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Benjamin F. McAdoo - Ota Residence

Any survey of historical black architectural sites within Washington state is incomplete without a deep consideration of Benjamin F. McAdoo - the first Black architect registered in Washington State - and the way his work positively affected the black community in Seattle. As a social and political activist, Benjamin F. McAdoo spoke out against the harmful consequences of property redlining, segregation, and opportunity-based discrimination. McAdoo was not merely one of the most prominent voices in his community, he was also an advocate for other marginalized communities in the state, such as Seattle’s large Japanese population, that was still reeling from the effects of internment a decade earlier.

In 1955-56, Kengi and Kemi Ota commissioned Benjamin F. McAdoo to design a single-family residence. Located in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, this project would signify the return and regrowth of the Japanese community after World War II. Together they would create a fusion of pacific northwest modernist architecture and traditional Japanese architecture.

The Ota residence features mid-century modern elements such as a prominent carport, a double-stack chimney, and articulated horizontal planes. While McAdoo stayed true to his architectural style in form and materiality, he incorporated features of cultural importance for his clients. This included an entry shoji screen, a tokonoma, and a rock garden. Despite both of their communities living under strict redlining housing ordinance at the time of construction, the Ota residence symbolizes perseverance and resilience. The residence has been preserved with care by the current owner, and still stands today as a powerful historic example of how social and political events can shape our built environments.

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