Seattle Now & Then: The Perry Apartments

(click photos to enlarge)

THEN: The Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper)
THEN: The Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper)
NOW: In a humble irony, the southeast corner of Madison Street and Boren Avenue which was first developed as a lordly home site for Federal Judge Cornelius Hanford, his wife Clara and their eight children is since 2006 home for 50 units of affordable senior housing developed by the Cabrini Sisters.  The Perry/Cabini structure was torn down in 1996.
NOW: In a humble irony, the southeast corner of Madison Street and Boren Avenue which was first developed as a lordly home site for Federal Judge Cornelius Hanford, his wife Clara and their eight children is since 2006 home for 50 units of affordable senior housing developed by the Cabrini Sisters. The Perry/Cabini structure was torn down in 1996.

While supervising the construction of the prestigious St. James Cathedral, architects Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Cote, both new to Seattle, became inevitably known to new clients.  Their two largest “spin-off” commissions were for Providence Hospital and these Perry Apartments.  The Perry was built on the old Judge Hanford family home site while the Cathedral was still a work-in-progress two blocks away.  St. James was dedicated in 1907 and the ornate seven-story apartment was also completed that year for its “first life” at the southwest corner of Madison and Boren.

What the partners could not have known was that they were actually building two hospitals. The Perry was purchased in 1916/17 by Sister Frances Xavier Cabrini – not then yet a saint – and converted into the Columbus Sanatorium and later the Cabrini Hospital, and thereby became the Catholic contributor to the make-over of First Hill – or much of it – into Seattle’s preferred “Pill Hill.”

In this view the new Perry is still eight floors of distinguished flats for high-end renters who expect to be part of the more-or-less exclusive neighborhood. Neighbors close enough to ask for a cup of sugar include many second generation Dennys, the Lowmans, Hallers, Minors, Dearborns, Burkes, Stimsons, Rankes, and many more of Seattle’s nabobs.

Most importantly class-wise were the Carkeeks.  In the mid 1880s the English couple, Morgan and Emily Carkeek, built their mansion directly across Boren Avenue from the future Perry when the neighborhood was still fresh stumps and a few paths winding between them.   The Carkeek home became the clubhouse for First Hill culture and no doubt a few Perry residents were welcomed to its card and masquerade parties.


Aside from the trolleys that ran between a waterfront turntable on Western Avenue and Madison Park, Madison Street was ordinarily quiet.  Most citizens either walked or used the trolley.  The motorcar, far right, is a rarity in this ca. 1909 scene.  The view looks west towards the Perry Hotel on the far side of  Boren Avenue.

Looking west on Boren, 1909

The next postcard scene looks in the opposite direction from the hotel’s corner, east on Madison Street.  The Stacy Mansion – later the University Club – is on the far left.  The wrought iron fence on the right closes the grounds of Morgan and Emily Carkeek’s Mansion from the sidewalk.


The Stacy mansion today from Boren
The Stacy mansion today from Boren
Perry Hotel, ca. 1912.  View looks west on Madison Street across Boren Avenue.
Perry Hotel, ca. 1912. View looks west on Madison Street across Boren Avenue.

With the Perry’s sale to the Catholic order the hotel became first the Columbus Sanatorium and later the Cabrini Hospital.  Below are six posing Cabrini nurses and below them is a late 1930’s tax photo of the hospital, used compliments of the Washington State Archive.

Merciful Sisters
Merciful Sisters
Cabrini Hospital tax photo from the 30s
Cabrini Hospital tax photo from the 30s
Work-in-progress on razing the nearly 90 year-old hotel-hospital.  The original slide is date May, 1995.
Work-in-progress on razing the nearly 90 year-old hotel-hospital. The original slide is dated May, 1995.

The Seattle Waterfront: An Illustrated History, Chapter Four

Our history of Seattle’s waterfront continues with Part Four.  Subjects include pioneer settlement, the first “discoverers,” names – native and European – and maps.

Port of Entry

Another event, although scarcely remembered, is an important marker to this “Seattle Comedy”– when we end the happy story in 1911 with the opening of the “Harriman Depot.”  It has more to do with steam than with sail.  That year the Federal Treasury Department transferred the Puget Sound Port of Entry to Seattle, leaving Port Townsend a sub-port.  As recently as 1889 a New York newspaper described Port Townsend as ranking “only second to New York in the number of marine craft reported and cleared, in the whole U.S.”   The same Panic of 1893 that exposed Tacoma’s economy as too narrowly built around railroads deflated Port Townsend.  Its boom time population of 7,000 crashed to 2,000 and its harbor filled with idle ships.  More importantly the maritime winds were changing because wind – except the ferocious kind – was becoming irrelevant.  By 1911 Port Townsend’s positioning as the “Key City” to Puget Sound was no longer of any advantage.  Steamships had practically replaced the brigs and barkentines.  In 1854, when Isaac Ebey first moved the Territory’s federal customs collection from Olympia to Port Townsend, he was deaf to the complains of the territorial capitol’s residents because he knew that sailing ships had a good chance of making it on their own down the Straits of Juan De Fuca as far as Port Townsend.  After that they often needed either patience or the help of a tug.  Steel-hulled ocean-going steamships did not need the breeze and preferred joining their customs work while unloading and/or loading their cargos and that was most likely to happen in Seattle.  And here we have the moral of this comedy.  All along – even during the setbacks of its struggles with Tacoma and the Northern Pacific Railroad – Seattle’s early development as Puget Sound’s primary port and thereby much more than a company town made it ultimately the metropolis.  With this cosmopolitan knack Seattle – and as we will see below, for a time also its City Council – married the Great Northern.

[Click to ENLARGE – slightly]


1841: Lieu. Wilkes & Piners Point

There is no record of what the U.S. Navy Lieu. Charles Wilkes thought of the metropolitan potential of Elliot bay when in the course of exploring Puget Sound and naming many of its features he – or his cartographer – made the first map of the shoreline between Alki Point and West Point. [20]  (West Point is Wilkes’ name but his Pt. Roberts was ten years later revised by locals to Alki.)  For the future central business district the Wilkes’ map features a beach stylized as a series of protruding bluffs.  But the main features of the central waterfront can be deciphered, like the turn at Union Street and the bump at Broad.  Most obviously there is the small peninsula that Wilkes named Piners Point after Thomas Piner a quartermaster on the expedition.  This rendering of Piners Point is the first map-name given to the historic center of Seattle, what is now the Pioneer Square Historic District.

Piners Point extended from a low point somewhere between Yesler and Washington Streets (probably closer to Washington, although descriptions vary) almost as far as King Street.  The native name for it was Djidjila’letch, which translates “little crossing over place.”   This may refer to the isthmus – the “low point” just noted – that connected the relatively flat peninsula to the south from the hill side to the north that later became Seattle’s Central Business District.  On the occasion of high tides or storms this low connector would flood and turn Piners Point into an Island.  One short-lived pioneer name for this neighborhood south of Yesler Way was Denny’s Island but it was really Doc Maynard who is most associated with it.  The point was part of his claim and he sold property there at prices meant to encourage development.  The name Djidjila’leetch may, however, refer to the fact that the village was at the Elliott Bay trailhead for “crossing over” to Lake Washington.  The trail took much the same route graded later as Yesler Way and beginning in 1888 rumbled over by its cable cars. The expedition sketch of Piners point is perhaps too small to include what was very probably native structures that stood above the low bluff on the Point’s west side.  To the east the point sloped into a salt marsh that also shows in the 1841 sketch.   Crowding against the low bluff on the beach and closer to Washington Street than to King temporary sweat lodges were probably built.


1854 Coast Survey

The Coast Survey made the next map of Elliott Bay – its shoreline and hydrography – in 1854. [21]  Seattle was then two years old and for an appropriate name Wilkes quartermaster Piner has been dropped for the Chief.  Mostly likely after Wilkes sailed away no one ever referred to the point again as Piners except perhaps Piner himself.  (Although Piner will still be remembered by Point Piner on Vashon Island, also named for him.)  It is unlikely that the first settlers who came over from Alki Point in 1852 knew they were landing at Piners Point.  They first proposed to call their fledgling community Duwamps (which was something like the pronunciation of the name for the local indigenes).  One who stoon joined them, Doc. Maynard, persuaded the others, the Denny, Boren and Bell families, to trade the name of the tribe for that of its headman.  Since it was never easy for Euro-Americans to wrap their embouchure around Lushootseed pronunciations (similar in difficulty to learning French as an adult) early on Seattle received a variety of spellings and pronunciations, and there is still an earnest but perhaps too sincere minority that thinks the city’s name should be changed to Sealth.

In the 1854 map, a sandbar that extends roughly in line with Main Street convincingly traps the salt marsh behind the peninsula.  The opening was near where the Second Avenue Extension now crosses Main Street – perhaps a few yards south of Main.  As noted above, in 1873 the city’s first gas works were built both on land at Jackson Street between 4th and 5th Avenues (Then 5th and 6th respectively) and over the salt water “Gas Cove” on a short pier that extended south from the shoreline.  By its real estate designation the gas plant cut through the north end of the Maynard Addition’s block 27.  Probably assuming too much about the U.S. Land Office’s interest in the shallow tidelands, much of Maynard’s town plat was drawn across the tideflats south of King Street. [22]  (A dappling of structures is also featured on the Coast Survey map although the cartographers have restrained themselves from marking the streets and it is difficult to know how accurate a representation it is of the structures that made up the young village, although there does seem to be some correlation to the Phelps map made four years later.) For comparison a detail of the ca. 1875 topographical map is included. [23]

A comparison of the soundings in the 1841 and 1854 maps shows similar depths and we may imagine that Bell and Denny would have liked to have had Wilkes’ map in hand when they explored this shore in the winter of 1852, taking their own readings with a weighted clothesline.  They found, we know, relatively deep water close to shore that at high tide would allow boats with even the lesser ocean-going draughts to bump up close to a short dock or a removable off-shore gangplank or float and do their business without having to first transfer every item to a smaller vessel.  The deepest soundings were between the future Union and Lenora Streets – as we might expect below Denny Hill.  As noted above this is part of the waterfront along which the Port of Seattle, following the Second World War, proposed to build long parallel docks to handle the bigger ships because the water was too deep near to shore to construct longer finger piers than the ones then already in place.  The position of Yesler’s wharf was a compromise between the deep and the shallow.  With his mill operation, Yesler was also able to extend and protect his wharf with his own manufactured waste.

1874-75 Federal Survey Introduced

When the federal surveyors returned again in the mid 1870s they were considerably more ambitious.  With their hydrographic soundings they continued on shore to survey elevations and charted topographic lines that reached a few blocks into the city.  They also included in their map the grid of Seattle streets although they chose to hesitantly delineate only with dashes the streets that ran through the tide marsh.  And the map also details the city’s few docks; most notably Yesler’s and the Seattle Coal and Transportation Company coal wharf off of Pike Street.  The full map reveals much more, including the route of the narrow gauged coal railway as it moves east on Pike Street to take a turn towards the south end of Lake Union along what must be either directly on the future line (after 1906) of Westlake Avenue or within a few feet of it.  The nearly new Gas Works (a direct predecessor to the one on Lake Union) is also shown in the map. [24]    [7]


1856 Phelps Map & Sketch

A fourth map of pioneer Seattle – with its accompanying sketch – is the best known of all and the first to locate streets, mark structures and number named landmarks. [25] [26] Its creator Navy Lieutenant T.S. Phelps was part of the crew aboard the war sloop Decatur that defended the raw community during the Battle of Seattle on January 26, 1856.  Fortunately, Phelps could also draw, although in one important point his map is far off.  The location Phelps gives for the blockhouse or fort from which the locals fired upon the natives, who were generally safe hiding behind trees, is about two blocks too far north.  Phelps puts it close to Marion Street when the actual location was on the knoll at the foot of Cherry Street, overlooking Yesler’s mill and wharf.  But the Lieutenant (a commodore by the time he polished his notes) also drew the oldest surviving sketch of Seattle and it is meant to give the third dimension to his map.  Curiously Phelps gets the correct position of the blockhouse in his sketch.  (This presents a puzzle.  Does the discrepancy in the blockhouse location suggest that he drew the sketch first and only later poorly interpreted – or neglected – it while refining his map?)

The sand spit that appears in the 1854 map is still in place two years later, and the salt marsh too, for Yesler’s waste has not yet reclaimed it.  Given Phelps’ greater detail most likely it is he who has refined the shape of Piners Point – if not the location of the blockhouse.  The 1856 map has regularized, beside a few marked streets, the informal dapple of buildings that the Coast Survey of 1854 roughly features as the fledgling village.  In the accompanying printing of the map, the dotted lines of the eventual Seattle grid have been superimposed over it.  The streets as drawn are at least close to being properly set.  Lines have also been introduced that show the limits of the original pioneer claims.  The claims are named (except for Maynard’s on the south) and are also distinguished by shadings of different contrast.  The offshore yellow (added by this author) marks the new section of waterfront that was reclaimed behind seawalls in the 20th Century.

The Felker House

The First Methodist Church at the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Columbia Street appears on the far left of the sketch although it is not lettered in the map.  One ready cross-reference between the map and the sketch is the Felker House, although Phelps has given it the knick name of its proprietress Madame Damnable.  In the map it is lettered “I” and appears at the far southwest corner (lower left) of the peninsula facing Jackson Street midway between Commercial Street (First Avenue S.) and the low bluff that falls to the waterfront.  In the sketch Madame Damnable’s hotel – the first substantial structure in town that was built of finished lumber – is far right with its back to the end of the point at King Street.  The Felker house was destroyed in the 1889 fire, and consequently can be located in many of the views of the city recorded from the King Street Coal Wharf after its construction in the late 1870s.  One of the community’s earliest (and yet undated) extant photographs looks directly across Jackson Street at the hotel. [27]  One may imagine a man remembered only by the name of Wilson watching the Battle of Seattle from the hotel’s verandah long enough to be hit and killed by a bullet fired from the forest.  Wilson was one of the only two mortal casualties inflicted on the settlers during the battle. The other was also an imprudent spectator who looked out from the temporarily opened door of the blockhouse.  Whilte not counted the number of casualties suffered by the natives was certainly much greater.

The peninsular shape of Seattle is depicted in an Indian-eye’s view of the battle that was imagined in the late 19th century. [28]  A detail of the sketch shows the cannons booming from the sloop Decatur and from the blockhouse as well.  Another painting of the blockhouse shows the locals running for it and was painted by Eliza Denny, who as a child fled with her parents David and Eliza to the blockhouse where her younger sister Decatur was born.  In appreciation she was named for both the ship and the fort. [29]
(A map superimposing donation claims with drawn streets is superimposed over Phelps map of the city.) [30])


In the map by Phelps the phrase “Hills and Woods Thronged With Indians” is written a little ways below the name D.C. Boren.  The map also shows an “Indian Camp” at the southern end of Piners Point and directly east of Damnable’s.  This including the Felker House footprint is a traditional native site, although Phelps’ “tee-pees” were not the style of construction used by Indians on the Northwest Coast.  As noted earlier, located both near the trail to Lake Washington and the Duwamish estuary the native “winter camp” on Piners Point was one of the largest villages of the Duwamish.  Tribal informants indicated that at one time Djidjila’letch (or Jijilalec) included eight large longhouses and at about the time that the English Captain George Vancouver sailed into Puget Sound in 1792 may have been home for as many as two hundred members of the tribe.  When Denny, Bell and Boren explored the site early in 1852 its was deserted and they stumbled upon the remains of only one longhouse.  This is puzzling because only two years previous the pioneer Isaac Ebey visited the future Seattle site and was given a rare invitation into a longhouse there by Chief Seattle.  Ebey witnessed the Indians’ celebration welcoming the Salmon’s return to the mouth of the river, where in appreciation the natives waited to snag them with tripod weirs built across the river.


Robert Monroe, ca. 1978.  Posed at the U.W. Northwest Collection.

Native Land

Robert Monroe, for many years the director of the University of Washington Northwest Collection, at least once received a request for photographs of the 1851 Denny Party landing at Alki Point.  It is not so absurd to think that there might have been such, for photographic apparatus could have been packed by any of the setters.  Seattle is younger than photography.  When a few midwestern farmers first picked this place to settle down and farm and/or build a city, photography through the Daguerreotype process had already been with rapidly circulating worldwide for a dozen years.  The earliest surviving photograph of San Francisco dates from 1850 and for Portland from 1853.  Both are Daguerreotypes.  Portland, of course, was base camp for all the first Seattle settlers in their exploration of Puget Sound.  As already noted the earliest revealing photographs of the central waterfront in Seattle date from 1869 — two images that we will explore soon below.  From these and other early photographs and recollections we can build a convincing description of the native land that David Denny, Lee Terry and John Low first looked across to from Duwamish head in September 1851.


Waterfront sketch, ca.1875.  Denny Hill is far left.  [Click to Enlarge.]

The Railroad tunnel beneath the city was completed in 1905.  During excavation a prehistoric Seattle was uncovered that included an ancient streambed with water-worn pebbles, and cobblestones between Cherry and Marion Streets.  Beside this stream, directly below the Rainier Club at 4th and Marion, the remains of a forest were uncovered.  Distributed above this really underground Seattle is the blue clay, gravel and hardpan of the last Ice Age.  These not so scintillating contributions have been exposed time and again with the cuts made during Seattle’s many regrades of the early 20th Century and later with its skyscraper pits.  It is, of course, the forests on top of the ice age droppings more than the forest discovered beneath them that excite – the green cover nurtured through the millennia following the big thaw.


Port of Seattle centerfold shows aerial of city in 1971 and description of Seattle’s waterfront “options.”  Click to Enlarge.

Now when one repeats the settler’s naive approach to the eastern shore of Elliott Bay – most likely aboard a Washington State Ferry – the somewhat generic modern skyline of Seattle effectively screens the land that Bell and Denny saw.   But in their prepossessions the pioneers could see only wild land in the native land.  And yet, for thousands of years before it was first admired by visiting Europeans like Vancouver and then annexed by courageous and cussed pioneers like Denny and Bell, these green mounds left by the ice age were marked.  They had culture – the hills and the streams that ran from their sides were used.  The native land was managed.  Now, in this “city of hills,” the tallest artifact reaches an elevation nearly twice that of the highest hill.  (But really, we are more a city of ridges.  Three hills – Capitol, First and Beacon – were originally part of one long ridge that extended with only a few minor dips and bumps from Portage Bay to Renton.  Between 1907 and 1912 the Jackson and Dearborn Street regrades severed the ridge.)


Seattle skyline from Pike Pier, 2003.

Seattle Now & Then: Entering the A-Y-P

(Please click to enlarge photos)

THEN: For the four-plus months of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the center of commerce and pedestrian energy on University Way moved two blocks south from University Station on Northeast 42nd Street to here, Northeast 40th Street, at left.
THEN: For the four-plus months of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the center of commerce and pedestrian energy on University Way moved two blocks south from University Station on Northeast 42nd Street to here, Northeast 40th Street, at left.
NOW: The College Inn, on the far left, opened in time for the 1909 A-Y-P and so this year celebrates its own centennial.

To make our historical photo, Frank Harwood took a position on Northeast 40th Street and looked across 14th Avenue (University Way) to the grand entrance of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition (A-Y-P), on the University of Washington campus. The photograph was taken sometime during the world’s fair’s long run from June 1 to Oct. 16, 1909.

On the evening of the first day of the A-Y-P, June 1, a rain squall immersed the fairgrounds, shorted off the lights and sent opening-day crowds stampeding for the trolleys on University Way, knocking over several refreshment stands here on 40th in the rush. The Post-Intelligencer reported that “women fainted, children cried and some passengers paid several fares in an attempt to get on board the cars.”

Since the newspapers and other sources were filled with descriptions of every event, exhibit and feature of the fair, it can be wonderfully replayed in this, its centennial year. And that is what historian-authors Paula Becker and Alan Stein have done, with a lot of help from the staff, in producing The “Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington’s First World’s Fair,” a book packed with photographs and engaging trivia of all sorts: anecdotes, ironies, pithy quotes, sensational and joyful turns, and tragic ones, too. The authors visit the expo day-after-day like “kids at a fair” — bright kids.

This, you may know, is the “launch week” for the city’s centennial celebrations. The book, which is a most impressive expression of our community’s interest in that elaborate spectacular of 100 years ago, is now available in stores.


As indicated a few days past, we intend to plant a few Alaska Yukon and Pacific stories in this site through the coming weeks.  We know of more than thirty direct AYP features, or related stories, that I have written for Pacific Northwest Magazine over that past 27 years and we intend to include them all.  We will also pull a few more AYP strings attached to parts of our collections, including some of Ron Edge’s clippings from local 1909 newspapers.  Through the years I have made copies of photographs in many odd collections and it will be a pleasure reviewing and sharing many of them.

We start with this most recent feature – the one that appears in Pacific on May 24, 2009.  Appropriately, this views looks from outside AYP towards the main gate and so beyond it to what we will be visiting in the weeks ahead.

The story to follow that look-in will be the feature on the AYP’s official “lookers,” the fair’s photographers: the one’s allowed to use professional gear and to market the results with a percentage going to the Expo’s management.  There were, of course, also scores of unofficial photographers for by 1909 cameras were almost commonplace.  Many of these also managed to sell some of their unofficial impressions.

Finally we will repeat the story that first appeared in Pacific on March, 26, 2006 of Dan Kerlee, our representative master collector of AYP stuff and student of what it all meant.  We show Dan standing with an AYP pennant near where Otto Frasch, the unofficial but prolific postcard photographer, stood to take his exhilarating recording of a crowd outside the Expos’ loudest gesture to military history, the Battle of Gettysburg.  You had to pay extra to see it.  We refer you there to Dan’s webpage on the AYP, which he has forthrightly named AYPE.COM.  Again, there will be much more to come through the spring and summer – for as long as the AYP lasts, only a century later.

The A-Y-P's Official Photographers

As the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition’s “official photographer” Frank Nowell and his sizeable crew got their own headquarters at the 1909 world’s fair. Behind the University of Washington’s Guthrie Hall, the site – or at least part of it – is now taken by Guthrie Annex 1, seen below on the right. Built in 1934 by the Washington Emergency Relief Association, the frame annex is now home of the Psychology Department’s clinic.


[What follows appeared first in Pacific Magazine on February 12, 2006.]

Sometime after the 30-year-old Frank Nowell married Elizabeth Davis in 1894 the couple moved to California where Frank became an agent for his father Thomas Nowell’s Alaskan mining interests.  More fatefully Frank then took a hobbyist’s interest in photography.   When he joined his father in 1900, Elizabeth soon followed, bringing Frank’s camera with her.  In the next few years Nowell created a photographic record of Alaska that he is still famous for.

In the Northwest Nowell’s admirable record gets a second boost when after being named the “Official Photographer” of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition he began his meticulous work of recording first the AYP’s construction and then in 1909 the six month world’s fair itself as it was sumptuously outfitted on a University of Washington campus picturesquely re-shaped for it.   The size of Nowell’s official endeavor can be grasped from the accompanying photograph of his AYP headquarters and the crew of sixteen photographers fronting it with their tripods and by any standard – especially digital — oversized cameras.

About 660 of Nowell’s AYP images “returned” to campus about forty years ago and most of them can now be enjoyed on the University Libraries webpage.   But Nowell and his crew made many thousand of images at AYP and so the nosey mystery recurs: what became of them and the negatives?  With mild complaint, AYP collector and student Dan Kerlee notes, “The complexity of the AYP is stunning, and we get just glimpses of it.”

Increasingly, in the next three years Seattle citizens will be getting many more glimpses, and not just Nowell’s.  Walt Crowley, director of and Leonard Garfield, director of the Museum of History and Industry, as co-chairs of the Mayor’s AYP task force hope by next year to have conceived and scheduled, as Garfield explains it,  “the events and activities that commemorate Seattle’s first grand civic celebration, distinguished by its spirit of innovation and internationalism.”

Besides the library link noted above is already a fine introduction to the AYP.   Dan Kerlee’s now nascent site already delivers a unique visit to the 1909 expo as shared by an enthused collector.  For instance, Kerlee includes a copy of the permit that visitors with cameras were required to purchase and hang on their gear.  Howell’s commercial exclusivity was protected by the rule displayed on the permit that visitor’s were restricted to cameras “not exceeding in size 4×5 inches.”

The A-Y-P's 'Battle of Gettysburg'



AYP collector-interpreter Dan Kerlee holds an AYP flannel pennant on the University of Washington location where 97 years earlier a crowd awaits the unveiling of the James Hill statue in front of the Battle of Gettysburg attraction. On Stevens Way part of the Chemistry Library – once the Communications Building – shows on the far left of the “now” scene.

[What follows appeared first in Pacific Magazine on March 26, 2006.]

As noted a few weeks past in these pages we are entering a time of exploration into a lavish event that happened now 97 years ago – the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition or AYP for short.

In the contemporary photo Dan Kerlee holds a typical memento pennant from the 1909 exposition: “Seattle’s First Worlds Fair.”   These were sold at least by the hundreds along what was then called the Pay Streak.  It was the carnival strip of amusements and concessions that ran along what is now Stevens Way and beyond it to Portage Bay.

Consulting an AYP map that Kerlee has superimposed with a contemporary map of the UW campus he stands beside Stevens Way and within a few feet of where in the historical photograph the man in the “boater” straw hat looks south towards the Pay Streak.   With its own caption the historical photo by Otto Frasch reveals what this impressive crowd awaits — the unveiling of the James Hill monument. (Hill, the Empire Builder behind the Great Northern Railroad, also visited the AYP in the flesh.).

Much more than the draped Hill bust the Frasch photo shows the Battle of Gettysburg, a cyclorama where inside one could watch the “reenactment” of the turning point in the Civil War – for a fee.  As it’s exterior sign promises, “War War War Replete With the Rush, Roar and Rumble of Battle.”

For more AYP insights from Dan Kerlee, readers are advised to visit his AYPE.COM where this Frasch “wonder” and many more photographs and examples of expo ephemera and artifacts can be found pithily described by Dan.   Generally, as he puts it, “The complexity of the AYP is stunning, and we get just glimpses of it.”  And now as we approach the fair’s centennial he and other Expo enthusiasts will be revealing old glimpses and certainly finding many new ones.

Meanwhile the James Hill bust is still on campus, although it has been moved.  The reader is also invited to go look for it.


I have patched together – crudely – four snaps taken at yesterday’s Folklife presentation ceremony for historylink’s pretty big book on the ALASKA YUKON PACIFIC EXPOSITION.  Co-author Alan Stein is front forward in profile and with a hat, and co-author Paula Becker is behind me sitting with her parents, charming Texans who now live in or near Seattle.  On the far right is ‘link Director Marie McCaffrey heading the ceremony – and leading the non-profit encyclopedia of Washington State History, which produced the book and much else.  And on the far far left in profile is Lutheran Pastor Dennis Andersen who in a former life and when we were both studying the U.W. Archives in the mid-70s was the care giver for the historical photos at the U.W. Library – Northwest Collection, we called it then.  Now he dresses often all in black – except for the collar – and so is in need of some special light like that streaming over and above his shoulders.   It was a happy event, it seemed at least, all around, and the book is in – nearly.  Only the first 150 copies arrived and the rest are due by steamers in early June.  They did a very good job at it too.

[Click and then Click again to enlarge.]



The AYP is upon us – its Centennial.  “As time allows” Jean and I will use moments early in its next 100 years to fill its very own “button” on this site with images and stories collected and written over the past 30 years – many of them from Pacific Northwest Magazine, but not all.   Perhaps Berangere may also contributed something  – architecturally or ceremonially similar – from Paris, the “City of Fairs.”  Here we begin with the Expo’s charming litho-birdseye, which because it was painted and published while the AYP was still under construction is not always faithful to what was actually fabricated (although it usually is) for what is rightfully called “Seattle’s First Worlds Fair.”    Much more to come.  Note the artist’s creative rendering of Capitol Hill below the expo’s popular airship, and the Latona Bridge, far right, that carried most visitors from the city to the expo.  And that is the surviving Denny Hall bottom right.  Except for a very few other structures everything else in this “white city” was temporary – like an oversized model train set made from enchanted wood and plaster.

[As nearly always CLICK to ENLARGE]


[much thanks, again, to RON EDGE, for sharing the AYP BIRDSEYE]

Mt. Rainier May 15, 2009


(Remember to practically always CLICK to enlarge – and then click again.)

An easy pleasure it is again to devotionally brag about  “The Mountain That Was God.”   The biggest volcano in the Cascade Mountains was sometimes wrapped in theology, a divine sublimation to escape the merely mundane controversy over what to call it.  The naming battle was waged for many years between the Seattle forces who favored retaining Capt. Vancouver’s name for the mountain, Mt. Rainier (Rainier was an admiral in the English Navy and fought briefly against the colonoists during the Revolutionary War), and the Tacoma forces whose name for it was considered by some to be the name or more like the name which the local natives used for it, which is Mt. Tacoma or Mt. Tahoma or something in that range.   Readers of this page from a few months past may recall that this was the point of view (from Wallingford’s northwest corner of First Ave. NE  and NE. 45th Street) we took of the mountain every day for a month last summer.  The camera that took this view of it, however, has a bit more pixel zip – 10mg worth – and a strong optical zoom as well.  Consequently, here the Holy Names Academy dome on Capitol Hill is almost crisp.  The cross atop it breaks the horizon between the big mountain (Rainier/Tacoma on the right) and the little one (Little Tahoma on the left).    The picture was taken in the early evening today, 5/15/2009, so the sun was from the northwest and set the north face glowing with pink smudges that may remind some of the early 20th Century landscapes of Eustace Paul Ziegler (1881 – 1969), an artist who was once very popular hereabouts and in Alaska.  [By a crow’s and Google Earth’s yardsticks it is 62 miles from the Wallingford corner described above to the summit of the mountain.]

Seattle Now & Then: The Fremont Bridge [archival]

[A version of this feature first appeared in Pacific Northwest Magazine for August 13, 2006.  I suggested two titles: “First Day Open” and/or  “Be Prepared to Wait” for this story on the original opening of the Fremont Bascule Bridge.  The latter title referred to the upcoming – in 2006 – scheduled repairs on the bridge .  The article ends with a web-link to a Seattle.Gov site dedicated to the repair.  We have left it in as an artifact from that summer.  When it appeared in The Times, the title chosen was “Drawing A Crowd,” which used a clever pun on “draw bridge” and a reference to some of the crowded events connected with the first year of the bridge – like its dedication – and the thousands of times it has opened to yaughts while sometimes hundreds of cars wait, and finally to the frequent delays that were part of the many months of bridge repairs.  This time the mysterious Times’ Title Writer’s creation was better than either of mine.]

(as always, click to enlarge)

THEN: The Fremont Draw Bridge – or bascule bridge – opened 92 years ago, and this “then” scene is from its first day, June 15, 1917. (Historic photo courtesy Municipal Archive)
NOW: The cozy traffic in the “now” is exceptional. Although with about 35 openings each day the Fremont Bridge is one of the busiest bascules in the world it was also under repair when the “now” was taken in 2006 - the lanes reduced from four to two. Both views look north toward Fremont.

Judging from the lean shadows it was about lunchtime when a photographer from the city’s department of streets recorded this look north towards Fremont and thru the new Fremont Bridge.  It may be the by now venerable draw bridge’s first portrait – formal or informal – for the beautiful bascule opened that day, June 15, 1917, at a little after midnight.

At first it was only the “Owl Cars” or last street cars of the night that were permitted to cross the span, and City Engineer A.H.  Dimock stayed up to catch the excitement in the wee morning hours of June 15.  But later at five in the morning of its first day, a little after sunrise, the bridge was opened also to pedestrians and vehicles of all sorts.  No doubt the drivers and riders of all those shown here  – including the Seattle-Everett Interurban car – understood the significance of this day’s passage.  Mayor Hi Gill also showed up in the afternoon for a little ceremony.

The truth is that the bridge inaugural – like practically anything else that did not have something to do with the First World War – got less attention than it would have had there been no war fever.   Woodrow Wilson – formerly the president who “kept us out of war” – spent much of the first half of 1917 promoting entering it.  At last on May 6th Wilson declared war against the “Huns” and suddenly Americans of German decent were either suspicious or downright suspect.  In the days to either side of the bridge’s opening the Red Cross drive to raise 300 thousand dollars in Seattle was given several front pages in the local dailies while the Fremont Bridge got only a few inches of copy.  [We follow this story with a Post-Intelligencer clip that features side-by-side both the illustrated Red Cross drive and the bridge opening – barren of our picture or any other.]


At a construction price of about $400,000 the bridge cost only a hundred thousand more than the Red Cross kitty, which was promoted as needed for “ministering” to the potential frontline needs of Seattle recruits.

(If I have followed the inflation charts correctly the bridge’s cost would be about $5 million today.  Curiously that is only about one-eighth of the projected $41.9 million that it will be expended to complete the current bridge repair.  Go ye and figure.)

Readers interested in the bridge repair may learn more about it and the Fremont Bridge on-line here.

Seattle Now & Then: The Musical Baptists of Fremont

(click to enlarge)

THEN: If I have counted correctly this ca. 1930 Fremont Baptist Orchestra is appointed with three cellos, eleven violins and violas, two saxophones, two clarinets, one coronet, one oboe, one flute and two members who seem to be hiding their instruments. (courtesy Fremont Baptist Church)
THEN: If I have counted correctly this ca. 1930 Fremont Baptist Orchestra is appointed with three cellos, eleven violins and violas, two saxophones, two clarinets, one coronet, one oboe, one flute and two members who seem to be hiding their instruments. (courtesy Fremont Baptist Church)
Members of the congregation mingle with Palm Sunday’s musicians at the front of the church on April 5, last.  Judy Gay, the church’s pastor, stands in her pulpit robe in the front line, left of center.
NOW: Members of the congregation mingle with Palm Sunday’s musicians at the front of the church on April 5, last. Judy Gay, the church’s pastor, stands in her pulpit robe in the front line, left of center.

Many Seattle churches got started in the 1890s in what were then Seattle’s suburbs with help from their “mother churches.”  For Fremont Baptist that was Seattle First Baptist. These Baptists of Fremont also got help from a railroad car.

The Evangel, a Baptist “Chapel Car,” arrived in the late winter of 1892 and was switched onto a spur near the Bryant Lumber Mill, Fremont’s big employer then. With 26 northend Baptists meeting on board, the church was organized on March 20.

The congregation’s first frame sanctuary overlooked Fremont from 36th Street, and its replacement, the brick church did too. It was built in 1924 – in eight months – and was distinguished by two big signs.  First, in large block letters “Fremont Baptist” was painted on its exposed south façade facing Seattle, and in 1950 the roof began to glow with what the church history describes as a “large, dignified neon sign.”

Fremont Baptist was also distinguished by its music.  Still neither the date nor most of the members of the church orchestra shown here are identified.  An exception is the postman-cellist Jesse Willits, posing far right and three seats to his right (your left) his violinist wife Rowena, in white.  In the “now” photo far right, Jesse and Rowena’s granddaughter Mary Allen holds in the place of her forebear’s cello a photo blow-up of the historical scene.

Next Sunday, May 17, from 2 to 5 p.m. Fremont Baptist and the Fremont Historical Society are co-sponsoring an Open House of the church at 717 N. 36th St. Tours and an exhibit of church and neighborhood photographs will be musically accompanied by the church’s Estey pipe organ, which started life as a theater organ in Bremerton.

Mary Allen, a 3rd generation Fremont Baptist, points out her grandmother Rowena Willits.
Dedicated on March 24, 1901 the wooden sanctuary was 44x66 feet and built at a cost of $3,200. Especially important for a Baptist congregation it had a baptistery, but Fremont Baptist had no basement. That was added later.
Between 1919 and 1924 more contiguous lots were bought on the site and on April 7, 1924 ground was broken for the new sanctuary, which was dedicated only a few months later on December 7. This picture is most likely a record of the ground breaking for the congregation’s new home, which was started first beside its old home.