A Seattle structure with a lot of history also holds secrets. Renovation work at the corner of 7th and King St. in the Chinatown-International Dist. now reveals a fascinating slice of the city’s past.
“We found secret passageways on the other side of the building, in the big gambling room, we also found really decorative bedposts, so we assume that used to be a brothel,” said Tanya Woo, whose family owns 665 S. King St.
A massive fire damaged the building on Christmas Eve 2013. It was also the site of the 1983 Wah Mee massacre, when gunmen robbed, shot, and killed 13 people.
“We also found soldier graffiti from the 1940's, like men would write down their names and the dates and the battleships they were on,” Woo said during a tour, Tuesday.
As crews work to reconstruct the storied structure, a unique glimpse of the city's past is emerging. Old paintings depicting men and women enjoying a night out on the town line a staircase which led to a former jazz club.
“The whole area was lined with murals of, we think, African-Americans dressed in prohibition attire, and they're in pretty good condition, considering there was a fire in this building and the whole floor was submerged in water,” Woo said.
“This was really the center of a thriving jazz scene from 1912 up to the 1950s and 60s,” said Paul DeBarros, a local author, who wrote Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle, and got his first glimpse of the paintings, Tuesday.
“I am so thrilled to see these murals, I’ve heard so many stories of underground clubs and passageways, and I've never seen any until today, so this is a real thrill for me,” he said.
The Woo family hopes to restore the chipped murals and display them to the public. The rest of the building is also getting repairs and is slated to re-open as apartments in summer of 2019.