Phinney Ridge community to decide fate of siren tower

A rusting air-raid siren tower in Phinney Ridge, a 1950s relic and the only such tower still standing in Seattle, may be spruced up and retained as a historic monument.

The tower was built in 1953 on the site of the old John B. Allen Elementary School, now the Phinney Neighborhood Center, part of a 21-siren system designed to alert Seattle-area residents in the case of a nuclear-missile attack.

While the sirens were never used in an actual warning, the Phinney tower sounded its alarm every Wednesday at noon for more than 20 years to remind the community of the constant threat of nuclear war.

Ed Medeiros, executive director of the Phinney Neighborhood Association, is asking neighbors what to do with it and hopes to have a plan in place next month. Most people want to fix it up and highlight its historical significance, he said, though one person has suggested tearing it down to enhance views over Green Lake.

The siren has stood silent at North 67th Street and Phinney Avenue North since the mid-1970s, but its continued existence makes it "extremely rare," according to Jade Takashima, a graduate student in the University of Washington's landscape-architecture program who is writing her thesis about military use of public space in Seattle.

Most similar towers have been dismantled, Takashima said. Why the Phinney tower was spared when others were not is unknown, but Takashima speculates that its location on school property might have influenced its fate.

Medeiros hopes to create a planning committee of people interested in the tower to generate a plan and submit it for community review.

The Phinney Neighborhood Association opened a small park at the foot of the tower in September, and Medeiros hopes development of the tower can be incorporated into the park plan.

Medeiros said the neighborhood association originally separated the tower from the park project "because people who were interested in the park were not necessarily interested in the tower," but money left over from the park project has been earmarked for improvements to the tower.

Comments regarding the tower can be directed to or Tower@Phinney Center, 6532 Phinney Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98102.

Kennan Knudson can be reached at 206-464-2550 or