Seattle Now & Then: The Wilhelmina/Winona Apartments

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Built in about 1907, the Wilhemina if not the first apartment house on Queen Anne Hill was surely one of the earliest. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)
NOW: The worn clapboards of the by then nameless old apartment at 1413 Queen Anne Ave. were redressed with stucco in the early 1980s.

This shapely subject was uncovered long ago in a collection of unidentified negatives.  Only recently I discovered that finding its place was easy for the name of this apartment house is signed on the glass front door.  This is – or was in this early 20th century record of it – the Wilhemina Apartments at 1413 Queen Anne Avenue.  It was then the tallest structure this high on the avenue with views to the city and the bay.  And it was conveniently set at the top of the “Queen Anne Counterbalance,” that exceptional tunnel machinery that helped pull trollies up the steep avenue and also safely govern their descent.

Historic preservationist Diana James, with her recent book “Shared Walls” our local authority on apartment houses, thinks it likely that the Wilhemina first took in renters in 1908, the first year classified ads appear in The Times describing its attractions. “Very choice 2-room apartment, nice, view, modern, high class, no children.” In a dozen years or so more the name was changed to Winona.  Rhyming with Wilhemina it was equally euphonious.  Able by now to intuit the origins of place names, the scholar James jests, “Perhaps it was renamed for the wife of a new owner.”

The Winona first indicates “no objection to children” in the 1920s. A Times classified for 1928 reads “Clean and cozy 2-room completely furnished apartments, situated in good district at the very low rental of $37.50.”  Following the market crash of 1929, the monthly rate was soon lowered to $25.  By 1955 it had doubled to a mere $52, but by then it had no musical name, only an address.

While Diana James doubts one published claim for the Wilhemina/Winona, that it was the first apartment on the hill, she admits that she has as yet found no older flat that has kept its footprint on the hill.  She adds, “I like it because it is what it is – its elegant symmetry with bay windows for light and centered balconies for fresh air visits. I could tell you that it is 12 units, with four to a floor, and probably two more in the daylight basement.”  What James could not surmise from the street, the present owner – since the mid 1970s – reveals.  There’s a detached 15th unit in the rear.  Most likely, it was once a garage.


Anything to add, Paul?

(For Paul’s reply, click here!)


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