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Originally published Friday, March 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM

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Gables apartments served early-Seattle boom

The Gables first opened to renters in 1911, and the shared observatory with billiard table, dance floor and attached roof garden on the fourth floor came a year later.

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THE CENTURY-OLD Gables on Capitol Hill is surely one of the most courtly of Seattle's apartment buildings. The landmark holds the northwest corner of 16th Avenue East and East Harrison Street. Most of Seattle's apartments — what historic preservationist Diana James calls our "shared walls," the title of her recent history on them — were built during the city's years of exploding growth starting in the mid-1890s.

The Gables first opened to renters in 1911, and the shared observatory with billiard table, dance floor and attached roof garden on the fourth floor came a year later. It was one of the largest of the 61 apartment buildings managed by Seattle's super-realtor at the time, John Davis & Co. The 24-unit apartment was built in two parts, the Annex — here to the far left — and the much larger, U-shaped expression of Tudor nostalgia. At the time, its style was described as Old English.

The highest rent at the Gables in 1912 was $45 for a five-room apartment — about $1,000 today. While the kitchens were cramped, the living rooms were large enough to entertain. For what may be one of the earliest scheduled cultural moments there, Mrs. Harry Louis Likert opened her apartment's door on Nov. 12, 1911, to the Emerson Club.

Readers interested in Diana James' history of Seattle's shared walls might want to mark their calendars for June 8. At 10 a.m. on that Saturday, James will lead a Historic Seattle walking tour around 16th Avenue East while interpreting what is, she explains, "One of Seattle's more intense concentrations of apartment buildings representing a wide variety of styles." For details and registration, call Historic Seattle at 206-622-6952.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at www.pauldorpat.com.

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