"In June of 1920 during a special meeting at the home of chapter member Mrs. David "Nettie" Bowen a play is put on that reveals that the Chapter has successfully purchased two lots on Capital Hill on Federal Avenue. Reading of the Chapter minutes reveals that the attending members were elated at this news but difficulties are ahead for the Chapter. The cost of the lots totals $4,400.00 and the terms are 10% down and the remainder on a note. Mrs. Bowen is elected chairman of the House Committee.
Since it had taken the Chapter three years to save about $470.00 to acquire the down payment on the land the members realized they needed a better and more aggressive plan for their building fund. How did they do it? The money was raised by all the members of the Chapter. Bazaars were held where "fancy work" hand embroidered baby clothing was sold. Since baby clothing was not made commercially on a large scale in the early 1920s, Rainier Chapter was very successful in selling these hand made layettes. Also, rummage sales were held with one member stating, "We cleaned out nearly every attic in the City".
Members set up tables at Pike Place Market and sold used clothing, joking that the "shoe department" was their big money maker. Bridge parties were organized with each player paying a sum to play and many teas and receptions were held all over the City to raise money. Due to the continuing upswing in the economy nationally and the continued growth of Seattle, and with the acquisition of the land, the members were very confident that the house would be built. With the Building Committee appointed, a corporation was formed in May of 1921 to oversee the design and construction of the permanent Chapter House.
In April of 1924 the Chapter hits the first snag in their building project, a zoning problem. The Chapter has inadvertently purchased two lots which were originally part of the old Yesler Estate; and, one of two contiguous lots was subject to a restriction that only a residence could be built on it. Also the neighbors form a committee to prevent any public access building to be constructed on their street. The Chapter hires an attorney and tries but fails to get the zoning changed. Regent Bowen then instructs the real estate company that sold the property to the Chapter to find two suitable building lots. This East Roy Street property is zoned correctly and so a trade is made. But there are problems with the East Roy Street lots as well. When the plans are submitted to the City a group of East Roy Street neighbors file a protest with the City that the Chapter House is not suitable for the neighborhood. But this time the zoning does allow for a public access building. Also, Cornish Arts College is across the street from the proposed building site of the Chapter House. Two doors away are shops and small stores. The Chapter has a much better argument that the building will not be incongruous with the surroundings.
The corporation hires an attorney and this time prevails and the building permit is issued. Eliza Ferry Leary is named President of the Corporation and it is most certain it was her suggestion that the Chapter House be modeled after George Washington's home Mount Vernon. Mrs. Leary was very familiar with Mount Vernon. In 1907 through the recommendations of Washington State Governor Mead and Professor Edmund Meany, Mrs. Leary was appointed a life member of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union. For the past sixteen years she had been traveling each year to Mount Vernon to stay two weeks to a month as the representative of Washington State. After the corporation was formed the committee needed to hire an architect. The Building Committee had already hired attorney Ernest Hussey for legal advice regarding incorporation and the zoning problems. He shared an office with Architect Daniel Riggs Huntington and Mr. Huntington was asked by the Building Committee to submit plans and estimates for a Chapter House fashioned after Mount Vernon. Other architects also submitted plans to the Building Committee but Daniel Huntington was chosen.
Born in Newark, New Jersey on December 28, 1871, Daniel Riggs Huntington was the son of John Huntington a prosperous grocer and Mary Horton Huntington. Mary Horton Huntington was a distant relative of Dexter Horton who founded the Dexter Horton Bank, forerunner of Seafirst Bank. John Huntington was the son of Bacchus W. Huntington, a wealthy Alabama Judge who relocated to New York City after the Civil War. Daniel's father, John, died in 1886 while the family was living in Texas. Daniel was 15 and Mary took Daniel and her other son back to New York City. In 1900 we find Daniel living with his Mother and younger brother and he is apprenticed as an architect. In 1904, he married Maud Lytles and by 1905 is residing in Seattle with his new wife, his mother and younger brother.
The most obvious reason for an architect to move to Seattle in 1905 is that most of the downtown area had been destroyed by a fire in 1889. Also, in 1896 less than ten years after the Great Fire, Seattle experienced rapid growth due to the discovery of gold in the Klondike making Seattle the jumping off point for thousands of prospectors. There was a tremendous amount of work for anyone associated with building during this period. Coupled with this was a new City zoning code that resulted in a downtown of brick and stone buildings, rather than wood. This was to be Huntington's specialty.
At first Huntington enters into practice with James Schack, a prominent Seattle architect with whom he designs several well known Seattle buildings, the Morrison Hotel and the Delamar Apartments. In 1912 he is hired to be the Seattle City Architect, a position he holds until 1921. During this period he designs more than ten fire stations, two libraries and the Lake Union Steam Plant. Shortly thereafter, Huntington leaves his position as City Architect and opens his private practice.
By 1924 the building corporation has been formed, the architect hired but the financing of the building is uncertain. The Building Committee had an estimate from Daniel Huntington that the construction costs would run about $30,000.00. Washington Mutual Savings Bank had agreed to loan $15,000.00 which would be personally secured by fifteen of the Chapter members. The Bank required that any additional money should be raised by selling bonds to interested investors. In August of 1924, the then Regent Nettie Bowen, sent a form letter to all DAR and SAR members in the greater Seattle area and to the larger Seattle businesses. The purpose of the letter was to advertise the sale of building bonds to finance the construction of the Chapter House. Below is a passage from this letter:
"We are financing the building by selling bonds, and paying 6% interest on the same. We expect to rent the building for dances, card parties, concerts, musicals, luncheons, banquets, teas and receptions. Four different functions can be going on at the same time. There is a crying need for meeting places of this kind for women in Seattle."
248 Bonds were sold varying in amounts from $25.00 to $500.00 with a maturity of twenty years. When the Chapter House was completed in 1925 the total cost of construction and furnishings totaled $45,200.00 and some change. Although the final construction cost was one-third more than the original estimate made three years before, the Chapter members had sold enough bonds to cover all the expenditures. This would be approximately $560,000.00 in today's money.
Sunday, January 11, 1925 a Seattle Times newspaper clipping finally announces the beginning of construction of the house. Three days later on Wednesday the cornerstone is in place and construction begins. Almost exactly four months later, the building is completed and the first reception is held. It is a remarkable feat considering the amount of building detail in the Chapter House. With Mrs. Leary's assistance Daniel Riggs Huntington adds some very accurate details to the Mount Vernon replica. First of all the Chapter House is constructed of wood. Although the exterior looks like masonry, the siding is milled cedar which has been painted with sanded paint. The original layer is oil paint with sand embedded in it. It is a historic mixture that was designed to make wood look like stone. The technique was popular among America's founding fathers. Both the original Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello have wooden structures painted with sanded paint. Mr. Huntington takes great care with designing a corner cabinet in the parlor, reminiscent of George Washington's dining room. The mirrors in the ladies dressing room are designed in the Federalist style as is the large window facing West in the Memorial Room.
In addition, Chapter members are extremely generous with donations of furnishings. The chandelier in the entrance hall is a gift of Mrs. Leary, having once been at fixture in her first home, a mansion located next door to the Lincoln Hotel. Mrs. Leary also donated priceless bronze cornices for the Memorial Room. Antique silver, needlepoint, sofas, tables and other large pieces of furniture are all donated during the first year.
But with any construction there are some problems. The basement is below the City plumbing grade resulting in immediate plumbing problems. And, once the Chapter House is opened it quickly becomes apparent that the kitchen is woefully small, resulting in an almost immediate remodel of the kitchen. The dumbwaiter installed between the basement and main floor quickly needs repairing. But by and large the Chapter members are thrilled with the new Chapter House and rental of the facility during the mid to late twenties was a successful endeavor.
It is interesting that Nettie Bowen exclaimed in her letter soliciting bond investors, "There is a crying need for places of this kind for women in Seattle." Was Seattle a city lacking clubs for women to join? No. Locally and nationally women had been ardently forming clubs from about 1870 such as literary clubs, local and municipal improvement clubs, professional, religious, patriotic and ethnic organizations and later suffrage groups. But few Seattle organizations had their own permanent meeting house which was owned and maintained by the local membership. What better way to showcase the good works of DAR than by constructing and maintaining a Mount Vernon replica which would be available to rent by the general public. This was the intent of the members in 1924 and is still the intent of the current members.
In conclusion, when compiling the history of the building of the Chapter House it became apparent that the Building Committee was success in the following areas:
a) They built on the enthusiasm for hospitality that began in 1909 at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition to fuel the energy needed for this large, detailed project.
b) They understood that through hospitality they could showcase the tenets of DAR to the general public.
c) They were able to sustain commitment over a long period of time. The vision of the Chapter house gave them a tangible goal and they were able to keep that vision alive during the difficult year prior to construction.
d) They recognized that there was strength in numbers. Working in concert gave the members a bigger and bolder sense of muscle. And it took plenty of muscle to overcome the financial, zoning, and planning problems which beset them at the beginning of the task.
e) And lastly, they instinctively knew once the Chapter House was completed it would be a quiet yet continuing reminder to the members and the community at large of a society founded on the principles of service whose motto is, "God, Home and Country". (Wording from Paperwork turned into by the Rainer Chapter, NSDAR.)