This house is significant due to its association with the Arima family and the Japanese American community in Seattle. 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 encouraged cohesion and self-awareness within their community. Second, the Mount Baker neighborhood tended to exclude non-Anglo residents, so 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 Mount Baker. The house was constructed in 1925. By 1936, the house was occupied by Sumikiyo and Tamaki Arima and their son Sumio and his wife Fujio. The Arimas remained in the house through 1937, when Lloyd L. and Hazel V. Otis became tenants. Lloyd worked as a switchman. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Otis remained in the house until 1944. By 1948, Arthur Berman was the primary occupant; and, from 1951 through 1954, Joseph E. Miller resided in the house. Beginning in 1955, Leo and Jean Amira lived in the house and remained there for the next ten years. In 1966, Lindsey Berlin purchased the house and remained there through 1969.
Sumikiyo was the editor and publisher of the North American Times (Hokubei Jiji), one of two leading Japanese language newspapers in the Nikkei community. Sumikiyo’s son, Sumio, had returned to Seattle after studying painting with John Sloan in New York in order to work for the newspaper. In 1938 or 1939, Sumio and his wife had moved to 3029 19th Avenue S while Sumikiyo and Tamaki move to 170 11th Avenue South.
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, they continued to expand their 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.