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.