This property is significant due to its association with the Asian American communities in South Seattle. It not only reflects the economic and racial diversity that would eventually predominate in Beacon Hill, but it also reveals Beacon Avenue’s role as a commercial corridor that has historically served the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
This retail commercial property is located in Beacon Hill, near Jefferson Park. The first retail shop in this commercial strip (4801 Beacon Avenue South) was constructed around 1942. The other shops (4803 – 4811 Beacon Avenue South) were added during the early 1950s.
Band Box Beauty Salon first occupied the 4801 unit and remained in business until about 1952. By 1953, a grocer, Big Bear Stores Inc., took over the beauty salon. Big Bear Stores remained in business through 1963 when the space became Lucky Foodland Stores, Inc., which occupied the building through 1969.
When the other units were constructed in the early 1950s, the southernmost unit (4811 Beacon Avenue South) was occupied by Vandekamp’s Holland Dutch Bakers. Vandekamp’s remained in the building until about 1955 when the space was taken over by Koffee Korner Restaurant, which remained in operation through 1969.
Imberg Hardware first occupied the 4803 unit; but; by 1954; the name had changed to Householder’s Hardware Store. By 1959, it was Ingersoll’s Hardware Store. By 1961, this unit was occupied by Hill Top Laundromat; and, by 1966, it was occupied by Jim Dandy Self Dry Cleaners, which remained in business through 1969.
Beacon Jewelers occupied the 4805 unit until about 1955 when it was taken over by Ridge Realty. Ridge Realty remained at this location until the late 1950s; and, by 1961, Columbia Barbershop occupied the space and remained there through 1969.
The 4807 unit has also had a variety of different occupants. By 1954, Eddie’s Shoe Repair occupied the space and remained there through the late 1950s. By 1961, Master Shoe Rebuilders had taken over the unit. By 1964, it had become Chad Cecil Locksmith. And, by 1977, it was Precision Camera Repair, which remained in business through 1969.
Beacon Cosmic Cleaners operated out of the 4809 unit until about 1958 or 1959 when Hing’s Cleaners moved into the space. Hing’s operated out of the unit through 1969.
Today, Mimi’s Bakery and Floral Shop occupies the Vandekamp and Koffee Korner store. The Koffee Korner sign, which dates to the mid-1950s, is extant, and this unit has functioned as a bakery since its construction in the early 1950s. The oldest unit, 4801 Beacon Avenue South, is currently occupied by Seattle’s Supermarket; this unit has functioned as a grocer for the Beacon Hill neighborhood since the early 1950s.
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.
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 Italian American community in northern Rainier Valley, the Japanese American community grew and expanded southwards to Beacon Hill during the first two decades of the twentieth century as a result of relatively less restrictive immigration and exclusion laws. While the 1889 Alien Land Laws excluded non-citizens from owning land, they were able to purchase property under the names of their second generation family members. When the Immigration Act of 1924 inhibited further Japanese immigration, they were still able to continue expanding their families and businesses 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.
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, such as this commercial strip, and public spaces, such as Jefferson Park and Dr. Jose Rizal Park, reinforce this diversity.