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Originally published Friday, July 26, 2013 at 10:15 AM

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A hard sell in hard times, ca. 1937

Selling real estate during the Great Depression wasn't easy. One of the era's foremost practitioners, Jess M. Warren, worked hard at it from his base along the Aurora Speedway.

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HERE WE DIP AGAIN into King County's great archive of Depression-era photographs of every taxable structure in the county — even sheds as modest as this one at the northeast corner of North 81st Street and Aurora Avenue North. The county's tax card indicates that this "residential-business"-zoned crib was built in 1928, that last full year of promised prosperity.

The North Side Realty was founded in 1926. Jesse M. Warren, the company's president, was described in the "Kind Words Club Year Book" for 1929 as one who showed "feverish efforts to transform our population into 100% landed gentry." Warren's camping and fishing trips were described as doubling as "undercover operations for the inspection of possible townsites." In 1930, Warren, chairman of the Seattle Real Estate Board of Governors, staged a role-playing competition in the ballroom of the University District's Wilsonian Hotel. Salesmen from competing real-estate firms attempted to sell imaginary houses to purported customers.

This sidewalk snapshot was recorded for the King County Tax Assessor's Office during the summer of 1937, a year when the Great Depression was taking yet another dive. Soon, Warren would return to what the graduate of Columbia University was trained for: architecture. In 1949 he led one of 12 teams designing "economy houses." Warren's passion for populist homeownership got the attention of The Seattle Times, which printed his plans on July 17, 1949.

His obituary for Sept. 5, 1953, has the architect, 65, dying after a long illness. The death notice made mention of neither his long life as a leader in local real-estate salesmanship nor of life on Seattle's "north side."

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

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