Not flummoxed and yet not certain, I ask an old friend, Bill Burden, for his take on a full-page “proposal” that appears on page 10 of this HELIX Vol. 2 No. 2. His recorded response is included in the audio commentary below. Below is a police surveillance photo of Bill taken during his testimony regarding police behavior on the Ave. He had been gassed while at the time – or nearly – working for the mayor’s office promoting a summer youth program.
As far as I can figure from studying many photographs of Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, this line of commercial sheds was a unique response to the conflagration. Tents, not sheds, were the primary answer to the needs of a community that lost practically its entire business district.
The inferno ignited about 2 p.m. at the southwest corner of Madison Street and Front Street (First Avenue) and by sunrise the next morning, the flames had consumed about 32 blocks — but not this one.
In 1883, Seattle’s first pioneer industrialists, Henry and Sara Yesler, began building their mansion on this block. Here, they had nurtured an orchard, the village’s largest. Even with the new big home (part of it shows upper-left) the couple kept a few fruit trees on the side lawns. However, if there were any trees left on the mansion’s front lawn, they were removed after the big fire.
Along the Third Avenue side of the Yesler block, between James and Jefferson streets, Yesler and James Lowman, his manager and relative, nailed together temporary quarters for a few of the businesses that were flattened. For his burned-out stationary and printing company, the venerable Lowman and Hanford, Lowman picked the corner shed here at James and Third.
King County’s courthouse (its tower appears here far right at Third and Jefferson) is now City Hall Park. The 1882 courthouse was saved when soaked blankets were applied to the roof, and bureaucrats, litigants, judges and prisoners repeatedly splashed buckets of water against its clapboard walls.
Sara Yesler had died in 1887. Henry and his second cousin, Minnie Gagle, were living in the mansion at the time of the fire. Five months later they were married; she was 54 years his junior.
Anything to add, Paul? Yes Jean – more features related to the “Great Fire” and in the neighborhood. We should note that some of the stories may have been used previously in other equally apt contexts. They perform like leitmotifs in this 0n-going Seattle Symph0ny.
FIRST, the ill-fated Seattle birdseye prepared shortly before the June 6 fire and then made mostly irrelevant except as a detailed memory of a business district that was lost to the fire. I know of no other copy than this one – sometimes hand-colored – in which the burned area has been given a border crude enough, perhaps, to suggest destruction or even a struggling sign for smoke.
NEXT black and white and color variations of the periodical Western Shore’s Sept. 21, 1889 coverage of the rebuilding underway following the June 6 fire. (Click TWICE to enlarge)
The West Shore birdseyes look northeast from an imagined position mid-block between First Avenue (It reaches the lower-right corner), the waterfront (off-frame to the left), Washington Street (it runs across the bottom of the sketch) and Main Street (behind the artist). The structure left of center on the north side of Washington is the Dexter Horton bank. With some mending it managed to reuse the burned-out shell of its quarters for a few months following the fire. On the center-horizon are the Central School at 6th and Madison (with the t0wers) and to the right of the school the Rainier Hotel on 5th between Marion and Columbia. This big hotel was rushed together – of timber – to serve a city that lost most of its hostelries to the fire. On the far right City Hall – aka the Katzenjammer Kastle – here still the County Courthouse – with its central tower faces the artist over Third Avenue between Jefferson and Terrace Streets. The Katzenjammer appears in the principal feature (on top) one block south of the photographer. To the left of the City Hall/ Court House we discover the Yesler Mansion and even a few of the temporary units built on its front lawn. In the second photograph below the colored rendering of the West Shore birdseye we get a look back through this scene from the front porch of the Katzenjammer, but at an earlier date, sometime perhaps in July, or a few weeks after the fire.
YESLER MANSION & PUBLIC LIBRARY
(First appeared in Pacific, August 22, 1982)
In 1882, Seattle pioneer Henry Yesler made the national news. The Harper’s Weekly story was about the mob lynching of three accused but untried murderers. The hanging was done from a stanchion braced between the forks of two maple trees on the James Street side of Yesler’s backyard. The Harper’s reporter either interviewed Henry or overheard him say, “that was the first fruit them trees ever bore, but it was the finest.” The artist’s sketch accompanying the article shows the outlaws hanging between Yesler’s maples, and beneath them in the crowd stands Henry Yesler busy at his favorite avocation: whittling.
Yesler continues to whittle in this week’s smaller historical photograph (above). His wife Sara poses with him in front of their home at First Avenue and James Street, the present site of the Pioneer Building. To their left (our right) are the hanging maples. Although hidden by the leaves, the stanchion is still in the picture, left as a morbid warning to visiting hoodlums. The year is 1883, and the street is decked out in lanterns, bunting and bordered with evergreens. Whatever the festive occasion, the Yeslers were also celebrating their good fortune of being the largest taxpayers in King County, and having survived in prosperity nearly 30 years in their little home in the center of town. The $92,000 assessment of Yesler’s King County properties in 1881, had risen to $318,000 by 1883.
So Henry and Sara Yesler decided on a larger extravagance, and hired an architect named Bowman to design it. In place of their modest one-story, five-room corner home they would have a three story, 40-room mansion which with its surrounding grounds would fill an entire city block between Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue at James Street.
Construction began on the Yesler Mansion in 1883, but later that year so did the Depression. Both Henry’s prosperity and his home building faltered. By 1885 the Yeslers were nearly bankrupt. When, at last, in July 1886 they moved into their showpiece, it was still not finished. The planned ornate white oak, ash and redwood paneling was missing. Most of the rooms were-empty, so Henry promptly leased many of them as unfurnished office spaces.
By accounts Sara and Henry were a robust couple, with an exuberant habit of dancing into the late hours at public balls. When Sara died suddenly on Aug. 28, 1887, of a “gastric fever” she was only 65. Flags in the city and on ships in the sound were hung at half-mast, many businesses closed and the great house could not hold all the mourners. When the funeral services were over Henry was alone in his home with 40 rooms and a few renters.
Soon, and wisely, Henry decided to leave town. Ten days after his wife’s death, in company with James Lowman, his nephew who since 1886 had been managing Yesler’s business affairs, Henry headed east on the Northern Pacific. He carried two lists: one of friends and relatives to visit, and the other a shopping list of furnishings for his mansion. The 77-year-old Yesler was an intrepid traveler, and soon exhausted his 33-year-old nephew who returned home in October. Yesler kept going until Nov. 26 when he returned to his mansion with the flu and a badly sprained ankle. The injury, illness and memory of his whirlwind tour were, perhaps, enough stimulation to fill the void in his big house left by Sara.
It is also possible that Henry’s mourning was diverted by his second cousin, Minnie Gagle, a “good-looking girl with expressive gray eyes” and 56 years Henry’s junior. Minnie lived in Leitersburg, Maryland, Henry’s birthplace and one of the spots on his tour. In 1888 the Gagles moved to Seattle, by 1889 Minnie was living in the Yesler mansion, and on Sept. 29, 1889 she and Henry were married in Philadelphia, while on another trip east. Returning home, Henry now more than ever stayed in his mansion. But, his marriage seemed either so scandalous or bizarre to his old cronies “that many were alienated and stayed away.”
In 1892, at the age of 82, Henry Yesler, accompanied by Minnie, left his mansion for the last time on a tour to both Alaska and Yellowstone Park. Soon after his return his robust health slipped away. In the early Friday morning of Dec. 16, in the company of two doctors, two nurses, his nephew, his wife and the entire family, the bedridden Yesler wondered aloud if he was about to die. Millie answered, “Are you afraid of dying?” He replied, “No, I don’t care anything about it. The mere dying I don’t like, but the rest I don’t care anything about.” Then, after some nourishment, he added, “That’s all I care for.”
More than 3,000 mourners crowded the Yesler mansion and its grounds for the largest funeral the city had ever been part of. A scandal as big as his estate ensued. Henry’s young nephew accused his young wife of destroying the will. And the city was involved because it was claimed that this “father of Seattle,” who had built the Puget Sound’s first steam sawmill, been mayor twice, paid the most taxes, had left the bulk of his estate, including the $100,000 mansion, to his city. Now the citizen’s repressed resentment for the scandalously young interloping Minnie broke loose. However, neither this prejudice nor the charges were supported by evidence sufficient to convict her.
In seclusion and guarded by her family, Minnie continued to live in the mansion until 1899 when the Seattle Public Library moved in. Sara Yesler, as the library’s first librarian in 1868, would have approved the change. Now it was librarian Smith who had his office in one of the bedrooms, the bindery in the kitchen, another room for periodicals, which left more than 30 rooms for stacks and storage. Our view of the Yesler Mansion as Public Library was taken in either 1899 or 1900. On New Year’s Day, 1901, it burned down taking 25,000 volumes with it.
In 1903, the Coliseum, a barn-sized theater “the largest west of Chicago seating 2,600” was built on the ruins. Then on May 4, 1916, an “immense pile of granite and terra cotta” was dedicated. Our view of the King County Courthouse, as of the library, is from Third Avenue. A plaque honoring Henry Vesler is at the entrance.
In 1883 the city’s first industrialists Henry and Sarah Yesler rewarded themselves by building a 40-room mansion in their orchard facing Third Avenue between Jefferson and James Streets. After its destruction by fire in 1901, the site was temporarily filled with the Coliseum Theatre (“The largest west of Chicago, seating 2600.”) until the first floors of the King County Courthouse – aka the City-County Building – replaced it in 1916. This comparison looks east across Third Avenue. Historical photo courtesy Plymouth Congregational Church.
(Most of this feature is a reworking of what appears in the earlier feature directly above this one. The clever “Unred Ruins” title is courtesy of a Times editor. As a rule none of the titles we submit with our stories are used by the Times. This is an old pulp tradition – there are headline specialists. Sometimes – like this one – they come forward with pretty good headers.)
Henry and Sarah Yesler’s mansion was not yet twenty when it burned down early in the morning of New Years Day, 1901. Actually, from this view of the ruins it is clear that while the big home was gutted by fire neither the corner tower (facing 3rd and Jefferson) nor the front porch – including the library sign over the front stairs – were more than blistered by it.
The Yesler landmark had a somewhat smoky history. Although completed in 1883 Sara and Henry did not move in, and instead continued to live in their little home facing Pioneer Place for three years more. When Sarah died in the late summer of 1887 it was in the mansion, which was then opened for the viewing of both Sarah – she was “resting” in its north parlor – and the big home too.
Soon after Sarah’s death Henry and James Lowman, Yesler’s younger nephew who was by then managing his affairs, took a long trip east to visit relatives, buy furnishings for the still largely empty mansion and, as it turned out, find a second wife for Henry. It was a local sensation when next the not-long-for-this-world octogenarian married in his 20-year-old (she may have been 19) cousin Minnie Gagler. (I have neither found nor made any special search for a portrait of Minnie.)
After Henry died in the master bedroom in1892 no will could be found. While Minnie was suspected of having destroyed it this could not be proved. Consequently, the home was not — as Lowman and others expected — given to the city for use as a city hall. Instead Minnie stayed on secluded in it until 1899 when she moved out and the Seattle Public Library moved in.
Instead of partying on New Years Eve 1900 Librarian Charles Wesley Smith worked until midnight completing the annual inventory of books that only hours later would make an impressive fire. Except for the books that were checked out, the Seattle Public Library lost about 25 thousand volumes to the pyre. (The charge that Smith had started the fire was never proven.)
Facing Third Avenue, the Yesler Mansion and City Hall were photographed together in 1900, the last year they would stand side by side. In 1903, the over-sized but short-lived Coliseum Theater was built in the place o/the mansion. In 1916, the lower floors o/the surviving City County Building were dedicated there. Across Jefferson Street, the site 0/the rambling clapboard City Hall that was destroyed in 1909 was ultimately developed into City Hall Park.
(First appeared in Pacific, March 24, 2002)
So far as I can recall, this is the only photograph that shows, side by side, two of the more significant structures in our pioneer history. On the left facing Third Avenue is the Yesler Mansion; on the right, Seattle City Hall. From this look at City Hall you cannot tell it, but in its lifetime the hall grew into such a heterodox structure that it was popularly called “the Katzenjammer Castle.” (We will include a wider and later shot below that makes the point.) The nickname was drawn from a comic strip featuring the two mischievous Katzenjammer Kids, whose adventures took place in a cityscape stuffed with clumsy structures resembling Rube Goldberg inventions.
In its own, ornate way, the 40-room Yesler Mansion was also clumsy. In “Shaping Seattle Architecture,” Jeffrey Karl Ochsner of the University of Washington Department of Architecture notes its “highly agitated forms . . . irregular bays, picturesque profile and varied details . . . are typical of American High Victorian architecture.” I, for one, fall for this kind of clumsiness.
When construction began on the mansion in 1883 in time for the depression or “Panic of 1883,” its municipal neighbor was already standing for two years as the King County Courthouse. When, in 1886, Henry and Sara Yesler moved two blocks from their home in Pioneer Place (Square) to their big home, it was barely furnished. After Sara died the following year, Henry and his nephew James Lowman went east to visit relatives and buy furniture. Henry died in late 1892.
Seven years later, the Seattle Public Library moved in. The stay was short. On New Year’s Day 1901, fire destroyed the Yesler Mansion and 25,000 books. Twelve years earlier both buildings just escaped the city’s “Great Fire.”
What we now refer to as the King County Courthouse was first known as the City-County Building when Seattle’s mayor George Cotterill and the King County Commissioners agreed to build and share the new building both needed. Construction began in June 1914. This view looks east across 3rd Avenue to where the building’s south side faces what is now called City Hall Park.
(First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 2006)
For fifteen tiring years litigants negotiated First Hill to meet with bureaucrats at the King County Courthouse at 7th Avenue and Alder Street. Consequently, that part of the hill overlooking Pioneer Square was often called “Profanity Hill.” But on May 4, 1916 the new courthouse was dedicated, and it suited the Central Business District well, for it looked more like an office building than a courthouse.
The architect of its first five floors, the commandingly named Augustus Warren Gould, was censured by his peers and kicked out of the American Institute of Architects. In the book “Shaping Seattle Architect,” Dennis Anderson explains with his essay on Gould that the architect “violated professional ethics to secure this commission siding with Pioneer Square property holders who fought relocation of city-county offices to the [Denny] regrade area.” Still Gould kept the commission and this is the result.
Six more sympathetic stories were added in 1929-31. Unfortunately in the early 1960s, as Lawrence Kreisman (a familiar name to Pacific Northwest readers) notes in “Made to Last” his book on historic preservation, “A major remodeling [that] was intended to capture the spirit of urban renewal and cosmetically disguise the building’s true age destroyed many original features of the elegant marble-clad lobbies, windows and entrance portals.”
The U.S. Food Administration’s sign “Food Will Win the War” certainly dates this view from sometime during the First World War. In addition to soldiers and munitions the nation was also sending food to Europe and homemakers were signed up as “kitchen soldiers.” School children recited this rhyming pledge. “At table I’ll not leave a scrap of food upon my plate. And I’ll not eat between meals but for supper time I’ll wait.” These were the years when horse steaks were sold at the Pike Place Market, President Wilson turned the white house law into a pasture for sheep, and the country’s 20th century long march to obesity was temporarily impeded.
The “GREAT FIRE” of JUNE 6, 1889
(First appeared in Pacific, March 14, 1982)
The Wednesday, June 5, edition of The Times ran beneath its masthead an enthusiastic advertisement for a sale on summer parasols. It had been an unseasonably hot spring and the sun that lay on the city also fanned forest fires in the Cascades. Burning unchecked, they glowed by night and sprinkled ash on Seattle by day. The Times also reported front page that across the continent wetter weather continued on the ruins of Johnstown, Pa., where cold and heavy rains helped spread diphtheria. Six days earlier, May 31, a dam that spanned the Conemaugh River burst and in the time it takes a wall of water to rush 12 miles downstream devastated Johnstown, killing 2,200.
The Wednesday Times also printed an ad for Frye’s Opera House, and its “coming Friday night only appearance of the Cecilian Opera Co. . . .” also would feature “. . . new scenery and magnificent stage effects.”
A story inside continued the compliments. “Theater-goers during the past few weeks have observed a wonderful change in the stage settings at Frye’s Opera House . . . Since the first of the year Frye has put in ten new sets, including one fancy Gothic city, one chamber, a very elegant garden setting, a woods scene.” Frye’s theater (at the present site of the Federal Building) was when built in 1883 the grandest local landmark with its mansard roof, 1,400 seats and a stage with seven trapdoors. The feature article concluded with assurances that “there are five large exits which provide against any danger of a panic in case of fire or an accident.”
Soon enough the fire came. There would be no Thursday Tunes, no summer parasols, no “elegant garden setting,” no “fancy Gothic city” and no Seattle business district.
The principal photograph looks south down Front Street (First Avenue) from Spring St. towards Madison and the intersection where the “Great Fire of June 6, 1889,” first ignited in a basement wood shop across the street from the Opera House. The crowd stands well back from the heat. There was no defending the theater, which although brick, is still ablaze and would soon be consumed. The scene was shot around 3 o’clock in the afternoon shortly after the fire began. It is one of the few images of the fire itself. Most local photographers were busy saving their equipment. We may imagine that many thousands of prints and negatives of the pre-fire city were lost to the flames. Within two hours the fire reached Pioneer Place (or Square) and by 7 o’clock the fire had eaten ‘its way to Main Street and would continue on through the evening past King Street to a wet death in the tideftats where the Kingdome now stands (once stood).
The Great Fire moved north as well. By sunset the spot from which the photograph was taken, near Spring, and all of the picture’s subjects, including the Minneapolis Art Studio, would be consumed. And in that direction another casualty is noted in Murray Morgan’s classic of local history, Skid Road.
“It climbed east up the hill toward Second Avenue from the Opera House. So great was the heat that the fire pushed backward against the wind across Madison Street and into the Kenyon block which housed, in addition to stores, the press of The Seattle Times.”
And The Times was stunned until Monday, the 10th, when its first post-fire edition would announce: “The Times is still on earth. It is slightly disfigured but still in the ring . . .The Times office went up in flames . . . nothing being saved except the reporters, the files and a few other implements of the trade.” This dauntless report was preceded by a rhyming headline which read: “SEATTLE DISFIGURED, but still in the ring” this is the song Seattle will sing, New buildings, New hopes, New streets, New town, there’s nothing that can throw Seattle down. She goes thru adversity, fire and flame but the Queen City gets there just the same.”
This Queen City – named so earlier by a Portland developer – also got a lot of press attention nationally. But it wasn’t the leveling of 30 central city blocks that was news as much as the human interest it discovered in this frontier town’s steadfast generosity. Before the fire, citizens had pledged $576 in relief to the Johnstown disaster. After their own catastrophe, they decided still to keep the faith and send that pledge along to the flood Victims_
The Monday Times reported: “Everywhere confidence in the future of this city is maintained . . . The heaviest losers are the most cheerful.” This booming optimism was encouraged in the eventual finding that no human lives were lost. However, thousands of rats and at least one horse died that day. As the Monday Times reported: “The men who left a head horse in a vacant lot off Madison near Broadway on the day of the Fire: If they do not removed the carcass, they will be reported to the police as the stench arising from the animal is sickening.”
The off-shore reach of Yesler’s Wharf is impressive even after it was destroyed during the city’s “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889. The contemporary scene steps back perhaps two hundred feet to catch the ramps that serve the passenger ferries at the foot of Yesler Way.
YESLER WHARF RUINS – 1889
(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 2003)
By a contemporary’s description Yesler’s Wharf and the rest of the waterfront was “transformed to charcoal” by the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The fire began around 2:45 in the afternoon at Front Street (First Avenue) and Madison Street. Pushed by an unseasonably hot wind out of the north it skittered south along the waterfront reaching and engulfing Yesler Wharf by 5:30.
Stripped by the fire of its structures and planking the wharf revealed a substantial foundation of fill and debris gathered through nearly a half-century of serving as the community’s industrial center at the foot of Mill Street (Yesler Way). This view looks east from near the wharf’s outer end to the still standing ruins of the ornate brick buildings that formed a show-strip along the west side of First Avenue for the two blocks between Columbia Street, on the far left and Yesler Way, on the far right.
Here perhaps three or four days after the fire (parts of the rubble are still smoldering) the wharf is already being rebuilt. The new beams at the bottom of the scene have been attached to what is left of the pilings at the southern edge of the fill. The fire obviously could not burn below the water line, and at low tide the best of the surviving stubs were capped and extended. The fire has surely contributed to some of the fill showing between the beams. The size of this scene can be gauged by the single worker standing on a beam right of center.
Barely visible left of center is a Lilliputian party of citizens in suits and dresses visiting the site. They are probably carrying the passes that were required until the eleventh of June. That day a local daily reported that the “district was opened to the public and immediately invaded by a heterogeneous crowd of the curious, relic hunters, vagrants and thieves . . . Riff raff and land pirates set about digging . . . All articles of value that could be found in the ruins were seized upon and many disgraceful scenes enacted . . . The military returned and drove the vagrants out.”
By the end of June nearly all the ruins had been razed, the debris removed and the fire district dappled with temporary tents for businesses. At summer’s end the waterfront was almost entirely planked over, extended, and rebuilt with many more piers and warehouses larger than those destroyed by the fire.
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.
(First appeared in Pacific, June 6, 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. (It is printed above.)
“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 late on the 7th or 8th that this record of their silhouette was captured for the district was still generally ablaze 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.
Then caption: Looking north on an unpaved Second Avenue in July 1889. The nearly new tracks on the left served the first electric trolley on the Pacific Coast when the conversion was made from horses to dynamos earlier in March. Second was paved in the mid-1890s and thereafter quickly became Seattle’s “Bicycle Row” with many brands to choose from sold mostly out of small one story storefronts, especially in this block between Spring and Seneca Streets. (Pix courtesy of Michael Maslan) Now caption: The widened Second north of Spring Street was half quiet when photographed on a late Sunday afternoon.
THE CANVAS RECOVERY
The city’s “great fire” of June 6, 1889 consumed most of the business district – more than 30 blocks – but not this block, the first part of Second Avenue that was not in some part scorched. After the disaster it quickly served in the rebuilding that turned practically every available lot and lawn on Second into a sewn strip of temporary tents. The Times for June 10 reported that while “the slabs and sawdust piles are still burning and sending clouds of smoke back over the town” over 100 permits had been issued to put up tents.
Judging by the canvas signs, the large tent on the far left, at the southwest corner of Second and Seneca Street, is shared by two firms: Doheny and Marum Dry Goods and the “manufacturers agents”, Avery, Kirk and Lansing. Before they were for the most part wiped out by the fire the two businesses were already neighbors at the northwest corner of Columbia and Front (First Avenue).
Around two o’clock on the afternoon of June 6, or bout a half-hour before the fire started, Avery and his partners were suddenly $2,500 richer, when W.A. Gordon, a young man recently arrived from Maine, invested that amount, “everything he had” the papers reported, in the business. The sudden cash most likely helped with the construction of the big tent. Still we do not see Gordon’s name stitched to it.
We know from a Times article of August 2, titled “A Tent Occupant’s News” that a firm doing business on Second just north of Seneca had paid $2 a month per running foot for space to construct the framework for a tent and cover it with canvas “at the expense of several hundred dollars.” Now less than two months later the landlord was asking the city to remove the tent for the construction of a building. The threatened residents appealed, “We do not want to be thrown into the street.”
A few tents did business for a year before the city council decided there were “buildings enough for all” and ordered the last of them removed.
Then Caption: Looking west on Cherry Street from Third Avenue into part of the “brand new” Seattle built after the “Great Fire” of 1889. (photo courtesy Lawton Gowey) Now Caption: Within twenty years of the ’89 fire much of the new city was being rebuilt bigger. Here the Dexter Horton Building on the right, the Hoge building, left-of-center and across 2nd Ave, and the Alaska Building, at the southeast corner also of Second and Cherry are surviving landmarks of that enlargement. (by Jean Sherrard)
A STURDY CHERRY
(First published in Pacific March, 2008)
In 1890 the photographers William Boyd and George Braas formed a partnership seeing, perhaps, in the new city being built above the ashes of the old one destroyed in the “great fire’ of 1889 an opportunity to put their “mirror” to the great changes and prosper with them. The partnership lasted barely two years and this example of their work most likely dates from 1892, although without a blade or leaf of landscaping we get no hints of the season.
The partners have titled it, lower-left, “Cherry St. Seattle” and given it the number “141.” The view looks west on Cherry through its intersection with Third Avenue, and everything within their frame, excepting the old clapboards on the far left, is nearly new. One can sense in this sturdy cityscape of brick, sandstone, and fine lines what an elegant city Seattle was after the fire — and almost instantly.
Right of center are the New York Block at Second Avenue and, far right, the Occidental Building, then home for the Albemarle Hotel. Both structures were designed by the by then already venerable Seattle architect William E. Boone who sometimes topped his sensitive posture with a skull cap. On the smoldering heels of the fire the Occidental Building was built quickly in three months and a few days. The New York block was the opposite. First designs were ready in 1889 but the building was not completed until 1892. Both structures were later sacrificed for the grand terra cotta tiled Dexter Horton building, which occupies most of the “now” scene.
The Bailey Block at the southwest corner of Second and Cherry, far left, survives although most of its stone clad skin is hidden in the “now” behind the Alaska Building, which when it was added in 1904 was the Seattle’s first “absolutely fireproof all steel frame” skyscraper.
Then Caption: Looking west down a planked Columbia Street to the waterfront from Third Avenue, circa 1900. [Photo courtesy Larry Hamilton] Now Caption: The Colman Building is the only survivor from the “then” but it can barely be detected, right-of-center, with added stories at the northwest corner of First Ave. and Columbia Street. It is directly across First from the Norton Building, in 1959 one of Seattle’s first glass curtain wall skyscrapers. [Now by Jean Sherrard]
COLUMBIA STREET WEST of THIRD AVE. Ca. 1900
Last week we looked west on Cherry Street from Third Ave. in 1892 and here a few years later we move one block north and look west again on Columbia to Elliot Bay. In the foreground worn planking gives a texture to Columbia but at Second Avenue it runs into brick.
Behind the pole on the right, stands the stately little classic that was Seattle’s post office for most of the 1890s. When it moved to new quarters in 1899, the sidewalk news depot and stationary store survived. A few of the periodicals offered are hung in display beneath the large sidewalk awning.
At the corner with 2nd Avenue, the ornate two story Colonial Building was built by Harvard graduate Herman Chapin who also raised the plain four-story brick Boston Block directly across Columbia at its southeast corner with Second. Constructed in 1887-88, their timing and locations were most fortunate for both buildings just escaped the city’s Great Fire of 1889 (although it cracked their windows) and following the fire they were temporarily stuffed with businesses displaced by it.
The broad-shoulder Haller Building holds the northwest corner of Second and Columbia, right of center. Built directly after the fire from a design by the prolific architect Elmer Fisher, its principal tenant here is the Seattle National Bank, one of whose directors was the “capitalist” Theodore Haller.
Just by the signs evident here in this first block on Columbia one can buy a sewing machine, photograph supplies, a haircut, a Turkish bath, a newspaper, and a meal at the Alley Restaurant, sensibly in the alley north of Columbia. At the waterfront it is still a tall ship with two masts that rests in the slip between the Yesler and Colman docks.
Historical Caption: In the shadow of the Haller Building at Columbia Street an unnamed photographer looks south on Second and into what was then still the city’s primary financial district. (Courtesy Michael Cirelli.) Now Caption; Second Avenue has been elaborately altered in the century between this now and then. Still the Alaska building can be detected in both. (Jean Sherrard)
FINANCIAL DISTRICT CA. 1908
This is the third week in a row that we have featured looks into Second Avenue’s financial district or here down it during Seattle’s greatest boom years, the two decades following the “Great Fire” of 1889 when the City grew from about 40 thousand to almost that many more than 200 thousand.
Two weeks ago we looked west on Cherry toward Second from Third, ca. 1892. Last week Columbia Street was the subject, again looking west from Third to Second, ca. 1900. And here about another eight years later an unnamed photographer records Second Avenue looking south from mid-block between Marion and Columbia, which is being crossed by a lonely motorcar and an electric trolley on the Lake Union line.
What stands out and up in this view is at is center: the Alaska Building (1904) at the southeast corner of Cherry, Seattle’s first skyscraper.
The banner strung across Second Avenue mid-block above the trolley reads, in part, “Old Time 4th at Pleasant Beach (on Bainbridge Island), Boats Leave on the Hour, 50 cents. Including Dancing and Sports.” So the photograph was recorded early in the summer. Since there is no evidence of the citywide promotions connected with the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Expo, we choose 1908 – a century ago – as a likely date.
The Hinkley Block, far right, dates from 1892 and here it is filled with lawyers, dentists, and even some artists. The brick paving on Second is about 12 years old. The oldest structures in this scene are the two on the left: the Colonial or Chapin Block on the northeast corner of Columbia and the Boston Block south across Columbia. As noted last week both were built before the fire of 1889 and provided great service to businesses following it. Post-fire photographs from 1889 show these two buildings standing along above the burned-out business district.
The three blocks between Cherry and Madison Street have almost completely changed in the century since the historical photo was recorded looking north on First Avenue from Cherry Street. The Colman Building (beyond the trees in the “now”) is the big exception. If the year of the historical scene is not 1907, it is close to it. HISTORICAL PHOTO courtesy of Greg Lange
FIRST AVENUE NORTH of CHERRY STREET
(First appeared in Pacific Sept. 2006)
Somehow the historical photographer managed to carry his or her camera to a temporary perch and look north on First Avenue and above the Kenneth Hotel sign at the foot of Cherry Street. With a bustling sidewalk and street scene – including seven trolleys – this elevated portrait of First was favored with its own colorized post card.
In the 1850s this was still the site of a knoll on which the locals built the North Block House that protected them during the one-day “Battle of Seattle’ of Jan 26. 1856. The Indians small arms fire from the woods beyond Third Avenue barely penetrated the logs of the fort although one local was hit and killed while peeking out the temporarily open door. That casualty stood close to our photographer’s mysterious prospect.
James Clemmer, a young theatre man from Spokane, first managed the Kenneth Hotel in 1907, and lived there too. Within a year he converted the hotel lobby into the Dream Theatre, the first Seattle theatre to treat films “seriously” by regularly mixing “one-reelers” with vaudeville acts. The theatre was deep but narrow, for although seven stories high the Kenneth was built on one lot. As such it was Seattle’s best reminder of Amsterdam. From this prospect we cannot tell if the theatre is as yet below the hotel sign.
I raised my camera with a pole (or monopod). Directly behind me is Pioneer Square and its official historic district most of which was built soon after the city’s “Great Fire” of 1889. Of course, most of the buildings showing north of Cherry Street in the older view were also built in the first decade following the fire but with few exceptions that they have been razed and replaced – in a few instances (like across First at its southeast corner with Columbia Street) with stock parking lots.
Above, pioneer photographer LaRoche’s circa 1892 panorama of the restored business district looks down from the front lawn of the then new King County Courthouse over 7th Avenue. The Yesler mansion appears far left. Jean’s approximate repeat was taken recently from the roof of Harborview Hospital. (Click these TWICE – please)
It seems that for this moment at least the BLOG has been restored, and we will go forward with adding the rest of the Issaquah-related subjects with this addendum. We begin where the fidgeting first treatment (last Sunday’s) left off, with a full frame version of Tacoma photographer U.P. Hadley’s of militia posing in 1891 in line before their tents on what is now Issaquah’s Sunset Way.
For the contemporary “repeat” photographer-thespian Jean Sherrard returned to a scene of his former teen “triumph” when Issaquah Historical Society Museum Director Erica Maniez suggested that the best roost from which to take a ‘now’ approximation of the 1888 photograph was from the roof of the Village Theatre. In 1973, the senior at Bellevue’s Hillside School took the stage there as the too endearing and dimwitted giant Lennie in Steinbeck’s play “Of Mice and Men.” Persons familiar with the play, the novel or any of the five movies will remember the last moment as Lenny’s pathetic execution with a bullet to the back of the head administered by his best friend and benefactor George. In Sherrard’s performance the gun refused to fire and the play ended not with gasps and groans but laughter when Sherrard – as Lennie – fell dead after George was forced to say “bang.” Historical view courtesy Michael Maslan
NAME IT GILMAN (for eleven years)
(First appeared in Pacific, March 12, 2006)
When a capitalist laid a railroad to their front door, opened a coal mine nearby and built a home in town as well the citizens of Squak agreed to change the name of their hometown. In 1887 Daniel Gilman’s (with Thomas Burke) Seattle Lake Shore and Easter Railroad began laying track from the waterfront foot of Seattle’s Columbia Street into the King County hinterland with the heroic explanation that it was heading for Spokane (over Snoqualmie Pass) but the modest expectation that it would soon reach Gilman’s coal mine in – yes – Gilman.
And here is Gilman, as captioned for us at the lower-right corner of the photo. With the help of Erica Maniez, Museum Director for the Issaquah Historical Society, we can date it from the spring of 1888. Maniez notes that Mary and Tom Francis’s Bellevue Hotel, with the sign on the far left, opened in May. In this scene a scaffold is still attached to the east (left) side of the hotel and the second floor windows are not yet in place.
The hotel faces Mill Street (Now Sunset Street) and the raised railroad spur that runs to Gilman’s mill. Kitty-corner and across the spur is Isaac Cooper’s saloon (or Cooper’s Roost) and its flagpole facing what is still Front Street. Maniez notes that after her husband Tom died Mary Francis married Isaac Cooper — a kind of cross-intersection embrace at Sunset and Front.
On the far right is another bar on Front, the Scandinavian Saloon. According to the short history of Issaquah on the historical society’s website (http://issaquahhistory.org/historyarticles.htm) the patrons there were most likely lumberjacks, for Northern Europeans generally liked to work above ground, while the English, Italians, Yugoslavians and Czechs were just as inclined to be down in the mines.
By 1899 the citizens of Gilman were generally more alienated than admiring of their absentee namesake and changed the town’s name to a more mellifluous version of the Squak they once intoned. They named it Issaquah.
Ron Edge returns with two of his EDGE CLIPPINGS, both related to pioneer Issaquah.
(First appeared in Pacific, Aug. 17, 1986)
[Please note – this text is now a quarter-century old. The Issaquah depot is now home to the Issaquah Historical Society.]
There’s a restoration going on in Issaquah that will make the past a little more real. A group of enthusiastic fixers wants to renovate the old depot in time for the town’s and the state’s centennial celebration in 1989. The Northern Pacific station became the town’s lifeline to the world in 1888 with the arrival of what was called the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. It provided Squak (Issaquah’s first name) with a way to ship the locally-mined coal.
Seattle railroad promoters Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman were behind the move to transport the coal and even renamed the town after Gilman. In fact, the town was called Gilman until 1899 when Issaquah (a version of the native word Squak) was adopted. Sixty years later, long after the railroad’s departure, Northern Pacific was considering demolition of the sad old depot. But nothing came of it and it was left alone, serving for a long time as a warehouse.
Enter Greg Spranger, an air conditioner salesman from California who became so intrigued with the old building he moved to Issaquah and became the energetic member and driving force of the Issaquah Historical Society, the group behind the building’s renovation. The next project for the society members – bring back the train.
Above: The S.L.S.E.R engine McDonald posed in front of the Gilman depot.
Below: The McDonald posing on the off-shore trestle at the north end of Lake Union, circa 1887-88, off Northlake Way near Interlaken Ave.
NORTH BEND – 1909
(First appeared in Pacific July 3, 1988 – Jean’s “now” repeat dates from ca. 2005. He recorded it for our book Washington Then and Now)
E.J. Siegrist left no explanation for why he shot a 1909 photograph of his native North Bend’s main intersection, but it may be the first recorded version of a traffic jam there. Although the first automobile had worked its way through the area four years earlier, Siegrist’s subjects were the more conventional means of transportation of the time. It wasn’t till the era of the automobile was firmly entrenched that North Bend’s traffic tie-ups became legendary.
North Bend was platted in 1889, the year Washington became a state. The town’s “father,” Will Taylor, did the planning and named many of the streets, like Bendego, after Australian towns he found in an atlas.
In 1915 the Sunset Highway tied the east side of Lake Washington to North Bend and Snoqualmie Pass. After the Lake Washington Floating Bridge made the link to Seattle in 1940, it was only a matter of time before weekend traffic began piling up. When the Highway Department announced plans to reroute around North Bend, townspeople compromised by moving 28 structures back from the roadway and widening it by 30 feet.
By the mid-’50s, though, traffic was so heavy that a red light had to be installed to permit residents to walk from one side of the street to the other. For years the fabled intersection had the only stoplight on I-90 between Seattle and Wallace, Idaho.
In 1979 the interstate was routed around the town. Although uncongested, the intersection still has a signal, in part to allow locals time to pause and reflect on its storied past.
Looking east on Cleveland Street towards Redmond’s historic crossroads of Leary Way and Cleveland. Soon after this photograph was taken by the Redmond photographer Winfred Wallace many of these structures were replaced with more substantial ones – like the surviving brick bank building at the northwest corner (hidden here behind the trees in the contemporary photo) of Leary and Cleveland.
(First appeared in Pacific, March 19, 2006)
“What a great picture!” is Nao Hardy’s confident description of this week’s “then.” But then as one of Redmond’s enthusiasts for community heritage Nao is well stocked with articulate affection for her hometown – especially this part of it. “And I can date it accurately. It is 1910 and the photographer, Winfred Wallace, was a local fellow with a keen eye and a good camera who never married and died young.” The view looks east on Cleveland Street one half block to its intersection with Leary Way NE, historically “the community’s main crossroads.”
In 1910 the two two-story frame livery stables far left and right in the historic scene still have a few years of service in them before a horse power not fed by oats marks the dirt of Cleveland Street with the wider ruts of motorcars and trucks.
At the center of Wallace’s record another two-story frame structure appears at the southeast corner of Leary Way. It is half hidden by the big tree. Two signs are attached: “Restaurant and Chop House” and “Olympia Beer.” Historian Hardy explains that this is, or was, Bill Brown’s place and that Brown would soon “replace his popular wooden saloon with a two-story brick building that bears his name today, as much for the handsome public buildings he erected as for his having served as Redmond’s mayor for an amazing 30 years.”
And Brown has a street named for him as well. It is one block long and intersects with Cleveland one-half block to the rear of the contemporary photographer Jean Sherrard who took his “repeat” obviously in a warmer month than this one.
We will wrap this glimpse into Redmond’s historic district with another Hardy observation. “Some hundred years later, Cleveland and Brown streets are witnessing a gentrification with mixed use upscale buildings of condos and new businesses . . . As none of the historical significant buildings with structural integrity in this district have been destroyed, the changes occurring now are seen as improvements by locals.”
THE CASEY JONES SPECIAL
(First appear in Pacific, August 30, 1987)
In a summer morning in 1957, Lawton Gowey got up early to do some train chasing. The occasion was the running of the Casey Jones Special. Heading out from the downtown station at 6:45 a.m., Northern Pacific engine No. 1372 rolled north over the old Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern R.R. route (now in part the Burke-Gilman Trail) and around the north end of Lake Washington.
Gowey and other train chasers dogged along the city streets and country roads trying to stay near the steam all the way to its North Bend destination. The train cooperated, taking a scheduled 3 hours and 50 minutes to steam-power its 12 cars to North Bend and a decidedly ironic celebration for train lovers: the dedication of Washington State’s first 3-mile section of a 4-lane freeway from North Bend to Snoqualmie Pass.
On his chase, Gowey took several photos. This one looks across Northeast Pacific Street to the University of Washington campus.
The first Casey Jones Special pulled its rail fans to North Bend in December 1956. The rail excursions were the brain-child of Carol Cornish. Retired herself, she figured these rides would be an enjoyable exercise in fond memories for senior citizens. In fact, the excursions attracted rail fans of all ages. There were 470 passengers aboard this special.
Diesel engines were first introduced into this area in 1952, making steam-powered trains obsolete. So when the steaming Casey Jones Special puffed and hooted into North Bend that June morning in 1957, it was a nostalgic occasion.
This Casey Jones run was one of Gowey’s last opportunities to chase a steam locomotive. Soon after, even Cornish had to give in to having the stronger diesel engines pull her popular excursions to depots in every direction – Cle Elum, South Bend, Sumas, Centralia, Hoquiam, Buckley, Lake Whatcom. According to Tom Baker, Cornish’s assistant, the excursions went on for a decade. Toward the end, the elderly Cornish was ailing and unable to make the trips. The last run on June 9,1968 was, again, to North Bend. It was also the day Carol Cornish died.
We shall finish up with a few more rifles and some tents too.
Then Caption: When the Oregon Cadets raised their tents on the Denny Hall lawn in 1909 they were almost venerable. Founded in 1873, the Cadets survive today as Oregon State University’s ROTC. Geneticist Linus C. Pauling, twice Nobel laureate, is surely the school’s most famous cadet corporal. (courtesy, University of Washington Libraries.) Now Caption: I used old maps and current satellite photographs to determine that the historical view was photographed from Lewis Hall or very near it. Jean Sherrard was busy directing a play with his students at Hillside School in Bellevue, so in lieu of Jean and his “ten-footer” I used my four-foot monopod to hold the camera high above my head but not as high.
DISCIPLINE at AYPE
The Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exposition’s official photographer, Frank H. Nowell, was not the only commercial camera working the fair grounds and – in this week’s subject – its perimeter. Here with the useful caption “O.A.C. Cadets in camp – A.Y.P. Expo. – Seattle June 5th 9 – 09” the unidentified photographer has named the part of her or his subject that might pay for the effort of recording it: the cadets themselves.
The Oregon Agricultural College Cadets’ tents have been pitched just outside the fair grounds in the wide lawn northeast of the Administration Building, the first building raised on the new “Interlaken campus” in 1894-95. In 1909 it was still one year short of being renamed Denny Hall.
Thanks now to Jennifer Ott who helped research historylink’s new “timeline history” of the AYPE. I asked Jennifer if she had come upon any description of the part played in the Exposition by what Paula Becker, our go-between and one of the authors of the timeline, capsulated for us as “those farmin’ Oregon boys.” Ott thought it likely that the cadets participated in the “military athletic tournament” which was underway on June 5, the date in our caption. Perhaps with this camp on the Denny lawn they were also at practice, for one of the tournament’s exhibitions featured “shelter camp pitching.”
Jennifer Ott also pulled “a great quote” from this paper, the Times, for June 12. It is titled “Hostile Cadets in Adjoining Camps,” and features the Washington and Idaho cadets, but not Oregon’s. Between the Idaho and Washington camps the “strictest picket duty was maintained and no one was admitted until word was sent to the colonel in command, who was nowhere to be found. This meant that no one was admitted, except the fair sex, the guards having been instructed to admit women and girls without passes from the absent colonel.” Nowthat is discipline!
Finally, wrapping this package with one more Hadley from his visit to Issaquah with the troops from his hometown, Tacoma.
This HELIX – Vol. 2, No. 1 – comes with a small surprise. We are evicted – or were. I was expecting this, but not so soon. Also within- Robbie Stern, Alan Watts, Black candidates for City Council 1967, Yakima’s “Bitter Harvest,” Don Scott . . .
During the summer of 1891, a Tacoma photographer name U.P. Hadley, boarded a fast train there with a company of state militia mustered to secure peace in Gilman (Issaquah), a coal town then on strike – or trying to be. The Oregon Improvement Company (OIC), undermined by strikes in Franklin, Newcastle and Black Diamond as well, described the miners – many of then members of the early union, Knights of Labor – as “unreasonable in their demands, unruly and above discipline.”
A few weeks earlier the OIC had devised a kind of “southern strategy” when it sent an agent named T.B. Corey to Missouri with ten railroad cars. Corey filled them with Negro miners he lured with the promise of assured opportunity in the West. The company kept the move so under wraps that both the striking miners and their unwitting “scabs” were surprised when the train arrived. The black southerners discovered that they had been tricked into breaking a strike. It was a strategy so successful that the organized miners either picked up and left town or answered the company’s racism with some of their own. As expected by the OIC, with the import of black replacements, the miners’ actions addressing working conditions were overwhelmed by a single – that of race.
In his “Chronological History of Seattle” Thomas Prosch, a publishing historian at the time, noted for 1891 that “The coming of the negroes caused a tremendous sensation all over the county, was hotly discussed in every quarter, and was approved by some people but disapproved by more.” Erica Maniez, director of the Issaquah Historical Museum, adds that the militia was called, in part, because “Issaquah was considered then to be very pro labor.”
Director Maniez also has a date – July 18, 1891 – for the Hadley portrait of the riflemen presenting before their canvas billets. Most of the 29 photographs that Hadley took during his days in Gilman are of the troops hanging out, doing canteen, playing cards and visiting Snoqualmie Falls. After about two weeks the Tacomans went home.
Here ordinarily Jean asks “Anything to add, Paul?” I answer with some variation on “Yes.” This time, however, the Word Press program that runs the blog is not allowing me to go forward with more photos. We are stopped, and just when we had so much to give – including a few more of Hadley’s photos of the Tacoma rifles at Issaquah, and also other past features covering Issaquah, and North Bend and much else. When this injury is healed we will put it up as an addendum.
At ease with, it seems, a table borrowed from the hotel for playing cards.
I conducted this interview with Jon Gallant in the late afternoon of June 7, 2012 with a tiny Olympus recorder yet run on digits and cushioned in a small box of rubber bands and set in a cat mattress propped on my lap. We used no other devices, no prompters and no baton. Jon and I sat side-by-side on a Wallingford sofa. Following the interview Genevieve McCoy snapped the accompanying photograph. (I don’t remember feeling as stunned as we seem.) The interview runs about 30 minutes. I suspect that once negotiated you will want more of Dr. Phage, and we give it to you. Below are five links to other essays written by the Doctor – or doctors, really, because Phage is also an Emeritus Prof of the U.W. Dept. of Genetics. Also down there is a printing of his contributions to the then still bi-weekly Helix for May 16, 1967. It is titled “A Few Modest Proposals.” Surely Jon’s inspiration for his proposals was, at least in part, Jonathon Swift’s own “A Modest Proposal” of 1729 for solving another of those Irish famines. The interview itself reveals the origins of Dr. Phage, his part in the founding and early programing of KRAB (listener-supported) RADIO, and his role in the 1968 Richard Green candidacy for Washington State Land Commissioner, and much else that is at once Swiftian and devouringly screwball.
A FEW MODEST PROPOSALS
By John Gallant / first published in Helix Vol.1 No. 4, May 16, 1967
A number of months ago, I offered the City of Seattle a few modest proposals, including the idea of establishing a professional garbage team. That proposal would have neatly solved two urgent problems in one blow, but I received no call from the mayor’s office, even though I stayed glued to the phone for minutes at a time awaiting the summons. I suppose that some jealous functionary prevented my brilliant suggestions from being relayed to the upper echelons. So, tonight I will give the city another chance. Here are a few modest proposals for a progressive, up-to-the-minute Seattle.
1. The R. H. Thompson Expressway, which has for years been only a gleam in the highway commission’s eye, has reached a terminal planning stage and may start under construction later this year. Let us remember, however, that long-range planning is the essence of progress, so Seattle’s long-range planners should bear in mind that the expressway is only a temporary stage. The next step in the foreseeable future is clearly the removal of expressways, as the proposed removal of San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway demonstrates. So Seattle’s planners should immediately embark on a study of the removal of the R.H. Thompson Expressway. Seattle would certainly move into the forefront of progressive city management if it were studying simultaneously the construction and the removal of the same expressway. Perhaps the master plan could coordinate the two activities, so that the demolition crew moved closely behind the construction crew, tearing down each section of the expressway as soon as it was built. That would be progress with a capital P.
2. The planners are already considering the location of the fifth Lake Washington Floating Bridge, or it is the fifteenth? In either case, this approach is lamentably backward. What they should be considering is the economics of covering up the lake entirely with floating concrete pontoons. Floating bridges are, after all, old hat as tourist attractions; but the world’s first floating parking lot would attract people from all over the country in droves, if only to find a parking space. Real estate developers could throw up instant suburban communities right on top of the lake, which six-inch gaps between pontoons to afford each and every home-owner a view of authentic Lake Washington water. Apartment houses would follow, with names like “The Pontoon Arms”, and, “Concrete Vista”. The hundreds of acres of Lake Washington, formerly squandered on sheer, undeveloped, profitless water, would at last yield up revenue. Free enterprise with a capital F.
3. The city government has been alert to the menace of simulated psychedelic experiences such as light shows, but the authorities must reckon with a host of other psychedelic substitutes. Polaroid sunglasses, for example. People wearing polaroid shades can see a twinkling deep indigo effect when bright sunlight is plane polarized by reflection from the surface of Lake Union. And sunlight passing through glass or plastic – motorcycle windshields are especially fine – produces marvelous spectral patterns along lines of stress, which are visible only through Polaroid shades. Shocking report, these private light shows can be enjoyed, without license from the police department, by anyone wearing Polaroids. Meanwhile, drug substitutes are cropping up like mushrooms; mushrooms, in particular, have been cropping up like mushrooms. And researchers working under filtered banana peels report that copies of HELIX, ground up very fine, produced remarkable effects when smoked. Underground laboratories, staffed by hippies with the proverbial high school dropout’s knowledge of chemistry, have been trying to modify the chemical structure of peanut butter so that it can be mainlined without its sticking to the veins.
4. Effective thought-control has been limited by a certain other-worldliness in city government. For example, city officials at first agreed to rent the Opera House to Timothy Leary because they had no idea who he was (he was using the assumed name of Timothy Leary.) Although Leary’s nefarious doings have been reported all over Time, Life, and Newsweek, the press of public affairs evidently keep the City Fathers from keeping up with recent developments, which go unreported in the funny papers. Accordingly, I propose that a special commission be established to keep abreast of the great outside world and filter information about it into the minds of the city council members. The commission could present the city council with concise reports. In very simple language, on such recent developments as the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age, the deposition of King Louis XVI of France, and the advent of talking moving pictures . . .
Gracious, we have completed the first Volume of Helix and are heading for its first winter. Sometime this week we also expect to put up a new Helix feature we are titling HELIX REDUX. It will be numbered as well, and feature interviews, photographs, reminiscences, confessions, links, etc. We hope to encourage you and yours to participate in this, by recording your own reflections and memories and interviews (too) about subjects related to Helix and its times. In this we will – in some way – be making together another journal filled with oddly related features. Bill White – Seattle critic, musician, novelist, poet, pundit of everything – will be the principal editor. Bill was a mere teen with a hammer in the late 60s. He helped construct the stage at the first Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair in 1968. That is certainly a qualification.
California’s intrepid and prolific pioneer photographer, Carleton Watkins, titled this subject “Suburban Residence, Seattle W.T.” Watkins visited Seattle late in the summer of 1882 while adding Puget Sound subjects to his eponymous “New Series” of marketable views he recorded from Alaska to Mexico. He numbered this one 5230. It was Ron Edge, a frequent help in this feature, who first directed me to Watkins’ suburban home posing with its unidentified family. We wondered together “But where near Seattle?”
The answer came quickly when intuition led us to another Seattle view from 1882, one that I used for this column on Oct. 3rd 1982. An exquisite and revealing panorama of Seattle from Beacon Hill, it too was photographed by Watkins during his ’82 visit, although I did not know it a century later when I used it during my first year between Pacific’s covers.
My intuition, I speculated with Ron, put the home “somewhere on Beacon Hill” because of the site’s slope to a waterway crossed by a line of pilings (above the roof far right), and a distant horizon suggestive of West Seattle across Elliott Bay. Ron soon answered with Watkins’ panorama revealing that our suburban home was in it as well – and the abandoned pilings too. We figured that it may have taken Watkins three minutes to get from one prospect to the other. *
Finally, nearly, Ron remembered journalist-historian Thomas Prosch’s early caption for the Watkins’ pan, which the pioneer included in one of his helpful albums about Seattle history. Prosch writes, in part, “Seattle in 1882 from Dearborn Street and 12th Avenue south looking northwest.” His siting is supported by other recordings of the home and its neighborhood, included in photographs that look back from the waterfront and First Hill to Beacon Hill in the 1880s and 90s.
We have placed the home near what was once the elevated intersection of 10th Avenue South and Dearborn Street, but now – since the Dearborn Cut of 1909-1912 – a paved ditch through Beacon Hill. So far we have not determined who lives in this tidy home, but we have hope.
Anything to add, Paul?
Yup, including more on the labors – joyful ones - of identifying and locating the Watkins views, a selection of a few other looks into “Gas Cove” and the city from Beacon Hill, and a few looks back at it and up the waterfront from the King Street Wharf, which Watkins also visited during his 1882 tour of Puget Sound.
(Double Click this to enlarge)
Thanks again to Ron Edge for helping search out the answers for the “suburban” Seattle subject on the top and to Jean for reflecting on our reflections and testing them again our evidences. We will continue with another Edge discovery, one of the first that he introduced to us, now already years ago. This panorama, and the detail from it above it, were photographed from the King Street Coal Wharf looking east towards Beacon Hill. The original print has been dated Oct. 15, 1880 – almost two years before Watkins’ visit. Note the ragged condition of the forest in the vicinity of the “Suburban” home (marked with the red arrow in the detail). The panorama – below the detail – shows two curving trestles heading east and south from the King Street Wharf. The one that heads more-or-less directly for the shore is the newer one, built to replace the one that heads out on its curve across the tideflats. Soon after it was built the wood-boring worms – about which Ivar Haglund sung so eloquently – began to ruin it. (We will include the lyrics at the bottom.) So the trestle on the left was constructed to replace it and at least some of its difficulties with worms and their appetite for wood by reaching land above the tides sooner. The curving and abandoned trestle on the right is already beginning to lose sections. Can you find the gap(s)? It is that broken trestle that was our first clue for where the “suburban” photo was taken. The trestle appears in that view on its right side. (Click to Enlarge)
Here follows a few more aids – constructions – used by Ron, Jean and I for identifying the location of Watkin’s “suburbs.”
Here we return to Watkins more familiar view – the one from Beacon Hill over “suburbia” to the city, and also from his visit in Sept. 1882. The feature that follows it was first printed in Pacific Magazine now thirty years ago! It makes not of several landmarks that appear in the pan, and we will insert close-ups of a few of them, although for the most part from later years and so not 1882. (Please Click TWICE to ENLARGE)
1882 VIEW FROM BEACON HILL
(First appeared in Pacific, Oct 3, 1982)
Early in the 20th Century, Thomas Prosch, a retired newspaper publisher, assembled and captioned three photo albums now preserved in the University of Washington Special Collections. The Prosch volumes are, of course, helpful for identifying the earliest pictorial records of Seattle. For instance, Prosch’s caption for the accompanying panorama from Beacon Hill reads, “Seattle in 1882 from Dearborn Street and Twelfth Avenue South looking northwest. Among the buildings are the Stetson and Post Sawmill, County Courthouse, Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist churches, Squire’s Opera House, Post Building and Yesler’s Mill Co.”
The city’s “Great Fire” of 1889 destroyed almost all the landmarks included in this panorama. And since Prosch’s caption means little to all but a few 21st Century viewers – you perhaps included – readers will need to take a careful look to see what is there to see.
Easiest to locate is the Stetson and Post Sawmill – the daring intrusion onto the tideflats at the far left. The mill was built in 1882 at the present location of First Ave. South, between King and Weller Streets. During the next year its crew of 117 men would cut some 14 million feet of lumber. The city’s pioneer Yesler Mill was left in its scattered chips.
Next, look for the Catholic Church, Our Lady of Good Help. It’s the large white Gothic structure on the right. Like the mill the church was also new in 1882. Its new pipe organ was the second in town. The first pipe organ was installed in Trinity Episcopal Church in July of the same year. A visiting organist from New York christened it with a well-attended grand opening. Trinity is the white sanctuary with tower just to the right and a little above the Catholics. Dedicated in 1871, Trinity stood at the northwest corner of Third Ave. and Jefferson Street, and was the only major structure on Third Avenue north of Yesler Way (Mill Street then) destroyed by the 1889 fire.
To the right of Trinity Church is the County Courthouse Prosch noted. Also new in 1882, the large white and boxish structure (with a box-tower too), shows seven windows on its south façade at the southeast corner of Jefferson and Third Ave., now the site of City Hall Park. Unlike the nearby church, the Courthouse survived the fire as jurors and witnesses anxiously adjourned from a murder trail to spread wet blankets across the roof. In 1891 after the county moved to a new home on top of First Hill, the city moved in and through its seventeen-year residency kept enlarging the frame structure in a floundering attempt to keep up with the growing boomtown it tried to govern. The odd additions soon gave city hall a new name in allusion to a then popular screw-ball comic strip. It was called Seattle’s Katzenjammer Kastle.
The slender pointed spire of the Methodist Church is just to the left of the Courthouse. When it was built in 1855 at Second Ave. and Columbia Street, it was the town’s first church.
Squire’s Opera House is the dominant dark structure near the center of the photograph. It stood on the east side of Commercial Street (First Ave. S.) closer to Main Street than to Washington Street. In 1882 it was still the largest auditorium in town.
In 1880 the view from Beacon Hill was still obscured by old growth forest in places. But by 1882 it had been clear-cut and at night the city glowed (in places) with 30 gas lamps lining the busiest streets. The Gas Company building can be seen in the crook of the bay, which may also be called “Gas Cove.”
1882 was a boom years for Seattle. In the Nov. election 1,274 votes were cast, the most for any community in the territory, and for the first time more than were counted in Walla Walla – sixty more. New buildings with stone and iron facades were on the drawing boards, many modeled after the Post Building on Mill Street between Pioneer Place and Yesler’s Wharf and mill.
In the photo directly above Prosch is the bearded figure standing at the base of the steps of the Post Building at Yesler Way and Post Street. In 1882 he was editor and part owner of the Post-Intelligencer, which had been formed the year before by merging his Daily Intelligencer with the Daily Post. Thomas Prosch died on March 30, 1915, while crossing the Duwamish River in a chauffer-driven motorcar. He was returning from a meeting of the Tacoma Historical Society. (For now 97-years – in 2012 – the industrious editor has been resting in peace, and if memory serves within a few headstones from Walt Crowley’s place in Capitol Hill’s Lakeview Cemetery. Walt, along with his wife Marie McCaffrey, and myself, helped found historylink.org. where more can be read about Thomas Prosch and much else.)
Although both the “now and then” views look east at the waterfront towards King Street the historical scene was photographed many yards further to the west from the top of the King Street Coal Wharf. The adjustment allows the “now” to avoid the obstruction of a building and get closer to the site of the “native land” that still shows in the “then” scene. The site of that historic shoreline with the little bluff is now a few feet east of the Alaska Way Viaduct on the north side of King. Historical photo courtesy Seattle Public Library.
NATIVE LAND & URBAN LEGENDS
(First appeared in Pacific, May 29, 2005)
Between 1877 and 1903 the King Street Coal wharf was probably the most popular platform from which to study the city. Fortunately a few photographers took the opportunity to record panoramas stitched from several shots. This view is one of several stitched together (below). It was photographed in Sept. 1882 by the itinerant Californian named Carleton Watkins.
The scene (two and three subjects above) looks east towards the block between Jackson Street on the far left and King Street on the right. King was then still a railroad trestle built above the tides and all the structures that appear on the right side of this view – the railroad shops and a lumber mill – are also set above the tideflats. The white hotel on the far left with the wrapping porch, shutters, and shade trees is the Felker House, the first Seattle structure built of finished lumber. (In the stereo above, the Felker House is on the far right.)
Two of what we may kindly call the hotel’s “urban legends” survive its destruction in the “Great Fire” of 1889. First, that it was the town’s first whorehouse. Second, that its overseer Mary Ann Conklin — aka “Mother Damnable” — turned to solid stone sometimes between her death in 1873 and difficult resurrection in 1884 when her body was hauled to a second grave. Believe it or not, her features we in tact.
Two more solid points – both about the “native land” shown here (“Here” and in the photos now a few above.) First, it is still a quarter-century before the ridge on the horizon would be lowered 90 feet with the Jackson Street regrade. Second, the tide is out and the small bluff above the beach is the same on which the Duwamish built their longhouse. There from its comfort they looked out on the bay probably for centuries before Captain Felker substituted whitewashed clapboard for cedar slabs.
For linking to the pix above we will provide-print again the Watkins pan already offered five images up. There may well be another Watkins part to this pan – one that looks left to the northwest. The stereo of Jackson Street, four photos up, identifies it as “No. 7.” Watkins recorded many more than seven images in Seattle, so does the “7″ refer to his sequence from the King Street pier? Counting all we have here (but not that the stereo is framed differently) we have, it seems, five parts to the pan.
Follows several looks down upon the city from Beacon Hill from different – slightly – prospects.
We will conclude this week’s now-then contribution – nearly – with a visit to a later Beacon Hill home up on the hill that is – or was – no longer part of suburbia.
BEACON HILL VICTORIAN
(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 19, 1995)
The Beacon Hill home that Gertrude and George Spencer built soon after their wedding in 1901 is one of those Victorian fancies that divide tastes. Some love these ornate testaments to the woodworking arts; others regard all this craft as functionless clutter. I like it.
George Spencer was a Pennsylvania-trained teacher who arrived in Washington in 1890 and was hired by Lewis County to teach and later serve as superintendent of its public schools. With his marriage, George moved to Gertrude’s hometown and, after a stint as deputy superintendent of King County schools, became principal of lower Queen Anne’s Mercer School. In 1907 Spencer left teaching for real estate but remained active in education as a member of the Seattle School Board.
In the mid-’20s George was chairman of the Seattle Real Estate Association. Gertrude kept up the business after his death, and for the 1946-’47 term was president of the Women’s Council of the Seattle Real Estate Board. For seven years she also chaired the Seattle Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Both Spencers were members of the Beacon Hill and Jefferson Park Improvement Clubs. They had one office downtown and another on Beacon Avenue, just two blocks from their home. The Spencers could look across their backyard fence to the rear door of the Beacon Hill Bakery on Beacon Avenue. Soon after their post-World War II arrival in Seattle from Anchorage, Eugene and Theresa Odermat bought the bakery and then the Spencer home.
Their son · Victor Odermat (later “king” of Seattle’s car washes) has warm memories of the home’s large rooms, high ceilings, ornate staircase, elegant hardwood wainscoting and clawfoot cast-iron tub. But soon after the widowed Theresa moved out in 1966, the Spencer-Odermat home was razed and replaced by the modern apartment house showing here in the “now.”
As advised, we conclude with a printing of one of the waterfront shanties that Ivar Haglund, the aquarist, wrote in order to serenade his customers at the front door to his Pier 3 (later Pier 54 after the WW2 renumbering) Aquarium from 1938 to 1956. His book of ballads was first published in 1953. So far as I know Ivar never lived on Beacon Hill nor below it.
*(Judging from the shadows Watkins took the panorama first.)
Finding the date for this issue was easy; it is printed on the cover: August 16, 1967, the hottest part of the “summer of love” and a Wednesday. No. 9 continues the 12-page bi-weekly size and schedule, and by now (or then) a kind of Helix style is evident. (You will “know it when you see it.”) Tap the cover below to reach the pdf presentation of the entire issue and if you like there is also a link to an audio review of the issue, which, you can follow while moving through the issue. (Thanks to Ron Edge, again, for scanning and “putting up” this issue and the rest of them too, and thanks again and as well to Bill White for editing away some of the stumbles in the audio commentary.)