Seattle Now & Then: 9th and Yesler

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Harborview Hospital takes the horizon in this 1940 recording. That year, a hospital report noted that "the backwash of the depression" had overwhelmed the hospital's outpatient service for "the country's indigents who must return periodically for treatment." Built in 1931 to treat 100 cases a day, in 1939 the hospital "tries bravely to accommodate 700 to 800 visits a day."
THEN: Harborview Hospital takes the horizon in this 1940 recording. That year, a hospital report noted that "the backwash of the depression" had overwhelmed the hospital's outpatient service for "the country's indigents who must return periodically for treatment." Built in 1931 to treat 100 cases a day, in 1939 the hospital "tries bravely to accommodate 700 to 800 visits a day."
NOW: Probably to enliven the street grid, Ninth Avenue was turned west for a new meeting with Yesler Way during the construction of Yesler Terrace in the early 1940s. The still looming Harborview easily led Jean Sherrard to the historical photographer's prospect.
NOW: Probably to enliven the street grid, Ninth Avenue was turned west for a new meeting with Yesler Way during the construction of Yesler Terrace in the early 1940s. The still looming Harborview easily led Jean Sherrard to the historical photographer's prospect.

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.

WEB EXTRAS:

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.

Smith Tower from 9th & Yesler
Smith Tower from 9th & Yesler

Anything to add, Paul?   Yes Jean, but only a few photographs with small captions.

(Please Remember to CLICK Twice to ENLARGE)

An early look across Yesler Terrace when the landscaping was still new and low.
An early look across Yesler Terrace when the landscaping was still new and low.
The cover to a pamphlet promoting the vision of a new hospital on the hill without yet naming it.
The cover to a pamphlet promoting the vision of a new hospital on the hill without yet naming it.
Early birdseye rendering of Yesler Terrace.
Early birdseye rendering of Yesler Terrace.
Ca. 1913-14 look to the King County Court House from a new Smith Tower.  Note Our Lady of Good Help Catholic Church steeple lower left at the southeast corner of 5th and Jefferson.   Also the step climbing Terrace to First Hill are seen right-of-center.
Ca. 1913-14 look to the King County Court House from a new Smith Tower. Note Our Lady of Good Help Catholic Church steeple lower left at the southeast corner of 5th and Jefferson. Also the steps climbing Terrace to First Hill are seen right-of-center.
Harborview from a lower floor in the Smith Tower.  (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
Harborview from a lower floor in the Smith Tower. The church steeple punctures the bottom border. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
Harborview Aerial
Harborview Aerial. Trinity Episcopal Church at 8th and James, bottom-left corner. The graded block of the old and razed courthouse looks raked right-of-center.
Harborview Hospital when nearly new.
Harborview Hospital when nearly new.
A 1950 aerial of Harborview behind the Smith Tower.
A 1950 aerial of Harborview behind the Smith Tower.
Part of the Yesler Terrace neighborhood in 1964 when work on the Seattle Freeway was still underway far left.
Part of the Yesler Terrace neighborhood in 1964 when work on the Seattle Freeway was still underway far left. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)

7 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: 9th and Yesler”

  1. Love your presentation and always look for the latest in the Sunday Times. Question: In the process of moving from Laurelhurst home of 47 years and have turned up some items that need/need a home. Last month I contributed 4 very classy 60’s Pinewood Derby cars to the MOHI, and they were delighted. Last week I found a SHAKEY’S (Pizza Parlor& ye public house)”Sing Along” Favorite book and wondered if it (in your opinion) would qualify for another MOHI keeper. I offered it but they werent sure if it was a rare enough item to consider..if you think it migh qualify I would be pleased to quote you.

  2. Fritz
    Some day the Shakey’s book will be a collectible but it seems that MOHAI considers that some day not this day. I don’t know what principals they follow in collecting/accepting. Part of it must have something to do with how much storage room is available to them.
    Paul

  3. Paul,
    Great images here. Two in particular grab me. The first is the one taken from lower in the Smith. The hospital has a kind of noirish glow. Strikes me as this might have been a print that had some burning and dodging done, or else the light that day was just really spooky. The other is the one of Pioneer Square (second to last image). The old Seattle Hotel is visible here on the site where the Occidental stood and where now that goofy “sunken ship” parking tower festers. You don’t see too many postwar photos that clearly show the Seattle Hotel. Also, the block between Cherry and Columbia on First, which now has superlatively ugly parking towers on both sides of the street, is shown here with some really tasty (and soon to be destroyed) architecture. Several times a month I walk the alley below the thick black stack of the steam plant, skirt the little triangular building (here topped by a bright billboard) at the foot of Yesler, then continue around to the Planet Java diner in the westernmost building on the north side of Washington Street (lower right corner in your photo). Nice to see that walk here unshadowed by the viaduct. When that leviathan comes down, quite an encouraging bit of this scape will look just as it does here. Thanks for this post!

  4. pas mon noir Matt.
    According to its developers your “goof ‘sunken ship'” parking garage was built with sensitive care for the details of its architectural neighbors. They especially pointed out the basket-handle railings on the top floor (roof really) that repeat the window curves in the Pioneer Building across James Street from the Garage. Next time you are limping through Pioneer Place you might stand on Yesler Way directly south of the garage and line up its railing with the windows across James and forever after appreciate the care given.
    Paul

  5. Yeah, I think I read about those railings in one of your books. And don’t think I’m not appreciative; I wake up some nights in a sweat after dreaming that they had put run-of-the-mill 3-inch pipe railings on there instead of the “basket-handles”.

  6. In order to publish the image of Yesler Terrace (the sixth down- ‘Low rent housing’) – can you indicate the source? thank you for the great images. MP Macdonald

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