The Gainsborough

Most often we choose to retrieve these older now-then features when they dove tale by theme or location with a story that appears now – on a contemporary Sunday – in Pacific Northwest Magazine.  In the past two weeks – or so – we have included three features that relate to the main intersection of First Hill, which is where Boren Avenue and Madison Avenue cross.  We have given touchstone descriptions of the Perry Hotel, the Carkeek Mansion, the Seattle Tennis Club and we also included with the last a second glimpse of the Stacy Mansion and the University Club.  We will visit those again, but later.  Nearby is a high-rise neighbor to these big First Hill homes, the elegant Gainsborough.


Built for class the high-rise apartment at 1017 Minor Avenue on First Hill was named after the English King George III’s favorite painter, Thomas Gainsborough.  As a witness to the place’s status, Colin Radford, president of the Gainsborough Investment Co. that built it, was also the new apartments’ first live-in manager.  And the apartments were large, four to a floor, fifty in all including Radford’s (if I have counted correctly).  What the developer-manager could not see coming when his distinguished apartment house was being built and taking applications was the “Great Depression.”

The Gainsborough was completed in 1930 a few months after the economic crash of late 1929.   This timing was almost commonplace for the building boom of the late 1920s continued well into the early 1930s.   The quality of these apartments meant that the Gainsborough’s affluent residents were not going to wind up in any 1930s  “alternative housing” like the shacks of “Hooverville” although the “up and in” residents in the new apartment’s highest floors could probably see some of those improvised homes “down and out” on the tideflats south of King Street. (We intend to soon post some of our features on Hooverville, in celebration of these apparently, by comparison for most, more mildly deprived times.)

Through its first 78 years the Gainsborough has been home to members of Seattle families whom might well have lived earlier in one of the many mansions on First Hill. Two examples: Ethel Hoge moved from Sunnycrest, her home in the Highlands, to the Gainsborough after her husband, the banker James Doster Hoge, died in 1929.  Before their marriage in 1894 Ethel lived with her parents on the hill near Terry and Marion.  Eleven years ago (in 1998 if memory serves) the philanthropist-activist Patsy Collins summoned Walt Crowley and I to the Gainsborough.  After explaining to her our hopes for she gave us the seed money to launch the site that year.  Earlier Patsy was instrumental in preserving the Stimson-Green mansion, also on Minor Avenue, a home that her grandparents, the C.D. Stimsons, built in 1900. (Most likely – according to our nurtured habit – we will soon post our feature from a few years past on the Stimson-Green mansion.)


Then Caption:  The Gainsborough at 1017 Minor Avenue was one of large   handful of distinguished apartment buildings built or planned in the late 1920s.  The picture was given courtesy of Michael Maslan.  Well preserved, the elegant Gainsborough continues to distinguish the First Hill neighborhood. (The now photo was taken by Jean of this blog-webpage.)

2 thoughts on “The Gainsborough”

  1. My son currently owns/lives in the Gainsborough, which as your blog stated is indeed a elegant building atop First Hill. He has been a resident for over five years, and during that time has been on the board and able to spark interest in restoring areas within the common spaces back to the more traditional past of the building. Residing on the 13th floor – that alone is an interesting feature of the building. The Gainsborough continues to be one of the best preserved Deco high rise buildings in Seattle. It sets itself apart as elegant inside and as well as outside.

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