John Hay School’s First Custodian (?)

Charles Wilhelm Dahlberg at John Hay School.

 

The society just received this picture of Mr. Dahlberg from his great-grandson Scott Dahlberg. Scott is a 1962 graduate of Queen Anne High School. Charles Wilhelm immigrated to the United States from Stockholm, Sweden where he trained as a boiler maker. Boiler operation was a key function of school janitors, so getting this job in 1905 is not unreasonable. There is some information indicating that Charles Wilhelm continued to serve at John Hay until at least 1940 when he was 83. This photograph makes that highly likely since the girl standing behind Mr. Dahlberg is wearing an outfit that appears to be from that period. Mr. Dahlberg is posing at the southwest corner of the covered outdoor play area on the second John Hay School, the brick building on Boston St. Mr. Dahlberg died in 1944.

According to the Seattle Daily Times of July 25, 1904 Charles Wilhelm and his wife Bessie, received a permit to build a one-and-a-half story cottage worth $1,800 at 1937 7th Ave West on July 23, 1904. They probably moved into their new house some time in 1905, the very same year the school district constructed the first John Hay School. The city directory lists their daughter Esther, a stenographer as living there then.

When they moved in, there was no Willcox Wall or Queen Anne Boulevard. Today, the idea of working class folks building a house on the boulevard would be astounding. It tells a lot about how the neighborhood has changed over the last century or so.

The east elevation of the Dahlberg house today facing the Willcox Wall.

 

Although there is no ambiguity about the date of construction, the city’s side sewer record hints that the house may have been moved and set on a new foundation a few years after its construction. The side sewer map raises this possibility because sewer lines usually get inspected by the city when they are installed. The side sewer record for the Dahlberg house gives the date of inspection as September 27, 1911 well after the date of construction. Also, the side sewer of the house next door to the Dahlberg’s was inspected the same day while three of the houses to the north of theirs were inspected in 1910. Additional research may show that the houses got moved to the west a bit to make room for the Willcox Wall which they all face across a very narrow strip of the street.

The two houses under construction behind the Dahlberg House. Photo taken 3/24/17.

 

A visit to the Dahlberg house today (3/24/2017) set off alarms, because there is a notice in the front yard about the long narrow lot being subdivided into three lots suggested that the old house was set for demolition. A trip to the back yard pleasantly revealed two small houses under construction behind the house, so the Dahlberg’s place may be saved after all.

Huh? My mother-in-law’s an ADU?

There was a lot of chatter this summer of 2016 over the proposal to allow the construction of three-story Detached Alternative Dwelling Units (DADUs) on modest sized lots now hosting single family homes. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) tend to be independent dwelling units in an attic or a basement with separate doors and appropriate emergency exits. Realtors call an ADU a mother-in-law.

Some people fear that these new dwelling units will change our neighborhoods by increasing density and expediting the loss of the neighborhood’s historic character. Interestingly, the historic character of Upper Queen Anne especially the area west of Queen Anne Ave. with alleys includes a large number of alley houses. A brief tour of the area north of Smith between First and Third Avenues revealed at least 15 alley houses, all of which add to the historic character of Upper queen Anne. At least two of these alley houses are brand new, and three of them on Galer between 1st and 2nd West are really for the birds.

These Alley Houses are for the birds.
These alley houses are for the birds

It may turn out though that the increase in DADUs (Detached ADU) and ADUs has an effect not unlike what happened in response to the Urban Villages created as part of the 1993 Comp Plan. Although written primarily to prevent urban sprawl in rural King County, the plan forced multi-family apartment buildings and condos into the Urban Villages and successfully protected single family homes and the historic neighborhoods in which they are located. Upper Queen Anne and Uptown were both designated villages with the Uptown village encouraging more commercial development than Upper Queen Anne’s.

I am particularly interested in the DADUs constructed long ago in our neighborhood and which now in their own right add its historic character. In many cases, the DADUs are located along the alley edge of simple single family homes and may have replaced early garages. Of course, that conclusion may indeed be speculative, for many of the houses in the neighborhood were constructed before cars were the prevalent way to get around. As is more likely, the alley houses expanded the main home on the lot making room for growing families or newlyweds. The house at 2004 First Avenue N. is said to have been a wedding gift for a newlywed child.  Even if it isn’t an alley house, the gift idea lends credence to my guess. …Continue reading “Huh? My mother-in-law’s an ADU?”

Modern Queen Anne

Living in Seattle is exciting because we can be both preservationists and modernists. In Queen Anne we have idyllic Revival and Craftsman homes that sit pretty next to the Modern homes. It works well for our city and our future, but all this being said, things can get a little confusing and only time can be the true judge of good design.

Robert Reichert House/Studio

You can imagine in 1954, when the Reichert house/studio was completed, the sheer disorientation the neighbors experienced. Robert Reichert claimed that the design for his home at 2500 3rd Ave West was primitive, natural, and symbolic. It revealed a love for traditionalism and history. He also claimed that his home complimented the scale of the neighborhood and landscape, and that the design intention was to create a religious atmosphere. …Continue reading “Modern Queen Anne”