History of Seattle Municipal Railway's Division C, the streetcar line that once connected Burien with White Center and Seattle.
July 17, 2005
White Center Remembers pp 44-47

Jacob Ambaum


{ LOCATED ON THE PRESENT SITE OF St. Bernadette's School the Jacob Ambaums took up their first residence. Extremely adept at many ventures Jacob, a German immigrant, was a road builder, realtor, and chicken rancher. Another home was built next to this home in 1916 and this one was torn down. }

When Jacob Ambaum brought his wife Mary in 1902 to settle in the White Center area, he did not know that Ambaum Boulevard would be named after him. The 20 acres of heavily wooded forestland was a sharp contrast to their former home in Germany and Ohio. His property extended from 126th to 128th S.W. and from Ambaum Boulevard to 8th Avenue S.W. The land was purchased from F. M. Jordan of South Park. There was an existing house on the property which probably dated back to the 188O's. A new house was built in 1916 and the old one torn down.

Similarly to Ed Soloman in 1870 and others that had been in the area, Ambaum attempted to drain the Mayfair depression. He did meet with some success but the problem of flooding after a heavy rain still exists today, daughter, Mary Ambaum deLeuw, recalled riding a raft across the flooded pasture land which is now the Mayfair Shopping Center.

The only road to town (South Park) was a branch road from the old wagon trail which went from South Park up Myers Way to Hicks Lake and to 112th and on to Seola Beach.

As soon as he could gather equipment and a couple of teams of horses, Ambaum set out to do some road building. He did some work on the road that became known as the McKinnon Road (from Youngstown to White Center) before it was changed to Delridge Way.

{ IN 1902 THE JACOB AMBAUMS arrived in the community and purchased 20 acres from real estate and promotion agents Smith and Jordan at the northeast corner of 128th S.W. and Ambaum Way. A tax bill for the property dated 1904 was $10.70. They settled in the homestead house above. The house was bordered in the front by a large gate which was eventually flanked by imported Norway spruce. The south side of 128th S.W. and S.W. Ambaum was plagued then as now by flooding. Mary Ambaum DeLeuw, daughter of the Ambaums can remember riding a raft across the lake in the spring and in the summer the lake nearly dried up. Shown with Mary and Jacob Ambaum is Mrs. Ambaum's nephew, Joe Leffingwell who was "sent out to the farm from Ohio to be fattened up." }

The next section he cleared was the road bed from White Center (Roxbury) to Sam Metzlers place (112th), Later a piece was added as far as 116th and over to 12th S.W. Mike O'Day and his sons (Ed, John, Tom and Bill) with their team of horses and other pioneers (such as McCarthy, Smith, Williamson, Olson, Dahi, Cook, Budgoest, Babcock and Carr, to name a few) worked long hard nine hour days. The petition for the remainder of the road which went on to Burien and eventually to Des Moines Way was put in by Ambaum, The road was usable from White Center to Burien essentially at the same time that the car line was finished, which was 1912.

Besides his road building Jacob Ambaum joined a number of realtors and property owners such as George White, Sam Metzler and others in developing the Highland Park/Lake Burien Street Car Line. There was a joint effort among many people living along the line toward clearing the right of way. One old invoice indcates that as pole and tie contractor, Ambaum provided 60[0] cross ties (piled on Right of Way) at $.25 apiece and 600 cedar poles @ $1.00 apiece with 10% discount.

{MARY AMBAUM DE LEUW AND HER MOTHER, MARY AMBAUM, standing on Ambaum Boulevard looking north toward the family gate and property. }

The operation ran on a shoestring and the finances became so bad that the investment group asked Ambaum if he would be willing to take over the line. With his sense of humor he said, "As I understand the line only has about $80 to its name. Even I don't think that I could run a railroad on $80." Consequently, the City of Seattle took over the line after a major slide put it completely out of operation.

{AMBAUM with his dog and hat. This scene was taken at 128th and Ambaum Boulevard circa 1920. }

"When my father retired from road building he went into the poultry business. The street car would stop at our gate (near 128th and Ambaum) and pick up eggs. Various little grocery stores were our customers. Good German sauerkraut delivered in large crocks was one of our specialties later on when we delivered by automobile. Today children watch T.V. but one of my favorite pasttimes was to stand in front of the window of the electric incubators to watch the eggs hatch. My folks said I would have been content to sit for hours when they sat me down among the baby chicks in the brooder house,"

"We were always self sufficient in those days. We raised our own meat, made good German sausage and grew our own vegetables and fruit. When there was illness there was just the right herb cure in the garden. During the depression years we had dinner almost every Sunday for various friends from town and they were afterwards loaded up with food for the coming week before they left."

One of my happy memories from the twenties was how I looked forward to the Saturdays when my Uncle Frank Conrad who lived with us boarded the street car for town. I knew he would return just before supper time with a bag of candy or some other little treat for me. One time he brought home a strange fruit which I had never seen before. After tasting the rather half—ripe fruit, I dutifully pretended to be happy about my treat but when Uncle turned away I disposed of the rest. It was my introduction to bananas."

"Uncle Frank must have visited some of the Chinese shops off Pioneer Square because he would occasionally bring home an intriguing wooden box (with sliding panels) that slid open in sequence to reveal the key or a pretty Chinese silk scarf or fan."

Continuing to reminisce, Mary Ambaum de Leuw said "There are so many interesting stories I've heard over the years. One of my favorites is the one told by Jim Smith who lived east of L. Hicks on 4th Avenue S.W. ...

Posted by Rob Ketcherside at July 17, 2005 4:07 PM
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