(click to enlarge photos. click TWICE for the full size of many)
In the ninety years that separate Jean Sherrard’s portrait of the Seattle Kung Fu Society, and the Webster and Stevens Studio’s 1921 record of posing players in Chinatown’s week-long Go-Hing celebration that May, this part of King Street looking east through its intersection with 7th Avenue has hardly changed. Both views also show a lion.
“Go-Hing,” – if I have used my Chinese phrase book correctly – in Cantonese means something close to “pleased to meet you.” Surely civic conviviality was one result of the six day carnival, but its concentrated purpose was to raise relief funds for the famine that had already killed millions in northern China, and encouraged the formation in Shanghai of the Chinese Communist Party in July, two months after the last day parade of Go-Hing, a procession in which this lion played its part.
Go-Hing was also a kind of belated civic atonement for the atrocious treatment of the town’s Chinese residents during the 1886 Anti-Chinese riots. For the carnival, Chinatown was elaborately decorated on the street and off it too in the alley shops and upstairs in the tongs, which were opened to visitors that week. The neighborhoods arts were also put on show and its many talents proven on a stage set up in the intersection of 8th Ave. and King Street. There was dancing in the streets.
Here’s Jean’s description on how he arranged his repeat of the May 1921 photo. “I stopped by the Wing Luke Museum, just up the street in the photos. Bob Fisher, the museum’s Collections Manager, confirmed that the mask in the old photo was that of a lion – not of a dragon as Paul and I had first assumed – which meant we were on the hunt for lion dancers. The museum’s Vivian Chan recommended we visit the Seattle Kung Fu Society, serendipitously located just two doors down from the Milwaukee Hotel. (The hotel is on the left of both views.)
I was heartily welcomed by society founder Sifu John Leong who, in his mid-70s could easily pass for twenty years younger, a testament to the benefits of his life-long discipline. Next year will mark his fiftieth anniversary in the International District. Sifu Leong unpacked his spectacular multi-colored collection of lion heads, and we chose the gold lion featured in our ‘now’ photo, planning to assemble the next day before sunset to repeat the ‘then’.”
Anything to add, Paul?
Yup Jean. But first here’s hoping that this year’s Tale of Hillside Horror (for your Students at Hillside and their annual Halloween Party) went as well as you hoped and even expect when you were putting the story’s last lines to your tablet (for scribbling while you soaked in the tub this afternoon). The combination of horror and bathtub reminds me of the French class, Diabolique. A very scary movie, indeed. Hope to be frightened by your creation.
First, there are several links from past blog efforts that will take one to stories that have something to do, as well, with King Street. The relevance may not be at the top but it is there in every case. Please click them and search them.
Then I’ll put up five more features with a scattering of supporting illustrations. They will concern, in order, the coal trade that came down King Street on a trestle from the late 1870s to the first years of the 20th Century. Next, a few items on gas and the gas plant between 4th and 5th, Main and King – during pretty much the same years as the coal road. Follows the Felker House, Seattle’s first structure built from milled planks and not logs or split cedar. Then a photograph of a Salvation Army parade preparing, perhaps, to serenade a bar on Jackson Street. We will finish up with the “Flower of Italy” on 5th south of Jackson.
Comments: First the links to click – seven of them. Be patient please. It may take moments for a link to materialize.
(Click to Enlarge these Illustrations – often CLICK TWICE to call forth their full size.)
The KING STREET COAL WHARF
(First appeared in Pacific, June 10, 1984)
The biggest thing in Seattle in 1881 was the King Street coal wharf. The Lilliputian pair in the foreground gives the pier its scale. It was both a favorite perch from which to photograph the city and a popular subject itself for photographers throughout the 1880s and 1890s.
In this view the camera looks east towards Beacon Hill, or what is really the ridge that once ran continuously – if with a slight slump – from Beacon Hill to First Hill. The two were not separated until 1909 when work began on the Dearborn cut just a little left of the hump that appears at the photographer’s center horizon. To the right of the railroad’s right-of-way is the beginning of Seattle’s first industrial neighborhood. Most of these manufacturer’s sheds are on pilings driven into the sand. The systematic filling of the tidelands began later, in 1896.
The sheds just behind the water tower are parts of a planning mill for the manufacture of sash and blinds. Behind that is a box and furniture factory, and, further on, the long sheds that cross the center of the scene are the repair shops for the Columbia and Puget Sound Railroad.
The C.&P. S. was originally the Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad, the narrow-gauged line completed in 1878 to the coal deposits east of Lake Washington. The first coal-filled gondolas pulled out of Newcastle on February 5 of that year, and for another half-century delivered much of it the this “south side” of Seattle central waterfront.
Another pioneer landmark, the Felker House, is on the scene’s left. This glossy white clapboard with the dark shutters and second floor veranda was built in 1853 when it shined like a temple amidst the rough log cabins of the then year-old settlement. It was Seattle’s first hotel and often called Mother Damnable’s after its quick-tempered manager, the profane Mary Conklin, who was as salty as her patrons.
(The above dates from the mid-1880s. The Holy Names Academy – with the spire left-of-center, was completed in 1884,)
There were 54 marriages in King County in 1881. Seattle got its first foreign language churches (the German Reformed and the Scandinavian Baptist), a city-wide water company, and a telephone franchise, even though there were no telephones. Other 1881 highlights included the first local demonstration of electric lamps aboard the Willamette, which was one of the 42 steamers licensed that year for business on Puget Sound.
It was also in 1881 that the two newspapers the Post and the Intelligencer came together as something you can still hold in your hands 103 years later. (Or could. As noted above this was first composed a quarter-century ago.)
GAS YARD on KING STREET
(First appeared in Pacific, April 25, 1993)
This view looks east on King Street from Fourth Avenue. The date, March 24, 1907, is scribbled at the bottom of the original print, one of many Seattle Gas Company scenes pasted to the black pages of a photo album shared with me now long ago by my friend Michael Maslan.
The first gas lights illuminated a few intersections and 42 residences on New Year’s Eve 1873. The gas was delivered through bored fir logs imported from Olympia; the plant where the gas was manufactured from coal and stored in a wooden tank was on Jackson Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, just off-camera to the left.
The photographer’s back is to the King Street Station. The station and the railroad tunnel beneath the city made these reclaimed tidelands just south of Jackson too valuable for mere manufacturing. The album from which this view was copied includes many more on the 1906-07 construction of the alternative gas works in Wallingford – now Gas Works Park.
Soon after this view was recorded, the gas plant on Jackson was razed for construction of the Union Pacific Station, whose rear shows in the contemporary view – when I find it.
Everything in the background of this scene was radically altered in 1909 with the Jackson Street regrade. Among the structures razed was Holy Names Academy on Seventh Avenue, which had opened to girl students in 1884. Its domed spire dominates the skyline, top left.
Most of the dirt scraped away during the regrade was used to reclaim more of the tidelands south of King Street. The wagon, the barrels and the stacks of pipes in the foreground are supported by a timber scaffolding, over which a thin layer of dirt has been spread. With the beginning of the regrade in 1909 this construction was torn away, dropping what we see here (or will later) to roughly its contemporary level as an abandoned railroad yard.
(First appeared in Pacific, June 18, 1989.)
When Captain Leonard Felker built his hotel at the southern end of town in 1853, he out did the prescriptions of his friend and sometime partner Doc Maynard. Maynard, one of city’s founders, sold the captain the block south of Jackson Street and west of First Avenue South for $350 on the growth-promoting condition that a “substantial building be constructed on the premises within three months.” The captain complied very substantially.
Felker’s two-story frame Felker House was the first hard-finished construction on Elliott Bay with milled clapboard sides, an imported southern pine floor, and lath-and-plaster walls and ceilings. The rest of the less than two-year old village was built from rough planks, split cedar, and logs. The brilliant white hotel was so prominently set atop a low bluff at Maynard’s Point that navigators aimed for it. What else they aimed for at Felker’s hostelry is a natter of controversy.
According to Roberta Frye Watt, a pioneer’s daughter and the author of “The Story of Seattle,” it was clean sheets and Mary Conklin’s cuisine. Conklin, Felker’s proprietor, was “noted for her good cooking, nasty temper and rough tongue.” She was the wife of an old sea captain whom “she could out swear any day.” So, by Frye’s description, it was from a fearful respect that she earned her nickname, Madame Damnable. But according to Bill Speidel, the recently deceased historian and sometimes creator of Seattle’s sinful past, Conklin was called Madame because she ran a whorehouse in the back of the hotel. Whatever the case, uncommon sensation followed this “stout, coarse Irish woman” to her grave where, it was nearly universally believed by Seattle’s pioneers, her body turned to stone – a claim made when her hefty casket was later moved to a new cemetery.
The woman posing between the men on the hotel’s veranda may or may not be Mary Conklin. If we had a portrait of her we would probably still not know, for this surviving view, which is one of the city’s oldest and most valued photographic records, is, no doubt, a few generations removed from the lost and sharper original.
The ARMY on JACKSON ST.
(First appeared in Pacific, March 30, 1986)
In 1865, William Booth founded his first mission in the slums of London’s East End. Twenty-two years later, General Booth’s “soldiers without swords” opened fire on Seattle when the young newlyweds, Captains Duke and Harris, held service in a rented room beneath a bar at First Avenue and Washington Street. The sounds of their praying and hymn-singing did antiphonal battle with the honky-tonk piano and laughter above them.
The Salvation Army in its war with the devil developed an elaborate military metaphor. General Booth led a world-wide force of uniformed batteries fighting from Fort Salvations with the battle cry of “Blood [of Christ] and Fire [of the Holy Spirit].”
What distinguished this army, and still does, was its willingness to fight in the meanest streets where the down-and-out often did not hunger after righteousness so much as for a meal. The Salvation Army’s confident compassion is still appealing.
The Army’s most effective form of street fighting used swords that were beat not into plow shares but cornets, trombones and flugelhorns. As General Booth explained, the end of salvation justified any means including brass bands – often accompanied by a formation of Hallelujah Lassies beating their tambourines.
Here we see a battery – with brass band and tambourines – in the mud on Jackson Street sometime in the 1890s – a decade that was peculiarly sinful, especially on Jackson. Writing of Seattle in 1900, Salvation Army adjutant Earnest Hawkes (a fine fighting name) charged that “its hundreds of saloons and scores of gambling dens, concert halls, and dives of various description were filled with a surging, seething mass of people and crime and outlawry that seemed to defy every attempt to suppress it.”
But here they are trying on Jackson Street where this entire line of false front businesses was put up after the fire of 1889 and many were designed for the business of sin. The Palace Theatre (behind the band) was probably a box house or combination saloon-theatre-whore house (it is not listed in any city directory). There a tired and drunken workingman could recline in a half-hidden, box-like loge while he looked upon some stage show and/or participated in his own where half the talent pays the other half.
These theatres were often the targets for the musical ammunition shot from the Salvation Army’s comets and bass drums – the drums were said to beat repentance. Sometimes the theatre’s own band would set up on an outside balcony and fight back. To the avant-garde among them, the cacophony was, no doubt, often quite appealing.
And the Army’s bands could also play popular tunes. Founder Booth agreed with another Protestant composer, Martin Luther, that the devil should not have all the good tunes. But these songs-of-the-day were always accompanied with sanctified lyrics.
Here, however, the cornets are quiet and whatever sin is on Jackson Street is seething behind the clapboards. The Army is at ease and posing for what is probably a scheduled portrait. The occasion might be the beginning of an early morning parade through skid road to wake up the sinners, or perhaps a parade to celebrate the visit of an out-of-town officer.
Perhaps this is the parade for Lieutenant Colonel Brewer who visited Seattle in March of 1900 – a celebration which a Salvation Army reporter remembered this way. “Walking three abreast with the concertina playing, [they] marched up the center of the street. It caused quite a stir, and greatly increased the attendance at the meeting attracting many who otherwise would have been indifferent. The Colonel sprang a surprise upon us by playing a comet solo in the open-air meeting, which was greatly appreciated by the great crowd who stood around us.”
These too make music and see the light. Ivar’s good works on the waterfront were most appreciated by his neighbors. His knack for putting the best construction on anything — including the jokes directed at his singing – shown in the late winter of 1950 when he linked the bright new but glaucous-green light on the waterfront with a traditional celebration. On the sixteenth of March, 1950 at 6:15 P.M. between Bay Street and Yesler Way the new mercury vapor lights were turned on giving the waterfront what Ivar described as a properly “romantic green tinge” for St. Partick’s Day. (Certainly brighter, the green light still seemed to many to be also frightening. They cast a cadaverous tone on human flesh.)
Members of the Seattle Chowder and Marching Society and the Ale and Quail Society, diverted for the moment from their Seafair business, joined with Ivar in parading along Alaskan Way to the music of Jackie Sounder’s Chowder and Marching Band. And as host of the lighting ceremony, Ivar fed them all. It was, the restaurateur mused, “A day to make the Swedish sailors and the Norwegian navigators glad. For the first time since 1852 when the settlers moved from Alki Point to Elliott Bay, there is adequate light on Seattle’s waterfront. In fact, not since Chief Seattle held his big tribal meetings around giant beach fires has the Seattle waterfront been so well lit up.” Dressed in green, the combined memberships posed in front of the Acres of Clams in time to watch the new mercury vapor lights turn on, and some enterprising press photographer climbed above the sidewalk festivities and recorded the moment. Looking like one of the “little people” Ivar gazes up admiringly at the new light from his place between the lamppost and his nearly new Fish Bar.
The FLOWER OF ITALY
(First appeared in Pacific, May 18, 1986)
In 1924 or ’25, Giacomo and Maria Traverso opened their Fiore d’Italia at 414 Fifth Ave. S., between Jackson and King St. South. These Genoese cooks had the knack for fixing delicious traditional dishes, and soon their cafe was favored for serving the best Italian cooking in the city. Naturally, many of their regulars came from the Italian community, most of whom, the Traversos included, lived in or near Rainier Valley.
The aromas that wafted within this flower of Italy were also for many years the favorite lunchtime relief of the city’s garbage collectors, many of whom were, like the Traversos and Christopher Columbus, Genoese. Favorite dishes included: a codfish concoction called Baccala, a generously seasoned cornmeal mush named Polenta, and a meat-and-potatoes mix called Stufato. And every Wednesday Maria Traverso would prepare the week’s noodles for the pasta of the the day.
The Fiore d’ Italia was Traverso’s third and most successful attempt at Italian cooking. In 1917 and 18 the city directories list him at the Pentema Restaurant at 116 2nd Ave. S. But in 1919, with the Pentema closed, the Polk Directory canvassers recorded Giacomo not as a cook but as a wartime shipbuilder. (Traverso, may have taken part in the 1919 general strike which started in the shipyards.) However, as the Traverso’s daughter, Jenny Cella, recalls, her father could not be kept out of the kitchen. Soon he was cooking at another skid road cafe, the Columbus Cabaret at 167 Washington St. South.
The mid-20s opening of the Fiore d’Italia at 414 5th Ave. was not the Traverso’s last move. By 1928 they shifted their cafe a few doors north to 404 5th Ave. South in a storefront below the St. Paul Hotel. Still, the Fiore d’ Italia was the fixture on a block that saw many alterations.
Appearing in this scene to either side of the cafe are the N. P. Restaurant and the Midget Lunch. Neither can be found in any city directory. The Dreamland Cabaret was a short-lived dive in the St. Paul’s basement. It should not be confused with the notorious Dreamland Hotel, a crib house for prostitution that was located but a block-and-a-half away at 6th Ave. and King St. (See accompanying photo.)
Fifth Ave., south of Jackson Street, could be described as the Mediterranean western border of the International District. There were other Italian establishments on the street including a grocery at the comer of Jackson. Here Fifth Ave. is half a street, for it is bordered on the west by the big pit of the railroad yards and grand stations. And to the east is the East, the international community, which is still largely Asian and more often named Chinatown.
This scene (the primary or featured one – four photos up) was photographed by one of the Traverso’s Asian neighbors, Yoshiro Okawa, whose Aiko Photographic Studio was located at 6th Ave. and Jackson Street. For years Okawa’s fine commercial photography “at reasonable prices” was a neighborhood given – until 1942 when the Okawa family, and all Japanese persons in the district were shipped off to internment. Since they could take with them only what they could carry, Yoshiro Okawa’s years of work were destroyed, including the original negative for this record of the Traverso’s cafe. Luckily the print survived. And so did Okawa to open another studio in Chicago after the war. Later he retired to Seattle where he died in 1976 at the age of 85.