District Stories

The following stories are the result of our team of volunteer researchers who are combing through old newspapers, census records, and Polk directories to document the people and places of Wallingford. The places featured below are located in the proposed Wallingford Historic District North.

Do you have a story to contribute? Email us at info@historicwallingford.org.

From China to Wallingford: The Clarkson Family on 47th Street
Posted June 20, 2021

By Vanessa Chin and Sarah Martin

Editor’s note: Historic Wallingford’s ongoing research into the people and places that have shaped Wallingford is revealing a wonderful tapestry of stories that are reflected in the dwellings, shops, parks, and streetscapes of today’s neighborhood. Mathilda Clarkson was first revealed to us in the 1930 U.S. census, which listed her as a widowed mother of four – all born in China. The following account remembers the Clarkson family who lived in the small Craftsman bungalow at 1422 N. 47th Street for nearly 20 years.   

In May 1921 Mathilda Clarkson, a 35-year-old widow, and her four children boarded the SS Kashima Maru at Kobe, Japan, bound for Seattle. They joined her father, Mans Hellstrand, a retired customs agent and native of Sweden, who had boarded the ship at Hong Kong just days earlier. The family was immigrating to the United States after a lifetime in China and Japan. It is not clear what motivated their relocation, but perhaps the death of Mathilda’s husband, Charles Clarkson, Sr., a British national, in 1917 and the increasing social and political tensions in northern China and Russia during this period were factors. 

Mathilda was born in Shanghai, China, in 1886 to a Swedish father and Japanese mother, Mans and Sumi (Sudzuki) Hellstrand. Her father worked for the Imperial Maritime Custom Service for many years in various Chinese port cities. Mathilda married Charles, and the couple had four children while living in Guangzhou, then a British treaty port city called Canton: Charles (b. 1906), John (b. 1908), Kristina (b. 1909), and Arthur (b. 1911). The family was living in Tientsin, today’s Tianjin, in 1917, when Charles, Sr., left for Seattle, perhaps in preparation for the family’s immigration. He died en route at Shimonoseki, Japan. Mathilda and her family persevered and immigrated to Seattle three-and-a-half years later. 

Mathilda arrived with $7,000 in her possession and presumably used it to purchase the family’s home in Wallingford at 1422 N. 47th Street. The Clarksons lived there until 1940, when Mathilda purchased a house at 5104 Greenwood Avenue N., a block west of Woodland Park. While living in Wallingford, all of Mathilda’s children graduated from Lincoln High School between 1925 and 1931. Arthur, her youngest child, attended Hamilton Intermediate School (now Hamilton International Middle School) during its first years after opening in 1927. The Clarksons participated in community and school activities that earned them mentions in the local newspapers. For example, Arthur was a member of Wallingford Boy Scout Troop 146, becoming Scoutmaster and winning a council award in 1941.

Charles attended the University of Washington, ultimately graduating from the University of Minnesota. He was drafted into the U.S. Army and served during World War II from 1942 to 1946. After high school, John eventually settled in West Seattle and worked for the National Bank of Commerce downtown and later for the State Department of Labor. Like his brother Charles, Arthur attended the University of Minnesota and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Kristina attended one year of college, but was unable to work and lived with her mother until Mathilda’s death in 1969. Kristina died a few years later.

Mathilda Clarkson and her children were among the very few immigrants from Asia living in Wallingford in the 1930s and 1940s. Their biracial background and British surname likely afforded them opportunities unavailable to other Asian immigrants, such as where they could live. We would appreciate knowing more about the Clarksons and their experiences navigating day-to-day life in Wallingford during that time. Do you have a similar story to share? Let us know at info@historicwallingford.org.

Sources:

1930 and 1940 U.S. Census
Polk City Directories
Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer Newspaper Archives
Puget Sound Regional Archives
HistoryLink.org
Washington Digital Archives

Bread and Basketball: The Buchan Family of Wallingford 
Posted April 10, 2021

By Vanessa Chin and Sarah Martin
Special thanks to Alec Buchan for sharing his family’s photographs. 

Wallingford in the early 20th century was full of families who ran small businesses, and the Buchans are just one example of the rich patchwork of stories our research is spotlighting. This immigrant family from Scotland built the Buchan Baking Company, known not only for its delicious bread but also for its championship basketball team – the Buchan Bakers.

George & Lizzie Buchan

George and Lizzie Buchan (pictured at right) immigrated to the United States with their two children, George Jr. and Elizabeth M. in April 1902. By 1910, the growing family, which now included daughter Bella, lived in Wallingford at 1423 N. 47th Street (pictured below), along with George’s brothers, Andrew and William. The Buchan family lived in this home until about 1920, when George and Lizzie purchased the home at 1422 N. 46th Street (pictured at right and below), where they would live for many years. George’s brother William and his wife Flora continued to rent the home on 47th Street until 1922 when George Jr. took ownership of the property. In 1930, Bella and her husband Theodore, who worked as a salesman for the baking company, purchased the home and lived there for the next eight years. 

George had worked as a baker in Scotland and found a job at a bakery in Buckley where he commuted by train and came home on weekends. His hard work paid off, and by 1919, George opened his own business, the Buchan Baking Company, in downtown Seattle. The Buchan Baking Company built a new plant in south Wallingford at 1601 N. 34th Street in 1925, a building that until recently still functioned as a bakery (pictured at the end). George Jr. eventually took on the thriving business, and in 1951, the Polk directory listed six Buchan family members working for the company: George Jr., his sons George C., Ian D., and Robin as well as John and William. 

In 1948, the Buchan Baking Company was asked by Warren Bud Howard to sponsor his basketball team in the Northwest Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) League. The Buchan Bakers played for 13 seasons and won the National AAU Championship in 1956, beating the famed Phillips 66ers in the title game. The Bakers also won the Northwest AAU title six times and toured overseas as part of US State Department-sponsored exchanges. To see video clips and to learn more about this championship basketball team and its place in Seattle sports history, visit BuchanBakers.com

The Buchan Baking Company grew to include factories in Tacoma and Bellingham, until 1966 when the company was purchased by Oroweat.

Sources:

Buchan Bakers Website: http://buchanbakers.com/history.html 
Buchan’s Bread Website: https://www.buchansbread.com 
City of Seattle Historic Resources Survey Database.
Polk City Directories
US Census, 1910 to 1940


Everything Old is New Again: Wallingford’s First Multi-family Housing Boom
Posted March 14, 2021

Multi-family housing was an important feature of early 20th-century Wallingford. There were apartment blocks, stacked flats, and court apartments all within close proximity to the streetcar lines along Wallingford Avenue, 40th and 45th Streets, and Meridian Avenue. Like today’s buses, the streetcars connected Wallingford to downtown, making the area an affordable and convenient place to live.

One real estate firm, in particular, focused on multi-family housing in the late 1920s. The Landon Real Estate Company, incorporated by W. J. (Jack) and Verah Landon in August 1927, built multi-family residences within sight of their office at 1901 N 45th Street, where they remained for more than 40 years.

The Landon Real Estate Co. developed three 19-unit apartment blocks along 46th Street and Burke Avenue. Landon hired architect H. B. McKnight to design an apartment block at 4515 Burke Avenue N. It opened in 1928 as the Landon Arms apartments and featured 19 “ultra-modern apartments,” with two-, three-, and four-room units. Landon’s Verah Apartments, at 1903 N 46th Street, opened in 1929. This three-story brick structure contained six two-room and 13 three-room suites. It cost $85,000 to build and contained the latest conveniences, including refrigeration and an electric stove, a wall radio, and oil burner heating (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 5/11/1929). Landon completed a third multi-family block in late 1929, the Jack-Lan Apartments, at 1911 N. 46th Street. This three-story building had 13 three-room and six two-room suites (Seattle Times 10/27/1929).

Shortly after opening, the monthly rents in these buildings ranged from $40 to $65. Tenants recorded in the 1930 census included both young and older married couples and multi-generational family groups. They included native Washingtonians, transplants from all over the U.S, and also German-, Norwegian-, and French-speaking immigrants. The occupations of residents included traffic officer, doctor office assistant, telephone operator, teacher, pharmacist, salesman, watchman, baker, deep sea fisherman, clerk, laborer, chiropractor, and millworker. The Landons themselves lived in the Jack-Lan Apartments for many years.  

These apartment blocks are nearing 100 years old and remain an important part of the Wallingford landscape. They are just three examples of several 1920s-era multi-family residences in the neighborhood, and they remind us of the variety of people who have called Wallingford home.