The Onarga: furnishings, flats and everything First Hill had to offer

By 1904, this Seattle slope was filling with rentals — and loads of opportunities within walking distance.

THE ONARGA, the midsized flats filling the center of this modest row of rentals, was most likely named for the small town founded in 1854 about 90 miles south of Chicago. That was three years after Seattle’s founder-pioneers first settled on Alki Point and in the Duwamish River Valley.

The street number 1108 for this apartment house on Seventh Avenue is tacked to the front door beneath a sign that reads, “Housekeeping Rooms for Rent.” If I have figured the evidence correctly, these apartments were opened to renters in late 1903 or 1904; newspaper listings for the Onarga began in 1904. I am especially fond of a classified ad in The Seattle Times on Sept. 18, 1904, which reads, “$200 CASH and eight monthly payments $25 each buys the furniture of a six-room well furnished flat. Large, light rooms, pantry closets, porcelain bath, coal and gas ranges, sideboard, golden oak furniture, French bevel plate dressers, folding and iron beds, Brussels carpets, Bigelow Axminster art squares. Rent $30. 1108 7th Avenue, first door.”

One would then — if I have read this correctly — have found these offered items in an apartment on the first floor. The Times ad was listed under “Wanted Furniture — 138.” To my reading, the ad’s creators seem to be selling the flat’s furnishings while also offering the large apartment itself for rent.

One of this flat’s best qualities is not noted in the ad. The Onarga, like its neighbors, was within walking distance of practically every urban need and/or opportunity. By 1904, after more than two decades of the Queen City’s booming growth, the western slope of First Hill was increasingly filling up with rentals, at the expense of single-family homes.

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