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Summary for 4409 39TH AVE / Parcel ID 7950303465 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Common Name:
Style: Vernacular Neighborhood: Columbia City
Built By: Year Built: 1908

This house is significant due to its early occupancy by an African American widow. During the first half of the twentieth century, most African American families lived in today’s Central District. Mrs. Rutherford’s presence was an anomaly for the time period and was a harbinger of the social and ethnic diversity that would eventually predominate in the Rainier Valley and South Seattle.

This single family residential property is located in Columbia City in the southern end of Rainier Valley. The house was constructed in 1908, and Mrs. Betty Rutherford, an African American and widow of Louis Rutherford, was the first occupant. She remained in the house through 1918. John Ostrom was a tenant in the house during the early 1930s; and, by 1938, Jack R. Ayres was the principal resident. Mr. Ayres remained in the house through 1944; and, from 1942 to 1944, Frances V. Jansky boarded with Ayres. In 1951, Martin F. Walsh purchased the property, and he remained there through 1969.

Substantial residential and commercial development in South Seattle and the Rainier Valley occurred when a transportation corridor connecting the Rainier Valley to downtown and Seattle’s industrial district was constructed along Rainier Avenue during the late nineteenth century. 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. 

Due to the same exclusion laws that affected most minorities, African Americans did not begin to have a significant presence in Rainer Valley and South Seattle until the 1940s. However, it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that large numbers of families were able move out of Seattle’s established black neighborhoods, such as today’s Central District that is comprised of the East Madison and Pioneer Square neighborhoods. Furthermore, it was not until the passage of the Open Housing Ordinance by the Seattle City Council in 1968 that the ability of non-whites to relocate to the Rainier Valley substantially increased. Only after passage of this ordinance did significant numbers of Asians, Filipinos, African Americans, Hispanics, and other ethnic groups move to South Seattle. Today, the Rainier Valley retains its historical racially and economically diverse population.


The rectangular lot for this house is located between South Genesee Street and South Oregon Street and was originally platted for Squires Lakeside Addition. The single-family vernacular residence was constructed in 1908 and faces eastwards onto 39th Avenue South. It is one story with 830 square feet of living space and a full-width recessed porch. An irregular floor plan supports the balloon-framed superstructure. The hipped roof is covered by asphalt composition shingles. A brick chimney protrudes from the rear west slope of the roof. Wooden steps rise from street level to the porch while square wooden columns support the roof overhang. The house is clad in vinyl siding, and the fenestration is composed of vinyl windows with two picture windows on the front facade. While elements of this house have been altered, this vernacular house retains its scale, massing, roofline, and porch. It, therefore, continues to contribute to the residential character of Rainier Valley.


Detail for 4409 39TH AVE / Parcel ID 7950303465 / Inv # 0

Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Veneer- Vinyl Siding Foundation(s): Unknown
Roof Type(s): Hip Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition-Shingle
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: Unknown
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Extensive
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 4409 39TH AVE / Parcel ID 7950303465 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010
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