Stimson-Griffiths House – 405 W Highland Drive

Stimson-Griffith House, 1905
Stimson-Griffiths House, 1905

Frederick Spencer Stimson was the manager of the Stimson Mill in Ballard and with his brother C.D. Stimson prospered in the lumber business. Fred bought this property on West Highland Drive with a dramatic view of the harbor and began planning an equally substantial house for his family. He liked the English style, as did his neighbors Albert S. Kerry, Harry W. Treat and Charles H. Black. All these men went shopping for an architect and chose Charles Bebb, who designed this three-story house with stucco and half-timbered upper floors rising above a fortress-like stone ground floor punctuated by shingled bays on the south side. The cross-gabled roof with overhanging eaves terminate in decorative truss verge-boards. Notice the second floor sleeping balcony in the old photo which was popular and considered healthy at the time. Besides the impressive oak entrance foyer and drawing room there are a ballroom, billiard room and a sunroom.

Grand as this home was it did not fit the lifestyle the Stimson’s were ultimately to choose. By 1910 they moved into a second, country home, a Craftsman-style house on their new farm in Woodinville. That house became the showplace of their Hollywood Farms and is still standing today as Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. Frederick was raising Holstein cattle and improving the breed. On Thanksgiving Day 1921 Mr. Stimson was dressing in his Queen Anne home to go out to Hollywood when he collapsed and died.

Capt. James Griffiths (1861-1943) came to Washington in 1885, first forming James Griffiths & Sons, ship brokers, then moving on to create several important steamship, barge, stevedoring and shipbuilding companies in the Puget Sound area. In 1896, building on his success of securing the first transpacific steamship service with Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), he was selected by James J. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway, to operate as his representative in negotiations with officials of NYK. Traveling to Tokyo, he persuaded the steamship line to connect with the Great Northern in Seattle, providing a direct link for travelers heading on to the Orient from eastern U.S. cities.

Stimson-Griffiths house, ca. 2010
Stimson-Griffiths house, ca. 2010

The Highland Drive residence was purchased by Capt. Griffiths in 1928, and during his residency, his home was opened to many social events and benefits, including a ball for English music hall star, Gracie Fields. He operated as host for multiple benefits for the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital.