This property is significant due to its association with the Italian American community in South Seattle.
This commercial property was constructed during the mid-1950s. It is located in a commercial district in the Dunlap neighborhood at the southern end of Rainier Valley. While the building is now associated with Seattle’s Italian American community, originally it was occupied by Roberts and Sheehan Furniture and Apparel. The 1956 Polk Directory first lists Roberts and Sheehan as occupying the 8816 unit of the building. After the store moved, the building was vacant for a significant period of time during the 1960s. Vince’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria moved into the 8814 unit of the building around 1976 or 1977. Later, its address changed to 8816 Renton Avenue South, probably as the business expanded to occupy the entire building. Vince’s Italian Restaurant was founded by the Mottola family after Enzo (‘Vince’) and Ada Mottola immigrated to the United States from Naples in 1954. The Mottolas opened their first restaurant in 1957, and Vince’s is now run by Vince Jr. and Frank Martichuski.
Substantial residential and commercial development in Rainier Valley occurred after a transportation corridor was established from the valley to Downtown Seattle and Seattle’s industrial district in the southwest portion of the city. This transportation corridor primarily exists along Rainier Avenue. Its expansion was facilitated by the logging of the valley’s thick forests 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 development existed. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, commercial and residential development expanded southwards from Downtown Seattle and northwards from Columbia City. Concurrently, Rainier Avenue became a commercial corridor connecting the length of Rainier Valley to Downtown Seattle, the International District, and Seattle’s industrial district. 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.
The Depression marked the beginning of significant racial integration in the Rainer Valley. During the 1930s and 1940s, many in the Japanese Nikkei community and African American communities began to move out of the International and Central Districts and relocated to the area. An exception is Garlic Gulch in the northern end of Rainier Valley. This area was originally settled by German immigrants; but, during the early twentieth century, it acquired the historical nickname “Garlic Gulch” after many Italian Americans moved to the area. When President Roosevelt issued his Executive Order 9066 in 1942, the Japanese Americans in the Pacific Northwest were sent to internment camps. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted in 1943, opening the way for immigration by the Chinese who then began settling in the valley. However, it was not until the passage of the Open Housing Ordinance by the Seattle City Council in 1968 that housing covenants and severely restricted neighborhoods became legally open to non-whites. Only after passage of this ordinance did significant numbers of Asians, Filipinos, African Americans, and others move to South Seattle. Rainier Valley continues to reflect its historical social diversity and its origins as a commercial corridor.
This property reflects the strength of the Italian American community in South Seattle and their role in local businesses.