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 his 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 — suggesting 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  place may be saved after all.