Historic "Japonesque" Bungalow stripped of its defining features.

September 12, 2019

Tragic news came to us yesterday that the owner of this unique bungalow located at 627 13th Avenue East started removing its character defining upturned corner eaves while we were helping Historic Seattle find a way to preserve it. Unfortunately, this will no longer be an option. Instead, it will soon be demolished along with its neighbor to the north and replaced with townhouses. (Removal images courtesy Nick Gregoric) This unfortunate turn of events is most distressing to say the least.

However, thanks to local architect and CHHS member Marvin Anderson, we will at least be able to know some of its history. Here's what he wrote for us (includes endnote citations):

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE UNIQUE BUNGALOW AT 627 THIRTEENTH AVENUE NORTH

 

On January 28, 1905 the City of Seattle issued R.A. Tripple building permit 32561 to construct a 1-1/2 story frame cottage, 30' x 50', to cost $2750, at 627 Thirteenth Avenue North. Tripple submitted plans as the owner, and no architect or building contractor were listed.

 

R.A. TRIPPLE A real estate developer and former employee of James Moore, Tripple already knew the neighborhood well by the time he began construction of the bungalow on Thirteenth. His own house, built in 1902-1903, was just up the hill on Millionaires' Row at 626 Fourteenth Avenue North, on the southwest corner with Roy Street.

 

Robert Aull Tripple (1854-1930) was born in Philadelphia where he lived after graduation from Princeton University until heading west to the City of Destiny in 1888.[1] Tripple, his wife Carrie, and his six children remained in Tacoma only two years - he owned the shoe store "Single, Double, Tripple" and was, around 1901, a salesman for Van Eaton, Fogg & Co.[2] - before moving to Seattle where he became a salesman for Moore Investment Company.[3] By the time of his move Tripple had already amassed sufficient wealth to build a $4000 home designed by Henry Dozier for his family on Millionaire's Row.[4]

 

From 1902 through 1904 Tripple's name appeared in the Seattle Times numerous times as he purchased property and developed houses, largely on his own account. By the time the 1905 Seattle City Directory was published, Tripple had left Moore to form his own company dealing in "Real Estate, Loans, and Building," headquartered in the Lumber Exchange.[5] Tripple prospered and in 1907 built a second Millionaire's Row house at 633 Fourteenth, across the street from his first, now in the Colonial Revival style and also designed by Henry Dozier.[6] Tripple remained in real estate, development, and insurance for most of his life, adding silver mining to his portfolio in 1908, and was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1920. At the time of his death on June 16, 1930 he was candidate for reelection to his fifth term.

 

WHY DID TRIPPLE BUILD THIS BUNGALOW?

 

Tripple's bungalow on Thirteenth was not inexpensive; compared with other permit values at the time the stated construction cost of $2750 was more than twice that of a comparably sized bungalow and enough to build a double house or small block of flats. The distinctive upturned eaves and Asian inspired detailing were also unusual and would have been more expensive to build than a "typical" bungalow of the time. With a house on Fourteenth, why did Tripple build this unique bungalow down the hill? Lacking documents such as diaries or newspaper accounts one can only speculate.

 

By January 1905 many of the houses along Fourteenth had already been constructed but lots at the south end of Millionaires' Row immediately west of Tripple's home remained vacant, as did the lots below on Thirteenth. With no structures between his home at 626 Fourteenth and Thirteenth, Tripple could have had a pathway down to his new bungalow at 627. Could the empty lots west of 626 been Tripple's garden with the fancifully decorated bungalow a folly?

Portion of 1905 Baist Map No. 8 Portion of 1912 Baist Map no. 11 Perhaps Tripple built the bungalow as a guest house or as a home for his children. His eldest son, William Dixon Tripple, remained in Tacoma after the family moved north and on July 12, 1905 married Grace Davies. The bungalow could have been an attempt to lure the newlyweds closer or could have simply been a place for them to stay while visiting.

 

It could also have been intended as a nearby home for household staff or could have been simply an investment, although the home's relatively high cost and elaborate detailing suggest the unique bungalow was something more meaningful to Tripple.

 

WHO DESIGNED THE BUNGALOW?

 

Lack of documentation also prompts one to speculate on who may have been the architect or designer. One hypothesis is that Tripple turned to the architect of both of his houses, Henry Dozier. Perhaps, although no other building in Dozier's body of work exhibits similar characteristics or approach to design.[7]

 

A second hypothesis is that the design came from one of many plan books published in Seattle during the period. As Andersen and Krafft point out, local architects began publishing pattern books shortly after the turn of the century.[8] Victor Voorhees, for example, included several bungalow designs in his Western Home Builder, which appeared beginning 1906, although bungalow designs with Asian-influenced detailing and roof massing (other than upturned gable ends, which were relatively common) have yet to be located.[9] A number of Jud Yoho's house designs also had upturned roof details, but most of these were also gable ends,[10] and Yoho's designs were not published until after 1910. And although Yoho moved to Seattle in 1897, he was involved in bookkeeping from 1904-1906, not architecture or real estate development, making it unlikely he was involved with Tripple's bungalow.[11]

 

A third hypothesis is that the plan of Tripple's bungalow came from a pattern book while the Asian-influenced detailing came from a different source or perhaps Tripple himself. Although plans available from SDCI represent a house that has obviously been altered (see following pages), there are similarities to floor plans found in books by Yoho or Voorhees. In Erin Doherty's analysis of Yoho's plan types, for example, one very similar to 627 Thirteenth appears on p. 94, a variation of a typical bungalow plan type.[12]

 

Tracing the history of Asian influence on bungalow design and on Seattle architecture is more difficult. As Jeff Murdock points out, the Formosa Teahouse at the 1909 AYPE shares many characteristics with 627 Thirteenth,[13] but influential as it may have been the teahouse was constructed four years after Tripple's bungalow. And while the unique detailing at 627 may have had personal meaning to Tripple, to date no connections have been discovered between him and Asia.

 

RESIDENTS OF 627 THIRTEENTH

 

The first permanent residents of 627 Thirteenth Avenue North appear to have been Cabot William Wickware and his bride Alice Irene Pontius, who married on May 19, 1906 and moved into the bungalow shortly thereafter.[14] Pontius was the daughter of developer Frank W. Pontius while Wickware was the stepson of G. Henry Whitcomb, former business partner of James A. Moore. He was also Moore's ward "prior to attaining his majority" and employed by Moore during the time he lived at 627.[15] It is likely both Wickware and Pontius would have been known to Tripple through the real estate business but there were also ties of friendship: Tripple's son Jack and daughter-in-law Lydia were the same age as Cabot and Alice. On May 14, 1908 the Seattle Times reported that "Mrs. Jack Tripple" was a prize winner at "a very pretty card party" given by Mrs. Wickware on Thirteenth Avenue North.[16] Cabot and Alice Wickware appear to have lived in the house until around 1911 when they divorced acrimoniously. Following his divorce, Cabot Wickware moved to New York and remarried; he died in a 1914 hunting accident in Maine.[17]

 

Property ownership records will have to be consulted to determine if Tripple retained ownership of the bungalow on Thirteenth during Wickware's occupancy. After 1911 he may have rented but then appears to have sold the bungalow to Caroline and Edward Caldwell who lived there from 1913-1918. Beginning in 1919 Michael C. and Lenore Collins lived at 627 Thirteenth, followed (at some unknown date) by Michael C. and Mary A. Collins who appear in City Directories as late as 1933. No evidence has been located that the bungalow was ever home to the Japanese Consulate or used for anything but a residence.

 

Below are the original permit and more recent plans acquired by Adam Alsobrook from Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENDNOTES

  1. "R.A. Tripple Succumbs to Heart Attack," Seattle Times (June 17, 1930): p. 9.
     

  2. R.L. Polk's Tacoma City Directory (1901): p. 823
     

  3. Polk's Seattle City Directory (1902): p. 1297
     

  4. Tripple is listed in the 1902 directory at 626 14th Ave N even though building permit 14827 for his new home was not issued until June 20, 1902.  The Tripples moved into their new home in October (Seattle Times [October 19,1902]: p. 56).  On the house see https://www.millionairesrow.net/62614thE.html
     

  5. Polk's Seattle City Directory (1905): p. 1200.
     

  6. See https://www.millionairesrow.net/63314thE.html
     

  7. On Dozier see the book by Charles Brantigan at http://www.drbrantigan.com/history/DOZIER%20public.pdf
     

  8.  Dennis A. Andersen and Katheryn H. Krafft, "Plan and Pattern Books: Shaping Early Seattle Architecture," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, v. 85, n. 4 (October 1994): p. 154.
     

  9. The fifth edition of Voorhees's Western Home Builder (1911), available on the DAHP website, includes several bungalows, but none with detailing or massing that appear Asian inspired.  
    https://dahp.wa.gov/historicpreservation/research-and-technical-preservation-guidance/architect-biographies/bio-for-victor-w-voorhees
     

  10. Erin Doherty, "Jud Yoho and the Craftsman Bungalow Company: Assessing the Value of the Common House," Master's Thesis, University of Washington (1997): House 10-190, fig. 3, p. 14.  House 308A, fig. 9, p. 45. Houses 310-311, fig. 10, p. 46

    Yoho's 1916 Craftsman Bungalows catalog (reprinted Book Club of Washington, 2007) illustrated plan 634 on pp. 8-9, a large bungalow of "the aeroplane type."  This, explained Yoho, in "its many curved rafters, ridges and brackets is derived from the architecture of Japan and China."

     

  11. Doherty, "Jud Yoho and the Craftsman Bungalow Company," p. 39.
     

  12. Doherty, "Jud Yoho and the Craftsman Bungalow Company."
     

  13. The website of the Chinese in Northwest America Research Committee discuses Asian American participation in the AYPE.  https://www.cinarc.org/AYPE.html
     

  14. Seattle Times (May 21, 1906): p. 8.
     

  15. On Wickware as ward of Moore see "Cabot W. Wickware Sued for Divorce," Seattle Times (April 24, 1911): p. 8.  On May 17, 1908, Moore and Wickware attempted to prevent Emma Goldman, "an expounder of anarchy," from speaking in Seattle.  In the article "Fails to Silence Red," Wickware is described as agent of Moore's Arcade Building.  Semi-Weekly Spokesman-Review (Spokane), (May 18, 1908): p. 1.
     

  16. Seattle Times (May 14, 1908): p. 9
     

  17. "Cabot W. Wickware Does in Maine Woods," Seattle Times (August 22, 1914): p. 3.

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