Minnie Kraus was a young woman who made a real estate investment in northeast Seattle in 1918, filing a plat which she named after herself. A “plat” is a section of land, any size, for which a map of streets and house lots is laid out.
Minnie was 24 years old in that year of 1918 and she was in the first generation of young women in Washington State who could vote in elections, as of 1910. “Universal womens suffrage” finally came throughout the USA on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. This changed the Constitution to guarantee all women across the USA the right to vote. Most American women voted for the first time in the presidential election of 1920.
During her lifetime Minnie experienced extremes in society’s expectations and demands of women. During war years it was thought to be OK for women to take up jobs in the absence of men who had gone into the military. During times of economic depression such as the 1930s, some women were laid off because Washington State employment policy favored male heads of households; it was thought that married women should keep house and let men be wage earners.
As of 1918 when she filed a plat of land for income from real estate, Minnie was part of a movement to show that women were not weak or fragile, arguments which had been used by people opposed to granting voting rights for women. Minnie fit the profile of the “new American woman” who was well-educated and independent. Minnie worked at a job outside the home and she even drove a car.
Minnie’s two sisters never married and they became teachers, a traditional job for women, but Minnie followed a nontraditional path of continuing to work at an office job and real estate sales even after she got married. Perhaps Minnie named her land investment after herself to show that she stood behind her sales, that the opportunity to buy house lots in her plat was a good investment.
The Kraus sisters launch careers in 1918
The year 1918 was a busy one for Minnie Kraus and her older sister, Ada. The two sisters were college graduates but had not yet obtained permanent employment, so they decided to spend the summer of 1918 on income-producing ventures. One was the land plat for which Minnie hoped to sell house lots, and the other was a joint effort with Ada, to raise and sell pigs.
A Seattle Times news article of June 30, 1918, described Minnie and Ada as “Seattle Farmerettes Raising Pigs.” The article referred to the background of the World War One years and that the two young women were contributing to the nation’s food supplies in the absence of men to do these jobs.
Two University of Washington girl graduates are sole owners, waterers, feeders and carpenters for 108 hogs…The girls are farmerettes of the energetic, capable type. …They drive through town on their farm truck…”
“The girls were graduated from the university in 1915 and 1916 with never an idea of transmitting their college education to the animal kingdom. Then came the war… (World War One)… They started Aldermere Farm on 150 acres of land near Bothell, under strictly feminine management.” (Excerpts from the article in the Seattle Daily Times, June 30, 1918, page 5. Photos by Webster & Stevens.)
Minnie sells house lots in Lake City
The June 1918 news article also mentioned that Minnie had been working at a real estate office in the University District. That may be how she came into knowledge of a piece of property for sale in what is now the Lake City neighborhood of northeast Seattle, which was outside of the Seattle City Limits at that time.
The name of the Lake City neighborhood came about gradually, attributed to the first plats with similar names, the Lake Side City and Lake City plats which had been filed in 1906-1907, located east of 38th Ave NE between NE 110th to 125th Streets. (See the Lake City article on this blog for these plat maps.)
The Minnie Kraus plat, shown below, was filed with King County in 1918. It was a subdivision of some sections of the Lake Side City plat between NE 113th to 115th Streets, from 38th Ave NE on the western edge of this plat map, to one block east of the present Sand Point Way NE (shown on the map as Broadway).
Minnie’s plat used the previous section numbers and street names assigned in the Lake Side City plat map, and she simply divided the blocks into smaller house lots. (See source list at the end of this article for a key to the street names in the plat). The top line of the plat is NE 115th Street, extending from 38th Ave NE to just east of Sand Point Way NE.
Living in Lake City before 1920
We may wonder whether Minnie thought that her plat would be successful right away, as to whether she would have income from selling house lots.
Purchasers of lots in the Minnie Kraus plat might not have built a house immediately after their lot purchase. The location was remote, with few roads and with no City utilities. Houses were built in Lake City slowly over many decades as north Seattle grew. It would not be until 1937 that Minnie herself would go to live in her plat.
Lake City was already becoming known by that name before 1920 and it was a growing area with a commercial district along what is now Lake City Way NE. Lake City Way NE did not yet exist, but there was the Erickson Road which had been completed in 1916. Developers promoted Lake City as an ideal balance of a less expensive place to live but with access to businesses and the convenience of travel via Erickson Road to Seattle.
Later in the 1920s, Sand Point Way NE was put through in response to the creation of the Naval Air Station with its gate at about NE 74th Street. That was outside of the Seattle City Limits but the City coordinated with King County for creation of Sand Point Way NE. Cross-streets such as NE 65th and 95th began to be put through, as well.
With the increasing accessibility of Lake City by road in the 1920s, more people were moving to the area but only those who were willing to live without electricity and running water. This rural lifestyle was the reason why older plats, like the original Lake Side City plat map of 1906, had large lots. In early years Lake City people needed a well water source on their property, they needed space for outbuildings such as a woodshed for fuel and they were likely to want space for a large vegetable garden and possibly a chicken house. Moving to Lake City involved establishing a sustainable lifestyle with one’s own garden.
Many early Lake City residents had cars, even before 1920, because there was no other way to get to work. Lake City houses most often had a free-standing garage as people were not yet convinced that it was safe to park a car close to the house; they were afraid of fire from the gasoline engine.
The Kraus sisters finish college and launch careers
The year 1918 was a pivotal one for the three Kraus sisters as they transitioned out of college and into careers.
It takes about six months for pigs to reach marketable weight, so it is likely that by September 1918, Minnie and Ada had sold their pigs and closed the farm. Minnie & Ada’s mother was living in West Seattle, and after the “summer of pigs” Ada moved back home with her mother and got a job as a high school teacher. Minnie got a job as an office worker in a department of the University of Washington. The youngest Kraus sister, Ethel Margaret, graduated from the University of Washington and traveled to Japan to teach in an International School in Tokyo.
Ada Kraus only lived to be 57 years old. When she died in 1949 after a long career as a home economics teacher at Roosevelt High School, the newspaper reported that she left an estate of $50,000 in trust to her mother. This is not what we would expect for a schoolteacher, and we can guess that Ada had conserved her investments from real estate.
Minnie marries Joseph Brugger
In 1928 at age 34 Minnie married Joseph Brugger, a mariner who worked for a shipping line. The couple lived in the University District for several more years, which would have been most convenient for Minnie since she worked at the university. Finally in 1937 the couple built their own house in the Minnie Kraus plat at 11337 Alton Ave NE.
We may speculate on how Minnie & Joseph met, and what drew them together as they seemed to have had very disparate backgrounds.
Joseph Brugger was three years younger than Minnie and they married on his 31st birthday, April 25, 1928. Joseph’s oldest brother Abe was one of the witnesses at the wedding ceremony, along with Minnie’s younger sister Ethel Margaret. Joseph & Minnie were married at the Episcopal church which Minnie attended, Trinity Parish Church in Seattle.
Joseph Brugger, husband of Minnie Kraus
Joseph Brugger was born in Skagit County, Washington, a farming and logging region located about 70 miles north of Seattle. Joseph’s parents were immigrants from Switzerland. His father, a carpenter, died of typhoid in 1905 when Joseph was only eight years old.
The census of 1910 showed that the widowed Mrs. Brugger was taking in laundry for income. Mrs. Brugger’s two oldest sons, Abe and Howard, only went through sixth grade in school because they had to go out to work to help support the family of five children. Joseph finished sixth grade in 1910 and then he, too, went out to work.
When World War One came, in 1918 Joseph registered for the draft but was disqualified because he was blind in one eye. Despite this disability, Joseph had already begun working as an apprentice seaman for a shipping line, a career which he would follow to retirement.
Joseph Brugger and his two older brothers, Abe and Howard, stayed close all of their lives. It is possible that one of Joseph’s brothers had introduced him to Minnie Kraus, after the brothers bought lots in her plat.
Records show that Abe and Howard were early purchasers of house lots in the Minnie Kraus plat and lived there before Joseph & Minnie moved to the plat themselves. Abe Brugger lived at 3626 NE 115th Street and Howard lived across the intersection from Abe at 3805 NE 115th Street. In later years the census showed that the Brugger brothers’ widowed mother, Mary, was living at 115th & Alton, close to all three of her sons.
Joseph & Minnie were not equally matched in family background, education or type of career. Minnie was a city girl, a college graduate, founding member of a sorority chapter at the University of Washington and an aspiring career woman. Joseph Brugger was a first-generation American with a sixth-grade education. His career was as a mariner with a shipping company, traveling back and forth to the Far East.
In the 1930s it was unusual for a married woman to continue to work and drive her own car to work as Minnie did. Minnie had her separate interests, such as her church activities and sorority reunions, but the couple stayed together all of their lives, more than forty years until Joseph’s death in 1970.
In his retirement years in the 1960s Joseph Brugger was active in the Lake City community and he was featured in a newspaper article in July 1964 about his Lake City fireworks stand. A last note from him was a letter to the editor which appeared in the Seattle Times newspaper on August 25, 1965. Mr. Brugger appealed for interested persons to formulate a plan to raise the Skagit Belle, a sternwheeler which was partially submerged on the Seattle waterfront. Mr. Brugger remarked that he had begun his maritime career on a similar sternwheeler, the Gleaner, on the Skagit River in 1918.
Sources and resources:
SHOUT OUT to the Tremaine family, residents of the Minnie Kraus plat, whose inquiry led me to trace the story of Minnie. THANK YOU!
The research for this blog post was done entirely on-line due to the closure of all in-person archives as of March 13, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Constitutional Rights Foundation: Spring 2004, 20:2, “How Women Won the Right to Vote.” Accessed 8/25/2020.
King County Parcel Viewer: Put in an address and click through to “property detail” to see the build date, land data, and a photo of the house. On the right margin of the page is the link to open the plat maps.
Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project: An example of employment policy during economic depression: In 1936 the University of Washington began firing married female staff members and either closing the jobs or putting men in place.
Seattle Now and Then: Lost Landmarks at Pier 51: column by Seattle historian Paul Dorpat tells of the 1962 World’s Fair attractions, the Polynesian restaurant and the Skagit Belle sternwheeler.
Seattle Public Library: census and newspaper search via Genealogy resources.
Secretary of State: Washington Leads the Way – Votes for Women.
Side Sewer Card Research: these on-line cards show that as of the 1950s, the three Brugger brothers were owners of their homes.
Washington Digital Archives: dates of birth, death, and marriage.
Newspaper articles in chronological order: (accessed on-line through the Seattle Public Library genealogical resources/newspaper search)
“Two University Girls Developing Prosperous Hog Farm Near Seattle, Sole Owners of New Venture Learn to Water, Feed and Tend Pigs in Effort to Contribute to Increase of Nation’s Food Supply.” Seattle Daily Times, 30 June 1918, page 5. Photos by Webster & Stevens.
“$50,000 Left by Ada Kraus.” Seattle Daily Times, 3 February 1949, page 3.
“Fireworks stand in Lake City, Joseph Brugger & George Wisman.” Seattle Times, 4 July 1964, page 1.
Letter to the Editor, Seattle Times, 25 August 1965, page 10. Joseph Brugger protests the fate of the Skagit Belle, partially submerged at the downtown Seattle waterfront.
“Fiftieth Anniversary of the University of Washington Chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority.” Seattle Times, 17 October 1965, page 85. The article tells that guests of honor at the banquet on October 25th will be ten charter members including Mrs. Joseph Brugger. Today this sorority house is at 1906 NE 45th Street.
Key to street names in the Minnie Kraus plat: these street names were assigned in the 1906 Lake Side City plat map and Minnie did not change them in her subdivision.
The City of Seattle passed a street-naming ordinance in 1895 but Lake City remained outside of the City Limits for many more years, and Lake City developers did not conform to Seattle regulations. Later, probably in the 1920s, more streets were added in the area of the Minnie Kraus plat as some present streets are not shown on the original plat map, including Alton, Bartlett, Durland and Exeter Avenues NE. Probably the blocks were “too big” and more streets were put through to create access to smaller residential lots.
Here is a list of the street names shown on the Minnie Kraus plat, and what they are named now:
Top line, Superior Street: NE 115th Street.
Bottom line, Lincoln Street: NE 113th Street.
Avenues from left to right:
Delaware Avenue: 38th Ave NE
Highland: 39th Ave NE
Euclid: Alton Ave NE
Block 10: no street shown, but now Bartlett Ave NE divides Section 10.
Broadway: Sand Point Way NE
Blocks 8 & 9: no street shown, but now Durland Ave NE divides these blocks.
Lakeview: Exeter Ave NE
Seattle Street names: The Great Renaming of 1895 set up the current system of naming streets and avenues. I have written blog articles about downtown Seattle street names, about street names in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle and about ways to find the meaning of other street names. Seattle historian Rob Ketcherside has a searchable table of street names and has added some north Seattle neighborhoods like Green Lake and Fremont.
Thank you for the great read this morning. Do you know when Minnie died?
Minnie lived until 1973, three years after her husband died, and Minnie died after her mother and two sisters. She is buried along with her mother and sisters, but I did not use a photo of the grave marker because the dates on the marker are wrong!
The article about the Minnie Kraus Plat was fascinating! I didn’t realize for example that houses of the time usually had free-standing garages because “people were not yet convinced that it was safe to park a car close to the house”! I’d always assumed that early garages were separate because they’d been converted from separate stables after the horse-and-buggy era was over, but it makes sense that people might be afraid that the newfangled “horseless carriages” could explode!
Donald, you are right on both counts. Early folks in northeast Seattle had various outbuildings such as a chicken house and some of these were converted to garages later. The idea of cars not being safe, is anecdotal but people definitely did build free-standing garages up until later.