2009-01-04 The Tin Man at Yesler

(Original title: “Pioneer Zilba Miles built his business on tin”)

Imagine that this “now” and this “then” could be overlaid one on top of the other. Then Ron Edge, heading east across First Avenue in what is now a marked and paved Pioneer Square crosswalk, would be close to bumping into the three bowler-adorned characters watching the photographer from the wooden stairway to the right side of Zilba Miles’ pioneer tinware store.

Yesler Way was narrower before the city’s Great Fire of 1889, after which First Avenue was also widened and cut directly through the rubble of what was known then as “Yesler’s Corner.”

Edge enjoys the irony that he purchased the photograph a block and a half from where it was recorded. He picked it up at Fairlook Antiques on Washington Street about six years ago. A retired computer engineer, Edge has now built up an antiquarian library to help his research as an advanced student and enthused collector of regional ephemera, books and artifacts.

Edge determined that the ornamental detail in the upper-right corner of this photo could be matched with photographs of the pioneer landmark Yesler-Leary Building.

Sometime between the 1883 construction of that imposing structure and 1888, when the prosperous Miles replaced this frame storefront with his own three-story brick block, the pioneer photographer Theo Peiser made this portrait of the “Stoves, Ranges & Tinware” shop and what may be Zilba himself standing before it. Uninsured, Miles suffered losses estimated at $60,000 in the big fire, although he rebuilt and prospered for 20 years more.

THEN: For the first twenty years of his more than 40 years selling tinware and other selected hardware, Zilba Mile's shop looked south across Yesler Way down First Ave. S, then known as Commercial Street.
THEN: For the first twenty years of his more than 40 years selling tinware and other selected hardware, Zilba Mile's shop looked south across Yesler Way down First Ave. S, then known as Commercial Street.
NOW: After the city's Great Fire of 1889, First Avenue was straightened at Pioneer Square and cut through this "Yesler's Corner" on the north side of Yesler Way.
NOW: After the city's Great Fire of 1889, First Avenue was straightened at Pioneer Square and cut through this "Yesler's Corner" on the north side of Yesler Way.

And a few more:

tin-man-2
Ron Edge stops in the middle
From across Yesler
From across Yesler

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