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Summary for 4141 39TH AVE / Parcel ID 7950302210 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Common Name:
Style: Vernacular Neighborhood: Mount Baker
Built By: Year Built: 1908

This house is significant due to its early occupancy by an African American family as most African Americans lived in today’s Central District during the first half of the twentieth century. The Seller family’s residency in this house was an anomaly for the time period and was a harbinger of the social and ethnic diversity that would eventually predominate in Mount Baker and South Seattle.This single-family residence is located at the southern edge of Mount Baker. The house was constructed in 1908; and, by 1909, it was owned by Anna and Benjamin Sellers, an African American family. Benjamin Sellers worked as a plasterer, and the family remained in the house until 1917. Beginning in 1937, Sam and Anna McCoy were the principal occupants. After Mr. McCoy’s death, Mrs. Anna McCoy continued to live in the house until 1958. By 1960, Fred H. Stevens was the primary resident. Mr. Stevens remained in the house through 1964 when Francis H. Vance took up residency. In 1966, William Gardner purchased the house and remained there through 1969.

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 were constructed between 1905 and 1929. They reflect a variety of eclectic and Northwest-based architectural styles and include designs by many prominent local architects. Mount Baker was established as primarily residential neighborhood for upper-income white families. The Hunter Tract development company targeted these families 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 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.

Due to the same exclusion laws that affected most minorities, African Americans did not begin to have a significant presence in Mount Baker or South Seattle until the 1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s, many families began moving out of Seattle’s established black neighborhoods. However, it was not until the passage of the Open Housing Ordinance by the Seattle City Council in 1968 that the ability of non-whites to relocate to the 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.


The rectangular lot for this house is located between South Genesee Street and South Oregon Street and was originally platted for Squires Lakeside Addition. The single-family vernacular residence was constructed in 1908 and faces eastwards onto 39th Avenue South. It is one story with 830 square feet of living space and a full-width recessed porch. An irregular floor plan supports the balloon-framed superstructure. The hipped roof is covered by asphalt composition shingles. A brick chimney protrudes from the rear west slope of the roof. Wooden steps rise from street level to the porch while square wooden columns support the roof overhang. The house is clad in vinyl siding, and the fenestration is composed of vinyl windows with two picture windows on the front facade. While elements of this house have been altered, this vernacular house retains its scale, massing, roofline, and porch. It, therefore, continues to contribute to the residential character of Rainier Valley.


Detail for 4141 39TH AVE / Parcel ID 7950302210 / Inv # 0

Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Shingle, Wood Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Hip Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition-Shingle
Building Type: Domestic - Single Family Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Balloon Frame/Platform Frame No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Interior: Unknown
Other: Unknown
Major Bibliographic References
Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects. Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Dorpat, Paul, “101 The Railroad Avenue Elevated,” Seattle, Now and Then, Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1984.
Bagley, Clarence B. History of Seattle, Washington. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1916.
Berner, Richard. Seattle 1921-1940: From Boom to Bust. Seattle: Charles Press, 1992.

Photo collection for 4141 39TH AVE / Parcel ID 7950302210 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010

Photo taken Jan 06, 2010
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