Seattle Now & Then: Post Office Teams on University Street

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking west from First Avenue down the University Street viaduct to the waterfront, ca. 1905.  Post Office teams and their drivers pose beside the Arlington Hotel, which was then also headquarters for mail delivery in Seattle.  (Courtesy, Gary Gaffner)
THEN: Looking west from First Avenue down the University Street viaduct to the waterfront, ca. 1905. Post Office teams and their drivers pose beside the Arlington Hotel, which was then also headquarters for mail delivery in Seattle. (Courtesy, Gary Gaffner)
NOW:  Jean notes, "The Lin family, visiting Seattle on a near-Spring day, takes in two views from the Harbor steps - one looking over my shoulder at the Seattle Art Museum and the other of a cherry blossom-framed, if blustery, Elliott Bay."
NOW: Jean notes, “The Lin family, visiting Seattle on a near-Spring day, takes in two views from the Harbor steps – one looking over my shoulder at the Seattle Art Museum and the other of a cherry blossom-framed, if blustery, Elliott Bay.”

Here we stand – about a century ago – with an unidentified photographer recording five U.S. Postal Service teams and their drivers.  The year is about 1905, six years after the Post Office moved from its previous headquarters on Columbia Street here to the Arlington Hotel.  Larger quarters were needed, in part for sorting mail.

The Arlington Hotel with tower, looking southwest through the intersection of First Ave. and University Street.
The Arlington Hotel with tower, looking southwest through the intersection of First Ave. and University Street.  Below: the  hotel sans tower from a postcard.

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On the left (of the top photo) is the hotel’s north façade extending west from the corner of University Street and First Avenue. Above the sidewalk on First, the hotel reached four ornate brick stories high with a distinguished conical tower at the corner, not seen here.  To the rear there were three more stories reaching about forty feet down to Post Alley.  First named the Gilmore Block, after its owner David Gilmore, for most of its eighty-four years this sturdy red brick pile was called the Arlington, but wound up as the Bay Building, and it was as the Bay that it was razed in 1974.

Frank Shaw's record of work-in-progress on the razing of the Bay Building.  The subject looks east from the viaduct on University Street to the Diller Hotel on the southeast corner of First and University.
Frank Shaw’s record of work-in-progress on the razing of the Bay Building. The subject looks east from the viaduct on University Street to the Diller Hotel on the southeast corner of First and University.
The caption that came with this look west on the trestle dates it Sept.8, 1946.  It was photographed from a prospect near that used by the "more historical" photographer who recorded the subject at the top.
The caption that came with this look west on the trestle dates it Sept.8, 1946. It was photographed from a prospect near that used by the “more historical” photographer who recorded the subject at the top.
Frank Shaw dated this August 18, 1973, which should be a sufficient clue for come curious reader to figure out what movie is being shot here.  It is a quiz.  Answer correctly and win the glory of being right.
Frank Shaw dated this August 18, 1973, which should be a sufficient clue for some curious reader to figure out what movie is being shot here. It is a quiz. Answer correctly and win the glory, or satisfaction if you prefer, of being right.

By beginning the construction of his hotel before the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, Gilman performed a considerable, if unwitting, service.  The south foundation of the structure was formidable enough to stop the fire from reaching University Street.  Off shore, a chain of volunteer fire fighters, passing buckets of water pulled from Elliot Bay, stopped the fire’s northerly advance as well along the off-shore quays and trestles built of pilings for warehouses and railroad tracks.

A sidewalk view revealing the savior-wall at the base of the south facade following the June 6, 1889 "Great Fire" that consumed most of the Seattle waterfront - to the tides - and over 30 city blocks. The view looks south-southwest.  The north facade of the ruined cracker factor at Seneca is seen in part at the top-left corner.
A sidewalk view revealing the savior-wall at the base of the south facade following the June 6, 1889 “Great Fire” that consumed most of the Seattle waterfront – to the tides – and over 30 city blocks. The view looks south-southwest. The north facade of the ruined cracker factor at Seneca is seen in part at the top-left corner.

Free mail delivery started in Seattle on September 11, 1887, with four carriers.  Remembering that booming Seattle’s population increased in a mere thirty years from 3,533 in 1880 to the 237,194 counted by the federal census in 1910, we may imagine that this quintet of carriers and their teams were a very small minority of what was needed to deliver the mail in 1905.  Behind the posing carriers, University Street descends on a timber trestle above both Post Alley and Western Avenue to Railroad Avenue (Alaska Way).  Most likely some of the mail was rolled along the trestle both to and from “Mosquito Fleet” steamers for waterways distribution.

The swath of destruction along the waterfront seen from the northwest corner of Front Street (First Ave.) and Union Street.
[Click to ENLARGE] The swath of destruction along the waterfront seen from the northwest corner of Front Street (First Ave.) and Union Street.  The rebuilding has obviously begun, and while the business district and waterfront are building, several business have temporarily taken to elaborate tents. The Gilmore/Arlington at First and University appears here at the panorama’s center where the hotel’s construction has laid a floor on its foundation.  (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

After the post office moved three blocks to the new Federal Building at Third Avenue and Union Street in 1908, First Avenue between University and Seneca Streets continued as a block of hospitality with seven hotels.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?  A few variations from the neighborhood, Jean, beginning with a look south on First Avenue through University Street.

Another Gowey contribution.  Lawton dated this slide May 23, 1969.
Another Gowey contribution. Lawton dated this slide May 23, 1969.

A.-First-s.-fm-University-web

FIRST AVENUE SOUTH THRU UNIVERSITY STREET

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Lawton Gowey dated this Oct. 25, 1974.
Lawton Gowey dated this Oct. 25, 1974.

a. First-AVe-s-fm-University-Mail-Car-A-text-duplicate-WEB2

At least by April 19, 1976, Lawton's date for his slide, the block is gone.
By April 19, 1976, Lawton’s date for his slide, the block is gone.

a. First-AVe-s-fm-University-Mail-Car-A-text-WEB3

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Either Horace Sykes or Robert Bradley  (they were friends in the Seattle Camera Club) recorded this look east on University Way in 1953 when the viaduct was opened to the club before, of course, the traffic.
Either Horace Sykes or Robert Bradley (they were friends in the Seattle Camera Club) recorded this look east on University Way in 1953 when the viaduct was opened to the club before, of course, the traffic.  Here in the shadows at the bottom  we see that the viaduct has been cut off at the east side of Western Avenue.
Lawton Gowey's up-close portrait of the viaduct's stub, again looking east across Western Avenue, this time in 1982.
Lawton Gowey’s up-close portrait of the viaduct’s stub, again looking east across Western Avenue, this time in 1982.

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WHERE THE UNIVERSITY STREET RAMP REACHED RAILROAD AVENUE

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B1.-1908-Railroad-ave-University-St.-CurtisWEB

Looking west down the University Street ramp or viaduct in 1899 towards ship impounded for and suppling for the Spanish American War. (Courtesy, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.)
Looking west down the University Street ramp or viaduct in ca. 1900 towards ship impounded for and moving supplies for the Spanish American War.  On the far right the Sung Harbor Saloon appears again, this time from behind.  (Courtesy, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.)

B2---1908-CURTIS-fm-RR-Ave-up-Univ-WEB

[NOTE: The NOW describe directly above has not been found, or rather a good print or the negative for it stays hidden.]

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WESTERN AVENUE LOOKING SOUTH FROM THE UNIVERSITY STREET VIADUCT

Another A. Curtis record, this one looking south on Western Avenue from the University Street ramp.  The south end of the rank of hotels that crowd the west side of First Avenue between University and Seneca Streets rise above the narrow block of warehouse and manufacturing sheds that fill the block between Western and Post Alley (aka Post Avenue.)
Another A. Curtis record, this one looking south on Western Avenue from the University Street ramp. The south end of the rank of hotels that crowd the west side of First Avenue between University and Seneca Streets rise above the narrow block of warehouse and manufacturing sheds that fill the block between Western and Post Alley (aka Post Avenue.)

C.-Western-Ave.s.-fm-University-St-A-web

Recorded from a back window of the Arlington Hotel, the subject looks northwest across the University Street viaduct to the industry to either side of Western Avenue and Railroad Avenue, circa 1899.  The Schwabacher Dock, far left, face Railroad Avenue. Next to it is an earlier version of the Pike Street Wharf, soon to be replace by what we still have as the city's aquarium.
Recorded from a back window of the Arlington Hotel, the subject looks northwest across the University Street viaduct to the industry to either side of Western Avenue and Railroad Avenue, circa 1899. The Schwabacher Dock, far left, faces Railroad Avenue. Next to it is an earlier version of the Pike Street Wharf, soon to be replace by what we still have as the city’s aquarium.

c.-Western-Ave.so-fm-Uni-Trestal-B-web

[ANOTHER NOTE: The “Contemporary photo noted in the paragraph directly above may have joined the other “now” subject missing above it. ]

The hole as Frank Shaw recorded it on March 11, 1975 and many of us still remember it.  The SeaFirst Tower still holds the majesty it grabbed with its topping-off in 1968.
The hole as Frank Shaw recorded it on March 11, 1975 and as many of us still remember it. Here the SeaFirst Tower still holds the majesty it grabbed with its topping-off in 1968.
March 11, 1975, Gowey
March 11, 1975, Frank Shaw
Landscaping, Nov. 21, 1975 (Frank Shaw)
Landscaping, Nov. 21, 1975 (Frank Shaw)
Terracing the hole, also Nov. 21, 1975 by Frank Shaw.
Terracing the hole, also Nov. 21, 1975 by Frank Shaw.
October 25, 1974, eight months earlier from in front.   (Lawton Gowey)
October 25, 1974.  Standing now almost in memoriam, the skin like a skull and the wits within nearly removed.  “Thine are these orbs of light and shade; / Thou madest Life in man and brute; / Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot / is on the skull which thou hast made.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H.  (Lawton Gowey)
Less than three years later, a sampling of Friends of the Rag head south on First Ave., with landmark Myres Music at 1216 and so across the street from "the hole," during the Fat Tuesday Parade on Feb. 18, 1978.
Less than three years later, a sampling of Friends of the Rag head south on First Ave., with the landmark Myres Music at 1216 and across First Ave. from “the hole,” during the Fat Tuesday Parade on Feb. 18, 1978.  (Frank Shaw)

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Here – if Ron Edge reads his mail on awakening Sunday Morning – we may find a link for the story feature we published here on the Buzby’s Waterfront Mill, which was nearby at the foot of Seneca Street.   After the story of Buzby and his pioneer flour, we follow Jean and his  students off to Snoqualmie Falls for another now-then.  After a few more digressions, the linked feature returns to the “hole,” above, for more of Frank Shaw’s photos of it.  This may all transpire soon for Ron arises about the time I join the other bears here for another long winter’s sleep.

[CLICK THE LINK BELOW]

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z. -Univesity-Trestle-lk-s-w-USPO-buggies-WEB

 

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