AKA: Stucco Johnson House
327 5th Ave.
structure which would eventually become known as the Swetmann
House was originally built on a steeply graded site against
Mt. Marathon in the vicinity of Dairy Hill near Leirer’s
This “cottage” was constructed in 1916 as the
personal residence of local artist-craftsman-builder, Gerhard
Johnson. One of his many forms of construction artistry was
the use of stucco on exteriors of buildings, which earned
him the nickname of “Stucco” Johnson.
The Stucco Johnson “cottage” became the Swetmann
House when Johnson sold the structure to Elwyn Swetmann in
1920 or 1921. A condition of the sale was that Johnson would
move the structure from the Dairy Hill site to Swetman’s
Elwyn Swetmann arrived in Seward, July 1919 to work as a
pharmacist. In 1920 he purchased Seward Drug
and in 1921 formed a partnership in an undertaking business.
Also that year, he married Viola Triplett who had come to
Seward from Spokane to teach school. The Swetmans were active
citizens both in civic affairs and business, which included
mining and banking. Both took a personal interest in the Seward
The Swetmann House is considered the architectural design
gem of Seward. Of modest dimensions, 17 feet 6 inches by 25
feet, this structure sits on a full concrete basement and
has two floors plus an attic.
Johnson’s artistry is evident throughout the structure.
Particularly in its unique wood frame design, the exterior
of which is covered with protective stucco.
Elwyn Swetmann died in 1951. Ownership of their 50 year residence
was passed by will to the Seward Community Library Board upon
Viola Swetman’s death in 1976. In 1979 the board sold
the property to a private party.