case of form following function. A historian of the laundry industry has observed that technology "gives the industry its specific shape and character". The steam laundry industry is defined by technology: by what it does and how it does it...". The Seattle Empire Laundry building retains significant features that reflect this technology and distinguish it as a unique building type.