1905, D. C. Keeney established his own power laundry,
the Seattle Empire, at Fourth Ave. and Pine St. By 1913, this
livelihood was expanding and he applied to the city - asking
to alter his premises. When permission was denied, Keeney decided
to move his business. He therefore commissioned the demolition
of a two-story stable on Bell & Dennys 1st Addition
Block 29 Lot 12.
on land he had acquired as early as 1909, Keeney undertook
to build a perfect modern laundry. It was at a moment when
the industry flourished. So much that by the 1930s, years
after he had retired, Keeney was still worth $142,000 - in
mid-1990s terms, more than $4 million.
1914, when his new Seattle Empire opened, power laundries
had been Seattles second largest industry for five years
and Seattle Empire grew into the city's second-largest plant,
employing almost 10% of the citys laundry workforce.
In their heyday such laundries, notes Dr. Arwen P. Mohun,
were ubiquitous features of the urban landscape.
high demand for laundry services, rapid spread of the industry
and relatively low startup costs," she writes on page
86 of Women, Work and Technology: The Steam Laundry Industry,
"laundries were appealing investments for small entrepreneurs
from the 1890s through the 1920s."
Empire's life as a laundry spanned the rise and transformation
of this entire industry. It epitomized the power laundry
as a period industry staffed by women yet dominated by males.
In 1914, in Washington, it employed 3,540 employees as "inside
workers" (non-office, laboring staff almost all of whom
every level, laundry work required a female expertise: only
women knew how to best handle, treat and protect the garments.
On the other end, too, their work was judged by female customers.