A Correction from reader L. Vine and Paul's response

[We are grateful to L. Vine, who just posted the comment that follows. The results of this reader’s close reading and careful analysis are detailed below. We thought it significant enough to post immediately. –Jean]

As I reviewed the photos posted with the Now and Then article at the Seattle Times website this morning I noticed discrepancies between the architectural character of the Union Station of the present and the historic photograph.

Suspicious of the accuracy of the article, I came to this blog from the Seattle Times website, and found the larger versions of the photos I could more closely exam. After doing so, I believe the Webster and Stevens photo from the MOHAI collection is in fact a photograph of the construction of King Street Station, not Union Station. I believe this for the following reasons:

(1) Differing Architectural Details. Looking at the historic photo side-by-side with the contemporary photo of Union Station taken from the plaza above International District/Chinatown transit tunnel station, a casual viewer might not be cognizant that the ground level of Union Station is indeed hidden below the level of the plaza. But if we examine the contemporary photo with the emerging details of the second floor of the building under construction in the historic photo, you’ll see differing details–details that indicate that we’re looking at two different buildings. First, if we look at the corner of Union Station nearest the viewer in the contemporary photo (the southeast corner), you can see a brick reveal that creates a repeating horizontal shadow line that extends up to the frieze and cornice band. Now looking at the historic photograph we do not see this same repeating horizontal detail, instead we see a blind window being gradually surrounded by concrete or stone jambs (see it there in the historic photo–its that light colored material) at the corner of the building as the building is built. Second, examine the south elevation of both buildings. The contemporary photo of Union Station shows a gable with a large arched window which hints at the magnificent barrel vault inside. These two features are on a form that “bumps” out from the main mass of the building further south than the rest of the building. Now look at the historic photo–there is no such form evident.

(2) Structural Clues in the Historical Photograph. I believe some clues in the original photo have been overlooked or misinterpreted. First, I believe it is erroneous when Mr. Dorpat’s writes that the skeletal steel trusses in the photograph are being erected to support the great hall. What is portrayed in the photo are roof trusses that are not designed for a clear span. Look closely, you can see vertical columns supporting the trusses at mid span. But there are clues that indicate this is a historical photo of King Street Station under construction. Looking just above and beyond the corner with blind windows (the southeast corner) you can see some rather beefy looking steel–that’s the rising King Street Station clock tower. Also, rising above the partially complete south elevation you see six columns which will shortly support the trusses and ceiling of King Street Station’s waiting room. If these were for Union Station, they would be positioned on the east and west sides.

These things I can see in short order by comparing the two photographs. But the mistake is truly revealed by,

(3) The Metadata of Original Photograph. The entry for the photograph in MOHAI collection explicitly says that the historical photograph is King Street Station. There you can read the caption on the back of the photograph where it says “King St. Station being built”.

I think somewhere along the way, a mistake was made. If you agree with my assessment, please provide a correction here and in the Times in the service of historic accuracy.

All the best,

L. Vine

[Paul’s response:]

Mea Culpa. And stupid too.

Greetings dear L. We are working at rectitude. Jean thinks he also took a view from 4th (not 5th) of the Great Northern Depot. If not he will snap it late Monday. I will rewrite the description of this now-then – with something about the King Street Station – and preface that with a “true confession” and a suggestion that the readers also look at your detailed analysis. For that we will also keep a copy of Jean’s photo from 5th near it and near the new pair. Thanks for your interest and thoughtful care in this. It makes good hide-and-seek reading and should be appreciated for that too. My best excuses are that I first thought it was the King Station, that I might have better used the landmark fire station on the old not yet extended 2nd Ave. and beyond it the Stewart and Holmes drugs signs as clues. All are in the photo. There must be other excuses too. Unfortuntely, I don’t think that I am sick, nor was I instructed by any politician, preacher or other authority to make this mistake. I did it on my own. But I have not made another such blooper in 27 years – or about 1400 stories – and that may be taken into consideration during the sentencing. Here’s the other excuse. I am at this time preoccupied. I need to get this Ivar biography “Keep Clam” out by the end of the year or I’ll be ostracized by my friends, but if I make any more mistakes like this one, perhaps also ostracized by the community. I’ll need to move to Tacoma. Yes I WILL move to Tacoma. Meanwhile I shall try to Keep Clam.

More than the best for you L. Thanks much.


[While taking the pix for this Sunday’s Now and Then, I walked across the street and snapped King Street Station from the road above.  While it’s not an exact repeat, it must suffice for a day or so.  And as he promised – but can we trust him? – Paul will also write a new brief essay  – or extended caption – for the new comparison before he takes a train to Tacoma.  Let’s hope he is not confused about the station.–Jean]

The correct NOW - King Street Station
The correct NOW - King Street Station

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