Through the late 1880s this east side of First Avenue – its was still called Front Street then — was distinguished by George Frye’s Opera House (1884-85). This grand pioneer landmark filled the southern half of the block until June 6, 1889, when Seattle’s Great Fire reduced it to ashes. While these were still cooling, Frye hired John Nestor, an Irish-born architect who had designed his Opera House, to prepare drawings for the Stevens Hotel, which we see here also at the south end of the block, which is the northeast corner of First Avenue and Marion Street.
Next door to the north, the Palace Hotel, with 125 guest rooms, opened on the Fourteenth of April, 1903. The owners announced that it was “Artistically decorated and comfortably furnished, and equipped with every modern convenience.” They listed “elevators, electric lights, call bells and rooms with baths.” The owners boasted that their hotel had the “finest commercial sample rooms in the city, which makes it an ideal hotel for commercial travelers.” In the spring of 1905, the most northerly of the hotel’s three storefronts was taken by Burt and Packard’s “Korrect Shape” shoe store. For $3.50 one could purchase a pair of what the partnering cobblers advertised as “the only patent leather shoe that’s warranted.” Also that year, the New German Bakery moved in next door beneath the Star Theatre, which had recently changed its name from Alcazar to Star.
On February 21, 1905, The Seattle Times printed “Vaudeville at the Star,” a wonderfully revealing review of the Star’s opening. “Vaudeville as given at the 10-cent theatre may not be high art, but it is certainly popular art . . . The performance started exactly at the appointed time, but long before that a squad of policeman had to make passage ways through the crowd of people on Madison Street.”
The hour-and-a-half performance consisted of nine acts, and The Times named them all. “Claude Rampf led off with some juggling on the slack wire. Richard Burton followed with illustrated songs. Third came the Margesons in a comedy sketch, a little boy proving a clever dancer. Fourth were the dwarfs, Washer Brothers, who boxed four rounds. They were followed by Daisy Vernon, who sang in Japanese costume, followed by Handsen and Draw, a comedy sketch team, followed by Wilson and Wilson, consisting of a baritone singer and a negro comedian, and then by the lead liner, Mme Ziska, the fire dancer. The performance concluded with several sets of moving pictures.”
Until it went dark in 1967, the venue at the southeast corner of First and Madison had many names. In addition to the Alcazar and the Star, it had been called the State Ritz, the Gaiety, the Oak, the State, the Olympic, the Tivoli, and in its last incarnation as a home for burlesque and sometimes experimental films, the Rivoli.
John Owen of Pineola, who gave a stellar performance at yesterday’s Rogue’s Christmas show at Town Hall, remembers the great Dawn Sears:
“On December 11, 2014 one of the greatest singers who ever set foot on this planet left us. Dawn Sears was an unassuming, humble person who you could easily walk past without even noticing…unless she was singing. If she was singing, you couldn’t notice anything else. She could make every person in the room feel like she was singing directly to them and them alone. Dawn was best known as a member of The Time Jumpers and as a backup singer for Vince Gill.
“Here is a link to a YouTube clip of her performing Sweet Memories with Time Jumpers. This clip pairs Dawn with another great who passed on not long ago – John Hughey on pedal steel. Both Dawn and John left an amazing amount of beauty behind. Live fully.”
I think it likely that this candid photo of a lone pedestrian on a bright sidewalk was snapped to show off the new streetlights. Recorded by a municipal photographer, the view looks north on First Avenue from its southeast corner with Virginia Street. The city’s first ornamental light standards, of City Light’s own design, were introduced in 1909-10, and on Seattle’s busiest streets featured five-ball clusters like these. Here the elegance of the new lights is interrupted by the somewhat comedic counterpoint of older and much taller power poles – all in the name of progress.
This neighborhood was sometimes named North Seattle on early maps, but more popularly it was also called Belltown, for the family that first claimed and developed it. Like many of the first settlers, William and Sarah Ann Bell kept two homes, one in the platted village that was growing to the sides of Pioneer Square and Henry Yesler’s sawmill, and the other on their claim, in order to “prove” it. (Virginia Street was named for their long-lived third daughter, Mary Virginia,1847-1931).
Seattle’s first major public work was the 1876 regrading of Front Street (First Avenue) between Pioneer Square and Pike Street. Soon after it continued with an improved path over the western side of Denny Hill, meant to help the Bells develop their claim. In 1884, First Avenue was lowered and improved north of Pike Street with a cut that allowed the community’s then new horse-drawn street railway to continue north to Belltown and beyond, as far as the lower Queen Anne Neighborhood. Then in 1898-99, this cut was deepened to the grade we see here, leaving a cliff along the east side of First Avenue.
In 1903 the earnest (and long) razing of Denny Hill began by moving that cliff to the east side of Second Avenue. By 1911 the regrading reached the east side of Fifth Avenue with another cliff, and there it rested for seventeen years.
While construction of the brick Hotel Ridpath, center-right in the featured subject at the top, waited for the cliff to be pushed east to Second Avenue, the ornate clapboard Troy Hotel across the street, far left, was built soon after the 1898-99 regrade. The Troy survived into at least the late 1940s. The Ridpath, long since renamed the Preston, I remember almost like yesterday.
In the featured photograph from about 1910, First Avenue’s Belltown blocks were mostly given to hotels and shops and a few vacant lots. Some of the latter were fitted with elaborate billboards, like the one on the right, which is stacked with exotic murals promoting popular habits, like vaudeville, cigarettes and chewing gum.
WEB EXTRAS (featuring story and song!)
Paul, I know you and Ron have much to add. Please do so, but let me interject a touch of Public Relations for our annual Town Hall program ‘A Rogue’s Christmas‘.
As you well know, this Sunday at 2 PM, you and I, Marianne Owen and Randy Hoffmeyer, will be reading stories and poems from E.B. White, Nabokov, Ken Kesey, and much more, including original music by Pineola, for this event – the eighth we’ve presented in collaboration with ACT Theatre. Join us for an antidotal and deliciously subversive holiday treat!
I’ll be there Jean. Remember you are picking me up. Here, repeating our by now weekly path, are a few relevant past features pulled and placed by Ron Edge. Ron might also come to the Rogue’s show. He took his then 96-year old mother last year.
Through the 1890s Pike Street was developed as the first sensible grade up the ridge, east of Lake Union before the ridge was named Capitol Hill by the real estate developer, James Moore. As a sign of this public works commitment, Pike Street was favored with a vitrified brick pavement in the mid-1890s. As can be seen here, Fourth Avenue was not so blessed. The mud on Fourth borders Pike at the bottom of this anonymous look north through their intersection and continues again north of Pike beyond the pedestrians, who in this scene are keeping to the bricks and sidewalks.
At the intersection’s far northeast corner dark doors swing beside the Double Stamp Bar’s sign, which pushes Bohemian Beer at five cents a mug. The first storefront to the right (east) of the bar and its striped awning is the Frisco Café, Oyster and Chop House, whose clam chowder can be had for a dime and “oysters in many styles” for a quarter. Far right on the sidewalk at 404 Pike, a general store sells both new and used, and advertises a willingness to barter with cash-free exchanges. Its merchandise is a mix of soft and hard: hanging buckets and baskets are seen through the windows, as well as a pile of pillows. These storefronts and two more are sheltered in five parallel, contiguous sheds, modest quarters that are given stature with the top-heavy false façade they share above the windows.
The bookends here are the Ranke Building, far right, and the Carpenter’s Union Hall, far left. Otto and Dora Ranke were the happy German-born and wed builders who staged plays and light operas in their home and performed in them, too. When the Ranke’s built their eponymous big brick building. it featured a hall and stage for productions of all sorts, including musicals.
In 1906, beginning at this intersection, an extension of Westlake Avenue was cut and graded through the city grid to Denny Way, where it joined the ‘old’ Westlake that is now ‘main street’ for the south Lake Union Allen-Amazon Neighborhood. As part of this Westlake cutting, Carpenter’s Hall was razed, and a landmark, the Plaza Hotel, took its place in the new block shaped by Fourth Avenue, Pine Street and the new Westlake Avenue. The Carpenters moved one block north on Fourth Avenue where they built a new brick union hall. Then in 1907 Fourth Avenue was continued for two blocks north from Seneca Street, through the old territorial university campus, to Union Street. As a result of these two regrades, in less than two years the crossing of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue developed into one of the busiest intersections in the city.
Anything to add, Paul? Again and again – thru ten clicks – one may proceed with Ron Edge’s pulls, this week, of appropriate links to past features at and/or near Fourth Avenue and Pike Street. Following those we may find a few more fitting ornaments at these by now late hours allow.
NEARBY ON PIKE
THREE SECURE HYDRANTS in WALLINGFORD taken during my “Wallingford Walks” between 2006 and 2010.
ANOTHER LEAK ON PIKE
TWO PIKE PAGES OF SIX in PIG-TAIL DAYS
Now up the stairs to nighty-bears. We will re-read and proof tomorrow.
We may puzzle over why the unnamed photographer of this wide look through a First Hill intersection chose also to feature the trash and weeds in the foreground. As revealed in Jean’s repeat, this intersection at Seventh Avenue and Seneca Street became a small part of the concrete ditch cut for the Seattle Freeway. In the early 1960s, here at Seneca Street, Interstate 5 construction through the central business district turned due north and continued along the green-belted side of Capitol Hill.
Although the freeway took this entire intersection, it needed only a slice of its southeast corner, the part shown here on the right of the “then” with the small grocery. “Homemade Bread” is signed below the corner window, and directly above it, “Sanitary Grocery” is printed on the window. In the commercial listings of the 1918 Polk’s City Directory, it was but one of more than 750 small grocery stores that the ‘invisible hand’ of capitalism had scattered through Seattle.
Often referred to as “mom and pop stores” – in part because it usually took a family to run one – the First Hill neighbors of this grocery located at 1122 7th Avenue would likely have found Katherine and Jewett Riley behind the counter. Jewett, at least, was an old hand at mercantile, having helped his brother Silvanus run a store at the Leschi Landing soon after the Yesler Cable line was completed to Lake Washington in 1888. In 1918 Katherine and Jewett conveniently lived in unit 104 of the Touraine Apartments at 711 Seneca. Directly behind the grocery, the Touraine is four stories tall.
The oldest subject here is the comely little home to the left of the big box of a boarding house at the intersection’s northeast corner. It dates from the mid-1880s. To the right of the boarding house, the concrete Van Siclen Apartments (1911), with rooftop pergola and ornate row of arched windows, faces Eighth Avenue between Seneca and University Streets. It is a block so steep that the paved Eighth cannot be seen from this prospect. In the vacant corner lot to the south (right) of the Van Siclen, the Alfaretta Apartments at 802 Seneca was built in 1918.
The Van Siclen (later renamed the Jensonia) and the Alfaretta missed reaching their centennials. Both were razed in anticipation of the rising of the 323-unit Cielo Apartments at the northeast corner of Eighth and Seneca. As a work-in-progress, the Cielo can be readily found in Jean’s repeat, rising above the Exeter House (1928) and Town Hall (completed in 1924 as the Fourth Church of Christ Scientist).
Anything to add, Paul and Ron? Surely, starting and perhaps ending with the dozen links below. They are, again and again, well stacked with relevance – sometimes repeating it. For instance, beginning with the first link below. You can find, surely, the Christian Scientists on the left – now TOWN HALL – but also the rear of the of the Van Siclen apartments on the far right. Until only a few years ago they faced 8th Avenue mid-block between Seneca and University Street. The view to the bay over the retail district was wonderful until the Freeway overpass blocked it in the 1960s. Somewhere in the links below the fuller Van Siclen story is told.
Before this coming Sunday’s feature is published we want to insert an addition to last week’s feature about the Galbraith and Bacon Wall Street Wharf and the Bark Montcalm that was tied to her south side most likely in early November, 1910 and not “circa 1912″ as we speculated last Sunday. Here’s the feature photo, again.
We received three letters responding to our uncertainties about which Montcalm this was and, as noted, the date it visited Seattle. Reader Kyle Stubbs was first to respond, and noted that “I am only aware of one Montcalm that was a barque-rigged sailing vessel. That is the Montcalm of 1902, 2,415 tons built at Nantes, France, which was used in around Cape Horn service by La Societe des Voiliers Nantais. The vessel was broken up in the Netherlands in 1924.”
The next letter came from Douglas Stewart, a seasoned cardiologist with the University Medical School and hospital, whom I first met last winter after I fell to the kitchen floor, tripped by my oxygen gasping heart’s tricks with consciousness, or loss of it. The good doctor is also an enthusiast for most things maritime, and even rows to work from his home, which like the hospital sits beside Portage Bay. He found that the original nitrate negative for this photograph is in the keep of the University Libraries Special Collections. In their terse cataloging of it a librarian concludes that this was the “decommissioned sailing ship Montcalm at dock, probably in Seattle ca. 1912.” The date is almost certainly wrong, and the “decommissioned” attribute is unclear or uncertain. Decommissioned when? The library’s data also describes this Montcalm as an “armored sailing corvette . . . originally built for the French Navy in 1865.” While a Google search for everything that is a Montcalm and floats will surface a French corvette with that heroic name dating from the 1860s, it is, again, almost certainly not this Montcalm. The first French corvettes of the 17th century were much smaller than this bark or barque and were built to carry cannons. They got bigger, surely, but not this big. and continued to be built for cannons not concrete and wheat like our Montcalm.
The third and last contributor to this quest for a proper caption is our old friend Stephen Lundgren, who for this sort of investigation into maritime history prefers the sobriquet Capt. Stefan Eddie. I confess to having used the Captain at times as a capable “World Authority on Everything,” resembling the Professor played by Sid Caesar on his TV show in the 50’s – the best part of that decade. Capt. Eddie also did what I should have done, which is consult the Seattle Public Libraries assess to the key-word search opening into The Seattle Times on-line archive between 1900 and 1984. Stephen found, for instance, the clipping above, which was almost certainly photographed by the same camera or camera person as the featured photo on top. From reading the Times reporting during the Montcalm’s few days stay in Seattle, the Captain concludes, “Took about an hour trolling the Times database and verifying the ship history facts. That it is rigged as a bark, with a steel hull, narrows the search. It’s at the Galbraith Dock probably between discharging the cement cargo in West Seattle and before loading outbound wheat at Smith Cove. The Galbraith Co. dealt in Cement. Question is what buildings were constructed with this Belgium-shipped concrete?” Capt. Stefan Eddie’s last question really goes too far. How could anyone be expected to follow the concrete from ship to foundations?
Finally, Captain Stephan Eddit added to his missive something more of his charming familiarity with the Montcalm subject. He explains, “Lars Myrlie Sr. tells me (in Norwegian) ‘I gots off that damm frenchie ship as soon as it gots to Seattle, it was a hell ship and I damm near gots my head stove in off the coast when the load shifted and knocked the other cargo loose cement in bulk, which meant our sure deaths if we gots a leak. Sure it was a steel ship but them damm rivets popped when a hard one hit, like a bullet they was and then came the squirt. My brother gots me off the Galbreath dock and over to Port Blakely and no more damn frenchies for me, Tusende Tak Gotts!”
It took the Montcalm 195 days to carry its 3,000 tons of concrete from Antwerp to Seattle. The ship was registered at 1,744 tons, so the concrete gave it lots of steadying ballast for the storms. However, there were no storms except the expected ones around Cape Stiff, the sailors’ name for Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. Otherwise her crossing of the Atlantic was one of constant calms and so not of great speed.
The Galbraith Bacon dock, like most others built on the Seattle waterfront after 1900, was positioned at a slant off Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) for two sensible reasons. First, such a dock allowed railroad spurs an easier angle for reaching the aprons to the sides of the wharves. Second, at such a slant the end of a long dock was closer to shore and so did not require unnecessarily long piles to support it.
Having dealt feed on the waterfront since 1891, James Galbraith was the ‘old timer’ in this partnership. Cecil Bacon, a chemical engineer with some extra capital, arrived in Seattle in 1899. Deep pockets helped Bacon persuade Galbraith to make a bigger business with him by adding building materials, like lime and concrete, to the established partner’s hay and feed. In 1900, they were the first signature tenants in the Northern Pacific Railroad’s newly constructed finger pier No. 3 (now 54) at the foot of Madison Street. The partners prospered and soon added to their enterprise this pier at the foot of Wall Street.
Although I like the featured photograph at the top for how it upsets our prepossession with the picturesque – I mean, of course, the askew yards on the sailing ship and its splotched starboard side – I neither know why the square-rigged Montcalm was tied to the Wall Street pier, nor which Montcalm it was. Many ships bear the name, and probably all were named for Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, who until he was hit with an English musket ball in the Battle of Quebec, was New France’s Commander-in-Chief during its French and Indian War with the British in the 1750s.
For some clue on the Montcalm’s condition I turned to Scott Rohrer, an old friend who is also celebrated hereabouts for his sailing and understanding of maritime history. Scott tersely answered, “She’s steel and her crew is scaling and chipping her hull for primer and repainting after a long, apparently rough voyage.”
The Wall Street pier, about the size of a football field, was replaced in the early 1960s with what the waterfront long wanted: a big hotel. First sketches of the Edgewater show it as the Camelot Inn. The Edgewater is perhaps best known for the visiting Beatles, of whom the now common fish tale is told that they followed the instructions written on the waterfront side of the hotel and fished from their window. We suspect that a trolling of the bottom might still catch some paint chips fallen a century ago from the worn sides of the Montcalm.
Anything to add, Paul? Certainly, and beginning again with Ron Edge’s selection of links to other features we have had swimming in the Pacific in the past. Ron has also put up the cover to our illustrated history of the waterfront. I suspect that if it is clicked then several chapter choices will appear. We remind the reader that this Waterfront History is always available in toto on this blog. And was also propose again that when in doubt or squinting that readers should click twice and sometimes thrice.
THE WATERFRONT FIRE OF 1910 – at the FOOT OF WALL STREET
RAILROAD AVENUE LOOKING NORTH FROM WALL STREET
QUIZ – SELF-CONFIDENCE WILL BE REWARDED TO THE READER WHO CAN REVEAL FROM WHAT THE HISTORICAL PHOTO BELOW WAS RECORDED.