Seattle Now & Then: Huck Finn in SODO

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Part of the pond that here in 1946 filled much of the long block between Massachusetts and Holgate Streets and 8th Avenue S. and Airport Way. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)
THEN: Part of the pond that here in 1946 filled much of the long block between Massachusetts and Holgate Streets and 8th Avenue S. and Airport Way. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)
NOW:  With freezing, the few captured ponds that dotted the tideflats south of King Street as late as the 1940s, were busy with skaters.  Now this rolling neighborhood of settling fill that was recently named SODO is home for light industry, and lots of parking.
NOW: With freezing, the few captured ponds that dotted the tideflats south of King Street as late as the 1940s, were busy with skaters. Now this rolling neighborhood of settling fill that was recently named SODO is home for light industry, and lots of parking.

If one gives little attention to the homes on the hill and none to the junk dumped into this waterway then these adventurous young boys captaining their crafts might remind Pacific readers of their own youthful adventures or of those shared with them by Mark Twain. This, however, is not the Mississippi, but one of the last evidences of the mudflats south of King Street where for millennia twice every 25 hours – about – the waters of Puget Sound sloshed as far east as Beacon Hill, here on the right.

This summer subject was first printed in The Times on August 24, 1945, the day that Gen. Douglas MacArthur announced that an advanced party would land in Japan two days later to prepare the way for occupation.  A half-century earlier the reclamation of these tideflats began in earnest.  There is with this vestige no longer any direct connection to the tides, and so no chance that these lads will drift into the shipping lanes.  Most likely this is a catching basin for run off – a big one.   In a 1946 aerial photograph it can be measured reaching thru most of this 660-foot long block east of Airport way and between Holgate and Massachusetts Streets

Airport Way proceeds up the middle of this 1946 aerial of what was once the tidelands south of King Street and west of Beacon Hill.  The hill's greenbelt climbs up the right third of the aerial.  Holgate Street leads to Airport Way from about mid-way up the left border of the subject.  In the corner drawn by Holgate and Airport Way appears one of the last submerged vestiges of these tideflats.  Courtesy, Municipal Archive with thanks also to Ron Edge for the scanning.
(Click to Enlarge) Airport Way proceeds up the middle of this 1946 aerial of what was once the tidelands south of King Street and west of Beacon Hill. The hill’s greenbelt climbs up the right third of the aerial. (The Interstate-5 Freeway is here a mere 20 years distant.)  Holgate Street leads to Airport Way from about mid-way up the left border of the subject. In the corner drawn by Holgate and Airport Way, appears one of the last submerged vestiges of these tideflats, a pond or catch basin for run-off. The white mass entering the big pond south of Massachusetts Street is land fill. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive with thanks also to Ron Edge for the scanning.)
A 1929 aerial centered on the same pond shows its regulated sides
A 1929 aerial centered on the same pond shows its regulated sides, and not yet any of the depression-time shacks and sheds that created one the tideflats mid-sized Hoovervilles for out-of-work single (mostly) men. [The safety pin shaped path near the center of the block is puzzling - isn't it?)
A Post-Intelligence retouching editorial artist has juxtaposed the pointing figure of Beacon Hill resident who complained to "authorities" about the build-up of the shack-town on the tidelands below her.  She may have been given time to choose that lovely flower-print dress for the shooting.  Here efforts were, however, in vain.  Until razed with the beginning of World War Two with that advance in opportunities for employment, these "home owners" stayed just west of the "our" pond.  (Courtesy, Post-Intelligencer)
A Post-Intelligence retouching editorial artist has juxtaposed the pointing figure of a Beacon Hill resident who complained to “authorities” about the build-up of the shack-town on the tidelands below her. She may have been given time to choose that lovely flower-print dress for the shooting. Her efforts were, however, in vain. Until razed with the beginning of World War Two with that advance in opportunities for employment, these “home owners” stayed put just west of the “our” pond. (Courtesy, Post-Intelligencer)

The Times headline for this subject (on top) does not celebrate youth and its summer recreations, but reads, “Where Death May Be A Playmate.”  The paper shared Seattle Police Chief Herbert Kinsey’s claim that his forces were frequently called upon to rescue children who fall into this pond. A survey of tragic accidents since the first of the year named five children who had downed in backyard lily ponds or in Seattle’s wetlands like this one – although not in this one.  William Norton, City Council’s chair of its public safety committee, speculated “between 50 and 60 small children have met death in such ponds in recent years.” If true, this home front statistic is at once grotesque and fantastic.

Throughout most of the Great Depression one of the lesser Hooverville communities of shacks scavengered by homeless men crowded the west shore of the pond (to the left). Roughly one hundred of them can be counted in a 1936 aerial (not reprinted here).

A FEW MORE HOOVERVILLES, without explanation

H. Hoovervill-Shack-(ca.)-WEB

H. Hooverville--Sign-WEB

H. Hooverville-Suburbmr-WEB

H. SB-lesser-Hooverville-PI-22393-WEB

H. Wet-land-shacks-HOOVERV-31-WEB

=====

"Gas Cove" ca. 1884, seen from Beacon Hill with the "Piners Point" peninsula. The Felker House is noted on the south side of Jackson Street a half-block west of First Ave. S. (then Commercial Street.)
“Gas Cove” ca. 1884, seen from Beacon Hill with “Piners Point” peninsula, where was huddled most of Seattle’s commerce. The Felker House is noted on the south side of Jackson Street a half-block west of First Ave. S. (then Commercial Street.)
Looking east and back at Beacon Hill from Piners Point, and also from the early 1880s.  Ultimately our pond of interest would be "developed" a short distance to the right of this subject's right border.  (Courtesy of Ron Edge, a photo by Peterson & Bros.)
Looking east and back at Beacon Hill from Piners Point, and also from the early 1880s. Ultimately our pond of interest would be “developed” a short distance to the right of this subject’s right border. (Courtesy of Ron Edge, a photo by Peterson & Bros.)
The tidelands south of King Street a few months after the Great Fire of 1889.  The burned district is rebuilding although many businesses are still encamped in tents. The view looks south from near the corner of Second and Cherry Street.  Beacon Hill is on the left horizon.  The rows of pilings punched into the tidelands are daring and presumptive.  There fate of the tidelands is still waiting on decision's of the new state's legislature includenced by these "jumpers" and "squatters" but more effectively by the railroads.
The tidelands south of King Street a few months after the Great Fire of 1889. The burned district is rebuilding although many businesses are still encamped in tents. The view looks south from near the corner of Second and Cherry Street. Beacon Hill is on the left horizon. The rows of pilings punched into the tidelands are daring and presumptive. The fate and distribution of the tidelands is still waiting on decision’s of the new state’s legislature influenced less by these “jumpers” and “squatters” than by the railroads.
Our neighborhood - from Beacon Hill - 1914.  A. Curtis is the photographer and our Pond's location will be near the left border.    The bright street moving from the left towards the center of the pan is Deaborn a few years after its cut through Beacon Hill.
[DOUBLE-CLICK to Enlarge]  Our neighborhood – from Beacon Hill – 1914. A. Curtis is the photographer and our pond’s location will be near the left border of his panorama. The bright street moving from the left towards the center of the pan is Dearborn a few years after it was cut through Beacon Hill.
Both near busses and trackless trollies at the Muni. Bus barn.  The view looks east on the garage's parking lot somewhat in line  with Atlantic Street.  Railroad Ave. (aka 9th Avenue) is on the other side of the buildings, and the Marine Hospital is on the Beacon Hill horizon. (Courtesy, MOHAI)
Both new buses and trackless trollies at the Muni. Bus barn. The view looks east on the garage’s parking lot somewhat in line with Atlantic Street. Railroad Ave. (aka 9th Avenue) is on the other side of the buildings, and the Marine Hospital is up on the Beacon Hill horizon. (Courtesy, MOHAI)

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?   A few more from the neighborhood and its hydraulic puzzles, Jean.

Jean here, with a quick note on behalf of dorpatsherrardlomont. Our server has once again become somewhat unstable, preventing the addition of the usual Web Extras which accompany ‘Seattle Now & Then’. We apologize for this disruption of our regular service, but will try our best to get things back up and running smoothly as soon as possible.

(That last concerned “interruption” came from Ron Edge, but the disciplined Edge soon fixed the problem and we are back.)

Directly below is a feature from Jan. 2012 that had its own timing puzzle.  The view from Denny Hill is part of the first panorama of the city recorded from there, and it also reveals in the distance the unfilled tideflats (or lands) south of King Street.  Following this Feature are – as is our custom – several more that dwell on the neighborhood.  Each of the subjects – and their extras as well -  are reached through a single appropriate image, most likely the primary image used when the feature was first presented.   Any reader aroused to study these tideland subjects should also browse the Pictorial History of Seattle’s Waterfront.  Handily it is posted on this blog.

(click to enlarge photos)

We preface the unmarked historical view below with this painted one above, because we got a note from a reader (of both the smaller version that appears in Pacific and the larger one in this blog below), asking for some pointers for finding many of the landmarks noted in the text below: for instance, Second Ave., Union Street, the Denny barn, the Methodist church and the the future site of Plymouth Congregational Church’s first sanctuary. Here it is, the marked version. Have the site/server not given us so much trouble we would have added all sort of other pans and details of the neighborhood. Now that will need to come later, and there will most likely be other opportunities to add such stuff then.
THEN: The still forested First Hill, upper left, and Beacon Hill, center and right, draw the horizon above the still sparsely developed north end of Seattle’s residential neighborhood in 1872-73. Second Avenue angles across the center of the subject, and also intersects there with Union Street. (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)
NOW: Looking south through the alleyway between Pine and Stewart Streets. The rear concrete wall of the Nordstom Rack appears center-left. It was completed in 1907 at the northwest corner of Second Ave. and Pine Street, a ten-story home for “Your Credit is Good,” Standard Furniture.

Here an unnamed pioneer photographer has chosen a prospect on the southwest slope of Denny Hill to look south through what was then Seattle’s “north end.”  This may be the first look from an elevation that was understandably for years after – until it was regraded away – a favorite platform for recording the city.

The photograph was taken mid-block (block 27 of A.A. Denny’s 3rd Addition) between Pine and Stewart Streets and First and Second Avenues.  Jean Sherrard’s now is adjusted to both use and relish the alleyway that runs thru the center of the block.  The historical photographer stood a few feet left, behind (or embedded in) the concrete wall, and somewhat closer to Pine Street.  He was also thirty or forty feet above Jean, for this part of Denny Hill was graded away between 1903 and 1905.

By a mistake of my own I’d considered 1875 a most “deserving” date for this subject, but I preferred 1876, a boom year for Seattle, and an annum that “explains itself” with Seattle’s first city directory.   I was wrong by three or four years.  The date here is the blooming months of either late 1872 or early 1873, and the evidence is in two churches – one showing and the other not.

Second Avenue angles through the center of the scene.  On August 24, 1873 Plymouth Congregational Church dedicated its first (of now four) downtown sanctuary on Second a little ways north of Spring Street.  It would – but does not – appear above the roofline of Arthur and Mary Denny’s barn, here right-of-center at the southwest corner of Second and Union.

Appearing – but barely – also above the Denny barn, but to its right, is the Methodist Protestant Church near the northeast corner of Second and Madison.  In 1871 its pastor Daniel Bagley gave it a “remodel,” a second floor with mansard windows.  Both additions are showing.

In “This City of Ours,” J. Willis Sayre’s 1936 school textbook of Seattle historical trivia, Sayre makes this apt point about the Second Avenue showing here. “In the seventies it had narrow wooden sidewalks which went up and down, over the ungraded surfaces, like a roller-coaster . . . The street was like a frog pond every winter.”

WEB EXTRAS

I thought I’d throw in a related picture with a short sketch. City alleys provide us with back doors, service entrances, garages – but also occasionally reveal darker aspects. Looking for this week’s ‘now’, I took several photos up and down the alley between Pine and Stewart, and snapped ( and eavesdropped on) two kids, boyfriend and girlfriend, just arrived from a small town by bus. Something heartrending here, with that little pink backpack bobbing down the alley.

Kids in the alley

Anything to add, Paul?

This time Jean’s question is rhetorical.  We have had such a time with this blog and its “server” that it is ordinarily impossible to get on it.  The chances are that what I am writing here will not be saved.  I’ll keep it brief.  It seems we must find a different server.  This may take a while.  Again, if any of your have suggestions in this regard please share them with us.  Meanwhile please check the blog daily – if you will – but know that nothing new might appear, and  you too may not be able to open it, for instance for browsing through past features.   Hopefully we will escape these problems early in February, and come back with a site that is confident and stable.

1912&1929s

THEN: The work of filling the tidelands south of King Street began in 1853 with the chips from Yesler’s sawmill.   Here in the neighborhood of 9th Ave. S. (Airport Way) and Holgate Street, the tideland reclaiming and street regrading continue 70 years later in 1923.  (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)

pan-f-denn-hill-1885-web

 

Our wetland block would be on the left side of this 1988 snap I made of the Beacon Ave. S. freeway overpass ten Holgate Street on the left.
Our wetland block would be on the left side of this 1988 snap I made of the Beacon Ave. S. freeway overpass, with Holgate Street on the right.  The third of the links placed above by Ron Edge studies this same point-of-view (and others) during the street’s regrade in the 1920.
When I started asking question about local history in the early 1970s it was not commonplace but neither was it rare to be told first-hand accounts of ice skating on what remained of the tideflats.
When I started asking question about local history in the early 1970s it was not commonplace but neither was it rare to be told first-hand accounts of ice skating on what remained of the tideflats. [Courtesy MOHAI, a P-I Photo]

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Huck Finn in SODO”

  1. Great photos most I never seen or knew about before. Growing up in Seattle I am curious if you have any photos of other locations mostly from the 1940′s and 50′s:
    1. I remember a board walk (wooden sidewalk) going down Jackson Street near the train stations. 2. Lived near a Seattle Dump which had caught fire around 1950 near Jackson Street and what is now MLK Jr. Wy So. 3. Across from Garfield High School on the N.W. corner 23rd and E Jefferson was a burger place with a big red tomato with a gold crown on the roof which was called Burger King (not the chain). 4. It was November or December 1962 and down town buildings were being demolished for the construction of I-5 and a car crashed into an excavation near Seneca Street. A person (me) rescued the two individuals who were seriously injured.

    Thanks.

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