Seattle Now & Then: Green Lake Theatre, 1947

(click photos to enlarge)

THEN: Looking north on Woodlawn Avenue Northeast through its intersection with Northeast 71st Street, the scene was photographed in 1947. Many of the structures in this East Green Lake business district survive, although not all. Some, like the closed Green Lake Theater, have been remodeled.
NOW: The tower above the enlarged theater building is incongruous without its Art Deco ornaments and the theater's name. (Jean Sherrard)

I came upon this revealing look into the East Green Lake business district directly after winning a barrel full of umbrellas with the low and only bid of $1.50. I wanted one umbrella, but to get it had to purchase them all at a mid-1980s Wallingford estate auction.

But behind the barrel was a box filled with prints and negatives, including this week’s subject. There were about 400 in all, and all by Lennard P. LaVanway, who had been a Green Lake-based commercial photographer. With very few exceptions, all the contents — weddings, babies, homes, churches, businesses — are images from the general Green Lake neighborhood, and they date from 1946-47.

Here, LaVanway’s centerpiece is the Green Lake Theater in 1947. Both films on the marquee — “The Time, the Place and the Girl” (a musical comedy) and “Falcon’s Adventure” — were released in December of ’46. The theater opened in 1937 with Art Deco features including curves, parapets and a decorated tower.

Lorenz Lukan, the manager and part owner, lived nearby at the Woodland Court Apartments. Lukan’s 1966 obituary in Boxoffice, describes him coming to Seattle in 1891 to become an “early-day film distributor and theater owner . . . He operated the Beacon, Arabian and other suburban theaters in Seattle as Lukan’s Far West Theatres.”

It is a testimony to the exceptional buoyancy of the movie business that such a fine theater could be opened in a Seattle neighborhood during the Great Depression. It is also a testimony to television that it would not last. Stripped of its Art Deco qualities, the not-so-old theater’s long-term tenant is now Pacific Color, which has managed to stay open as a photo-service business despite the digital revolution.


Jean writes: Just across the street from Pacific Color/once Green Lake Theatre, looms the Pit, several years ago slated for development of something-or-other, now a great empty space, a maw; territory behind chain link, beyond the pale. The eye avoids it, an absence, a blank zone. Terra incognita without monsters.

The Green Lake pit

Anything to add, Paul?  Yes Jean a few things, but not as much as I would like.  It is the usual problem: I cannot find the photographs, either in negatives or scans for two subjects that relate to the above.  One of these “missing” – temporarily – is an early 20th century look at the Maust Transit Company’s pie-shaped livery at Winona and 73rd, now a marblecrete apartment or condo.  The original clapboard was Lennard LaVanway’s studio for a few years following the Second World War.  I came upon a few boxs of LaVanways prints and negatives by attending an auction-run estate sale out of his home on 50th Street N. (near the freeway) about 25 years.  I’ll print some examples of his work below.   There are a number of subject that have made it into “now-and-then” over the past 28 years that have to do with Green Lake, and we will insert two of them next.   And here I must thank you for the bonus, above, of the pit.  I hoped for such.   It is mentioned in one of the two stories to follow.


Deciding, perhaps, to stay clear of the mud on Woodlawn Ave. N., the unidentified photographer of this postcard set his or her tripod safely on the sidewalk at the alley.  The subject is therefore peculiarly unrevealing of the clapboard businesses on the left.  (For that we include directly below another view – somewhat later of the same block taken from the street.)  Still the view from the alley looks into the heart of the then booming East Green Lake Business district sometime after 1907 and before 1912.

The scene has its charms.  Note the man waving an American flag while being carted by a friend (or an employee) on a wheel borrow through the street soup.  Perhaps it is the pharmacist L.C. Kidd pushing his brother Dr. A.B. Kidd toward their Green Lake Drug Store – the closest storefront on the far left.  In its 1903 anniversary issue the Green Lake News notes, “Probably no man at Green Lake is better known or more popular than Dr. Kidd.”

The 1907 date was picked because the Green Lake State Bank was built then at the southeast corner of Woodlawn and 72nd Street.  The modest one story structure can be seen over the heads of the couple (father and daughter?) on the sidewalk.  Appropriately the bank was the district’s first brick building and stayed so until the surviving two story brick business “block” was built in 1912 across 72nd Street from the bank on the northeast corner of the intersection.  Here in the “then” scene its more typical pioneer clapboard predecessor is still standing.

The two-story frame building on the right (at the southwest corner) was replaced in 1949 with the stepped structure that appears in the “now’ scene. (When I find it or reshoot it.) The ’49 building was designed to continue the modern lines of the Greenlake Theatre with which it shares the block.  So it had no second floor windows.  The second floor occupant’s may have complained for that cheerless arrangement lasted about one years.  Windows were installed in 1950.

This scene may have been photographed in the late winter of 1911.  “Sure I bet on Hi Gill” is hand written on the border of the original postcard.  The controversial Gill was elected Seattle Mayor in 1910 the same year that Seattle women got the vote.  In a February, 1911 election Gill was recalled as soft on vice.  Most of the 23,000 newly registered women voted against him. But not the owner of this postcard.

Then Caption.  In December 2002 I wrote the following caption: In the about 93 years that separate these views (I hope to find the “now” later and insert it.) of the East Green lake Business District practically all the structures have been replaced.  The brick bank building at the southeast corner of Woodland Ave. and 72nd Street has been drastically remodeled.  The last I looked, which was three hours ago while returning home from dinner with Jean and Karen near Green Lake, the bank corner and everything else on that full block was an impressively huge construction pit.  The plans to build upon it were chilled by the recent economy.  See Jean’s snap of it above.

It took a while to find this scene and the text too, and I have still to uncover the "now" I snapped in December of 2002. I may need to take it again.
I found a pixelated print of it. It will do.
Same scene only from the street and a few years later. Used courtesy of the very courteous John Cooper.
Looking up 72nd from Green Lake Way East. (story follows)

"Now" for the above.   Test now follows.


Thanks to the industry of M. L. Oaks we have a few score photographs of Seattle neighborhoods in the early 20th Century that might otherwise not have been “captured.”  Here with his back to Green Lake, Oaks recorded this view up Northeast 72nd Street and across E. Green Lake Drive North about 1909.

Also close to the photographer – but still like the lake behind him – is the primary stop for the Green Lake Electric Railway that by this time had been making settlement around the lake a great deal easier for twenty years.  Much like the University District, which for a number of its early years was referred to most often as “The University Station”, so this most vibrant of commercial neighborhoods beside the lake was known as “Green Lake Station.”

The number of businesses and services available just in this short block running one block east from NE 72nd Street to its intersection with Woodlawn Ave. N.E. is an impressive witness to the commercial vitality of this then booming neighborhood.  Included here on the right or south side of 72nd  – moving right to left – are Green Lake Hardware and Furniture, a dentist, a real estate office, an Ice Cream parlor that stocks candy and cigars as well, the Model Grocery Co. and the Hill Bros who established the first store in the East Green Lake Shopping District in 1901.   At the end of the block – still on this south side – is the Central Market.  Across 72nd on its north side are the neighborhood hotel, post office and a paint and wallpaper merchant

Completing this tour of 72nd, two blocks to the east the belfry of Green Lake Baptist rises above its southeast corner with 5th Avenue NE.  And to this side of the church, worshipers can complete their cleansing if they feel the need with a visit to the North Seattle Bath House.  But then so can the bankers.  Green Lake’s only brick structure at the time, the single story Green Lake State Bank, is set at the southeast corner of 72nn Street and Woodlawn Ave – at the scene’s center.

Now and Then caps together.  Nothing, it seems, survives on East Green Lake’s NE 72nd Street from the early 20th Century to now.   Both views look east from E. Green Lake Drive North. (Historical photo courtesy of John Cooper)

OTHER VIEWS of the EAST GREEN LAKE NEIGHBORHOOD by Lennard LaVanway recorded following the Second World War.


Woodland Hardware across Woodland from the Greenlake Theatre and now part of the Jean's big pit pictures above.

LaVanway's post-war studio at Winona and 73rd. Long ago I wrote a now-then feature about this ornate clapboard when it was new and the home of Maust Transfer. I found the text - but not yet the historical photographs.
Same flatiron, same post-war years, ca. 1949.

We will conclude – for now –  with a few of LaVanway’s subjects found at his estate sale about 25 years ago.   After holding on for a few years as a neighborhood commercial photographer (there are lots of baby shots in the collection) LaVanway landed a job at the University of Washington.

Volunteer Doll Repair - exterior.
Inside at Volunteers
Jim the barber at 73rd and Linden
Shell Station at 78th and Greenwood
Same Shell
Here's Bill McCotter and his bride, who somewhat typical of the time is not named. Weddings were an important part of LaVanway's bread-butter. We included a scene from this wedding in an earlier blog post. Perhaps Jean can mark this so that by touching it you may see the other scene from the McCotter wedding instantly.
McAllister's Bikes where Wiwona meets Aurora.
Demure valentine in the studio
Impetuous Youth also in the studio
Kay Lake in some studio. LaVanway liked this subject and kept several of Ms. Lake's posses.

When we find them we will add more LaVanway subjects in a blogaddendum – and other Green Lake stories too, although probably not together.

11 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Green Lake Theatre, 1947”

  1. Thank you. Enjoyed the photos with my Mom. She was born on 73rd and 11th NE, at home, in 1925. She grew up in the Green Lake area and remebers several of the ‘then’ scenes; in particular the drug store on Woodlawn Ave. I myself, grew up on 75th and Latona and consider the woodlawn district my old stomping grounds. As a kid I frequently played detective with my buddies and the area was our ‘beat’. I so do appreciate access to these photos! Please keep-up the good work!

    1. Wow, i grew up 7316 11th ave ne behind safeway! Small world and thanks for sharing. Did you go to roosevelt high or fairview??

  2. Dear Paul,
    I wonder if you have a photo of a millinery shop at Green Lake? My father said that his two maiden aunts had a shop there. I am not sure of the dates but one aunt lived from 1856 to 1924.
    Karen Schurr
    Green Lake

  3. These are my fathers photos. I sold them at the estate sale in spring 1986 for $14. My Dad moved the studio to 36th st. in the Fremont district next to where the 7-11 is now (the building is still there) The cast iron bench remained in the family until 1986!

    1. I was elated to find this article. My great grandparents had a mercantile on Woodlawn. The photo of the person being pushed in the wheelbarrow may be my grandfather or there is another photo taken of him in a wheelbarrow. The photo I have does not have a horse drawn wagon in the background.
      The photo I have is from a professional photographer.

    2. I’m elated to find this page. The photo of the man being pushed in a wheelbarrow on Woodlawn is similar to the one I have of my great grandfather, waving a flag. The photo I have does not have a wagon in the background. He had a mercantile there in the early 1900’s your father may have taken a couple other photos I have of the store and his one horse delivery wagon, and of the store front.

      Thanks for sharing your information and to the person who posted the history and photos.


  4. Boy, did those photos bring back memories. As a kid growing
    up during the depression, I went to Fairview School (now Fairview Christian School) and spent a lot of time around the Greenlake District. I also attended John Marshall Jr. High School, not far from these pictures. Attended a lot of
    Saturday matinee’s at the Greenlake and Hollywood Theatres.
    Thanks for posting these pictures to reminisce.

  5. Great greenlake pic!!!…there are abt 3 of those streetlights at the burgermaster down at..sandpoint way….theyre great!!!!

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