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Summary for 2021 4th AVE / Parcel ID 1977201230 / Inv #

Historic Name: Nesika Apartments Common Name: Stratford Apartments
Style: None Neighborhood: Downtown Urban Center
Built By: Year Built: 1915
This property is directly associated with the initial period (1902-1920) of downtown commercial expansion that occurred due to local economic prosperity after the Klondike Gold Rush and in tandem with explosive population growth and suburban residential development. During this era, modern urban architectural scale began with the construction of the earliest steel-frame high-rise buildings and the establishment of a concentration of banking enterprises and department stores along Second Avenue from Cherry Street to Pike Street. The initial regrading of Denny Hill and the commercial redevelopment of the former University Grounds (University/Metropolitan Tract) were major factors that facilitated northward and eastward commercial expansion. In 1914, the owners of the Frederick and Nelson Department Store purchased property with the intention of building a large, five-story store at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street, thus solidifying the location of the future downtown retail core. A significant number of extant commercial properties dating from this era remain within the downtown commercial core, including: numerous hotels, banks, business blocks and early high-rise commercial buildings, as well as some specialty and department stores, clubhouses, apartment houses and theaters. In order to create additional industrial land areas to the south of the commercial district, as well as opportunities for commercial expansion further northward, major regrading efforts began in 1895. In 1897, First Avenue was further regraded and paved north from Pike Street to Denny Way. This was followed in 1903 when Second Avenue began to be extended and paved northward. By 1908, the major task of removing all of Denny Hill began in earnest. Most of Denny Hill to the west of Fifth Avenue had been removed by 1911; however, the lengthy civic debate over the Bogue Plan (that was ultimately rejected by voters in 1912) delayed real estate development in the vicinity. The anticipated major commercial development to the north of Stewart Street was slow to occur. With only a few exceptions, it was not until the early 1920s that sizable hotel, apartment and commercial construction occurred. Buildings that provided multiple-family housing in Seattle was not identified or described specifically as “apartment houses” prior to c.1903. During the late nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries, numerous downtown hotel buildings functioned for long-term residential purposes. By 1905, several small apartment buildings had been constructed and were mingled primarily among the older single family residences located uphill and to the NE of the expanding commercial district. Most apartment construction during this era appears to have been concentrated further uphill along Yesler Way and on First Hill, as well as in burgeoning neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Queen Anne Hill. As Denny Hill was removed and regraded in phases, small mixed use apartment buildings began to be constructed on the newly regraded lots. By the late 1910s, larger apartment houses had been constructed in the Denny Regrade area to the north of Stewart Street, including some extant examples: the Sheridan Apartments (1914); the Nesika Apartments (Stratford Apartments, 1915); and the Virginian Apartments (1917). During the 1920s, two large apartment hotels were constructed in the commercial core; however, major apartment house construction did not occur. Such development was heavily concentrated in residential neighborhoods, particularly First Hill and Capitol Hill where numerous noteworthy examples from this era remain. The Nesika Apartment building was designed by Blackwell and Baker architects in 1915 and constructed for Albro Gardner Jr. and Dr. L.M. Lessey. It was constructed by contractors Martin and Dugan Construction Co. The architect, James E. Blackwell, was born in Virginia and practiced in Washington, D. C., and Rochester, N.Y., in the late 1880s. He arrived in Tacoma in 1891, doing work on dock projects in Port Orchard and Portland. He arrived in Seattle in 1897, working in partnership with Robert I. Robertson (1897-1904) and Frank Lidstone Baker ((1911-14). Baker was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. During this partnership, in addition to this apartment house, the firm designed the Grand Trunk Dock (destroyed, 1911) on the Seattle waterfront and the Armory in Bellingham (1911-12). The Nesika Apartment Building is a somewhat altered example of a rare downtown apartment house property type from this era. It is a modest example of apartment house design, but is associated with an important Seattle architect, James E. Blackwell.
Located mid-block on the west side of Fourth Avenue between Virginia and Lenora Streets, this five-story building was designed and constructed to serve as a 55-unit apartment house, purposes for which is continues to be used. It measures 60’ x 108’ with an I-shaped plan that allows for north and south interior lights wells at the residential units. The two-part vertical block façade composition exhibits modest terra cotta ornamentation. The reinforced concrete structure with full concrete basement and foundation is clad with dark red terra cotta brick and buff color terra cotta tile. Brick at the basement window level has been painted white. The building base is dominated by a 1-1/2 story round-arched entry vestibule with brick trim and keystone ornament. A wide cream-color terra cotta watertable accentuates the sixth floor level. The remainder of the façade is punctuated by five bays of symmetrically placed rectangular window openings; all individually set with those at the 2nd and 3rd floor levels in slightly recessed bays. All of the original double-hung 8/1 multi-pane sash have been removed and modern dissimilar anodized aluminum windows have been installed. Terra cotta sills remain in place. Brick window sills at the first floor level have been painted white. An ornate cornice caps the façade at a plain brick parapet; it is non-historic and replaced a simpler original sheet metal cornice. Side and rear exterior walls are brick and typically penetrated by rectangular window openings with terra cotta tile lintels. Narrow recessed vertical slots are located at the center of each end of the side elevations and include typical narrow bathroom windows.. The entry vestibule and doorway have been altered with the installation of a barrel awning and new door assembly. There do not appear to be any intact or architecturally significant interior building features, finishes or public spaces.

Detail for 2021 4th AVE / Parcel ID 1977201230 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick - Common Bond Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Domestic - Multiple Family Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: five
Unit Theme(s): Agriculture, Community Planning/Development
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Interior: Unknown
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
City of Seattle DPD Microfilm Records.

Photo collection for 2021 4th AVE / Parcel ID 1977201230 / Inv #

Photo taken May 25, 2006

Photo taken Feb 19, 2007
App v2.0.1.0