Sometime between King County's tax photographer visiting the modest Victorian at 609 Boren in 1937, and the second tax photo of the same...

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by Paul Dorpat

Sometime between King County’s tax photographer visiting the modest Victorian at 609 Boren in 1937, and the second tax photo of the same home recorded in 1947, a siding salesman succeeded in wrapping a Depression-era home in “insulbrick” or Sears “Honor Bilt Brick Roll-Type Siding.”

Faux brick was the “aluminum siding” of the 1930s, and continued to be sold into the 1950s especially in lower-income neighborhoods crowded with modest worker’s homes whose owners could not keep up with the demands of their fragile late-Victorian clapboards.

The home at 609 Boren was built in 1895 on a brick foundation. In 1938 it was still a single-frame residence for a Mrs. Agusta Sundell. By 1947 it had been converted into a rooming house, the Mary Ellen Annex Apartment. Probably the extreme housing shortage of World War II had something to do with the change. And the asphalt siding helped make it possible. Promising “no maintenance,” it was a relatively cheap camouflage for the “home front.” Appropriately, it was then popularly called “war brick.”

Is it sobering to reflect that there was a kind of siding hysteria for this imitation brick, and that, perhaps, the owner of the Mary Ellen Annex would sometimes stand at the sidewalk and compare the apartment with satisfaction to the “other brick” here, the Old Colony Apartments, next door to the south.

“Washington Then and Now,” 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.