(click to enlarge photos)
The top selection is but one of several photographs recorded by an official municipal photographer on January 27, 1918. (Others are printed below.) The event was the ceremonial journey of two municipal streets cars (the second one is hidden), Seattle Mayor Hi Gill, the City Council, the Police Band and how ever many citizens they could carry for a round-trip run along the city’s new public trolley line that used the then new Ballard Bridge. The trip and the celebrating began here at the original front door to the City-County building.
The Ballard Booster Club tended to the official ceremony in Ballard. There shoulder-to-shoulder a crowd of “over 1000,” The Times estimated, filled Market Street “for speech-making and jollification over the completion of the line.” An elevated platform was built into the street for some shouted lessons in municipal ownership of utilities. (This scene is depicted below.)
The perennial and often populist councilman Oliver Erickson, from the council’s committee on public utilities, gave the longest speech. It began, “We are here to dedicate this car line not to the use of private interests to exploit you, but to dedicate it to the common good.” Mayor Gill also reminded the crowd and reporters, “Now it is up to you to patronize the line.”
The police band performed in Ballard, but first here at the City-County building facing City Hall Park. After arriving around 2:30 and playing its first tune, the band and the chosen dignitaries boarded the two trolley cars followed by the queue until stuffed. When the doors were closed many who wanted to take the joyful ride were disappointed. The cars left city hall at 2:40 and arrived in Ballard at 3:15. The long and then still wooden southern approach to the 15th Avenue bascule bridge was lined with citizens enthusiastically cheering the cars as they rolled by to the bridge’s majestic steel and concrete center where they stopped and the band stepped out to play again.
Jean offers an unobstructed wider view of the same location…
Anything to add, Paul? Jean there are a handful of past “now-thens” that would join this one nicely. But first I must find them, and will as time allows through the week – perhaps not all.
Both the THEN (above) and the NOW (below), respectively from 1918 and 2007, look northeast through Ballard’s irregular intersection of Market Street, Leary Way, and 22nd Ave. N.E. By 1918 the east-west thoroughfare of Market Street was taking the place of the narrower and near-by Ballard Avenue as the neighborhood’s principal commercial strip.
Above are two good reasons to celebrate in the middle of Ballard’s Market Street. First we’ll give a terse review of the older view recorded by a city photographer on the Sunday afternoon of January 27, 1918.
A crowd of mostly suited males fills the street to listen to Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill compliment them on their “emancipation” from a company that had until this day run with poor service a trolley monopoly. Accompanied by the city council and the Police Dept. Band, the Mayor rode the 25 minutes from City Hall to Ballard aboard Seattle’s own new trolley, along its new tracks and over its brand new Ballard bascule bridge.
The low platform erected in the middle of Market St. put the Mayor and his entourage in a populist position only a few feet above the crowd. Marked at its corners by American flags the platform appears very near the center of the scene. Behind the speaker of the moment, who has too much hair to be Gill, is the ornate street façade of the Majestic Theatre. Built in 1914 it has with a few name changes became a new and enlarged multiplex in 2000 and been in operation ever since.
On the far right of both views is the 1904 Carnegie Library, which the city sold in the mid-1960s to new owners who have preserved the landmark’s classical revival style.
The modern moment of Market Street’s surrender to pedestrians is, of course, from this year’s (2007) Seafood Festival, Ballard’s growing summer street fair and piscine party.
MUNICIPAL TROLLEY POSING ON THE BALLARD BRIDGE
As its destination sign indicates, car No. 108 was “special.” At 2:30 on the Sunday afternoon of January 27, 1918 “to the music of the Police Department band tooting in competition with the cheers of 200 people,” it began the fledgling Seattle Municipal Railways’ inaugural run to Ballard. The Seattle Star reported, “Four cent street car service from the heart of Seattle to Ballard! It’s a reality today, folks . . . in up-to-date cars operated by smiling crews – – – and financed by the plain people of Seattle who put up the money and bought the bonds.”
On board, besides the police band and the Star reporter, were Mayor Hi Gill, the city council, and an entourage of bureaucrats including the street department’s photographer. The parade of leading streetcar and many trailing motorcars stopped once on the 25-minute inaugural ride to Ballard, and once again on the return trip to City Hall.
Both were scheduled interruptions for the official photographer to record Seattle’s (and so also Ballard’s) new city-owned streetcar on its then brand-new Ballard Bridge. The historical scene is from the second stop – on the ride back home. Many of what the Star reporter counted as the “dozens of autos and hundreds of men and women which were waiting for the car when it [first] passed over the bridge” are still there to admire it on its return crossing. Car No.108’s motorman Dettler and its conductor Johnston pose at the front window, but neither of them is smiling. Or, it seems, is anyone else.
Moments earlier the serious political purpose of all this was explained to a crowd of over 1,000 at a celebration staged by the Ballard Booster Club on Ballard’s’ Market Street. (Again, the photo shown above.) Mayor Gill exclaimed, “This occasion marks your emancipation from the financial interests that have fought municipal ownership and operation of cars.” The City’s Corporation Council added that it was also “A warning! If utility corporations won’t live up to their obligations, the people will own and operate all utilities.”
Within the year, Seattle did acquire, at an inflated price, the rest of the city’s privately owned and mostly dilapidated trolley lines. Today, of course Metro’s common carriers are still running over Ballard’s bridge as part of a transit system which in 1984 was the first pubic bus system to receive the American Pubic Transit Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award. (This last feature first appeared in The Times in 1984 – an early one.)
MUNICIPAL TRANSFORMER ON ALOHA STREET
(ABOVE: On Aloha Street between Dexter and 8th Avenues, the nearly completed city’s transformer sub-station is readied to supply electricity to the “A Division” – Seattle’s first municipal streetcar line. – Courtesy, Lawton Gowey & the Municipal Archive)
Most likely City Architect Daniel R. Huntington designed this sub-station at the southwest corner of Lake Union for Seattle’s first municipal railroad. In many features – the concrete, the ornamental tile, the roofline, and the windows — it looks like a small variation on Huntington’s Lake Union Steam Plant at the southeast corner of the lake. The original negative is dated March 17, 1914.
The date suggests that some of the workmen making final touches to this little bastion of public works may be feeling the pressure of their lame duck mayor, George F. Gotterill. In the last week of his mayoralty this champion of public works “insisted,” the Times reported, on taking the first run on the new four-mile line that reached from downtown to Dexter Avenue (the photographer’s back is to Dexter) and beyond to Ballard at Salmon Bay. Although the double tracks had been in place since City Engineer A.H. Dimmock drove the last “golden spike” the preceding October 10, this transformer sub-station was not completed nor were the wires yet in place for Cotterill’s politic ride. “The car” a satiric Seattle Times reporter put it, “may have to be helped along by the hands and shoulders of street railway employees . . .”
Fortunately, for everyone but Cotterill and the Cincinnati company that manufactured the rolling stock, it was reported on the day after this photograph was taken that the new cars couldn’t handle the curves in the new line because their wheels were built four inches too close to the framework.
Two months later the first municipal streetcar responded to the call “Let her Go” made by trolley Superintendent A. Flannigan at 5:35 AM on the Saturday of May 23. Long-time City Councilman Oliver T. Erickson, whom Pioneer PR-man C.T. Conover described as “the apostle of municipal ownership and high priest of the Order of Electric Company Haters,” had just bought the first tickets while his wife and daughters Elsie and Francis tried to “conceal yawns.” Erickson’s earlier attempts to promote funding for a ceremonial inaugural failed. By the enthused report of the Star – then Seattle’s third daily – the first ride was a happy one. “Nobody smiled. Everybody grinned broadly. Everybody talked at once. Nobody knew what anybody else was saying and nobody cared.”
CITIZEN CAR BAR ON 3RD AVENUE WEST
Beyond water, waste and power, the progressive urge to extend citizen franchise to transportation built this temple to trolleys – or car barn — on Third Avenue W., a short ways north of Nickerson Street.
By 1914 (notice the year on the shack far left, whitewashed probably by the graduating class of Seattle Pacific College) local riders were increasingly unhappy with the Seattle Electric Company as its system of street railways slipped in both service and maintenance. On the busiest lines the Jitney alternative featured free lance and unlicensed cabbies running in front of trolleys picking off passengers with the promise of cheaper fares.
Help from the City Council began in 1911 with a successful bond issue for the purchase of the then still independent trolley service into the Rainier Valley. When this plan failed, the city used the approved funds to construct its own track out Dexter Avenue in 1912. The four-mile line turned west at Nickerson and continued to the south end of the old Ballard Bridge. In his book “The Street Railway Era in Seattle” Leslie Blanchard quotes local skeptics as dubbing it “the line that began nowhere, ran nowhere, and ended nowhere.” Probably east and north side Queen Anne residents felt otherwise.
A dozen new arch-roofed double-truck cars that featured two trolley poles distinguished the new line. (Three pose in these portals.) The double system was designed to return the electric charge to the second wire rather than through the tracks to the water and gas mains often buried beneath them. By its electrolytic action the spent charge from single-poled trolleys could increase the corrosion of pipes and so also the coulombs of lawyers.
The need for the city’s own car barn was short-lived. With the 1919 citywide take-over of the Seattle Electric Company rails and rolling stock, the larger barn and service area in nearby Fremont made this plant expendable. For most of its “afterlife” the structure was used and enlarged by the Arcweld Manufacturing Company until 1973 when Seattle Pacific University first purchased and then radically overhauled it for the 1976 dedication of the Miller Science Learning Center.
(Above) Looking east from Third Avenue on Jefferson Street ca. 1905. (Below) In 1911 Seattle Mayor George Dilling succeeded with his plans to build a City Hall Park in the place of the then recently raze “Katzenjammer Kastle,” the old city hall named so because of its resemblance to the strange constructions in the popular comic strip of that name.
When Turner Hall first opened in 1886 it was the second over-sized structure built on what for nearly a century now has been a city green: City Hall Park. The new venue for variety sat at the southwest corner of Jefferson Street and Fourth Avenue with its ornamented façade facing Jefferson. We see it left- of-center in the historical picture above.
When it appeared Turner Hall was one of a handful of sizeable Seattle stages, until the city’s “Great Fire” of 1889 consumed the others. During the rebuilding of the city it’s role as one of the few surviving stages became crucial for the local “entertainment industry” which by 1889 was. In his “A History of Variety-Vaudeville in Seattle”, Eugene Clinton Elliott lists a few of the acts that reached its stage. Dr. Norris’s Educated Dog Show appeared in 1889, and the following year Professor Gentry’s Equine and Canine Paradox kept the mysterious animals coming. Minstrel shows were also regulars, like McCabe and Young’s Colored Operative Minstrels, which in 1890 appeared at the hall in “The Flower Garden”. In 1897 the hall’s manager E.B. Friend tried a combination of vaudeville and legitimate theatre, but as one local critic noted, “Attempting to run a Music Hall without beer was like running a ship without sea.”
Turner Hall was somewhat hidden behind its greater neighbor, the County Court House (1882), which faced Third Avenue at its south east corner with Jefferson. Here, far right, we see only one undistinguished back corner of the government building. After the city purchased it in 1890 for a city hall it was popularly called the “Katzenjammer Kastle” as it increasingly resembled the haphazard architecture illustrated in the then popular pulp comic the “Katzenjammer Kids.” Trying to keep up with the then booming city, incongruous wings and nooks were attached as needed.
Like its civic neighbor, the theatre was razed for the development of City Hall Park. When the city suggested a name change to Oratory Park, the press objected on the grounds that free public speech might then be restricted to soap boxes in the park.
[The above two pictures look through the same block on Jefferson – between 3rd and 4th – that is the subject of the first photographer at the top – the one showing the municipal trolley preparing to make its first run to Ballard over the new Ballard Bridge. The view below puts this same block in the perspective of a photograph taken from an upper story to the northwest. Here the Katzenjammer Kastle is shown is much of its Korny glory. Behind it is Turner Hall. Momentarily straddling Jefferson Street in front of Turner Hall is a barn-size structure moved there from the Yesler Property north of Jefferson. The King County Courthouse looms on the horizon of First Hill. Yesler Way is on the far right.]
2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Bound for Ballard”
I never knew this street (now little more than an alley) had a streetcar line or, that the original main entrance of this building once faced it. A lovely job you guys! I liked the Now and Then bridge photos in particular.
Somewhere we also have “nows” for both the trolley barn and the transformer – somewhere.