Seattle Now & Then: The Freedman Building

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Freedman Building on Maynard Avenue was construction  soon after the Jackson Street Regrade lowered the neighborhood and  dropped Maynard Avenue about two stories to its present grade in  Chinatown. (Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)
THEN: The Freedman Building on Maynard Avenue was construction soon after the Jackson Street Regrade lowered the neighborhood and dropped Maynard Avenue about two stories to its present grade in Chinatown. (Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)
NOW: The Freedman survives in an international district often  distinguished by ornate four and more story brick business blocks and  hotels. (Now by Jean Sherrard)
NOW: The Freedman survives in an international district often distinguished by ornate four and more story brick business blocks and hotels. (Jean Sherrard)

Since first coming upon this professional view of the Freedman Building years ago I have kept it to one side, hoping that some day I might “bump into” Freedman, its namesake.  Now twenty years or so of the Internet later and help also from the Seattle Public Library’s Seattle Room librarian, Jeannette Voiland and genealogy specialist John LaMont, we probably have our Freedman, and he’s from out-of-town.

The address here is 513-17 Maynard Ave., between King and Weller Streets, one lot closer to the latter.  Between 1907 and 1909 this neighborhood was both scraped and filled during the Jackson Street Regrade, locally second in size only to the reduction of Denny Hill.

Louis Freedman shows up in the trade publication Pacific Builder for Aug. 21, 1909 as a citizen of Portland, Oregon intending to erect a four-story brick and concrete building at this address to cost $40,000.  He chose Seattle architect W.P. White to do the designs, which decades later a U.S. register of historic places described as “One of the most elaborate facades within the (International) district, the Freedman represents a higher level of refinement and proportion of line and detail than many of its neighboring hotel structures.”

The Adams Hotel, the building’s principal tenant, appears with an advertisement in the Great Northern Daily News for Dec. 16, 1912.  In the 1938 tax records the hotel’s condition is described as “fair” with 80 rooms, 18 toilets and six tubs.  It operated until 1972 when it went dark for 13 years, opening with fewer and larger livings spaces in 1983 as the Freedman Apartments.

Finally we will include one anecdote in the life of the Freedman.

Early on the morning of Oct. 16, 1923 Fred H. Mitchell, a “rent car driver” patiently waited in the drivers seat while two men who had hired him filled his car with boxes of cigarettes bound for Auburn.  When two curious cops on patrol interrupted, the cigarette thieves calmly carried on and left through the building’s back door, which they earlier broke open.  For unwittingly acting his part in a Chinatown episode of the Keystone Kops, the innocent Mitchell was hauled to jail and spent the night.

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Freedman Building”

  1. Hi I thouroughly enjoyed your article. Our family owns another William P. White building in Vancouver in Vancouver BC. This year 2012 the Del Mar Inn, celebrates 100 years. I am trying to uncover more information about our famous architect W.P. White.

    Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank-you,
    Mike Riste Owner.

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