(click to enlarge photos)
Diana James’ new history of Seattle apartment houses has a confident clarity that shares the author’s delight in her subject. Her scholarly results also create a template for following the developing patterns of apartment house choices – for both builders and renters – that may be applied, we suspect, everywhere.
“Shared Walls,” the inspired title for James’ book, was the gift from her friend, the Capitol Hill historian, Jacqueline Williams, who like James lives on the hill, which is well appointed with landmark apartments. (I too lived with shared walls for several years in the 1970s on the Summit Ave. trackless trolley line.)
As one of the American West’s greatest boomtowns, Seattle was soon in need of shared walls. Not yet thirty years old in 1880, the federal census confirmed that the Queen City – its nickname then – was the largest community in the territory and still with only 3553 counted citizens. Twenty years later, at the turn of the century when the enumeration had swelled to 80,871, James found the first listings for apartments in the city’s 1900 Polk Directory. There were four of them. Forty years more and the number reached about 1400, and nearly one-fifth of all Seattle households lived in them.
From these hundreds of apartments, the trained preservationist chose 100 – including the Hermosa Apartments shown here – to explore both by records and on foot. The choices are illustrated with a mix of archival photos and the author’s own. Dated 1911, the historical photo shows the Hermosa beginning to add three stories.
Too prudently, perhaps, the McFarland Publisher chose to print only a few hundred copies of Shared Walls, which they were confident would appeal to libraries. You have the choice of checking Seattle libraries for shared copies of Shared Walls or calling bookstores first. Yes, it is an enduring delight to visit a bookstore.
Of course, I had to grab a shot of Chief Seattle, framed by naked branches on a late winter day.
Anything to add, Paul?
Yes Jean – a few more Apartment Houses – following or heading a feature on Tilikum Place done a few years past – when I find it.
ANHALT APARTMENTS – 750 Bellmont Ave.
(First appeared in Pacific March 3, 1991)
Beginning in 1926, Frederick William Anhalt spent three years building apartment buildings in Seattle – nearly 30 of them. A half-century later, many remain among Seattle’s most cherished architectural treasures.
The building at 750 Belmont Ave., shown here, was Anhalt’s first luxury apartment. How he chose its agreeable style is a story told in “Built by Anhalt,” a biography by Steve Lambert.
When a young bookseller, whom Anhalt had hired to search for books on beautiful apartments, returned instead with one on English castles, Anhalt recalled, “Well, I took one look at that book and I knew I’d found my style of building. I went through that book and picked a window I liked here, a door there, and something else over there.”
With 750 Belmont, Anhalt created a unity diverse enough to give its residents “the feeling that they were living in a house of their own.” Built on a triangular lot, the structure also showed Anhalt’s knack for using leftover building lots.
In 1929 Anhalt was planning a 150-unit luxury construction across the street from 750 Belmont when the October crash bankrupted him. It was a temporary reversal, and he was soon back constructing affordable Depression-era housing and manufacturing cedar siding .
After World War II, Anhalt went into the nursery business and prospered by raising more rhododendron varieties than anyone else west of the Mississippi. When he sold his property to the University of Washington, it made him a millionaire.
HARDING’S LATE PARADE
(First appeared in Pacific, April 24, 1994)
In retrospect, Warren Harding’s late arrival in Seattle was ominous. The president’s naval transport, Henderson, returning from Harding’s visit to Alaska, rammed and nearly sank the destroyer Zeilin at the entrance to Puget Sound. The slowed Henderson came around West Point at 12:40 on the afternoon of July 27, 1923. Let off at the Port of Seattle’s Bell Street Terminal, the president’s motorcade took a right tum off Bell at First Avenue and promenaded south on First.
Here waving his bowler, Harding salutes the crowd a half-block south of Blanchard Street. Counting the crowds lining the motorcade, the students packed into’ Volunteer and Woodland parks to hear his brief patriotic homilies and the 40,000 enduring his nearly hour-long address about Alaska at the UW Stadium, Harding, 58, performed for more than 100,000 witnesses in his six hours here.
Yet Harding left Seattle sick. His train sped to San Francisco, where he died six days later of what his physician first diagnosed as poisoning from tainted crab and later as apoplexy (bleeding/stroke) of the brain .
In Seattle, the Harding motorcade was solemnly repeated with the same presidential vehicle, this second time empty. Proposals to rename Rainier to Mount Harding were dropped in favor of erecting a monumental speakers platform at Woodland Park. (The monument was later lost to the zoo’s African Savanna.)
Soon after Harding’s demise the rumored aspersions – including the Teapot Dome scandal – of his administration unfolded. Four years after his death, so did the confessions of Nan Britton. Her book on her long affair with Harding was convincing enough to inspire a national rumor that Harding had been poisoned not by crab but by a jealous Mrs. Harding, perhaps, it was rumored, in a sympathy twisted with apoplectic rage..
In the roughly 93 years (dated back from 2006) that divide this now and then look up First Avenue north from Wall Street not much survives of the old “North Seattle” AKA Belltown. The trees on the right of the contemporary view hide the New Pacific Apartments, a rare survivor. (Historical photo compliments of Seattle Municipal Archive.)
FIRST NORTH – Loose Bricks and Billboards
(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 29, 2006)
For those among you who imagine that the bending bricklayer is the intended subject in this look north on First Avenue from Wall Street, bravo. The chronically deteriorating condition of the special paving that bordered the trolley tracks at the center of Seattle’s arterials was an enduring sore point between the city and the Seattle Electric Company. For their franchise the trolley company was obliged to maintain both the tracks and the paving. So a photographer from Seattle Public Works recorded this photo — probably as damning evidence.
A second civic sore point is also exposed here – the billboards. Protests against street advertising were part of the same early 20th Century liberal temper that pushed for parks, clean water (and milk), and beautiful streets. A 1906 campaign against the many billboards in Belltown described them as “glaring and unsightly structures” that “lift their flaming fronts and tell their own story of aggressive insolence.” A stacking of boards at 2nd and Cedar was described as “three tiers of commercialism gone mad.”
Here, on the right behind an example of City Light Director James Delmage Ross’s nearly new (and ornate) five-ball light standard is a two-tier board. There is coffee “upstairs” and Fatima Cigarettes at the sidewalk. At this time – about 1913 – Fatima smokers found wrapped in their packs in addition to the rewards of their sin tax sports cards of popular players and teams.
Among the products using the line of boards on the west side of First are Sunny Monday “Washday Soap”, Budweiser Beer and Adams Black Jack Chewing Gum. By some accounts Black Jack was the first flavored gum. (I once loved both it and the gift of a black tongue.)
Selz Chicago Shoes and Seattle’s own Burnside hats must be prospering for they are promoted with oversize murals on the first building north of Vince Street on the west side of First. Although probably not discernible in this printing, Con Collier’s “Saloon and Family Liquor Store” is also promoted. Perhaps the “family” part of Constant Collier’s sign is warranted because with his family he lives just above his liquor store.
Finally on the right at the northeast corner of Vine and First are the New Pacific Apartments. Built in 1903 this neighborhood survivor is curiously marked in the 1912 real estate map as the Pacific Hospital.
Then Caption. “While the picture isn’t too clear” Fred Cruger, Granite Falls historian and vintage auto expert, gives his “best guess” that that is a “new Dodge coming around the corner . . . ca. 1915.” The corner is where Warren Place, on the right, begins its one short block between First Avenue, which crosses the bottom of the photograph, and Denny Way. (Historical Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey) Now Caption: The substantial apartment house behind the Dodge opened in March of 1910. Built as the Raymond Apartments of brick and concrete is survives as the Daniel Apartments, an “icon” of this Belltown neighborhood.
A BELLTOWN APARTMENT
(First appeared in Pacific, July 29, 2007)
When it first opened its 37 two-room units to renters in 1910 the Raymond Apartments were touted as “the only apartment house in the cluster light district.” The historical scene printed here includes an example of Seattle’s first ornamental street lights, the six-globe “cluster light standard” to the left of the pie-shaped Raymond’s arching front door at the corner of First Avenue and Warren Place.
The cluster lights were installed in 1909-10 and for its 1911 annual report City Light counted 1116 of them lighting 13.5 miles of the city’s busiest streets, most of them downtown. If the new Raymond was the only apartment house on these same streets that distinction could not have lasted but a few weeks or even days. It was this boom town’s boom time for apartment house construction.
Workers increasingly wanted their own baths, which meant for many a move from a lodging house into a private apartment. The 1903 city directory for a Seattle of about 100,000 citizens lists only 8 apartment buildings, but more than 150 lodging houses. Eight year later in a city of about 230,000 citizens, the 1911 directory lists over 300 apartment buildings and a mere 23 lodging houses.
Designed by the architects Thompson and Thompson, a father-son partnership, for the Monmouth Building Company, J.H. Raymond secretary, The Raymond Apartments were later sold and renamed for their new owner the William Daniels Apartments. The name has held. When the city’s Department of Planning and Development published its 2004 “Design Guidelines for the Belltown Urban Center Village” it listed the Daniels as one of the district’s 61 “Icon Buildings” and complimented it for its flatiron shape, and “unified design” featuring “active” and not “blank facades.”
When it was brand new in 1910 the Ben Lomond Apartments looked down on Lake Union from the steep and clear-cut western side of Capitol Hill. A “second growth” urban landscape now often hides the apartment so the “now” view was photographed from the closest available opening. (Historical view courtesy of Lawton Gowey)
BEN LOMOND – A Fertile Prospect
(First appeared in Pacific April 11, 2004)
From its clinging prospect on the western slope of Capitol Hill the Ben Lomond Apartments look down on what its first residents may have comfortably called Lock Union for their new home was named after a 3,330 ft mountain in Scotland. While the name does not fit the five-story brick block’s architecture, which is more Mediterranean, it does resonate with the names of the nearby streets. For that matter it might have been named Ben Belmont or Ben Bellevue.
As built in 1910 the high west wall of the Ben Lomond faced Lakeview Ave (seen here at the bottom left corner). During the winter of 1961-62 the 1-5 Freeway replaced that eccentric street with an overpass and a ditch leaving the apartment house propped so precariously over the Interstate that a special cylinder retaining wall of concrete and steel was required to hold up the hill beneath it. (In the fall of 1962 a slide cracked several structures a short ways north of the Ben Lomond, so the special wall was extended.)
The Ben Lomond was distinguished enough to get its own announcement in the real estate section of the Aug 22, 1909 edition of The Seattle Times. Architect Elmer Ellsworth Green’s rendering of the structure was headlined, “Ben Lomond Apartments to Be Built for Benefit of Families With Children.” A subhead explained, “None but couples with children may enter this $75,000 New Apartment House.” The attached story made the 21 apartments with “disappearing beds” sound like a play land. One of the residents, it was announced, would be a matron employed to care for the children who would be encouraged to play on the roof and enjoy its covered sun rooms.
There was, however, a eugenics hysteria attached to this utopia. Remembering Roosevelt’s famous remarks of 1903 regarding “racial suicide”, the “couples with children only” rule was code to encourage Anglo-Saxon protestants to have more children as an answer to the greater fertility of catholic immigrants from the warm and prolific bottom of Europe.
Werner Lenggenhager, the Swiss-born photographer of this rare look to Capitol Hill along Melrose Place, moved to Seattle in 1939 and soon got a job at Boeing. He continued his decades-long photographic quest of a great variety of subjects all over Washington State even after he retired from Boeing in 1966. With the construction of the Seattle Freeway in the 1960s practically everything in Lenggenhager’s 1959 photograph was erased.
A LOST PLACE
(First appeared in Pacific, Dec. 31, 2006)
In 1953 Byron Fish, one of my all-time favorite Seattle Times columnists, wrote a feature on Werner Lenggenhager, then still a Boeing employee who spent his weekends combining, as Fish summarized it, a “hobby of photography and an interest in history.” Many Times readers will still remember “By Fish” and how he signed his contributions with a primitive cartoon of a smiling fish placed directly above the phrase “his mark.” Fish’s angle was often about the extraordinary in the ordinary, and Lenggenhager fit that.
Through many years of long walks with his camera – he did not drive – Lenggenhager photographed landmarks, many of them doomed, but also “ordinary” scenes like this one. That is Melrose Place cutting through the city grid on its climb from Howell Street, in the foreground, to both Melrose Avenue proper (on the far side of apartment buildings showing top-center) and further on to Olive Street. Like Olive, Melrose Place allowed a motorist, or walker like Werner, to avoid the steeper grade of Denny Way while climbing Capitol Hill.
Of course, practically everything here was “terminal” when Lenggenhager recorded it in 1959. Perhaps, the coming construction of the Seattle Freeway moved him to take this photograph as an act of, at least, pictorial preservation. He might have also been going home or coming from it for the photographer lived at the corner of Belmont Avenue and E. Olive Street, or three short blocks beyond those apartments, top-center. (With the building of the freeway the assessor’s tax records – including the photographs – for these structures were foolishly purged. Some readers, surely, will remember Melrose Place and/or have known Werner Lenggenhager. If either, I would surely like to hear about it.)
In the roughly 40 years he was exploring with his camera Werner Lenggenhager gave prints to the University of Washington, the Museum of History and Industry and the Seattle Public Library. This scene was copied from the library’s collection where it is but one of more than 23,000 examples of the Swiss immigrant’s contribution to our community’s memory.
Above: Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper) Below: In a humble irony, the southeast corner of Madison Street and Boren Avenue which was first developed as a lordly home site for Federal Judge Cornelius Hanford, his wife Clara and their eight children is since 2006 home for 50 units of affordable senior housing developed by the Cabrini Sisters. The Perry/Cabini structure was torn down in 1996. (now pix by Jean Sherrard)
PERRY APARTMENTS – BOREN & MADISON
(First appears in Pacific May 31, 2009)
While supervising the construction of the prestigious St. James Cathedral, architects Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Cote, both new to Seattle, became inevitably known to new clients. Their two largest “spin-off” commissions were for Providence Hospital and these Perry Apartments. The Perry was built on the old Judge Hanford family home site while the Cathedral was still a work-in-progress two blocks away. St. James was dedicated in 1907 and the ornate seven-story apartment was also completed that year for its “first life” at the southwest corner of Madison and Boren.
What the partners could not have known was that they were actually building two hospitals. The Perry was purchased in 1916/17 by Sister Frances Xavier Cabrini – not then yet a saint – and converted into the Columbus Sanatorium and later the Cabrini Hospital, and thereby became the Catholic contributor to the make-over of First Hill – or much of it – into Seattle’s preferred “Pill Hill.”
In this view the new Perry is still eight floors of distinguished flats for high-end renters who expect to be part of the more-or-less exclusive neighborhood. Neighbors close enough to ask for a cup of sugar include many second generation Dennys, the Lowmans, Hallers, Minors, Dearborns, Burkes, Stimsons, Rankes, and many more of Seattle’s nabobs.
Most importantly class-wise were the Carkeeks. In the mid 1880s the English couple, Morgan and Emily Carkeek, built their mansion directly across Boren Avenue from the future Perry when the neighborhood was still fresh stumps and a few paths winding between them. The Carkeek home became the clubhouse for First Hill culture and no doubt a few Perry residents were welcomed to its card and masquerade parties.
Above: The Gainsborough at 1017 Minor Avenue was one of large handful of distinguished apartment buildings built or planned in the late 1920s. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan) Below: Well preserved the elegant Gainsborough continues to distinguish the First Hill neighborhood. (photo by Jean Sherrard)
(First appeared in Pacific June 22, 2008)
Built for class the high-rise apartment at 1017 Minor Avenue on First Hill was named after the English King George III’s favorite painter, Thomas Gainsborough. As a witness to the place’s status, Colin Radford, president of the Gainsborough Investment Co. that built it, was also the new apartments’ first live-in manager. And the apartments were large, four to a floor, fifty in all including Radford’s (if I have counted correctly). What the developer-manager could not see coming when his distinguished apartment house was being built and taking applications was the “Great Depression.”
The Gainsborough was completed in 1930 a few months after the economic crash of late 1929. This timing was almost commonplace for the building boom of the late 1920s continued well into the early 1930s. The quality of these apartments meant that the Gainsborough’s affluent residents were not going to wind up in any 1930s “alternative housing” like the shacks of “Hooverville” although the “up and in” residents in the new apartment’s highest floors could probably see some of those improvised homes “down and out” on the tideflats south of King Street.
Through its first 78 years the Gainsborough has been home to members of Seattle families whom might well have lived earlier in one of the many mansions on First Hill. Two examples. Ethel Hoge moved from Sunnycrest, her home in the Highlands, to the Gainsborough after her husband, the banker James Doster Hoge died in 1929. Before their marriage in 1894 Ethel lived with her parents on the hill near Terry and Marion. Ten years ago the philanthropist-activist Patsy Collins summoned Walt Crowley and I to the Gainsborough. After explaining to her our hopes for historylink.org she gave us the seed money to launch the site that year. Patsy was instrumental in preserving the Stimson-Green mansion, also on Minor Avenue, a home that her grandparents, the C.D. Stimsons, built in 1900.
(First appeared in Pacific, August 6, 1995)
Union Street is interrupted at the front door of The Cambridge, the first of the soaring brick apartment houses built along the steep bank of First Hill. When the 10-story Cambridge opened in 1923, its restrained brick facade dominated the northwest corner of the hill, and the majority of its more than 150 studio-apartments looked down on the city or Lake Union. The rear units shared a backyard grotto set between the apartment building and the greenbelt behind it. Residents still wake to bird songs.
The Cambridge was a model of practical living, with a mix of modern space-savers (such as Murphy beds and breakfast nooks) and elegant touches (hardwood and tiled floors, a lavish lobby, full laundry, 24-hour switchboard). The Cambridge also had neighborhood identity. Three nearby businesses – a grocery, a garage and a cleaners -borrowed the name. Many of its residents walked to work downtown.
In the early 1960s Interstate 5 cut off the Cambridge -and much else. Buffeted by. the roar of the freeway, the popular apartment was neglected but not dilapidated.
The Cambridge was saved indirectly by the institution that now threatens it. Part of the $2.3 million used by the City of Seattle for the apartment’s purchase in 1987 allowed for its recent renovation into affordable housing. The resources were drawn from mitigating funds paid by the Washington State Convention Center for its effects on the neighborhood. Built atop the freeway, the landscaped convention center also dampens its noise.
Now (in the Spring of 1995) however, this big neighbor wants to expand to the north or east. If the former, it will build primarily on parking lots; if the latter, it will destroy four buildings – including the Cambridge – and nearly 400 apartments. (It seems to have done the latter.)
Above: Photographed when the building was new, the Hotel Pennington Apartments, facing Marion Street west of 4th Avenue, promoted itself as “a home away from home. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey) Below: Little has changed on the south side of Marion Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues in the about 80 years between this “now and then.” (Remembering that this first appears in Pacific on Nov. 29, 2006 – not so long ago.)
LANDMARK ROW on MARION STREET
(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 29, 2006)
Set aside for the moment the looming skyscrapers and note how little has changed between this “then” and “now.” For ambitious Seattle this is rare, especially outside the city’s designated historic districts, like Pioneer Square.
The centerpiece here is the Pacific hotel, facing Marion Street between the alley and east to 4th Avenue. The work of architect W. R. B. Willcox, it was completed in 1916 – or may have been. Both the county tax records and U.W. architect Norman J. Johnston’s chapter on Willcox in the UW Press’ ever revealing book “Shaping Seattle Architecture” give the 1916 date.
However, in the 1918 Polk City Directory a full-page advertisement (facing Page 2004) for the “Hotel Pennington Apartments” as it was then called, includes an etching of the same front façade seen here but with the terra cotta tile work of the right (south) half continued to the corner of 4th Avenue as one consistent presentation. Was the less ornate half of mostly burlap bricks at the corner a late compromise for time and/or economy? Or was the “half-truth” of the elegant etching too appealing to either correct or leave out of the advertisement?
The other surviving landmarks here include, far right, a corner of the Central Building (1907) and far left, the familiar Jacobean grace of the Rainier Club (1904) across 4th Avenue. And above the club is the current celebrity among landmarks – or the dome of it: the First Methodist Church at 5th and Marion (1907) which now seems saved for its second century.
When the non-profit Plymouth group purchased the Pacific Hotel – its name since the 1930s – for low-income housing it took care to preserve the building’s heritage and in 1996 was awarded the state’s Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Rehabilitation. Tom English, Plymouth’s facilities director, is fond of revealing that although hidden from Marion Street the hotel is U-shaped, and so embraces its own “beautifully landscaped courtyard and Kol-Pond.” The 1918 advertisement also makes note of it as the hotel’s “spacious court garden.”