Seattle Now & Then: The Littlefield Apartments

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: We have by three years or four missed the centenary for this distinguished brick pile, the Littlefield Apartments on Capitol Hill.  (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
THEN: We have by three years or four missed the centenary for this distinguished brick pile, the Littlefield Apartments on Capitol Hill. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

NOW: While preparing this Sunday’s feature, Jean and I wondered aloud if our shared affection for Seattle’s stock of surviving apartment houses - or “shared walls” to quote from the title again of Diana James’ history of local apartments – may find some of our readers wishing for more sensational subjects like trolley crashes and criminals brought to justice.  Please let us know.  We read all letters.  Use, if you will, the blog pauldorpat.com.
NOW: While preparing this Sunday’s feature, Jean and I wondered aloud if our shared affection for Seattle’s stock of surviving apartment houses – or “shared walls” to quote from the title again of Diana James’ history of local apartments – may find some of our readers wishing for more sensational subjects like trolley crashes and criminals brought to justice. Please let us know. We read all comments. Use, if you will, the blog pauldorpat.com.* [We got a lot of "mail' on responses to this polished confession and will respond at or near the bottom of this feature.]
The Capitol Hill neighborhood landmark, the Littlefield Apartments at the corner of 19th Avenue East and East John Street was timed as 58 years-old in a Times story about its 1968 sale to Arthur Kneifel.  For his $120,000 Kneifel got a classic brick apartment house with twenty-eight units.  Less than a year later, Kneifel got his cash back and $38,000 more when he sold the Littlefield to B. A. Nuetzmann.

Through the Littlefield’s early years of enticing renters, its classifieds in The Times used many of the stock descriptions for such a distinguished residence.  When West and Wheeler, one of the real estate gorillas of the time, announced in 1916 that “this pleasantly located, new brick veneer building has just been placed in our charge,” the unfurnished two-and three-room apartments rented for $18 to $27.50 a month. And in 1916 it was possible to see some light because of the neighborhood’s turn-of-the-century clear-cutting. One could then still rent a Littlefield unit with a “view of Lake Washington,” a gift from the sawyers.

Through the 1920s, West and Wheeler described this property as “quiet and homelike,” “beautifully furnished,” in “perfect condition,” “modern,” and “reasonable” to rent.  In the mid-20s the realtors promoted “overstuffed furniture” with coil springs in the apartment’s furnished flats.  In late 1931 a modern and “completely refinished” 3-room front corner apartment was offered for $37 a month.  It was a depression-time bargain – for the still employed.

The Littlefield’s more steadfast residents aged with it, and increasingly following World War Two. their names started appearing in The Times death notices.  For instance, on May 6, 1947, the Times noted that Mrs. Laura Price, 86 years old and a member of First Baptist Church, had died. Four years later Littlefield residents Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Leighton celebrated their golden wedding anniversary.

The Littlefield, of course, had its run of managers.  Perhaps the most unlucky among them was Robert Milender.  Twice in 1972 – in June and in July – visitors on the pretense of wanting to rent a unit, instead robbed and pummeled Milender in the manager’s, his own, apartment.

The heart of Capitol Hill looking north from on high on April 7, 1946, but without the Littlefield, which is out-of-frame to the right.  (Courtesy, Ron Edge)
[Double Click to Enlarge]  The heart of Capitol Hill looking north from on high on April 7, 1946, but without the Littlefield, which is out-of-frame to the right. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?   Yes Jean with your help and a link to our feature on Capitol Hill’s Gable Apartments, which includes several additions – of its own – that will resonate with the Littlefield Apts. as well.

Capitol Hill's western border since the mid-1960's.
Capitol Hill’s western border since the mid-1960′s. [Click]
The central business district from Capitol Hill in 1968/9.  The SeaFirst Tower, on the left, opened in 1968, and the Washington Plaza Hotel, here not yet completed, in the mid-summer of 1960.  On the right, the view looks west in line with Stewart Street from the photographer Robert Bradley's apartment high in the Lamplighter on Belmont Avenue.
The central business district from Capitol Hill in 1968/9. The SeaFirst Tower, on the left, opened in 1968, and the Washington Plaza Hotel, here not yet completed, opened in the mid-summer of 1960. On the right, the view looks west in line with Stewart Street from the photographer Robert Bradley’s apartment high in the Lamplighter on Belmont Avenue. [Click]

Damaged snow shot of Capitol Hill from the Volunteer Park standpipe.  The Parker home at the southeast corner of E. Prospect Street and 14th Ave. E. fills the foreground.  With its early 20th Century creation by super-developer James Moore, 14th Ave. here south of the park was also known as "Millionaire Row."
Damaged snow shot of Capitol Hill from the Volunteer Park standpipe. The Parker home at the southeast corner of E. Prospect Street and 14th Ave. E. fills the foreground. With its early 20th Century creation by super-developer James Moore, 14th Ave. here south of the park was also known as “Millionaire Row.”

 

THANK YOU DEAR READERS

BLOG-GIVE-THANKS--4_19_2014-WEB

 

28 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Littlefield Apartments”

  1. Re: your request for feedback… if we want ‘bleeding news’ (old or new), we can read current events. Your approach for subject matter is just fine. Please stick with monuments and landscapes. It is a welcome connection to the past, especially when aspects are still extant.

    1. Paul, Jean,
      Your question of reader preferance, sensationalism or human/community interest stories…… is clearly the reason regional daily press continues it’s spiral down, they don’t get it!
      We love Seattle and what better way to know your City then seeing the pictures and hearing the stories of our older and frequently Historic structures, like your delightful “Now and Then ” on The Littlefield Apartments!
      Our old structures tell future generations what their City was, how people lived , what the character of a neighborhood was…. These are wonderful things and thank YOU for dedicating your life to capturing and sharing these images and stories with the rest of us….and our children’s children!
      Appreciatively ,
      Michael Malone

  2. Re your request for feedback. I love the features on old commercial and apartment buildings, and homes. Would love to see more on street life – old shots of busy intersections and streets. I find it really interesting to see what businesses existed, people’s clothing, and how streets are being used (peds, bikes, cars, horses). Would like to see more maritime too.

  3. Re your request. I like seeing all types of buildings and area of Puget Sound. Every place allows us to connect to the past. Please don’t limit yourself to sensational events and scenes!

  4. Paul and Jean, I turn first to the back page of Pacific every week to read about historic old buildings, bridges, piers, ships and other landmarks–not trolley crashes. (Unless an interesting building is in the shot). My preference is for Now and Then photos of existing landmarks. Today’s history of the Littlefield Apartments is my ideal. Historical, socially significant, and still extant.

  5. Re: An old brick beauty, for a bargain

    The story about the Littlefield Apartments was just as important as a trolley crash only with a little more positive feel. I had just watched soccer at Miller Park just a week ago I was more impressed by this part of Seattle and how years have shown improvements rather than age. If one takes notice of the greenery around the area you wonder why/how a city maintains its environment.

  6. There are so many lovely apartments built at the turn of the century in Seattle. Your articles are interesting, informative and positive. We can get negative news from way too many sources. We need more positive articles, please continue your series on surviving apartment houses.
    I’d like to request a piece on the Chelsea Apartments on Queen Anne. The building is beautiful and has an interesting past.

  7. I see a consensus forming here. I too desire to see the connection between past and present. I’m most pleased when the structure survives in excellent condition and is still used for it’s originally intended purpose, but it’s also important to see what was lost and what replaced it. This is stuff that can’t be found in the history books.

  8. RE: Feedback on older Apt. buildings.
    I think it is very important to point out where these beautiful Icons of Seattle history are, and which ones may be in danger of vanishing forever. I was just reading too (in another article) about the Williamsburg Court Apts. in Seattle – built in 1912, and being razed soon to build yet another Office Building. So Sad. Looks like some attempt was made to get Historic Site status, but apparently not enough ruckus was raised. Reading these articles for a UW student investigation into current developments in S. Lake Union area.
    Makes me wonder what living in an urban setting will feel like when all the old buildings are gone, and the only residents living in the new buildings are the ones who can afford to do so. Not very diverse,is it?

  9. I like your column the way it is. If I wanted car chases and murders I need only look at the other parts of the paper. Thanks for sharing such interesting now/then views of our City.

  10. I always like to see “action” photos (crashes/criminals) with old buildings in the background. You and Jean both do a great job.

    Do you have any photos of the 520 bridge being constructed. I cross it every day and enjoy seeing the new one being built.

    Mike

  11. The current format is wonderful. It is my favorite column in the news paper. The history of old buildings is much appreciated. There are so many of them that have piqued my curiosity and you often provide the answers. As a relative newcomer it has enabled me to learn more about the history of the development of the region, and has helped in my understanding of how the north downtown area looked before and during the Denny regrade. The history of road construction and how things looked before clear cutting and after is very interesting.
    Nancy

  12. It is wonderful to see charming buildings from the past still standing and cared for. I live in Wallingford where many of our beautiful old homes with so much character are replaced by ugly box houses. I know this is happening in many of our old neighborhoods. This sad trend makes your Now and Then column so important to record the beauty of these old buildings and to demonstrate they can stand into the future. Our thanks to you and Jean! W D-G

  13. As a member of the Littlefield family, I would have enjoyed some background on the origin of the Littlefield Apartments’ name. I recall you had posted a picture a few years ago that included an early Seattle commercial (lumber?) building in the background with a Littlefield sign on it. The only early Littlefield WA State residents I know were the David Mellen Littlefield family of Port Townsend.

  14. I have always enjoyed your photos showing how the city has changed, what we have lost, and what we have gained. So it came as a shock for you to ask readers if they want something more sensational ! Is this a veiled concern there is not enough interest in what you are doing? As the city is now going through tremendous change in our primary neighborhoods, recording these changes is very important. Of particular interest (at least in the Pike/Pine corridor) is the attempt at combining remnants of old buildings into the design of new building. As many of these buildings are still under construction, only time will tell if these efforts are successful.

  15. Your “Now and Then” page has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. My Father moved here to work for Boeing before I was born in 1950. As I grew up, the Sunday newspaper always had the “color” comics which attracted myself and older sister to join the “after Sunday Mass” routine of family time gathering in our small living room; quietly reading the paper. I was would lie on the tile floor on my stomach with the paper spread in front. Even before I could read very well, I was always fascinated by the visual comparison of “past and present” photos. During 5 years of daily commutes to my High School, Immaculate Conception followed by a year as a long-distance operator in downtown Seattle; I used to imagine and “dream” of living in one of these apartments. It never happened. I’ve mentioned that former dream often, and am still intrigued by those “quaint”, old buildings.
    Please continue to display them in your articles, and please show a series or mention a place on your web page where one might go to view them all; including history and photos of the interiors “then and now”. Even written descriptions of the original and updated interiors.
    Thank you for requesting comments–otherwise I probably would not have shared how nostalgic this part of the Sunday paper continues to be one of the reasons we continue having the Sunday paper delivered to our home.

  16. Here and now is one of my favorite features. To see every Sunday. I love it when I know the place. Keep looking, taking pictures, researching and sharing. Thanks!

    Jonis Davis

  17. I agree wholeheartedly with the other commenters here. Keep doing what you have been doing. Trolley crashes and fires are interesting but can be found elsewhere. Your focus on physical elements of our city, both transitory and remaining, should remain your primary focus. On several occasions I’ve trekked out to see a building, or staircase, or viewpoint you’ve featured, and so much appreciated that Now & Then led me to it. Keep up the good work.
    p.s. If you are hearing from some that apartment building are boring (I don’t agree), consider adding more shopping district photos. Those especially show fascinating changes in how we live.

  18. I always enjoy “Now and Then”, but the Littlefield apartments were special for me growing up as my beloved maternal grandmother lived there in the 60′s. The two windows just to the left of the main entrance was her apartment (not the two windows being buried by the slope of the sidewalk, but the two above those). Thanks!

  19. Forgive my question here, but I can not, for the life of me, find any sort of email address for you, Mr. Dorpat. I have read all of your articles for years, but you have never mentioned a building in the Pioneer Square area which is located right next to the Police Museum off of Main and Second Ave Extension that now has three large photo-pictures posted on its side. It looks ancient, although I know that the extension was built in 1928. I have surmised that it was either a stables or a firehouse originally, but it has never been open in the 20 years I have lived here, and I pass it every day on my bus route for Metro. What is it, or rather, what was it? My curiosity is destroying me!

  20. Please don’t change a thing! I love what you choose to feature. It is always so fun to recognize the building you’ve chosen to spotlighted for the week. I knew the Littlefield right away, it’s quite the gem, but I never knew anything about it.

  21. Look forward to the back page of the Pacific magazine every Sunday, and love the “before” and “now” photos of all buildings, but especially the apartment buildings.

  22. I don’t toss out the Pacific NW because of the” Now and Then” feature. I am not a Seattle native. In fact, a San Francisco Bay Arean who enjoys the cities history. Please continue with the feature.
    Crashes and crimes are interesting, but we get enough. Carol Gordon, Edmonds

  23. This reader is not wishing for “more sensational subjects.” I love articles with pics like the Littlefield Apartments. Keep them coming!

    Boots

  24. No disasters needed; we get enough of those in the newspaper and TV. More old apartments, neighborhood streets, small parks, etc. Keep it coming and many thanks.

    1. I so enjoy your ‘now and then’ article and have for years. I, also, have a affection for Seattle’s surviving apartment houses. I was born in Seattle in 1945, moved away at age 3 and moved back in 1963 where I worked for 44 years. First job was at Federal Reserve Bank (2nd and Spring). I lived in The Winchester Apts at Boylston and Denny and several other apartment buildings. My grandparents lived in Castle Apartments at 2nd and Blanchard for appx 27 years. So, I remember these buildings with fondness and curiosity. Especially enjoyed Diana E. James book ‘Shared Walls’.. Now I’m wondering if you have more ‘surviving apartment houses’ stories….So sad that so many are being torn down.
      I no longer live in Seattle, but am there often and still explore around.
      Pam

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