Seattle Now & Then: Childhaven

(Please click to enlarge)

THEN: “Users” of Seattle Day Nursery’s recreation patio tip their cups together in 1942. (Historical photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Still located at the First Hill corner of Boren and Alder, but in new quarters since 2004, staff members of the renamed Childhaven gathered their own children to pose for Jean Sherrard’s centennial year repeat.
NOW: Still located at the First Hill corner of Boren and Alder, but in new quarters since 2004, staff members of the renamed Childhaven gathered their own children to pose for Jean Sherrard’s centennial year repeat.

In 1942 a Post-Intelligencer photographer visited what were the three centers for a charitable institution then still called Seattle Day Nursery.  The two branches opened in 1925 in West Seattle and in the Cascade Neighborhood, the latter on a lot later razed for the Seattle Freeway.  The main branch was housed in a pleasing brick home built for it in 1921 here at the six star corner of Boren, Broadway and Alder on Capitol Hill.

The children tipping their cups in the historical view are all “clients,” some – maybe most – of them from homes where father is off to war and mother working on the home front, perhaps at Boeing.  In ’42 Seattle Day Nursery was 33 years old and still run by volunteers until 1959 when a professional staff was hired.  All the children in Jean’s “repeat” belong to staff members of Childhaven, the name for the day nursery since 1985.

This is the institution’s Centennial year.  It began in 1909 in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church as a way of helping mostly single mothers who needed to do paying work during the day.  It developed into an activist advocate for the youngest among us who were born to abusive parents who themselves were often repeating a cycle of abuse put on them by their parents.

The philosophical, inventive, persuasive, and dogged Patrick L. Gogerty became the institution’s director in 1973, and used his own abused childhood as a source of both wisdom and compassion in guiding Childhaven into its new mission of “breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect.”  For Childhaven’s next one hundred years Goberty advices “Support it. Nurture it. Love it. Just like you do with kids.”


The Seattle Day Nursery nearing completion in 1921

Brand new in 1921, landscaping for the Seattle Day Nursery is far from finished.  And yet the nursery is in use.  Children appear to be looking back at the photographer across Broadway Avenue from behind the metal fence on the front porch.  Among the signs leaning against the classy brick home on the right is one for Harry Bittman who is described as both architect and engineer for the new building.   This charity began in 1909 and so is celebrating its centennial and still at this First Hill intersection of Boren and Broadway and Alder, but as Childhaven, the nursery’s “modern” name.  

Recess at the Nursery

Another of the Post-Intelligencer’s 1942 records of the nursery, although here of exercising children recessed from its branch in the Cascade neighborhood to show their simian skills for the photographer.  The view looks east from the Cascade playfield.  Cascade school is on the right facing Pontius Avenue and Harrison Street is on the left to the far side of the high steel fence.  The fence and a playfield are still in service, but the nursery and school are both gone from the Cascade neighborhood, which began it steady loss of “residential stock” and families following the Second World War, as it became increasingly a neighborhood of warehouses and light manufacturing.

3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Childhaven”

  1. I remember thinking to myself, how handsome the old building was whenever I passed by. I remember my sense of sadness as I watched it slowly fall into disrepair over the years, and the finality of land use signage, which announced its demise. Childhaven is such a vital part of the community, I’m sure the need for new facilities was great.
    These photos, a testament the endurance of this institution, are very sweet. I’ll bet there are some fascinating stories behind the little faces seen in the 1942 image.

    Editor’s note: David also sends us a link to another remarkable photo from the UW digital Collections, evidently taken on the same day as the Then photo in the column:

  2. Jean
    Isn’t one of them the SAME as the “then photo in the column?” Why when shown two of anything are we inclined to rate them? I’m not indicating that you have, but rather that this is almost the first thought that comes to me. “Which is the better?” I would like to be free of that compulsion, but doubt that it can be easily dropped – only discouraged.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.