Seattle Now & Then: Polk’s Potlatch Parade, 1911

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: A float for the 1911 Potlatch parade carries piggyback a smaller 1897 version of a Polk City Directory on a much bigger 1911 copy.  The fourteen years between them is meant to symbolize the growth of the city since the Alaskan/Yukon gold rush of 1897 that the Golden Potlatch of 1911 was created to commemorate.  (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
THEN: A float for the 1911 Potlatch parade carries piggyback a smaller 1897 version of a Polk City Directory on a much bigger 1911 copy. The fourteen years between them is meant to symbolize the growth of the city since the Alaskan/Yukon gold rush of 1897 that the Golden Potlatch of 1911 was created to commemorate. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
NOW: With his back close to Stewart Street, Jean Sherrard looks across Fourth Avenue to the front facade of the Thirty-story Escala Condos.
NOW: With his back close to Stewart Street, Jean Sherrard looks across Fourth Avenue to the front facade of the Thirty-story Escala Condos.

Riding its own float south on Fourth Avenue is, perhaps, the largest Polk City Directory ever assembled, although not published.  It is dated 1911, the year of this “Industrial Parade” for what was Seattle’s first Golden Potlatch, a summer celebration staged intermittently until World War Two.

Polk Directory The Idea

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Fourth Ave. has been freshly flattened here for the Denny Regrade, a public work that by this year reached Fifth Avenue and then stopped, leaving on its east side a steep grade – in some places a cliff.  On the far left horizon, the belfry for Sacred Heart Church still stands high above Sixth Avenue and Bell Street.  Both were razed in 1929, along with what remained of Denny Hill east of Fifth Avenue.

This one is closer to 5th Avenue than to 4th, although both the Denny School, far left, and the church belfry are easily found.  The cliff running across the photograph was groomed and worn through the next nearly 20 years, but still held during those years as the eastern border of the Denny Regrade until the lowering of the whole hill continued in 1929 to the east of 5th Avenue. (Courtesy Mike Maslan)
This one is closer to 5th Avenue than to 4th, although both the Denny School, far left, and the church belfry are easily found. The cliff running across the photograph was groomed and worn through the next nearly 20 years, but still held during those years as the eastern border of the Denny Regrade until the lowering of the whole hill continued in 1929 to the east of 5th Avenue. (Courtesy Mike Maslan)

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Those are not helpful monks from the neighborhood parish guiding the horse-drawn float, but volunteers dressed in cowls of the Potlatch pageant’s own design.  When first delivered fresh from their Chicago factory and unveiled early in July (the Potlatch month), a Seattle Times reporter described them alternately as “insuring a brilliant or gorgeous display.”

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Across Fourth Avenue, the covered VIP reviewing stand below the Welcome sign was the first of many sections of bleachers constructed to the sides of both Third and Fourth Avenues. With thousands of seats offered for week-long rent to anyone with a dollar to spare, they helped pay for Potlatch, a celebration that this paper explained would “be first, last and all the times a joy session.  Seattle is going to pull the top off the town and let the folks see what it looks like when it is really going some.”

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To anyone who has pursued a study of local history, Polk directories are downright endearing.  First published in Seattle in 1887, they grew with the city until the company abandoned them in 1996 for “digits” – disks, that is, and on-line services.  Over forty years I have managed to collect about forty Polks; most of them recycled copies bought from the Friends of the Seattle Public Library’s annual book sales.  All are big, and all were worn when I first got them.  A few I have bound with sturdy rubber bands. They surround my desk, because I keep using them.

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WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?  Certainly Jean, and we will start with Ron’s harvest of appropriate links, this time all from the neighborhood.  I’ll follow that with a few more Potlatch Parade pics.  We have, you know, inserted above other 1911 Potlatch parade photos with more floats and most of them on Fourth Avenue north of Stewart.  (By the way Jean, we expected that you would include this weekend some snaps from your and Karen’s trip to Southern California.   Any chance for adding the same soon?)

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THEN: The Moose float heads south on First Avenue at Columbia Street during the 1912 Potlatch parade of fraternal and secret societies. Behind them are Julius Redelsheimer's clothing store and the National Hotel, where daily room rates ran from 50 cents to a dollar.

THEN: Before this the first shovel of the last of Denny Hill was ceremonially dropped to the conveyor belt at Battery Street, an “initial bite of 30,000 cubic yards of material” was carved from the cliff along the east side of 5th Avenue to make room for both the steam shovel and several moveable belts that extended like fingers across the hill.  It was here that they met the elevated and fixed last leg of the conveyor system that ran west on Battery Street to the waterfront.  (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive)

2nd-and-Blanchard-THEN

Great railroad signs, theatre signs and ranks of neon were still the greatest contributors to night light at 4th and Westlake in 1949. (Photo by Robert Bradley compliment of Lawton and Jean Gowey)

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