Seattle Now & Then: Third Avenue Regrade

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking north from Columbia Street over the construction pit for the Central Building.  On the left is a rough section of the Third Avenue Regrade in the spring of 1907.  (Courtesy, MOHAI)
THEN: Looking north from Columbia Street over the construction pit for the Central Building. On the left is a rough section of the Third Avenue Regrade in the spring of 1907. (Courtesy, MOHAI)
NOW: Jean Sherrard moved a few yards east up Columbia Street from the unnamed historical photographer’s prospect in order to look north down the typical sixteen-foot wide central business district alley.
NOW: Jean Sherrard moved a few yards east up Columbia Street from the unnamed historical photographer’s prospect in order to look north down the typical sixteen-foot wide central business district alley.

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.

Third Ave. Regrade 1906, looking north over Marion Street.  The Third Ave. Theatre, its tower half-decapitated, stands on the far side of the Madison Street Cable Railway trestle.  The upper-right corner shows the west facade of the Lincoln Hotel at the northwest corner of 4th Ave. and Madison Street.
Third Ave. Regrade 1906, looking north over Marion Street. The Third Ave. Theatre, its tower half-decapitated, stands on the far side of the Madison Street Cable Railway trestle. The upper-right corner shows the west facade of the Lincoln Hotel at the northwest corner of 4th Ave. and Madison Street.

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,

The Stacy Mansion at the northeast corner of 3rd Ave. and Marion Street, circa 1890.
The Stacy Mansion at the northeast corner of 3rd Ave. and Marion Street, circa 1890.
The Third Ave. regrade with the Marion Street pedestrian trestle on the left, the Stacy mansion, left of center, and the Standler Hotel, right of center.  Foundation work for the Central Building has yet to begin.  Note the Third Ave. Theatre with its full top, far-left.
The Third Ave. regrade with the Marion Street pedestrian trestle on the left, the Stacy mansion, left of center, and the Standler Hotel, right of center. Foundation work for the Central Building has yet to begin. Note the Third Ave. Theatre with its full top, far-left.

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 steam shovel on the left seems to be cutting into bluff for the Trust company's Central Building.  This look south on Third Ave. was taken from the pedestrian overpass on Marion, seen twice above.
The steam shovel on the left seems to be cutting into bluff for the Trust company’s Central Building. This look south on Third Ave. was taken from the pedestrian overpass on Marion, seen three times above.

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.

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A half year earlier in The Seattle Sunday 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.”

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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 ephemeraParts 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.

A detail from the 1908 Baist real estate map compliments of Historic Seattle and Ron Edge. (Ron scanned the complete map.)  Columbia Street runs along the bottom, while Third Avenue runs bottom-to-top left-of-center.
A detail from the 1908 Baist real estate map compliments of Historic Seattle and Ron Edge. (Ron scanned the complete map.) Columbia Street runs along the bottom, while Third Avenue runs bottom-to-top left-of-center.

WEB EXTRAS

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.

THEN: The city's regrading forces reached Sixth Avenue and Marion Street in 1914. A municipal photographer recorded this view on June 24. Soon after, the two structures left high here were lowered to the street. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)

THEN: Looking north from Seneca Street on Third Avenue during its regrade in 1906.  (Photo by Lewis Whittelsey, Courtesy of Lawton Gowey)

SETTINGS FOR A FALLEN LEAF

I’ve grown fond lately of returning to the snapshots I took of the neighborhood during my nearly daily Wallingford Walks between 2006 and 2010.  (I should probably still be at it.)   I’ll share (or push) some of these over the next few days or longer, and find a general name for them all later.    Here is No.1, which is really twenty settings I made for a fallen Wallingford leaf in 2008.   [click to enlarge]

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Seattle Now & Then: Roll on, Columbia Street

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In this 1887 look up Columbia Street from the waterfront is the bell tower of the fire station, tucked into the hill on the right. It would soon fail to halt the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The station and everything between it and Elliott Bay were reduced to ashes, smoldering bricks and offshore pilings shortened like cigars. (courtesy, Kurt Jackson)
THEN: In this 1887 look up Columbia Street from the waterfront is the bell tower of the fire station, tucked into the hill on the right. It would soon fail to halt the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The station and everything between it and Elliott Bay were reduced to ashes, smoldering bricks and offshore pilings shortened like cigars. (courtesy, Kurt Jackson)
NOW: After the Great Fire, the waterfront was extended farther into Elliott Bay, first above pilings and eventually on fill packed behind a seawall.
NOW: After the Great Fire, the waterfront was extended farther into Elliott Bay, first above pilings and eventually on fill packed behind a seawall.

Charles Morford, who migrated with his parents from Iowa in the spring of 1887, was 20 years old when he recorded this unique Seattle cityscape a few months later. Morford’s subject looks east up Columbia Street from the Seattle waterfront as far as the Coppin water works at Ninth Avenue. The four-story tower’s open First Hill observatory stood 300 feet above Morford’s prospect. The well below it supplied most of the neighborhood, and its bored-log pipes reached down the hill at least as far as James Colman’s mansion. Its Italianate tower also breaks the horizon, here at the southeast corner of Columbia and Fourth Avenue.

We may be confident that the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway baggage/express car, at the bottom, is new. By historian Thomas Prosch’s reckoning in his “Chronological History of Seattle” (1901), the car was delivered in September 1887. This timing is in fine coincidence with the construction scaffolding attached to the Toklas and Singerman Department Store, on the right. The rough lumber is soon to come down. The store was completed on Sept. 28, although the formal opening waited until Nov. 9.

A few days after the opening of the department store, which was then the highest building in Seattle, the railway was also celebrating. On Thanksgiving Day it gave 108 locals a free round-trip ride to its then new end-of-the-line in Bothell.

Included among Morford’s surviving glass-plate negatives are several more of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern. At what point Morford also became an employee of this railway is unclear. But in the fall of 1887 he would not yet have known that most of his gainful employment here would be with the retail business behind the scaffolding. Morford became a clerk, first, with MacDougal Southwick, the partnership that bought out Toklas and Singerman in 1892. Morford soon became the store’s general manager and one of its stockholders.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?  The solo feature that Ron Edge pulled and placed directly below includes several subjects that relate to this week’s feature.   The “lead” feature, printed here below, shows the Toklas and Singerman department store completed, and so without the scaffolding that hides its north facade in the prime feature at the top.  The reader may wish to search the several other features that can be found by clicking on the link.   Please give special attention to one about the 1884 snow as seen looking east up the waterfront from close to the same prospect that Morford used for his shot at the top.   Much has changed in these three short years that felt both the lingering effects of the 1883 recession and the general excitement of the completion of the Norther Pacific to the northwest, also  in 1883.   Seattle’s boom years were at the front door, which is to say, both on the waterfront and heading this way from Chicago, Portland and, resentfully from Tacoma too, across the tideflats south of King Street on rails.

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FOLLOWS NOW (soon) A FEW MORE PHOTOS OF THE WATERFRONT AT or NEAR COLUMBIA STREET

A Peterson and Bros. photograph taken from the end of a dog-legged Yesler Wharf and looking up Columbia Street on the right in 1878.  Note the tower for the "White Church" on the right, the Methodist Episcopalian congregation that was the first in Seattle.  It sits there at the second lot south of Columbia on the east side of Second Avenue.  Also note that for the most part First Hill has been denuded of the virgin forest that still covered this skyline as late as 1872.
A Peterson and Bros. photograph taken from the end of a dog-legged Yesler Wharf and looking up Columbia Street on the right in 1878. Note the tower for the “White Church” on the right, the Methodist Episcopalian congregation that was the first in Seattle. It sits there at the second lot south of Columbia on the east side of Second Avenue. Also note that for the most part First Hill has been denuded of the virgin forest that still covered this horizon as late as 1872.
Seattle's first church the "White Church" and the Methodist Episcopalian parish home to this side of it on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Columbia in the 1870s.
Seattle’s first church, the “White Church,” and the Methodist Episcopalian parsonage to this side of it on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Columbia in the 1870s.
The waterfront ca. 1884 with an early Colman Dock on the left, Columbia Street on the right, and a short feature essay below the contemporary repeat photographed officially - only - in the anxious glow of 911 by Shawn Devine, and employee of the Washington State Ferries.
The waterfront ca. 1885 with an early Colman Dock on the left, Columbia Street on the right, and a short feature essay below (after I search and find it tomorrow), and the contemporary repeat photographed officially – only – in the anxious glow of 9/11 by Shawn Devine, an employee of the Washington State Ferries.

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COLMAN DOCK AND THE WATERFRONT ca. 1886 (text to come)

Seattle's Great Fire of June 6, 1889 reaches the foot of Columbia and the depot for the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, and will soon consume it and everything south of it to the tideflats.
Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889 reaches the foot of Columbia and the depot for the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, and will soon consume it and everything south of it to the tideflats.

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Columbia Street looking west from the waterfront in the first year following the 1889 fire.  The new Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern depot is on the right, and the rear facade of the new Toklas and Singerman Department Sore rise five stories behind it. Photo taken by the Nothern Pacific Railroad's official photographer, F. J. Haynes. (Courtesy, Tacoma Public Library and Murray Morgan)
Columbia Street looking west from the waterfront in the first year following the 1889 fire. The new Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern depot is on the right, and the rear facade of the new Toklas and Singerman Department Sore rises five stories behind it. Photo taken by the Northern Pacific Railroad’s official photographer, F. J. Haynes. (Courtesy, Tacoma Public Library and Murray Morgan)
Horace Sykes' (or possibly Robert Bradley's) look east up Columbia Street from the top of the new - and as yet not used for traffic - Alaskan Way Viaduct aka Freeway.
Horace Sykes’ (or possibly Robert Bradley’s) look east up Columbia Street from the top of the new – and as yet not used for traffic – Alaskan Way Viaduct aka Freeway in 1953.

 

 

Paul and Jean at Town Hall

James Street Alley blend
James Street Alley blend

Join us for an evening of entertaining yet erudite edification at Seattle’s Town Hall, 7:30 PM, this coming Friday! Historical whimsy mixed with a whiff of sulfur and a touch of elysium.

Also, come early (or stay late) to explore the redecorated North Lobby, jam packed with Now and Then comparisons hot off the presses. Reception follows the (very) illustrated lecture.

Now & Then here and now

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