The mansion at 10th Avenue East and East Howe Street was completed in 1915 for Albert and Harriet Rhodes, who ran Rhodes Department store.
CERTAINLY MANY Pacific NW readers are familiar with the elegant Rhodes residence at the northwest corner of 10th Avenue East and East Howe Street.
Although a fortress-sized hedge largely guards the house gardens from sight, the street is now a busy arterial. It has been a century since Albert and Harriet Rhodes moved into this Capitol Hill home. From plans by local architect Augustus Warren Gould, the mansion was built from 1914-15, big but not vast.
Albert and Harriet were childless. Their “dependents” were the 500 employees who worked in their Rhodes Department Store. Before the move to Capitol Hill, the couple lived for a few weeks in the New Washington Hotel (now the Josephinum Apartments) on Second Avenue, conveniently only three blocks north of the couple’s prosperous store at Second and Union Street.
This week’s featured historical photograph was recorded, probably in 1916, by the Webster and Stevens studio, for years the editorial photographer for this newspaper. If this photo was used in The Times, we have not found it. However, we do know the car, a battery-powered Detroit Electric.
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But is that Harriet Rhodes pausing at the open door to the hardtop? Or is it, perhaps, a hired model posing for the local Detroit Electric dealer (also on Capitol Hill) promoting the dealership’s pride in front of a status-radiating mansion? Actually, we do think it is Harriet, based on the somewhat soft evidence of two later portraits of the department store owner.
Albert met Harriet in The Dalles, Ore., while he was working as a traveling salesman of household goods for a Portland firm. They married in 1893, living first in Tacoma, where Albert was joined by his three brothers, who had followed him from Wisconsin. Together they started several stores, from populist five-and-dime dispensaries to posher shops, all with the family name.
After their move to Seattle, the couple was consistently charmed with both business and social success. What Albert lacked was longevity. The front-page banner headline of The Times for Feb. 17, 1921, read: “A.J. Rhodes Dies in New York.” He succumbed to the flu while visiting New York on business for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. He was 56.
Harriet began her remaining 23 years by expanding the department store. One of the additions was an impressively large Aeolian Duo-Art organ in the lobby dedicated to the memory of Albert. Harriet also traveled often, collecting art. She died in 1944 after visiting New York and staying in the same hotel where her Albert had died. Her obituary reads, “Close friends believe that Mrs. Rhodes, knowing she was ill, made the journey out of sentiment.”