“An old house with an old man.” That was the cryptic suggestion for this month’s Re:Take, from a three-year-old.
To fulfill the request, I turned to the fantastic work of Brendan McKeon. A while back he scanned all of the old assessor photos of Pike/Pine, and he recently put them up on HistoryPin for us to browse. While looking through them, this modest 11th Ave storefront caught my eye. It was the old house as asked, but with a retail facade. And it was a building I’d never seen, destroyed 65 years ago.
The long and short of it: built as a home, it was turned into a grocery store in 1912; the family who ran it moved south of the city and continues selling food to this day; a Japanese family took over the store and spent WW II as prisoners in Minidoka; the building was destroyed for a parking lot in 1949.
Now for just the long of it.
It was built in 1899 as the north end of a series of quadruplicate houses. All of the buildings were apparently developed by Alexander Burns, who lived in 1423 briefly. Burns moved his family from there to the Thistle Apartments which he built on the 1415 parcel in 1902. His family bounced through a series of addresses for the prior decade, each of which I suspect he built and then lived in while finishing and then renting or selling after the family moved. His profession was listed as lather, but I know of a number of properties he owned and rented, including a fourplex facing this on the other side of the street. He is once listed as a boss, not just a tradesman, and must have captured a windfall in the post-Fire construction boom.
One of the four houses — the one we care about, at 1427 11th — was purchased immediately in 1899 by Frank Salle. He shared it with his brother Dominick, sister-in-law Santa and three nephews James, Antonio and Lewis. Frank and Dominick ran the Salle Brothers “cigar and fruit” store at the corner of 3rd and James in the Drexel Hotel starting in 1897. Within a few years of moving their home from 23rd and Spruce to here at 11th and Pike, Dominick had his own grocery at 6th and Pike, he and his family moved two door south to 1417, and Frank married fellow Italian Cristina Depasquale and started a family of his own.
One oddity we have to keep in mind: the regrade. Back in 1899, 11th Ave and the houses were all about 20 feet down. Think about that Value Village loading dock, or the alley between Public Storage and Stumptown. They’re down at the original ground level around here. The 12th Avenue regrade happened in 1910 and included this triangle area. The Salles took the opportunity to lift the building, add a basement floor, and convert the first floor into a grocery. By 1912, per the city directory, they had moved their grocery to 11th. By that time Frank and his wife had three daughters and a son to help out with the store.
There’s a convoluted thread here that leads us to White Center, present day. We need to track Frank Salle’s brother-in-law into Seattle, and then Frank’s exit from the grocery business. I’m going to be a bit precise about timing, because the paper trail is richer and a bit different than other Salle family histories written over the years.
Frank’s wife Cristina died in 1918. Her brother Nunzio Di Pasquale arrived in the US from Italy soon after, followed by his wife Carmella. By 1924 they were in Seattle for the birth of their daughter Mary, likely already truck farming where Boeing Field is now. They had another daughter Rosa and in 1927 a son, Bernardo. I was told by Bernie’s son that his dad was born right on the farm. By that time the family name had changed from Di Pasquale to Salle — Nunzio’s sister’s husband’s name.
Hold that thought.
Back to Frank Salle. He remarried in 1926. With his four kids and second wife Jennie he continued running the grocery into 1927. For the year of 1928 the grocery at 1427 11th was operated by a Leo M Douglas, under the name of Auto Grocery. The next year though, Nunzio Salle and his family moved in and took over the grocery.
Then Frank Salle died in 1932, and Jennie was willed his property. Nunzio and family left the home in 1934, and the grocery was put up for sale. Nunzio briefly had a store on Beacon Hill, and by 1937 opened a store in the Riverton Community Market on Pacific Highway South — known then as the Tacoma Highway. After Nunzio died his son Bernie continued the store as Salle’s Market, and in turn his sons eventually joined him as Bernie and Boys.
A few years ago Bernie and Boys closed, but now Bernie’s son Tom Salle has opened a new store on 16th and Roxbury in White Center called Meat the Live Butcher. If you’re ever in the area, drop by to stock your fridge. I got some frozen elk burger for nostalgia’s sake, and they have more exotic items for sale, but if you go for the regular stuff you can watch it butchered right in front of you. (My dad had Bernie and Boys butcher deer and elk for him a few times, and I think it’s been 20 years since I had elk meat.)
Post-Salle History of 1427 11th
The Salle family story is a long, uninterrupted series of independent grocers and butchers, stretching to the present. The story of the Salle home at 1427 11th is much more punctuated, though.
Japanese immigrant Stephen Eiichi Arai purchased the store and rented the building from Jennie Salle from 1935 to 1942. Stephen entered the US in 1911 and took an English name. He was joined by wife Koshige Nakano, likely from his hometown, in 1917. She took the name Theresa. I’m not clear exactly where they were, but suspect Stephen was working in sawmills around eastern King County. In 1925 their daughter Jeannette Ann Sumiko was born in Kent, and in 1927 their sun Ted Hiroshi was born in Eatonville. Stephen worked at a mill in town in a large Japanese community that the census taker simply addressed “Jap town”. Eatonville had a strong bond between races and nationalities, though, so Stephen must have simply been seeking opportunity when he moved the family during the Great Depression to Seattle. They continued running the grocery until May 1942 when the entire family were unlawfully sent to prison camps during World War 2.
In June the grocery was listed for sale. From the time the relocation order was issued on April 1, the “Business Opportunities” section of the Seattle Times was filled with fire sales. Things like “Japanese owner requires quick action” and “Have large listings of Japanese hotels and apartments at sacrifice prices.” The vultures were feeding. Presumably Jennie Salle hoped to avoid that crowd by selling the Arai business by adding to her classified one simple word, a lie, that would garner sympathy: “Drafted.”
The Arais were processed at the Puyallup fairground’s Camp Harmony, and then moved to the concentration camp called Minidoka in Idaho. After they were released in 1945 the Arais started over in Detroit. Three generations later, they’re still there. Stephen Eiichi Arai’s namesake great grandson Stephen Nakamura was married last year in Livonia. That’s about all that’s available online about the last 70 years of the growing Arai family: one wedding announcement with two photos of happiness and love.
Here’s one final look at the full block now.