I think it likely that this candid photo of a lone pedestrian on a bright sidewalk was snapped to show off the new streetlights. Recorded by a municipal photographer, the view looks north on First Avenue from its southeast corner with Virginia Street. The city’s first ornamental light standards, of City Light’s own design, were introduced in 1909-10, and on Seattle’s busiest streets featured five-ball clusters like these. Here the elegance of the new lights is interrupted by the somewhat comedic counterpoint of older and much taller power poles – all in the name of progress.
This neighborhood was sometimes named North Seattle on early maps, but more popularly it was also called Belltown, for the family that first claimed and developed it. Like many of the first settlers, William and Sarah Ann Bell kept two homes, one in the platted village that was growing to the sides of Pioneer Square and Henry Yesler’s sawmill, and the other on their claim, in order to “prove” it. (Virginia Street was named for their long-lived third daughter, Mary Virginia,1847-1931).
Seattle’s first major public work was the 1876 regrading of Front Street (First Avenue) between Pioneer Square and Pike Street. Soon after it continued with an improved path over the western side of Denny Hill, meant to help the Bells develop their claim. In 1884, First Avenue was lowered and improved north of Pike Street with a cut that allowed the community’s then new horse-drawn street railway to continue north to Belltown and beyond, as far as the lower Queen Anne Neighborhood. Then in 1898-99, this cut was deepened to the grade we see here, leaving a cliff along the east side of First Avenue.
In 1903 the earnest (and long) razing of Denny Hill began by moving that cliff to the east side of Second Avenue. By 1911 the regrading reached the east side of Fifth Avenue with another cliff, and there it rested for seventeen years.
While construction of the brick Hotel Ridpath, center-right in the featured subject at the top, waited for the cliff to be pushed east to Second Avenue, the ornate clapboard Troy Hotel across the street, far left, was built soon after the 1898-99 regrade. The Troy survived into at least the late 1940s. The Ridpath, long since renamed the Preston, I remember almost like yesterday.
In the featured photograph from about 1910, First Avenue’s Belltown blocks were mostly given to hotels and shops and a few vacant lots. Some of the latter were fitted with elaborate billboards, like the one on the right, which is stacked with exotic murals promoting popular habits, like vaudeville, cigarettes and chewing gum.
WEB EXTRAS (featuring story and song!)
Paul, I know you and Ron have much to add. Please do so, but let me interject a touch of Public Relations for our annual Town Hall program ‘A Rogue’s Christmas‘.
As you well know, this Sunday at 2 PM, you and I, Marianne Owen and Randy Hoffmeyer, will be reading stories and poems from E.B. White, Nabokov, Ken Kesey, and much more, including original music by Pineola, for this event – the eighth we’ve presented in collaboration with ACT Theatre. Join us for an antidotal and deliciously subversive holiday treat!
I’ll be there Jean. Remember you are picking me up. Here, repeating our by now weekly path, are a few relevant past features pulled and placed by Ron Edge. Ron might also come to the Rogue’s show. He took his then 96-year old mother last year.
Through the 1890s Pike Street was developed as the first sensible grade up the ridge, east of Lake Union before the ridge was named Capitol Hill by the real estate developer, James Moore. As a sign of this public works commitment, Pike Street was favored with a vitrified brick pavement in the mid-1890s. As can be seen here, Fourth Avenue was not so blessed. The mud on Fourth borders Pike at the bottom of this anonymous look north through their intersection and continues again north of Pike beyond the pedestrians, who in this scene are keeping to the bricks and sidewalks.
At the intersection’s far northeast corner dark doors swing beside the Double Stamp Bar’s sign, which pushes Bohemian Beer at five cents a mug. The first storefront to the right (east) of the bar and its striped awning is the Frisco Café, Oyster and Chop House, whose clam chowder can be had for a dime and “oysters in many styles” for a quarter. Far right on the sidewalk at 404 Pike, a general store sells both new and used, and advertises a willingness to barter with cash-free exchanges. Its merchandise is a mix of soft and hard: hanging buckets and baskets are seen through the windows, as well as a pile of pillows. These storefronts and two more are sheltered in five parallel, contiguous sheds, modest quarters that are given stature with the top-heavy false façade they share above the windows.
The bookends here are the Ranke Building, far right, and the Carpenter’s Union Hall, far left. Otto and Dora Ranke were the happy German-born and wed builders who staged plays and light operas in their home and performed in them, too. When the Ranke’s built their eponymous big brick building. it featured a hall and stage for productions of all sorts, including musicals.
In 1906, beginning at this intersection, an extension of Westlake Avenue was cut and graded through the city grid to Denny Way, where it joined the ‘old’ Westlake that is now ‘main street’ for the south Lake Union Allen-Amazon Neighborhood. As part of this Westlake cutting, Carpenter’s Hall was razed, and a landmark, the Plaza Hotel, took its place in the new block shaped by Fourth Avenue, Pine Street and the new Westlake Avenue. The Carpenters moved one block north on Fourth Avenue where they built a new brick union hall. Then in 1907 Fourth Avenue was continued for two blocks north from Seneca Street, through the old territorial university campus, to Union Street. As a result of these two regrades, in less than two years the crossing of Pike Street and Fourth Avenue developed into one of the busiest intersections in the city.
Anything to add, Paul? Again and again – thru ten clicks – one may proceed with Ron Edge’s pulls, this week, of appropriate links to past features at and/or near Fourth Avenue and Pike Street. Following those we may find a few more fitting ornaments at these by now late hours allow.
NEARBY ON PIKE
THREE SECURE HYDRANTS in WALLINGFORD taken during my “Wallingford Walks” between 2006 and 2010.
ANOTHER LEAK ON PIKE
TWO PIKE PAGES OF SIX in PIG-TAIL DAYS
Now up the stairs to nighty-bears. We will re-read and proof tomorrow.
We may puzzle over why the unnamed photographer of this wide look through a First Hill intersection chose also to feature the trash and weeds in the foreground. As revealed in Jean’s repeat, this intersection at Seventh Avenue and Seneca Street became a small part of the concrete ditch cut for the Seattle Freeway. In the early 1960s, here at Seneca Street, Interstate 5 construction through the central business district turned due north and continued along the green-belted side of Capitol Hill.
Although the freeway took this entire intersection, it needed only a slice of its southeast corner, the part shown here on the right of the “then” with the small grocery. “Homemade Bread” is signed below the corner window, and directly above it, “Sanitary Grocery” is printed on the window. In the commercial listings of the 1918 Polk’s City Directory, it was but one of more than 750 small grocery stores that the ‘invisible hand’ of capitalism had scattered through Seattle.
Often referred to as “mom and pop stores” – in part because it usually took a family to run one – the First Hill neighbors of this grocery located at 1122 7th Avenue would likely have found Katherine and Jewett Riley behind the counter. Jewett, at least, was an old hand at mercantile, having helped his brother Silvanus run a store at the Leschi Landing soon after the Yesler Cable line was completed to Lake Washington in 1888. In 1918 Katherine and Jewett conveniently lived in unit 104 of the Touraine Apartments at 711 Seneca. Directly behind the grocery, the Touraine is four stories tall.
The oldest subject here is the comely little home to the left of the big box of a boarding house at the intersection’s northeast corner. It dates from the mid-1880s. To the right of the boarding house, the concrete Van Siclen Apartments (1911), with rooftop pergola and ornate row of arched windows, faces Eighth Avenue between Seneca and University Streets. It is a block so steep that the paved Eighth cannot be seen from this prospect. In the vacant corner lot to the south (right) of the Van Siclen, the Alfaretta Apartments at 802 Seneca was built in 1918.
The Van Siclen (later renamed the Jensonia) and the Alfaretta missed reaching their centennials. Both were razed in anticipation of the rising of the 323-unit Cielo Apartments at the northeast corner of Eighth and Seneca. As a work-in-progress, the Cielo can be readily found in Jean’s repeat, rising above the Exeter House (1928) and Town Hall (completed in 1924 as the Fourth Church of Christ Scientist).
Anything to add, Paul and Ron? Surely, starting and perhaps ending with the dozen links below. They are, again and again, well stacked with relevance – sometimes repeating it. For instance, beginning with the first link below. You can find, surely, the Christian Scientists on the left – now TOWN HALL – but also the rear of the of the Van Siclen apartments on the far right. Until only a few years ago they faced 8th Avenue mid-block between Seneca and University Street. The view to the bay over the retail district was wonderful until the Freeway overpass blocked it in the 1960s. Somewhere in the links below the fuller Van Siclen story is told.
The Galbraith Bacon dock, like most others built on the Seattle waterfront after 1900, was positioned at a slant off Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) for two sensible reasons. First, such a dock allowed railroad spurs an easier angle for reaching the aprons to the sides of the wharves. Second, at such a slant the end of a long dock was closer to shore and so did not require unnecessarily long piles to support it.
Having dealt feed on the waterfront since 1891, James Galbraith was the ‘old timer’ in this partnership. Cecil Bacon, a chemical engineer with some extra capital, arrived in Seattle in 1899. Deep pockets helped Bacon persuade Galbraith to make a bigger business with him by adding building materials, like lime and concrete, to the established partner’s hay and feed. In 1900, they were the first signature tenants in the Northern Pacific Railroad’s newly constructed finger pier No. 3 (now 54) at the foot of Madison Street. The partners prospered and soon added to their enterprise this pier at the foot of Wall Street.
Although I like the featured photograph at the top for how it upsets our prepossession with the picturesque – I mean, of course, the askew yards on the sailing ship and its splotched starboard side – I neither know why the square-rigged Montcalm was tied to the Wall Street pier, nor which Montcalm it was. Many ships bear the name, and probably all were named for Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, who until he was hit with an English musket ball in the Battle of Quebec, was New France’s Commander-in-Chief during its French and Indian War with the British in the 1750s.
For some clue on the Montcalm’s condition I turned to Scott Rohrer, an old friend who is also celebrated hereabouts for his sailing and understanding of maritime history. Scott tersely answered, “She’s steel and her crew is scaling and chipping her hull for primer and repainting after a long, apparently rough voyage.”
The Wall Street pier, about the size of a football field, was replaced in the early 1960s with what the waterfront long wanted: a big hotel. First sketches of the Edgewater show it as the Camelot Inn. The Edgewater is perhaps best known for the visiting Beatles, of whom the now common fish tale is told that they followed the instructions written on the waterfront side of the hotel and fished from their window. We suspect that a trolling of the bottom might still catch some paint chips fallen a century ago from the worn sides of the Montcalm.
Anything to add, Paul? Certainly, and beginning again with Ron Edge’s selection of links to other features we have had swimming in the Pacific in the past. Ron has also put up the cover to our illustrated history of the waterfront. I suspect that if it is clicked then several chapter choices will appear. We remind the reader that this Waterfront History is always available in toto on this blog. And was also propose again that when in doubt or squinting that readers should click twice and sometimes thrice.
THE WATERFRONT FIRE OF 1910 – at the FOOT OF WALL STREET
RAILROAD AVENUE LOOKING NORTH FROM WALL STREET
QUIZ – SELF-CONFIDENCE WILL BE REWARDED TO THE READER WHO CAN REVEAL FROM WHAT THE HISTORICAL PHOTO BELOW WAS RECORDED.
The building’s name, Palmer, is either chiseled or cast in stone above the front door. This top-heavy brick pile began its relatively brief life in 1890, with the Ripley Hotel its main tenant. The name of the hostelry was later changed to Hotel York, as we see it here. The ever-helpful UW Press book, Shaping Seattle Architecture, names the Palmer’s architects, but not the Palmer’s owner. Perhaps it was Alfred L. Palmer, who dealt in both real estate and law in the early 1890s, the year this ornate addition to the city’s landscape opened.
Architects Arlen Towle and Frank Wilcox shared a brief partnership between 1889 and 1891. Perhaps they can be numbered among those opportunist professionals who hurried here after the Seattle business district burned to the ground on June 6, 1889. On its move north, the Great Fire was stopped short of University Street by the inflammable foundation of the under construction Arlington Hotel (the Bay Building). Only two blocks to the north, at the northwest corner of Pike Street and Front (First) Avenue, Palmer also got its start in 1889
Second only to the hotel,the Empire Laundry was another of the Palmer’s commercial tenants. It is represented here by two horse-drawn delivery wagons and its sidewalk storefront, which is nestled between the entrance to the York Café at the corner and the door to the hotel, at far right. Inside the hotel lobby one could request a room on the American Plan, which included meals, most likely at the York Cafe, for between $1.00 and $1.50 a day. Many of the rooms – perhaps most – also provided what a classified ad for the York described as an “elegant view of the bay.”
Judging from the ads, the York’s most sensational renters were health providers who promoted either magnetic healing or massage or both, as with the Chicagoan Miss LaRoy’s “magnetic scientific massage.” Most persistent were Professors Gill and Brunn. For several weeks in 1902, they provided a growing list of therapies, including osteo-manipulation, vibration, hypnotism, vital magnetism, a “new light cure,” and psychology for “bad habits.” Elsewhere in the hotel, Miss Mooreland, like Miss LaRoy, also from Chicago, provided sponge baths and massage, “a specialty.” The “well-known trance medium,” Mme. Pederson, shared “the secrets of your life” and advised “how to keep out of the pathway of despair.”
There was no cure, however, for the sudden tremors that came over, but, more importantly, under the adolescent hotel. In 1903 the Great Northern railroad began tunneling beneath the city, and from the tunnel’s north portal near Virginia Street, the boring soon shook the York’s foundations. The Hotel York was razed in November 1904, a few days after the cutting and digging from the tunnel’s two ends met at the center.
Anything to add, Paul? Surely Jean. Here are a dozen – or so – links fastened by Ron Edge. There will be some repeats between them, but such, we know, is the exercise of learning.
In Jean Sherrard’s “now,” five nurses from Swedish Hospital’s oncology ward stand at or close to what was once the southeast corner of Columbia Street and Summit Avenue. This was also the prospect for Asahel Curtis’s “then,” recorded early in the twentieth century when this First Hill neighborhood was still known for its stately homes, big incomes and good manners.
With about 110 years between them, both Sherrard and Curtis are sighting to the northwest, and both their photographs are only the center thirds of wide panoramas. Sherrard’s shows Swedish Hospital’s lobby during a renovation. Curtis’s pan at its full width is merged from three negatives. It reaches from the northeast corner of Columbia and Summit, on the right, to far west down Columbia, on the left. (The full pans of both now hang in the lobby of Town Hall, the former Fourth Church of Christian Science, another First Hill institution on the southwest corner of Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street.)
The big home, centered here at the northwest corner of the intersection, was built for the Seattle banker-industrialist, Charles J. Smith. He in turn sold it to the doctor-surgeon Edmund Rininger in 1905, about the time Curtis visited the corner, perhaps at Rininger’s request. With his wife Nellie and daughter Olive, Rininger moved into the house next door on Columbia, in order to set about building his Summit Avenue Hospital at the corner.
The surgeon’s plans were fatally upset on July 25, 1912,å when, while driving home from a house call in Kent, the forty-two year old Rininger, alone in his motorcar, collided with a Puget Sound Electric Railway train. With the death of her husband, Nellie Rininger sold the nearly completed hospital to the Swedish Hospital Association in the spring of 1913. As part of this fateful transfer, Nellie Rininger also gifted her late husband’s large medical library and his then new x-ray machine to Swedish Hospital.
Both the china and linen monogramed SAH for Rininger’s Summit Avenue Hospital came with the sale. No doubt for reasons of economy the Swedish Hospital Association (SHA) decided to use both in spite of the reordering of the letters.
Anything to add, Paul? Yes Jean and again with help from Rod Edge. First, several links below, and all include features that relate to the neighborhood and sometimes just beyond it. Some will be found twice, perhaps even thrice. The most relevant feaure is probably the last one about the General Hospital. It first appeared here not so long ago. Also featured here is my “mea culpa” (I am guilty) confession concerning my flubs with the the Anderson mansion, and my humble correction.
By the estimable authority of Diana James, the Comet Apartments, this Sunday’s subject at the First Hill corner of Spruce Street and 11th Avenue, is a solid example of a building form she calls “Seattle-Centric.” In “Shared Walls,” her book history of our city’s apartment houses, James explains, “Driving or walking through Seattle neighborhoods that have concentrations of apartment buildings, one is struck by the repetition of a particular form, best described as rectangular or square in shape and featuring at least one bay on either side of a centrally located and recessed opening at each floor above the entrance. Variations on this theme exist in every Seattle neighborhood.”
By another authority, King County tax records, organized in the late 1930s by the depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Comet (its original name) was built in 1910 with twenty-eight apartments. Seven of these were fit with four rooms, and the rest with three. West and Wheeler, the Comet’s real estate agent, described it in The Seattle Times “Apt Unclassified” listings for March 4, 1912, as “an unusually attractive building.” We still agree.
The Comet’s 1912 classified packed a terse list of its qualities, including “large light rooms,” “very reasonable rates (twenty to thirty dollars),” and the unnamed but “usually up-to-date apt. house conveniences.” The Comet was also in a “paved district” that was conveniently in “walking distance.” Surely these First Hill apartments were within a reasonable stroll of nearly every necessity. Pacific Grade School was three blocks north on 11th at Jefferson Street, and professional baseball, a mere two blocks away at the Seattle Athletic Field. (see below) If walking was not wanted, the Comet was surrounded by common carriers, including the trollies on Broadway and 12th Avenues and the cable cars on James Street and Yesler Way. For the mostly downhill three-quarters of a mile trip to Pioneer Square, a brisk step might get there almost as quickly as a ride on the famously rattling cable cars.
On November 21, 1938, the Comet – by then the Star, the name that stuck – was enrolled on the year’s list of victims of the nearly sixty apartments and homes visited in the night by the then best-known – as yet unnamed and uncaught – person in Seattle: a firebug. Of the four apartments – three on First Hill – ignited “by a pyromaniac” that early morning, the city’s fire Chief William Fitzgerald described the Star’s as “the most successful.” It was set in a dumb-waiter shaft, did $2,000 damage and “routed 100 persons from their beds at 3:30 in the morning.” Addressing the city – especially the residents of First Hill – the fire chief asked for “intelligent assistance” rather than “mass hysteria.” The fire chief may have also had Police Chief William Sears in mind, who earlier had let it out that he “feared a catastrophe if the firebug is not apprehended.”
(The fire bugs – two of them during the Great Depression – left an impressive paper trail in the local press. An industrious historian might consider telling this story while using the very handy and almost omnipresent tax photos of the victims, of which very few were burned to the ground.)
Anything to add, Paul? Rob? Diana? Sure Jean. Rob has pulled a number of past blog features that “approach” this week’s subject on the southeast corner of First Hill. Again, because these links are often packed with other features they may also approach other corners or even hills. At the bottom we will add the Pacific Mag. clipping with the story about Dugdale Park (the first one) aka the Yesler Athletic Field at 12th and Yesler. These feature local baseball historian Dan Eskenazi and are used with his courtesy and with the repeat your Nikon Jean. Turning now to you dear reader, please explore these links. The first one features the pie-shaped Sprague Hotel in the original flat-iron block nestled between Spruce and Yesler, and then reformed as part of Yesler Terrace. You may wish to also key-word “Yesler Terrace” in the search box above. As you know Jean, Diana does not have a key to this inner sanctum, only to hearts and minds, your’s and mine.,
MEANWHILE AND NEARBY – MORE BILLBOARD PORTRAITS FROM THE FOSTER-KLEISER COLLECTION