This house is significant due to its association with the architect Benjamin McAdoo and the house’s first occupants, the Henry family. Not only did it play an historical role in the movement towards racial integration in South Seattle, but it also reflects the both the Henrys’ and McAdoo’s incorporation of civil liberties into their professional practices and private lives.
This residence is located in the Uplands area of the Seward Park neighborhood in South Seattle. It was commissioned by Dr. John R. and Mary Turner Henry. The house was designed by Benjamin McAdoo, and construction was completed by 1960.
The Henry family has historically incorporated civic engagement into their professions and their private lives. Dr. Henry was a prominent general surgeon and was one of the first two African American surgeons in Seattle. His wife, Mary Turner Henry, was an award-winning Seattle librarian. Their son, Neil Henry, is an author and Associate Professor of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley. Neil has spent time as a Washington Post reporter and was a Pulitzer Prize nominee. The Henrys moved to the Uplands in 1960 and were the first African Americans to live in this neighborhood. They initially encountered strong opposition from the neighbors, including petitions and bribes for their departure; however, the Henrys persevered and remained in the house for approximately twenty years.
Benjamin McAdoo (b. September 29, 1920 – d. June 18, 1981) was the first African American architect in Washington State to maintain a professional practice. He designed churches, single- and multi-family residences, commercial buildings, and institutional buildings. McAdoo’s design process modified the popular mid-twentieth century Modern style in order to accommodate regional landscape features, as well as the socio-economic needs of his clients. As with the Henrys, he incorporated civic engagement and social justice in his private life and professional practice. In the early 1960s, he accepted an administrative position with the United States Agency on International Development and directed housing programs in Jamaica and Washington, D.C. After he returned to Seattle in 1964, McAdoo became president of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP and began broadcasting a weekly radio show focusing on social issues. He maintained his architectural practice from 1947 until his death in 1981, after which the firm continued as McAdoo, Malcolm and Youel, Architects, in Seattle.