Spirit of the Love Israel family lives on in condos
Love Israel popped up and bumped out (a riot of dormers and porches crowned by a tower) until two small Queen Anne houses became one, 6,000 square feet. The old main house is a duplex these days.
Pacific NW associate editor
THIS IS THE HOUSE that Love built.
No, really, he did.
“Babies were born in my bedroom,” says Susie Hecht, who even after 10 years in her duplex atop Queen Anne Hill remains amused and delighted to find herself living in the former Love Israel compound.
Now known as The Garden on Queen Anne, four of six condo-residences there were homes for the free-spirited followers of Paul Erdmann, the former television salesman fresh in from San Francisco’s Summer of Love, 1968. Erdmann became Love Israel. His followers, “the family,” were also Israels, their new first names representing virtues or biblical figures.
“The very first day I was looking I found this house,” says Susie. “I had an emotional reaction to it. Visceral. But I didn’t think I wanted to live in a condo.
“Five months later I was still looking at houses. I was so tired of vanilla, and I kept watching the place I called ‘the Love shack.’ I brought my husband to see it. He walked in and said, ‘I think they’re still pumping stuff in the air, because I can feel it, too.’ ”
Susie points out the highlights. “The hippies did this,” “the hippies did that” she says again and again throughout the Hechts’ 2,850-square-foot duplex. Three bedrooms, 2¾ baths, the house once was half of Love’s own 6,000-square-foot home (cobbled from two small houses).
“This is vintage Love family,” she says, running her fingers along the feathered glass panel in a pocket door just off the entrance.
“This was the sanctuary,” she says of the living room.
“The curved windows and the stained glass? Those are the ones the hippies made, koa from Hawaii. There are so many kinds of wood in this house we gave up trying to match anything.”
And, of course, there’s that birthing room upstairs. Now the master bedroom.
The Hechts’ style is sort of an urban-country-artsy blend. There’s a collection of rotary telephones in the kitchen. (Susie and Richard worked for AT&T.) Art includes photographs from their son and lots of stuff from the grandkids. Love, after all, is all in the interpretation, whether it’s an attempt at a utopian society for hundreds or being a proud grandmother of two.
The exterior of the Hechts’ home is sage green with large, friendly porches on both floors, green-striped awnings offering a Southern charm. Mature palms nearby do nothing to dispel the feeling. Out back is a commons, former site of many “family” gatherings.
Each year the Hechts tackle one major renovation project. The most recent welcomes visitors at the walkway: big hanging baskets and heavy, prominent pots from Daniel Lowery of Queen Anne Gardens.
Over the years, an Israel or two has popped by to see the old place. Ease, who was born in the Hechts’ bedroom. Serious, Noah, Honesty. The Hechts traveled to the Israel ranch in Arlington once to meet who they could meet. Susie also keeps a file of publicity about her home and its former inhabitants.
The next owner after the whole Love Israel thing (the breakup, in the early 1980s, was bitter) was a healer. Susie has removed lots of crystals hidden in her home’s nooks and crannies.
“I wanted something with character,” is how she sums it all up. “I have the same feeling today as when I moved in.”
Rebecca Teagarden writes about architecture and design for Pacific NW magazine. Benjamin Benschneider is a magazine staff photographer.