Jimmie Eng

Eng, Jimmie

(1926 – 1978)

Born Sut-Jung Eng in Canton, China, on December 24, 1926, reportedly architect Jimmie Eng immigrated to the United States at the age of 12, arriving via the vessel “Ft. Amherst.” According to records, he arrived on November 2, 1938 “in good condition” with $2 in his pocket and came to live with his father Bing Chong (and likely grandmother, Shee Shee Lam) at 46 Mott Street in China Town, in New York City. At that time, he most likely started using his Americanized name “Jimmie.” It is unclear as to where Eng grew up, but documents show he graduated from Broadway-Edison High School in Seattle in 1943. By the next year he was living in Bremerton with a friend (Mrs. See Tuai) and at the time was a student. Having just reached of age towards the end of the WWII, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy (March 3, 1945). Eng served in the Pacific theater and rose to a level of SK3 (Storekeeper 3rd Class Petty Officer). He was discharged after serving just over a year on July 20, 1946. After the war he returned to Seattle.

Then in the fall of 1948, using the GI Bill, Eng enrolled at the University of Washington majoring in architecture. While there he met Frances L. Cooke. A recent graduate of Franklin High School, Cooke was a Far Eastern Studies student at the University of Washington and was working on the side as a travel agent when she met Eng. They married in 1950.

After graduating with the class of 1954, Eng took his architectural license examine but failed to pass until taking the test a third time in 1958 (License No. 1077). Such struggles were common in the mid to late 1950s, and after protest by numerous applicants, the architectural review board adjusted the way they tested. Eng was already working for the Boeing Aircraft Company (he began working there during the Summer of 1951 while he was still a student). Upon graduation he took a full-time job with the company and worked his way up the corporate ladder; remaining there for the entirety of his career. Per Polk directories by 1962 he rose to the level of supervisor. Reportedly his main work at Boeing involved the design of the Minuteman silos, but this has not been verified.

On September 7, 1957, Eng married a second time. The younger Marie “Betty” Woo was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1933 and had attended Garfield High School in Seattle. Together they raised three children; Cynthia “Cindy”, Candace, and Curtis. To make ends meet, the couple also operated a vending machine business, J & B Vending, on the side for several years. Reportedly they owned several machines which were installed at a variety of local community centers around the city.

While licensed as an architect, Eng did not open an independent practice or work at any firm. Instead he chose to design for his family and friends. To date four designs have been attributed to Eng in the city of Seattle. These included the family home (1966, 8310 Beacon Ave S., NRHP Listed 2019); the Hing & Jane Chinn House (1961, 2522 S. Orcas Street); a home at 12450 57th Ave S. (1968); and a home for his mother and father, Bing & Tan Ying Eng (1968, 4903 29th Avenue S).

Eng passed away at the age of 51 on February 13, 1978. His wife continued to live in the family home until her death on September 18, 2013. Both Jimmie and his wife Betty Marie are interred at Lakeview Cemetery in Seattle.

–  Michael C Houser

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