AKA: Griffiths, Captain James, House, Queen Anne, Seattle, WA; Stimson-Griffiths House, Queen Anne, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Bebb and Mendel, Architects (firm); Charles Herbert Bebb ; Louis Leonard Mendel Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1903-1905

2 stories, total floor area: 11,210 sq. ft.

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415 West Highland Drive
Queen Anne, Seattle, WA 98119-3531

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The firm of Bebb and Mendel designed a great many houses for Seattle's business elite during its 13 years of operation 1901-1914, the Frederick and Nellie Stimson House being one of the more notable in Queen Anne neighborhood.

Building History

Frederick Spencer Stimson (born 07/1868 in Big Rapids, MI-d. 11/24/1921 in Seattle, WA) was born into the Stimson lumber family that owned land and sawmills in and around the cities of Big Rapids, MI and Muskegon, MI, during the last half of the 19th century. Frederick Stimson married Nellie R. Clark (born 1869 in Muskegon, MI-d. 03/16/1946 in Seattle, WA) on 10/16/1889 in Muskegon, MI, then a lumber capital of Lower MI. By 1890, lumber reserves of prime lumber species such as white oak were being exhausted in the Upper Midwest, and lumber companies began scoping out new territories to log and mill timber. By this time, the Stimsons owned a large lumber yard in South Chicago, IL, as well as operations in MI. Three of the Stimson brothers, Charles D. (1857–1929), Ezra T. (1861-1924) and Frederick migrated to Seattle to buy harvestable land and set up two sawmills of the Stimson Mill Company. Charles stayed in the Pacific Northwest, while Ezra relocated to Southern CA to supervise lumber yard activities there. Ezra joined his father Thomas D. Stimson (1828-1898) who retired to Los Angeles and became a real estate investor there.

Frederick developed wealth in lumber but divested himself of that and became a diversified investor, with holdings in real estate, banking, fish canneries and Holstein cattle ranching. He took his place in Seattle society as a member of the Rainier, Arctic and Seattle Golf and Country Clubs and became an authoritative figure in Washington cattle-ranching and agricultural circles, at one time serving as a Regent of the land-grant Washington State College. By 1911, Stimson began operation of Hollywood Farm, a large farm near what is now Woodinville, WA.

In 1900, Fredrick and Nellie lived on 1st Avenue North in Seattle, in a residence with their two children and four servants. (See Ancestry.com, Source Citation Year: 1900; Census Place: Seattle Ward 8, King, Washington; Roll: 1745; Page: 6; Enumeration District: 0115; FHL microfilm: 1241745, accessed 02/23/2023.)

In 1910, the Stimson household included Nellie and Frederick Stimson, their daughter Achsah Stimson (born c. 1891 in MI), and sons Harold C. Stimson (born c. 1893 in WA) and Frederick F. Stimson (born c. 1904 in WA). In addition, the Stimsons could afford to retain a staff of nine servants, including "houseboys" R. Kanazawa (born c. 1885 in Japan), Kanji Yamaguchi (born c. 1886 in Japan), maid Anne Sunderland (born c. 1865 in Canada), maid Minnie Enz (born c. 1873 in IN), nurse Maren Jacobsen (born c. 1848 in Denmark), chauffeur Christensen Clifford (born c. 1886 in WA), laundryman Tongira Hirada (born c. 1981 in Japan), and gardeners Tom Renonard (born c. 1880 in OH) and John Mateo (born c. 1878 in Ireland). (See Ancestry.com, Source Citation Year: 1910; Census Place: Seattle Ward 3, King, Washington; Roll: T624_1659; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 0150; FHL microfilm: 1375672, accessed 02/22/2023.) At the time, neighbors of the Stimsons on West Highland Drive included Harry and Ella D. Clise on one side (at 501) and John M. and Annette Rich on the other (302). Clise was a lawyer and Rich, a physician. The architect Albert W. Spalding and his wife Anna T. Spalding resided at 504 West Highland Drive with their four children.

After Frederick's death in 1921, Nellie moved from this West Highland Drive dwelling and, by 1928, had resettled into Apartment #5A at 532 Broadway North in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (See Seattle, Washington, City Directory, 1928, p. 1596) This was in the Hamilton Arms Apartments which stood at 526-532 Broadway North.

Captain James Griffiths purchased the house in 1928. Griffiths grew rich from his interests in import/export shipping to Japan and the rest of Asia. He also operated the Coastwise Steamship and Barge Company and became a leading figure in local yachting circles.

This Tudor Revival Style house had the size, decorative detail and location (with its sweeping views) appropriate to the tastes and aspirations of a multi-millionaire. Writing in 1980, Sally Woodbridge and Roger Montgomery described the Stimson House: "A ponderous half-timbered design with a massive cut-granite griubd floor, certainly expressive of wealth and social position." (See Sally Woodbridge and Roger Montgomery, A Guide to Architecture in Washington State, ([Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980], p. 198.) The adjective "ponderous" might be too harsh to describe this residence, which had restrained proportions and a moderate amount of ornamentation. In Seattle, many in the city's white upper class, preferred the half-timbered, Tudor Revival as emblematic of their kinship with antique English cultural traditions. At a time of wide styistic variety, the Tudor mode became the domestic style of choice for the city's wealthy homeowners c. 1915.

Buildng Notes

The two-story, cross-gabled Stimson-Griffiths House had a large 16,987 sq. ft. (0.39 acre) lot, on which the 11,210-square-foot residence sprawled. The house had 3,730 square feet on the first floor, 3,770 on the second and 2,890 in a finished basement. The house had a number of stylistic details of a Swiss chalet, including an ornamented course just below the gabled dormers, corbeled bay windows, decorative half-timbering, and its gabled roof with long, overhanging eaves; the gable ends were also highlighted by decorative stickwork. It was listed on the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The 1980 A Guide to Architecture in Washington State, indicated that the address was 415 West Highland Drive; in 2010, various sources have it as 405 West Highland Drive. (See Sally Woodbridge and Roger Montgomery, A Guide to Architecture in Washington State, ([Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980], p. 198),