2009-03-01 Capitol Hill from the Water Tower

THEN: The Volunteer Park water tower was completed in 1907 on Capitol Hill’s highest point in aid the water pressure of its service to the often grand homes of its many nearly new neighbors.  The jogging corner of E. Prospect Street and 15th Avenue E. is near the bottom of the Oakes postcard.  (Historical Photo courtesy Mike Fairley)
THEN: The Volunteer Park water tower was completed in 1907 on Capitol Hill’s highest point in aid of the water pressure of its service to the often grand homes of its many nearly new neighbors. The jogging corner of E. Prospect Street and 15th Avenue E. is near the bottom of the Oakes postcard. (Historical Photo courtesy Mike Fairley)
NOW: In the century since Oakes looked east toward Lake Washington most of the elaborate neighborhood pattern of rooftops has been hidden behind the park’s landscape.
NOW: In the century since Oakes looked east toward Lake Washington most of the elaborate neighborhood pattern of rooftops has been hidden behind the park’s landscape. The slight shadow on the left side is from a portion of the protective iron grill set into the window.

            (click on photos and thumbnails for full size)

In 1908, some weeks before Holy Names Academy was completed on Capitol Hill, M. L. Oakes, then one of Seattle’s more prolific “real photo” postcard photographers took this distant view of the school from the water department’s nearly new Volunteer Park tower or standpipe.  wt-itself-lrThe Academy’s dome tower is still without its topping cross, and scaffolding for the stone work on part of the front (west) façade is also in place, although difficult to make out at this size.

Practically all these architecturally diverse homes between the park and the school are new or nearly new.  Most of them also survive as landmarks homes of English Cottage, Bungalow, Tudor Revival, Classic Box and other styles.  Parts of three of the six Capitol Hill Additions that Seattle’s then super-builder James Moore first developed in 1901 – when he also named the hill – are included in Oakes’ postcard,

Through the mesh
Through the grill

Oakes scaled the standpipe to its observatory by the protected stairway that winds between the tower’s steel tank and its clinker brick skin, as did Jean Sherrard for his repeat 101 years later.

Jean notes, “It had been several years since I’d climbed the water tower.  After completing its 106 clanging steel steps one is rewarded with enchanting views through the sixteen windows that encircle the observatory.  They attract locals and visitors alike.

South to Rainier
South to Rainier

On a chilly sunny Sunday, I competed for prime spots in front of the arched iron-grills, which both interrupt suicides and make wide-angle photography a challenge. The lush trees that surround the tower, I imagine, have been sensitively pruned to reveal the horizon.”

West to Needle
West to Needle

Another reward for following Oakes and Sherrard is the Olmsted Interpretive Exhibit that adorns the red brick interior walls of the tower’s observatory.

It provides an illustrated “overview” of Seattle parks’ Olmstead Bros legacy.

(Below,  a close-up of Holy Names Academy then and now)

Holy Names THEN
Holy Names THEN
Holy Names NOW
Holy Names NOW

Please visit our Now & Then archives for the full story on Holy Names

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