(click to enlarge photos)
This is one of three snapshots of a circus parade that Max Loudon, a sportsman-grocer with an adventurous camera, recorded at this pioneer corner and included in his photo album a century ago. The others are of horses and a camel, both with costumed riders. For this recording at First Ave. S. and Washington Street, Loudon did not need to travel far. He worked in the neighborhood. The horses follow.
We are confident that there is more than one elephant rounding the corner here, for Loudon also photographed the parade nearer its origins in what was then just beyond booming Seattle’s freshly graded Denny Regrade neighborhood. One of those remaining parade subjects shows more pachyderms, six in a row – and there may have been more. All are crowned with tenders dressed like this one, and musically accompanied, we know from the news coverage, by a “steaming head-splitting calliope.” I’m pretty confident the subjects that follow with elephants and camels were photographed on 5th Avenue looking northwest from – or thru – Thomas Street, and so where today the monorail enters into the embracing bowels of the Emergency Music Project. For evidence, below the two photos we’ll attach a detail from our stalwart 1912 – the year of the parade – real estate map.
Block 56 at the center of the 1912 map detail above, shows a line-up of eight frame structures on the west side of 5th Avenue and just north of Thomas Street. (Two street cross the details, Thomas below its center and Harrison above it. Broad Street is named and a helpful clue for negotiating the detail.
A century ago – and continuing long after – the Sells-Floto Circus was famous for its big top shows, menageries with scores of exotic animals, and its primary means of promotion – these parades. Out of Denver, Sells-Floto cut its ticket prices in half to a mere two bits (a quarter or 25-cents) in 1909, a move that filled it tents with joyful customers and its competitors with rage. (Click this TWICE, I believe.)
This year, 1912, Sells-Floto was part of Seattle’s second annual Golden Potlatch celebration. The circus performed matinee and evening shows for two of the Potlatch’s eight days, and on the mornings of both it paraded down First Avenue from Belltown and back on Second Avenue. Loudon took his circus shots on either July 15 or 16, 1912, or perhaps on both.
Circus elephants were – as almost ever – our grandest earthbound visitors during the 1912 Potlatch, but they were not the celebration’s biggest attraction. Those were the aeroplanes: Jean Romano’s Skeeter and Walter Edwards’ Curtis. Twice daily they flew above the city and the bay.
Other Elephants have visited the old Potlatch Grounds – turned Seattle Center – since the early-century circus. Here are two instances both by Frank Shaw, who – if you have been paying attention – you know lived in the neighborhood.. First – above – Shaw’s July 22, 1965 recording of a pachyderm line-up beside one of the lesser remainders from Century 21, followed – below – by Phil Dickert looking possessive of another elephants on the grounds. Like Shaw – if I have read his caption correctly – Dickert was an abiding member of the Mountaineers.
And just for fun, let’s compare this Joshua Tree National Forest rock formation with the elephant’s eye above:
Anything to add, Paul (who, readers, is just now feeling lousy with flu or bad cold – send him good cheer)?
Jean, I enjoy your commiserations and also the change you made to our feature’s title – trading those elephants for the euphonious pachyderms. I was tempted to go on with an alliteration that was also truer to pioneer usage for they were more likely to call it Pioneer Place than Pioneer Square. We could have put our pachyderms in place, but will avoid it. I’ll now add a few features related to the neighborhood and/or to elephants. And if there is time yet tonight we will close asking, “When is it fair or proper to suggest that someone resembles an elephant? Earlier we discussed this matter, which I may need to still sleep on and return to in the morning, after a good nightybears, which we might just for tonight call nighty-elephants or nighty-pachyderms. Let the also silly readers decide.
DEXTER HORTON’S BANK
(First appeared in Pacific July 7, 1996)
Although not the earliest of the Pioneer Square Historic District’s many restorations, the revival of the Maynard Building was so faithful and full that this 1976 work won an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. The Maynard was an 1892 variation on the Romanesque-Revival style of most of the historic district buildings constructed immediately after the Great Fire of 1889.
This five-story home of the Dexter Horton Bank, Seattle’s first bank, was set at the site of the bank’s original home, a single-story building at the northwest corner of Commercial Street (First Avenue South) and Washington Street. Opened in 1870, it was one of the business district’s earliest brick-and-stone structures. (See feature following this one.) Enough of the earlier building survived the fire that Horton reused its frame for a temporary home until he could acquire the adjoining lot and built this comely creation of sandstone from Bellingham Bay and bricks from St. Louis.
This view was photographed about 1904, two years before the bank moved to a new home at Second and Cherry. The building’s new owners changed its name to honor Doc Maynard, the pioneer who platted the area in 1853 as part of his claim. In his elaborate research into Pioneer Square history, Tim O’Brian discovered that Maynard sold this corner lot to a Duwamish Indian named Miles Fowler, from whom Dexter Horton later acquired it. O’Brian and Pioneer Square Preservation Board member Greg Lang are preparing a virtual Walking Tour of Pioneer Square. When completed, it will be accessible through the World Wide Web, where users will be able to click their way to historical profiles of all the district’s blocks and buildings. The tour is being created with sponsorship of the Pioneer Square Community Council and a city neighborhood grant.
Above: Following the city’s big fire of 1889, its first bank, Dexter Horton’s at First and Washington, although gutted was still secure in its back wall vault and so both used and guarded. (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library) Below. Jean’s repeat of the “basket handle” arching of the burned bank’s windows. The Maynard building replaced it in 1893.
DEXTER HORTON RUINS
(Appeared first in Pacific, August 6, 2010)
Sixty-three safes were counted in the ruins south of Yesler Way after the city’s “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889. Sixty-three plus one.
The Dexter Horton Bank, Seattle’s first bank, at the northwest corner of Commercial Street (First Ave. S.) and Washington Street, was still standing, although without a roof and gutted of its lacquered appointments, like tellers cages, furniture and window casements. But in the back was the vault, the bank’s own safe, seen here over the shoulder of a standing guard at the missing front door. There the valuables survived and the room and its locks were kept working and guarded for a few weeks following the fire.
Dexter Horton arrived in Seattle penniless but fortunate: he came early in 1853. By working hard in Yesler’s sawmill, and saving his pay Horton managed to first start a store and then in 1870 a real bank at this corner with a real safe, one he brought back with him from an extended visit to San Francisco to study banking. Five years later, in 1875, he replaced his timber quarters with this brick and stone creation, one of the first such in Seattle.
Before he was a banker with a safe, Horton got a reputation for honesty by taking care of working men’s savings as they were off exploring for whatever. He secreted their bundled wealth about his store in crannies and most famously at the bottom of a barrel filled with coffee beans.
A few days following the 1889 fire the Times suggested that “the fire has, perhaps, been more beneficial to that portion of the city around Washington Street so long inhabited by prostitutes . . . It may be well to notify the painted element here now that cribs will no longer be tolerated. In the future this district will not be given for such purposes but for legitimate business only.” In this case the paper was, of course, half wrong. Both the prostitutes and the bankers returned.
Above: Seattle was first developed along the four blocks of Commercial Street decorated here with small fir trees for a parade in 1888. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey) Below: Following the city’s “great” 1889 fire, Pioneer Seattle’s two principal commercial streets, Commercial and Front (First Avenue) were joined directly here at Yesler Way and run through the site of the old Yesler-Leary building. Consequently, Jean needed his ten-foot extension pole to approach – but not reach – the prospect of the unnamed historical photographer.
COMMERCIAL STREET – INDEPENDENCE DAY, 1888
(First appeared in Pacific, April 28, 2008)
For looking south through the full four blocks of Seattle’s pioneer Commercial Street (First Ave. south from Yesler to King) an unnamed photographer carried his camera to the top floor of the Yesler-Leary Building. The occasion was a parade heading north towards the photographer and considering the array of small American Flags strung across Commercial this rare view was most likely recorded on the morning of July 4, 1888.
There was then both a physical and cultural jog here at ‘Yesler’s Corner” (later Pioneer Square). It required all traffic, (including marching bands), to go around the Yesler-Leary building in order to continue north on Front Street (First Avenue). Yesler Way was also the border or line between the grander, newer, and often brick-clad Seattle facing Front Street (behind the photographer) and the old pioneer Seattle seen here “below the line.” Generally Yesler was a gender divider too, for only women with business there ventured “below the line.”
An 1888 Commercial Street sampler includes seven of the city’s dozen hotels, three of its four pawnbrokers, and three of its four employment agencies, nine of its forty-one restaurants, four of seven wholesale liquor merchants. The tightest quarters were in the block on the left where fourteen storefronts crowded the east side of Commercial between Yesler and Washington Streets. Among those quartered were a cigar store, a barber, a hardware store (note the “Stoves and Tinware” sign), a “pork packer”, two “chop houses”, two saloons and the Druggist M.A. Kelly whose large and flamboyant sign shows bottom-left.
By contrast Front Street featured more of the finer values and “fancy goods”, like books & stationary, dry goods, confections, jewelers, photographers, physicians, tailors and an opera house. Of the thirty-seven grocers listed in the 1888 city directory, eighteen have Front Street addresses, while on Commercial there was apparently nowhere to buy an apple or a bucket of lard.
In another eleven months and two days everything on Commercial Street and most of Front Street would be destroyed by the city’s “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889.
A CIRCUS PARADE – 2ND AVENUE CA. 1902-03.
(First appeared in Pacific, Dec 11, 1994)
Any circus parade was a great promotion, an anticipated spectacle, and sometimes also a way to move the circus from the railroad depot to the performance site. That may be what’s happening with this Ringling Bros. procession on Second Avenue, here looking north from Seneca Street around noon on a sunny summer day.
Local circus enthusiast Michael Sporrer describes this as “one of the few Seattle photographs that is really good on elephants.” In Sporrer’s cataloging of Northwest circus appearances (a decades-old unpublished work in progress) he has Ringling Bros. here for two-day stands in late August 1902, ’03 and ’04. Since the most popular early-century Seattle venue for circuses was the open swale on Fifth Avenue North at Republican Street (now High School Memorial · Stadium) these elephants may be en route from the waterfront train depot to those green fields of Lower Queen Anne.
First and Second avenues – thru Belltown – were then the preferred routes to Queen Anne and North Seattle. Third Avenue stopped at Pine Street, one block and 100 feet below the front portico to the Victorian Denny Hotel atop Denny Hill. Here, this looming landmark interrupts the left ·horizon. To the far left Second Avenue still climbs the western slope of Denny Hill, so this view probably dates from 1902 or even 1903, when the regrading of Second Avenue that brought it to modern grades began. By 1910 the regraders would raze Denny Hill as far east as Fifth Avenue, taking everything including the hotel.
George Bartholomew’s Great Western Circus was, according to Sporrer, the first real circus to visit Seattle. It came overland from Virginia City, Mont., in 1867-by wagon. The last real full-blown circus parade to trek through downtown Seattle probably was the Cole Bros. Circus procession in 1937. (The key here is “full-blown.” I remember watching contemporary colored news film in a KING TV editing room in the early 1970s that looked down from Yesler Way on a long line of elephants heading north on 4th Avenue, while with their talented trunks they pruned some of the lower branches on the street trees along the way.)
The last big tent show hereabouts was Circus Vargas’ 1988 performance in Renton.
Then and Now Caps together: One hundred and four years separate these looks east on Union Street from 3rd avenue. In the historical scene Union Street has been closed and appointed for the 1902 Elk’s Carnival. The now scene dates from 2006, and I no longer remember who took it. The clever title “Fattest Babies” was, most likely, Pacific assistant editor, Kathy Triesch’s contribution. By then Kathy had been reading and passing on these features for, it seems, twenty years.
THE FATTEST BABIES
(First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 8, 2006)
For thirteen days, beginning Monday the 18th of August, 1902, the Elks Lodge managed to fence off a sizeable section of downtown Seattle and produce the city’s first multi-day summer festival, “The Elk’s Carnival.” We may compare this temporary gate to Bumbershoot, which cordons Seattle Center for a long weekend of ticketing and celebrating. And with the One Reel Vaudeville Show as its producer since the early 1980s Seattle’s annual arts festival also behaves in a few of its many corners like a carnival.
The Elks furnished its “center” with booths, circus tents, and rides on the then still open and green acres of the old University campus on Denny’s Knoll. From the northern border of the old campus the closed carnival grounds extended west on Union Street from Fifth Avenue to a grand entrance arch that spanned Union half way between Second and Third Avenue. A shorter arm of this enclosure also ran one block south on Third Avenue to University Street. This section was lined with booths offering, the Seattle Times reported, “the best products of the best city on earth.”
In this scene with his back to Third Avenue the photographer looks east on Union Street to the old Armory, which has been freshly painted “royal purple and purity white” for the carnival. The camera has also captured the rump of “Regina.” The carnival’s “Queen Elephant” is heading in the direction of what a Times reporter described as her own “corner of the campus [where] standing alone in her magnificence” she attracted “an ever increasing crowd of men and boys content . . . to worship humbly at the shrine of one of Africa’s greatest children.”
Meanwhile Seattle’s greatest babies were being judged in a “pretty booth” in the Armory. There were, of course, prizes for the “prettiest girl” and the “handsomest” boy, but there was also an award for the “largest and fattest baby sixteen months old.” A week “over or under sixteen months” was considered “no bar to entry.” After making the awards, the judge, a Dr. Newlands, confided to a reporter, “I have about concluded that it will be wise for me to disappear for a while.”
(First appeared in Pacific, Dec.30, 1984)
Seattle folks shopping for bargains in 1878 headed down Front Street and into the Elephant Store. There, in what was called a general store, they found bargains and a BIG selection. The store itself was a standout, a retail house among other buildings that looked like homes. Not true.
Most of the clapboards along Front Street (now First Avenue) also had profit as a purpose. One was a foundry, another a cigar store, another a drugstore, and down the block was a brewery.
The Elephant Store was raised at the southeast corner of Front Street and Columbia. Moses Maddock’s drugstore is the dominant white structure two blocks north at Madison Street, just left of the photo’s center. Beyond that is where the more clearly residential part of Front Street began.
Also seen in the photo are Seattle’s first grand homes. The many-gabled home of Amos Brown at Spring Street is just above the drugstore and to right of the tall fir. Just to the left of the fir is the home of Arthur and Mary Denny, two of the city’s founders. When the Dennys moved into their fancy Victorian mansion in 1865, it was their third residence. Arthur lived there until his death in 1899. By then, the house was surrounded by multistory hotels and department stores.
In the photo, beyond the Denny home, Front Street jogs a little to the right and east at Pike Street, which was the northern end of Front Street’s 1876 improvement, by then the town’s greatest public work. Before that regrading, there was a hump at Cherry Street (the site of the photographer Peterson’s perch), another rise at Marion and a ravine at Seneca deep enough to require a bridge.
This week’s scene depicts yet another topic of historical Seattle, bigger than either a street or an elephant. It is the hill on the horizon: Denny Hill. Here, the top of it reaches about 100 feet above the present elevation of Third Avenue, between Stewart and Virginia streets. This is the best surviving early record of Denny Hill. (Or was when I first wrote this in 1984. Since then Robinson’s 1869 panorama of Seattle taken from the second floor of the Snoqualmie Hall then at the southwest corner of Commercial St. aka First Ave. S., and Main Street showed in great detail the entire southern exposure of Denny Hill still with most of it’s virgin forest.
MORE ELEPHANTS on PARADE
THE ELEPHANTS IN SASKATOON
For seeing the elephants in Saskatoon he took a room in the Windsor Hotel and was up well before noon awakened by the steam calliope hissing music that at night would have skeletons dancing behind the shaded windows above Main Street. On circus day afternoon they kept on dancing but were not seen – hidden in the sunlight and forgotten for the elephant parade. He heard one dancing in the room next to his. It was distracting.
We shall return tomorrow with a few more Elephants or Pachyderms, including a searching consideration of our common enough practice of comparing others – and ourselves too – to animals with special consideration here to one of the species which likes showers – sometimes of water and others of dirt – but also has that endearing appendage to deliver them.
(dateline: Sunday Morning, Jan 27, 2013 – Lesser Seattle)
Besides the street trees and the historic three-ball light standard on the right the obvious difference in the “now” is the parking lot that in 1969 replaced the storefronts that held the northeast corner of Occidental Avenue and Washington Street when, toting his camera, Werner Langenhager visited the block fifty years ago. (Historical photo courtesy of Seattle Public Library.)
SKID ROAD – 1956
(First appeared in Pacific, summer of 2006)
We may celebrate the photographer Werner Langenhager’s sizeable and sensitive record of Seattle with this “golden anniversary” (2006) example of his work. With his back to Second Avenue Langenhager looks west on Washington Street to its intersection with Occidental Avenue where, most obviously, the big block letters for Ivar’s fish bar hold the northwest corner.
Ivar was sentimental about these pioneer haunts. During his college years in the 1920s he wrote a paper on the Skid Road for his class in sociology. To get it right Ivar spent a week living in a neighborhood hotel, visiting the missions, and betting in the Chinese lotteries.
For his first try at returning to the neighborhood as a restaurateur Ivar bought the old popcorn wagon in Pioneer Place (then the more popular name than Pioneer Square) in the early 1950s. He planned to convert it into a chowder dispensary. And he proposed building a replica of Seattle’s original log cabin also, of course, for selling chowder. For different reasons both plots plopped and instead in 1954 he opened this corner fish house. He called it his “chowder corner.”
Consulting the Polk City Directory for 1956 we can easily build a statistical profile for Ivar’s neighbors through the four “running blocks” of Occidental between Yesler Way and Main and Washington between First and Second. Fifteen taverns are listed including the Lucky, the Loggers, the Oasis and the Silver Star. But there were also ten cafes (including Ivar’s), six hotels, four each of barbers and cobblers, three second-hand shops, two drug stores, one loan shop, one “Loggers Labor Agency” and five charities, including the Light House.
The 1956 statistic for these four blocks that best hints at how this historic neighborhood was then in peril of being razed for parking is the vacancies. There were twelve of them.
BOYD AND BRAAS – A LIMITED PARTNERSHIP
(First appeared in Pacific, March 14, 1993)
Some of the best and rarest views of Seattle’s reconstruction after the “Great Fire” of 1889 destroyed most of the city’s business district were photographed by William Boyd and/or Gene Braas. Boyd and Braas were partners for two years, 1891-1892. Their bug is printed here, lower right corner.
This view looks west on Washington Street, with the photographer’s back to Second Avenue. It may be the single look up Washington Street that survives form the early 1890s; it’s the only one I’ve uncovered – or been shown, in this case by Rod Slemmons - in 19 years of looking.
For topographic reasons there are, generally, many more historic photographs of downtown Seattle’s avenues than of its streets. (The obvious exceptions are Yesler Way, Madison Street and Pike Street.) Running north and south, it is the aveunes that are regularly appointed with landmarks and expensive commercial facades.
While not so architecturally distinguished, this lineup on Washington Street is culturally so, with loan offices, bars and bawdy stages. The Standard at the southeast corner of Washington and Occidental – left of center and above the more distant of the scene’s two wagons – was notorious for the peddling of flesh and booze to the accompaniment of profane ballads. In this neighborhood the rooms were cheap and lunches often free, but they were subsidized by liquor, gambling and expensive thrills.
ELEPHANTS on PHINNEY RIDGE
PACHYDERMS on the HORIZON
Some in the exotic tableau above may be playing the role of a Pachyderm. For now that is as far as my thoughts about our common enough practice of finding similarities between human animals and the other animals has come. I’ll return to it later with an addendum. But as a guiding warning for the platonic dreamers among us we are hardly at the top in every quality. Even the best swimmers among us are pathetic when compared to the lesser swimmers in the Amazon. And who can have a nose that dances like an elephant’s nose and picks up things and sounds like a French Horn? If you want to help than find us some pictures of people that look like elephants. Any part or practice of them. Try this please. If you squint your eyes while looking a Loudon’s above group shot, do they as a whole they may resemble an elephant in profile?