This commercial property is significant due to its association with many businesses throughout Rainier Valley’s history. It also reinforces Rainier Avenue’s significance as a transportation and commercial corridor uniting the residential neighborhoods of South Seattle.
This mixed use, residential commercial property is located in the Rainier Valley, along the commercial corridor of Rainier Avenue. It was constructed during the 1930s. In 1938, the commercial area remained vacant while Mrs. Emma J. Rodaway lived in the residential area of the building. In 1939, Joseph L. and Norma H. Secord were residential occupants. The building was primarily vacant in 1940; and; in 1941; Old Age Pension Hall occupied the commercial area. In 1943, the building was occupied by Washington Old Age Pension Union Local No. 159. From 1948 through 1955, Dunlap Realty operated in the space. By 1956, the Rainier Branch of the University Mortgage and Escrow Company was the principal business in the building. The building was then vacant in 1957 through 1958. By 1959, Greenacres Inc, a forester company, occupied the building, along with Olympic Homes Sales and Packaged Homes Manufacturing Inc. In 1961, the Polk directories list the building as vacant. However, by 1963, Collop Construction Company, Custom Craft Homes (specializing in prefabricated homes) and Packaged Homes Manufacturing Company (a general contract management company) occupied the building. In 1964, the Polk directories list Custom Craft Homes as being the principal business. In 1965, Big Ben Reality occupied the building for approximately two years, until 1966. The building was vacant in 1967 and 1968. By 1969, Piano Tony Photography was the principal business. Today, Rainier Mini Mart operates out of the building.
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.
While some ethnic minorities lived in South Seattle during the end of the 19th century and beginning of the twentieth century, substantial racial integration in South Seattle did not occur until 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 the northern end of Rainier Valley, which was originally settled by German immigrants but acquired the historical nickname “Garlic Gulch” during the early twentieth century due to the strength and predominance of its Italian American community. 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.
The mixed residential and commercial occupancy of this building reflects Rainier Avenue’s importance as a commercial corridor connecting residential neighborhoods in the Rainier Valley to Downtown Seattle and Seattle’s industrial districts.