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Timothy M. Ryan

1850 - 1916

Timothy M. Ryan was one of Seattle’s best known citizens and had a well-established construction firm at the turn of the 19th century.  He and his partner Matt Branigan started in the street grading business in 1881 and they were responsible for constructing many of the early streets in the city.   Among their known projects are the grading of Denny Way and Division Street (later known as 8th Avenue, at the base of Phinney Ridge) and the paving of Yesler Way, Rainier, First and Second Avenues.  Additionally they built "scores of miles of cement sidewalks."

Advertisement for T. Ryan & Co., Seattle Times: Dec 1, 1907Ryan was born in Ireland in 1850 and came to the United States in 1875 at the age of 25.  In addition to his building career he is perhaps best remembered for serving on the Seattle City Council, first elected in 1892.  Then in 1896, he was elected as a County Commissioner and served as Chairman in 1898.   For several years he also served as the City Street Commissioner.  Well-liked by his peers, they nominated him as a candidate for County Assessor in 1908, but he lost the race.

When he left public office, Ryan reentered the street and building business and is identified with some of the most important construction projects in the city and region. Work included three buildings and two seawalls at the Bremerton Navy Shipyard; eight magazines at Ostrich Bay (1910); the Washington Shoe / J.M.  Frink Building (400 Occidental Ave S, 1892); the E.E. Crane Building (402 2nd Avenue, 1907, demolished); the McLaughlin residence (1815 10th Avenue N, 1910); Washington Iron Works Office (1906); the Armour Packing Plant (1910); the Providential Building; the New England Hotel; Fremont Ave Concrete Viaduct (1913); the Knights of Columbus Hall (1913); and the Hambach Building (419 1st Avenue S, 1913). 

Ryan died February 10, 1916 at the age of 66.  At the time of his death, Ryan’s estate was valued at $60,000, with $50,000 of that in real estate holdings.  He and his wife, Catherine, had six children, and the bulk of the estate was left to her.

Ryan and his family had strong connections to the Catholic Church.  Besides being a Knight, he was  reportedly on the construction committee for St. James Cathedral.    His son, Theodore, was the first native Seattleite to be ordained as a Catholic priest (1914).


Adapted from Knights of Columbus NR Nomination - Susan Boyle 



Polk Directories - 1895, 1911, 1912, 1917

"Timothy Ryan, Contractor" Seattle Times: February 7, 1904.

"Something About Contractors," Seattle Times: December 1, 1907, p.35.

"Tim Ryan's -Leg is Broken" Seattle Times: May 9, 1908.

"Office Seeks Man in This Case" Seattle Times: Octobber 29, 1908.

"T. Ryan & Co. , Pioneer Builders" Seattle Times: February 14, 1909.

Obit: "Ryan - At the family residence..." Seattle Times: February 10, 1916.

"Widow Given Bulk of Contractor's Fortune" Seattle Times: February 17, 1916.

"Ryan Funeral Today" Seattle Times: December 8, 1922.

"Rsgr. Ryan to Celebrate 25 Years as Priest" Seattle Times: November 3, 1939.