Seattle Now & Then: The Rhodes Mansion (with 2 Electric Cars)

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The ‘Seattle showplace’ Rhodes mansion on Capitol Hill, ca. 1916. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: The ‘Seattle showplace’ Rhodes mansion on Capitol Hill, ca. 1916. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Leila Gorbman, a long-time friend, stands in with her battery motivated KIA Soul EV for our ‘repeat.’
NOW: Leila Gorbman, a long-time friend, stands in with her battery motivated KIA Soul EV for our ‘repeat.’

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

Kitty-corner to Rhodes during a Golden Potlatch parade (we figure) of soon after one.
Kitty-corner to Rhodes during a Golden Potlatch parade (we figure) or soon after one.

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.”    

A clip from the Times for Dec. 11, 1915, on the eve of the Rhodes moving to their new home featured here at the top.
A clip from the Times for Dec. 11, 1915, on the eve of the Rhodes moving to their new home featured here at the top.

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.) 

A Detroit Electric ad from the fall of 1915.
A Detroit Electric ad from the fall of 1915.
An earlier clip from April 7, 1912
An earlier clip from April 7, 1912
A clip form August 26, 1917.
A clip from August 26, 1917.

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.)

Here, we believe, are three of Harriet Rhodes. You can agree or not or remain puzzled by comparing the detail from the featured photo, at the center, with the identified portraits of Harriet to the left and right.
Here, we believe, are three of Harriet Rhodes. You can agree or disagree  or remain puzzled when comparing the detail from the featured photo, at the center, with the identified portraits of older Harriets to the left and to the right.
Harriet Rhodes Seattle Times obituary from July 6, 1944.
Harriet Rhodes Seattle Times obituary from July 6, 1944.
The Rhodes owner honored in The Times for Feb. 28, 1932.
The Rhodes owners honored in The Times for Feb. 28, 1932.

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. 

The Seattle Times front page (the top of it) from February 17, 1921.
The Seattle Times front page (the top of it) from February 17, 1921.  Click to ENLARGE although probably not enough to read the fine print. 
Times front page September 26, 1926
Times front page September 26, 1926 – CLICK CLICK CLICK  and hope.
Times clip for the New Rhodes and its lobby organ. December 7, 1927.
Times clip for the New Rhodes and its lobby organ. December 7, 1927.

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.” 

More about Rhodes and his organ. This from Times for May 8, 1960. Best to click this TWICE, although it may be too small for some eyes.
More about Rhodes and his organ. This from Times for May 8, 1960. Best to click this TWICE, although it may be too small for some eyes. (CLICK)
A. J. Rhodes rememberd by "Just Cogitating" Conover, a pioneer journalist/real estate promoter who kept writing for the paper into his 90s.
A. J. Rhodes remembered by “Just Cogitating” Conover, the pioneer journalist/real estate promoter(he named our “Evergreen State”)  who kept writing for the paper into his 90s.  Click it TWICE and his feature may pop large enough  for some of you dear readers to negotiate his cogitations. 

WEB EXTRAS

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.

Rhodes mansion beyond the topiary
Rhodes mansion beyond the topiary and Queen Anne Hill on the horizon too.

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.

z-ST-april-19,-1931-Babcock-sprinklers-at-Rhodes-home-WEB

A Times classified from July 27, 1926.
A Times classified from July 27, 1926.
June 19, 1927 - again a Time classified.
June 19, 1927 – again a Time classified.
The south end of Lake Union from the Rhodes lawn. It dates from the early 20s, unless we are contradicted. The City Light steam plan on Eastlake (and Fairview) appears above the photo's center-right.
The south end of Lake Union from the Rhodes lawn. It dates from the early 20s, unless we are contradicted. The City Light steam plan on Eastlake (and Fairview) appears above the photo’s center-right.

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.

THEN: Both the grading on Belmont Avenue and the homes beside it are new in this “gift” to Capitol Hill taken from the family album of Major John Millis. (Courtesy of the Major’s grandchild Walter Millis and his son, a Seattle musician, Robert Millis.)

broadway-widening-1blog

THEN: Looking across Capitol Hill’s Broadway Avenue during its 1931adjustments. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)

Holy Names THEN

THEN: The Cascade neighborhood, named for its public grade school (1894), now long gone, might have been better named for the Pontius family. Immigrants from Ohio, they purchased many of the forested acres north of Denny Way and east of Fairview Avenue.

THEN: Werner Lenggenhager's recording of the old St. Vinnie's on Lake Union's southwest shore in the 1950s should remind a few readers of the joys that once were theirs while searching and picking in that exceedingly irregular place.

THEN: Most likely in 1902 Marcus M. Lyter either built or bought his box-style home at the northwest corner of 15th Avenue and Aloha Street. Like many other Capitol Hill addition residences, Lyter's home was somewhat large for its lot.

THEN: The Volunteer Park water tower was completed in 1907 on Capitol Hill’s highest point in aid the water pressure of its service to the often grand homes of its many nearly new neighbors. The jogging corner of E. Prospect Street and 15th Avenue E. is near the bottom of the Oakes postcard. (Historical Photo courtesy Mike Fairley)

MINOR-&-THOMAS-P-patch-THEN-mr

THEN: An early portrait, circa 1911, of The Silvian Apartments, one of Capitol Hill’s abiding architectural jewels. (Courtesy, Bill Burden)

THEN: A.J. McDonald’s panorama of Lake Union and its surrounds dates from the early 1890s. It was taken from First Hill, looking north from near the intersection of Terry Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

===========

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?

DEC. 9, 1928, FROM THE TIMES.
DEC. 9, 1928, FROM THE TIMES.
An elaborate inventory of the Rhodes home supply of art and artifacts. From the times for August 9, 1931.
An elaborate inventory of the Rhodes home supply of art and artifacts. From the times for August 9, 1931.  CLICK CLICK
FROM THE TIMES, APRIL 7, 1918.
FROM THE TIMES, APRIL 7, 1918.
From THE TIMES for December 21, 1914.
From THE TIMES for December 21, 1914.
November 25, 1917.
November 25, 1917.

z Electric-Car-crash-web

By Bob Bradley, 1967.
Above: By Bob Bradley, 1967.
Courtesy, Seattle City Archive
Courtesy, Seattle Municipal  Archive
FROM THE TIMES, MAY 11, 1931.
FROM THE TIMES, MAY 11, 1931.

6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Rhodes Mansion (with 2 Electric Cars)”

  1. 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).

  2. 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.

  3. What happened to the house after Harriet died? I was told years ago this was the Italian Consulate. Is it on any historic registry?

  4. 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:
    Marilyn Tangen
    22128 SR9 #23
    Mount Vernon, Washington 98274

    e-mail: mtangen@wavecable.com

    THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s