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Tout Ensemble: Preserving Seattle's Satterlee House

13 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2012  

John Nivala

Widener University Delaware Law School

Date Written: August 28, 2012


My neighborhood has a character which affords me a “sense of place and identity,” a sense produced by my interaction with my surroundings, a sense which makes “a home and a series of houses a neighborhood.” A community’s “sense of place, its character,” can be created by a collection of structures or by a single structure. But, in the end, it just makes us feel good, feel at home.

Threats to that character or ambiance make us apprehensive. Threats carried out upset us. Loss of visual harmony or prospect and loss of identifying structures disorient us. There is a loss of concordance, of things - structures, landscape, visual cues - that made us feel good. We seek to protect and preserve the combinations, the ensemble, which gives us a sense of place. That is what this essay will discuss.

Part I will discuss and illustrate environs, a term used to describe a historic property’s “associated surroundings and the elements or conditions that serve to characterize a specific place, neighborhood, district or area.” These characteristics spark a desire “to retain and preserve the distinctive character of historic properties’ environs.”

Part II will review Louisiana’s desire to preserve the character, the environ, of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Using the term “tout ensemble” shows that the Quarter is not just a collection of individual structures, but an entity in itself that collectively has a spirit, an ambience and character that merits preservation.

Part III will then discuss whether an individual structure, the Satterlee House in West Seattle, has a character, an environ, described not just by the structure but also by its setting, a tout ensemble for an individual structure rather than a collective.

Keywords: historic preservation, French Quarter, Satterlee House, New Orleans, Seattle, environs

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Nivala, John, Tout Ensemble: Preserving Seattle's Satterlee House (August 28, 2012). Widener Law Review, Vol. 18, 2012; Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-27. Available at SSRN:

John Nivala (Contact Author)

Widener University Delaware Law School ( email )

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0406
United States

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