(click to enlarge photos)
The date inscribed by hand at the bottom of this subject indicates that this is another tax photo. It is one of a few thousand prints rescued from the “circular file” of the tax assessor’s office more that a half-century ago. The savior was Stan Unger, then a young municipal employee with an interest in local history and its architecture. Mostly dating from 1937-38, we have used several of them with this feature. Any Unger saving of tax photos that record lost apartment houses will interest and even excite Diana James, our historian of “Shared Walls,” the title for her book history of Seattle apartment houses. A hoped-for photo of the Rozellna was on her list.
The address here, 1622 Boren Avenue, shows the scene’s centerpiece, the Rozellna, on the east side of one of Seattle’s busiest north-south arterials. In recording his “repeat” Jean took special care (looked both ways) to quickly pose Diana at Boren’s center stripe and then get the preservationist back on the curb, where she shared some of her research with us. We learned that the Rozellna was named for one of its original owners, Rozellna O. Johnson and A.J. Johnson. Although not tall, the Rozellna (the apartment) was long aka deep. Sixteen units were claimed when the Johnsons sold their young brick-veneer apartment house in 1926, only two years after they built it. In their “for sale” notice, the units were described as “completely furnished with overstuffed furniture, floor lamps, dressing rooms, Murphy beds, and breakfast nooks.”
This well-wrought Rozellna might easily inspire nostalgia, or memories of other missing old buildings, or even surviving modern ones, like the Olive Tower, its high-rise neighbor to the north. Built in 1928, the Olive Tower just missed being razed with the Rozellna in the early 1960s for the building of the Seattle Freeway/I-5. James notes, “The last newspaper mention I have of the Rozellna is 1961.” She pointed out – but not while standing in the street – that the bottom three floors of the Olive Tower, where it once snuggled against the Rozellna, show no windows.
The two apartments – the tall and the short – shared one tragic moment. On August 24, 1942, Maxine Hart fell from her eleventh-story unit in the Olive Tower to the roof of the Rozellna. The Times reported “Woman’s Tumble to Death Probed; Husband is Held.” Ray Jeffrey Hart did act strangely when questioned in the couple’s apartment. Three hours after his wife’s jump he dashed to the window, The Times reported, but his “apparent suicide attempt” was thwarted by Coroner Otto H. Mittelstadt who “tackled Hart around the knees.” Apparently Hart was let go for no follow-up stories were found.
Researcher Ron Edge notes one last newsworthy interaction between the two apartment houses when in the forenoon of February 2, 1960, “high winds peeled a 10-by-30 foot section of brick facing off the Rozellna Apartments.” The illustrated report revealed that the peeled bricks fell to the rear of the Olive Tower. The greater length of the Rozellna helps us imagine room for its sixteen units.
Anything to add, mates?