Seattle Now & Then: Masonic Home of Washington, 1928

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THEN: The Grand Lodge of Washington & Alaska visits the Masonic Home in Zenith on June 17, 1928, one year after the home opened as a retirement center for Freemasons and their wives. (Courtesy Des Moines Historical Society)
NOW: More than 100 people support the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation (PreserveWA.org) in front of the fenced-off Masonic Home, including ex-Des Moines mayor Richard Kennedy (mid-left, with accordion) and 8 elected officials: Des Moines City Council member JC Harris (right of Kennedy, red hat), King County Executive Dow Constantine (left, black jacket), King County Council member Joe McDermott (behind Constantine, left), state Rep. Tina Orwall (D-33rd, behind Constantine, right), state Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33rd, standing center, blond hair, print shirt), Normandy Park Mayor Sue-Ann Hohimer (right of Orwall), Normandy Park City Council member Earnest Thompson (right of Harris), Highline School Board member Azeb Hagos (front, standing, second from left, print shirt) and SeaTac City Council member Peter Kwon (back row, left center, dark glasses). (Clay Eals)

Published in The Seattle Times online on June 30, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on July 3, 2022

Will Des Moines’ majestic Masonic Home be demolished?
By Clay Eals

Near the south King County waterfront suburb of Des Moines, 10-year-old Richard Kennedy tickled his accordion keys to perform the “Lone Ranger” TV theme (the “William Tell Overture” finale) in a 1964 recital on the stage of the Masonic Home of Washington.

He had no idea he would grow up to be mayor of Des Moines and later lead the Des Moines Historical Society’s effort to save the same structure inside which he’d played the clarion call.

NOW: Richard Kennedy, Des Moines Historical Society director, local history-book author and former mayor, points to the Masonic Home in its context of downtown Des Moines (left) and Puget Sound in an enlarged aerial photo of the city circa 1987. (Clay Eals)

What would Kennedy’s hometown be without the majestic, 95-year-old edifice, sparkling from its hillside for all to see from land and Puget Sound?

“Des Moines would slowly become just another place without anything to denote it from the next town,” he says. “We’ve lost so much. The history is gone, there’s very little left. The Masonic Home is the most outstanding building in the city.”

Technically, the Masonic Home — built in 1925-27 by the European-rooted Freemasons fraternal assembly as a statewide residence for elderly members and wives “who have ceased to bear the heat and burdens of the day” — was erected not in Des Moines but one mile south in the community of Zenith.

But in 1982, Des Moines annexed Zenith, and in a town known for massive retirement complexes, the Chateauesque, five-floor Masonic Home stands preeminent. As city-council member JC Harris told the Waterland Blog earlier this year, “The Masonic Home is Des Moines. We all just live here.”

Closed as a retirement center in the mid-2000s, it hosted events for several years. The Masons studied its conversion to assisted living, a tourist casino or communal workspaces but determined that rehabilitation, costing $40 million, would not pencil out. In 2019, they sought a city demolition permit and sold the home. The current owner is Sumner-based Zenith Properties, which has filed its own wrecking-ball permit request.

In response, Des Moines began an environmental review, inviting citizen comments this spring and triggering an advocacy alert by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. But the city, says Bonnie Wilkins, city clerk, has advised its council members to stay mum to achieve an appearance of fairness during the extended study because council comments could prompt a developer lawsuit. “It’s pretty serious stuff,” she says.

That doesn’t deter the passionate JC Harris, who promotes the Masonic Home’s preservation, envisioning it as a park, city hall and/or community center, complete with coffee or wine bar: “It’s one of the most beautiful things in all of Puget Sound, which makes it one of the most beautiful things on the planet Earth.”

The stage is set for a Lone Ranger-type rescue.

WEB EXTRAS

Thanks to Mike Shaughnessy, Richard Kennedy, Kevin Hall, Chris Moore and Huy Phan for their help with this installment. Additional kudos go to the more than 100 people who turned out in the hot sun of May 22 to pose in our “Now” photo.

To see Clay Eals‘ 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are a video of Des Moines City Council member JC Harris, six additional photos, a 1938 booklet, four reports and documents, six web links and two historical articles from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

VIDEO (8:51): Click the image above to see and hear JC Harris, Des Moines City Council member, speak about why the Masonic Home of Washington should be preserved. (Clay Eals)
Groundbreaking ceremony for the Masonic Home of Washington, Aug. 8, 1925. (Courtesy Des Moines Historical Society)
Cornerstone ceremony, Masonic Home of Washington, May 1, 1926. (Courtesy Des Moines Historical Society)
Entrance to the Masonic Home of Washington, May 17, 2022. (Clay Eals)
Masonic Home of Washington from the air, May 26, 1996. (Courtesy Des Moines Historical Society)
Undated view of Masonic Home of Washington. (Courtesy Des Moines Historical Society)
Undated view of Masonic Home of Washington. (Courtesy Des Moines Historical Society)
Click the image above to download a pdf of a 24-page booklet from 1938 on the Masonic Home of Washington. (Courtesy Des Moines Historical Society)
Click image above to download a pdf of “The Three Masonic Homes of Washington State,” April 6, 2020, by architect Adam Alsobrook. (Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)
Click on image above to download a pdf of the Historic Resource Report, May 27, 2020, by David Peterson, historic resource consultant. (Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)
Click the image above to download a pdf of the city of Des Moines’ determination of significance for the Masonic Home of Washington, May 3, 2022. (City of Des Moines)
Click the image above to download a pdf of a letter of support for the demolition permit application by the grand master of the Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, Univeristy Place, May 16, 2022. (Zenith Properties)
PowerPoint slide from city of Des Moines online hearing, May 17, 2022.
PowerPoint slide from city of Des Moines online hearing, May 17, 2022.
PowerPoint slide from city of Des Moines online hearing, May 17, 2022.
PowerPoint slide from city of Des Moines online hearing, May 17, 2022.
PowerPoint slide from city of Des Moines online hearing, May 17, 2022.
PowerPoint slide from city of Des Moines online hearing, May 17, 2022.
Web links:
June 22, 1927, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p2.
June 22, 1927, Seattle Times, p16.

Seattle Now & Then: Seattle Motorcycle Club Endurance Tour, 1910

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THEN 1: Members of the Seattle Motorcycle Club arrange themselves in elegant rows on July 3, 1910, on 14th Avenue north of Prospect Street. The year-old Parker-Felsen mansion presides at upper left. Fred Walker (front row, far left) was one of seven riders who completed the endurance tour with a perfect score. His prize: three sets of tires for his 4-horsepower Excelsior. (courtesy Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling)
NOW 1: (Front, far left) Jack Mackey, Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling exhibits coordinator. Next (from left) are Tom Samuelsen, museum historian; Tammy Sessions, museum president; Tad Dean, Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts (VME) member; Jeff Earle, VME ride coordinator; Chris Sharon, VME member; Paul Henderson, VME vice-president; and Emily Mullen, Rainier Ravens leader. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on June 23, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on June 26, 2022)

Vroom with a view: Bikers still ‘see everything’ 112 years later
By Jean Sherrard

It was, proclaimed the Seattle Times, “the first real endurance tour in the history of the motorcycle in the Pacific Northwest,” hosted July 3, 1910, by the Seattle Motorcycle Club.

In our “Then” photo, 26 club members pause near Volunteer Park before the event, straddling their cycles while wearing leather chaps, sporting mustaches and derby hats.

These early bikes were not dependable, says Tom Samuelsen, historian of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling. An extended trip demanded equal reservoirs of luck, mechanical improvisation and sheer tenacity. Writer Frank Richardson Pierce retrospectively detailed the riders’ elaborate dance:

“When the photographer finished, the club members shoved belt-tightening levers and pedaled madly until the engines started. Then, loosening each belt so that it slipped on the pulley, they dismounted, [easing] the machine off the stand. … Remounting, they tightened the belt and were on their way.”

The grueling, 2-day run began at 7 a.m. from Pioneer Place (now Pioneer Square) and adhered to a punishing schedule.

THEN 2: Motorcycle club members rendezvous at 7 a.m. on July 3, 1910, near Pioneer Square. (Courtesy PNWMoM)

Checkpoints included Kent, Tacoma, the Mount Rainier Park entrance and the Nisqually glacier, plus an overnight stay in the town of Elbe. A checkered flag was waved in front of the Seattle Times building at Second and Union at 6 p.m. Independence Day, July 4.

NOW 2: Jack Mackey (left), Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling exhibits coordinator, displays Seattle Motorcycle Club minutes committing to the 1910 endurance tour. Historian Tom Samuelsen displays our “Then” photo. (Jean Sherrard)

Of the 33 motorcyclists who started the tour — propelling two-thirds of the 50 motorcycles then owned in Seattle — all but four vroomed the distance. Local shops and merchandisers awarded top finishers prizes ranging from headlight lamps and goggles to new sets of tires.

Our “Now” photo was snapped Sunday, May 22, from the same vantage, the steps leading up to the Volunteer Park water tower, looking south along 14th Avenue.

These 30 motorcyclists also participated in that day’s 11th annual Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride. A global event spanning more than 700 cities and 100 countries, it has raised more than $31 million since 2012 for the Movember Foundation, on behalf of prostate-cancer awareness and men’s mental health.

Seattle hosts one of the largest such rides, mainly sponsored by two local clubs, the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts (VME) and the Rainier Ravens (an all-women’s motorcycle group).

NOW 3: Sisters Jody (left) and Tammy Sessions (President of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling) pose beneath the Volunteer Park water tower following the group photo. Now retired, both were nationally ranked professional motorcycle racers.

While the classic motorcycles featured here are more reliable than their early counterparts, their riders are no less passionate about their choice of conveyance. Samuelsen waxes poetic about motorcycling zen:

“It’s nothing like riding in a car. And if you slow down a bit, you can see everything — farmland, mountains, ocean — and become part of nature. It provides direct immersion into the world.”

WEB EXTRAS

For our usual 360 video, narrated by Jean Sherrard, vroom over here.

In addition, we offer several bonbons of motorcycle memorabilia and documentation, most supplied by the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling, now celebrating its 30th anniversary.

First, let’s supply a few additional details concerning our Now and Then photos, courtesy of Tom Samuelsen, PNWMoM senior historian:

“The THEN photo depicts the Seattle Motorcycle Club (SMC) member’s First Annual Endurance Run that was to be held on July 3-4, 1910. This was the first real endurance tour in the history of the Pacific Northwest. Valuable prizes were offered for the best score. This run was held under the sanction of the Federation of American Motorcyclists. Each rider was credited with 1000 points at the 7am start in Seattle’s Pioneer Place, now called Pioneer Square. Rules stated that for each minute late or each minute early at the control timing points there would be 2 points deducted. The run also included one secret control check. The average speed of 20 miles per hour kept riders safe on the dirt roads and trails up Mt. Rainier and they rode far beyond the highest point reached by auto or carriage. 

Ashley’s Motorcycle Shop. 1910 Seattle Endurance run check point.

“They returned to the town of Elbe where they spent the night. The next morning, they rode to Olympia and checked in at Ashley’s Motorcycle Shop in Tumwater then took lunch at the Carlton Hotel, leaving Olympia at 1:15pm after a pass through several check stations in Tacoma and Kent.

Lunch stop for Seattle Motorcycle club on July 4th, 1910

Seattle was reached at 6:00pm with the last check at the Seattle Times Building. Two silver cups and several prizes were awarded to the dusty riders. Of the 32 starters all but four riders made it. Perfect scores were earned by seven riders as follows: C.R. Roy, 6 ½ Yale; Lee Dagner, 7 Indian A.W. Hirsch, 4 H-D; Nels Christopher, Fred Walker, Paul Koch and B.S. Klein all of whom rode 4hp Excelsiors. (Article by the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling)

“The NOW photo features members of the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling, co-organizers of the re-creation of the 1910 Seattle Motorcycle Club photo. It was taken on May 22, 2022, just south of Volunteer Park’s historic Water Tower on 14th Avenue East for the Seattle Times ‘Now & Then’ pages in the weekly Pacific NW Magazine. Jean Sherrard and the Pacific Northwest Museum of Motorcycling (PNW MoM) have collaborated to recreate the images of early motorcycle history multiple times. 

“Front row, L-R; Jack Mackey holding the minutes of the Seattle Motorcycle Club’s 1910 ride planning. Most of the motorcyclists pictured are members of the PNW MoM and the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiast (VME). Tom Samuelsen holds a photo taken in Seattle on July 3, 1910 at the starting point of the Endurance Run; Tammy Sessions (PNW MoM President) hold SMC records from 1910. Tad Dean, Jeff Earle, Chris Sharon, Paul Henderson, Emily Mullens (leader of the all-women’s motorcycle group Rainier Ravens) also appear, l-r. 

“Several motorcycle groups are represented in the current photo, including Mike Coski representing the historic Tacoma Motorcycle Club (also formed in 1910), and Cretin’s MC members, Knuckle Busters MC members, and other prominent members of the motorcycle industry.

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Plus a couple of Seattle Motorcycle Club treasures from 1910. Just below, a copy of the actual minutes of the club committing to the endurance tour.

A menu from the SMC 1910 banquet, celebrating a successful summer of touring:

Of special note, the fish entree: “Scallop of Pedal au Spring Fork”. For dessert, “Endurance Run Pudding”.

Click twice to enlarge!

(Incidentally, the Firloch Club was most likely at the same spot as today’s Seattle’s Tennis Club.)

For both enthusiasts and the moto-curious, here are a slew of candid photos taken of participants in the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride. Thanks to all the easy riders who joined in!

A late-breaking extra and mea culpa! A photo of the Seattle Motorcycling Club at the start of its 1911 endurance tour, also near Pioneer Square, was misdated as 1910 (due to operator error!).

THEN EXTRA : Motorcycle club members rendezvous near Pioneer Square in 1911 for another endurance tour to Mt. Rainier. (Courtesy MOHAI)
June 9, 1991, “Now & Then,” Seattle Times.

Seattle Now & Then: Bleitz Funeral Home, circa 1930

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THEN: Framed by three cars, including a 1927 Pierce-Arrow (center) and 1927 Cadillac (right), Bleitz Funeral Home presides next to the Fremont Bridge and along the Lake Washington Ship Canal circa 1930. The building’s architect and builder are unknown. (Pierson Photo Co., Emmick Family Collection )
NOW: In this wider view of the landmarked Bleitz building are (from left) Michael, Desirée and Craig Emmick, their firm’s 1972 Cadillac Miller Meteor hearse; Georgi Phelps of building owner Pastakia & Associates; Craig Smith of general contractor Foushée; and Leanne Olson, Maureen Elenga and Michael Herschensohn of the Queen Anne Historical Society. Demolition of a non-landmarked 1988 addition made possible the new, four-story office building at left. More info: the Bleitz page on Facebook and the Queen Anne Historical Society. (Clay Eals)

Published in The Seattle Times online on June 16, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on June19, 2022

Bleitz’s consumer-first legacy enlivens 101-year-old funeral home
By Clay Eals

From death can spring life. Case in point: the feisty, long-lasting Bleitz Funeral Home.

The 101-year-old edifice represents a customer-focused tradition at a prominent corner, hovering over the Lake Washington Ship Canal at the south end of the Fremont Bridge.

Serving bereaved families until 2017, the same year it was designated a Seattle landmark, it has entered a new phase as a fully leased office building, anchored by The North Face apparel firm. The pandemic-era preservation triumph was stewarded by its current owner, Pastakia & Associates of Seattle, and general contractor, Bellevue-based Foushée.

THEN: Jacob Bleitz (left) confers with his son, James, who followed in his father’s funeral-director footsteps. The chair in which James is sitting is still in use at Emmick Family Funeral Services in West Seattle. (Pierson Photo Co., Emmick Family Collection)

The stately, 2-1/2-floor concrete structure arose just four years after the ship canal and bridge were completed. Illinois-born Jacob Bleitz (pronounced “Blites”) had worked as an undertaker in Wichita before establishing a funeral business in 1904 in Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood. After short partnerships in Fremont with morticians Edgar Ray Butterworth and John Rafferty, he crossed the bridge and settled his sole-owner mortuary in 1921 along Queen Anne’s industrial northern edge.

THEN: A full-page ad for Bleitz-Rafferty Co. in the Feb. 18, 1915, Seattle Star newspaper blasts overcharging for funeral services. Kilbourne Street is now North 36th Street in Fremont. (Washington Digital Newspapers)

From the start, dealing with death transcended mere business for Bleitz. He promoted affordability and excoriated undertakers he called predatory. “The People of Seattle Have Been Outrageously Overcharged for Funerals and Materials,” roared a full-page notice in the Feb. 18, 1915, Seattle Star. His ads promised the “lowest” prices. One even warned of “graft” by competitors whom Bleitz said gave away hundreds of Christmas turkeys to induce referrals.

April 19, 1938, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p18.

Long before it became popular, Bleitz also encouraged a cheaper alternative: cremation. In the late 1930s, he went further, patenting and using an ultra-hot-flame technique leaving no remains, called evaporation: “The New And Better Way … COSTS NO MORE … Gives a comfort never before known.” It didn’t catch on.

In the year Bleitz died, 1939, the family firm partnered with the new People’s Memorial Benefit Association, a cooperative that emphasized spiritual rather than material aspects of attending to the bereaved. Later, the Bleitz company became known in funeral circles for serving AIDS victims and the LGBTQ+ community when other mortuaries rejected them.

THEN3: Lawrence Bleitz (left), younger son of Jacob Bleitz, stands at the KJR radio microphone while an unknown organist performs at Bleitz Funeral Home circa 1930. The pipe organ was removed and donated in 2005 to Blessed Seelos Catholic Church in New Orleans as part of Hurricane Katrina recovery. (Pierson Photo Co., Emmick Family Collection)

Over the years, Bleitz Funeral Home handled more than 180,000 deaths, including the cremations of famed grunge rockers Andrew Wood in 1990 and Kurt Cobain in 1994. Today the building showcases “adaptive reuse,” meriting an award in May from the Queen Anne Historical Society.

Historian Michael Emmick embodies the Bleitz legacy via family connections. Working stints at Bleitz were Michael’s great-grandfather, Sam Frederiksen (1970s-80s); father, Craig Emmick (1975-2004); and wife, Desirée Emmick, (2015-17). Since 2014, the Emmicks have operated their own West Seattle funeral business, guided by the Bleitz approach — as Michael says, “not selling people something they don’t need.”

WEB EXTRAS

Thanks to Eric Jones, Tejal Pastakia, Bob Carney and the EmmicksCraig, Desirée and especially Michael — for their help with this installment.

To see Clay Eals‘ 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are interviews of the Emmick family on video, two 2017 Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board documents, 41 additional photos, and 34 historical articles and ads from Washington Digital Newspapers (available via the Office of the Secretary of State) and The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

VIDEO (8:00): Click the image to see video interviews about Bleitz Funeral Home with Michael, Craig and Desiree Emmick of Emmick Family Funeral Services of West Seattle. (Clay Eals)
Click image above to download the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board minutes from April 19, 2017, regarding Bleitz Funeral Home.
Click image above to download the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designation report for Bleitz Funeral Home, April 24, 2017.
Drawing of Bleitz Funeral Home, 1921. (Emmick Family Collection)
Cars outside Bleitz Funeral Home. (Emmick Family Collection)
Casket letter, 1929. (Emmick Family Collection)
(From left) Jeanne, Lawrence and James Bleitz, children of Jacob Bleitz. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home, 1937. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives, Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home, 1937. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives, Emmick Family Collection)
1958 Cadillac and Chrysler outside Bleitz Funeral Home. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home, Sept. 20, 1960. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives, Emmick Family Collection)
Irene Clay Bleitz, Jacob Bleitz’s wife, outside Bleitz Funeral Home, 1944. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home, 1981. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home, 1981. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home, 1981. (Emmick Family Collection)
Casket room, Bleitz Funeral Home, 1981. (Emmick Family Collection)
Staff atop entrance, Bleitz Funeral Home, 1981. (Emmick Family Collection)
Jacob Bleitz’s embalming certificate, June 1900. (Emmick Family Collection)
Jacob Bleitz’s cremation furnace patent, 1932. (Emmick Family Collection)
Jacob Bleitz and daughter-in-law Ebba Bleitz, August 1937. (Emmick Family Collection)
Larry Bleitz, son of Jacob, and Irene Bleitz, wife of Jacob, 1944. (Emmick Family Collection)
Möller organ, Bleitz Funeral Home, 1930s. (Emmick Family Collection)
Looking northwest: Bleitz Funeral Home at far left, Nickerson Street and Fremont Bridge. (Seattle Municipal Archives, Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz home, 1900 Magnolia Blvd. W. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz home, 1900 Magnolia Blvd W. (Emmick Family Collection)
Thank-you letter, April 8, 1927. (Emmick Family Collection)
1928 Reader’s Digest article, “Profiteering on Grief.” (Emmick Family Collection)
Mortuary Management article on showroom recommendations, February 1930. (Emmick Family Collection)
Financial accounting for Malan, 1936. (Emmick Family Collection)
Financial accounting for Nebenfuhr, 1936. (Emmick Family Collection)
Financial accounting for Repco, 1936. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz blueprint. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz blueprint. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz blueprint. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home casket and flowers. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home contract. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home staff, 1981, including Craig Emmick, wearing sunglasses, center. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home crying room. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home drawing. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home meeting room. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home podium and piano. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home reception room. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home chapel. (Emmick Family Collection)
Bleitz Funeral Home waiting room. (Emmick Family Collection)
Feb. 6, 1905, Seattle Times, p2.
Jan. 5, 1906, Seattle Times, p4.
Feb. 5, 1906, Seattle Times, p4.
April 28, 1907, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p57.
Oct. 16, 1908, Catholic Progress, p5.
Feb. 9, 1915, Seattle Star, p9.
May 27, 1915, Seattle Star, p5.
June 3, 1915, Seattle Star, p5.
June 10, 1915, Seattle Star, p3.
Sept. 30, 1915, Seattle Star, p4.
Nov. 14, 1916, Seattle Star, p4.
Nov. 30, 1916, Seattle Star, p4.
Dec. 21, 1916, Seattle Star, p4.
June 21, 1917, Seattle Star, p4.
Nov. 1, 1917, Seattle Star, p8.
Sept. 12, 1919, Seattle Star, p25.
May 21, 1920, Seattle Star, p11.
May 18, 1922, Seattle Times, p27.
March 27, 1923, Seattle Star.
April 30, 1923, Seattle Star.
May 20, 1923, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p84.
Nov. 5, 1924, Seattle Star.
Feb. 24, 1934, Seattle Times, p19.
Feb. 26, 1938, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p20.
April 24, 1938, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p55.
May 31, 1938, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p8.
May 14, 1938, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
July 11, 1938, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p15.
Aug. 4, 1938, Seattle Times, p25.
December 1939, Jacob Bleitz funeral notice. (Emmick Family Collection)
Dec. 12, 1947, Catholic Progress.
1964, Seattle Times. (Emmick Family Collection)
May 25, 1968, Lawrence Bleitz obituary. (Emmick Family Collection)
November 1983, Jim Bleitz obituary. (Emmick Family Collection)

Seattle Now & Then: Denny Hall, 1895

THEN: The family of Carrie Coe stands near Denny Hall circa 1895. Named to honor the “father of the university,” Arthur A. Denny, the building was the first of many that filled the new north-end campus. Enough construction materials remained to erect a second building nearby, the still-extant observatory.(Courtesy Lucy Coe)
NOW: A young family hailing from the south of France visits the UW campus on a chilly day in May. With graceful curves and towers and a light-colored stone exterior, chateau-like Denny Hall might have been transplanted from their homeland. (Jean Sherrard)
THEN 2: The Dailey family in 1915. Arthur Dailey is seated at center, with Agnes Johnson Dailey at right. Sherrard’s maternal grandmother Dorothy Dailey, then 9 years old, stands at far left.

(Published in The Seattle Times online on June 9, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on June 12, 2022)

All-in-one Denny Hall arose first on UW’s relocated campus
By Jean Sherrard

The proudest day of my great-grandfather’s life was the one marking his graduation from the University of Washington.

Arthur Dailey had arrived in Seattle two months before the Great Fire of 1889 from Kalamazoo, Michigan, soon finding a teaching job. At the advanced age of 30, he hoped that a collegiate diploma would assure his future.

With the rest of his 18-member class of ’97, displaying the school colors of purple and gold, he enthusiastically chanted the school cheer based on Chinook jargon that conveyed bravery and strength:

  1. of W., Siah! Siah!
    U. of W., Hiah! Hiah!
    Skookum, Skookum, Washington!

This first graduation on the new UW campus, held May 28, 1897, marked another milestone in its 36-year history.

The school was founded on 10 acres downtown in 1861 by Arthur Armstrong Denny (1822-1899), leader of a 22-member party that had arrived on Alki only 10 years earlier. By 1891, the UW was bursting at its seams. Seattle’s population had exploded to more than 50,000, inhibiting further expansion.

To redress the pinch, the state Legislature approved relocating the UW to the then-rural Brooklyn Addition on the shores of Union Bay. The elderly Denny, still a tireless higher-education supporter, donated most of the 350 acres for a campus with room to boom.

Ground was broken for the university’s first north-end structure in 1894. A French Renaissance design by Charles W. Saunders (1858-1935) topped 24 other submitted sets of drawings. The resulting Administration Building, later renamed Denny Hall, came in well under its $150,000 budget, fed by low labor costs stemming from the depression of 1893.

Its 20,000 square feet housed all six of the university’s colleges and included 10 classrooms, a 6,000-volume library, faculty and administration offices and a 736-seat auditorium, all crowned by a belfry.

In September 1895, the edifice, comprising four floors of light-colored Enumclaw sandstone and pressed brick, trimmed with terra cotta and outfitted with the latest heating and plumbing, welcomed more than 200 students.

Our “Then” photo was snapped using Carrie Coe’s camera, likely in 1895, during a family outing to admire the newly completed building. Her husband, Dr. Frantz Coe, after whom Queen Anne Hill’s Coe School is named, was a future Seattle school-board member and friend of the Dennys. The tangle of bushes and a fresh-cut stump provide evidence of still-undeveloped wilderness on every side.

For his part, my great-grandpa Dailey made good use of the sheepskin, serving as principal to schools across the region. By 1899, he felt secure enough to marry his sweetheart, Ballard schoolteacher Agnes Johnson.

WEB EXTRAS

For our 360 degree narrated video version of this column, please take a short trip here!

Seattle Now & Then: Bush House Inn, circa 1900

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THEN: Shown at the turn of the 20th century, the Bush House in recently logged Index fed and housed local miners and workers who built the Great Northern Railway. The inn was constructed by Clarence W. Bush. (Courtesy Museum of History & Industry)
NOW: Owners of the Bush House Inn — Blair and Kathy Corson (back, third and fourth from left) and (next to them) Dan Kerlee (green shirt) and wife Carol Wollenberg (pink sweater) — join Index volunteers and the visiting Millers of West Seattle’s Husky Deli in late April in front of the hotel. Third from right in the front row, matriarch Marie Miller was celebrating her 93rd birthday. For IDs of most everyone in this photo and similar ones, see key below. (Clay Eals)

Published in The Seattle Times online on June 2, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on June 5, 2022

Index’s only inn perseveres amid historic charm and challenge
By Clay Eals

For more than 100 years, as a gravel road or streamlined pavement, the Stevens Pass Highway has beckoned as a cross-Cascades catalyst to intimate scenic bliss.

As we motor through a succession of tiny towns on the west side of the mountains, a rich palette of trees, bridges and railroad tracks along the Skykomish River feels so fresh, green and close, it’s as if we can reach out and touch the wide, deep swaths of crisp, wooded splendor.

The former timber and mining burg of Index, roughly 60 miles northeast of Seattle, once welcomed such pass-through traffic along its few unpretentious blocks via a 10-mile winding road from Gold Bar.

But the early 1930s brought modernization. The state constructed a shorter stretch of the highway that bypassed Index, leaving the hamlet one mile northeast of the new artery. It was, The Seattle Times stated on Sept. 13, 1931, part of “the steady movement to minimize the blockade of the Cascade range against the vast hinterland that feeds Seattle and Tacoma with produce for export and manufacturing.”

School buses head east on the Stevens Pass Highway, next to a sign previewing the turn-off to Index and the Bush House Inn. (Clay Eals)

Accessible via a turn-off road and ringed by four “Washington Alps” from to 5,464 to 6,244 feet in height, Index has persevered through the decades as a mini-paradise. Remoteness has both bolstered the town’s charm and embodied its challenge.

Enter the Bush House Inn. Built in 1898 (some say earlier), the three-floor structure competed with four other hotels for hungry lodgers when the Index population topped 500. Now it’s the only hotel in the riverside town of 150.

It presides on Index Avenue, nestled against a sheer, 1,270-foot climbing wall and a stone’s throw from Great Northern rail tracks whose freight trains and Amtrak cars regularly roll through town.

The inn suffered from disrepair and closure early this century. But after a decade of energy and financing marshaled by a pair of couples — Blair and Kathy Corson, proprietors of an Index recreational firm, and Dan Kerlee and Carol Wollenberg of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood — the extensively restored and remodeled 10-room hotel reopened last fall.

This effort merited a salute at last month’s gala of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, which in 2009 placed the inn on its list of Most Endangered Places.

The building holds promise as not only a travelers’ getaway but also a center for weddings, events and, with a new, expansive stage, concerts and dramatic productions. To echo its original incarnation, the owners are even searching for an on-site restaurateur.

Invisible from the highway, however, the Bush House Inn begs a “Field of Dreams”-like riddle: If you rebuild it, will they come?

WEB EXTRAS

Thanks to Blair & Kathy Corson, Dan Kerlee & Carol Wollenberg, Louise Lindgren of the Index-Pickett Historical Museum, Jack & Heidi Miller of Husky Deli, Huy Pham of Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and Bob Carney for their help with this installment.

To see Clay Eals‘ 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are 7 additional photos, 2 video interviews of the couples who co-own the Bush House Inn and 38 historical articles and ads from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Also, check out links to stories on the Bush House Inn  from the Daily Herald of Everett on Dec. 27, 2021, and July 3, 2017.

THEN: Framed by a pair of 1923-25 Ford Model Ts, the expanded Bush House stands in 1925 along a dirt road that is today’s Index Avenue. The town got its name because a nearby peak resembled an index finger. (Courtesy Runyon Collection, Index Museum)
NOW: Owners of the Bush House Inn — Blair and Kathy Corson (back, second and third from left) and (next to them) Dan Kerlee (green shirt) and wife Carol Wollenberg (pink sweater) — join Index volunteers and the visiting Millers of West Seattle’s Husky Deli in late April in front of the hotel. Third from right in the front row, matriarch Marie Miller was celebrating her 93rd birthday. For IDs of most everyone in this photo and similar ones, see key below. (Clay Eals)
Above is a key to the names of most everyone in the group photo above. Use this key to identify people in the other similar NOW photos. (Clay Eals)
THEN: Elevated for repairs, the Bush House appears to be shored up by Index volunteers in 2012. (Kathy and Blair Corson)
NOW: Owners of the Bush House Inn — Blair and Kathy Corson (fourth and sixth from left) and (next to them) Carol Wollenberg (pink sweater) and husband Dan Kerlee (green shirt) — join Index volunteers and the visiting Millers of West Seattle’s Husky Deli in late April in front of the hotel. Tenth from right in the front row, matriarch Marie Miller was celebrating her 93rd birthday. For IDs of most everyone in this photo and similar ones, see key above. (Clay Eals)
THEN: A Great Northern train passes by the Bush House in its early days. (Courtesy Dan Kerlee)
NOW: A similar view of the Great Northern train passing by today. (Clay Eals)

 

VIDEO (3:08): Click the image to hear Blair and Kathy Corson, co-owners with Dan Kerlee and Carol Wollenberg of the Bush House Inn, describe their involvement in the hotel and its town of Index, Washington. (Clay Eals)
VIDEO (3:51): Click the image to see Carol Wollenberg & Dan Kerlee, co-owners with Blair & Kathy Corson of the Bush House Inn, describe their involvement in the hotel and its town of Index, Washington. (Clay Eals)
July 2, 1902, Seattle Times, p8.
Feb. 2, 1913, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p56.
May 7, 1916, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p65.
Aug. 9, 1919, Seattle Times, p15.
May 27, 1920, Seattle Times, p12.
April 23, 1927, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p10.
May 14, 1927, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p9.
May 12, 1928, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11.
Sept. 4, 1931, Seattle Times, p13.
Sept. 11, 1931, Seattle Times, p15.
Oct. 22, 1931, Seattle Times, p9.
Sept. 13, 1931, Seattle Times, p47.
Feb. 27, 1932, Seattle Times, p3.
Feb. 28, 1932, Seattle Times, p13.
March 20, 1932, Seattle Times, p44.
May 20, 1933, Seattle Times, p1.
Sept. 27, 1978, Seattle Times, p83.
Aug. 26, 1978, Seattle Times, p11.
March 18, 1979, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p29.
March 18, 1979, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p35.
May 25, 1979, Seattle Times, p60.
July 9, 1979, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p3.
July 5, 1980, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p12.
July 9, 1980, Seattle Times, p37.
Aug. 23, 1980, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p1.
Aug. 23, 1980, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p10.
May 23, 1982, Seattle Times, p290.
Oct. 6, 1984, Seattle Times, p29.
June 16, 1985, Seattle Times, p118.
June 16, 1985, Seattle Times, p119.
Feb. 16, 1986, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p93.
May 17, 1987, Seattle Times, p146.
May 17, 1987, Seattle Times, p147.
June 14, 1987, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p121.
Sept. 25, 1988, Seattle Times, p182.
Sept. 25, 1988, Seattle Times, p183.
Sept. 25, 1988, Seattle Times, p184.
Oct. 1, 1989, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p148.
Oct. 27, 1991, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p131.
Jan. 12, 1992, Seattle Times, p140.
Jan. 12, 1992, Seattle Times, p141.
Feb. 10, 1993, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11.
Sept. 6, 1997, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p21.
Sept. 6, 1997, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p22.
Sept. 6, 1997, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p23.
Sept. 6, 1997, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p24.
Sept. 6, 1997, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p25.
Sept. 6, 1997, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p27.

Seattle Now & Then: Seattle Harbor Water Tours, 1952

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN 1: During shirtsleeve weather in late summer 1952. The Smith Tower barely peeks out above an Alaskan Way Viaduct nearing completion and free of traffic in this Boyd Ellis postcard. A one-hour Seattle Harbor Water Tours trip cost only $1. (courtesy Ron Edge)
NOW: A somewhat wider view looks southeast at Pier 54. The Bremerton Fast Ferry, seating 118 passengers, pauses at its temporary berth at Pier 54. At 75 feet long, it has a beam of 27 feet. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on May 26, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on May 29, 2022)

Visitors aboard a 1950s waterfront tour had to walk the prank
By Jean Sherrard

During her first visit to Seattle, Gwendolyn Dixon wrote home to her parents in tiny Green City, Mo., that she having a whale of a time. On the backside of this Boyd Ellis postcard, postmarked Aug. 25, 1953, she mentioned plans to take a one-hour boat tour of the harbor.

THEN 2: The back of the postcard sent by Gwendolyn Dixon to her parents in Green City, Mo. The town’s population has remained in the mid-600s since the 1950s. (courtesy Ron Edge)

Would that we could scratch and sniff Ellis’ photo, snapped a year earlier in 1952! A pungent working waterfront would spring to life.

Add the sound of ferry whistles, harbor gulls and the booming voice of Seattle Harbor Water Tours’ barker Rudi Becker (lower left) for full effect. The skipper on the flying bridge is likely Lynn Campbell or Joe Boles, company co-owners.

Campbell and Boles were particularly proud of their recent acquisition, named for a freak swell that nearly capsized the vessel on its passage from San Diego. After a $21,000 repair and facelift, the owners claimed the Wave was unique on the waterfront. Though sporting a conventional, 50-foot-long hull with a 13-foot beam, the cabin featured large, stainless-steel-framed, shatterproof panes of glass, providing spectacular harbor views for its 68 passengers.

And business boomed. Tourists and locals alike took in waterfront highlights, from Coast Guard weather ships and Smith Cove to United Fruit Company’s banana terminal. Most impressive, Campbell said, were the Todd drydocks at Harbor Island, “where you get to see how big a ship really is … and wonder how anything so heavy can float.”

During evening tours, Becker, a self-described “wharf rat,” could be heard tickling eager passengers: “By special permission of the chamber of commerce, we are permitted to include on this trip the sight of the setting sun.”

In the postcard’s background, above Alaskan Way, looming are pale concrete ribs of the nearly completed viaduct, which opened in April 1953. At right, near an octopus mural at the northeast corner of Pier 54, a mounted sign supplies evidence of Ivar Haglund’s aquarium. It drew many visitors for 18 years, until it was shuttered in 1956.

THEN 3 (possible online only): Ivar Haglund with one of his aquarium superstars, Oscar the Octopus. (courtesy Ivar’s)

A coda:

Joe Boles (1904-1962) made a late-life career change, improbably becoming the Northwest’s leading recording engineer, famously mastering the Wailers’ cover of “Louie, Louie.”

His partner, Lynn Campbell (1912-2013), offered harbor tours until his retirement, evolving the business into what is known today as Argosy Cruises.

Rudi Becker (1913-1976) served as a tour barker, wag and jokester for more than a decade. Watching tourists fill souvenir bottles with Elliott Bay water, he advised caution. “You better pour some out,” Becker said, “Come high tide, that bottle will break.”

Most tourists took it as Sound advice.

WEB EXTRAS

For our narrated 360 degree video of this column, please head over in this general direction.

And for further life aquatic, here’s a few photos of Ivar Haglund’s waterfront aquarium, courtesy of Ivar’s:

Ivar’s Aquarium interior
The Aquarium flyer
Ivar with another favorite, the legendary Patsy the seal
Eddie, formally known as “Keeper of the Seal”
A view of the fish tank

A late addition – the Times article from July 24, 1949 concerning the United Fruit Company’s Banana Terminal.

Seattle Now & Then: House on Walnut Avenue, 1942

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Walnut Avenue house stands in 1942. Built in 1925, it was the Slate home until 1956, the Rounds home until 1985 and the Bigelow home until this spring. Clay Eals’ grandfather, Joseph Slate, maintained a vegetable garden in the grassy area at left, across Lander Street from Hiawatha Park. In 1966, the plot was split off, and a smaller house arose there the following year. (Eals family collection)
NOW: Bill and Deb Bigelow stand before the Walnut house they owned from 1985 through this spring. Retired, they are moving south to Portland to live closer to their son and daughter-in-law. (Clay Eals)

Published in The Seattle Times online on May 19, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 22, 2022

A lovingly preserved house can help us find our way home
By Clay Eals

Can we go back home again? An oft-quoted aphorism says we can’t. But we all yearn to click our figurative ruby slippers.

THEN: Joseph and Florence Slate, first owners of the Walnut house, stand on its snowy back steps in January 1943. They sold the house in 1956 for $15,750 to Robert and Lois Rounds, who sold it in 1985 for $110,000 to Bill and Deb Bigelow. Its assessed value in 1938 was just $1,500. (Eals family collection)

In March, I learned that the home my grandparents had built 97 years ago on Walnut Avenue in West Seattle was up for sale. At its open house, I languished for two hours.

I imagined my young mom and her three older sisters running up and down its stairs and singing by an upright Ludwig piano in the first-floor sunroom. I pictured their pranks, one mischievously flushing a toilet while another talked with a boy on the nearby phone. I envisioned my parents’ wedding in front of the golden-brown tiled living-room fireplace, where in 2000 I posed them for a matching “Now” photo on their 50th anniversary.

Preschool-age recollections also surfaced as I sat on front-porch benches that opened into ostensibly secret storage pods. And I lingered in the remodeled kitchen where, in its former breakfast nook, I learned to sip from a straw.

In one sense, this house isn’t distinctive. Just a two-story, four-bedroom prairie Craftsman.

Yet its context, a stone’s throw from Seattle’s first indoor-outdoor community center at Hiawatha Park, has, for nearly a century, conveyed unspoiled neighborhood warmth. Seemingly everything one could want — schools, stores, even a library, ravine, wading pool and movie theater — was mere steps away.

Mainly, however, I marvel at a dwelling that has been owned by only three families, each one stewarding it with loving care.

Alisa and Brandon Allgood. (Courtesy Alisa and Brandon Allgood)

The soon-to-be fourth family, Brandon and Alisa Allgood, hail from California’s Silicon Valley. Brandon, 47, is an artificial-intelligence executive, and his wife, Alisa, 53, is an architectural and interior designer.

Because Brandon grew up in Marysville and on Capitol Hill and has family near Arlington and Darrington, the two have long eyed a move to Seattle. They got serious in February, gravitating to the Walnut house because of its streetside stature, open floor plan, plentiful light, proximity to Alki Beach and what today is called walkability. “We didn’t want run of the mill,” Brandon says. “We like aesthetics and uniqueness.”

The pair anticipates electrical and plumbing upgrades but will retain the house’s integrity. “We realize,” Alisa says, “we have a responsibility to keep it up.”

In Seattle’s dizzying real-estate spiral, preservation comes with a price — in this case, a purchase in excess of $1.4 million. As the cliché goes, for many the so-called American Dream remains just that: a dream.

But I also know that my early time at the Walnut house eventually led me to claim West Seattle as my own Emerald City base. May similar homes survive everywhere to inspire us all.

THEN: In about 1930, Clay Eals’ mother, Virginia Slate (left), and her sister, Betty, stand in back of the Walnut house, dressed as a “man and woman act” that performed “the cakewalk” four blocks away at the Portola Theatre, which in 1942 was enlarged to become today’s Admiral Theatre. (Eals family collection)
THEN: Joseph and Florence Slate, first owners, stand in back of the Walnut house in the mid-1940s. (Eals family collection)

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to Bill Reid, Whitney Mason, Midori Okazaki, Ann Ferguson, Mahina Oshie, Joe Bopp and especially Deb & Bill Bigelow for their help with this installment.

To see Clay Eals‘ 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are a video interview of Deb Bigelow, 7 additional photos, a property record card from the Puget Sound Regional Branch of Washington State Archives and 12 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

VIDEO (12:17): Click this image to see an interview with Deb Bigelow, who with her husband Bill owned the Walnut Avenue home from 1985 through spring 2022. (Clay Eals)
The Walnut Avenue house on April 12, 1926, shortly after the Slate family moved in. The oblong angles result from correcting the photo’s horizon line. (Eals family collection)
A rear view of the Walnut Avenue house on April 12, 1926, shortly after the Slate family moved in. The oblong angles result from correcting the photo’s horizon line. (Eals family collection)
The Walnut house today, near the corner of Walnut Avenue Southwest and Southwest Lander Street. (Clay Eals)
The Walnut house, built in 1925, with a newer home (left) built in 1967 on the former Slate vegetable garden. (Clay Eals)
Mountain detail of the golden-brown tiled living-room fireplace of the Walnut house. (Clay Eals)
Mountain detail of the golden-brown tiled living-room fireplace of the Walnut house. (Clay Eals)
A two-page spread in the April 2022 edition of Old House Journal, featuring the remodeled kitchen of the Walnut house. (Clay Eals)
Click the image to download a pdf of the late-1930s Property Record Card for the Walnut house. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
Nov. 18, 1926, West Seattle Herald indicates Walnut house as meeting site.
March 11, 1934, Seattle Times, p11, indicates Walnut house as polling place.
March 13, 1934, Seattle Times, p2, indicates Walnut house as site of polling place.
Dec. 6, 1936, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p44, indicates Walnut house as luncheon site.
June 23, 1937, Seattle Times, p39, indicates lot north of Walnut house for sale.
Jan. 21, 1939, Seattle Times, p13, indicates Walnut house as site of talk.
April 7, 1939, West Seattle Herald indicates Walnut house as club meeting site.
May 25, 1939, West Seattle Herald indicates Walnut house as club meeting site.
August 1956 ad in West Seattle Herald indicates Walnut house for sale.
Aug. 15, 1956, Seattle Times, p52, indicates Walnut house for sale.
Oct. 30, 1983, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p74, indicates Walnut house for sale.
July 22, 1984, Seattle Times, p72, indicates Walnut house for sale.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Denny Hill, 1903

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THEN1: The three bay windows of the Wayne Apartments at far left mark the start of Denny Hill’s incline prior to 1903. More than a hundred feet of its slopes were incrementally sluiced away through 1930, leaving behind flatland Belltown.
NOW1: Soon to be demolished, the Wayne Apartments’ bay windows (upper left) are partly concealed by foliage. Buster Simpson (left) and Steve Hall stand in the crosswalk at Second and Bell. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on May 12, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on May 15, 2022)

A surviving signpost to Belltown’s origins soon will fall
By Jean Sherrard

Some ancient parchment, as historians know, is scrubbed clean and rewritten upon while leaving behind faint traces of the original text. Such a page is known as a palimpsest.

When exploring the crosshatch of Seattle streets and architecture with this column’s founder Paul Dorpat two decades ago, I realized that his X-ray photographic vision of our ephemeral city included similar traces. The residues, like double exposures, appeared in unlikely places and cracked open historical clues and mysteries aplenty.

This week’s “Then” photo revisits an early discovery of Paul’s that cemented his vocation as historical detector and photographic repeater. He penned a lengthy account of his efforts in the Dec. 20, 1978, edition of the weekly Seattle Sun. The headline: “Digging Up the Past of the Late and Great Denny Hill.”

Perusing a photo collection, he came upon a portrait of the city unlike any he had seen. While “uncannily familiar,” this image did not seem to match Seattle’s existing topography. Paul concluded that it was a place “that had somehow lost its future, for it appeared to be in no way findable in our here and now.”

Then came a “Eureka!” moment.

With a magnifying glass, the name “Bell” emerged on a street sign. Familiar with Mama’s Mexican Restaurant at the corner of Second and Bell, Paul was thrilled to recognize the triple set of bay windows belonging to the Wayne Apartments, built in 1890.

The original clapboard had been covered with asbestos “war brick” siding, but the pictorial puzzle was solved. Denny Hill’s “back side,” 220 feet above sea level, was revealed in this rare, south-facing view of what today is called Belltown, captured just before an early regrade of 1903.

Among few remaining pre-regrade structures, the bay-windowed Wayne has shone prominently and repeatedly over four decades — in “Now & Then” in 1984 and in lectures and books, including our 2018 tome “Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred.” The edifice has born witness to change, loss and the thrill of discovery.

But not for long.

In early April, we received word from artist Buster Simpson and Steve Hall, a preservation advocate with Friends of Historic Belltown, that the Wayne and adjacent structures along Second Avenue soon will be destroyed. Though they achieved landmark status in 2015, exemptions to the ruling are allowing a prospective 9-floor retail-residential building to fill the space. Its height will more than match the original summit of Denny Hill.

In the rueful words of historian David B. Williams, modern developers seem to be “merely rebuilding the hill one banal building at a time.”

WEB EXTRAS
THEN2: This rare 1895 view looks northwest from the top of Denny Hill, on the bluff above Second Avenue. At right, the home at 216 Lenora Street belonged to Seattle ex-mayor Robert Moran, who also snapped the photo. (Courtesy Hal Will)

NOW2: Increasingly decrepit, the Wayne’s 132-year-old sagging roofline soon will be replaced by a 9-floor building, with retail on the bottom and apartments above. (Jean Sherrard)A few photos of the soon-to-vanish icon follow. Accompanied by Buster Simpson, I explored the back of the old Wayne apartments and crawled up a couple rotting staircases. A special prize for those who find the pigeon eggs.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Seward Park torii, 1953-54

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: With cherry blossoms abloom and the Seward Park torii to the north behind him, Don Taniguchi, 7 or 8 years old, stands near the park’s entry in 1953 or 1954. The torii was moved to this site in 1935. (Courtesy Taniguchi family)
NOW1: Before the April 2 ceremony to dedicate the new torii behind him, Don Taniguchi stands about 20 feet north of his childhood pose and holds a portrait of his late sister Diane, who raised funds for the project. Flanking him are the concrete foundations of the original span. The event was organized by Friends of Seward Park, Seattle Parks Foundation and Seattle Parks and Recreation. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on May 5, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 8, 2022

Seward Park’s torii was a welcome gateway, especially for a child
By Clay Eals

Unaware of her parents’ painful memories of World War II incarceration at Camp Tule Lake in northern California, preschooler Diane Taniguchi found that weekends in the early 1950s promised a family frolic.

“We used to take joy rides on Sunday afternoon after church,” Diane said in a 2015 video, citing drives from their home in the Publix Hotel in what is now called the Chinatown-International District to a South Seattle peninsular paradise — Seward Park.

“Dad called it ‘Suwado Pock’ because he couldn’t say r’s, and his pronunciation was still very Japanese right after the war. But those were great times. It was carefree. I was 4 or 5 years old. Not a worry in the world.”

THEN2: The reddish-hued Seward Park torii stands in 1962. (Seattle Municipal Archives)

Welcoming the Taniguchis and myriad other park visitors was a cultural symbol that Diane “really loved” — an imposing, reddish span modeled on entrance structures at Shinto shrines in Japan, called a torii. Pronounced “torr-ee,” the word means “bird perch,” but such structures have become known more broadly as gateways to extraordinary spaces.

THEN3: In a still image taken from family home-movie footage, the torii stands in its original spot, on University Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues, for the 1934 International Golden Potlatch. The sign at top reads: “Seattle — America’s Gateway to the Orient.” Sponsored by the Seattle Japanese Chamber of Commerce, the torii’s total cost was just $172. (Kushi Collection, University of Washington Special Collections)

The wooden Seward Park torii had a 50-year life, starting on University Street downtown at the 1934 International  Potlatch and bearing a pro-trade sign: “Seattle — America’s Gateway to the Orient.”

The following spring, the torii (sans sign) found a verdant site at Seward Park’s entry isthmus, joining other Japanese elements, including cherry trees and an 8-ton stone lantern. It oversaw festivals and countless informal meadow gatherings through mid-1984, when Seattle Parks removed it due to decades of decay.

In 2011, the park’s centennial organizers vowed to build a new version. Fueled by $360,000 in grants and donations, a 20-foot-tall basalt-and-cedar replacement stands today in a plaza 20 feet north of the original’s tree-confined concrete foundations. At an April 2 ceremony, a crowd of 200 enjoyed musicians, dancers and speakers exulting beneath the edifice.

Officiants included Don Taniguchi, 76, honoring his younger sister, Diane, a preservationist who helped raise money for the new torii but died of cancer in 2016. Don’s thoughts also drifted to their dad, originally from Hawaii, and mom, of Tacoma, who both stayed silent about their camp challenges and the complexity of their new life while working “all the time” managing the Publix.

“They didn’t talk about the hardships,” Don says. “I guess it hurt them too much.”

From youthful eyes, he says, Seward Park and its torii bespoke “family time,” a cheerful refuge. “You felt a little prejudice, like somebody getting in line ahead of you, but you didn’t really understand why,” he says. “You didn’t think about those things. You just played. … You cherish those days now.”

NOW2: Drummers from the School of Taiko kick off the April 2 ceremony. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW3: Mayor Bruce Harrell speaks at the April 2 ceremony: “Being of biracial background [Japanese American and Black], I try to find out what’s common in cultures,” he said. “That’s what this [torii] represents: oneness. … This is Seattle at its best.” (Jean Sherrard)

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to Paul Talbert of Friends of Seward Park and Karen O’Brien of the Rainier Valley Historical Society, as well as automotive expert Bob Carney and former Seattle Parks staffer Bob Baines for their help with this installment. For more info, visit their Seward Park torii page.

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are 5 videos, 9 additional photos and 4 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

VIDEO (23:12): Click the image to view the Friends of Seward Park documentary on the campaign to re-create the Seward Park torii. An interview of Diane Taniguchi can be seen at time code 17:31. (Friends of Seward Park)
VIDEO (1:59): Click the image to see Don Taniguchi interviewed about his sister and childhood days at Seward Park. (Clay Eals)
VIDEO (1:54): Click image to see state Rep. Sharon Tomoko Santos speak at Seward Park torii dedication ceremony. (Clay Eals)
VIDEO (7:16): Click the image to see Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell speak at the Seward Park torii dedication ceremony. (Clay Eals)
VIDEO (2:48): Click the image to see excerpts of performances at the Seward Park dedication ceremony. (Clay Eals)
Diane and Don Taniguchi in about 1953. (Courtesy Taniguchi family)
The Taniguchi family, with young siblings Don and Diane in front, stands before the old Seward Park torii in the early 1950s. (Courtesy Taniguchi family)
Girls participate in a running race in the meadow near the old Seward Park torii during the annual Rainier District Pow-Wow on July 31, 1950. (Courtesy Rainier Valley Historical Society)
Officials preside at a 50th anniversary ceremony for the old Seward Park torii in July 1983, including (from right) state Rep. John O’Brien, Seattle Mayor Charles Royer, real-estatte agent John Merrill, Seafair pageant queen and princesses. (Courtesy O’Brien family)
Three days before the April 2, 2022, ceremony to dedicate the new Seward Park torii, Paul Talbert of Friends of Seward Park displays a section of the old torii on its western concrete base. (Clay Eals)
The same section of the old torii on display at Seward Park. (Clay Eals)
Sides of a marker credit donors to the new Seward Park torii project. (Clay Eals)
A marker credits donors to the new Seward Park torii project. (Clay Eals)
Story marker for the new Seward Park torii. (Clay Eals)
Aug. 26, 1934, Seattle Times, p9.
Aug. 21, 1938, Seattle Times, p72.
April 15, 1945, Seattle Times, p31.
April 2, 1962, Seattle Times, p44.

 

AKCHO to honor our Paul!

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

Paul Dorpat, captured on May 2, 2022. (Clay Eals)

Congrats! Award goes to our column founder

Longtime Seattle historian Paul Dorpat, founder of the “Now & Then” column that appears Sundays in The Seattle Times (and with “web extras” on this blog), will receive the 2022 Board Legacy Award of the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO).

The honor will be presented during AKCHO’s annual awards event, online, from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, 2022. To view the event, visit this link. Paul’s award is being saved for the end!

The award to Paul is triggered by his recent donation of a vast collection of historical photos, videos and printed materials to the Seattle Public Library so that they eventually can be accessed by anyone free of charge.

The donation reflects “your legendary loyalty to identifying and celebrating Seattle history,” says Pat Filer, award chair.

Paul, the author of many local history books, originated “Now & Then” in the Sunday magazine of The Seattle Times in January 1982. He prepared more than 1,800 columns over 37 years before retiring in 2019.

VIDEO (3:21): Click this image to see Paul’s award acceptance speech. (Clay Eals)

Now & Then here and now