Former location of Our House restaurant and hotel

Yesler Way and Post Alley

Firehouse Alley from Yesler Way, Seattle, May 27, 2020, HistoryLink Photo by David Koch
Yesler Way, between 1st Avenue and Western Avenue, Seattle, May 27, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Our House was located off Mill Street (now Yesler Way) between Commercial (now First Avenue) and what is now Alaskan Way, Seattle
William Grose (1835-1898)

Yesler Way and Post Alley

In 1852, African-born sailor Manuel Lopes arrived in Seattle from New England and became the fledgling settlement’s first black resident. He brought his barber’s chair with him around Cape Horn and soon opened a barbershop on what is now 1st Avenue South. Lopes became a well-known Seattle pioneer, leading the Fourth of July parades with his snare drum.

Lopes was soon followed by William Grose, a black sailor and gold prospector, who arrived in 1861. Grose was an impossible-to-miss sight on Seattle’s waterfront: He stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed more than 400 pounds. He was best known as the proprietor of Our House, a popular hotel and restaurant on the south side of Mill Street, adjacent to the present day alley stretching south. (Oddly, there is no record of the hotel’s exact location). In 1882, Grose purchased 12 acres of land from pioneer Henry Yesler in Madison Valley (between 21st and 23rd Avenues around Madison Street) for $1,000 in gold, and became a prominent Seattle landholder and businessman. As he sold the property, it became home to most of Seattle’s 406 African American families, at least in 1900.

Also on the same block was William Hedges’ Hair Dressing and Shaving Saloon, where one could get hot, cold, and shower baths, according to Hedges’ newspaper advertisements in 1864. Hedges, thought to be a fugitive slave, had arrived in Seattle that year. Within seven years of his arrival, he had purchased a well-situated commercial lot in what is now Pioneer Square, as well as four acres on Capitol Hill and 47 acres on Green Lake. These three early residents formed the roots of Seattle’s African-American community, which would later grow to become the largest in the Northwest.

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