A Beautiful American Foursquare on our North Slope (Revised)

(Subsequent to publishing this article, super-sleuth and passionate historic preservationist Leanne Olson provided answers to some of the questions I posed.  They are reported in the FollowUp added below.  Leanne chairs the Society’s Landmark Preservation Committee.) 

“Look Up” is an old dictum bandied about by architectural historians like Jane Jacobs.  The dictum still applies, but it assumed folks were walking around historic buildings with their eyes glued to the sidewalk.  In this new post-automobile era where walking and biking are replacing fossil-fueled outings, I am adopting a new dictum.  It is quite simple:  “Just Walk.”

Eastern façade 2925 Warren Ave. N.

Walking up to the top of Queen Anne from Fremont along Warren Ave. N., I stumbled on this absolutely gorgeous American Foursquare half a block south of Florentia at 2925 Warren.  Even though I’ve driven that block a million times since moving here in 1985, and even though I ride my bicycle down Warren at least twice a week, I’ve never walked the block before.  The whole block is a bundle of lovely early 20th-c. houses that I would never appreciate on wheels, so let’s all get out and Just Walk.  We’ll love Queen Anne even more and be in better health.

This house is unique as the sole building on the street for which the city’s side sewer card gives no date of connection.  I have no doubt that it was built prior to 1910 (see FollowUp below). Spectacularly perched on a very steep and narrow slope, the house has projecting bays on brackets at each corner of the second story.  The sweet diamond-shaped window between the two projecting bays is capped with delightful decorative scrollwork (hardly visible in the photos) that the contractor either bought at a local lumber yard or copied from a pattern book.

If the tipped square window is true to style, it lights a walk-in closet serving one of the bedrooms behind the corner bays.  Those bays plus the hip roofs on each corner bay and the central portion of the house are typical American Four Square.  At the top of the house and centered above those characteristic corner bays is an exquisite dormer with what is — for Seattle — a rare tripartite Palladian window.  As with so many houses of the period, whatever their apparent style, this one has a projecting bay on the rear of the first floor whose windows must light the dining room.  As with so many houses of this style and period, the entire body is sheathed in beveled siding (we called it narrow-board clapboard in the East).

The house looking northwest (darn pole)

As often the case with American Foursquares, a wraparound front porch leads to a front door on the north side of the house.  The porch, which sports neatly turned posts, is unusually wide to accommodate — I am guessing — what were great views to the north and east before trees grew up and before 1932 when Seattle sprouted the George Washington Memorial Bridge that may block some views now.  Truth to tell, the view to the north is still spectacular.  The porch also hides a bay window which probably lights the living room and serves as the final touch on a superb, well-balanced set of windows and decorative features that make this house so special.  I am especially fond of the vertical panes that form a transom above all the large windows, and I can’t resist those small panes in the upper portion of the Palladian.

2925 Warren Ave. N. looking northwest

It would be great to know who built this house (see Follow Up below) and why all the houses on the block are scrunched so close together.  I’ve made up stories about houses on the northern slope of Queen Anne.  One of them claims that they are later with a smaller footprint than those on the top of the hill, because facing north with so few hours of sun, they had to wait for the sunny lots elsewhere on Queen Anne to run out.  The date of this house and several others on the block which were constructed in the first or second decade of the 20th C. disproves that theory.  It is more likely that the narrow lots and smaller houses reflect marketing to working-class folks who labored in nearby mills or downtown factories.  A short walk down to Nickerson made it easy to catch a streetcar going downtown.


As I guessed, the house was built before 1910.  In fact, according to the Seattle Daily Times of October 11, 1908,  the city had just issued a building permit to W. D. Arnot for a two-story frame residence to be 22′ by 35′ and costing $2,500.   We don’t know if Arnot actually occupied the house, and we don’t know when he broke ground.  We can be pretty confident that the first occupants moved in over the course of 1909.   They may have been Mr. and Mrs. Wiley Chapman noted below.

On December 8, 1912, on page 62, the Seattle Sunday Times  reported  the marriage of Olacile Winnifred Chapman to John Alexander McDonald who were wed at St. Anne’s on November 28.  According to the Times, the wedding reception was held at 2925 Warren Ave. N., the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wiley Chapman.  The Times noted that  “Mrs. W. Cathey sang a solo, If I Could Live a Thousand Years, I ‘d Live Them  All With You,” and that “Music was provided by the Ross Seminary Quartet, composed of Mr. and Mrs. Wiliam Cathey and Mr. and Mrs. Earl Newton.”

Now that is amazing!  Mr. and Mrs. William Cathey were the parents of my one-time next door neighbor Bob Cathey.  Like his parents, Bob was a musician.  He taught in Seattle Public Schools and attended the Free Methodist Church where he was in charge of music.  Ross, we remember, was  the name of the neighborhood at the foot of Third Ave. W. where  the Free Methodist Church and Seattle Pacific University, an affiliate of the church, are located.   The Church actually founded Seattle Pacific University, naming it Seattle Seminary.

Finally, it is pleasant to learn that the city’s survey of Historical Buildings completed in 2005 included this house.  You can find the survey report here.