AKA: Hill-Crest, Washington Park, Seattle, WA; University of Washington, Seattle (UW), President's House, Washington Park, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Bebb and Mendel, Architects (firm); Waldron and Dietz, Architects (firm); Charles Herbert Bebb ; Robert Henry Dietz (architect); Louis Leonard Mendel Sr. (architect); Lawrence Galen Waldron (architect)

Dates: constructed 1907

3 stories, total floor area: 12,788 sq. ft.

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808 36th Avenue East
Washington Park, Seattle, WA 98112

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Building History

Maine-born lumberman Edwin Gardner Ames (1856-1935) and his wife Lena Maud Walker Ames (1868-1931) erected this residence in the Washington Park neighborhood of Seattle in 1906. Ames began his career with the Pope and Talbot Lumber Company in San Francisco, CA, c. 1879, and was sent to the firm's Puget Mill sibsidiary in Port Gamble, WA, in 1881 to serve as Business Manager, a position he held until 1914. Following the 1914 death of Cyrus Walker, the father of his wife, Edwin took over as Puget Mills' General Manager. Maud Walker, too, had migrated to the tiny lumber town of Port Gamble from ME; she came from Skowhegan, ME, he from East Machias, ME. Their families, along with the Popes and Talbots, had been leading figures in developing the lumber industry in that state. In Seattle, Edwin became a leading figure in the Seattle business community, one that was dominated by lumber interests, becoming a Director of the Seattle National Bank, the Metropolitan National Bank and the Washington Mutual Savings Bank, as well as a founder the Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau and a Director of the Pacific Coast Lumber Manufacturers' Association. He also served as a Trustee of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Ames, like many men of the time, maintained memberships in many clubs, including fraternal organizations (such as the Masons), country clubs and yachting organizations. (See Find A Grave, "Edwin Gardner Ames," accessed 08/12/2015.)

Maud and Edwin had no children, and adopted the idea of leaving their estate to the University of Washington (UW). Following his wife's death in 1931, Ames willed the house at 808 36th Avenue North (later 808 36th Avenue East) to the University, set up a large endowment for the university, and willed his collection of rare books (that included a Gutenberg Bible) to the UW Libraries, to be housed in the new Walker Ames Room in the new, south wing of Suzzallo Library, completed in 1935. After Maud's death, Edwin moved out of their residence, Hill-Crest, and lived at the Rainier Club.

At about the same time as Edwin Ames commissioned the architectural firm of Bebb and Mendel to design this house, the Puget Mill Company retained the services of the same firm to design in Port Gamble hotel, a restaurant, a tavern, stables for horses and carriages and an annex building to lodge low-income boarders.

Building Notes

This two-story house had a cohesive cubic form consistent with Neoclassical Revival houses of the turn-of-the-century. This Neoclassical Style was viewed as new and modern in 1900, a drastic shift from Queen Anne Style picturesque massing and ornamentation of the previous quarter century. The Ames House featured a hipped roof with its attic story illuminated by gabled dormers. The front facade had three bays, the central one, containing a half-round entry porch, projected out slightly from the other two. The projecting bay's edges were trimmed with quoins, as were the end bay corners. Elaborate keystones trimmed all windows. A large and showy porte-cochère, supported by classical columns, extended from one side of the dwelling. The porte-cochère not only sheltered arriving guests, it underscored the process of arriving at a great house.

Having Lake Washington and territorial views, this Georgian Revival House contained, before a 2004-2005 remodeling, 35 rooms, within 12,510-square feet. It occupied a 59,800-square-foot, (1.37-acre) lot. The property contained a separate carriage house/garage, front and rear (servant's) staiways, an elevator and a pipe organ for entertaining. It has been used frequently for entertaining by the UW President and for academic gatherings since 1932.

In 2015, the King County Assessor's property record indicated that the house had 10 bedrooms and 7.75 baths.


University officials commissioned the architectural firm of Waldon and Dietz to add a sunroom to Hill-Crest in 1958. According to the obituary of Robert Dietz, this alteration of the house proved very satisfactory for presidential usage. The Seattle Times stated: "Former UW President William Gerberding said Mr. Dietz designed one of the few alterations made to the historic UW presidential mansion. It was a sun room, 'and as a 16-year occupant, I can attest that it worked beautifully,' Gerberding wrote this week in an American Institute of Architects memorial. (See Sherry Grindeland, Seattle Times.com, "Bob Dietz, retired dean at UW," published 05/18/2006, accessed 03/07/2017.)

The Regents of the University of Washington and President Mark Emmert (who served from 06/2004 until 10/2010) created a small controversy in 01/2005 when the Seattle Times reported that $540,000 had been spent on the remodeling of the UW President's House, some of the money taken from the Walker-Ames Fund, an endowment meant for “scientific and educational purposes." This fund had traditionally been used for academic purposes, but money had been diverted to provide extra payments to the UW President and to periodically renovate Hill-Crest. In 1992, the Regents approved the expenditure of $67,000 to replace worn-out carpeting there, and a year later, money from the fund paid for extra presidential compensation and for administrative costs. In 2004, $35,016 from the fund went to renovation work at Hill-Crest. (See Sharon Pian Chan, Seattle Times, 01/25/2005, "Endowment helps with $540,000 makeover of UW president’s home," accessed 08/12/2015.)

According to an article in the UW's Columns alumni magazine, the Ames House, by 2005, had become decrepit and unfit for presidential usage: "The structure needed to be rewired and replumbed. The first-floor carpet showed wear and stains; the master bedroom had humidity problems. Access to a third-floor deck meant climbing out a waist-high window. The basement flooded, ruining some of the Emmerts’ household possessions. DeLaine Emmert, [President Emmert's wife] who also oversaw the renovation of chancellor’s residences at the University of Connecticut and Louisiana State University, says Hill-Crest was her greatest challenge. Previous remodels gave the public rooms an institutional feeling. 'It was a clinical environment and not very homey,' she says." (See Tom Griffin, Columns, "Back Pages: Home Pride," accessed 08/12/2015.) According to a UW spokesperson, Jeraldine McCray, Associate Vice-President for Facilities Services, "There had been no major modernization since the 1940s.'" (See Sharon Pian Chan, Seattle Times, 01/25/2005, "Endowment helps with $540,000 makeover of UW president’s home," accessed 08/12/2015.) Presumably, this meant updating of the kitchens and baths as well as HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems.

During this 2004-2005 renovation, the exterior siding was painted, a deck was replaced, the wood-burning fireplaces were converted to gas, a gas line was modernized, the heating plant was renovated, single-pane windows were replaced with double-pane, additional carpeting was added, the hardwood floors were refinished, the kitchen was updated, and a third-floor deck was made accessible via a door not a window. In addition, two bedrooms and two baths on the second floor were converted into a single large master suite. These repairs were thought to be important during a period when the Regents were courting Emmert as the 38th UW President.

An outbuilding for garden tools costing approximately $5,306 was added to the property in 2006.