A decade ago, while preparing a book of “repeats” covering Washington State, Jean Sherrard and I found the panorama printed here of the little railroad town on the shore of Rattlesnake Lake. About 1100 feet above the town, the at once modest and exalted Rattlesnake Ledge faces north towards the off-camera larger and older town of North Bend. Darius Kinsey, a professional admired for his photography of lumber camps and towns, named this subject Cedar Falls, the appellation preferred by Seattle, which began building a masonry dam nearby on the Cedar River and a power plant between that new dam and the nearly-new town.
We have returned this week to Kinsey’s pan, largely by following the lead of Alan Berner, the Times well-versed photographer and writer who is often inspired, we have noticed, by a poetic temperament. With “Amid drought, Rattlesnake Lake Reveals its Roots,” his recent October 12 Times feature, Berner shared with readers an exhibit of oversized stumps, driftwood sculpture exposed on the bottom of Rattlesnake Lake, mostly dry after our arid year.
In his caption Kinsey has used Cedar Falls, the town’s second name, but in 1907 it was still called Moncton after a railroad town in New Brunswick, Canada. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad developed this little company town to help push and tunnel its electric transcontinental line through Snoqualmie pass. In 1911 Seattle began to first build its nearby dam and then with water from Cedar Lake the city filled the reservoir behind a new masonry dam and Rattlesnake Lake as well – unwittingly.
Beginning in late April 1915, seepage from the reservoir began lifting the little lake more than a foot a day. On May 13 The Times reported that “motion picture operators this afternoon began taking films at Cedar Falls to show a town drowned out by mysterious flood waters that came from the ground beneath the homes and lands of the people.” By then, with two high-ground exceptions, all the families of Cedar River had fled their homes for boxcars or other burgs.
Seattle’s first attempts to keep Moncton/Cedar Falls dry came in 1910 when the prohibitionists in city government tried to reverse King County’s decision to allow Moncton resident William Brown to open a saloon. Teetotalers, like Seattle historian Clarence Bagley, then Secretary of the Seattle Board of Public Works, feared what drunken railroad and dam workers might do at work – and to their families and souls. Brown’s portion of Seattle’s 1916 payoff to the flooded citizens of Cedar Falls was $6,086.44. Fearing pollution to their Cedar River Watershed more than feeling guilt over their seeping reservoir, Seattle bought-out the damaged little town beside the erratic Rattlesnake Lake.
Anything to add, guys? A few Jean – a few features that relate. Ron has put five or six, I believe. The bottom of the five is relevant to this week’s dam buster theme. The others stick to the regional aptness of their subjects. “Go East.” We will follow that with a few more ancient clips and so fresh scans introduced for the first time to this roller derby of eternal recurrence with heritage anecdotes – illustrated and sometimes bruised with our mistakes..
What to write about Dutch Ned – or what to re-write? The several short accounts of this Seattle pioneer are constructed of a few tidbits told and retold. And his surname is confusing: Ohn, Olm, Ohm and Ohmn, all appear in print. The last, Nils Jacob Ohmn, is chiseled on what remains of his tomb in Seattle’s Lake View Cemetery. His more often used nickname, Dutch Ned, suggests one of Deutsch or German (not Dutch) descent.
Or was he Italian? C.T. Conover, the Seattle Times long-time heritage reporter, noted in a July 1, 1957, offering of his “Just Cogitating” feature (printed here two illustrations up) that a correspondent, Mrs. M.T. Jensen, remembered “Uncle Ned Ohm, a Sicilian, who carried mail weekly. He always stopped at my home in Auburn (then Slaughter) where I was born in 1876. There he would feed and rest his horse . . . [he was] a lone old man in a new world, his only relative a sister in far-away Sicily, to whom he always sent a part of his scant earnings.” In the featured photograph, from about 1880, Nils, holding his mail pack, poses with his horse on Cherry Street for a photographer looking east across Front Street (First Avenue).
In the 1934 clip printed above, the date 1880 is confidently given by the caption-writer, who then described the setting for Dutch Ned’s portrait with his horse as “in front of the Henry Yesler residence.” This does not lend confidence for the dating claim, for the scene here is almost surely on Cherry Street, looking east from Front Street and so one block north of the Yesler home at the northeast corner of James and Front. Still the date may be right; it falls within the 1878 and 1882 run of Ned’s or Nil’s or Nis”s first contract with the postal service. Below we’ll insert some nearby photos from the 1880 Big Snow (the biggest in the city’s history) including two snow-bound shots that also look east on Cherry from Front. The reader will be able, we hope, to decide for themselves that our locating is correct. The Times feature where these images and the text first appeared was published on December 19, 1982. This column was then still in its first year.
Dutch Ned’s weekly labor of delivering the mail on horseback between Seattle and Auburn was but one of the two full-time jobs ascribed to him. Born in 1820 (also chiseled on his tombstone), Ned reportedly arrived in Seattle in 1854 and soon landed the job of spreading sawdust from Henry Yesler’s sawmill to lift the pioneer village above its wetlands. Lucile McDonald, another of this newspaper’s most prolific history reporters, summed up the reclaiming half of Nels Olm as “a familiar figure of the period, who was kept busy filling swampy places with mill waste.” McDonald’s March 15,1953, feature in PacificNW’s predecessor, the Seattle Sunday Times Magazine, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the opening of Yesler’s mill. On the cover was one of the Times’ staff artist Parker McAllister’s popular watercolors, a rendering of Yesler’s smoking mill. Dutch Ned and his packed “big red wheelbarrow” were part of the painting. [CLICK TWICE TO SEE AND READ]
Posthumous sketches of Dutch Ned often characterize him as “soft-brained” and “dimwitted.” Some of this probably stems from his tomb and denouement. Nils or Nels Ohmn lived in a shack on the western brow of Capitol Hill overlooking the south end of Lake Union. A few years before his death in 1898, he prepaid for his funeral and bought a burial site in Lake View Cemetery. It was near his home. There on Lot 470 he built his own mausoleum and, once completed, entertained friends in or beside what he called his “little house.” Stranger still, he often visited for long hours the lobby of Bonney-Watson, the funeral home he had paid to bury him.
Above: Two pages from Bob Ferguson’s “The Stones of Lake View,” a pocket-guide t o the cemetery. I knew Bob and can testify to his zest on the top of Capitol Hill. Below: Bob poses beside the cedar tree that rises above the Maynard graves at the high point in the Lake View Cemetery.
Anything to add, lads? Yup and compact too. The three links that Ron Edge has attached below are packed with neighborhood subjects – some of them repeated, of course. By the direction of the clock on the wall it is falling well into Sunday morning, so we will need to wait for our innovative “Uncle Ned Invitation to a Contest” – for our readers. We’ll assemble what factoids we have on the postman with a red wheelbarrow and offer prizes for readers who will be encouraged to elaborate on the Dutchman’s life, encouraged by their own imagination. This approach, we know, is not so rare among pop historians and many pros as well. So check back mid-week for details – we hope.
ABOVE: The Merchants bank before the 1889 Great Fire and, below, the rebuilt merchants – along with the Kenneth Hotel – after the fire. The photographers for both shots (especially for the one above) stood near where about six and thirteen years earlier Dutch Ned posed on his horse for the featured photo at the top.
BELOW: LOOKING NORTH ON FRONT STREET FROM THE PETERSON & BROS STUDIO at the FOOT of CHERRY STREET.
Alice Ellis, the pillar of this feature, stands far right in her apron. Clara Wood, her mother, sits beside her on a bike at the front steps of Alice’s Green Lake neighborhood home, then still a work-in-progress at 2130 N. 62nd Street. Both the children are Alice’s. The standing toddler with the bonnet is Myrtle, and the laughing baby on the grass is Marie. About fourteen years later the mother and two daughters posed for a studio portrait that is on the cover of the paperback book, Seattle Pioneer Midwife, Alice Ada Wood Ellis, Midwife, Nurse & Mother to All. It is, in part, a biography of Alice, written by Susan E. Fleming, the laughing baby’s granddaughter and so also Alice Ellis’ great-granddaughter.
In Jean Sherrard’s repeat, Susan Fleming stands far left holding Marie’s baby dress, while her cousin Carol Solle holds the baby’s bonnet. Early this summer Carol showed Jean and me this more than century-old snapshot. It is one of four photographs taken that happy afternoon, and it was hard to choose just one. Another includes a peek at Green Lake, which is out of frame to the left.
We speculate that this front lawn snapshot (and two that follow the featured photo at the top) was taken in the spring or early summer of 1901, less than a year after this quartet took a winter train ride from Milwaukee to Seattle aboard a chilly coach of the Great Northern Flyer. The relocation was to join the rest of the family: grandpa Pierson Wood and Beulah and Eddie, Alice’s older sister and brother, who had come to Seattle a half-year earlier to prepare the way. Susan Fleming’s guess that grandpa Pierson Wood was holding the camera seems at least possible. Fresh to Seattle, the fit senior was hired by the city to drive a street cleaner, a day-labor job he started at the age of sixty-nine and kept into his eighties.
Fleming recounts Alice’s brief married life with her shortly-divorced husband Gideon Ellis, including their time together in Deadwood, South Dakota. It was in that infamously wild frontier town that Alice first both donated and marketed her skills in nursing and delivering babies for pregnant prostitutes. Fleming’s book is also replete with evocative birthing stories, some from her great-grandmother’s tending to the pregnant prostitutes of Seattle and from the Yukon and Alaska in their Green Lake home. Fleming’s authority in enriching these stories with midwifery practices, lore and testimonies comes not only through her family but also her research in birthing and over thirty years as a registered nurse. This descendant of a pioneer midwife received her PhD in 2011 and is presently an Assistant Professor at Seattle University College of Nursing. Her book can be found in bookstores.
Additions, lads? Yup Jean, Ron and I have harvest from the field of past features a sample of relevance. Some of these will be the “same old story.” Click to open each. There are within, we think, certain delights.
NEARBY NEIGHBOR – First Appeared in PACIFIC, Oct. 7, 2001
THE PATH FROM FREMONT – First Appeared in PACIFIC JAN. 27, 1991
WHERE MYRTLE & MARIE WENT TO SCHOOL – First Appears in PACIFIC, AUG. 7, 1994
Through the last three years or four we have included in this feature a few street scenes that included billboards. An unnamed photographer working for the Foster and Kleiser Billboard Company recorded all of our selections, most from the 1930s. In this billboard portrait, the centerpiece sign has been stationed perfectly to keep the message directly in the eye of any driver or passenger. The “outdoor medium” boldly plugs the low $815 cost of the latest in four-door 6-passenger 1940 Dodge Sedans.
Our anonymous photographer is standing beside a trolley safety island on the N.E. 40th Street ramp off the University Bridge. (We have dealt with or featured these “satety islands” before.) The billboard rests on the northeast corner of 40th, where it jogs just east of 11th Ave. N.E.
The date, March 14, 1940, is typed on a strip of paper taped to the bottom of the negative for the featured photo at the top. For this sunlit Monday afternoon the Seattle Times reported that the sun that had risen at 6:30 that morning had warmed Seattle to 45 degrees by noon with winds that quivered between “gentle and moderate.” On the front page the newspaper asked, “When and how will Roosevelt answer the Third Term Question?” That is, when will FDR reveal if he will run or not run November next? He did. The day’s headline is about the war between Russian and Finland, and whether the U.S., France and England will come to the aid of the Finns. They didn’t.
For local rail fans, both then and now, the two parallel trolley tracks running on N.E. 40th are reminders that most of Seattle’s half-century old trolleys would be prepared for scrap before the year was out. As already noted with this feature last Sept.12, N.E. 40th Street was improved for moving visitors from the Latona Bridge to the on-campus Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909. (This Sept. 12 feature is included below at the very top of the “edge links”
that follow this little essay.) The ramp came in 1918 with the completion of the University-Eastlake Bridge. (When completed the new bridge was sometimes referred to as the “Eastlake Bridge,” and it link with the primary arterial that still follows above the east shore of Lake Union. It was also, by habit, sometimes referred to as the Latona Bridge, taking the name of the bridge it replaced in 1919.)
In the early 1940s University District boomers began their campaign for a new main entrance to the campus, one removed from this somewhat less-than-grand approach on 40th Street. The result was the nearby Campus Parkway, one small block north of 40th, completed in 1949. Critics described it as a “five-block-long $845,000 street to nowhere,” and it is true that 40th Street remained the main access to the campus. Everett O. Eastwood, a professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the U.W., explained to The Times for March 4, 1949 “I don’t believe that anybody who contemplated the street as it is now would have deemed it advisable. It has no logical beginning and no logical end. It is utterly unnecessary. It serves no purpose and it is utterly illogical.”
On an inside page of the day’s Times, the paper reports that E.H. Jones, the University of Washington’s Campus Mailman, had at 9:02 this morning spotted near Parrington Hall the year’s first swallow to visit the campus. This is official. Jones had been for years the campus bird registrar for the U.W.’s annual Swallow Derby. Marjorie Shields, assistant manager of the Association of Women Students, won the $2.50 prize by guessing earlier that the bird would arrive at 9 o’clock this morning.
Anything to add, boys? Yes Jean, once again Ron Edge has pulled forth a number (16 I’ve counted) of fitting links from former now-ten features, and he has also added some 11th hour illustrations used in the text above. Thanks again Ron – and again. It is now fast approaching our scheduled “nighty-bears” hour and so will take a slumbering break, but hope to add a few more relevant features after a late breakfast.
RETURNING NOW (Sunday Nov. 8 at 4 PM) AFTER A LATE BREAKFAST
NOTE: I hope to complete, sort of, this Sunday’s blog before I retire from it – from Sunday. Now I must turn to write next week’s deadline with the Times with a feature on Rich Haad’s Gasworks Park and a kind of review of Thaisa Way’s biography of Rich. It was published recently by the University Press.
Jules JamesI like Allenville. The history of Paul Allen’s investment into the old hard-bitten Southlake neighborhood is too often ignored. He gave $20M to purchase land for a civic park. When taxpayers rejected The Commons (thank goodness!), he rightfully took possession of the land. Allenville began as local civic do-gooding and became internationally significant — good enough reason to award a place name.
Jules JamesTax Increment Financing was entirely a scam. The Commons was a victim. But what we got worked out: jobs & housing well in excess of Commons proponents’ predictions plus the instant classic Southlake Park.
Peggy Durant-StoreyYoung Amazonia.. For all the 20 somethings (all with name tags showing) walking fast, on their way somewhere, anywhere..
Can’t remember the original ‘flavor’ of this district except for the feeling of run down bldgs & quiet history..
UNRECOGNIZABLE now.. Everything brand spanking new.. HATE it grumpy emoticon
Here we look northwest across the intersection of 9th Avenue N. and Republican Street to the first of two gasholders, or gas storage tanks, that were quickly built in succession on this south Lake Union block. Most likely some of PacificNW’s readers will remember them, for the tanks were still around in the 1950s, until replaced by the Seattle Gas Company’s modern building, which was popularly known as the “Blue Flame Building” after the illuminated sign that crowned it. It, too, is now gone, replaced by a new construction in what we might call “Allentown” for its primary developer Paul Allen, or perhaps “Amazopolis” for the made-over neighborhood’s primary tenant.
The featured photo of the gas tank on top (and above) was copied from an album of views, most of which concerned the big changes made for the Seattle Gas Company between 1906 and 1908. Most of the snapshots feature the destruction of the company’s first plant, built in 1873 at Fifth Avenue and Jackson Street, and the building of its gas works, now Gas Works Park in ‘Lower Wallingford.’ The album was loaned to me for copying by Michael Maslan, one of
Seattle’s busiest sellers of historical photographs and other ephemera. Michael has been sharing his often rare and exquisite ‘stock and stuff’ with me since the mid-1970s, and many of the images that have appeared in this column over the past thirty-three years came to me through Michael.
The featured print at the top is dated May 4, 1907. On that Saturday, The Times variously reported that railroad cars of Florida Tomatoes and Bananas had arrived, and that a “heavy shipment of strawberries (had) reached the city this morning.” Preparing, perhaps, its readers for Sunday church, on its front page, The Times explained that two clergyman with “differing schools of theology,” the Unitarian Rev. W.D. Simonds and the Baptist Rev. J. M. Dean, agreed that “men are most iniquitous,” not women. One week later, on May 11, the renamed Seattle Lighting Company ran one of its illustrated advertisements advising, “Cook With Gas and avoid worry and trouble. It is cheaper, healthier and cleaner than any other fuel in use.” This promotion was repeated on the storage tanks with large hanging signs also reading, “Cook with Gas.”
It is clear from the photo album that the charming building to the right (in the featured photo and two below it) was built with the storage tank, and somehow served it. The oversized shed – or barn – on the left may be the livery stable for the company’s horses, which by 1907 were beginning to lose their horsepowers to internal combustion. A Times classified for June 30 hints at this dislocation. “Four combination ladies’ or gents’ single foot saddle or driving horses for sale at Seattle Lighting Co.’s stable, Ninth North and Republican. These horses all trot in harness.” (The barn on the left may also be part of the Denny family farm.)
Anything to add, fellahs? Yup. Ron Edge has pulled forth a half-dozen or some former features that touch either the neighborhood or the subject. Please remember that these links are often stuffed with other links, and some of those may also be so stuffed.
I imagine that many Pacific NW readers will remember this parking lot filled with municipal buses. It was not so long ago. However, few are likely to recall the earlier and regular overnight visits here of the city’s orange trolleys, scores of them packed side-by-side on parallel tracks.
This North Seattle Storage Yard was built in 1906 by the Seattle Electric Company, the transportation “octopus” that by then had consolidated most of the city’s independent trolley lines and also kept on building new ones while Seattle grew like an adolescent. The brick car barn, upper-left, was added in 1907 for trolley repairs. By 1910 the expanding system had yards and barns in Fremont, Georgetown and at 14th Ave. and Jefferson St.
As the original print reveals at its base, the subject lookling west over the parking yard was photographed on Dec. 11, 1936. The “N.E. Corner,” captioned bottom-right, is at Sixth Ave. N. and Mercer St., which is on the right. The Auditorium Apartments, the dark four-story brick construction at the northwest corner of Fifth and Mercer, is partially hidden behind the power pole on the far right. This apartment house, with two exceptions, is the only notable building (from this prospect) that has survived from the “then” into Jean Sherrard’s “now.” The two exceptions are the Civic Auditorium and its linked neighbor, the Ice Arena. And in 1936, from this point of view, the Civic Auditorium seems to be named the Ice Arena.
However, the sign to the left of the stubby power pole in the featured photo at the top, is not posted on the Civic Auditorium, but rather stands on the roof of the auditorium’s attached neighbor to its east, the Ice Arena.
The 1927 auditorium has gone through two elaborate make-overs: first as the Opera House for the 1962 Century 21 Worlds Fair and again in 2003 as McCaw Hall.
On this Friday night of Oct. 11, 1936, the Ice Arena was booked for the first night of two with the Nile Temple Shriners Ice Carnival, which mixed “the pick of Seattle’s skating talent,” which included Shriners in their “vivid costumes, freak acts and comedy performances,” sharing the ice with “some of the finest exhibition skaters in the world.” This was also the season when the Ice Arena’s offerings switched from the faked, if often bruising, melodrama of professional wresting to ice, with the city’s well-outfitted amateur skaters and a professional hockey club. Devoted Seattle sports fans will know that the professionals then were also called the Seattle Seahawks.
Anything to add, Paul?
Aside from what is inserted in the text “proper” above, Ron and I have chosen a few more features either from the neighborhood or the subject and attached them below.