This residence is significant due to its association with the Borracchini family. It reflects the strong Italian American economic and social presence in Beacon Hill and the Garlic Gulch area. 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 Beacon Hill, near Jefferson Park. The house was constructed in 1950, and its first residents were Angelo and Dora Borracchini, one of the three Borracchini families that founded the Ginger Belle Bakery at nearby Rainier Avenue. While Angelo and Dora were the principal residents through 1969, Remo and Betty Borracchini (also co-founders of the Ginger Belle Bakery) and Mrs. J. Betty Borracchini lived with them for one year in 1955. Their relatives, Dino and Teresa Borracchini, lived nearby at 5129 17th Avenue South.
The Borracchinis were immigrants from Tuscany; and, since the early 1920s, they were 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 moved to its current location in 1939, and Remo Borracchini began running the family business in 1965. Today, the business operates as Borracchini’s Bakery and Mediterranean Market.
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 regrading 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 was located just northeast of this residence. The community was centered around the commercial area on Rainier Avenue, between Massachusetts and Atlantic Streets. 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.
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 and public spaces, including Jefferson Park and Dr. Jose Rizal Park, reinforce this diversity.