While the lead sign at the center exhorts one to follow it to the Civic Field, I have not, I confess, as yet figured out when these spry workers were marching. The carefully dressed cadre of men – and they are all men it seems – are heading north on Second Avenue. It is mostly women watching from the curb. In the historical photo you can see the street signs for the intersecting Seneca Street holding to the comely light standards on the far left. A Seneca sign is also gripped to the less ornate pole in the now.
It is the other parading signs that give us some clues to the year they were shown here. Somewhat hiding behind the “follow the parade” sign is another to “Increase Dry Dock Facilities For Seattle.” This was a popular call following WW2. The combination of ships injured in battle and the thousand of military men returning jobless in 1945-46 to the states made labor’s promotion of dry docks beside the famously calm inland sea of Puget Sound both an easy and sensible call.
The next professionally inscribed sign reads “No More Hoovervilles!” As many readers will know Hoovervilles were the ordinarily waterfront communities of rigged shacks politically named for the reflective Republican Herbert Hoover, the first president born west of the Mississippi (in Iowa). The life-long Quaker was inclined to peace but ineffective in battling the first months of the Great Depression that fell during his first year in office, 1929. His successor Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs for public works and employment were followed by the employment opportunities connected with WW2 and the Puget Sound’s ship building revival. The grandest of the Seattle Hoovervilles sat beside East Marginal Way West of Seattle’s current sports palaces. It was intentionally burned to the ground in 1941.
Above the “No More Hoovervilles” poster is an illustrated sign showing uniformed men carrying a war-time coffin captioned with the popular war-time truism that soldiers had died “for our right to vote.” For labor that referred to Vice President Henry Wallace’s “full employment” proposal that Roosevelt took to and promoted before his sudden death while on vacation in the spring of 1945. The bill was meant to “link management, labor and government into an effort to guarantee as many jobs as necessary for full employment following the war. The new president Harry Truman’s tag along was ineffective, sand a long menu of post-war progressive bills, including national health and minimum wage rules were not to be.
Our last time clue for this photograph falls from the fate of the Civic Field itself. Built in the late 1920s with the city’s new Civic Auditorium and Ice Arena, by 1946 the field’s roof and timber bleachers were failing. On Jan 13, 1946 the city and its school agreed to cooperated in building a new covered concrete stadium on the same site. Ground breaking for the Memorial High School Stadium began in late June, 1946. It seems possible (perhaps likely) that our photograph was taken sometime in 1945 after Roosevelt’s death when labor was still invigorated with the hopeful heat of the Full Employment Bill.
The address “S.E. Cor. 6th & Bell St.” scrawled on the driveway might alert the reader that this is yet another King County tax photo, one of the few-thousand rescued by Stan Unger from the assessor’s office trash nearly a half-century ago. When Jean and I are through scanning and using a selection among them, usually for this column, we will put them in an archival box tied with blue ribbons and guide them to the Washington State Archives, a more responsible home for the greater Works Progresses Administration (WPA) collection.
[ABOVE, 1938 & BELOW, 1946 – The rectangular roof of the SILVER INN at the southeast corner of Bell Street and Sixth Avenue can be found near the center of both the 1938 detail above and the 1946 detail, below. The nearly vacant blocks to the north of Blanchard Street – it starts in the upper-right corners – is the result of the Great Depression and the little development that followed the market’s bust in late 1929, the years in which the last of the Denny Regrades proceeded east of Fifth Avenue. The Silver Inn was an exception, although not without its owners struggle. The developed neighborhood west of Fifth Avenue, which crosses the lower-left corner, was built up after the Denny Regrade of 1908-1911.]
The likely date for the steady snapshot of the Silver Inn is 1937, the year that the federally funded WPA began its photo inventory of, it was hoped, all taxable structures in King County. These first tax photos generally showed acuity and sometimes, as here, great acuity. That sharpness is the better to read the Silver Inn’s greasy spoon credits: chicken, steaks, and hamburger at depression-time prices that were themselves delicious: “Lunch 35 cents” and “Dinner 50 cents.”
If a reader wishes, he or she will find in the Archive’s tax photos hundreds of hamburger signs hanging high, on or above, the windows of many of Seattle’s more than 800 restaurants listed in the 1938 Polk City Directory. One may visit the Archives on the Bellevue Community College campus. Plan for at least a week of afternoons looking through the many thousands of prints. (We will continue to hope that some happy day they will all be online.)
Born in 1938, I was quickly indoctrinated into hamburger hysteria. With the need for cheap food the “National Hamburger Diet” got off the grill during the Depression, and it kept frying during World War II when many families used their food coupons almost entirely for hamburger. Standing in the kitchen before our mother, my older brother David and I were a devoted duet pleading for hamburgers, but not for their weak substitute mere ground beef. We very much also wanted the sandwich with the buns.
When the Silver Inn was built and first opened by Joe and Minnie Barmon in the early 1930sl, the neighborhood was freshly scraped free of what remained of Denny Hill – eighteen years after its regrade had stalled in 1911 at Fifth Avenue. The new digging in 1929 was inadvertently synchronized with the Great Depression. The Barmon’s nifty box-like cafe was one of the few structures built above the many blocks of graded dirt left by the regrade. Soon after opening the Silver Inn was shaken by an unclaimed bomb that exploded on Bell Street. Thereafter the couple endured several overnight robberies, and then gave up in the spring of 1939 when a beer and wine violation moved the state liquor board to cancel their license.
During most of World War II, the Silver Inn was rented by the dancer Mary Ann Wells, who was for decades Seattle’s most celebrated dance producer. Converted for dance classes, Wells described the transformed Silver Inn to the public and her hundreds of pupils as her “beautiful new school.” Wells was not thrilled when in 1943 the Army Corps of Engineers surrounded the school with barracks for homeless workers, newly arrived in Seattle from the Midwest. All were looking for work, expecting it, and finding it at Boeing and in the shipyards. My second oldest brother Norman was among them. Ted, the eldest, was far away aboard a destroyer in the Pacific.
[A REMINDER: Comparing the two aerial details above – nearer the top of this feature – will reveal the character of the Silver Inn’s immediate neighborhood before and after the building of military housing. Ron Edge distinguishes between the narrow men’s dorms immediately behind the Silver Inn, and the larger women’s housing above the men.]
On a personal note, I took the ‘now’ for this column on a day when Seattle’s air was rated worst in the world. While shooting the corner, I witnessed one asthma sufferer, bent over, trying to recover his breath before shakily crossing the street. Within a day or so of that photo, I shot another at Lapush’s First Beach, probably one of the most discombobulating sunsets I’ve ever witnessed.
In contrast, let me add in a Lapush sunset from a previous year, smoke free:
Anything to add, lads? Alas, nothing to compare with you stirring filtered sunsets Jean. Gosh, we do have more stuff on the neighborhood, beginning first below with with the Dog House and its Hamburgers on Denny Way near Dexter and Aurora and so not far from the Silver Inn at 6th and Bell.
MORE TO COME LATE SUNDAY
[Now once again, we climb the stairway to the kind of Nighty-Bears we commemorate to Bill Burden, who we have heard is about to open a coffee shop in Nevada City, California and so closer to Reno than to Oakland.]
We hope that it obvious to readers familiar with this weekly feature that this Sunday we offer another scene pulled from a collection of billboard subjects recorded between the late 1920s and the early 1940s. The snapping by Foster and Kleiser of its Seattle-based billboards began near the start of the Great Depression and ended when everyone’s preoccupation with World War II was both fresh and alarming.
In the featured photo at the top, the company’s photographer has included three billboards in her or his negative taken from the east curb of 15th Avenue NW and about twenty yards south of NW 64th Street. The billboard at the center on the north side of the arterial NW 65th Street tempts every motorist heading north on 15th Ave. NW with a dream of conspicuous consumption. In spite of the
Depression, the billboard flaunts a luxurious Lincoln Zephyr V-12. That 1937 Lincoln reminds me how as a youngster, I was puzzled that car companies were permitted to sell automobiles, which were newer than new. (The cars they sold were often dated for the coming year.) Now I also wonder if it is possible that Seattle’s Lincoln dealers did some “spot advertising” and paid extra for this head-on location since a good fraction of Seattle’s most wealthy one percent commuted via 15th Avenue NW to their homes in the gated Highlands.
The featured (at the top) billboard negative was exposed on November 1, 1936. The Seattle Times noted, “Thousands of hunters are swarming into Eastern Washington for the opening of the deer season.” Even more affecting, it was two days before the country would extend Franklin Delano Roosevelt into his second term as president. He won 60.8 percent of the popular vote and 98.49 percent of the electoral votes, the highest percentage of any candidate since 1820 when James Monroe, the last candidate of the Revolutionary generation, had no major opponent.
During the 1936 campaign Roosevelt sometimes exuded the populist economics embraced by Bernie Sanders. At Madison Square Garden, on this first of November night, Roosevelt gave his last broadcasted speech before the votes were cast. Responding to the oft-repeated theme of his Republican opponent, he “welcomed the hatred of ‘organized money’.” Roosevelt promised that in his second administration “those forces would meet their master.”
Returning to the pavement – the odd kink in the grid at 15th Ave. NW and NW 65th street was the gift of Ballard’s early development with different additions. I remember while visiting friends in Ballard during the early 1980s, that the city’s Department of Transportation, after tabulating the crashes, promoted this intersection as Seattle’s “most dangerous intersection.” Slow down and take care.
Anything to add, pardners? Jean I think it likely that Ron went to bed early his evening but when he does that he also gets up early in the morning, and so we expect that he will add several more old and relevant features below. However, he will do it after feeding the wild pets that are well accustomed to his nutritious gifts offered on his deck.
Without a crashing piano, there would have been no Sky River Rock Festival over Labor Day weekend 1968 on Betty Nelson’s raspberry farm. Or was it strawberries? Certainly, there were no oranges.
Four months before that weekend, about 2,000 people paid to enjoy the surreal thrill of watching an old, tightly strung piano fall from a rented helicopter scarcely powerful enough to lift it. The exceedingly hip Berkeley, Calif., band, Country Joe and the Fish, provided the music. They had played at the Eagles Auditorium the two nights before, and donated their services for The Drop.
By our request, the pilot aimed to release the 500-pound, swaying instrument from an altitude of more than 100 feet above a large woodpile. A mix of antsy and artsy celebrants had packed into a grand horseshoe around the pile. Using Country Joe’s microphone, I pleaded with them (but with little faith) to step back.
As the piano fell, my heart took hold of my stomach, and both leapt to my throat. Fortunately, the renta-pilot missed. The piano plopped onto mud that pop doctrine ever-after believed was earlier divinely tamped between the woodpile and the half-built Duvall home of our host and fellow conspirator, Larry Van Over. All flesh was saved from woodpile shrapnel, and only a few piano strings were broken with the crash.
A half-century later, the salvaged piano was given to me by the wife of the recently passed strong man who, on the afternoon of The Piano Drop, had lifted the piano into his pickup and driven away. Now, the still-sturdy relic is silently and secretly kept in a locked garage.
The resounding but mud-muted success of The Piano Drop inspired us to do something bigger, longer and sometimes louder. A notice in the weekly tabloid Helix (we were the editors) searched for a farm or field on which to stage a three-day music festival.
Betty Nelson promptly answered with an invitation to use her fruit farm. We thought that appropriate. Betty’s available acres were suitably inclined on a sloping open grade next to the Skykomish River, about 3 miles south of Sultan. That summer on Betty’s farm, we rapidly squeezed out a campground facing a grand stage with light towers. Skilled volunteers prepared lighted rows for porta-potties, a food circus, space for arts and crafts, and a light-show projection booth.
We gathered four months later with about two dozen bands, including Country Joe and the Fish; Santana; The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band; and, for the last act, the Grateful Dead. The benefactors — aka ticket-buyers — gave “for American Indians and Black People.”
Attendance reached many thousands more than for The Piano Drop. However, we have no ticket count, for the long farm fence between the festival and the highway soon gave way to freeloaders who, no doubt, thought they were entitled to hear “their music” while also helping us lift the sky at the Sky River Rock Festival and Lighter Than Air Fair.
The price was $6 for three days of round-the-clock music, theater and comedy. (My stage contribution included setting the microphone for comedian Richard Pryor, about whom I then knew nothing.)
The Sultan-based Sky River Festival, the first of three annual events, all on different pastures, has often been extolled as the first multiday outdoor music festival on a rural site, ordinarily on a converted farm, that was prepared for it.
The first Sky River was staged and played a year before Woodstock. Within three years, there were about a dozen more multiday rock-jazz-folk festivals in the Northwest alone. Worldwide, wherever hippies hitchhiked, there were probably hundreds more.
I remember well the evening meeting in a Wallingford home when we easily chose the nearly self-evident name, “Sky River Rock,” for the historical festival. The Lighter Than Air part was a kind of a payoff to Van Over, The Piano Drop host, who hoped to fill the sky with tethered balloons lifting riders above the festival. As one of the larger riders in his hopeful balloon, I easily demonstrated its failings. I was too heavy to lift.
The photographs collected here are all from that first festival, the first Sky River. In the shot with the two fashion plates, the uncombed fellow in the saffron Buddhist robe is me. I remember thinking that the first Sky River would be an appropriate opportunity to abdicate my ordinarily nondescript dress for something eccentric. By the end of the day I had somehow lost the robe — probably intentionally.
Standing with me is my friend — now for more than half a century — novelist Tom Robbins. In 1968, we were both in our prime, already beginning our slide into somatic decline. I first met Tom in 1966, five years before the publication of his first novel, “Another Roadside Attraction.” (I suspect and/or hope that most of our readers have followed its whimsical search of the historical Jesus.)
We first met during a Free University course in experimental drama for which Tom staged a “happening” with the help of George, a nearly retired high school art instructor, who carefully covered a spotlighted dining table with a white tablecloth pressed flat for an elaborate setting of dinnerware for six. The happening’s climax came with Tom’s attempt to pull the tablecloth free from the table without upsetting the china. Of course, he failed. However, with Tom’s North Carolinian splash, it was an elegant crash. Above the scattered glass on the floor there stood a comic genius.
Tom remembers the morning this portrait of the two of us was recorded. After spending most of that summer night writing at the Post-Intelligencer, he visited the Dog House, then the newspaper neighborhood’s most popular all-night greasy spoon, before driving to the Sky River encampment for its second day.
While wearing my saffron Buddhist smock, it was easy to be both found and avoided. Obviously, Tom found me, although I do not know whether he was looking for me.
Anything to add, Paul?
Yes Jean. Here’s another of Tom, and Inger and I and several other friends taken by the same (now a half-century later) forgotten photographer. May he or she will come forward – if they can still walk. Gary Eagle, far lefdt, was one of the most productive and gifted on the artists that helped illustrated Helix. Far right is Stretch. We lived together first during my Artist in Residency at Fairhaven College in 1969 and then in a fisherman’s cottage on the west shore of Lummi Island. I am embarrassed that I no longer remember the name of the woman sitting to Randy’s right, although I SAW her as recently as my 70th Birthday party. As you can see I am still in my buddhist robe in the photo below, but I am also reaching for what might be a shirt or light coat. The person standing to my left was Randy’s “girl friend” at the time. She later moved to Colorado to study Buddhism and changed her name because of it. (And so I have not named her here.) Only now It occurs to me that she may have taken my robe for which she will have long ago asked forgiveness of the Buddha and I grant it as well.
Like our recent visit to London’s Big Ben, this look north into Paris’ Place de la Concord is one of the rare photos snapped by me for the historical half of this weekly feature. Both were recorded on a Leica I borrowed during the adventurous summer of 1955. I was an exhilarated sixteen-year-old snapping my way through Europe, heading with about thirty other Northwest teenagers for a conference at the Cite Universitaire de Paris. (It was hot that summer, too.)
Most of the ten ‘older students’ posing this summer for their combined teacher-tour guide, Jean Sherrard, are also fifteen and sixteen. But not Kael Sherrard, Jean’s smiling brother in the checkered blue shirt on the right. Kael is the school’s principal. Probably every one of these Hillside students carries her or his own camera (in their phones) and are regularly sending pictures home to their parents, siblings and friends. In 1955 we were not equipped to be that smart.
Place de la Concord is as elegantly packed with landmarks as those surrounding London’s Parliament Square. Posing at the north end of the Pont de la Concorde, the Hillside students are standing above the River Seine. Centered above them, the most distant classical structure with its tall columns, is the eglise de la Madeleine. It was conceived as a pantheon in honor of Napoleon’s armies. The two long and nearly twin classics on the distant side of Place de la
Concord were completed in the 1770s. Through their two centuries-plus served many purposes including serving as a warehouse for the King’s extra furniture. The Hotel de la Marine, on the right, with the temporary gray blanket, reminds me how soot-shrouded were the landmarks of Europe when we visited them in the 1950s.
The Luxor Obelisk that stands tall above the Hillside students, was not stolen from the Egyptians but rather given to the French in the nineteenth century. Removed from its place at the entrance to the Luxor Temple on the Nile, it arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833. Three years later the 75-ft column was set at the center of Place de la Concord, near where in the 1790s the execution ‘theatre’ of the French Revolution excited the hordes with its efficient guillotine. Renamed the Place de la Revolution, its blades cut off the heads of hundreds of aristocrats, along with the people’s terrorist Maximilien Robespierre, the King Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette. By 1795 the square had settled down and was renamed the Place de la Concorde.
Berangere sent us these spectacular repeats just this morning:
And a special series, thanks to BB, her repeats of a number of Paul’s 1955 photos.
Anything to add, mes compères? More Paris from 1955 Jean.
Through Seattle’s so far brief history (when compared to Jerusalem), one of the most flamboyant invasions of this well-defended city of about seventy-seven hills came in late July 1925 when 30,000 “members and families” of – and the name is long – “The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta of England and Wales and Its Provinces Overseas.“
These Masons were better known as the Knights Templar, named for the medieval crusading Christians who attempted to break the Moslem grip on Jerusalem and most of the eastern Mediterranean. These twentieth-century marching Protestants –mostly – reached Seattle by land and sea (but not quite yet by sky) for the “conclave of the grand encampment of the United States of America for the 36th Triennial of the Knights Templar.”
Surely the most enduring vestiges of these warriors –preachers, super-salesmen, educators, disciplined clerks, meat-packers, and other ambitious protestants – were their uniforms, which they took care to keep brushed. Make a quick on-line visit with “Masonic Knights Templar” and you will be treated with a polished flood of fraternal regalia, most of it for sale. The on-line show includes, but is not limited to, shoulder boards, sleeve and collar crosses, swords, pins of many sorts, stars centered with crosses, and chapeaux.
These chapeaux are the fancy plumed caps we see here heading east up Yesler Way from Second Avenue like a disciplined flock of low-flying ostriches. Here the marching is in order, and you will not find any mason out of line or step. They are moving up First Hill to their fort. I imagine them singing the still popular, uniquely militant, hymn that goes, in part “Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before.”
A cross is hanging over Yesler Way center-right, nearly lost in the shadows of First Hill. It is but one of scores of crosses the Templars raised in Seattle during their July visit. The largest sat atop the grand-sized welcome arch that covered the intersection of Second Avenue and Marion Street. (See above) The cross mounted on the roof of the then brand new Olympic Hotel competed with the cross on the welcome arch for dominance on the cityscape.
It is likely that the warriors in our featured photo are headed to their faux fort and headquarters constructed for their visit on City Hall Park, seen at the center of the photograph below. The fort’s drawbridge on Terrace Street was “manned” by Boy Scouts, some of them, most likely, future knights.
Anything to add, lodge members?
Jean, do you remember when we lectured to a Masonic group at its home in Greenwood and had a good time? With the new NOW-THEN book scheduled for release in late October we should start calling the lodges and clubs and schools and churches about putting on our show and selling books – books which we both will sign. Of course the value of the book is thereby increased by our estimate – and we have noted this often when lecturing and signing – 20 Cents. We could reconsider this. Normally the value of one of our books inflates a dime when we sign it. With two signatures it seems to me that the value is doubled. What do you think – if you have read this far?
(Howz about putting up an inquiry of interests (for illustrated lectures) and such on this BLOG? Show our interested readers some of the pages.)
Through its thirty-seven years, this is surely the furthest from First and Yesler that our weekly feature, ordinarily about regional heritage, has ventured. Reaching 443-feet above the River Thames is the Elizabeth Tower. On both our “now and then” occasions this neo-Gothic landmark has been exceptionally dressed for make-overs. Two of the four faces for its tenants, the Great Clock and Big Ben, perhaps the world’s most famous chiming and yet cracked bell, can be seen through the restoration scaffolding of 1955. That was one year before the creation of London’s Clean Air Act.
I remember well pointing my borrowed Leica to record this London landmark sixty-three years ago. I was touring Europe with sixteen rolls of Kodachrome slide film, donated by a Spokane drugstore merchant, and about thirty-five other Northwest teens, “donated” by their parents. We were all delegates headed for a ten-day YMCA-YWCA conference in Paris. We were selected by discerning adults who were especially encouraged by other adults: those who could afford to send us, our parents. The conference responsibilities were preluded by a five-week tour of Europe that began here in London.
Jean Sherrard sent me his Westminster/London repeat a mere two days after he served for family and friends one or two of his exceptionally tender rotisserie chickens at teh Sherrard family home near the north shore of Green Lake. Dodging some overhanging foliage Jean recorded his splendid portrait of Great Britain’s Big Ben from nearly the same spot where I also photographed that chiming clock sixty-three years earlier.
If memory serves, in 1955 it took us twenty-one days aboard the Orsova, flagship for the Orient Lines, to reach London from Vancouver B.C. via the Panama Canal. I remember well the two on-deck swimming pools. Also, any passenger could enjoy both teatime tables slathered with pastries and the sometimes splashing tables of the captain’s cocktail hours. The freedom and frivolity of this drinking was entirely new to us Northwest innocents, who were more likely to find our guarding chaperones in attendance than the Orsova’s smiling Captain.
The Paris Conference itself was often neglected by an inexpensive attraction: walking the streets of Paris. Jean will be carrying with him one or more of my Paris pictures from 1955 for possible repetition. (Assuredly these other “thens” will not be of conference subjects.) However, Jean’s Paris “now” will, no doubt, include the same entourage of the Hillside Students he has posed in this London “now.”
BELOW: A Few of the Stock LONDON subjects I took in 1955.
I am thinking of their luggage. I remember what a limited wardrobe we carried with and on us in 1955. By the time we reached Paris, many of us were committed to the Lederhosen, or leather shorts we had purchased in Germany. In Paris Jean’s Hillside students may use a Parisian runway for a showing of their Northwest wardrobe.
A few things to add, I’m thinking. Some more shots from Paul’s 1955 trip (above), and I’ll include a few photos taken on our school trip.
We discovered upon our arrival in London that Rodin’s magnificent ‘Burghers of Calais’ sculpture, usually in Victoria Tower Park next to Westminster, had been temporarily moved for a special Rodin exhibition. Hillside students attempted a repeat on the empty plinth:
It may be fitting that a bluff on Gatewood Hill in West Seattle, close to Seattle’s highest point, gave birth to a mountainous retail giant that helped put our city on the map – the co-op we all know as REI. The firm took shape on the west face of that bluff inside a modest, wood-frame home erected at the beginning of the Depression, perhaps teaching us that good things (or successful businesses) can sprout from small packages.
The dwelling, at 4326 S.W. Southern St., just west of California Avenue, was the only “improvement” on its otherwise forested block when built by just-married transit worker Lloyd Anderson and teacher Mary Anderson in 1932.
That decade, as thousands fell into relief or took government jobs and others unionized and leaned left, the thrifty Lloyd, a “pocket socialist,” avid climber and leader of the 30-year organization called the Mountaineers, took a seemingly inconsequential step. Aided by Mary’s knowledge of German and frustrated by middleman-inflated stateside prices of up to $20, he ordered an ice axe directly from Austria. By mail from the other hemisphere, the storied tool cost a mere $3.50.
“The news spread like wildfire through the rebel ranks,” according to Harvey Manning’s detailed 1988 history REI: 50 Years of Climbing Together. Purchases of crampons, pitons, carabiners and hiking foods snowballed. The Anderson cottage took on the persona of a warehouse, leading the couple to found the mail-order Recreational Equipment Cooperative in 1938, the same year as our “then” view.
While REI later anchored storefronts downtown and on Capitol Hill, many in Seattle’s climbing community passed through the Andersons’ unassuming doors, including Jim Whittaker, who grew up nearby and in 1955 signed on as REI’s first full-time employee and ascended to CEO. As the first American to summit Mount Everest, in 1963, he became – and remains – REI’s most famous face.
After Lloyd died in 2000 at age 98, Mary sold their home to a developer who intended to raze it but pulled out after 9/11. Neighbors purchased the parcel in 2002, colorfully restoring the residence’s front end, floorboards and basement while adding reverse shed dormers and a cupola, eventually adorning the property with three more houses and a shared garden. (Mary, who died last year at age 107, spent her sunset years in a Green Lake retirement home.)
The compound that is now dubbed Anderson Gardens will host the Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s annual fundraising “If These Walls Could Talk” tour this afternoon – at noon (for VIPs) and 2 p.m. The insights to be shared by Jim Whittaker’s son, Bobby, and a peak experience.
The unnamed photographer of this week’s snapshot had a target – the two billboards standing center-left. With about seven hundred other 5×7 inch negatives, this exquisite record is preserved in a collection of subjects made for Foster and Kleiser, once the west coast’s biggest billboard company. The collection includes billboards raised to rented roofs, built on leased lots, and attached to buildings with sides sturdy enough to support them. Of course most of these well-watched and exposed sites stand beside busy arterials. The handwritten caption for this negative, not printed here, locates the two billboards, one for “Best Bet’s Buick,” and the other for Coca Cola, as standing on South Alaskan Way, “75 feet s. of Washington.”
The featured company evidence (aka billboard) was recorded on the sunny afternoon of September 26, 1939, when South Alaskan Way was one of the favored arterials for avoiding the Central Business District. By 1939 most of Alaskan Way (aka Railroad Avenue) had been filled behind a seawall and paved with bricks or blacktop.
The well-windowed buildings along the east side of Alaskan Way have made it difficult for billboards to cover the buildings constructed there in the decade after the city’s Great Fire of 1889. The 30-plus block conflagration destroyed the waterfront as far north as University Street and so all of this neighborhood included. Here the fire claimed the City Dock and Ocean Dock, both of them built in the early 1880 when Seattle first took hold of its status as Washington Territory’s metropolis. The Great Fire also took the King Street Trestle (1878) that served the coal colliers from San Francisco, which preferred Seattle’s coal to California’s, and it
consumed Yesler’s Wharf which had been the pioneer pivot for Seattle commerce and its diverse fleet of small “Mosquito Fleet” steamers. The Coastwise dock on the far right was one of the two
long finger piers built near the foot of Yesler Way that flaunted Seattle’s prosperity following the Yukon Gold Rush in the late 1890s, The city first outfitted the “argonaut” panhandlers with the stuff needed get the gold and then on their return happily helped them get rid of it.
We expect – and hope – that Pacific readers will remember that with this weekly feature we have already made good use of the billboard collection. I confess, that it is unlike me to purchase anything, largely because there are many free resources, but also because I rarely make anything. This collection, however, was worth it. The cost was $700 or about a dollar a negative. Like this one on Alaskan Way, most date from the Great Depression, the 1930s. With a few exceptions that were shot in Everett and Bellingham, all were recorded to the sides of Seattle’s busy streets. You may expect more.
Anything to add, boys? Yes Jean as is our usual stunt we will pile on past scans from The Sunday Times “now and then” feature that appears usually on the back cover of its weekly ‘zine, PacificNW. This week the pile reaches 66 aka SIXTY-SIX features. (That is – so far – 66 out of about 1800.) And just now! With a phone call from Paris sent by Jean we have learned that he took a video of the historic hail storm that he and his students just ducked in Paris on one of its unseasonably hot days last week. We will continue to encourage him to include it on the blog as our first striking weather review.
The date inscribed by hand at the bottom of this subject indicates that this is another tax photo. It is one of a few thousand prints rescued from the “circular file” of the tax assessor’s office more that a half-century ago. The savior was Stan Unger, then a young municipal employee with an interest in local history and its architecture. Mostly dating from 1937-38, we have used several of them with this feature. Any Unger saving of tax photos that record lost apartment houses will interest and even excite Diana James, our historian of “Shared Walls,” the title for her book history of Seattle apartment houses. A hoped-for photo of the Rozellna was on her list.
The address here, 1622 Boren Avenue, shows the scene’s centerpiece, the Rozellna, on the east side of one of Seattle’s busiest north-south arterials. In recording his “repeat” Jean took special care (looked both ways) to quickly pose Diana at Boren’s center stripe and then get the preservationist back on the curb, where she shared some of her research with us. We learned that the Rozellna was named for one of its original owners, Rozellna O. Johnson and A.J. Johnson. Although not tall, the Rozellna (the apartment) was long aka deep. Sixteen units were claimed when the Johnsons sold their young brick-veneer apartment house in 1926, only two years after they built it. In their “for sale” notice, the units were described as “completely furnished with overstuffed furniture, floor lamps, dressing rooms, Murphy beds, and breakfast nooks.”
This well-wrought Rozellna might easily inspire nostalgia, or memories of other missing old buildings, or even surviving modern ones, like the Olive Tower, its high-rise neighbor to the north. Built in 1928, the Olive Tower just missed being razed with the Rozellna in the early 1960s for the building of the Seattle Freeway/I-5. James notes, “The last newspaper mention I have of the Rozellna is 1961.” She pointed out – but not while standing in the street – that the bottom three floors of the Olive Tower, where it once snuggled against the Rozellna, show no windows.
The two apartments – the tall and the short – shared one tragic moment. On August 24, 1942, Maxine Hart fell from her eleventh-story unit in the Olive Tower to the roof of the Rozellna. The Times reported “Woman’s Tumble to Death Probed; Husband is Held.” Ray Jeffrey Hart did act strangely when questioned in the couple’s apartment. Three hours after his wife’s jump he dashed to the window, The Times reported, but his “apparent suicide attempt” was thwarted by Coroner Otto H. Mittelstadt who “tackled Hart around the knees.” Apparently Hart was let go for no follow-up stories were found.
Researcher Ron Edge notes one last newsworthy interaction between the two apartment houses when in the forenoon of February 2, 1960, “high winds peeled a 10-by-30 foot section of brick facing off the Rozellna Apartments.” The illustrated report revealed that the peeled bricks fell to the rear of the Olive Tower. The greater length of the Rozellna helps us imagine room for its sixteen units.
Anything to add, mates? Yes Jean and begging a church on the same block – at its northwest corner, first below. After the church comes the hotel on the west side of the next block up the hill, and so on Boren between PIke and Pine Streets. Below that hotel and across Boren Ave. in the next block so the south, comes another tax photo this time with the Boren Ave. Garage and two hotels. The smaller one with the classical columns gets its own tax photo at the next PWA snapshot below the garage. Following that and after crossing Boren to its east side comes another hotel, another brick block this time at the the northwest corner of Boren and Pike.