Standing alone on a Denny Regrade lot, a reinforced concrete shoebox with a 30×109 footprint and a red brick veneer, stands at 1921 Fifth Avenue. In the 1880s a pioneer wagon road leading to Queen Anne Hill passed by here. That was long before the regrade, but with half-closed eyes we may imagine the wagon crossing this sloping northeastern corner of Denny Hill very near the roofline of this sturdy box, or a few feet above the Monorail seen in Jean’s “now.”
All the signs in the second floor windows are for political publications, including the Washington Democrat, whose name is also on the front door. But by 1918 all had moved away, including the Democrats. The likely date here is 1917, or two years after 1915, the year tax records say this box was built. Peeking over the roof is a clue. It is a late construction scene for the terracotta tile-adorned Securities Building, described on line by its owner Clise Properties as completed in 1917. The Clise Investment Company was one of the building’s first occupants.
Besides the publishers, the early user history of the building included a furniture dealer handy with hardwood billiard tables and fumed-oak davenports. In 1928 the place was remodeled for the auto-renter Aero-U-Drive-Inc, with a wide door cut at the sidewalk to move cars in and out of the long garage inside. Upstairs on the second floor was the Colony Club, one of the many speak-easies that the State Liquor Control Board announced in the spring of 1934 that it would soon padlock. John Dore, Seattle’s brilliant and sometimes bellicose mayor, gave the prohibition police no help, announcing to the press, “We have matters of greater importance and dearer consequence to consider than closing up speakeasies.” Hizzoner was thinking of that year’s waterfront strike.
The surviving 1949 remodel with glass bricks was for a new business, Singer Sewing Machine. After the sewing, Uptown Music sold guitars and rented school band instruments in the 1970s. In 1980 the glass-adorned box was rented for the Reagan-Bush Washington State Headquarters. The Republican Party was replaced with partying. Two music clubs paid the rent, the Weather Wall and Ispy. In 2008 the latter was promoted as an “Urban Comedy Jazz Café.” And so it figures that next year the little – for the neighborhood – shoebox may, if it likes, trumpet its centennial.
Anything to add, Paul? Yup Jean, Ron is going to post a few past features that relate to this neighborhood with relevant subjects – many of them on 5th Ave. – and a few irrelevant subjects mixed in.