Circa 1904 Anson S. and Augusta Burwell House, 709 14th Avenue East, Craftsman style home designed by architect James H. Schack; photo by David Kurlander, 2019, for Millionaire's Row Historic District, National Register nomination document, accessed February, 2021.
The first home built in the Millionaire's Row Historic District [†] was at 923 14th Avenue East, with the date 1902 carved in the home's sandstone. The first evidence that Millionaire's Row (14th Ave. East) as a distinct area is found as early as 1913. That year a January 19th Seattle Times article entitled, Palaces Replace Forest Stumps in Eleven Years, begins "Fourteenth Avenue, between Roy and Prospect streets, has been called 'Millionaires' Row, for nowhere in the city of Seattle may be seen so many handsome homes grouped together."
In fact from its conception, Millionaire's Row was perceived as being distinct by the people that built the street and designed Volunteer Park to the north. Developer James A. Moore considered 14th Avenue East his showplace street on Capitol Hill, and built his own residence there. The Olmsted Brothers chose to have 14th Avenue East be a grand entrance leading into Volunteer Park. The entrance to Volunteer Park was placed at the end of Millionaire's Row, and the Volunteer Park Water Tower / Observation Deck was built there. The stateliness of this avenue and the park's proximity led the Olmsted Brothers to design Volunteer Park as their most formal park.
To set the street off from its surrounding area, an ornate gate was placed across 14th Avenue E. near E. Roy Street. Median plantings were added to enhance the street's park‑like avenue, and specifically to ward off the threat of a potential streetcar line being added to the street. Both the median strip and the gate were removed in 1924 when the city took ownership of the street, but they still helped define a distinct area that is still recognized today. Since the street remained private and unrecorded, individuals names were used to identify the plats. In some cases the lots were expanded beyond this to allow for larger houses or detached garages, but Millionaire's Row today remains a contiguous distinct whole, anchored by James A. Moore's unrecorded plats.
Much of the wealth found on Millionaire's row was directly related to harvesting the region's natural resources. Five of the street's early residents were successful lumber tycoons (Chester F. White, Thomas Bordeaux, Joseph Bordeaux, Charles H. Cobb, David E. Skinner), while two gained affluence serving the lumber industry (Cyrus F. Clapp and Edward P. Ederer). Four gained affluence by supporting the fishing industry (David Skinner William Edris, Andrew Weber and again, Edward P. Ederer). One gained his fortune by owning a stone quarry (Thomas Russell), and another gained prominence by serving the mining industry (Fred Rice Rowell). Seven gained affluence, at least partially by selling and/or developing land, and associated real estate (James A. Moore, Cyrus F. Clapp, Robert A. Tripple, David Whitcomb, William Edris, Julius Shafer, Samuel H. Hedges)—actually twelve if one adds in the residents involved in the Metropolitan Building Company (Chester F. White, Charles H. Cobb, Elbridge A. Stuart, David E. Skinner, Thomas Bordeaux). Also agriculture is often considered to be a natural resource (or closely associated with natural resources), and two made their fortunes in that industry (Elbridge A. Stuart, Henry Kleinberg). Some individuals are listed multiple times, because the capitalists of 14th Avenue East saw opportunity everywhere, and grabbed it. Also, a more obvious way that harvesting natural resources led to the creation of Millionaire's Row was that the clear‑cutting of the trees on Capitol Hill in the 1880s enabled it to be later developed into a residential area.
While most of the wealth of Millionaire's Row derived from harvesting the region's natural resources, other wealth was accrued by supplying the Klondike Gold Rush. Although these could be grouped together because gold is a natural resource, several individuals living on Millionaire's Row gained at least some of their affluence more indirectly through this social phenomenon. The Seattle Hardware Company (Anson S. Burwell) sold extensively to the prospectors, as did the Schwabacher Brothers & Co. grocery and hardware operations (Nathan Eckstein). The Pacific Condensed Milk Company / Carnation Milk Product Company's condensed milk product got a boost from prospectors looking for goods that would not spoil (Elbridge A. Stuart). The Shafer Brother's clothing store shifted its inventory to target prospectors when the Klondike Gold Rush began (Julius Shafer). The Merchants Cafe notoriously drew prospectors into their saloon for their "Sunday Bank", which helped the miners cash in their gold, and for the brothel upstairs (Frank X. Schreiner). In fact, Frank X. Schreiner purportedly bought the Merchants Cafe with money that he earned in the Klondike. Also, the law firm of one man who built a house on Millionaire's Row (Fred Rice Rowell) certainly profited from the Gold Rush through its specialization in mining law.
The early residents of 14th Avenue East often made or increased their fortunes through regional and international trade. All five lumber company tycoons shipped their product via rail throughout the middle and western part of the country. Thomas Russell shipped his stone throughout the Pacific Coast, and even to Hawaii. Samuel S. Hedges' Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company operated from the Mexican border to Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and the Arctic. Nathan Eckstein's and Anson S. Burwell's companies—Schwabacher Brothers and Seattle Hardware Company—shipped to multiple states and even Asia. Henry Kleinberg shipped his grain throughout the Puget Sound region and to Japan. Elbridge A. Stuart's Carnation Milk products sold internationally. Alex Baillie was resident partner, and then president of Balfour, Guthrie, & Co., an international shipper. David E. Skinner and William Edris built the ships that carried trade. Baillie and Eckstein actively advocated a larger role for Seattle as an international port. Hedges built part of that port. A book produced by the Seattle Times, Seattle and the Orient, had the goal of "introducing ourselves to the people doing business in Siberia, China, Japan, the China Archipelago, the Phillippines [sic] and Hawaii, and to eventually open a way by which closer trade relations may be promoted," and featured articles not only on the Seattle Hardware Company, Schwabacher Brothers & Co., Schwabacher Hardware, Port Blakely Mill, Kerry Mill, but also articles on the Moore Investment Company and Fred Rice Rowell.
The small settlement of Seattle turned into a village, then a town, and finally a city. As the business district grew, residents moved further from Seattle's central core. Millionaire's Row grew out of the suburban migration that began at the start of the 20th century. As the residents' affluence grew, they wanted larger homes with more land. New streetcar lines allowed residents to more readily commute between their businesses and the "streetcar suburbs." James A. Moore promised that no lot on Capitol Hill would be more than a two minute walk from a streetcar line. He also paved the streets and put in sidewalks before selling the lots, so that Capitol Hill was seen as a retreat from the dirty and dusty city. Moore's Capitol Hill lots were advertised as "the last of strictly first class residential property in Seattle." Affluent individuals chose to build their homes near one another, and form their own little enclaves. The movement of residents towards the periphery of the city, motivated the acquisition and development of parks by the city, including Volunteer Park, which is key to this district. These trends, though not unique to the development of Millionaire's Row, all contributed to it. Of course, over time, land that was essentially an early suburb, became engulfed by the city. Capitol Hill is now one of the most densely populated areas of the city.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, a group of prominent building architects, landscape architects, and urban planners formed The City Beautiful Movement. They believed that good urban design could not only be aesthetic, but could make the residents more content and better citizens. The Olmsted Family was closely associated with this movement. The Olmsted Brothers, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and John Charles Olmsted who created the grand plan for Seattle's parks, wanted to create a calming retreat from the city's bustling intensity, that would make people happier and more mentally fit.
The Olmsted Brothers envisioned a series of parks, connected by boulevards, creating an "emerald necklace" for Seattle. Volunteer Park, at the top of Capitol Hill, is often considered the crown jewel of that necklace. As part of the Olmsted Plan initiated in 1903, 14th Avenue East (where prominent residences were already being built), would form a grand entrance to the park. The park influenced the street in several ways. The water tower / observation deck specified in the plan created a landmark to cap the street. The formal plantings at the entrance to the park created an elegant transition into 14th Avenue East. The aesthetics of the park and the entrance off of 14th Avenue East influenced the formality of the street, and the homes yet to be built. High‑profile visitors like President Harding, who rode down the street to enter Volunteer Park, further increased its status and formality. But the converse is also true. The aesthetics of Millionaire's row led the Olmsted Brothers to design Volunteer Park as the most formal of Seattle parks, with its decorous plantings, lily ponds, well‑manicured lawns, and conservatory.
In 1924, residents of Millionaire's Row asked that the Parks Department to take control of the street, "because it is a main exterior to Volunteer Park and (Park control) would exempt [it] from street railway tracks, funeral processions or uses (other than) boulevards."12 The City Council and Park Board agreed to this, in order to maintain the grand entrance to the park that was the original intent of the Olmsted Brothers. Volunteer Parkway is defined to be 14th Avenue East from East Prospect Street to approximately 100 feet south of East Roy Street, with an additional 90‑120 feet along streets intersecting 14th. Seattle's Appendix I to Title 15 of the Seattle Municipal Code defines this boundary in textual terms, and Appendix II to Title 15 includes a rough map. Also a district map depicting Volunteer Parkway is included later in this document. The existence of Volunteer Parkway and the park ownership of the trees has helped maintain the integrity of the treescape (an integral component of the City Beautiful concept), as well as the integrity of the street over the course of its long life.
A second wave of suburban migration led to members of the middle class moving to Millionaire's Row after World War II. By then many of the original owners had passed away, and some of the rich families that built the early houses had moved elsewhere. Large middle class families found the spacious original homes to be suitable residences, and a few new, smaller homes were constructed on what had been empty land. A couple of the early houses became subdivided into apartments, and some carriage houses were converted to residences. This transformation of Millionaire's Row, from the residences of Seattle's early capitalists to the homes of the middle class was documented in the 1967 Seattle Times article, >Millionaires' Row Still Has Elegance.>
All of the residents of Millionaire's Row made a profound impact on the economic, civic, social and political development of Seattle. Many of the original residents were members of The Metropolitan Building Company which helped to develop downtown Seattle at the turn‑of‑the‑twentieth century. The Company owned a lease from the University of Washington to develop ten acres of prime downtown Seattle real estate, referred to as The Metropolitan Tract, which included the former location of its campus. Together they were a major force of downtown development, producing the Cobb Building, the Skinner Building, the White Building, the Stuart Building, the Fifth Avenue Theatre, the Metropolitan Theater, the Olympic Hotel, and more. Their building projects were on a huge scale. In 1916, historian Clarence Bagley wrote that the Metropolitan Building Company may very well have built more frontage in the city of Seattle than any other entity.
The company was formed by Chester F. White (one of the residents of the 14th Street), together with J. F. Douglas. White served as the initial president of the company. However, other residents of Millionaire's Row: Charles Cobb, Elbridge A. Stuart, and David E. Skinner also served as later presidents. Thomas Bordeaux, another resident, was a stockholder. The Company bought the rights to develop the University Tract from James A. Moore (yet, another resident) who had acquired the original lease. That makes six residents that were involved in some way with the Metropolitan Building Company, and together had a profound affect on how Seattle looks today.
In addition to the formation of the Metropolitan Building Company, another effort by many of the neighbors was to combat the railroad magnets, whom lived in a different area of the city. In the first decade of the 20th Century, the railroads were gaining a great deal of power, and they announced a 20%-25% increase in the freight rates for lumber to the East Coast and Central West. This would have a devastating effect on the logging industry and the Puget Sound economy. Chester F. White, a resident of 14th Street, took the impetus to organize lumber owners with properties exceeding $100 million to fight the railroads. Many of these individuals were his neighbors on Millionaires Row. The group was successful, and the freight increase undone. In all likelihood, other decisions regarding Puget Sound's lumber companies—cooperation and competition both—were hatched on 14th Avenue East.
Neighbors also collaborated on other important business ventures directly affecting Puget Sound's history. In some cases these ventures existed before the partners moved to the street, but their close residential proximity allowed them to make decisions and operate their companies more effectively. In other cases, companies were formed only after future business partners became neighbors. Examples include Chester F. White was vice‑president of the Metropolitan Bank. His direct neighbor, Charles H. Cobb, was a director and stockholder, as was Elbridge A. Stuart another neighbor. Residents Andrew Weber and Edward P. Ederer were co‑founders of the Weber & Ederer Manufacturing Company, and then the Seattle Net & Twine Manufacturing Company. David E. Skinner lived next door to his son‑in‑law, William Edris. Skinner was president of Skinner & Eddy Corporation, while Edris was vice‑president. James A. Moore and Robert A. Tripple both worked at the Moore Investment Company. David Whitcomb and James A. Moore were executives together at the Arcade Building & Realty Corporation. Later, after Whitcomb became president, Moore took a less active role in that company, but Arcade Building & Realty and the Moore Investment Company worked so closely on the construction of some buildings that contemporary sources differ on whom was the primary developer. David Whitcomb was also an officer in James A. Moore’s ill‑fated Western Steel Corporation.
In other cases, neighbors worked together to promote civic, religious or social interests. James A. Moore and Chester F. White were trustees together for Seattle's Alaska‑Yukon‑Pacific exhibition. Although Samuel H. Hedges was as well, this preceded his living on 14th Avenue East. Other neighbors sat on various committees together. Samuel H. Hedges, and David Whitcomb, who lived across the street from one another, both served as presidents of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Nathan Eckstein was vice‑president of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and many residents were members. Samuel H. Hedges, Anson S. Burwell, David Whitcomb, Elbridge A. Stuart, Alexander Baillie, and Charles H. Cobb all volunteered on committees to build a "Community Hotel", which became the "New Hotel", and eventually the "Olympic Hotel." David Whitcomb and Alexander Baillie, who both lived on Millionaire's Row at the same time, served as presidents of the Rainier National Park Company. Alexander Baillie was president of the Rainier Club, of which nearly every early resident was a member. Several residents were active members of the Pilgrim Congregational Church, founded and operated by resident Rev. Dr. Edward Lincoln Smith. Several were members and/or benefactors of Seattle's Temple De Hirsch, which possibly through Nathan Eckstein's doings, ended up owning property on 14th Avenue East. Other residents together participated in different religious institutions. On a smaller, more local scale, the neighborhood helped develop Seattle's religious institutions.
Individually the residents of Millionaire's Row and their companies had a strong influence on our local and national history. Examples include: James A. Moore who developed numerous residential districts in Seattle, including Latona, University Heights, Brooklyn, and of course, Capitol Hill. David E. Skinner founded the Skinner & Eddy Corporation (and Shipyard), produced steel ships at record speed for the U.S. Navy during World War I. Elbridge A. Stuart founded the Carnation Milk Products Company, which was known internationally, and was bought by Nestle for $3 Billion. David Whitcomb served as Fuel Administrator for Washington State, and Executive Secretary for Fuel Administration for the U.S. during World War I. Samuel H. Hedges' Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company created Harbor Island (then the largest man‑made island in the world), Husky Stadium, the Dexter Horton Building (then the largest office building in the U.S.), the massive King County Courthouse Building, and constructed numerous ships during WWI. Nathan Eckstein's civic and charitable contributions to the city earned him recognition as "Seattle's Most Useful Citizen." Cyrus F. Clapp and Robert A. Tripple both served multiple terms in the Washington State Legislature. The crane manufacturing company that Edward P. Ederer built has since grown in the modern era to produce machines for nuclear plants, hydroelectric plants, NASA, and now ships its products internationally. It also built the mechanism that opens and closes the roof at Seattle's T‑Mobile Park.
Nearly every early resident of the district had a profound impact Seattle local culture or history, or in some cases our national history. Below is an alphabetical listing of the early residents of this district, and some information about their roles in our history.
† Adapted from: David J. Kurlander, Millionaire's Row Historic District, Seattle, Washington, 2020, nomination document, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C. accessed February, 2021.
14th Avenue • Aloha Street • Prospect Street East