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Segregated Seattle

Aryans Only Neighborhood

The most intriguing of the nearly 500 racial restrictive deeds and covenants that we have located covers a five-acre subdivision in Clyde Hill, near Bellevue. Between 1946 and 1948, J. Gordon and Mary Schneidler subdivided and sold more than a dozen lots. Each deed of sale included the following restriction:

“This property shall not be resold, leased, rented or occupied except to or by persons of the Aryan race.”

The concept of an Aryan (or Nordic) race had been popular in the early part of the 20th century. Race scientists taught that there were several distinct European races and that the northern European Aryan race was superior to eastern and southern European races. Hitler embraced the theory of Aryan superiority and turned it into a genocidal strategy before and during World War II. By 1946, the full dimensions of the Nazi holocaust were known everywhere. Given that post-war context, it is doubly surprising that this language was still in use.

Anti-Semitic restrictions were not uncommon. Our database of restrictive covenants includes at least a dozen neighborhoods that excluded Jews, but none of the others used the Aryan racial concept. Broadmoor’s developer, the Puget Mill Company, used the term “Hebrew” in its restriction, as did the Sand Point Country Club, and the South Seattle Land Company which developed a number of subdivisions in South King County, and the Westlands Investment Company which subdivided 272 parcels in the Sandpoint neighborhood. The J.M. Coleman Company required that residents of its Windermere subdivision be of the “white and Gentile race.” In the Sibley Wood area of Bellevue residents had to be of the “white and Gentile and Caucasian race.”

Why the Schneidlers used the term “Aryan race” is unclear. That racial concept meant northern Europeans as distinct from eastern and southern Europeans. The Clyde Hill Aryans-only restriction would have excluded people of Italian, Greek, Polish, and Russian ancestry as well as Jews and all non Europeans.

J. Gordon Schneidler played an important role in the development of Bellevue and the eastside. Born in Washington in 1902 and trained as an industrial engineer, he had worked for Boeing during WWII, then briefly served as an official of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce before helping to create the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and becoming its first Executive Secretary in 1946. In that role he helped launch the Pacific Northwest Arts and Crafts Fair and was active in the planning that led to Bellevue incorporation in 1950. In 1958, he left the Chamber to go full time into real estate, working first for McAusland Realty Co. then John L. Scott company, serving as Division Director of that company for many years. Mary Schneidler was prominent in East Side social and arts circles.

The couple bought a five-acre parcel of the Lake Washington Garden Tracts in unincorporated Clyde Hill in the 1940s and proceeded to divide and sell most of the property, preserving a lot at highest point in subdivision for their own home. Homes in the area were built between 1947 and 1953.