How Bud Krogh Quietly Helped in the Creation of Town Hall Seattle

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Interior and exterior photos of the recently renovated Town Hall Seattle in Seattle, Wash., Thursday, October 31, 2019. (Photo by Dan DeLong)

Mike Flynn, the retired publisher of Puget Sound Business Journal and man-about-town, recently wrote a column praising Egil (Bud) Krogh that stirred fond memories I also have of this tarnished, stellar man. It happens that Krogh was a key person in my efforts in the 1990s to purchase the building that became Town Hall Seattle. I shall explain.

Krogh is remembered as the aide who, while working for President Richard Nixon, orchestrated the “Plumbers” break-in of the Los Angeles office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Lewis Fielding, hiring G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt for the illegal job. Krogh told Flynn that he came to feel that this infamous Ellsberg episode may have led to Watergate, arguing that the Plumbers seemed to green-light the Watergate break-in that ultimately resulted in Nixon’s resignation. It also led to a lifetime of exemplary remorse and atonement by Krogh.

Krogh ended up in the White House as an assistant to John Ehrlichman, in whose Seattle law office Krogh worked as a freshly minted UW lawyer. Like Ehrlichman and H.R. (Bob) Haldeman, Krogh was raised a Christian Scientist. (As was Dorm Braman, who suddenly and huffily quit as Mayor of Seattle to work for the Nixon Department of Transportation, where he helped steer funding to what became Jim Ellis Freeway Park.)

That stunning episode led Krogh to a lifetime of remorse and rigorous recovery, as recounted in Krogh’s 2007 book, Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons from the White House. His journey of redemption, partly guided by his lawyer Bill Dwyer involved turning down Nixon’s offer of a pardon so Krogh would serve five months in prison; visits to apologize personally to Dr. Fielding and Nixon; and a long, uphill trek in regaining his law license.

The Town Hall connection emerged when out of the blue Krogh helped me understand why I and others were having such a hard time getting anywhere in our decade-long efforts to purchase the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist for conversion to a music and civic venue on Seattle’s First Hill. Five or six times our little group of mid-sized musical organizations seeking a common home was rejected in our bid to get a purchase option from the tiny congregation left in this grand church. 

Krogh wanted to save the lovely old building he knew well (otherwise destined for a parking lot) and explained to me that the decisions were emanating from the geriatric leadership of the Mother Church in Boston, eager for money from such sales, as well as their crusty Seattle attorney who kept privately undermining our offers. Then, in 1996, for reasons I suspect may have had something to do with Krogh’s intervention, the local church changed leadership and a sale was quickly and professionally done.

The other providential help we had was the intervention of Historic Seattle, which wanted to purchase the noble edifice and turn it into “Landmark Hall,” which they would run. Their expert negotiators, Maria Barrientos and Michael Herschensohn, got the option I could never snag. Then, when the Historic Seattle board got cold feet about the costly project, our group of small musical groups got the option, raised the $1.6 million for purchase, and opened Town Hall (named with a nod to Manhattan’s famous Town Hall) in 1998. Today, largely due to the impressive prowess of Executive Director Wier Harman, the facility has been grandly renovated and turned into perhaps the most successful such multi-use mid-size performance hall in the nation.

Just as Town Hall has been reborn, so Bud Krogh, who died in 2020, has been redeemed. I remember Dwyer, an admired lawyer and judge from Seattle’s golden age of legal leadership, telling me he was proud that he proved there is such a thing as proper redemption, and how much he admired Krogh. Dwyer won his case, and Bud Krogh went back to practicing law and teaching ethics and integrity. A lot of happy outcomes, I’d say.

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David Brewster, a founding member of Post Alley, has a long career in publishing, having founded Seattle Weekly, Sasquatch Books, and Crosscut.com. His civic ventures have been Town Hall Seattle and FolioSeattle.

4 COMMENTS

  1. IF every aide or member of an administration were held accountable , not to mention accept the responsibility and atone, our current batch of politicians would be respected. Not seeing that character trait much these days.

    David keep writing about the “GOOD” in our political system.

  2. Bud Krogh was a friend of mine, and a good man. As Chair of our State’s “Energy Siting Council’s” I hired him to facilitate the Council’s first ever rule making. Global warming was just emerging as an issue.
    After a year, and too many contentious meetings, he authored “The Krogh Report.” The Report concluded the Council had authority to limit power plant emissions.
    Business looked for compromise. Concerned that we had legal authority, it agreed to our State’s first law limiting C02 emissions.
    Kudos to Governor Locke for supporting the Council’s proposal, to House Energy Chair Jeff Morris for legislative support, but mostly to Bud Krogh whose leadership led to one of the earliest, and strongest, global warming proposal accepted by a bi-partisan legislature.

  3. Bud Krogh’s redemption and the repurposing of the historic church are each important parts of Seattle history, well told here. Also noteworthy is the part played by Bill Dwyer, a champion in so many cases where justice and integrity were at risk. No crusty lawyer he.

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