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Press Release

Contact: Wendy Wiley
(425) 221-1362  |

Mysterious Builder of Seattle Landmarks Proves Immigrants Invaluable

New memoir reveals scandalous liaison and remarkable contributions to Seattle

Seattle, WA (January 16, 2018) – The current debate over immigration is deeply rooted in the fabric of Seattle’s creation as shown in the new memoir THE MYSTERIOUS BUILDER OF SEATTLE LANDMARKS: Searching for My Father by Paula Pederson Palmer. After decades of believing her mother’s tale that Danish immigrant Hans Pederson left them penniless, Paula uncovers the truth about her father’s incredible contributions to the Pacific Northwest that Larry Kreisman of Historic Seattle, credits as filling an important gap in architectural history.

The historical memoir dispels the author’s fear that she was a bastard child, but reveals her birth as the result of a scandalous liaison between terminally ill, recently widowed, Hans Pederson and his nurse 42 years younger. Paula’s mother was that young Ukrainian nurse from Canada who inherited Pederson’s estate when he died the year after they wed. Paula was one month old. The outraged family sued, resulting in a record-breaking 20-year lawsuit.

“This scandal surprised me, but I take heart that my father immigrated with nearly nothing and ended up providing housing and employment for the wave of Scandinavian immigrants pouring in during the depression,” says Pederson.

Pederson began her search in 2008 after struggling with depression due to her disjointed childhood. “My mother’s secrecy was fueled by shame,” she says. “Now, I better understand her desperation born from fear of poverty during the Great Depression.”

Several Seattle institutions assisted with the difficult task of uncovering the bread-crumb path to discover Hans Pederson’s legacy. “MOHAI librarian Carolyn Marr was particularly helpful,” says Pederson, “and I’m especially grateful to Fred Poyner of the Nordic Heritage Museum, Larry Kreisman of Historic Seattle and Susan Haris, Univ. of Washington Dept. of Scandinavian Studies Advisory Board  member.”

MYSTERIOUS BUILDER OF SEATTLE LANDMARKS is available in Print and eBook through Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, Kobo and where books are sold.

Author Notes: Paula started her life journey in Seattle, but has lived in Singapore, Shanghai, Honolulu, New York, New Jersey, Maine and North Carolina. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in English Literature. She formerly enjoyed technical writing and editing posts pertaining to medical, environmental, and engineering issues.

To book author interview or appearance contact:
Wendy Wiley, VIE Publishing
425 221-1362


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What People Say – Reviews

“Paula Pederson’s discoveries about her father Hans have filled an important gap in regional architectural history knowledge by revealing her father’s many accomplishments in the Pacific Northwest. The publication provides a partial list of a remarkable range and variety of buildings and infrastructure projects that he undertook during a long and successful career—commerce and institutions, hotels, theaters, apartments, schools, bridges and piers. Many of them are still standing, and that reflects on the knowledge and management skills of this prolific contractor.”
Program Director, Historic Seattle

“He was Hans Pederson, one of the leading architects, contractors and builders in the American Northwest, whose far-reaching vision left a distinctive imprint on his adopted Seattle. Pederson helped define the personality of what has become the 18th largest city in the United States today. But it is the author who we get to know best in a story that begins in Shanghai and ends in Maine. And it is the manner in which Paula tells her story that makes this book read like a long, newsy letter from a friend rather than a biography or more to the point, her autobiography. And this is precisely what makes this book so charming, and exceptional, and such an addictive read.”
The Hardscrabble Chronicles

“A fascinating glimpse behind the skyline of Seattle.”
From Plassey to Pakistan: the Family History of Iskander Mirza, the First President of Pakistan 2014

“Paula has a most interesting and engaging book. I very much like the way she has combined the general interest in Hans as prominent Seattle builder with the intense personal meaning that he has for her. Paula’s depictions of her mother and others is nuanced and complex; she allows the reader, who grows indignant toward their behavior, to also understand and sympathize with them. Finally, the larger story of immigrants reads familiar with so many of us: in my own case, Swedes to Nebraska and then California, Germans to Nebraska and then Spokane. For my wife: Irish to Wisconsin, then Montana. There is no end to these particular stories, and now I can add Ukrainians to Alberta and Danes to Washington.”
People’s China: A Brief History

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About the Author

Paula Pederson started her life journey in Seattle, Washington, but has lived in Singapore, Shanghai, Honolulu, New York, New Jersey, Maine and North Carolina. Educated abroad and on the east coast, Pederson’s elite schooling taught her much about the nuances of social echelons and how that affects one’s life choices.

Her greatest challenge and reward has come from being the mother of five and grandmother of five. Parenting enlightened her insight into her own complicated relationship with her mother and fueled her desire to find out about her father Hans Pederson.

Armed with this accumulated life experience and consumed with curiosity, Pederson’s quest to find her father in spite of her mother’s reticence became a passion later in life.

Her fiction and nonfiction writing includes two unpublished novels, this memoir and a weekly blog. She formerly enjoyed technical writing and editing posts pertaining to medical, environmental, and engineering issues. Earlier years included development work for schools and handicapped children. She graduated from Smith College with a degree in English Literature and spent one glorious summer as a seaside gardener in a resort on the coast of Maine.

Pederson writes about immigrants and pioneers who came by train to Northwestern North America, expatriates to the Far East, and her love for Maine. She believes fragments of the past help us to understand who we are. Hunting for her father’s legacy and writing The Mysterious Builder Of Seattle Landmarks: The Search for My Father, has shown her the timeless imprint family leaves on husbands, wives, daughters, sons, and grandchildren.

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Hans Pederson’s Construction List

Partial List

*Note: As a Dane, his name should have been spelled Pedersen, but a stationery order delivered to him misspelled his name as Pederson, so he kept this spelling since another Seattle contractor spelled his name Pedersen.

Pederson and his family or his construction company had a part in the building or development of the following list of buildings in the Puget Sound area.

Seattle Buildings
Arctic Club — 3rd Ave. at Cherry St.
plastered the first all steel skyscraper
Oregon Timber
Alaska Bldg. Prefontaine — 400 Yesler Way
Bremer Grocery Sam Hunter — 2911 First Ave.
Henry Ford Assembly Plant Seaboard — 1500 4th Ave.
King County Courthouse addition (6 stories)
516 Third Ave.,
formerly County/City building
Terminal Sales — 1923 1st Ave.
 Northwest Hospital — 1550 N 115th St  Washington Hall — 153 14th Ave.
Liberty Court Northern Snohomish (old wooden)
Milwaukee Spring Apartment
New Washington St. Regis
Alhambra Mayflower
(was Fox, renamed Wilkes)
Jackson St.
 Baker  McGovern’s Music Hall — NE corner of Univ. St & 3rd Ave.
(renamed Palomar 1936, torn down 1964)
 Blue Mouse Theatre
Pederson built or owned 39 apartment buildings a few are listed below
Bremer Northgate
Del Roy Spring
El Capitain Victoria
Fionia Viking
Iris Westport
Narada Apts, 25 Highland Dr.
William Cullen Bryant Alexander Hamilton
Chinese Benevolent Association James Madison
Elliott Bay Piers Smith’s Cove dock & pier
15th Ave. NW bridge & viaduct Spokane Street viaduct
Locks at Longview
Bridge, Edmonds
County Roads and Bridges
Medical Dental Bldg., Klamath Falls
National Realty Bldg., Tacoma
Nisqually Power Plant, Tacoma  (Tacoma Electric Works, Lost $70,000)
Northern Pacific Tunnels   (work when he first arrived)
Portland Municipal Auditorium
Puget Sound bank Bldg., 1920 Tacoma (tallest skyscraper on the coast)
Road building and reclamation projects throughout Washington
Temple of Justice, Olympia
Dam across the Yakima River and  other parts of the Kittitas Reclamation Project

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Apartment Building Notes

Pederson Collaborations

Apartment Buildings

Compiled by VIE Publishing
Photography – ©2016 Wendy Wiley
Archive Photos: Museum of History & Industry

Bering Apartments
233 14th Avenue North between East John & Thomas Streets.

The Bering Apartment building along with a house and store next door were in the Marie Pederson Estate. Legal correspondence shows the Bering was sold for $75,001 in the summer of 1940 and that concluding this all-cash sale enabled the Marie Pederson estate to finally be closed. The Bering Apartments had been appraised in 1932 at $86,800.

Today the building is the Bering Condominiums. It is a sought-after location on Capitol Hill close to downtown.

An April 2016 listing stated, “Located in the Bering, this handsome Capitol Hill condo puts the best of 15th Ave at your door. Enjoy light-filled, southern exposure and loads of charm including hardwood floors, leaded windows and French doors, mahogany woodwork, and original built-ins. The floor plan offers a spacious living room with a Murphy bed, a dining nook, and dressing room off the bath. With concrete construction, the building offers quiet respite, however, popular shops, eateries and parks are only blocks away.”

For more information visit these websites:

1949 MOHAI picture here: pictures here:

Bremer Apartments
2905 First Avenue, corner of Broad Street, backs onto Post Alley N.

The Bremer was built in 1924. Today it is listed by the City of Seattle as a Historical Site. Now in use as low-income housing in Belltown, the Bremer is convenient walking distance to downtown and Queen Anne. The building is owned and managed by a 501-(c) 3 charity, Capitol Hill Housing, whose Foundation includes directors from banks, major corporations, consulting and professional services firms as well as a representative from the County Department of Community and Human Services. Rents are available at 30-50% prevailing market and “students are welcome,” according to the website. The brick structure is three stories with 47 residences, surrounded today by modern and in most cases much taller apartment and condo buildings.

For more information visit these websites:

25 West Roy St, Queen Anne

The DelRoy was built in 1914 and has 51 units. It is still in use as an apartment building in the highly desirable lower Queen Anne neighborhood. In April 2016, a 504 sq ft studio apartment was listed and promptly let for $1,100 a month. The building “has a very comfortable atmosphere with an historic hotel charm feel” according to the website The owner/manager is DARCO Apts. The website states, “At the base of Queen Anne, just blocks away from the Seattle Center, great restaurants and ample shopping, the Del Roy stands as a proud cornerstone to the neighborhood. Hardwood Floors, tall ceilings, turn-of-the-century charm, and large windows greet you every time you come home.”

For more information visit these websites:

El Capitan Apartments
1617 Yale Avenue, Capitol Hill

The El Capitan apartment community was built in 1925 and has 6 stories with 85 units. See it at:

This building stands out in contemporary Seattle because of its ownership and the philosophy toward tenants. The Hendricks family has owned the building for 45 years and has long supported Seattle’s artistic community. An article in City Arts on April 28, 2014 by Mike Hipple discussed many of the tenants and their universal affection toward the Hendricks.

More recently, on April 15, 2015 the Seattle Times carried an article on the El Capitan quoting Al Hendricks’ assessment of why Seattle rents are going through the roof. “Greed,” Al says. “That’s the economic world we’re in.”

Because of the owners’ restraint in raising rent, along with its charm and great location, apartments in El Capitan are rarely available. One review states, “You’ll need a recommendation to get in to this popular downtown apartment complex. Managed by the owner, it’s a premium location with
reasonable rent and an old style building. It was originally a residence hotel, so the units are small, but no one seems to mind.”

Fiona Apartments
109 John Street, lower Queen Anne

The Fiona is another very desirable vintage building today. Built in 1922, it has 59 units.

The owners, Heritage Residence Apartments, state about the interiors: “Much of the building’s original architecture and finishings have been preserved such as the elevator, which offers a glimpse into the building’s elegant past. Many apartments offer
sweeping city or mountain views and ample natural light.”

The Fiona Apartments today are considered very reasonably priced and accordingly turn over infrequently and are very hard to secure. Some of the top floor apartments have city views.

Nice picture here

Iris Apartments
415 West Roy Street, Lower Queen Anne

Described by the owner as “phenomenal studio apartments with old world charm,” the Iris has 25 units in three stories and was built in 1928. The Lower Queen Anne location is one of the most desired rental areas in Seattle.

25 Highland Drive, Queen Anne

The Narada is still widely recognized as a Seattle architectural treasure. Designed in 1925 in Tudor style by Charles A Haynes for the Western Lime Company, the building has 33 units and was built in 1926. It is known for its extensive, ornate terra cotta details. The building sits on the north side of Highland Drive in a prominent location that is highly visible from the south. The main facade of the structure features two projecting window bays that run from the second to fourth floors on the north side. Like many Seattle buildings of the period, they are clad in terra cotta and bear geometric motifs. Extensive use of terra cotta throughout the design make the Narada very recognizable. The design and detailing of the Narada are seen as reducing the design impact of such a large building.

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