Built in 1930 for affluent residents, the Gainsborough is a First Hill apartment with a distinguished history.

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Built for class, the high-rise apartment at 1017 Minor Ave. on First Hill was named after the English King George III’s favorite painter, Thomas Gainsborough. As a witness to the place’s status, Colin Radford, president of the Gainsborough Investment Co. that built it, was also the new apartments’ first live-in manager.

And the apartments were large — four to a floor, about 50 in all. What the developer-manager could not see coming when his distinguished apartment house was being built and taking applications was the Great Depression.

The Gainsborough was completed in 1930, a few months after the economic crash of 1929. This timing was not uncommon; the building boom that started in the late 1920s continued well into the early 1930s. The quality of these apartments meant that the Gainsborough’s affluent residents were not going to wind up in any “alternative housing” like the shacks of Hooverville, although the residents up in the new building’s highest floors could probably see some of those improvised homes down on the tideflats south of King Street.

Through its first 78 years, the Gainsborough has been home to members of Seattle families who might well have lived earlier in one of the many mansions on First Hill. Two examples: Ethel Hoge moved from Sunnycrest, her home in the Highlands, to the Gainsborough after her husband, the banker James Doster Hoge, died in 1929. Philanthropist-activist Patsy Collins summoned journalist/citizen historian Walt Crowley and me to her place at the Gainsborough 10 years ago. After we explained to her our hopes for historylink.org, she gave us the seed money to launch the site.

“Washington Then and Now,” the book by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45) or through Tartu Publications at P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.