This house is significant due to its association with the Arima family and Seattle’s Japanese American community. First, the house functions as a reminder of the early actions by Japanese Americans that contributed to their strength and presence in Seattle. The Arima family’s circulation of the North American Times contributed to the cohesion and self-awareness of the community. Second, the Mount Baker neighborhood tended to exclude non-Anglo residents, and the presence of a Japanese American family was unusual for the time period. However, it functioned as a harbinger of the ethnic and economic diversity that would eventually characterize Mount Baker and South Seattle. Finally, the occupants of the house maintained professional practices in the downtown and industrial areas, which signifies the historical role that the Rainier Valley has assumed as a transportation and commercial corridor connecting the residential neighborhoods in South Seattle to downtown, the International District, and the industrial districts.
This single-family residence is located in the Mount Baker neighborhood and was constructed in 1922. From 1930 through 1934, Sumikiyo and Tamaki Arima were the principal residents. By 1935, Curtis E. and Cora Dennis occupied the house. The Dennises were the principal residents through 1938; however, Hewitt W. and Elsinore B. Andrews also lived in the house from about 1937 through 1938. The Polk Directories list Harry J. Nereim as the principal resident from 1939 through 1949. In 1951, Herman D. and Myra E. Street purchased the property, and the 1951 Polk Directory lists E. E. Fagg as also occupying the house. Herman worked at Washington Iron Works. In 1957, the Streets sold the house to Everett Kelly, also an employee of Washington Iron Works. In 1959, Mrs. Iola Alexander and Sam L. Alexander Jr. purchased the property and remained in the house through 1969.
The Arimas were Japanese American, and Sumikiyo Arima was the editor and publisher of the North American Times (Hokubei Jiji), one of two leading Japanese language newspapers in Seattle. The 1934 Polk Directory also lists Sumikiyo as president of the Seattle-Japanese Chamber of Commerce. His son, Sumio, returned to Seattle after studying painting with John Sloan in New York in order to work for the newspaper. After leaving this residence, Sumikiyo and Tamaki Arima moved to 3025 19th Avenue South in Beacon Hill.
The Mount Baker neighborhood comprises two north-south tending ridges located southeast of downtown Seattle along Lake Washington. Initial development of the area occurred early in the twentieth century, relatively later than the Rainier Valley and Downtown Seattle areas. Development was initially impeded by Mount Baker’s geography during the mid-nineteenth century and was then stimulated by the construction of the Rainier Avenue Electric Street Railway along the Rainier Valley in the 1890s. The streetcar was paramount in facilitating travel to downtown Seattle.
The platting of Mount Baker occurred in three phases or additions: the York Addition in 1903 by George M. and Martha Taggart, the Dose Addition in 1906 by Charles P. Dose, and the Mount Baker Park Addition in 1907 by the Hunter Tract Improvement Company. The Mount Baker Park Addition represents the core of the neighborhood and is its primary, character-defining feature. Mount Baker Park is one of Seattle’s earliest planned subdivisions, and most residences, which reflect a variety of eclectic and Northwest-based architectural styles and include designs by many prominent local architects, were constructed between 1905 and 1929. The neighborhood was established as primarily residential for upper-income white families. The Hunter Tract development company accomplished this by adopting deed restrictions and setting minimum size and price standards for each house. The careful design of the Mount Baker Park Addition’s lots, streets, boulevards, and parks reinforced its exclusivity. However, the platting and landscape plans of George F. Cotterill and Edward O. Schwagerl were historically significant as they integrated the hill’s natural topography into their design. In doing so, they honored the ideals of Seattle’s Olmsted System and the local government’s city planning efforts.
While few ethnic minorities lived in Mount Baker during the beginning of the twentieth century, a strong Italian American community developed nearby in northern Rainier Valley and North Beacon Hill. The Japanese American community also succeeded in moving to this area as a result of relatively less restrictive immigration and exclusion laws. While the 1889 Alien Land Laws excluded non-citizens from owning land, Japanese Americans were able to purchase property under the names of their second generation family members. While the Immigration Act of 1924 inhibited further Japanese immigration, the Japanese American community continued to expand its families and businesses in Seattle. However, when President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in 1942, the Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest were sent to internment camps and their properties and businesses were usually confiscated. After World War II, formerly incarcerated Japanese Americans returned to Seattle, successfully rebuilding their social networks and businesses and again emerging as a significant force in Seattle.
When the Open Housing Ordinance was passed by the Seattle City Council in 1968, the ability of non-whites to relocate to Mount Baker substantially increased. Today, the neighborhood is home to a more ethnically diverse population than in the past. This middle to upper income neighborhood remains predominantly residential and it retains much of its planned character.