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Summary for 5128 55TH AVE / Parcel ID 6617000075 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Common Name:
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Columbia City
Built By: Year Built: 1954

This house is significant due to its association with Cyril and Marian Spinola and their relationship with Paul Horiuchi. It marks the strength of both the Italian American and Japanese American communities while also illustrating the diversity that would eventually predominate in South Seattle.

The property is located in the Seward Park neighborhood in South Seattle and was purchased in 1950 by Mary Palmer. In 1954, Cyril and Marion Spinola purchased the land and began construction on their house. The Spinolas were an Italian American family and occupied the house until 1963 or 1964. By 1965, the house was occupied by Mildred M. and David M. Van Ornum, an engineer at Boeing. In 1966 and 1967, Vincent J. Fajer lived in the house. It was then vacant for a period in 1968; and, in 1969, it was occupied by Leslie and Gladys Chinn. The Chinn family remains associated with the property.

The Polk Directories list Cyril Spinola as working in several positions, such as an agent for Western Life Insurance Company, a salesman for Morris Hardcastle real estate, and a salesman for Mohawk Realty. Mr. Spinola played an important role in the Northwest Japanese and artistic communities. In the 1950s, he befriended Paul Horiuchi prior to the Japanese artist’s success. After their meeting, Mr. Spinola began personally selling paintings for Paul Horiuchi.

Paul Chikamasa Horiuchi was born on April 12, 1906 in Oishi, Japan. He died in August 1999 of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. Paul was a Japanese American painter and owner of Tozai Art, an antique shop and painting studio in downtown Seattle. Paul began developing his artistic skills at an early age in Japan. He studied calligraphy, as well as sumi techniques under the artist, Iketani. He won a second prize in a nationwide competition for a landscape painting when he was thirteen years old. In 1917, when Paul was fifteen years old, he immigrated to the United States and worked on the Union Pacific Railroad in Wyoming with his father. He met his future wife, Bernadette Suda, in 1934 on a trip to Seattle to visit local artists Kenjiro Nomura and Kamekichi Tokita. On June 11, 1935, Paul and Bernadette were married at Maryknoll Church, and they were the first Japanese Catholics to be married in Seattle. The couple had three children, Jon, Vincent, and Paul M., Jr. While the Horiuchis were not incarcerated during World War II, Paul was fired from his railroad job and spent several years working odd jobs. The family relocated to Seattle in 1944, and Paul established Horiuchi's Body and Fender Shop in Downtown Seattle. Paul became increasingly well known for his artwork and active in the Northwest artist community. He received awards and honors in exhibitions around the Northwest and was friends with many prominent local artists, including Mark Tobey and John Matsudaira. In 1951, he opened Tozai Art, where he sold antiques as well as his own artwork. In the early 1950s, he was one of four Japanese American artists featured at the Zoe Dusanne Gallery, Seattle’s first professional Modern Art gallery. His first solo exhibition was held at the Dusanne Gallery in May 1957. Paul’s artistic style developed into abstract compositions using collage techniques.

Early Italian migrants moved to the Pacific Northwest to work at the coal mines in Renton, Newcastle, and Black Diamond. Once settled, Italian Americans began operating farms, including Fred Marino and Joe Desimone, who were involved in organizing the Pike Place Market. During the growth period from 1900 to 1910, additional Italian migrants moved to Seattle for jobs in building and road construction, as well as the city’s re-grading activities. During this period, the Italian American population grew, and the 1910 census documented approximately 45 percent of Italian Seattleites who lived in south downtown and north Rainer Valley. North Rainer Valley and north Beacon Hill became known as “Garlic Gulch,” and the community was centered on Rainier Avenue, between Massachusetts and Atlantic Streets. This block was the principal commercial area, while residences and institutional buildings, such as Colman School, Mount Virgin Roman Catholic Church, and St. Peter’s Catholic Church, were located southward on Rainier Avenue, as well as in the nearby Beacon Hill and Mount Baker neighborhoods.

In addition to the strong Italian American community in northern Rainier Valley during the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Japanese American community grew and expanded to South Seattle during this time as a result of relatively less restrictive exclusion laws. Despite the 1889 Alien Land Laws, which prevented non-citizens from owning land, they were able to purchase property under the names of their second generation family members. While the Immigration Act of 1924 inhibited further Japanese immigration, their social and economic presence continued to expand in Seattle. However, after President Roosevelt issued his Executive Order 9066 in 1942, the Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest were sent to internment camps, leaving a vacuum in the neighborhoods. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted in 1943, which opened the way for immigration by the Chinese who then began moving to Beacon Hill.

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.

While this house is significant through its association with Cyril Spinola, Marian Spinola, and Paul Horiuchi, its occupancy by both Italian Americans and Chinese Americans illustrates the diversity that characterizes South Seattle today.


The trapezoidal lot for this single-family residence was originally platted for Palmer Heights No. 3. It is located on a declining slope between South Dawson Street and South Pearl Street and the front entrance of the house faces westwards towards 55th Avenue South. Constructed in 1954, the one-story Modern residence has 2,280 square feet of living space. An irregular floor plan and a poured concrete foundation support the platform-framed superstructure, and an elevated wooden deck extends from the north facade. The low-pitched, side-gabled roof has an open-eaves overhang with visible rafters or false rafters in the gable ends. However, the western, street-side slope of the gable roof is only partial-width and terminates at the front entry. The carport extends away from the house towards the street. It is covered by a shed roof supported by a simple post-and-beam system. The shed roof abuts the main roof at the eaves line and angles upwards towards the street, forming a V-shape with the western slope of the main roof. This design creates an expansive roof of broken planes that are emphasized by their low-lying position near the street (and eye) level. The entire roof system is covered in asphalt composition roll. The house is clad in both vertical wood board and brick siding. Most windows are vinyl while the entryway retains the original wooden casings, fixed windows, and front door. Not only are the Modern features of this house intact, but it is also an excellent example of the practice in Modern architecture of creating a dynamic relationship between the structure and the landscape. This is manifest in the house’s low position relative to the hill, which allows for the roof’s broken-planar design, as well as the natural incline of the hill, to accentuate each other. The elevated deck’s projection into the hillside’s foliage also illustrates this theme. Therefore, this house remains a significant architectural resource in the neighborhood.


Detail for 5128 55TH AVE / Parcel ID 6617000075 / Inv # 0

Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Wood Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Domestic - Single Family Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Balloon Frame/Platform Frame No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
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 5128 55TH AVE / Parcel ID 6617000075 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010

Photo taken Jan 07, 2010
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