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Hugo House was founded in 1997 by Linda Jaech, Frances McCue, and Andrea Lewis. These three writers believed Seattle needed a center for local writers and readers to find a community and create new work. In 1999, Laura Hirschfield described the nonprofit organization: "Richard Hugo House is a two-year-old literary arts center in Seattle named after the Seattle-born poet and creative writing teacher Richard Hugo who wrote squarely and poignantly about people and places often overlooked."
Several new programs were created at Hugo House during the 2000s by Program Director Brian McGuigan, including Cheap Wine and Poetry (in 2005) Cheap Beer and Prose (in 2008), and the Made at Hugo House fellowship. McGuigan left Hugo House in 2014.
Hugo House first occupied a 16,206-square-foot (1,505.6 m2) Victorian house originally built in 1902. Previous occupants of the building included New City Theater and before that the Bonney-Watson mortuary and funeral home.
In addition to administrative offices, the House included:
- an 88/150 theater
- a cabaret stage and cafe
- three multipurpose rooms
- a conference room
- an art gallery
- private meeting spaces
In June 2016, the organization moved to a temporary space adjacent to the Frye Art Museum on First Hill. The original house on Capitol Hill was razed and replaced with a six-story residential building that will also house the Hugo House beginning in 2018.
Hugo House presents a number of programs, including:
- Hugo Writing Classes
- Hugo Classes for Youth
- Stage Fright Teen Open Mic
- Hugo Works in Progress
- Hugo Literary Series
- Word Works: Writers on Writing
- Made at Hugo House Fellowship
- Zine Archive and Publishing Project (formerly a program of Hugo House, now independent)
- A Study in Social Entrepreneurship: Richard Hugo House, Laura Hirschfield, Grantmakers in the Arts Newsletter, Volume 10, Number 2, Autumn 1999
- All eyes on a timely topic at Hugo House, John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/4/2002,
- Open House, Christopher Frizzelle, The Stranger, 7/24/2003,
- Making Things Better, Frances McCue, Community Arts, 10/2004
- Not With a Bang, But a Whimper, Paul Constant, The Stranger, 9/16/2008
- Hugo House names interim director, John Marshall, Seattle PI, 10/23/2008
- Hirschfield, Laura. "A Study in Social Entrepreneurship: Hugo House," GIA Newsletter, Vol 10, No 2 (Fall 1999) http://www.giarts.org/article/study-social-entrepreneurship
- Hugo House "Upcoming Events" https://hugohouse.org/upcoming-events/cheap-series/ Viewed June 6, 2016
- Richardson, Lissa. "Who Can Resist Cheap Beer and Prose?" Pif Magazine http://www.pifmagazine.com/2010/09/who-can-resist-cheap-beer-and-prose/
- Constant, Paul. "The Hell With Grants," The Stranger February 13, 2013 https://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-hell-with-grants/Content?oid=15995166
- Richardson, Catherine "Q&A: Tree Swenson Leaves Academy," Publishers Weekly Magazine, May 1, 2012 http://www.pw.org/content/qa_tree_swenson_leaves_academy?cmnt_all=1
- "Hugo House Settling Into New Digs". The Capitol Hill Times. June 6, 2016. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Smith, Rick (January 6, 2016). "Hugo House Makes a Good Move—To First Hill, Temporarily". The Stranger. Retrieved June 9, 2016.