By 1904, this Seattle slope was filling with rentals — and loads of opportunities within walking distance.
THE ONARGA, the midsized flats filling the center of this modest row of rentals, was most likely named for the small town founded in 1854 about 90 miles south of Chicago. That was three years after Seattle’s founder-pioneers first settled on Alki Point and in the Duwamish River Valley.
The street number 1108 for this apartment house on Seventh Avenue is tacked to the front door beneath a sign that reads, “Housekeeping Rooms for Rent.” If I have figured the evidence correctly, these apartments were opened to renters in late 1903 or 1904; newspaper listings for the Onarga began in 1904. I am especially fond of a classified ad in The Seattle Times on Sept. 18, 1904, which reads, “$200 CASH and eight monthly payments $25 each buys the furniture of a six-room well furnished flat. Large, light rooms, pantry closets, porcelain bath, coal and gas ranges, sideboard, golden oak furniture, French bevel plate dressers, folding and iron beds, Brussels carpets, Bigelow Axminster art squares. Rent $30. 1108 7th Avenue, first door.”
One would then — if I have read this correctly — have found these offered items in an apartment on the first floor. The Times ad was listed under “Wanted Furniture — 138.” To my reading, the ad’s creators seem to be selling the flat’s furnishings while also offering the large apartment itself for rent.
One of this flat’s best qualities is not noted in the ad. The Onarga, like its neighbors, was within walking distance of practically every urban need and/or opportunity. By 1904, after more than two decades of the Queen City’s booming growth, the western slope of First Hill was increasingly filling up with rentals, at the expense of single-family homes.
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There was a mix of brick and frame construction among these apartment houses and, of course, the former were ordinarily larger and classier. In this block bordered by Seventh and Eighth avenues and Spring and Seneca streets, it was all frame, while in neighboring blocks, many of the addresses were grander, some of them high-rises.
Two examples of these are on show in our featured 1938 tax photo, and both are still standing. To the left of the parking-strip tree is a sample of the Exeter House Seneca Street facade, with its Tudor Gothic style. And to the right is the well-ornamented Gothic crown of the Lowell Apartments, which nearly fills the photo’s upper-right corner.
The first heavy poured construction came to the featured block with the dedication of the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. Before its construction (1916-22,) the northeast corner of the block was undeveloped. Since 1999, the building has splendidly served (in my opinion) as one of our greatest nonprofits: Town Hall Seattle.