These little homes date from the 1890s — one or more may have been built in the late 1880s when the slope up First Hill began its rapid development.
THIS RECORD of dilapidation was most likely photographed by James Lee, who worked with his cameras for the city’s public works department. Both the Seattle Municipal Archives and the University of Washington Archives have helpful examples of Lee’s field recordings, some dating back to 1910.
This photo was taken looking north in the alley between Jefferson and James streets in the short 500 block between Sixth and Seventh avenues. It was used in the 1930s as evidence in favor of slum clearing for the then-new Seattle Housing Authority’s plans for Yesler Terrace, the city’s first low-income-housing project. Once built, Yesler Terrace came close to this site, missing it by a block.
A man named Andrew Knudsen is listed in the 1938 Polk City Directory as living at 5111/2, the likely address for one of these alley houses. A 72-year-old Knudsen was still there in 1948 when The Seattle Times reported that he was hit by a car driven negligently. Fortunately, Harborview Hospital was nearby. Knudsen was treated and soon released. Four years later, when a man named John W. Pearson was found dead at the same address, the city published a notice — again in The Times — asking anyone who knew him or of him to contact the Johnson and Sons Mortuary.
These little homes date from the 1890s — one or more may have been built in the late 1880s when the slope up First Hill began its rapid development. And they were survivors. It was only the building of the Seattle Freeway — not Yesler Terrace — that brought them down.
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