Based on field work conducted in October 2014, this historic property retains its relationship to the streetscape, historic building form and a sufficient amount of exterior historic building fabric (design features, cladding and/or window sash/openings) to contribute to the distinct character of the University Park neighborhood. This is a particularly well-preserved historic property that appears to possess architectural and/or historic significance. It was built in 1910. The original owner is unknown but according to the 1920 US Census report. Jacob F. Ranning, President of Ranning Lumber Company, owned the house with his wife Carrie. The Rannings lived in the University District for 32 years. Prior to residing at this address, they lived at 4323 12th Ave. NE, with their 3 children and Jacob's parents. The 1910 US Census report lists Jacob as a lumber dealer. Mrs. Carrie Ranning passed away in 1934 (Seattle Times Archives, Sept. 13, 1934, p. 4).
This house was designed in the American Foursquare style, which appeared on American streets around the turn of the twentieth century and remained popular until around 1930. This style was prominent in the University Park neighborhood during this period. It promised affordable, utilitarian housing for middle-class families trying to gain the most from a modest lot. Simplistic and practical, American Foursquares are one of the most common housing types of this period. American Foursquare’s origins are rooted in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright who shunned asymmetrical late-Victorian pretension and pioneered a humbler, boxier, more down-to-earth alternative for domestic architecture. Pattern books and mail-order catalogue companies such as Sears, Roebuck & Co., and Aladdin Houses helped promote this new vision by offering kit homes that included American Foursquare plans. The pieces were trucked or shipped by boxcar to cities across the country, which helps explain why American Foursquares were built in neighborhoods near rail lines.
This residence was constructed during the University District’s 1895-1914 developmental era, during which the University of Washington was established at its present location and the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYP) was held on the University’s campus. In the fall of 1895 the University of Washington opened its new campus with an enrollment of 310 students. The University Store opened at 42nd and Columbus (now University Way) the same year, and the streetcar stop at 42nd and Brooklyn Avenue soon became known as University Station. The platting of the area continued during the 1890s, with the University Heights Addition extending along both sides of Columbus Avenue, the commercial district, to NE 5th Street in 1899.
By 1900, university enrollment was 614 students and the 1900 Census counted over 400 people in the Brooklyn Addition. University enrollment more than doubled in the five years between 1905 and 1910, reaching 2,200 students by 1910. By 1910 the University District had become a city within a city, containing the largest concentration of commercial buildings outside of downtown.
The decade between 1900 and 1910 was also the peak period of subdivision in the area. In 1906 the 20-block University Park Addition north of campus was filed. It became the most affluent and exclusive area in the district. The extension of additional streetcar lines stimulated speculation and housing development north of NE 45th Street. These included a trolley line to Ravenna Park developed by W.W. Beck, and the 1907 extension of a line along NE 45th Street from 14th Ave. NE to Meridian in Wallingford. Virtually the entire District was platted and ready for development by 1910. One distinctive feature of the University Park neighborhood is its very narrow lots. The Moore Investment Company, which platted it, apparently wanted to maximize its profits by creating small lots, most of which were under 4,500 square feet. Fairly substantial houses were still built on these relatively small lots.
The first parks in the area were established at this time and included the 1903 and 1908 Olmsted Brothers park plans for Seattle. These plans included Cowen and Ravenna parks and Ravenna and University boulevards. The Olmsteds recommended that a parkway extend from the University north to the south side of Ravenna Park, where many tall trees remained, and from there to Green Lake. Charles Cowen, a local entrepreneur, donated land for Cowen Park in 1905. The city acquired Ravenna Park by condemnation from W.W. Beck in 1911. Beck had operated the park as a private concern since the 1880s. The University Parkway (now 17th Ave. NE) is noteworthy since it provided a formal entry to the north end of the university campus.
The first fraternities and sororities were built on University Way north of NE 45th Street. Phi Delta Theta was the first fraternity on University Way, and by 1906 there were five fraternities and sororities in the area. After 1910, the Greeks began to move to the University Park neighborhood north of campus. By 1914, eighteen of the fraternities and sororities were located on University Boulevard (now 17th Avenue NE) or 18th Avenue NE, and only one was on University Way.
The University District and other areas north of Lake Union became attractive residential districts during the decade following the AYP. In 1908, a local newspaper published the following assessment of the University Park neighborhood: “…it is only a matter of short time until the district will rank with Capitol and Queen Anne Hills as far as residences are concerned. One noticeable and pleasing thing about the buildings is that in most cases a definite style of architecture has been followed with the result that the very original eyesores found in most every community are lacking.” (The Interlaken, January 4, 1908, p. 1.) The styles described in the article include English, Colonial, Dutch, and “Modern.” Today, we refer to these styles as Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival (with Dutch Colonial as a subtype), and American Foursquare or Craftsman. Many of these houses were pattern book designs by architects such as Victor W. Voorhees and Fred Fehren and developer Jud Yoho.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives
McAlester, Virginia Savage. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.
City of Roanoke, VA, Residential Pattern Book, 2008: http://www.roanokeva.gov/85256A8D0062AF37/vwContentByKey/N2862HC6939BTFKEN
Seattle Times Digital Archives, 1900 – 1984: http://www.spl.org/library-collection/articles-and-research/magazines-and-newspapers
Tobin, Caroline and Sarah Sodt, University District Historic Survey Report: http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/ContextUniversityDistrictSurveyReport.pdf, 2002.
US Census Report, 1910, 1920