Lawton Gowey was a regular visitor to the demolition scene of the Seattle Hotel. His collection of Kodachrome slides records nearly the entire process of the destruction of the 1890 landmark. Gowey dated this slide June 8, 1961. The demolition work began with the interior on the third of April, and here, two months later, most of the top floor is gone.
The removal of the ornate cornice at the top of the five and one-half story landmark got an early start with the city’s 1949 earthquake. For safety, and probably for economy too, much of it was removed following the quake. Still, the hotel stayed opened until the spring of 1960, when its closure was announced. It was widely assumed that it would soon be razed – not renovated. The same was expected for its then still on the skids Pioneer Square, the city’s most historic neighborhood.
Citizen response, however, was surprising. In an attempt to save the hotel, a local cadre of preservationists quickly formed. Although that battle was lost, the enthusiasts for local heritage won the war by saving the neighborhood. The city’s new Department of Community Development, the DCD, formed the Pioneer Square Historic District in 1970.
By this time the four-floor parking lot that was built on the hotel’s flatiron footprint was commonly called the “Sinking Ship Garage.” It is still one of our best local jokes. The garage’s architect-engineers, Gilbert Mandeville and Gudmund Berge, were fresh off their 1959 success as local consultants for the Logan Building at Fifth Avenue and Union Street, the city’s first glass curtain box. Here, in Pioneer Square, they added what they and its owners considered a compliment to the historic neighborhood: a basket-handle shaped railing made of pipe, a kind of undulating cornice, that ran along the top of the concrete garage.
Lawton Gowey loved the Smith Tower. His juxtaposition of the well-wrought tower, the injured hotel, and the wrecker’s crane is at once elegant and ambivalent.
Anything to add, lads? Golly Jean, yes. Ron Edge has put up two links to past features. Both are rich with references to this triangle. Following that are few more relevant clips cut from past Pacifics.
Beginning in 1897 and continuing into the twentieth century, Seattle was in the golden grip of “Klondike Fever,” a hysteria promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and its agent Erastus Brainard, perhaps the highest of hucksters in our history. Through every publication he could charm, Brainerd linked the gold fields of the North, waiting to be gathered by shovel and/or pan, with Seattle. “To speak of one is to speak of the other.”
Here two teams and their drivers pose on the northbound tracks and cable slot of the Front Street Cable Railway. The equine posers are backed by an array of businesses with signs that are both freshly painted and ambitious. For instance, add a Thedinga Hardware to a
Columbia Grocery and you get an Alaska Outfitters. Business district streets were lined with similar opportunists. The likely date is 1898, a year after the instantly famous steamer Portland arrived on the waterfront with its “ton of gold.”
This plenitude of miners’ supplies filled many of the sidewalks on Front (First Avenue) and Commercial Streets (First Avenue S.): mostly bags stuffed, for example, with evaporated foods, boots, pots, picks, slabs of bacon, lentils, and several variations on corn (corn meal, pop corn and corn cob pipes at 35 cents a dozen). Some of this piling of sacks can be seen on the far left and also behind the wagons. Two blocks south at Columbia Street, the sidewalk in front of the Toklas Singerman Department Store was piled ten-feet high, eleven-feet wide, and eighty-feet long. Throughout the district many sidewalk trees were sacrificed for sacks.
Next door to the south (right) of the Alaska Outfitters, the Yukon Supply Company claims to “sell only the best goods manufactured.” H.H. Peterson, the manager, explained to a Seattle Times reporter, “The city is full of strangers intending on purchasing an outfit for the North, and supplying for a long journey and longer stay is something new to them.” Ready to enable, Peterson would know that by far most of those he outfitted would return from the Yukon, or the Klondike, not enriched but exhausted.
Far left in the featured photo at the top, a “Frederick, Nelson & Munro” sign tops the rear wall of that still fondly remembered department store, then at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Second Avenue. Silas Munro was the third partner, but not for long. Imagining that the gold fever would soon cool, Munro sold out to his partners and purchased this southeast corner of First Avenue and Madison Street. Both Thedinga Hardware and Columbia Grocery were evicted when their leases ran out at the end of June 1901, and Munro built in place of these single-story storefronts the five-story Palace Hotel.
Anything to add, lads? Ron Edge has two packed links to contributed directly below. Both are of the same east side of First Ave. between Madison and Marion. We encourage our readers to explore them and their own links – some which may be repeated – and so on (and on). We will also slip in some clips from past features having to do with outfitting for the “traveling men” or the neighborhood on Front Street (First Ave.) around Marion Street or near it.
I imagine that many Pacific readers will recognize Lawton Gowey’s not so old “then.” Without comparing Jean Sherrard’s repeat, they may remember the location of this stubby trestle from the times they chose Western Avenue to escape the congestion of other downtown avenues. That was a handy avoidance strategy, which had begun already in the 1890s when Western was planked, supported then on its own offshore trestle.
Here at University Street a timbered ramp that crossed above Western between Front Street (First Avenue) and Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) was built soon after the Great Fire of 1889. Plans to rebuild it in steel were never fulfilled, and so all its many repairs kept to wood. Gowey had studied the history of this bridge and many others Seattle subjects. He kept track of the changes in our cityscape. He was not a typical urban photographer; his interests were not so picturesque. These interests, I believe, explain this photo of the somewhat dilapidated trestle on University Street, and the scar where it had been cut short years earlier. Late in the 1930s the city’s engineers recommended removing the ramp’s center pier over Western Ave. That claim stopped all traffic on the ramp; only pedestrians could still reach Western Avenue by the stairway shown.
I met Lawton Gowey early in 1982, the year he took this photo. By then Lawton was recognized as a local authority on the history of public transportation, and I went to him for help. He honed his interest in the 1930s, when he explored Seattle with his father and the family camera. Later, working downtown as accountant for the Seattle Water Department, he had ready access to many of the city’s archives. With his camera he continued to explore. Some of his
subjects, such as the construction of the SeaFirst Building in the late 1960s, he tracked from his office in the City Light Building and other prospects as well. He used his lunch hours to explore and record changes in the Central Business District and on the waterfront. His collection includes the many shots he took over time and in all directions from the Smith Tower observatory. We’ll insert here two looks up a freezing Third Avenue photographed by Lawton from the Seattle City Light (and water) Building on the west side of 3rd between Madison and Spring Streets.
Lawton Gowey died of a heart attack in the spring of 1983 at the mere age of sixty-one. In the little time Lawton and I had to nurture our friendship, we shared many interests, including repeat photography, London history, and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. This last fondness was also fortunate for both Bach and the members of Bethany Presbyterian Church. Beginning in 1954 Lawton, was both organist and choir director for that Queen Anne Hill singing congregation.
Anything to add, Paul? Yessir. Ron has put up four former features. Startlingly, or predictable for those who remember the week past, the first if last week’s feature, which was also on University Street and near the waterfront. The other three edge-links stay near the neighborhood, and predictably, as is our way, some of the images will appear again and again but in different sets or contexts. This week’s fairly recent (from 1982) photograph is another by Lawton Gowey, and I’ll introduce a portrait or two of Lawton and a clip or two too. Contrarily, I may take some of them and insert it in the above – the main or featured text. Next week we return to another touchstone – Pioneer Square.
Of the few photographs taken during the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, and the hundreds more recording the ruins, this one is not typical. Positioned far north of the more sensational ruins around Pioneer Square, the photographer looks south from the Front Street (First Avenue) boardwalk about sixty feet south of University Street. Although no caption accompanies the original print, the photographer would have surely known that “where the fire was stopped” would have been an appropriate description for it.
The most obvious ruin here (in the featured “then” photo but also in a smaller part in the photo directly above) is the north façade of the Northwest Cracker Company’s brick quarters, standing, somewhat, behind the leaning power pole. Johan Haglund (“keep clam” Ivar’s father) worked there. On the day of the fire, Haglund and his co-workers left before the destruction reached the cracker factory, which was located one lot south of the southwest corner of Front and Seneca. Like many others, Haglund wound up on First Hill watching through the night as more than thirty blocks of Seattle were destroyed.
To the north side of the cracker factory and Seneca Street, the fire’s rubble is mixed with generators of the Seattle Electric Light Company, which shared the northwest corner of Front and Seneca Streets with Puget Sound Ice Company. In the featured “then” photo at the top, the scorched tree that rises to the scene’s center is a puzzle. The leaves on its crown were, it seems, merely scorched and not consumed. Perhaps it was this defiant tree that was most appealing to the photographer. Or was it, perhaps, the new foundation for the Gilmore Block (lower-right), on which construction had recently begun. It was that foundation that stopped the fire’s northerly advance along the shoreline. Off shore bucket brigades successfully doused the fire on Railroad Avenue where (here just out of frame to the right) its two railroad trestles crossed open water.
On June 10th, or four days after the fire, The Post-Intelligencer reported that “slabs and sawdust are still burning and sending clouds of smoke over the town.” The following day the paper noted that “photos of the fire are already being sold on the street.”
…Extras, read all about it! Paul?
Jean, count them, Ron Edge has put up six links with past features that for the most part relate to the Great Fire of June 6, 1889, especially the waterfront north of Columbia Street. Those are followed by a few more older features pulled as scanned Times clippings from our archive of the same.
When I first saw this pioneer print pulled from its MOHAI files, I recognized none of it and yet sensed all of it. By the qualities of its housing stock, a hilltop topography that is kind to construction, and the street work, this, I thought, is First Hill. For judging my hunch, I quickly went to the top of Coppin’s water tower where the photographer Arthur Churchill Warner recorded a few clear impressions of that then adolescent neighborhood in 1890 or 91. Of course, I did not actually climb the tower but rather studied the Warner panorama that looks east northeast from high above the intersection of Terry Avenue and Columbia Street.
Warner’s revealing photograph can be found on page 142 of Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill, Historic Seattle’s still new book on the Propriety, Profanity, Pills and Preservation of what we think of as Seattle’s first exclusive neighborhood. However, First Hill was not really so restrictive, and these two residences are proof of its equitable side. While trim and even pleasing, they are still not fancy. In the Warner pan, they can be easily found side-by-side at the northwest corner of Columbia and Boren.
On the left at 1016 Columbia Street is a typical box house of the time, with some trimmings. There were many more examples of modest residences like this in every Seattle neighborhood. Next door at 1020, the three stairways to the three front doors make this row house appear bigger than it is. Its central tower gestures at the grandeur of its neighbors, many of the city’s biggest homes. Within
two blocks are the Lowman, Hanford, Carkeek, Stacy, Lippy and Ranke mansions, and many more were under construction. Of these just noted, only the Stacy mansion at the northeast corner of Boren and Madison survives, as the University Club. By the authority of a King County tax card, the corner row house was razed in 1952, and probably its smaller neighbor, too. The card’s construction date for the row house, 1875 (see above), is almost certainly too early by years.
“Pacific Northwest” readers are encouraged to find a copy of Tradition and Change on Seattle’s First Hill. Well-wrought and well-illustrated (with Jean’s panorama from the Smith Tower on the cover), it is Historic Seattle’s admired study of the diverse history of this neighborhood, which includes among its preserved mansions the Dearborn House, home since 1997 for Historic Seattle.
And here’s a look just around the corner at O’Dea High School:
Anything to add on this beautiful Spring weekend?
Sure Jean, a sight tan on the top of my bald head, and your repeat looking north-northeast from the Coppins Water Tower, which we may decide to insert into the text “proper” above, side by side or following the historical view. And the tower ascends again near the bottom with two more Times clips from former Pacific features. But now we begin with more links pulled by Ron Edge from the archive of those now-then features which we have hither-too scanned, and often used for other of this blog’s Sunday sets.
HELIX – The Return of the REDUX From Paul Dorpat and Bill White
The five issues of Helix freshly posted below are a continuation of what was posted previously – where we let off many months ago. With this return we embrace again our intention to post them all, although most likely with less rigor. It may be a month or more before we post another one. In this we also depend upon Ron Edge who has done the scanning, and so well. Bill and I hope that you will also respond and reflect on what you read – any or all parts of it. Record your comments on anything you read in these Helixes, and send the MP3 to Bill at BWhi61@hotmail.com by the end of April, at which time Bill will edit audio histories from the MP3’s he receives and post them here with the Helix issues. If you prefer to post a written commentary or response, please join our Helix Redux Facebook site, home of lively conversations on all things Helix and related. https://www.facebook.com/groups/217636941681376/
POSTSCRIPT: MP3’s received after the end of April may be included in the next issue to be posted.
Below is a photograph of the concert advertised at the bottom of the back cover of Vol. 4 No.8
There’s a popular and abiding Ballardian legend that when still young and independent of Seattle, the “shingle capitol of the world” had as many bars as churches – or, alternately, as many churches as bars. Most of the dives were on Ballard Avenue, but churches seemed to be on every Ballard block.
This week’s historical photograph was shared by Kristine Leander, the Executive Director of the local Swedish Club. It is but one print of about ninety included in a large album of subjects recorded mostly in the 1920s by Klaes Nordquist, a professional photographer with studios both downtown and on Market Street in Ballard. Many of the prints are of Swedish subjects, such as the Swedish Hospital, the Swedish Business Men’s Association posing at Snoqualmie Falls Lodge – with women – and this Baptist church.
When Director Leander and I first thumbed through the album I was startled by the size of this church and the sinking sense that in spite of having an enduring memory for churches, especially ones with soaring towers, and having bumped about Ballard for years, still I did not know it. However, the name came quickly with the help of magnification and Nordquist’s fine grain print. On the reader board to the right of the smaller door, far-right, the name, Ballard Swedish Baptist Church can be read.
When the tall church was going up (for $20,000) in 1910 on the northwest corner of 20th Avenue NW and NW 63rd Street, the “superstructure” was touted as the “second largest in the state of Washington.” While we may doubt that claim, we are still impressed. In addition to the hundred-foot tower, the sanctuary featured a 900-seat auditorium for the then 200 ambitious and hopeful members of a different congregation, the Second Baptist Church. The Swedish Baptists were meeting two blocks south in a modest timber church built in 1904 at NW 61st Street. Two years after Second Baptist’s dedication of their oversized sanctuary, the congregation was still struggling to pay the mortgage. In three years more they swapped this landmark, still with its tower intact, on 63rd with the flourishing Swedes on 61st. The Swedes , of course, also assumed the debt on the house of worship for which they traded.
In the mid-1920s the church’s tradition of scheduling the Swedish service on Sunday mornings and the English for the evenings was reversed. Of course, by then the church families were raising kids routinely using English in the public schools, and probably at home as well. According to Don Duncan, minister at Ballard Baptist since 1981, “Swedish” was excused from the name in 1934. By the memory of Alice Anderson, the oldest member of Ballard Baptist, the ornate top of the tower was removed after it was damaged in the earthquake of Nov. 12, 1939.
I’ll lead off by throwing down a couple of interior photos.
Then I’ll up the ante with a shot of the spare church on 61st!
Call, raise, or fold, fellahs?
Jean and Dear Readers. While the former – Jean, for himself and his family – is off to the Islands for a vacation, the latter – Ron and I, while holding to the mainland and working for the readers, will first put up eight or nine links to past Ballard subjects – Ballard and Phinney Ridge. Surely those are not all we have, even of those cozy in our scanned library. Like those in past blog features, these nine will proliferate with their own links and so on and on. We will follow these with a few features so distant (to the rear or ago) that until now they have not made it into this useful, that is scanned, library. All of it will be concluded first with a 1919 clipping of a few church alternatives, and last with a 2006 photograph of three members of the Ballard Sedentary Marching Band, standing in Meridian Park, ca. 2008, and so not in Ballard but rather here in Wallingford, the Gateway to Ballard. And that’s it.
FOUR MORE CHURCHES RELATED EITHER TO BALLARD OR SWEDES
BALLARD BRIDGE – FIRST AND LAST TRACK-BOUND TROLLEYS