(click to enlarge photos)
As told by the long shadows and what is printed on the cable tracks climbing First Hill on Yesler Way, this look up Ninth Avenue was recorded late Thursday afternoon Jan. 5, 1940. Seven months and four days later the cable cars would stop running on Yesler Way for good — or bad.
The nearly decade-old monolith (from this angle) of Harborview Hospital looks over charming frame homes and apartments on Ninth. Although certainly not “tenements,” these were among the 150-plus structures destroyed to make room for Yesler Terrace — the Seattle Housing Authority’s first big project to provide low-income, unsegregated housing.
In the Polk City Directory, Japanese names are listed in association with half the occupied residences in these two blocks. Stephen Lundgren, First Hill’s historian and longtime employee of several hospitals on “Pill Hill” (another name for this part of First Hill), tells us that the shoe man advertising his “quick” service seen here across the street at 830 Yesler was Toyosaburo Ito.
Lundgren explains that about the time this photograph was recorded, housing authority social worker Irene Burns Miller visited Ito and his neighbors. Her thankless job was to explain to the shoe repairman and the others that they would need to move out; later, the authority would help them find other housing.
Miller could not yet have known what wartime would bring. After Pearl Harbor, here still nearly two years away, these neighbors of Japanese descent would not be “relocated” to Yesler Terrace but rather “interned” to inland camps. Lundgren notes that Miller wrote her reminiscences of these First Hill neighbors in her book “Profanity Hill,” another name for the area. The Seattle Public Library has a copy.
Jean writes: Turning west, I snapped a photo that replicated one of my earliest memories. My dad, a lowly resident at King County Hospital – now Harborview – moved his young family to Yesler Terrace, where we lived for a couple of years.
My first pet, a collie I unaccountably named Zassie, raised our neighbors’ ire because of her nighttime barking. After several months, my parents capitulated and gave Zassie to a farmer in eastern Washington. Soon thereafter, our street was victimized by multiple burglaries. Neighbors pleaded for Zassie’s return, but sadly, she’d been run down on a country road.
Smith Tower loomed large then as now.
Anything to add, Paul? Yes Jean, but only a few photographs with small captions.
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