Culver, Ida (1875-1936)

  • By Mary T. Henry
  • Posted 1/25/2005
  • Essay 7222
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Ida Culver was a Seattle Public Schools elementary teacher, a founding member of the Seattle Education Auxiliary, first president of the Seattle Teachers Finance Association (or Seattle Teacher's Credit Union, unaffiliated with Robert Handy's organization of that name). She was a shrewd investor who left a legacy of retirement homes for educators and their families.

Her Early Years

Ida Culver was born on July 10, 1875, in Clarion, Iowa. After finishing high school there she attended Iowa State Normal School in Cedar Rapids and received a bachelor’s degree in 1904. Her first teaching position was in Colfax, Iowa, where she taught eighth grade, but the following year, in 1905, she moved to Lead, South Dakota, and taught third and fourth grades until 1911. In the fall of 1911, she accepted a teaching position in Seattle. Her 25-year career in Seattle was spent in only two schools, the longest tenure being at John B. Allen, 65th Street and Phinney Avenue, where she taught third and fourth grade until 1934. She transferred to Nathanial Hawthorne School in Rainier Valley and taught fourth grade there until her death in 1936.

Culver was active in a number of professional organizations including the Seattle Grade Teachers’ Club, the Seattle Classroom Teachers’ Association, the Seattle Teachers’ League, the Washington Education Association, the National Education Association, and the Seattle Teachers’ Association.

Culver had a talent for finance. She was active in the creation of the Seattle Teacher’s Credit Union in 1927 and served as its first president. In addition to pursuing her career as a teacher, she devoted some of her energy to finance. In 1912, when her mother died, she inherited a house in Iowa and a share in 120 acres outside Holdenville, Oklahoma. From these holdings, and with investments, she amassed substantial capital and made secured loans to fellow teachers.

Ida Culver House

Recognizing the need for assistance in housing for retired and convalescent teachers from the Seattle Public Schools, a group of Seattle teachers and administrators met on October 8, 1928, to form an organization for this purpose. Culver became a founding member of this organization incorporated as the Seattle Education Auxiliary. She helped write the bylaws and was elected to the position of Temporary Chairman on May 10, 1929. She held the office of Membership Secretary until her death.

After several years of investigating real estate suitable for a retirement facility in the city, the auxiliary bought a three-story house with a view at 1004 Queen Anne Avenue in 1933. It cost $7,500 and carried a mortgage of $2,700. It became known as the Seattle Auxiliary Residence, which was to offer comfort at a reasonable price and to be a place for teachers to meet and entertain. It was remodeled to accommodate 11 women and a housekeeper. In 1935, Culver bought the mortgage on the retirement home from Washington Mutual Savings Bank.

She died on January 25, 1936, after a heart attack and left most of her estate to the Seattle Education Auxiliary. The members of the Auxiliary, in honor of their benefactor, named the facility the Ida Culver House.

By July 1950, after the residence had become too small, the Auxiliary had built a larger facility in the Ravenna district located at 2315 NE 65th. Additional units were added in 1952 to accommodate a growing waiting list. In 1955, a nursing wing was added. Thirty years later it became evident that the Ida Culver House required more money for maintenance and upgrading than the Seattle Education Auxiliary could afford. It was sold to ERA Care, Inc. in 1987 for $1 million, with an offer for them to develop and build a new facility for educators. The Ida Culver House-Ravenna was upgraded and a new Ida Culver House-Broadview was developed.

The Seattle Education Auxiliary dissolved after the 1987 sale in order to protect the funds, and two entities were formed: The Seattle Education Foundation and the Ida Culver House of the Seattle Education Auxiliary (ICHSEA). The ICHSEA supports the planning, development, marketing, and operation of the Broadview site. The Seattle Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has sponsored the Foundation House at Northgate and the Foundation House at Bothell, both retirement facilities for educators, their families, and other senior citizens.


Doris Minsen Pieroth, Seattle Women Teachers of the Interwar Years: Shapers of a Livable City (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004); Standra L. Barker and Stephanie Bravmann, with research by James S. Shelton, The Ida Culver Story (Seattle: Ida Culver House, 1998).

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