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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

San Juan County racial restrictive covenants

Racial restrictive covenants were not the principle means of racial exclusion in the San Juan Islands. Combing through county property records we have uncovered covenants restricting 101 properties in two subdivisions in Friday Harbor. They were imposed by real estate developers Herbert and Margaret Price along with San Juan County Bank in 1947 and 1949. At the time, the population of the county was less than 3,200, only 15 of whom were persons of color. The Prices and other white residents were probably worried that some of the 115 Japanese Americans who had lived in the islands before internment, might try to return. None did. In 1960, the county's still tiny population included only 18 persons identified as non-White.

The map below shows the two Friday Harbor subdivisions marked by racial restrictive covenants. Zoom and pan for a closer look. The Layers List below allows you to activate layers that show the racial demography of neighborhoods in the 2020.

(Maps by Liz Peng)


These are preliminary findings and subject to revision. We are still adding and confirming data. We are grateful to the San Juan County Auditor office for making it possible for us to search digital property records .

On the map above, do not assume that areas without marks were not restricted. Deed restrictions were only one of the mechanisms of segregation. Neighborhoods without covenants often practiced racial exclusion by other means.

When you click on a property, the pop-up displays address, subdivision (plat), the language of restriction, developer, initial date of restriction. Documentation can be either a deed, plat document covering all properties in the subdivision, CCR (separate document filed by developer covering the subdivision), petition filed by a group of owners covering their listed properties.

There is a logic to the geography. Areas platted (subdivided) between 1925 and 1950 were most likely to be restricted. Realtors and developers wrote racial exclusions into the initial documents subdividing a future neighborhood. All properties in the subdivision were thus legally restricted. It was more complicated to restrict older areas. Neighborhood associations sometimes organized petition drives and convinced white homeowners to add racial restriction clauses to their properties.