AKA: Merrill, R.D., House, Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Lord and Schryver, Landscape Architects (firm); Platt, Charles Adams, Architect (firm); Elizabeth Lord (landscape architect); Charles Adams Platt (architect); Edith Schryver (landscape architect)

Dates: constructed 1908-1909

2 stories

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919 Harvard Avenue North
Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA 98102

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Known in 2011 as Harvard Avenue East

Building History

Lumberman Richard Dwight Merrill (born 05/29/1869 in Saginaw County, MI-d. 10/24/1964 in Seattle, WA), grew up in a logging family in Saginaw, MI, son of Thomas Merrill, (1815-1912, himself the scion of a Maine logging clan). Thomas Merrill operated extensive logging tracts in and around Saginaw, until their depletion. Thomas's son, Thomas Davis Merrill (born 10/16/1855 in Bangor, ME-d. 04/1932 in Seattle, WA), moved family operations to Duluth, MN, where he formed the Merrill and Ring Lumber Company with his brother-in-law, Clark Lombard Ring, (born 02/14/1862 in Saginaw, MI-d. 02/12/1933 in Saginaw, MI), in 11/1886. Thomas Davis and his wife, Elizabeth Musgrave Merrill, (1853-1929), built a large house in Duluth c. 1900, that was demolished 38 years later.

By the 1890s, fully-mechanized Midwestern lumber companies had begun to deplete local forests and began to buy virgin timber stands in the Pacific Northwest. R.D. Merrill came to maturity during this shift and married his wife, Eula Lee, (born 07/08/1871 in Lansing, MI), on 03/14/1893. By 1902, the MI-based company moved from Saginaw to new production headquarters in Hoquiam, WA, close to its prime timber sources near Grays Harbor and on the Northern Olympic Peninsula. Its corporate headquarters operated in the banking center of Seattle, the center of intense development following the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s.

Clark Ring, commissioned a grand house in Saginaw, MI, by the socially-prominent New York architectural firm of Charles A. Platt in 1904. (This Georgian house was later donated to the city of Saginaw to become the city's Museum of Art.) In 1908, Elizabeth Ring Ireland Mather, (born 04/03/1891 in Saginaw, MI-d. 11/10/1957 in Cleveland, OH), daughter of Clark and Lizzie Ring, at about the same time as R.D. Merrill, commissioned a house by Charles Adams Platt in Cleveland, OH. Elizabeth Ring married WIlliam Gwinn Mather, (born 09/22/1857 in Cleveland, OH-d. 04/05/1951 in Bratenahl, OH), a notable civic leader in Cleveland and President of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, an enterprise that he inherited from his father. Clearly, the Merrill and Ring Families held Platt's architectural skills in high esteem.

In 1907, Merrill became President of the Merrill-Ring Lumber Company. Installed in such a prominent position, Richard and his wife decided to build a new residence, capable of staging social functions. They used their two-story Georgian Revival residence frequently to entertain Seattle's elite during the first half of the twentieth century; their names appeared routinely in the society pages of the Seattle Times, particularly during the 1900s-1920s. Both Merrill and his wife had strong interests in gardening, and their house adjoined a showplace garden located behind it. (The firm of Lord and Schryver did the planting composition in the 1930s.) The Merrills traveled frequently, within the US and abroad, and were acquainted with society circles in New York, NY. From their travels and social connections they learned of the work of the New York artist and architect, Charles Adams Platt (1861-1933), who became a leading designer of country houses during the early 1900s. Seattle architect Carl F. Gould, Sr., (1873-1939), worked as Platt's local associate on the Merrill House; Gould had worked in New York during 1905-1907, and it's possible that Platt and Gould had met each other during the time. The Gould Family would remain friends with the Merrills for generations. According to landscape historian David Streatfield, the notable Platt designed a number of houses for members of several intertwined lumber families, including the Merrills, Rings and Mathers.

Upon the death of Richard Merrill and his wife, this house passed down to their two daughters, Virginia Bloedel and Eulalie Wagner. The house is currently owned by a child of Bagley Wright. (Information gained from conversation with Prof. Streatfield, 01/07/2010.)

Building Notes

Blueprints for the Merrill House have been archived at Columbia University, Avery Fine Arts Library, New York, NY.


Garage additions were made in 1922. Platt designed a new fountain for the Merrill Property in 1929.

National Register of Historic Places (Listed 1977-08-22): 77001339 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 8439