This house is significant due to its association with Ruby Chow, an important Chinese American figure in Seattle, and her continued legacy of social activism.
This single-family residence is located in the Seward Park neighborhood in South Seattle. The land was purchased by R. E. Jones in 1959 for approximately $5,000. In 1961, Ping and Ruby Chow bought it; and, by 1964, they had constructed the existing house. The Chows lived in the house through 1969, and their son, Edward Chow, is the current owner.
Ruby Chow (b. June 6, 1920 – d. June 4, 2008) was a restaurateur in Seattle. She played a significant role in strengthening the Chinese community in Seattle, as well as promoting civil rights for local Asian American groups. Ruby was born in Seattle to Chinese parents. She moved for a short time period to New York City, where she met her future second husband, Ping. Ping had immigrated to the United States from China and was a member of a Chinese opera company in New York City. Ping and Ruby married in 1943 and moved to Seattle. From 1948 until 1979, Ruby and Ping ran the first Chinese restaurant outside of Chinatown, initially living with their children upstairs and eventually moving to 6242 Chatham Drive South for retirement. Through her restaurant work, Ruby was able to promote understanding between Anglo and Chinese residents in Seattle. She also worked to strengthen socio-cultural welfare within the Chinese community. Ruby’s activism became increasingly important through the Vietnam War and 1960s. In 1971, she was appointed to the County Board of Equalization and Appeals. From 1973 through 1985, she was elected to the seat in the King County Council’s 5th District. After her retirement from County Council, she and her son Brien founded R.B. Specialties, Inc., which counseled firms in King Count on affirmative-action programs. Ruby passed on her activist ethics and her children, Edward, Cheryl, and Mark, have assumed significant public roles, both at the regional and federal levels.
Substantial residential and commercial development in South Seattle and the Rainier Valley occurred when a transportation corridor connecting the Rainier Valley to downtown and Seattle’s industrial district was constructed along Rainier Avenue during the late nineteenth century. Development in the valley was facilitated by logging 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 activity existed. As residential development increased, Rainier Avenue gradually became the principal commercial corridor connecting the residential neighborhoods of South Seattle to downtown, the International District, and Seattle’s industrial districts. 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 there was a significant influx of Chinese migrant workers into the US during the middle of the nineteenth century, immigration laws for the Chinese became more restrictive after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This, combined with the 1889 Alien Land Laws, thwarted the growth of Seattle’s Chinese population and restricted their residences to Chinatown. Despite this, Chinese American families grew and a second generation of Chinese Americans was born. By the 1930s, Chinese American families gradually began moving to Beacon Hill, nearby. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted in 1943, opening the way for immigration by the Chinese, who then began moving to Seward Park and South Seattle in large numbers.