Seattle Now & Then: A Shoebox on Fifth

(click to enlarge photos)

 

THEN: Thanks again and again to Lawton Gowey for another contribution to this feature, this ca. 1917 look into a fresh Denny Regrade and nearly new “office-factory” at 1921 Fifth Avenue.  (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.)
THEN: Thanks again and again to Lawton Gowey for another contribution to this feature, this ca. 1917 look into a fresh Denny Regrade and nearly new “office-factory” at 1921 Fifth Avenue. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.)
NOW: Many thanks also to librarian Steve Kiesow, who as a student started with the Seattle Public Library’s Main Branch History Department in 1968 and is still behind the History Desk, on the phone and on-line helping with answers.  Kiesow answered our call, and found for us much of the building’s most recent chronology.
NOW: Many thanks also to librarian Steve Kiesow, who as a student started with the Seattle Public Library’s Main Branch History Department in 1968 and is still behind the History Desk, on the phone and on-line helping with answers. Kiesow answered our call, and found for us much of the building’s most recent chronology.

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.”

Looking south thru the future Virginia Street on what is close to the future Fifth Avenue ca. 1886 - long before the regrading of Denny Hill.
From the eastern slope of Denny Hill, looking south thru the future Virginia Street (near the fence) on what is close to the future Fifth Avenue ca. 1886 – long before the regrading of Denny Hill. ( You will find the feature for the above pioneer photo in one of the images used as links below.  You must explore.)
Denny Hill from First Hill circa 19O3, the year the Denny Hotel then renamed the Washington, first opened.  The intersection below it, right-of-center, is Fourth Ave. and Stewart Street.  The rear of the then future "box" on 5th
Denny Hill from First Hill circa 19O3, the year the Denny Hotel then renamed the Washington, first opened. The intersection below it, right-of-center, is Fourth Ave. and Stewart Street. The rear of the then future “box” on 5th would be barely out-of-frame to the far right in the dark landscape.  The row of residences facing Fourth north of Stewart are featured in the subject that follows, photographed by A. Curtis looking east and north from the hotel.
Wallngford is far off on the north side of Lake Union, here on the far left horizon.  Stewart street is on the right, and Fourth Avenue at the base of this A. Curtis photograph from ca. 1904.  Capitol Hill covers most of the horizon.
Wallngford is far off on the north side of Lake Union, here on the far left horizon. Stewart street is on the right, and Fourth Avenue runs left-right at the base of this A. Curtis photograph from ca. 1904. Capitol Hill covers most of the horizon.

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.

A Seattle Times adver for the first section of theSecurities Building dated April 30, 1914.
A Seattle Times advertisement for the first section of the Securities Building, dated April 30, 1915.
A Seattle Times clip for Oct. 1, 1916.
A Seattle Times clip for Oct. 1, 1916.
Another Securities Building ad, this one listing the tenants, including the
Another Securities Building ad, this one listing the tenants, including the Clise Investment Company.  The Seattle Times date is Christmas Eve, 1916.

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 WPA tax card, printed in 1937.
The WPA tax card, printed in 1937.
Looking southwest thru the block in 1937 with the Orpheum Auto Hotel next door to
Looking northwest thru the block in 1937 with the Orpheum Auto Hotel next door to the car rental in the “box.”
In 1939, north from Olive thru Stewart through the block to Virginian.
In 1939, north from Olive thru Stewart and the block to Virginian.
A remodeled 1921 Fifth Ave. with Singer the tenant, and tax photo dated April 28,1949.
A remodeled 1921 Fifth Ave. with Singer the tenant. The tax photo is dated April 28,1949.

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.

Uptown Music announces that it is leaving 1921 5th with, of course, a moving sale.
Uptown Music announces that it is leaving 1921 5th with, of course, a moving sale.

WEB EXTRAS

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.

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)

THEN:  Built in 1888-89 at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street, the then named Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church marked the southeast corner of Denny Hill.  Eventually the lower land to the east of the church (here behind it) would be filled, in part, with hill dirt scraped and eroded from North Seattle lots to the north and west of this corner.  (Courtesy, Denny Park Lutheran Church)

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Fifth Avenue looking north from the top of what remained of Denny Hill after the regraders reach Fifth and stopped in 1911.  Soon after this image was recorded for Seattle Public Works on March 8, 1929, work began on razing what remain of the hill east of Fifth Avenue.  (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive.)
Fifth Avenue looking north from the top of what remained of Denny Hill after the regraders reach Fifth and stopped in 1911. Soon after this image was recorded for Seattle Public Works on March 8, 1929, work began on razing what remained of the hill east of Fifth Avenue. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive.)
Frank Shaw with his back close to the "Box" looks thru the Monorail to the Orpheum Theatre on March 17, 1962
Frank Shaw with his back close to the “Box” looks thru the Monorail to the Orpheum Theatre on March 17, 1962
Close again to the "box" here for a "Remember the Pueblo" demonstration on Dec. 7, 1968.
Close again to the “box” here for a “Remember the Pueblo” demonstration on Dec. 7, 1968.

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4 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: A Shoebox on Fifth”

  1. Please keep reminding us of Seattle’s past. We wonder at those who travel to Europe to marvel at ancient buildings while encouraging developers to tear down old buildings here.

  2. I’m curious why there would have still been speak-easies or prohibition police in 1934 when prohibition had been repealed by then (21st Amendment, ratified Dec. 1933).

  3. (A little tricky to find where on this site to respond.)
    I am absolutely delighted to read Now and Then in the Times. I never miss it. Also, this is a wonderful website. Thank you!

    1. I’m curious too James. Perhaps it was a violation of a law connected with license. I’ll keep a look out, but for now I will not investigated these disturbing spirits. Let me know what you find out – if you choose to. Paul
      I as well Tim. Much of this site is inscrutable to me, including the formalities connected with replies, comments and passwords. When confronted with instructions concerning these I yearn to be playing marbles on the sidewalk.

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