Shelf Life Community Story Project
Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle's Central District.
Cecil Beattysmaller.jpg

Housing Options

Portrait by Henry Luke

Portrait by Henry Luke

Cecil Beatty moved to Washington state from Oklahoma, during World War II, to work as a machinist in the shipyards. In the early fifties, he bought a home on 31st and Olive, in the Madrona neighborhood (pictured here). After that, he made his living as a house painter and then working for the real estate agent, Morris Hardcastle, who had sold him his home. 

Cecil Beatty

Well, when I came here there were certain districts you could buy a home in. Like from say Madison to Jackson, from 19th down to maybe 25th. And anything outside of that, no one would loan you any money to buy a home. And since there was no homes for sale, there were no apartments for rent. So we stayed in homes, rented one bedroom. I lived in a house with four bedrooms at 16th and Jefferson, and there was four families in there, each one had a room, shared the kitchen and the bath. And that's the way we lived in 1943.

And they had what they called temporary homes, where there was no running water. You only had electricity, so you had to make a fire in the stove to heat water to wash your face or take a bath. And no refrigeration, so we went down to Columbia City and bought ice, brought it back up and put it in the ice box. 

Well there was a realtor here named Hardcastle, and he owned a real estate company at 24th and Union. Right on the corner where the big high rise going up now. So what he did was that he would buy the home in a block and then sell it to a minority, then go next door and tell the neighbor next door, "The value of your house is gonna decrease, because a black person just moved in next door. So I can get you a good price now before you go down." So naturally they would sell. They call that block busting. They did that all over the United States. Where it first started, I don't know, but I know Hardcastle did it here in Seattle. So, just one, one, one. Pretty soon we had that whole Central Area.
He belonged to that real estate club, so they put him out. They didn't want nothing to do with him. And other real estate companies, Windermere and all those places, they wouldn't even let you in the front door, you couldn't even get in the front door, no. We won't sell you any homes. 

But you couldn't get a loan outside of that square. They called it redlining. Now if you wanted to buy a house outside the district, like my doctor, Dr Joyner, wanted to live down on Lake Washington Boulevard, so he got a friend of his, a white lady, to buy the house. And then she quit claim deeded it over to him. That's how he moved down on Lake Washington Blvd. Otherwise, you couldn't buy a house down there.