For posing before the decorative backdrop in Rasmus Rothi’s Imperial Studio, why, we wonder, did this sturdy woman hang dolls low on her theatrical dress? We will call it our April’s Fool question for we have no bright answer on this first day of April. What’s more with Jean Sherrard’s repeat we were at first fooled and confused – until he explained it.
“Shooting west, I stood with my back to the bus stop near the southwest corner of Third Ave. and Columbia Street. While I was photographing the reflecting face on the Third Ave. side of the elegant Chamber of Commerce Building, a pedestrian crossed in front of me either mumbling to himself, I thought, or grumbling at me. The photograph, however, reveals that while thoughtfully stooping to avoid interrupting my shoot he was talking on his cel. Still I got the top of his head.”
Arriving from San Francisco in 1881, Julius and Louisa Bornstein, with help from sons and brothers, opened the Golden Rule Bazaar in 1882, and with good timing. One year more and the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Tacoma, the first transcontinental to Puget Sound. Both Tacoma and Seattle boomed, accompanied by an industrious symphony of dynamite, hammers, saws and cash registers. The Bornstein’s registers were especially musical for their prices were often low. They claimed to be the first store on the Pacific Coast to have 10, 15 & 25-cent counters.
Through its more than 20 years selling the essential stuff of home economics – like crockery, chambers, spectacles, nutmeg grinders, trunks, lamp chimneys, dollar watches, potato mashers, glassware, enamelware, and willow ware – the Golden Rule Bazaar prospered. It should be noted, apropos the hanging dolls, they also sold toys.
Considering that the actual location of 713 3rd Ave. was one of two bays in the side of a building, I shot, as you know, Paul, two possible ‘Nows’. The first was the mirrored window we chose to use. The second was the next bay south. Here it is:
Anything to add, Paul?
We will not disappoint you Jean – yes we do! But not so much this time,
In part it is because of the April Fool’s “theme” – we are habitually so wise, seemingly, that this foolishness does stump us some. “I thank the lord for my humility.” said Richard III. The other part player in our paucity is Helix. We spent most of the day putting up the “Helix Returns” feature – with lots of help from Ron Edge – which starting tomorrow, will follow Seattle Now and Then as surely as Monday follows Sunday West of the Mississippi and, for that matter, as surely as Sunday comes before Monday East of the Mississippi. They are easy confused.
Now we will add three – only – more features that appeared first in Pacific, and the first of these is another on the Golden Rule, consequently, we do repeat some from the one to the other. Then we will go across the street – First Ave. aka Front Street – to the Southwest corner with Marion Street and study Seattle Hardware’s window decorations for some Christmas in the 1890s. We will also study the window, for the reflections are also revealing. And then, but not finally, we will reprint a feature from the last time April Fools sat hard on a Sunday, with a story about that one who was so talented in making us feel – ordinarily – happily fooled by his hoaxes. Ivar. We have one.
After a few foolish interludes we will conclude with an art quiz, which is, in its “art is anything you can get away with” way, quite appropriate for April Fools, like you and I and the readers, Jean. We will ask “How was this art made?” It is a question about artistic technique – sort of. We will wait first for readers to offer their conclusions on these aesthetics, and then next Sunday we will describe the technique in detail in case anyone would like to use it.
THE GOLDEN RULE BAZAAR
( First appeared in Pacific, Aug. 11, 1991)
One of Seattle’s first department stores, the Golden Rule Bazaar, was founded by a man who failed in the gold fields. Down and out in Comstock, Nev., Julius Bornstein chose Seattle over Portland and Walla Walla to begin again. He brought his family here in 1882, and within three years the Bornsteins had their own storefront on First Avenue, at Marion Street. Eighty years later Julius and Louisa’s son, Sam, recited for Seattle Times writer Lucille McDonald some of the pioneer staples the Bornsteins sold here: “Lamp chimneys and wicks, dollar watches, chamber pots, spectacles, clothes hampers, market baskets, wooden potato smashers, . nutmeg grinders, luggage … telescopes and toys at Christmas.”
Sam Bornstein recalled a brisk business in baskets that his father purchased from the natives in exchange for cooking utensils. Sam also claimed that the Golden Rule Bazaar was the first store on the Pacific Coast to have counters devoted exclusively to cut-rate items priced at a nickel, a dime, 15 cents and a quarter.
Seattle’s “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889 was made considerably less spectacular by the 12-year-old Sam. News of the fire reached his school soon after it started about one block north of the family business. Sam bolted, commandeered an idle wagon and two horses, and hauled away three truckloads of fireworks that his father had recently purchased for a Fourth of July promotion. The fireworks and a few blackened pieces of china were all the Bornsteins saved from the flames, which soon overran’ the entire business district. They did, however, hold their Independence Day sale in a tent.
The family’s business prospered again. During the gold rush Sam recalled that “the miners were nuts. They just took the stuff away from us. We didn’t have to do any selling.” By 1910 the firm of J. Bornstein and Sons was operating exclusively wholesale, a business that in 1927 was favorably sold to the Dohrman Hotel Supply Company.
The reader may wonder – with the writer – if the molding just above the sidewalk in the ca. 1900 record of the Seattle Hardware storefront at 823 First Avenue is – in spite of the obvious changes here – the same as that in front of Starbucks – this Starbucks – in the Colman Building at the southwest corner of Marion Street and First Avenue. (History photo courtesy of Lawton Gowey)
(First appears in Pacific for Christmas, 2005)
Considering the mix of reflections and fancy stuff emitting from this elegant window the reader may miss the “Merry Christmas” that is written with fur sprigs. The letters are attached to a wide white ribbon that arches from two posts of presents, left and right. And in the center is a third pile of gifts including a few dolls and a cluster of oil lanterns just below the banner bearing the company name, Seattle Hardware Co.
Once a stalwart of local home improvements Seattle Hardware tempted shoppers through these plate glass windows at First and Marion beginning in 1890 when the Colman Building was new. Like the clapboard structure John Colman lost here to the “Great Fire” of 1889, he prudently kept his post-fire brick replacement at two stories until it proved itself. Eventually with both Seattle Hardware and the popular grocer Louch and Augustine (predecessor to Augustine and Kyer) at the street level this was one of the busiest sidewalks in town.
When Colman was preparing to crown the success of his two floors by adding four more to his namesake building Seattle Hardware built and moved to its own brick pile at King Street and First Ave. South in the fall of 1905. The elegant post-fire neighborhood you see reflected in Seattle Hardware’s big sidewalk windows, of course, stayed put. The Burke Building at Second and Marion and the Stevens Hotel – seen here back-to-back on the right – were razed in the early 1970s for the lifting of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Office Building. (The reader can get a correct reading of these reflections just below. We have flipped the picture.)
In the century since Seattle Hardware moved out and the building grew to six floors this storefront has been home for a parade of purveyors beginning with Wells Fargo. More recently Bartells Drugs, and Dalton Books held the corner and now Starbucks. In the “now” photograph a second promoter stands near the door to the coffee magnet and holds a sign that reads, “Disabled. Will Work. Navy Vet 78/82 Thanks.” This thankful modeling cost the photographer five dollars. Merry Christmas.
THE MADRONA SEA MONSTER
(A smaller version of this appeared in Pacific the last time April Fools fell on a Sunday – surely within the last ten years. This is a longer version – a rough draft for the part this story will play in “Keep Clam,” the book I am still writing about Ivar and Ivar’s. I certainly do hope to finish it this year!)
It was a late February afternoon, 1947, and Ivar was still riding the tail of international excitement over the spilled syrup. A gardener named Thomas (no first name given) saw it first. While trimming a hedge beside the A.B. Barrie home above Madrona Beach, Thomas looked out over a placid Lake Washington and saw “the hump.” Almost immediately his employer, Mrs. Barrie, saw it too, the “large crinkly-backed object” swimming south towards Leschi. “It was about 100 feet long but I could only see the middle which was about 25 feet . . . I thought its tail and head were submerged.” In the excitement both still reasonably assumed that the tale was probably forked and that the head resembled the face of a dragon. The experience shook Mrs. Barrie’s gardener. “He paled and left. I haven’t seen him since.”
What was needed to corroborate this first sighting of the Madrona Sea Monster was someone who could both get a picture of it and keep clam while doing it. Enter the historic opportunist Ivar Haglund, the steady owner then of two aquariums, one on Pier 54 beside his nearly new Acres of Clam seafood café and the other in Vancouver B.C. beside Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.
To speed the capture Ivar offered a $5000 reward. “While the cost of building a tank for a hundred-foot long ferocious monster would be considerable I was willing to make the sacrifice.” Next Ivar got the picture, or a picture, which he claimed, “clearly shows an uncommon creature,” but also hid its forked tail and ferocious face. Ivar conceded that this first evidence of the Madrona Sea Monster might be interpreted as the rumps of several ducks swimming in a line. “Still I took a picture anyway. Five minutes later the thing submerged and didn’t come up again.”
Other sightings soon followed including confirmation from another landmark restaurateur, Ray Lichtenberger of Ray’s Boathouse in Ballard. Ray claimed to have seen it “heading out to sea.” A.T. Goodman, assistant lockmaster, agreed that a clever monster could have made it through the Chittenden locks by hiding beneath a vessel. Goodman also hinted that should the monster be caught in foreign waters it may be extradited to face charges on not paying for its flight through the locks at Ballard. Another authority confirmed that “sea monsters can survive on salt water, fresh water, or bourbon and water.”
While Ivar felt the monster hysteria rising around him he kept his wits. For instance, he instantly caught the failure of army barge skipper Sam Wiks’ report of seeing a snake-necked creature browsing on Kelp south of Dutch Harbor. “Sea monsters are carnivorous! What was this one doing munching on kelp?” Ivar was certain that they favored fresh tuna.”
With every failure to catch the monster Ivar’s confidence grew. “Madrona will probably be caught soon. It’s getting careless.” Confident that Madrona was headed for Vancouver, he equipped every aquarium attendant there with gill nets and sliced Tuna. The Vancouver Sun reported that Ivar had also parked purse seiners behind his aquarium “preparing to net Madrona, the Sea Monster, which he intends to place in the aquarium for the rest of eternity. ‘Sea monsters never die’ Ivar explained.”
In early March the United Press reported that Madrona had been sited heading for the open ocean. Dismayed that the monster might escape, Ivar exclaimed, “I’ve spent the past 24 hours scanning the waters of Puget Sound along with every fisherman I know. All we’ve seen is debris. I don’t know which I saw the most of — flotsam or jetsam.” In the end Haglund found consolation in philosophy. “Who are we to say that from the boundless depths of the ocean all the mysteries have been uncovered and brought to the surface?”
A Blog Exclusive!!!
MORE EVIDENCE That DEMOCRATS HAVE MORE FUN – A WHITE HOUSE TOGA PARTY with Eleanor and Franklin.
BLOG AESTHETICS – 4 PAINTINGS
It required three years – or more – to complete these four paintings and several others, if they are completed. But I like this quartet, and so will decide now to let them go. They are, again, part of a group that is distinguished by the technique I used to paint them. The medium was, fortunately, not expensive or I would not have developed its techniques. As noted above I’d like to “game” it, and ask readers – those who have got this far – to suggest what they imagine or know that the technique and media might be or are. I’ll report on the reports next week, and then reveal all, which will either confirm what is offered from others or prove to be unique. Frankly, it takes perhaps more than I have got to develop a new medium and/or technique, or are their new things under the sun that also continue into the dark and through it?
The HELIX cover printed just below appeared first on the 1st of December, 1967, which was still in the first year of the tabloid’s three year – and a few weeks – run. The cover was one of artist Jacques Moitoret’s many contributions to Helix. With age the pulp it was printed on has nurtured its color. Starting tomorrow, Monday April 2, 2012, we will feature it again on the front page of this blog as the front door – or button – to eventually all issues of Helix. We mean to put them up in the order they first appeared. Directly below Jacques’ butterfly is another and longer introduction to this project. You can read it and/or listen to it. The audio, which I recorded at my desk in one take!, runs about eight minutes. (When, in the context of revealing how Helix was conceived, I mention looking “down on 42nd Avenue,” please hear instead, “42nd Street.” It is correct in the copy, but wrong in the audio.)
AUDIO for the Following INTRODUCTION
Sample of banners
(Click to Englarge)
By those who remember it, Helix may be described as “Seattle’s First Underground” newspaper. This, I think, is too romantic or glamorous. Rather, it was Helix candor – above ground – that was apt. It could be either disturbing or compelling – of course, depending.
Helix was conceived in a conversation with Paul Sawyer, a friend and Unitarian preacher, now deceased. I can recall the moment in color. We were alone in the Free University office (beige walls and gray ceiling), on the second floor above the Coffee Corral on University Way, aka “The Ave.” Under a blue winter sky and from the window I followed a couple walking hand in hand below me on 42nd St., when over my left shoulder Paul suggested, “What we need here is something like the Berkeley Barb.”
The Barb was one of the many weekly tabloids associated with the 1960s “counter culture” that were blooming then from Boston to L.A. and soon from Atlanta to – with Helix – Seattle. Most of these were loosely connected with university communities and the talents they offered. Here, for instance, Helix bundled Seattle’s University District and the University of Washington as part of a town and gown experiment. That was in the winter of 1966-67.
Now thru the next nearly three years we will hang from this blog all manner of HELIX, which is every issue from Vol.1 No.1 to Vol. 11 No. 21. By posting one a week, and in the order they first appeared on the street, we expect, or hope, that the paper’s often illuminated pages will stimulate some responses and recollections – some current alternatives for drop out, turn on and tune in. Perhaps remember, reflect and rejoin.
The first issue of Helix is dated March 23, 1967, although it “hit the streets” a few days later. And then it popped! Pastor Paul was right – it was what we needed. It was our own news and opinion, often otherwise not reported. And it also yielded the small economics of street sales, which helped many get by. At 20-cents a copy our little pulp was enthusiastically consumed, sold by vendors whose enterprise was only limited by the number of copies they could carry and the charms at their corner. (The seller kept half the cover price.)
(Cartoons by Skagit Valley artist Larry Heald above, and below. All three of the artistic Heald brothers, Maury, Paul and Larry, were part of Helix.)
The first issue was late because Grange Press, the scheduled printer, on seeing the flats we delivered to their high-speed photo-offset webs, found the content somehow offensive. At the time this rejection mystified us, but if you choose to browse that same first issue – and it appears here first tomorrow – you may find something in it that hollers for more than editing, perhaps for censorship on the grounds of decency or national security. (And please point it out with a blog response.)
With help from some civil libertarians we found another printer, Ken Munson, a union man. Ken pulled good fortunes from the combination of our Grange rejection, and his Heidelberg flatbed press. This meant higher quality pressings and split-font color for the covers and centerfold on an array of colored newsprint. On the day of publication the flatbed also obliged a ritual for the staff that was at once bonding and blabbering. Every issue printed on Ken’s flatbed required hand folding and collating on the big tables in the Helix office.
For the first few months Helix was published only every two weeks, but here from the start we intend to bring it back every week, ordinarily on those Mondays that aren’t busy with washing. We may treat Sunday’s Seattle Now & Then as a civic service, and Monday’s Helix as a humanist’s hippodrome. On the distinction of having first heard the voice of Pastor Paul over my shoulder in 1966, and having edited the paper for most of its life, I will introduced each issue with a commentary. Much of it will be new to me too, for although I was the editor through most of its life, I did not read it all. Editing the Helix was sometimes like being a coach, making certain that there were enough players were on the field.
For much of the staff, myself included, preparing and publishing a paper was like attending school, and many of us stayed involved in community life – even journalism – beyond owning a home and paying taxes. Throughout the weekly routine of publishing a newspaper we were more reporters than hippies, and much of the super sincerity often associated with those we primarily served – “the hips and the rads” – was wrapped by us in irony and the rules of evidence. Ours was a sort of liberal conspiracy of both self-taught and schooled intellectuals who might join a demonstration but when the nightsticks came out we might also think “My how ironic!” while running away.
After the next nearly three years of weekly postings, if we are then still able – I mean standing – with the readers’ help a book might be fashioned from all these reflections and reprints. Then certainly we would also have to edit. Thankfully, already one of our staff, Walt Crowley, wrote his book Rites of Passage which treats on the Helix and the events of that time and it can still be easily found in public libraries and perhaps your own. Add two years more to these about three of weekly offerings and we will be spot on for the paper’s Golden Anniversary. And then surely a few from the original staff will be lingering to lift a toast at the Blue Moon.
Above and below, two political cartoons by artist Mike Lawson.
Springtime is a good time to reminisce about our youthful enthusiasms, while also reflecting on some of our abiding concerns. We hope you respond. We will check for posts for one thousand days, should we survive them what with springtime allergies and day-in and day-out mortality.
*There was little that was “underground” about Helix. When the Yakima Eagle printed that they were determined to find out who was printing our paper and lead a boycott against them and us we published the details for them in Helix. Our only underground certainty we discovered after the paper passed away when we surveyed our stripped quarters on Harvard Ave. East. We found that our phone had been elaborately tapped, but then again almost certainly in the interests of decency and national security.
This photo is taken from the terrace of the big store Galeries Lafayette located 40 boulevard Haussmann Paris 9th arrondissement, I enjoy the proximity of the Opéra Garnier, the viewers and the panorama of Paris…
Cette photo est prise de la terrasse des Galeries Lafayette situé 40 boulevard Haussmann Paris 9ème, j’aime beaucoup l’énorme présence de l’Opéra Garnier, les spectateurs et le panorama de Paris…
I confess an attraction to “row houses,” and these at the southeast corner of 5th Avenue and Madison Street were one – or six – of Seattle’s best examples. While they depart from that domestic ideal (often put to rhyme) of a “stand alone home of one’s own,” together they share a cozy community, and show some architectural rhythm as well.
The likely date for this subject is sometime in the fall of 1889. The leaves have fallen from the tree on the far left but not on the saplings protected along the south side of Madison Street. Those young poplars survived to grow tall and once lined Madison thru its climb up First Hill. The year is chosen because the oversized Rainier Hotel, which here rises above the roof of the row, was quickly hammered together following the city’s “great fire” of June 6, 1889. It was meant to service a city that had lost most of its hostelries to the fire. Here, some of the Rainier’s construction scaffolding is still in place.
The row itself is nearly new. While the six homes do not appear in a city birdseye that was prepared in 1888 they do receive a careful rendering in one of the glories of Seattle cityscape, a 1891 colored lithograph birdseye. Also, with six addresses – 912 through 922 Fifth Avenue – it was easy enough to find some renters in this row with a little finger-browsing thru a city directory from 1892. For instance, insurance agent Frank Beach, his wife (not named) and two daughters, Annie and Nellie (both listed as artists) lived then at 916 Fifth, here the next to last flat at the far south end of the row.
On March 21, 1941 Nellie Beach was interviewed by this paper in anticipation of a performance by Polish piano virtuoso Artur Rubinstein for the Ladies Musical Club’s 50th anniversary celebration. We learn that Nellie Beach was not only one of the founders of this locally acclaimed club, but performed the first number in its first performance fifty years earlier when she was still living with her family here on 5th Avenue. Her mother was pleased, explaining in 1891, “I hope it will spur you on to keep practicing.” Nellie Beach taught piano in Seattle for forty years.
Anything to add, Paul?
Yes Jean – more Rows, Duplexes and other habitats. With the help of Ron Edge we will first link six previous front pages from our blog. We chose them because the are relevant, at least at the front or near it. Other associations will creep in that were apt for the story when it first ran, but may not be for these Rows, and Duplexes and such. We will also give a brief introduction to each of the six.
We begin with a feature that first appeared here on Dec. 4, 2010. It shares another boom-time example of a Seattle row house, one on Western Avenue in Belltown. I remember building this one around row houses – a few more of them.
The next link gets going with a wreck on the Madison Street cable railway. Its immediate relevance is the street.
The third link brings back – as introduction – a story done here about the view from Harborview Hospital to the Central Business District. It first appeared here (on the blog) on Jan 15, 2011.
The fourth link begins with the Sprague Hotel on Yesler Way, and appeared here first on Nov. 28, 2009.
Number Five – counting Links – takes a look into Belltown from Denny Hill, and was first published in the blog on May 3, 2009..
Finally – for this elaboration – our sixth link takes us again to the top of Queen Anne Hill for a feature that first appeared here on Oct. 9, 2010.
DUPLEX on COLUMBIA
(First appear in Pacific, Oct. 1, 1995)
Between Seattle’s “great fire” of 1889 and the First World War, the sparsely developed neighborhood between downtown and the top of First Hill was rapidly filled in. Rental homes, duplexes and wooden terraces or row houses accommodated the migration that swelled the city’s population sevenfold in 25 years.
As with these duplexes on Columbia Street just west of Fifth Avenue, there was great variety among them. Strip the Victorian rooming house in the center of this scene of its ornaments – the balusters, posts, extended eaves, trusses and the decorated terra-cotta tiles at the peak of its roofline – and a large shed would remain. But their owners seemed required to give their renters, however transitory, some touches of architectural grace. Here these concerns end at the roof, which is covered minimally with what appears to be unrolled tar-paper. To the right of the telephone pole a front porch sign reads “The Home Light Housekeeping Furnished Rooms.” The two white dots below it are milk bottles.
The duplex on the left is upscale from its neighbor, with a roof of cedar shingles and a brick foundation. (The center structure is most likely built on posts hidden behind wooden skirts.) All these residences use horizontal clapboards, but the house on the left frames its siding at other angles below and above the windows in the building’s front bays. The popular Victorian ornament of fish-scale shingles appears where the bay window swells between the first and second floors.
A glimpse of the brick south wall of the new First United Methodist Church is evident just above the gable, upper right, of the center duplex. The congregation still worships there. In 1951, they dedicated their new Parish House on the site of these old duplexes.
With a little searching the row on Columbia can be found in both the above photo from circa 1891-2 and the view below taken from the Hoge building at Second and Cherry when it was topped-off in 1911 or soon after. The landmarks on the horizon above are, to the left, the Central School on the south side of Madison between Sixth and Seventh Aves. (now the freeway) and, center, the Rainier Hotel between Columbia, the street that runs up through the scene, and Marion, 5th and 6th Avenue. It is seen also in the “featured” photo for today – the row on 5th and Madison. In the view below the hotel has been scraped away in preparation for a mess of smaller buildings. St. James has been added to the horizon (1907) and still with its dome, which it lost to the “Big Snow” of 1916. Also filling the bottom-left quarter of the format is the Central Building on the east side of Third between Columbia and Madison. If you are still searching for the row on Columbia’s north side and west of 5th Ave. you will find them in both images some distance above and to the right of the scene’s centers.
The triplex at Spring and Boren is an example of the distinguished and yet affordable Victorian housing that was typical of Seattle during its boom decades between 1880 and 1910. Although both sturdy and stately many of these structures were short-lived, replaced with larger brick structures like the apartment house that took the place of 1017, 1019 and 1021 Spring Street. Historical photo courtesy of John E. Kelly III.
STAR-CROSSED ON SPRING STREET
Barely detectable, John E. Kelly Jr., the youngest of the then nine Kelly kids, here sits on the lowest of the steps that lead up to 1019 Spring Street, the center address for this triplex of Victorian row houses. It is a short row and compared to some it displays only a modest face of ornaments, latticework, shingle styles and recessed balconies. (However, it may have been quite colorful – a “painted lady.”)
Taking the Northern Pacific Route in only its tenth year as a transcontinental, the Kellys moved here from Waterford, New York in 1893 — just in time for the national depression beginning that year. Still the Kelly’s continued to prosper and multiply with John Senior opening a popular dry goods store downtown. And John Jr. soon rose from these steps on Spring Street to nurture a Seattle career as an architect.
Next the architect’s son John E. Kelly III continued the family’s talent for professional handiwork with a long career as a naval architect, and a valued activist for heritage with the Sea Scouts, the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society and, thankfully, Kelly-Gailey family history as well.
John “the third’s” mother Eileen, was the daughter of another First Hill household, the David and Elisabeth Gailey family. While Eileen was attending Broadway High School the Gailey’s bought a hotel, the Knickerbocker at 7th and Madison, and moved in. The maturing Eileen’s creative calendar included piano lessons with Nellie Cornish and courtship with John E. Kelly Jr. the lad on the steps.
It was during their dating that the couple shared a moment of unforeseen amusement – a brush of domestic kismet — when they determined that four years after the Kelly family moved out of 1019 Spring Street in 1896 the Gaileys moved in and kept it for eleven years before they left to care for their big hotel.
“Bridal Row” at the northeast corner of Pike and 6th.
BRIDAL ROW, 6TH and PIKE
(Appeared first in Pacific, Feb. 23, 1983)
In 1888 young Dr. Frantz Coe came west from Michigan looking for a practice and found one in Seattle when ex-mayor Gideon Weed, who was also one of the oldest and most respected physicians in town, invited Coe to share his offices. So the 32-year-old doctor sent for his wife, Carrie, and soon they were settled into 606 Pike Street – one of the six newly built and joined abodes that together were called “Bridal Row.”
The Coes, however, were not on an extended honeymoon, for Carrie had brought with her their three children, Frantzel, Harry and their first-born Herbert. Within a year the Great Fire of 1889 would destroy the Weed and Coe medical offices but not the domestic peace along Bridal Row, which was described by Sophie Fry Bass in her book Pigtail Days in Old Seattle as “an attractive place with flowers in the garden and birds singing in the windows.”
Sophie also lived on Pike Street with her pioneer parents, George and Louisa Frye, just across Sixth Avenue from the Coes. The Fryes had moved there many years before when Pike was a path and their back door opened to the forest. In 1890 the corner of Sixth and Pike was no longer at the edge of town, but it was still largely residential. While the central city was loud with the noises escaping from its booming efforts to rebuild itself after the fire, the residents along Pike were still listening to birds sing, sniffing flowers, and some of them like the Fryes were even milking their own cows and gathering eggs.
Around 9:30 on the Saturday morning of September 20, this settled peace was interrupted by what the next day’s Post-Intelligencer called the “Panic on Pike Street.” Both Sophie Fry and young Herbert Coe were witnesses to a wild event that had “passers-by scattering in terror and women relieving themselves with piercing screams.” Sophie Fry Bass recalled how “I heard the chickens cackle loudly and . . . I shuddered when I saw the cougar cross Sixth A venue; I could hardly believe my eyes.” The cat had killed a chicken in the Kentucky stables a short distance from the Frye home. There it was also shot in its behind and, quoting the newspaper’s account, “enraged and uttering a terrific yell, it bounded the sidewalk and rushed down Sixth Avenue.” It turned up Pike Street and as “the panic spread to the thronged thoroughfare and all pedestrians made a rush for safety, with two great bounds the cougar landed in the yard of Dr. E.H. Coe’s residence.” Nine-year-old Herbert, who was playing on the porch, heard the warning shots and fled inside behind the fragile safety of the front room window. The big cat went to the window and looked back at him with his claws upon the pane. For one long transfixed moment they stared at one another until a man with a 44-caliber revolver emptied it into the cougar. Eight feet and 160 pounds of wild cat lay still in the flowers along Bridal Row.
In this view of the “Row,” Herbert sits atop the fence post. Behind him is the window that kept the cat from him. In front of him is the wooden planking across Pike Street, which Sophie Frye Bass remembered as at times “mighty smelly like a stable, owing to the horses . . . In summer the water wagon went down the dusty planks each day. There was a street sweeper too, and when it came, all would rush frantically to close the windows.”
By 1895 with the encouragement of a very good practice and the steady conversion of Pike Street into a commercial thoroughfare, Frantz Coe and his wife Carrie left Bridal Row and took their children up to a bigger home on First Hill. There an older Herbert recalled he no longer needed to check under his bed each night for the lurking cougar. By 1902 they moved again to Washington Park and into a new home with a view out over the lake.
In 1903 Pike Street was regraded all the way to Broadway Avenue, and Bridal Row was put up on stilts and a new story of storefronts moved in beneath.
Dr. Frantz Coe died suddenly in 1904, two years before his son Herbert graduated from his father’s alma mater, the University of Michigan Medical School. On July 15, 1962 the Seattle Times published a feature article titled “Seattle’s Four Grand Old Men.” One of these was the “beloved” Dr. Herbert Coe who by then had for 54 years been an essential part of the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital, including 30 years as its chief of surgical services and ten years as chief of staff.
Herbert Coe died in 1968 at the age of 87. He is survived by his two sons and widow Lucy Campbell Coe, daughter of pioneer hardware man James Campbell. Mrs. Coe recalled for us the details of young Herbert’s confrontation with the cougar and supplied the photograph of Bridal Row. She was born here in 1887 or one year before her future husband’s family settled into Bridal Row. (Remembering that it is now nearly 30 years since this feature first appeared in Pacific.)
BROKEN HYDRANT AT PIKE AND SIXTH!
(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 19 1997)
The occasion for this small disaster on Sixth Avenue has eluded me. Neither the records of the city’s engineering department (the photo is theirs), nor those of the fire or water department’s (a hydrant has been broken), nor a search of the daily papers for March 3, 1920 (the date captioned on the negative), has offered the slightest hint. Still, the event was significant enough to call out the city’s photographer to record it.
One flood at Sixth and Pike, however, gives me an excuse to refer to another.
In her delightful book “Pig-tail Days in Old Seattle” – a treasure of local pioneer reminiscences – Sophie Frye Bass, who grew up beside this intersection when Pike was still an ungraded wagon road, recalls how after a rain the streams that once ran across Pike “became torrents.” One stormy Christmas, Sophie took a “pretty mug” she had found in her stocking outside “to play in the water when the swift current caught it out of my hand and carried it away. Evidently it was not meant for me, for it said on it, in nice gold letters, ‘For a good girl.’ “
Also in her book, Bass, granddaughter of Mary and Arthur Denny, recalls how on a Saturday morning in the late summer of 1890 the peace of this place was suddenly interrupted when a cougar raided a chicken coop and bounded through the intersection, scattering pedestrians along Pike. (The incident described in the feature directly above this one.) The puma’s Pike was already a mix of residences and storefronts, and Sophie Fry Bass’ streams had by then been diverted. Still, the difference between that Sixth and Pike and this one in 1920, 30 years later, is nearly as radical as that between 1920 and 1997. (This feature, of course, first appeared in 1997.)
Looking east on Pike towards its intersection with 5th Avenue.
PIKE STREET “FRESHET”
(First appeared in Pacific, Jan 29, 1995)
This flash flood along Pike Street did not come from above, but from below. On the morning of May 3, 1911, a contractor’s steam shovel cutting a grade for Fifth Avenue through the old University of Washington campus sunk its steel teeth into a sizable city water main. In moments the pressure within tore the pipe like a cooked noodle, releasing a geyser at Fifth Avenue’s intersection with University Street. There the flood divided, one channel moving west along University toward First Avenue and the other north on Fifth Avenue, where it split twice more, first at Union and then Pike streets.
This view – complete with wading dog – looks east on Pike toward its intersection with Fifth Avenue. “For half an hour the district between Pike and Madison streets from Third to First avenue was flooded,” reported the next morning’s Post-Intelligencer. “Improvised bridges of planks served to carry pedestrians across the rivers, horses floundered along hock-deep in the yellow waters, street cars left a swell like motor boats and the appearance of things was generally demoralized.”
Damage from this man-made freshet was minimal – a few basements were puddled. The water rarely leaped the curbs, although this sidewalk along Pike seems an exception. At the alley behind the former Seattle Times plant on Union Street, a dike was quickly constructed from bundles of news•papers, preventing the tide from spilling onto the presses. The reporter for The Times was amused by the many “funny situations” created, including the scene “where a hurrying couple avoided delay and kept the feet of a least one dry by the man picking up his companion and carrying her across the small river.”
The diverse row above was ultimately razed for the building of the Yesler Terrace Housing. The example of the new housing below is not, however, from the same corner at Jefferson and Eighth but from some distance to the south in the main body of the project. But it was recorded with the project was brand new and a national model..
FIRST HILL NEIGHBORS
(First appeared in Pacific, Aug. 5, 1990)
Working for the Seattle Housing Authority, the photographer of this historical view was gathering evidence of an aging neighborhood that soon would be razed for the modern public housing planned by the agency. Harborview Hospital’s bright Art Deco facade offers a contrast to the weathered clapboards of the old homes, and it was the houses, not the hospital, that interested the photographer of the older scene. The professional even has decapitated the hospital’s tower at the top of the view’s original 5-by-7 -inch negative.
The house with the hanging laundry was at the southwest corner of Eighth Avenue and Jefferson Street. The scene was recorded around 1939, the year the city directory lists Florence Pinkerton and Herbert Curtis living in the corner house. Rinosuke Hiroshige lived next door – the home in the middle – and Bernard Brereton lived in the house on the right.
In the window on the far left the afternoon sun reflects from the back of a chair and an elbow it supports. Perhaps either Herbert Curtis or Florence Pinkerton are keeping a watch on the photographer whose big camera is another indication that they will soon be moving.
BELLTOWN BEACH TOWN –
Two kinds of row / Above the bluff and down below.
(First appears in Pacific, July 12, 1998)
In the 1890s, the waterfront from Pike Street north to Broad Street was developed into a community of shacks made from scrounged materials, including those deposited by the tides. There was only one break in the bluff separating this squatters’ strip from the Denny Hill neighbors above them. The north entrance to this “Belltown ravine” shows at far left in this scene recorded from the Great Northern Railroad trestle in 1898 or ’99 by Norwegian photographer Anders Wilse. North of Bell Street, a lower bluff resumed and petered away by Broad Street.
Photographs of this same section of waterfront recorded in the late 1880s show a native camp of tents and lean-tos. Pioneer and Native American accounts tell of the Duwamish tribe using this spring-fed site as a traditional campground. Here (referring to the top picture of this small beach group) the entrance to the ravine is crowded with the waterfront’s most ambitious grouping of shacks, appointed with their own seawall and flagpole.
A Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter who visited this “strange beachcombers’ village” in 1891 noted that “you can hear a dozen languages and dialects. Heavy-faced Indians, black-eyed Greeks, swarthy Italians, red-haired Irishmen and Danes, Swedes and Norwegians with flaxen locks are mingled in this cosmopolitan settlement. The men fish, do longshore jobs, pick up driftwood and lounge in the sun, while the women stand at their doors and gossip, and the children, too young to know social or race distinctions, dig holes in the cliff and the beach, make houses of pebbles and launch boats in the waves.” ,
Beginning in 1903, construction of the north approach to the Great Northern tunnel beneath the city uprooted this beach community, replacing it with more tracks and fill. Soon the ravine was also filled with Denny Hill dirt, which, included at least one native skeleton, discovered last February at this site during foundation work on the Port of Seattle’s World Trade Center. (This, as noted, was written in 1998.)
ODDS & END for OTHER ROWS & SUCH
Looking north on Third Ave. from Columbia Street. Here are at least two evidences of boomtown stresses, the regrade itself, and the juxtaposition – nearly – of the row houses facing Marion on the right and the new Stander Hotel across Marion, and the Martin Van Buren Stacy mansion at the northeast corner of Marion and Third. Eventually, the mansion would also be “stressed” by change, and turned 90 degrees to face Marion Street, where it served for decades as the home of one of Seattle’s better restaurants, the Maison Blanc.
Looking north on First Ave. from Pike Street, circa 1909.
One of the grander early rows appears on the left of this snow scene from the 1890s with the familiar landmarks of Central School, on the right, and the Rainier Hotel, on the left. The row faces Columbia Street from its north side between Seventh and Sixth Avenues, now part of the I-5 trench. The same row appears below – its back side. This subject is shot from Sixth Avenue looking to the southeast. The age of it may be estimated by the models of the cars. It is a Standard station.
Two unidentified rows – above and below – printed from nitrate negatives gone bad and long ago extracted from the Municipal Archive.
The intended Seattle terminus for the Tacoma Interurban was at Pike Street but that required a climb on First Avenue too steep for the line’s heavy three-car trains. Consequently, for the duration – the twenty-six years it served between 1902 and 1928 – the principal common carrier to Tacoma and thru the Green River valley paused here instead, on Occidental Ave. between Yesler Way and Washington Street. Soon the block was proliferated by “Interurbans” – a hotel, a grocer, a café, and perhaps inevitably the grandest structure on the block, the bank building on the left, became known as the Interurban Building, and still is.
It is a trailing dark green Parlor Car that is parked here just south of Yesler Way. One paid an extra quarter over the 60 cent fair to ride in it, but you got pillowed seats, a white-coated porter fussing after your comfort, and status. At one of the more vibrant corners in town, this terminus sidewalk was often crowded. Clearly hats were required – everyone seems to wear one. The man far left under the conductor’s hat has at his feet another commonplace of the time, packages bound with string sensibly in plain paper. At the center is another stock specialist for a busy corner – the newspaper “boy.”
We will figure the date here as sometime between or around the fall of 1906 and Nov. 28, 1908, when the Globe Medical Institute ran their first and last ads in the Seattle Times promising “quick cures, honest dealing, small fees, easy terms” from “Seattle’s most reliable specialists for all diseases of men.” There’s a Globe sign in the Korn Building window upper-right. Among other cheats, Dr. Lukens, the proprietor, gave perfunctory five-minute physicals for five dollars to unemployed men collard on the Skid Road sidewalks by “employment agents.” The men were always in perfect health. After directing the eager laborer’s to Lukens office for the required “exams”, the agent quickly and conveniently disappeared with the professed jobs, to return later, of course, for his cut.
At the Washington Street end of the block, in the Interurban Hotel, the teenage hustler Violet McNeal got rich working another health hoax, this one selling magic potions concocted of Oriental herbs and beeswax. She later confessed all in her book “Four White Horses and a Brass Band.”
It is often noted that it was in this block that Pioneer Square turned into Skid Road, a neighborhood attractive to quacks, hucksters, hustlers, suckers, and for a quarter-century passengers to Tacoma.
Anything to add, Paul?
Certainly but with some restraint compared to some of the previous hordes. These five or six or seven (depending upon finding the images) features are all pulled from past Pacifics. Mixed with them will be the supporting illustration that, of course, never made it into the newspaper where the space is a fraction of what this free media allows. We will begin with the first attention that the Tacoma Interurban got in this now thirty year series of repeats. It was first published on Nov. 6, 1983 and some of its “points” were used again, above.
A PLUSH COMMUTE TO TACOMA & BACK
(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 6, 1983)
Two commuters recline at the observation end of the plush parlor car, using the ornamental brass railing as a prop. Another passenger to the right exhales a puff of cigar smoke; yet another looks back into the mahogany interior of the car. Inside are 58 pillowy seats where the Seattle and Tacoma Interurban’s more affluent or exuberant riders are attended by a porter. Although these parlor cars were painted the same dark green color as the rest of the Puget Sound Electric Railway’s rolling stock, they were obviously something special. For the classy ride, complete with an enclosed view from the observation deck, passengers paid an extra quarter over the regular 60-cent fare. Using its corporate initials, the PSER advertised a ride resplendent with “Pleasure, Safety, Economy and Reliability.” The electrically propelled trip was free of cinders and smoke, smooth and fast: the trip included the thrill of “going like sixty. “
When the Interurban started service in 1902, the automobile was still a sporting novelty for a few of the well-to-do. The practical and preferred way of getting to and from Tacoma was via the Mosquito Fleet steamers that buzzed about Puget Sound. The second choice was via rail.
Heading either south or north, lnterurban passengers could glimpse the mountain Tacoma passengers called ” Tacoma” and Seattle riders called “Rainier.” The route passed through hop fields, dairy farms, truck gardens, coal fields, orchards, forests, one tunnel and an Indian reservation. It took an hour and 40 minutes to cover the line’s 32.2 miles. Some stops like Burts, Floraville and Mortimer are now as abandoned as the rail itself. Others like Georgetown, Allentown, Renton, Kent and Auburn are still familiar.
Within the city limits the Interurban ran over municipal rails and attached its trolley poles to electric lines overhead. But as soon as it crossed the city limits, a motorman would lower his pole and hook up with the mysterious third rail, or contact rail, that ran parallel to the other two.
This third rail was alive with electricity. School children were regularly warned not to touch it. Chickens, however, were sometimes encouraged to peck at the grain strategically sprinkled along its side. Interurban electrocution was a new way of preparing a fowl for plucking.
The Interurban hit its heyday in 1919 when more than 3 million passengers used the line. But within nine years the line’s haul dropped to less than a million. By 1917 highway 99 was finished and the Model T was commonplace. Service along the third rail was threatened.
At 11:30 Sunday evening on Dec. 30, 1928, the last Interurban cars pulled out from Tacoma and Seattle. The Tacoma bound car left from the intersection of Occidental Avenue and Yesler Way, for 26 years the location of the Interurban Depot.
At 115 Occidental South Tats Deli now (2006) sells steaks and subs where the Star Theatre once offered “2 Big Features” for a dime. The theatre photo dates from 1937.
STAR THEATRE on OCCIDENTAL AVE.
(First appeared in Pacific, early 2006)
In 1937 John Danz was fifty years old and already in his 21st year of running the Star Theatre on Occidental Avenue a half block south of Yesler Way. Dance immigrated from Russian with his parents. Later he also migrated from running his Sterling Men’s Wear on 2nd Avenue South to building the largest independent theatre circuit in the Pacific Northwest. And he kept the name Sterling, ultimately calling it the Sterling Recreation Organization or SRO for short.
It was with his purchase of the Star in 1916 that Danz made the fateful switch from running – with his brothers – a haberdashery with the lure of a nickelodeon at the front door to building a chain of dedicated theatres. Since Danz was an independent he did not get first runs films, – at first – but drew his customers with low admission prices and double features. Here the Star is open during the Great Depression – the photograph dates from 1937 – and a small crowd of men is reading the theatre’s broadsides at the sidewalk. Above and behind them the cheap ten-cent admission is advertised famously in a big sign extending from the second floor over the sidewalk. Another sign of the depression-time economy of the Skid Road is posted one door south of the Star (to the left) where S. Miyato, the proprietor of the Interurban Hotel, is renting rooms for 25 cents a night.
A year earlier in 1936 Danz purchased the Pantages Theatre at Third Ave and University Street. Renaming it the Palomar the terra-cotta landmark added class to his chain of by then seven theatres. The Palomar was also a long-time home for his operations. By the 1950s SRO owned 25 theatres in or near Seattle.
In a 1922 Seattle Times nostalgia piece on “Old Time Buildings [that] Hold Realms (perhaps “reams” was meant) of Forgotten Stories, a Star Theatre is recalled. “The Star Theatre of today, [is] a two-story building whose exterior plainly speaks of better days. In 1897 it bore the same name but ‘Flaky’ Barnett ran there also a dance hall [where] in a railed-off center space, gaily dressed girls danced with their partners, earning besides their salary, a share of each drink purchased by their partner.” In that Star a dime might have got you a dance.
OCCIDENTAL AVENUE, Ca. 1872
(First appeared in Pacific, Aug. 3, 1986)
The first thing to note about this early Occidental Avenue view is that it is one of a kind. For it was a rare moment when a photographer took the time to step one block away from all the commercial bustle on Commercial Street (First Avenue South) and shoot the idle irregularity of this tiny side street.
Both the original negative and prints for this scene are now long sing gone missing. However, the flip side of the second-generation copy print in the University of Washington’s Historical Photography Collection still carries a caption, which adds three details to this scene. The caption claims that the photo was taken in 1872, that the prominent white clapboard on the right is Mrs. Frances Guye’s boardinghouse and that the shed on the left is A. Slorak’s saloon. That’s it.
Photos, of course, also speak for themselves and this one tells us how in 1872 Occidental Avenue still dipped a bit at Washington Street – or halfway between the photographer and the Occidental hotel two blocks to the north. Actually, not too many years before this scene was shot, that intersection was part of a tide marsh. As Sophie Frye Bass recalls in her Pigtail Days in Old Seattle, “Occidental Avenue was almost Occidental waterway, a way of tides and logs and drift from Yesler’s Mill, a way where Indians beached their canoes and where crows dropped clams on the rocks to break the shells and swooped down in a rush before watchful gulls could gobble them.” So what we see here in 1872 is Seattle’s first reclamation project – a relatively dry and tide-free Occidental Avenue.
The people-less view of the street was somewhat prophetic: In 1872 Seattle had its first bank failure and, oddly, the deaths in town outnumbered the births 21 to 18. But there was a luster in the gray clouds. The little city also got its first brick building and there were 25 marriages, suggesting both a sturdier and statistically brighter future.
OCCIDENTAL NORTH of MAIN STREET, 1911
(First appeared in Pacific, Aug. 9, 1992)
Even from two blocks to the south and looking north over Main Street the elegant conclusion of Occidental Avenue at Yesler Way is well-lit with the ornate facade of the Seattle Hotel. Behind it, the top floors of the Alaska Building top off the scene and the city. When it was built at Second Avenue and Cherry Street in 1904, the Alaska Building was Seattle’s first skyscraper, an elevation it maintained until the Hoge Building was put up in 1911, the likely year this scene was photographed. The primary subject is most likely the first ornamental street-lighting system by the Seattle Lighting Department (precursor to City Light). Designed by the department’s head, J.D. Ross, the five-ball clusters on ornamental iron poles were described in the department’s 1911 report as “generally admired by tourists and visitors from all parts of the country . . . This design gives a beautiful effect of festoons of decorative lights along the sidewalks, and at the same time secures a uniform illumination on all parts of the street.”
Built in 1890 the often-notorious three-story brick block at the northwest corner of Second Avenue S. and Washington Street was prudently reduced to a single story following the 1949 earthquake. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.)
SIN SUDS & A FREE LUNCH
(Appeared in Pacific early in 2003)
In the mid-1990s frustrated by the chronic confusion over both the names and historic uses of the buildings of the Pioneer Square Historic District, Greg Lange and Tim O’Brian joined their years of research on the neighborhood and came up with an inventory. For most of District’s landmark structures they agreed — but not on this 3-story brick at the northwest corner of Second Avenue S. and Washington Street.
Tim O’Brian called it “The Schlesinger-Brodek Block.” John Schlesinger and Gustave Brodek built it in 1890 upon the ashes of the city’s “Great Fire” of 1889. Greg Lange chose the name Consodine as a kind of landmark reward for its most famous tenant, the impresario John Considine. The contrite and tea-totaling Considine operated the notoriously lewd and looped People’s Theater in the basement. His career there and elsewhere is skillfully portrayed in Murray Morgan’s classic of Seattle history: “Skid Road” with his own chapter, “John Considine and the Box-Houses, 1893-1910.”
In this view the open stairway to the basement theater is behind the horses and beneath the sign that reads “Free Lunch Down Stairs.” The two uniformed policemen standing in front of the mural-sized Rainier Beer sign mostly hide at knee-level the name “People’s Café.” By this time – early 20th Century – Considine has likely moved on and up to run his national vaudeville circuit and left his basement box-house to sell beer with the lure of free nuts and sandwiches sans sin.
Billy’s Mug was this building’s second famous tenant. His signs hang over the sidewalk both on the left and over the corner. In his book “Early Seattle Profiles” Henry Broderick, local real estate tycoon, remembers William “Billy” Belond’s tavern “where on a fifty foot long bar skillful bartenders would slide a filled beer mug along the sudsy bar ten or fifteen feet so it would come to stop in front of the customer.”
By the Lang-O’Brian inventory here are some other historic tenants. The Apollo Café, the Oregon Hotel (see the sign upper-left), Barney’s Jewelry and Loan, the Iron Kettle, the Union Gospel Mission Bargain House, and since the late 1930s the Double Header. The ambitiously named State Medical Institute, whose banner runs the length the building between its second and third floors, was a short-term tenant. Most likely this “institute” was a collection of doctor’s offices more than a school operated by a learned association of physicians.
Besides the street trees and the historic three-ball light standard on the right the obvious difference in the “now” is the parking lot that in 1969 replaced the storefronts that held the northeast corner of Occidental Avenue and Washington Street when, toting his camera, Werner Langenhager visited the block now fifty-six years ago.
SKID ROAD IVAR – 1956
We may celebrate the photographer Werner Langenhager’s sizeable and sensitive record of Seattle with this “golden anniversary” example of his work.  With his back to Second Avenue Langenhager looks west on Washington Street to its intersection with Occidental Avenue where, most obviously, the big block letters for Ivar’s fish bar hold the northwest corner.
Ivar was sentimental about these pioneer haunts. During his college years in the 1920s he wrote a paper on the Skid Road for his class in sociology. To get it right Ivar spend a week living in a neighborhood hotel, visiting the missions, and betting in the Chinese lotteries.
For his first try at returning to the neighborhood as a restaurateur Ivar bought the old popcorn wagon in Pioneer Place (then the more popular name than Pioneer Square) in the early 1950s. He planned to convert it into a chowder dispensary. And he proposed building a replica of Seattle’s original log cabin also, of course, for selling chowder. For different reasons both plots plopped and instead in 1954 he opened this corner fish house. He called it his “chowder corner.”
Consulting the Polk City Directory for 1956 we can easily build a statistical profile for Ivar’s neighbors through the four “running blocks” of Occidental between Yesler Way and Main and Washington between First and Second. Fifteen taverns are listed including the Lucky, the Loggers, the Oasis and the Silver Star. But there were also ten cafes (including Ivar’s), six hotels, four each of barbers and cobblers, three second-hand shops, two drug stores, one loan shop, one “Loggers Labor Agency” and five charities, including the Light House.
The 1956 statistic for these four blocks that best hints at how this historic neighborhood was then in peril of being razed for parking is the vacancies. There were twelve of them.
After the Seattle National Bank Building at the southeast corner of Occidental Avenue and Yesler Way became the depot for the Seattle-Tacoma Interurban railway in 1903 it became popularly known as the Interurban Building. It is the name that is now preferred, although it has also been called both the Pacific block and the Smith Tower Annex.
THE INTERURBAN BUILDING
(Appeared in Pacific, March 2006)
Not yet 30 the English-born architect John Parkinson moved to Seattle with fateful good timing. He arrived in January 1889, a little less than a half-year before the business district was kindling for the “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889. In the post-fire reconstruction Parkinson’s talent for design was soon patronized and his surviving Seattle National Bank Building displays, to quote the modern expert Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, “a remarkable level of coherence and repose in contrast to the agitated work of so many of his contemporaries.”
The most striking feature of this Romanesque landmark is either the Lyon over the bank’s corner front door or the building’s color: a coherent red from sidewalk to cornice. At its base Parkinson used red sandstone shipped from Colorado rather than the commonplace gray stone quarried in the Northwest and used by most of the bank’s neighbors.
While Ochsner has the bank completed in 1892, that might have been the year for finishing touches. This view may date from the spring of 1891 when the Pioneer Place (Square) neighborhood was decorated with fir trees – like those on the right — for the May 6 visit of Benjamin Harrison. (The President rode a Yesler Way Cable Car – like Car #13 on the left – out to Leschi, boarded the lake steamer “Kirkland” to Madison Park, and returned to town on the Madison Cable Railway.)
In this view a book and stationary store, Union Hardware, and the Wilcox Grocery all face Occidental Ave. The Queen City Business College is on the second floor, while the Washington Temperance Magazine, and several lawyers have offices upstairs.
After a stint as the first official architect for Seattle schools, Parkinson left for Los Angeles where he had more than considerable success. Through his L.A. career the young architect grew old and counted both the city’s famed coliseum and city hall among his accomplishments.
When its first ornate section was built in 1883 the Occidental hotel was perhaps the principal architectural sign of Seattle’s then recent ascendancy as the most populated community in Washington Territory. With its 1887 additions the hotel covered the entire flatiron block between Second, Yesler and James. Destroyed by the “Great Fire” of June 5,1889, the Occidental was replaced by the Seattle Hotel whose unfortunate destruction in 1961 by many reckonings mobilized Seattle’s “forces of preservation.” A small section of its dismal replacement, the “Sinking Ship Garage,” appears in the contemporary photograph right of center between the Pioneer Building and the trees of Pioneer Square.
(Appeared first in the Pacific, June 2004)
One hundred and sixteen years ago this morning on June 6, 1889 that part of Seattle’s excited population that tired of watching the flames through the night and had surviving beds to drop into awoke to these ruins and thirty-plus blocks of more ruins and ashes. The Occidental Hotel’s three-story monoliths — perhaps the grandest wreckage — held above the still smoking district like illustrations for the purple and red prose of that morning’s Seattle Daily Press.
“The forked tongues of a pierce pitiless holocaust have licked up with greedy rapacity the business portion of Seattle . . . It was a catastrophe sudden and terrific. Besides the smoking tomb like ruins of a few standing walls . . . people are left living to endure with sheer despair . . . blackness, gloom, bereavement, suffering, poverty, the hideous remains of a feast of fire.”
Predictably, the reporter’s hideous remains were also fantastic and the city’s photographers were soon making sidewalk sales of scenes like this one. If the best of these ruins had been allowed to stand it would have become both romantic and revered, but it was not. The Occidental’s “towers” were blown up on the evening of the eighth. (Most likely it was either on the 7th or 8th that this record of their silhouette was captured for the district was still generally hot and smoldering on the sixth.)
The fire started at about 2:30 in the afternoon of June 5 at the southwest corner of Front Street (First Ave.) and Madison. It took a little less than four hours for it to reach and jump James Street and ignite the north wall of the hotel. In another dozen minutes the fire passed through the distinguished landmark and jumped Yesler Way to spread through the firetrap frame structures between Yesler and the tideflats that were then still south of King Street.
[If I have some luck in finding one or more other related features and soon, I’ll attach them later today – Sunday. If not they will show up later and fit somewhere then as well.]