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Summary for 3417 20TH AVE / Parcel ID 5312100030 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Common Name:
Style: Tudor Neighborhood: Beacon Hill
Built By: Year Built: 1930
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).

This residence is significant due to its association with the early Chinese American community in South Seattle. The Lews’ and Wus’ occupancy of this house exhibits the historical movement of Chinese Americans to Beacon Hill, particularly after the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted in 1943. 

This single-family residence is located in Beacon Hill, near Jefferson Park. It was constructed in 1930, and the Polk Directories list Henry and Sadie C. McEwen as the principal occupants through 1938. By 1939, Raymond Tow, and Joan and Daniel H. Lew, had purchased the property. The Lews, a Chinese American family, remained in the house until 1959. After the Lews moved, Jerry and Rose Wu, who were also Chinese American, occupied the house through 1969.  

Substantial residential and commercial development in Beacon Hill occurred when a transportation corridor connecting the Rainier Valley to Downtown Seattle and Seattle’s industrial district was constructed along Rainier Avenue. Development in the valley was facilitated by logging during the 1880s, the operation of the Rainier Valley Electric Railway in the 1890s, and the Jackson and Dearborn Street re-grades in the 1900s. Milling was the primary commercial industry during the last part of the nineteenth century although some agricultural activity existed. As residential development increased, Rainier Avenue gradually became the principal commercial corridor connecting the residential neighborhoods of South Seattle to downtown, the International District, and Seattle’s industrial districts. World War II brought additional building growth related to the wartime industry, as well as the influx of defense workers to nearby Boeing and the Duwamish shipyards. 

Beacon Hill has historically been a more economically and socially diverse neighborhood than Mount Baker to its east. There was less enforcement of residential deed restrictions and a greater availability of smaller, more affordable housing. One of the first land owners of Beacon Hill was George Riley, an African American from Portland, Oregon. George Riley, organizer of the Workingmen’s Joint Stock Association in Portland, arranged the organization’s purchase of property on Beacon Hill, which was platted in 1871 as Riley’s Addition. Furthermore, the northern end of Rainier Valley, which was originally settled by German immigrants, acquired the historical nickname “Garlic Gulch” during the early twentieth century due to the growing strength and predominance of its Italian American community. 

While there was a significant influx of Chinese migrant workers into the United States during the middle of the nineteenth century, immigration laws for the Chinese became more restrictive after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This, combined with the 1889 Alien Land Laws, thwarted the growth of Seattle’s Chinese population and restricted their residences to Chinatown. Despite this, Chinese American families grew, and a second generation of Chinese Americans was born. By the 1930s, Chinese American families gradually began moving to the Beacon Hill area. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted in 1943, opening the way for immigration by the Chinese, who began moving to Beacon Hill in large numbers.

Beacon Hill’s diverse beginnings were reinforced by its landscape features, including Jefferson Park located at the center of Beacon Hill. Originally named Beacon Hill Park, Jefferson Park has exerted a profoundly positive influence on the development and social cohesion of the Beacon Hill neighborhood through its sustained use by local residents. Originally acquired by the City of Seattle in 1898, it was integrated into Seattle’s Olmsted system of parks. In 1915, the first public golf course west of the Mississippi opened at Jefferson Park. From 1919 to 1941, the year before many Japanese Americans were interned in the Northwest, the Japanese-American Language School in Seattle used the park for its annual picnics. Japanese Golf Association held annual tournaments beginning in 1931. African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Chinese Americans organized golf clubs during the 1940s and 1950s because they were excluded from white clubs; they used Jefferson Park as their home course.

The Jefferson Park community center and golf course remains open to the public and the Beacon Hill neighborhood continues to be an ethnically diverse, working-class community. Its businesses and public spaces, including Jefferson Park and Dr. Jose Rizal Park, reinforce this diversity.


This Tudor-influenced, single-family residence was constructed in 1930. The elevated, rectangular lot is located between South Hinds Street and South Spokane Street while the house faces eastwards onto 20th Avenue South. It is one-and-a-half stories with 2,010 square feet of living space and a daylight basement. The rectangular-shaped floor plan supports a platform frame superstructure. The cross-gabled roof and gabled pediment extending over the porch have slightly overhanging eaves and are covered with asphalt composition shingles. A brick chimney abuts the south gable wall. Concrete steps lead to the entry porch, which is punctuated by Tudor arches.  Pairs of eight-over-one hung-sash windows punctuate the gable ends on most facades while the first story tripartite casement window on the front facade has two 10-lite casements flanking a fixed window. While storm windows have been installed on the exterior of the original windows, brick lintels and sills, as well as wooden casings, mullions, and muntins, are generally intact. Traces of decorative brick cladding exist where muted clinker bricks (or bricks that were painted or glazed but are now faded) form partial designs on the front facade. This is an excellent example of how Tudor stylistic elements were used in a vernacular residence. Many features remain intact, including the roofline, floor plan, windows, entryway, and cladding. The house not only represents an important architectural style, but its intactness also makes it integral to the character of the Beacon Hill neighborhood.


Detail for 3417 20TH AVE / Parcel ID 5312100030 / Inv # 0

Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition-Shingle
Building Type: Domestic - Single Family Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Balloon Frame/Platform Frame No. of Stories: one & ½
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Slight
Changes to Interior: Unknown
Other: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects. Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Dorpat, Paul, “101 The Railroad Avenue Elevated,” Seattle, Now and Then, Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1984.
Bagley, Clarence B. History of Seattle, Washington. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1916.
Berner, Richard. Seattle 1921-1940: From Boom to Bust. Seattle: Charles Press, 1992.

Photo collection for 3417 20TH AVE / Parcel ID 5312100030 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010
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