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Summary for 6242 CHATHAM DR / Parcel ID 8835401250 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Common Name:
Style: Modern Neighborhood:
Built By: Year Built: 1964

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.


The lot for this single-family residence was platted for the Uplands and is located on the northeast quadrant of the South Graham and Chatham Drive South intersection. The lot slopes downwards to the east, and the house faces uphill towards Chatham Drive South. The Modern-style house was constructed in 1964. It is one story with 3,380 square feet of living space, a recessed carport, and a pool on the east side of the property. The house’s rectangular floor plan and poured concrete foundation support a platform-framed superstructure. The deck-on-hip roof has a large boxed-eave overhang with decorative fasciae. It extends over the carport and is supported by wood posts. The slope sides of the roof are covered by modified bituminous membrane sheeting, and a wide chimney punctuates its north slope. The house is clad in flagstone and wood siding, and elevations are punctuated by aluminum windows. The house retains its Modern architectural features, including the carport, windows, roofline, and cladding, and it continues to be an excellent example of Modern architecture in South Seattle. The house also marks the changing American Landscape during the 1950s and 1960s, including the growing reliance on automobiles and their inclusion into daily life and architecture, as well as the increased development of South Seattle during this time period. Therefore, this house continues to contribute to the residential character of the Seward Park neighborhood.


Detail for 6242 CHATHAM DR / Parcel ID 8835401250 / Inv # 0

Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Stone, Wood Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Hip Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition-Rolled
Building Type: Domestic - Single Family Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Balloon Frame/Platform Frame No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Interior: Unknown
Other: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects. Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Dorpat, Paul, “101 The Railroad Avenue Elevated,” Seattle, Now and Then, Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1984.
Bagley, Clarence B. History of Seattle, Washington. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1916.
Berner, Richard. Seattle 1921-1940: From Boom to Bust. Seattle: Charles Press, 1992.

Photo collection for 6242 CHATHAM DR / Parcel ID 8835401250 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Feb 04, 2010

Photo taken Feb 04, 2010

Photo taken Feb 04, 2010

Photo taken Feb 04, 2010

Photo taken Feb 04, 2010

Photo taken Feb 04, 2010

Photo taken Feb 04, 2010
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