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This aerial of the First Hill neighborhood around a nearly new Harborview Hospital is included here because it also shows the Seattle Day Nursery at the northeast corner of Broadway and Boren and Alder. This Sunday’s “now-and-then” features Childhaven and is printed here directly below this short description of the aerial photograph. The nursery appears far into the upper-left corner. I confess that so far I do not know the year the aerial was taken. I am, however, confident that there is enough “information” in it to determine the year. Hopefully a reader will figure it out before I do. I will note a few of things only.
Harborview was dedicated in February 1931; one month after the King County Courthouse was razed with the help of 200 sticks of dynamite. The courthouse held the brink of First Hill facing Seventh Avenue between Terrace and Alder Streets. That is the cleared and seemingly groomed block just right of center. Now covered with a helicopter pad, one of Harborview’s lidded parking lots hides in much of that block. (Perhaps this aerial is from as early as the late spring of 1931. The Hospital and the ground certainly seem new – hardly disturbed. The sun is far to the north, judging from those shadows.)
Trinity Episcopal Church shows at the bottom left corner – at the northwest corner of James Street and Eighth Avenue. On the far right is the fanciful architecture of Seattle City Light’s first substation, located near what would have been the northwest corner of Yesler Way and Seventh Avenue, had Seventh been graded through that steep portion of First Hill. City Light’s competitor, Puget Power, appears bottom center with the big dark roof and “forest” of power poles. The Seattle Freeway runs over it now.
The steepest part of the hill appears as a white scar between Trinity Church and Harborview. This was a cliff. The aerial’s upper-right corner includes a short stretch of Jackson Street around Ninth Avenue. Between 1907 and 1909 this section and much else endured the Jackson Street Regrade, which both lowered and raised parts of the neighborhood now variously called Chinatown and the International District.
Of course, this aerial – looking to the southeast – includes many surviving structures that I have not pointed out. But, again, neither have I conclusively dated it. The first 700 units of Yesler Terrace were funded in 1939. A repeat aerial – a “now” – would show their pattern covering much of the right side of this aerial, which is here still variously crowded with Carpenter Gothic classics and a few cheaply built homes that during the Great Depression turned to shacks.