History of 50 South Division Street, Walla Walla, WA


Legal Description:

Beginning at the Southeast corner of Block 3 of Isaacs’ Second Addition to the City of Walla Walla, according to the official plat thereof recorded in the office of the Auditor of Walla Walla County, Washington, in Volume C of Plats at page 10; and running thence West, along the South line of said Block 3, a distance of 120 feet; thence North, parallel to the East line of said Block 3, a distance of 116 feet; thence East, parallel to the South line of said Block 3, a distance of 120 feet to a point in the East line of said Block 3, thence South, along said East line 116 feet to the point of beginning.

Title History:

Walla Walla was originally laid out by surveyor H.H. Case in 1859, even before its formal incorporation as a city in 1862, as a one quarter mile square oriented N-S, E-W with its eastern side centered on the point where Main Street crossed Mill Creek (at roughly the point where it does now). To this original area additional parcels were annexed from time to time, usually bearing the name of the landowner of record at the time the additions were made. 50 South Division is located in Isaacs Second Addition so named for Henry P. Isaacs, who developed several areas in the center part of Walla Walla. Isaacs Second Addition extended from Hobson street to the IOOF home on Boyer street.  On the east side of the property was a “boundary fence” which is now a part of Division St.

The first recorded property transaction pertaining to 50 South Division occurred on January 20, 1864 when William H. Patten and Elizabeth Patten sold an eighty acre parcel in the Northwest Corner of Section 21 to H.P. Isaacs for $2000. The next document, filed on April 6, 1866, declared that “Elizabeth Patten does not join in the execution or acknowledgment of this instrument.” No reason was given for her decision.

In addition to lots where homes would be built, the 80 acre parcel was the site of Isaacs’ North Pacific Flour Mill in what is now Wildwood Park. Isaacs was very influential in the development of Walla Walla as a wheat growing area. Lyman in his History of Walla Walla County states that Isaacs “demonstrated to the farmers that wheat could be produced profitably on the hills and uplands which in those early days had been given over to stock-raising.” He built numerous flour mills through the Northwest and “his knowledge of the manufacture and handling of flour become proverbial and he was recognized as an authority on all matters pertaining thereto.” He established markets for wheat in the Orient, especially China. The Isaacs and their son, J.C. Isaacs, also founded the Walla Walla Water Company, providing Walla Walla with a reservoir, ditches, conduits and the possibility of irrigation for crops. The right to utilize “subterranean” water is included in 1881 and 1886 documents pertaining to 50 South Division.

In August of 1900, following the death of H.P.Isaacs, Lucie Isaacs and her children sold “all of lots 6 and 7 in Block 3, Isaacs Second Addition to the City of Walla Walla” to W.J. Oldright for $500. In the 1902 City Directory, Oldright is listed as a carpenter and then pattern maker for the Gilbert Hunt Co. W.J. Oldright died in 1907. Alice Oldright, his widow, filed a “Declaration of Homestead” in January of 1909. She stated “that her now deceased husband never exercised his right under the law of claiming a homestead as by law allowed and that the house where the undersigned is residing with her family, more particularly described as lots 6 & 7 of Block 3 of Isaacs Second Addition to the City of Walla Walla, was the community property of descendants and herself.” City directories list members of the Oldright family as residing in the house until 1917. Following that date were numerous residents, apparently renting the house from the Oldright descendants until 1947 when the house must have been demolished to make room for the construction of the present home at 50 South Division. The former address of 929 Hobson no longer exists.

On January 9, 1947 Win C. Estes and Iris N. Estes sold parts of Lots 6 & 7 (“south of the southerly line of the bulkhead on the South Bank of Mill Creek”) in Isaacs Block 3 to Ralph Rader and Ruth Rader for an unstated amount. Ralph Rader was a wheat and pea farmer with several pieces of land “up Lewis Peak Road” north of Walla Walla. Both Raders died in the early 1980’s. The property was inherited by their daughters, Carolyn Joan Wilson and Harriet Ann Allen, who negotiated the sale of the home for $96,000 to J. Walter Weingart and Katherine H. Weingart on November 20, 1986. Walter Weingart was a history professor at Whitman College; Katherine Weingart was a psychology instructor at Walla Walla Community College. Both are currently retired.

50 South Division gained some notoriety in the “McCarthy era.” Shortly after the house was built, it was broken into by investigators from the Un-American Activities Committee of the state legislature,  popularly known as the Canwell Committee after its chairman from Spokane. This was an organization that was convinced that a group University of Washington professors were Communists. Among this group was Melvin Rader, Ralph Rader’s brother, a philosophy professor at the University of Washington. Evidently they found no evidence and Rader’s name was eventually cleared although other UW professors lost their jobs under questionable circumstances.

Construction of the House:

The Walla Walla County Assessor’s Office folder for 50 South Division gives 1948 as the building date. On October 29, 1947 a building permit was issued to Ralph Rader for a new home which was estimated to cost $15,000.  The contractor was Leo Hagan, who resided at 223 White St., Walla Walla. On January 27, 1948 Rader obtained a second building permit for a 1000 gallon oil tank which was installed on the north side of the house.

The architect for the house was R.H. Logan, then residing in Yakima, who went on to practice architecture in California. According to the Rader daughters, the windows were the first “double windows” to be installed in Walla Walla. The date of December 31, 1947 is observable on the original windows, confirming the 1948 construction date. The 1949 City Directory is the first listing for the Raders’ occupancy. No listing is given for them in the 1948 City Directory, probably indicating that construction was not completed before the directory went to press.  The house was assessed at $293,000 in 2006.

Resources used:

Penrose Library Northwest Archives

Walla Walla Public Library Northwest History collection

Pioneer Title Co. documents for this property

Sanborn Fire Maps

Walla Walla City Directories

Walla Walla County Courthouse vault resources and Assessor’s Office

Interviews with neighbors


Katherine H. Weingart
Walla Walla 2020 Research Service
P.O. Box 1222, Walla Walla WA 99362
November, 2007