This residence is significant due to its association with the Borracchini family. It reflects the strong Italian American economic and social presence in Garlic Gulch and the Rainier Valley. It also illustrates the significance of Rainier Avenue as the principal transportation and commercial corridor uniting the residential neighborhoods of South Seattle.
This single-family residence is located in the northern end of Rainier Valley and was constructed in 1931. Frank C. and Anna S. Keppler first owned the house. The Kepplers sold the house to Maria and Mario Borracchini in 1944. The Borracchinis were proprietors of the Ginger Belle Bakery. Around 1964, Maria and Mario added an enclosed porch to the house, and they remained residents through 1969.
The Borracchinis were immigrants from Tuscany; and, from the early 1920s, they have worked as bakers in the Beacon Hill and northern Rainier Valley area. The Borracchini family’s bakery began in the early 1920s as the International French Bakery in the basement of Mario Borracchini’s house at 1707 20th Avenue South, which is no longer extant. The bakery became the Ginger Bell Bakery and moved to its current location in 1939. Remo Borracchini began running the family business in 1965, and today it operates as Borracchini’s Bakery and Mediterranean Market.
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.
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.