The Kinnear Mansion

Courtesy of MOHAI

The Kinnear Mansion

Courtesy of MOHAI


George Kinnear (January 30, 1836 – July 21, 1912), Seattle pioneer, real estate developer and community benefactor, was a leader in the development of Queen Anne Hill and a prominent figure in early Seattle history. His stately mansion, completed in 1888 on two and a half acres at the foot of Queen Anne Hill, was a choice example of the Queen Anne architectural style so fashionable in his day. Although the mansion and its surrounding structures were demolished to make way for the construction of Bayview Manor, many of its valuable and unique components were salvaged and incorporated into other structures that still stand today. 

Memories of the Kinnear mansion and Charles Kinnear, George Kinnear’s son who lived there following his father’s death, are still vivid for Catharine Morgan, a resident of Bayview Manor. From 1957 to 1959, she and her husband, Rev. Chester Morgan, lived in the large guest cottage on the Kinnear estate while her husband served at Seattle First Methodist Church. In 1958, they witnessed the demolition of the mansion. She knew Charles, his wife Lena, and their servant Dela, who previously worked for Charles’ father and lived on the third floor of the mansion. She has the greatest respect for the Kinnears and their contributions to Seattle’s history. She can describe the mansion and its beauty in great detail. 

The mansion had solid oak floors, a grand walnut staircase, white Italian marble fireplaces with elaborate carving, gas chandeliers (later converted to electricity), ten foot ceilings, a bathroom with a marble washbowl and solid copper bathtub, and elegant slate roofing. A magnificent fountain graced the circular driveway, and according to Homes and Gardens of the Pacific Coast (Frank Calvert, editor, published 1913, reprinted 1998), “The grounds are very extensive and well laid out, with beautiful flowers, winding paths, and fountains, a miniature park in itself.” 

As a child, George lived in a log cabin on the banks of the Wabash River in Indiana. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Forty-Seventh Illinois Regiment, rising eventually to the rank of captain. He first visited the Northwest in 1874, and impressed with what he saw, he purchased a large section of the southwest slope of Queen Anne Hill. In 1878, he moved to Seattle with his wife Angeline and sons Charles and Roy, purchasing additional real estate around Queen Anne Hill with the proceeds of the sale of his land in Illinois. 

Among his many accomplishments, George was instrumental in the building of a wagon road over Snoqualmie Pass. He arranged for the printing and distribution throughout the country of pamphlets promoting the Puget Sound region to potential new settlers. In 1887, he and his wife donated 14 acres on the southwest slope of Queen Anne Hill to the City of Seattle for a park, named Kinnear Park in his honor. The only building he constructed that survives today is the De La Mar Apartments at 115 Olympic Place, a four-story apartment building he constructed in 1908 to house friends visiting Seattle for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition. It was designated a city landmark in 1978. 

In February 1886, he played a leadership role as captain of the Home Guard during the Seattle Anti-Chinese riots.  At that time, hundreds of Chinese laborers were working in western Washington, laying railroad tracks, mining coal, canning salmon and building roads. Initially, Seattle’s citizens welcomed them, but attitudes toward them hardened as the economy weakened and jobs became scarce. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, restricting Chinese immigration into the United States and making Chinese ineligible for citizenship. Violent efforts to expel Chinese laborers took root along the West Coast, including Seattle, where a vigilante group known as the Knights of Labor announced its intention to expel all Chinese residents, and after their departure, to burn down the neighborhood where they lived. When word spread of a plot to forcibly evict the Chinese from Seattle, some law-abiding citizens organized militias to oppose any such action. One group, called the Home Guard, chose George Kinnear as their leader. Charles Kinnear, his son, organized another group, the University Cadets. When a hostile, armed mob forced a group of about 350 Chinese to march from their homes to the dock where the steamer Queen of the Pacific was tied, and attempted to force the captain to take the Chinese on board, the Home Guard, the University Cadets and the other militias, by force of arms, helped to reestablish law and order and prevent further violence. On February 8, 1911, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the anti-Chinese riots, George Kinnear published a pamphlet (available online) describing the events of those fateful days. 

After George Kinnear’s death in 1912, his son Charles moved into the mansion, remaining there until his death in November 1956. During Charles’ life, he developed a deep friendship with Dr. Cyrus Albertson, the senior pastor at Seattle First Methodist Church. Every Sunday morning, Charles, his wife, and their servants gathered around the radio to listen to Dr. Albertson’s sermons. In his last will and testament, Charles left the mansion and its surrounding estate to the Seattle First Methodist Church for creation of a home for the elderly. The mansion was demolished in 1958, and Bayview Manor was built on its site in 1961. 

However, some of the estate’s unique components were preserved or salvaged. In the west windows of Bayview’s library hang five stained glass windows that once graced the windows of the mansion.  Many large maple and evergreen trees on the Bayview property were originally planted by the Kinnears on their estate. An Edmonds architect, Earl Morris, purchased the elaborate Italian marble fireplaces and installed them in his own house, along with several enormous wood doors, elegant wood paneling and other miscellaneous artifacts. Upon the death of Earl Morris in 2009, Earl’s son Gay and his wife Koko inherited the marble fireplaces and moved them into their home. The mansion’s “peach bottom” slate roof tiles, considered the finest type of slate roofing, can now be found on the roof of a cabin at Green Gates at Flowing Lake, in Snohomish, reclaimed and purchased by its current owner from Gay and Koko Morris. And according to Catharine Morgan, the cottage where she lived on the Kinnear estate was disassembled in 1958-1959 and moved to Kenmore, where it still stands.

The Kinnear family made valuable and lasting contributions to the history of Queen Anne Hill and Seattle. Their mansion and its estate were among the most beautiful of the era. A pen and ink image of the mansion was adopted by the Queen Anne Historical Society as its logo, and it serves as a reminder of some of the grand achievements of our past.