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Summary for 400 2nd Avenue Extension / Parcel ID 5247800980 / Inv #

Historic Name: Chin Gee Hee Building Common Name: 400 2nd Avenue Extension South/ Kon Yick Building
Style: Commercial, Exotic Neighborhood: Pioneer Square
Built By: Year Built: 1890
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
This building is considered the last vestige of Seattle’s original Chinatown, which was first located near Mill Street (Yesler Way) and First Avenue, but shifted to Washington Street between Second and Third Avenues at least by the 1870s. Seattle’s Chinese community revolved around the Wa Chong Company, which had buildings, both designed by W.E. Boone, at Third and Washington Street, before and after the Great Fire of 1889. Founded by Chin Chun Hock, one of Seattle’s earliest residents, the Wa Chong Company operated as a retail and import business, as well as a labor contractor. This building was built and owned by Chin Gee Hee, a onetime business associate of Chin Chun Hock in the Wa Chong Company, and housed the Quon Tuck Company, also a labor contracting and import/export business. Originally called the Chin Gee Hee Building, the building, in its earliest form, appears to have been designed by W. E. Boone. It also housed the Hop Sing Tong, a family association well into the 1950s. While the building appears to have been originally completed in 1890, the King County Tax Assessor’s record card gives the date “1900.” Clearly subsequent changes, including the addition of the balcony, were made, so the 1900 date may allude to those changes. The stucco is most probably from an even later date. Chin Gee Hee, like Chin Chun Hock, was from Look Choon village in Toisan Province in China. Chin Gee Hee, as a partner in the Wa Chong Company was responsible for making that company the leading Chinese labor contractor in the Pacific Northwest. Chin Chun Hock, on the other hand, pushed the focus of the company toward merchandise and dry goods and import/export from China. By 1888, Chin Gee Hee and Chin Chun Hock had dissolved their partnership. Chin Gee Hee then founded the Quon Tuck Company, a similar labor contracting and import/export firm, which he housed in this building. By the late 1890s/ 1900, the Wa Chong and the Quon Tuck Companies as well as a third company, the Mark Ten Suie, were the largest, oldest and most successful Chinese businesses in Seattle. While changes were made probably early on, the building has changed little, at least since the 1930s. It retains the elements of its Victorian design as well as the striking covered balcony. By the 1930s, it was owned by the Yick Kong Corporation. The Yick Kong Corporation is probably related to the Kong Yick Investment Company, founded around 1910 by another important early Chinese community leader and businessman, Goon Dip. That company was involved in constructing some of the first buildings in the second Chinatown and current Chinatown Historic District (including the current Kon Yick Building) on King Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues South, after the Jackson Regrade of 1909. By 1909, the original Chinatown was very congested, and the Jackson Regrade reclaimed land from the Tidelands, which allowed the Chinese Community to move and expand. While the Monterey Hotel Buildings to the north also seem to be associated with the early Chinese community, this building, because of its architectural design and detailing, remains an emblem and the last obvious example of the kinds of buildings that were once in the Pioneer Square-Skid Road National Historic District, before the Second Avenue Extension, a public works project, demolished most of what was left of the original Chinatown in 1928.
This three story building combines segmental arched openings and semi-circular arched openings on the second and third stories of its angled façade on Second Avenue Extension and on its Washington Street elevation. These elements are typical of Victorian buildings in the “burnt district,” erected after the Fire of 1889. The facades are now stuccoed, as well. An early photograph from around 1891 of the Chin Gee Hee Building at the same location shows similar elements, so the original building is the Chin Gee Hee Building, but with later changes. The Washington Street elevation also has a third story covered balcony, probably from a somewhat later period, but typical of buildings constructed by the early Chinese community, particularly in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. Several examples can be seen in the “Seattle Chinatown National Historic District.”

Detail for 400 2nd Avenue Extension / Parcel ID 5247800980 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: NR, LR
Cladding(s): Brick, Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition, Unknown
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Business Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Masonry - Unreinforced No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Ethnic Heritage
Changes to Windows: Slight
Storefront: Slight
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
Chin, Doug. Seattle's International District: The making of a pan-Asian American community. Seattle: International Examiner Press, 2001.
King County Tax Assessor Records, ca. 1932-1972.
Kovalenko Hale Architects (& Karin Link), “Eastern Hotel, Historic Preservation Certification Application, Part 1,” 6 February 1997.
Taylor, Quintard. “Blacks and Asians in the White City.” The Forging of Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 to the Civil Rights Era. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Ochsner, Jeffrey and Dennis Andersen. Distant Corner: Seattle Architects and The Legacy of H. H. Richardson. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2004.
Uchida, Naomi and Jeong Woo Lee. “Yick Kong Society Building (Canton Building).” Report for URBDP 586 A. University of Washington, 2003. City of Seattle, Department of Neighborhoods, Historic Preservation Program Files.

Photo collection for 400 2nd Avenue Extension / Parcel ID 5247800980 / Inv #

Photo taken Nov 02, 2004
App v2.0.1.0