About two hours ago our friend and expat in Lima, Bill White, was honored on a stage at the Seattle Public Library. Or rather his e-book CINEMA PENITENTIARY was honored, he could not make it from Lima. CINEMA PENITENTIARY is one of three books selected by the Seattle Public Library to be included this year in its lending collection. We hope that some blog’s will remember that now a few years back we included an excerpt from CINEMA PENITENTIARY. Now, below, Ron Edge will return it to the front of this blog (before the week’s now and then comes forward this evening) that posting. It will be linked to five reports that Bill made while on his long journey to his New World by ship in the fall of 2012. We miss you still Bill and CONGRATULATION, of course. As agreed we should try to resume the posting of Helix issues later this fall. (Once we figure out our Skype tangles.) A WARNING: Bill is fond of re-writing so the chapter from CINEMA PENITENTIARY that we printed here two years ago, may have been polished or something since then. If so now you can compare them. Contact the library. It is a treat.
Click the festive photo from Bill to review all his post for his “Journey to a New World”
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
I’ll venture that this look across Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) and Elliott Bay as far as West Seattle’s dim Duwamish Head, far-left, was photographed some few weeks after the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, burned everything on the waterfront south of University Street. The fire was ignited by a volatile mix of upset boiling glue and carpenter’s shavings scattered on the floor of Margaret Pontius’s frame building at the southwest corner of Front (First Avenue) and Madison Streets, about a block behind the position the unnamed photographer took to record this rare scene of the waterfront’s revival.
Before the “providential fire” this part of the waterfront was covered with the Commercial Mill and its yard. Built in the mid-1880s on its own wide pier off the foot of Madison Street, this specialist in sash, doors, and blinds was nearly surrounded by stacks of lumber, great contributors to the conflagration. On the night of the ’89 fire, when seen from the safety of First Hill, burningboardsfrom the lumberyard carried high above the business district put on a rare fireworks show.
The small warehouse in the featured photo at the top, right-of-center, was built by and/or for F.A. Buck for his business, California Wines, which he advertised with banners both at the roof crest of the shed and facing the city. It seems that the shed was also being lengthened on its bay side. Railroad Avenue is also being extended further into the bay. This work-in-progress can be seen between the vintner’s shed and the Columbia and Puget Sound Railroad’s boxcar No. 572. Far left, a pile driver reaches nearly as high as the two-mast vessel anchored, probably at low tide, behind the vintner’s warehouse. This ‘parallel parking’ was not what the city council envisioned following the fire. The city expected and eventually got finger piers that extended into the bay, where visiting vessels were tied in the slips between them.
In the featured photo, the bales of hay stacked both beyond the horses, left-of-center, and at the scene’s lower-right corner, have come to the waterfront either over water, often aboard steamers from Skagit valley farms or over the rails of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, which had, only recently in 1888, reached both the agriculture hinterlands of King County and the Seattle Coal and Iron Company’s Issaquah coal mine.
The smaller shed in the right foreground of the features photo at the top is outfitted as the waterfront office for the coal company, which in May of 1888 sent from Yesler Wharf, probably to California, its first load of coal aboard the ship Margaret. Within two years the Seattle Coal and Iron Company’s growth, disrupted the wine-sellers quarters. The long shed was removed to allow construction of an elevator and overpass for moving Issaquah coal from the SLSER coal cars above and over Railroad Avenue to the company’s new bunkers that extended into Elliott Bay. The coal bunkers stood over what is now the dining area of Ivar’s Acres of Clams on Pier 54.
Anything to add, Paul? For sure Jean. Of the five waterfront links that Ron Edge has attached, the first one especially is filled with Madison Street relevance – and more. That is there are many other features embedded for the reader to release merely by clicking on it (and the others). And may they also remember to click on the images to enlarge them for studying details. That’s why we scan them big for the blog.
NOW: On September 17th last Jean Sherrard took this “repeat” with the 2 Bit Saloon on the far left. It was the last day and night for the tavern, which timed its finale with that month’s Backfire Motorcycle Night in Ballard.
We had two “thens” to choose from, and here follows the alternative.
This week we look south-southeast into a somewhat befuddling Ballard intersection where Leary Way, before curving to the east and ultimately heading for Fremont, meets 17th Avenue. N.W. and N.W. 48th Street. The photographer of this picture was working for the Foster and Kleiser billboard company, whose negatives we have used before, and will surely many times to come, the fates willing. So the intended subjects were the big signs on the far side of the curving Leary Way.
On the left of the featured photo at the top, between the Mobilgas flying horse (named Pegasus by the ancient Greeks) and the OK Texaco service station, 17th Avenue N.W. heads north. In the early 1890s, 17th was the eastern border for Gilman Park, an early name for Ballard. In 1936, the likely date of the photo, this intersection was obviously devoted to filling stations, billboards and power poles. The pavement, laid in 1930, is fairly fresh. Unlike the many brick
landmarks on Ballard Avenue, one block to the west, the buildings along Leary Way were mostly one- and two-story commercial clapboards and manufacturing sheds, like the one behind the billboards at the scene’s center, again, in the featured photo on top. (Here we will insert three billboard photos taken on Leary Way in the three block run between N. W. Dock Place and Market Street. (They do not all look in the same direction.)
Leary Way was named for Seattle capitalist John Leary, who was the first president of the West Coast Improvement Company (WCIC), which through the 1890s shaped Ballard into the “Shingle Capitol of the World.” Writing in 1900, pioneer Seattle historian Thomas Prosch called it the “most successful” real estate enterprise connected to Seattle.The town was named for Capt. William Rankin Ballard, who with Leary was one of the WCIC’s principal developers. Ballard explained that in the first three months of the township venture he made 300 percent profit on the property that he had earlier “won” as a booby price in a “heads or tails” gamble with a friend. Ballard did not live in Ballard, but recounted this from his First Hill mansion.
Behind the photographer of the featured photo at the top, the first Ballard street grid, a triangle of about a dozen blocks south of Market Street and west of 17th Avenue N.W., is aligned to the nearby Salmon Bay shoreline. Otherwise, this rapidly growing, confident and, beginning in 1890, incorporated suburb followed the American practice – often written as law – of laying streets in conformity to the compass.
On Leary Way, another disruption of the greater Ballard grid follows soon after Leary passes east under the north approach to the Ballard Bridge. (The bridge’s trusses appear at the far-right.) At 11th Avenue N.W., Leary Way turns to the southeast cutting the shortest
possible route to Fremont through a somewhat treeless neighborhood of grid-conforming streets, snuggly lined with well-tended workers’ homes. There are cherished alternative names for this neighborhood just east of Ballard or just west of Fremont. It is sometimes called Ballmont, and other times, Freelard. Of course, both are good-natured popular names meant to calm anxieties along a border between neighbors.
Anything to add, Paul? Pro forma, Jean. First a few links pulled by Ron Edge from past features followed by a stand-alone but not forlorn feature from the neighborhood: its Carnegie Library. By this time some of the Edge Links will surely have been employed in this blog before, repetitions (we repeat) we are proud of and play like musical motifs in different contexts or on different staffs. Remembering my mom – again again – “Repetition is the mother of all learning.” Thank’s mom.
Drivers and riders who continue to be confused and/or delayed by the city’s “Mercer Mess” south of Lake Union may find some consolation by reflecting on the Central Business District’s public works schedule a century ago. This look north from Columbia Street, mid-block between Third and Fourth Avenues, is dated April 15, 1907. At the far left, Third Avenue, at its intersection with Marion Street, has been cut (lowered) about fifteen feet. All traffic on Third, Columbia, and Marion has, of course, been cut off as well.
Still, pedestrians could transcend the upheaval on Third by crossing the temporary, if spindly, viaduct, left-of-center. It passes high above the mess to reach a pre-regrade sidewalk that survives below the south façade of the Second Empire-styled Stacy Mansion, with both tower and roof-top pergola. This grand residence was, however,
hardly a home. It was built in 1885 by Elizabeth and Martin Van Buren Stacy, an often-warring couple who did not move in until 1887. Following the migration up First Hill of Seattle’s most affluent families, the land-rich Stacys soon built another mansion at the northeast corner of Madison Street and Boren Avenue. Martin, however, hardly moved. Preferring the acquisitive culture of the business district to the high society on the Hill, he lived mostly in hotels and clubs.
The Stacy mansion, sitting at the center of the featured photograph, at the top, might be considered the intended subject. It is not. Rather, it’s the private work of cutting and hauling for the Trustee Company’s Central Building excavation site. In the pit a steam shovel feeds a circle of horse teams waiting their turns and pulling high-centered dump-wagons. Far right, in the alley, the company’s sign stands above its construction office.
A half year earlier in The SeattleSunday Times of October 7, 1906, the Trustee Company shared its intentions with a full-page advertisement. The Central Building promised to be “the most impressive and commodious office building in the Pacific Northwest. Including the offices in the tower section, this building is to be twenty stories in height.”
With its tower centered high above Third Avenue, hand-colored postcards of the completed Central Building are still common and can be readily acquired, often cheaply, in stores selling historical ephemera. Parts of the Central’s first four floors show to the left of the alley in Jean Sherrard’s repeat at the top. The completed Central continues with four stories more to its full height of eight floors, and not twenty. While not so grand as the Trustee Company had planned, the Central is still a cherished survivor of what through the first third of the twentieth century was Seattle’s affection for elegantly clad terra-cotta buildings.
Anything to add, Paul? Ron? Jean? Well . . . Ron Edge has put up five apts links directly below. There is lots more on the neighborhood, some of it seen from the waterfront. For instance, the first link below looks south on Third Avenue from near Spring Street and so through Madison Street and beyond to the Marion Street intersection, where right-of-center the Gothic Revival First Methodist Church stands with its spire at what would soon be the northwest corner of the Central Building at the southeast corner of Marion and Third. But now we confess that we are almost broken down. This computer or the program for running the blog is gummed. We will return tomorrow to find, we hope, that it has recovered some speed. Meanwhile please explore the links below.