The above image is of the first property I was aware of belonging to Harvey Rowe. When we moved here, it looked pretty much the same. At one point, it had a large sign mounted on the roof, telling government workers to stay off the property. Harvey had apparently moved two buildings onto this lot without a permit. Neither the white house, nor the small brown duplex on the left, are habitable or belong on the property, yet they have been there for more than a quarter century. The 500 sq ft house that does belong on the property and is habitable, is not in view. I slowly learned that the relatively well-maintained yard with a deteriorating house was the signature of Harvey’s property, though the yards are not always well maintained.
Houses are what I enjoy looking at the most while on my walks. I admire those that are well designed and maintained, but despair over those left to deteriorate. When I see a house of interest, I research it. I’m not sure how long it took me to realize that most of the houses I found in a state of disrepair belonged to Harvey. A while back, I switched from looking up interesting properties to finding the houses that Harvey owns.
I don’t know much about Harvey, except that he apparently grew up in Highland Park and was, until recently, the president of the West Seattle Lion’s Club. I have said “hello” to him when he was mowing the lawn, but have not spoken with him. By all indications, Harvey is a nice guy. This is indicated by his work with the Lion’s Club and people that have spoken with him say that he is very congenial. My exchange of greetings in passing would suggest the same. While Harvey may have had positive impacts on West Seattle in other ways, his houses are nearly all empty, blights in their neighborhood and mostly on the East side of West Seattle.
My brother spoke to him years ago, wanting to buy the property which was next to the house my brother owned at the time. The small cute house was empty (and still is) but Harvey wasn’t interested in selling, saying something about needing to preserve affordable housing; a noble intent with an inexplicable approach.
I have found 20 properties in West Seattle, with a total assessed value of over $4 million. Harvey repeatedly challenges the tax assessments, with many of the properties no longer allowing much, if anything, for improvements. Some of these houses were landmark houses at one point. One of the houses was the one used as Frances Farmer’s house in the film Frances. You can see a little bit of the house in this clip at Amazon. It is the one that she heads to, though you mostly see the porch and stairs.
Above is a picture of the house at the time this was written. Below are two film captures from the film Frances. Note that you can see the address on the first one.
Another house of distinction is that one that Harvey apparently lives in. My understanding is that this house was originally in Georgetown and was moved up to Highland Park. The “year built” is listed as 1910, which is when I would assume it was moved. You can see it in the distance from this picture taken in 1932. The taller of the two houses and the one in front of it are both his. If you click on the first link, you will see the owner listed as “FICKLE MARGUERITE A”, but she would be over 100 and this house is the mailing address for all of his properties.
The 1940 census finds the Victor C Rowe family in Missoula. Marguerite is 29 (born circa 1911) and Harvey is 8 (born circa 1932). In 2015, that would make Marguerite 104 and Harvey 83. They show up in the Seattle directory in 1942, living by Highland Park Playground. In 1943, widow Marguerite (WWII?) is living at 8850 9th Ave SW (the house above). In 1954, Marguerite has married Nelson Fickle and they are living in the same house. In 1971, the Fickles are no longer listed at the house, but Harvey still is. Harvey stops listing his phone in 1980, but it remains the contact number for Lions Club events. In 1984, Marguerite transfers Nelson’s old house (9057 10th Ave SW) to the Minnesota Investors Trust for $0. The mailing address for the trust is Harvey’s house. This is the only house I see that is owned by the trust.
The total assessed value of the properties is over $4 million. The actual value is far greater, as is the damage to the neighborhoods with these properties.
Below is a map of Harvey’s properties. I have provided links to the King County records so that you can easily verify the owner. Click on the brackets ([ ]) to open a new window. Street views will give you fairly current pictures of what the property looks like.
Below is a list of the addresses with street views. Click on the image to go to Google Street View.
3003 SW Webster St – House appeared to be vacant.
Note: This house has since been fixed up and is being used.
3868 16th Ave SW – House is obviously vacant.
After several years of searching records, including going through microfilm in the King County Archives, I thought I had found all of his properties. One commenter stated that he knows of one being rented, but I don’t have that address yet. Another commenter pointed me to one that I missed. I expect there will be more to come.
8603 22nd Ave SW – Stated by a commenter that it has been vacant for 40 years. Only by looking through the neighbor’s yard can you see the house. Otherwise, it looks like a section of forest.
4054 19TH AVE SW – Identified by a reader. Listed as being owned by “Nebraska Investors Trust”, which it was transferred to by Harvey’s mother’s name. Similar to the house held by the “Minnesota Investors Trust”, it appears to be the only one. The primary house appears to be lived in and is in OK shape. Then there is a litte shack in back with a tarp on it.