14
arches
autumn
2013
zeitgeist
the faces behind the buildings
Langlow House
Residence for second-year students in the Honors Program
by Greg Spadon
i
At the turn of the 20th century a man with the unlikely name of
Govnor Teats, a successful personal-injury attorney, established the
Star Berry and Poultry Farm on 11 acres in North Tacoma. In 1906
he built a showpiece house on the northwest corner of the farm,
beside a dusty stub of Alder Street, which would eventually bisect the
property. Later to be known as Langlow House, it was not as grand
as the homes that the timber and railroad barons built a bit farther
north, but it was several times the size of the average tract home of
the day and lavishly furnished, easily making it the finest home in the
neighborhood.
With his law practice thriving, and the farm well established and
house completed, Teats devoted a substantial portion of his time to
public service. He favored progressive causes, often hosting partisan
political meetings in his spacious home, which also served as the
neighborhood polling place during general elections. In 1910 he ran
for state representative, with a specific legislative agenda in mind:
Pass a law to benefit injured industrial workers. He won the election
and methodically set about to achieve his goal. In the 1911 legislative
session he was the author, sponsor, and most vocal supporter of the
state’s first workmen’s compensation law. Not incidentally, it was also
the first U.S. workmen’s compensation law to survive a constitutional
challenge in the courts, a fact that has been all but lost to history.
Today it’s generally accepted that the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist
Factory fire in 1911 prompted state lawmakers around the country to
enact legislation to protect injured workers, with Wisconsin widely cred-
ited with passing the first such law little more than a month later. But
the fact is that Washington state signed the Teats bill into law 11 days
before
the tragic fire in New York City. Workmen’s compensation didn’t
get its start in New York or Wisconsin; it began in Tacoma, at 1218 N.
Alder St.
Meanwhile, the Star Berry Farm, with a full-time manager, was
booming. The poultry side of the farm had guineas; turkeys; silver,
golden, and Chinese pheasants; 2,500 leghorn laying hens; and a variety
of roosters headed by one named John L. IV, “the first-prize cockerel at
Oakland, 1910, and winner of the Scrutton Cup.” Teats advertised the
farm’s products heavily in the
Tacoma Times,
with great success.
In 1920, when Puget Sound President Edward H. Todd envisioned
the land just half a block to the west of the Star Berry Farm as the
future home of the college, Teats took full advantage. Winding down
his poultry and berry operations, in 1922 he renamed his property
College Addition, platted the acreage into building lots, and put them
up for sale.
But by 1926, having given up his law practice two years earlier when
he was elected a superior court judge, and with sales in College Addition
poor, Teats appeared to be in financial trouble when he put his beloved
house up for sale. The large newspaper ad he ran in June, complete with
an artist’s sketch of the stately home, said he would drop the price of the
house by $12,000 to sell it by the end of the week. With prices of new
homes in the neighborhood ranging from $3,500 to $5,000, a $12,000
cut was enormous. It was not incentive enough, however, as the house
didn’t sell that summer—or during Teats’ lifetime. He died in Septem-
ber of 1926 at the age of 67, just three weeks after all his unsold proper-
ties, including the house, were taken over by a local bank.