In our “Seattle Now and Then” feature in Pacific Northwest, Jean ordinarily takes the “repeat” or “now” photographs for historical views I find and we discuss, but this week was different. Because of a stubbed toe Jean was lying flat with his foot elevated for relief. I took the opportunity of Jean’s suffering toe to go off on my own and see if I still remembered how to “repeat.” The subject is the Arboretum viaduct. In about a month that feature will be printed in The Times and here as well. I have driven under this bridge many times in the last 45 years but never have I stopped to either study it from below or walk over this brick adorned reinforced concrete span of six arches. Listed on the National Register of Historic Place, it is appreciated. W. R. B. Willcock, a Seattle architect who later led the University of Oregon’s department of architecture, designed the viaduct. His task was to build a picturesque span that would complement the park and be used for both pedestrians and sewerage. The former walk on top of the latter. Below the paving runs a pipeline, a connector in the North Trunk Sewer line, which was built early in the 20th Century to move wastewater from the western shore of Lake Washington to Puget Sound where it could be released into, it was still thought, the eternal flushing of the tides.
The viaduct crosses the Lake Washington Boulevard east-west in line with Lynn Street, and on Lynn is how I approached it from the West. After completing my contemplative stroll across the 180-foot long span, I turned around and took the above view looking back at it to the West. Then I did another about face to look east again and into the arboretum for the forest view below where two paths lead away, but I took neither. You may remember that Monday Oct. 6 was an exhilarating example of an Indian Summer day. Depending upon whether you stood in the sun or shade, the temperature swayed between warm and crisp, and out of a cloudless sky sunlight scattered through the first leaves of fall.
I next found the proper place to make a faithful repeat of the historical view of the viaduct I carried with me and, as noted above, both the “then and now” will appear here in about one month. While standing beside the boulevard I photographed this charming detail of the span’s lighting standard and the moss that is a rustic cosmetic for its decorative brickwork. Such make-up takes time and is hard to convincingly copy or fabricate in a factory. By now enjoying my little camera I continued snapping through the open driver’s window at mostly familiar subjects as I drove home from the arboretum to Wallingford. I will next print a few of them here with brief comments.
I first visited Seattle from Spokane in the early 1950s to attend my oldest brother Ted’s graduation from the University’s then nearly new Medical School. The health sciences campus was then routinely modern but dull. Here over a hedge on the north approach to the Montlake Bridge I glimpsed a recent addition to the hospital, one that plays “boxes and balls” with its masses.
Most of the University’s “south campus” that is east of 15th Avenue has been in the caring hands of the health sciences so long that it is difficult to remember what was or might have been there earlier. I know, although I don’t remember it, that before WW2 much of it, including the original hospital location, was a golf course where the school’s faculty could escape students, except those with clubs. But west of 15th, along the north shore of Portage Bay and extending from there north into the commercial heart of “Univercity” – once a proposed name for the University District – was a neighborhood of small homes and maritime enterprises of many sorts. The latter, of course, kept close to the bay. Some readers may remember how the movement to save this community from University expansion began in the late 1960s but was soon overwhelmed by a University District version of “manifest destiny.” The growing university overwhelmed all protests for it had no growth alternatives so attractive as this “Lower Ave” neighborhood, and the U.W. was our gorilla. The buildings snapped above are examples of the sometimes tasteful and oversize constructions that now dapple the blocks that were once nicely stuffed with modest homes, often vine-covered and sometimes rotting.
The gorilla, we know, also moved west across 15th Avenue and into the University District when opportunities allowed. I no longer remember what was once on the northwest corner of 41st Street and 15th Avenue, but the school-related structure that now holds that corner is, like the latest additions to the hospital, another example of recent architectural style. Here the mixing of angles and curves is for me at least both satisfying and comical. The structure appears something like an allusion to a cathedral – in miniature – but also a homage to Katzenjamer Kastle where masses of different shapes and materials are hinged together.
My next going home snap was a block north at 42nd and 15th – again the northwest corner. For nearly 35 years – up until this past spring – this point of view looked across a parking lot to the Café Allegro in the alley north of 42nd. The Allegro considers itself the oldest surviving espresso bar in Seattle. Sitting inside or on the benches that line the alley or even on the traffic dividers of the parking lot has been the habit of many regulars – myself included in the 80s. (Here I get out of the car to print a snapshot at the Allegro counter from 1987 of barista Mary Anne Schroeder on the right, and I. H. F. Hername on the left. Well Hername really has her name, but I Have Forgotten it.)
For 34 years of espresso ingestion when one lifted their eyes above the asphalt lot, the view across 15th to the tall trees on campus was a calming antidote for caffeine and the stresses of study and/or the discomforts of carping roommates. About 1969 (The actual date is in old notes somewhere.) the parking lot, which was built mostly for overflow University Book Store use, took the place of the stately white frame Wesley House, the big student center for the adjoining Methodist Church. The church tower is seen two photographs above on the right. Then followed the parking and the Allegro’s 35 years of anxiety about loosing to some other big thing the mostly clear view to the green campus. And now they have it. The 6-story George F. Russell Jr. Hall is another Wesley Foundation production, so that in some part the renters of the new halls will be help the church’s student ministry. Seen here and “now leasing” the new hall includes near the top of its promotions some unintended ironies. “You’ll love the views and abundant light from the large office windows . . . You can see downtown Seattle, Lake Union, Portage Bay, University Campus, and the U. District.” Nathaniel Jackson, an old friend and Café Allegro’s owner, has learned to put the best construction on this construction. “The Turner Company made a huge effort and I respect them for reaching out to us and doing everything that they could to make the pill go down with a little sugar. I even got a hard hat out of it with ‘honorary superintendent’ written on it. Allow me to wax eloquent through my tears of joy. This is a new beginning for Cafe Allegro. And think of it. (And her Nathanial cannot help laughing.) They have cut down the trees!” Well not all the trees but noticeably three or four on what was known for a while as “Hippy Hill,” the just on campus safe retreat for both town and gown to avoid the local constabulary and indulge in their own tears of joy and calming antidotes. Nathanial adds, “They did a fine job on the alley. Because of the fight we made, they made an effort to improve it.” The two imperfectly merged snapshots below of the Allegro interior shows through the plate glass some of the alley work when it was still a work in progress earlier this year.
Less then two blocks north of corner mates Café Allegro and George Russell Jr. is University Presbyterian. On the east side of 15th I photographed it through the windshield while on the move. This century-old congregation is easily the biggest congregation in the University District, and more. It is one of the largest on the West Coast. With several ministers, scores of staff, a big organ, a professional choir, and a power list of political parishioners, University Presbyterian is always being tested by the biblical epigram, “He that is last shall be first.”
Only three blocks west of the Presbyterians and yet polar to it is a kind of tentative “last” – the latest District church to publicly wonder how to keep going, here in its now 70 year old sanctuary on the southeast corner of 47th Street and 12th Avenue N.E. Again I have snapped it from the driver’s window. Some will remember this congregation from the 1980s when it was the second church in the U.S.A. to declare “sanctuary” for Central Americans in flight from the American supplied violence there. Since then it has also become a “sanctuary” for gays who still cherish the church. Here’s a quote from the church’s description of itself. “Sanctuary has echoed in many commitments here: welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people; support for conscientious objectors; a kitchen for hungry folks; a haven for women in transition from shelters to permanent housing; and safe and affordable childcare for children from a diversity of families and ethnicities. It all sounds like ‘sanctuary’ after awhile. Sanctuary is, in that sense, a place – this whole place – filled with a commitment to welcome and witness. Don’t be surprised if you are confused by the word when it is used here. It reverberates all over the place.”
Midway between the triumphant Presbyterians and the humble Baptists is University Seafood and Poultry at 1317 NE 47th Street. This wonderfully gleaming specialty retailer is like an import from a Paris sidewalk except that University Seafood may have fresher salmon than any Parisian fishmonger. Perhaps. The truth is the only thing I know about fish sales is Ivar’s antics of long ago. University Seafood is a survivor and must have a long list of customers that cherish the place. It has been around the corner from The Ave as long as I can remember.
Two blocks west on 47th from the Baptists, a left turn on Roosevelt Way and a long half block south, on the right is the entrance to Trader Joe’s parking lot. It is a wonder of the collective driving skills of its mostly liberal clientele. It may be that college graduates also drive better. Here they need to. The slots for cars in this lot are absurdly tight, the corners sharp, and the place is almost always packed. Although the deepest parts of this covered garage are dark indeed, muggers are not a threat for they prefer the large open parking lots surrounding suburban malls. Also if someone yells “Help!” in this lot it is likely that a dozen heroes will appear in an instant. At Northgate they may run for the mall. The above photo was snapped at the entrance. It is a both a fine example of how creeping ivy and a few low bushes can soften a concrete wall and a contrast to the hard responsibilities of parking at Trader Joe’s that will soon follow.
Back home in time to walk about the neighborhood I snapped first this natural demonstration of the “solitary effect,” a principle of aesthetics that I remember from the 1940 Magnus opus “The Arts and the Art of Criticism” by Theodore Meyer Greene. Greene might have written his chapter on the “solitary effect” about that red flower. His big book had staying power. It was still read in the late 50s when I was in college and I have my copy yet. But what would Greene make of the below, an example of what I refer to as my UFOs, or unidentified flattened objects. This UFO was photographed again on Monday last, off the curb and lying in the street at the southwest corner of Sunnyside Avenue and 42nd Street. Fallen needles decorate I don’t know what, except that the traffic has flattened it. And yet it still has “depth.” I checked in passing. It was still there today. For identification of the location only, on the lawn behind this UFO is the red maple at the bottom of this post.