Seattle Now & Then: The Rozellna Apartments

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: A 1937-38 tax photo looking east across Boren Avenue and showing, shows three diverse constructions, all of them in 1600 block. (Courtesy, Stan Unger)
NOW: Of the three, only the Olive Tower, on the left, survived the building of the Seattle Freeway in the mid-1960s.

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 Olive Tower appears here center-top with the featured apartment next door. This is one of several aerial photos taken of the neighborhood tarnished with the building of the Seattle Freeway. (CLICK TO ENLARGE ADVISES Ron Edge and also Courtesy of Ron Edge)

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.”

A detail from a 1946 vertical aerial survey of Seattle. The detail was chosen to fit the Olive Tower top-center with our features apartment next door – below it. [CLICK TO ENLARGE]
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.

Not a Jean shot but one used courtesy of Google’s street photography. Here from the sidewalk is the lot graded for the I-5 ditch where the Rozelina stood. And to the left we may not look into the windowless absent on the east wall of the Olive Tower thru its first three stories.

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?    Yes Jean and begging a church on the same block – at its northwest corner, first below.    After the church comes the hotel on the west side of the next block up the hill, and so on Boren between PIke and Pine Streets.   Below that hotel and across Boren Ave. in the next block so the south, comes another tax photo this time with the Boren Ave. Garage and two hotels.  The smaller one with the classical columns gets its own tax photo at the next PWA snapshot below the garage.  Following that and after crossing Boren to its east side comes another hotel, another brick block this time at the the northwest corner of Boren and Pike.

THEN: Built quickly in the winter of 1906-07, the Prince Rupert Hotel faced Boren Avenue from the third lot north of Pike Street. About fifty-five years later it was razed for the I-5 Freeway. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Beginning with the Reynolds, three hotels have taken tenancy in this ornate three-story brick block at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pike Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: This 1939 glimpse east from Ninth Avenue follows Pike Street to the end of the about three-quarter mile straight climb it makes on its run from the Pike Place Market to its first turn on Capitol Hill.

THEN: In the 32 years between Frank Shaw's dedication picture and Jean Sherrard's dance scene, Freeway Park has gained in verdure what it has lost in human use.


THEN: The scene looks north through a skyline of steeples toward the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.

THEN: Built in the early twentieth century at the northeast corner of Jefferson Street and Boren Avenue, Bertha and Frank Gardner’s residence was large but not a mansion, as were many big homes on First Hill. (Courtesy Washington State Museum, Tacoma)


THEN: The Ballard Public Library in 1903-4, and here the Swedish Baptist Church at 9th and Pine, 1904-5, were architect Henderson Ryan’s first large contracts after the 20 year old southerner first reached Seattle in 1898. Later he would also design both the Liberty and Neptune Theatres, the latter still projecting films in the University District. (Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Swedish Lutheran (Gethsemane) Church’s second sanctuary at the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and Steward Street circa 1920, photo by Klaes Lindquist. (Courtesy, Swedish Club)


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)

THEN: Built in 1909-10 on one of First Hill’s steepest slopes, the dark brick Normandie Apartments' three wings, when seen from the sky, resemble a bird in flight. (Lawton Gowey)


THEN: Built in the mid-1880s at 1522 7th Avenue, the Anthony family home was part of a building boom developing this north end neighborhood then into a community of clapboards. Here 70 years later it is the lone survivor. (Photo by Robert O. Shaw)

THEN: First dedicated in 1889 by Seattle’s Unitarians, the congregation soon needed a larger sanctuary and moved to Capitol Hill. Here on 7th Avenue, their first home was next used for a great variety of events, including a temporary home for the Christian Church, a concert hall for the Ladies Musical Club, and a venue for political events like anarchist Emma Goldman’s visit to Seattle in 1910. (Compliments Lawton Gowey)








1620 Boren, next door tot he Rozelilna

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.