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  • Ellen Mirro

From City Light to Sunlight

We’ve left the longest night of the year behind us, but there’s a while to go before we enjoy the long evenings of a Seattle summer. In honor of the recent Solstice, we’re continuing our occasional series on Roosevelt neighborhood buildings by looking at a building with a light-filled past.

The vernacular brick building located at 6403 Roosevelt Way, built in 1929, originally housed a radio shop and a branch service center for Seattle City Light. The Roosevelt neighborhood experienced rapid growth in the 1920s, as evidenced by the opening of nearby Roosevelt High School in 1922 and its expansion a mere five years later. In 1928 Sears, Roebuck & Company opened a large store on the corner of Roosevelt and NE 65th (where Dania Furniture and Roosevelt Square Shopping Center now stand), making the intersection the hub of commerce in the neighborhood. The City Light service center, whose purpose was to court and serve local customers, occupied the corner storefront until the mid 1950s.

Over the years the building housed a series of businesses that reflected the changing times and needs of the area. During World War II the building housed the district ration board office, which assisted with rationing programs and coupons. By the 1950s the radio shop was gone, and the Clancy McNeil Company sold televisions from the former City Light storefront. A jeweler’s shop and Puget Sound Refrigeration also occupied the building.

The 1960s saw the construction of Interstate 5, cutting northwards through the neighborhood. While public opinion was divided on the freeway, it brought traffic (literal and figurative) to the neighborhood and local businesses. During this time the building was occupied by a women’s clothing shop called Vivian’s Apparel and the Continental Travel Center.

Radio returned to the building in the 1970s, when a radio and hi-fi shop opened. Vivian’s Apparel became Vivian’s Hair Fashion, and in 1982 one of the storefronts housed the catchily-named Dog Gone Pleasant Experience Video Center.

In 1980 a group of friends established a vegetarian restaurant in the southern half of the building. This was the Sunlight Café, which continues to thrive as one of the longest-standing vegetarian restaurants in the city.

Full disclosure: As part of our historic resources consulting services, in 2011 we partnered with Seattle City Light to prepare National Historic Register nomination reports for hydroelectric projects on the Skagit River and Nehalem Creek. You can read more about our historic resources services here.

We have yet to provide historic resources services for the Dog Gone Pleasant Experience Video Center.

The storefront at 6401 Roosevelt Way NE in 1933. Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives

King County Tax Assessor photo, 1937. Photo: Puget Sound Regional Archives

Seattle City Light and Power advertisement, Seattle Times, April 12, 1934

Seattle City Light & Power advertisement, Seattle Times, ca. 1940.

King County Tax Assessor photo, 1956. Photo: Puget Sound Regional Archives

The Sunlight Cafe, July 2015. Photo: The Johnson Partnership

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