Judge J. T. Ronald & His Legacy

Judge James T. Ronald House, Seattle, 2013, courtesy of Jeffrey Moidel
Judge James T. Ronald House, Seattle, 2013, courtesy of Jeffrey Moidel

News from a 2013 Preservation Special Projects recipient

Judge James T. Ronald House, Seattle © 2013, photo by Beth Dodrill
Judge James T. Ronald House, Seattle © 2013, photo by Beth Dodrill

Recently, the City of Seattle Landmarks Board reviewed and approved nomination of the Judge James T. Ronald House to the city’s landmarks register. This nomination was brought forth by the home’s current owner and was funded in part by 4Culture through the new Preservation Special Projects program.

Judge James T. Ronald first moved to Seattle in 1882 with his wife and daughter as a young attorney; shortly thereafter, becoming the new King County Deputy District Attorney and then mayor in 1892. In 1909, he accepted the governor’s appointment to the King County Superior Court, which he served on until he was 94 years old. In his 40 plus years on the bench, Judge Ronald became known for his upstanding character and no-nonsense ethics; his stance against political corruption in Seattle and his observations and actions during the anti-Chinese riots earning him a special place in local and national history. Off the bench, he was instrumental in the movement to build a West Coast highway from Vancouver, B.C. to the Mexican border, and was a proponent of the City purchasing land for public parks. Judge J.T. Ronald purchased the house in the Leschi neighborhood of Seattle in 1889, and then renovated and expanded it into a neoclassical mansion by 1904. According to his decedents, the house became “a hub of cultural and political events in Seattle’s early history, as the site of concerts, lectures and meetings.”

Although the Judge Ronald House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, the property had been neglected for many years and significant features had been altered. Beginning in 2006, the current owner has undertaken enormous efforts to restore the house to its 1904 neoclassical appearance. Although a significant portion of the exterior renovations have been completed, there still remains work to do. The property owner is seeking City of Seattle Landmark designation to better protect the house from future deterioration and inappropriate alterations, and to be eligible for additional support through local funders like 4Culture.

The first step towards designation is a landmark nomination, a potentially costly and time-consuming undertaking that many private property owners have little time or funding to undertake. 4Culture’s new Preservation Special Projects program was developed specifically to help support these types of basic preservation tasks (like landmark registration, neighborhood survey/inventory, and project planning), which had not previously been well funded in 4Culture’s other, older project-based funding programs. A thorough nomination records not only the physical attributes of a property (whether they are intact or altered), but the social history related to the property; the property’s significance in the community (at the local, state and/or national level); the history of ownership, and that significance to the community – all of which takes significant time to research and develop. Providing a funding opportunity that property owners could apply to, to hire professional help, is an important service 4Culture is glad to now be offering.

For more information about Judge Ronald and his former residence, read the full nomination at www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/documents/LPBCurrentNomJudgeRonaldHouseset.pdf. For more information about the City of Seattle’s landmarking process, visit the Department of Neighborhood’s website.