(click to enlarge photos)
Certainly many PacificNW readers are familiar with the elegant Rhodes residence at the northwest corner of 10th Avenue E. and E. Howell Street. Although a fortress-sized hedge largely guards the house gardens from sight, the street is by now a busy arterial. It is a century since the couple moved into this Capitol Hill prospect. From plans by local architect Augustus Warren Gould, the mansion was built big but not vast. Albert and Harriet Rhodes were childless. Their ‘dependents’ were the 500 employees who worked in their Rhodes Department Store. Before the move to Capitol Hill, the
Rhodes lived for a few weeks in the New Washington Hotel (now the Josephinum Apartments) on Second Avenue, conveniently only three blocks north of the couple’s prosperous store at Second and Union Street. Their intention to leave the hotel for the hill was announced in the Society section of The Times for December 11, 1915, where it was also reported that Hotel management had hosted a complimentary goodbye banquet for the couple and their friends. On the next day, the 12th of December, the paper’s classified section included a notice that the Rhodes were seeking “a thoroughly competent girl for general housework: references required; apply 1901 10th Av. N.”
We have learned from Carolyn Marr, librarian for the Museum of History and Industry, that this week’s featured historical photograph was recorded by the Webster and Stevens studio, for years the editorial photographer for this newspaper. If this photo was used in The Times, we have not found it. However, we do know the car. With help from Fred Cruger, our Granite Falls–based antique cars expert and collector, we know that this is a battery powered Detroit Electric. (For goodness sakes, Fred owns one.)
But is that Harriet Rhodes pausing at the open door to the battery-powered hardtop? Or is it, perhaps, a hired model posing for the local Detroit Electric dealer (also on Capitol Hill) promoting the dealership’s pride in front of a status-radiating mansion? Actually, we do think it is Harriet, based on the somewhat soft evidence of two later portraits of the department store owner. (You might consult the blog listed below, and there compare the ‘resemblances’ and decide for yourself.)
Albert met Harriet in the Dalles, Oregon, while he was working as a traveling salesman of household goods for a Portland firm. They married in 1893, living first in Tacoma, where Albert was joined by his three brothers who had followed him west from Wisconsin. Together they started several stores, from populist five-and-dime dispenseries to posher shops, all with the family name attached. After their move to Seattle the couple was consistently charmed with both business and social successes. What Albert lacked was longevity. The front-page banner headline of The Times for February 17, 1921, reads: “A.J. Rhodes Dies in New York.” He succumbed to the flu while visiting New York on business for the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. He was fifty-six.
Harriet began her remaining twenty-three years by expanding their department store. One of the additions was an impressively large Aeolian Duo Art organ in the lobby dedicated to the memory of Albert. Harriet also travelled often, collecting art. She returned to her Capitol Hill home with what an unnamed Times arts reporter described on August 9, 1931, as “endless treasures, yet each so complementing the other and partaking so surely in the dominating personality of the house that it is a home of rare beauty, not a museum.” Harriet Rhodes died in 1944 after visiting New York and staying in the same hotel where her Albert had died. Her obituary reads, “Close friends believe that Mrs. Rhodes knowing she was ill, made the journey out of sentiment.”
Seeing that the high shrubbery concealed all but the top of this lovely mansion, I peeked around the leaves and grabbed a snapshot of the front of the house.
And here Jean to compliment your innocent peek is an advertisement from April 19, 1931 that uses the Rhodes manse and its landscape to promote Babcock Sprinklers. The Rhodes big home was used by many as a handy landmark for piggy-backing prestige with directions. Following the sprinklers, we will follow with two examples.
Anything to add, mes braves? Yes, again and again we discover more than we have time to scan and put in place. Again, Ron Edge has saved the day and found a dozen-or-so features to add from the neighborhood. These are all grabbed from past blog posts. There are about 50 others that have yet to be scanned, earlier features from before 2008.
MORE RHODES AND ELECTRIC TRANSPORT
Harriet Rhodes gave a lot of her time, wealth and study traveling the world to collect art and artifacts for her home. She was also a frequent sponsor of local art events and programs, and hostess to groups that were similarly disposed. Included in the clips below is by any standard a wonderfully rich one describing what was inside the Rhodes home. And the author is not credited?
8 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Rhodes Mansion (with 2 Electric Cars)”
Just for fun, here’s a postcard that includes the department store and their temporary home (years later) “The New Washington” https://www.facebook.com/VintageKingCounty/photos/a.943764212340204.1073741851.166935090023124/565629723486990
The photo you printed in the July 3 Times IS in the Times: see p. 51, October 28, 1917. The caption refers only to “milady” and “a Seattle residence,” so I’m assuming the woman is a model. Mrs. Rhodes is of interest to me because I’m researching department stores…and because the house was later owned by the Callison family, one of whom provided information re: cascara bark for my “Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest” (UW Press).
Enlarge the lead photo, and notice how that Detroit Electric shines; it is like a mirror, the paint is awesome! Often cars of this vintage were shiny, but the paint quality was usually somewhat spotty. This illustrates what a high quality car this was.
What happened to the house after Harriet died? I was told years ago this was the Italian Consulate. Is it on any historic registry?
My niece forwarded this article on the Rhodes Mansion to me, remembering that my mother worked for the department store “about”
1916-1920. I am a Sr. and not very good on the computer… I tried to
print the article off but to no avail. Can I request a copy of this be sent to my home address? Here is the information you would need:
22128 SR9 #23
Mount Vernon, Washington 98274
THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH1
It is howe not howell st 🙂
Sent via smartphone. Pardon abbreviations and mistakes.
This property is on the corner of 10th Avenue E. & E. Howe Street, not E. Howell – no such intersection as 10th Avenue E. E. Howell Street exisits.
Was there a relationship between the Rhodes family & the Meyers (Myers) family that lived on the other part of the block?