Seattle Now & Then: East on Pine

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Only an extended arm of one pedestrian shows at the bottom-left corner of the historical scene. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
NOW: A stream of happy weekend consumers nearly fills the north crosswalk at 4th and Pine in Jean Sherrard’s “now.”

This week’s “now and then” looks across 4th Avenue, east on Pine Street, ca. 1918.  A glimpse of the new Frederick and Nelson’s terra-cotta façade gleams at the northeast corner of Pine and 5th Avenue (left of the power pole).  I speculate with oft-humbled confidence that here Frederick and Nelson is still being furnished.  The neighborhood’s grand new retailer opened on Sept 3rd, 1918.  In 1950 four new floors were added to the then 60 year old department store’s first five.

With 4% promised from the sign on its roof, upper-left, the directly named Bank for Savings in Seattle is on the left.  Across Pine the north façade of the Hotel Georgian leaves no clue here that it is a flatiron building built in 1906 at the Hotel Plaza to fill the pie-shaped block created when Westlake was cut through from 4th and Pike to Denny Way.

David Jeffers, our frequent silent film era authority, instructs us on the Wilkes sign, right-of-center.  “This 3-floor structure at the southeast corner of Pine and Westlake opened in 1909 as a Vaudeville house named the Alhambra Theatre, and then jumped the cinema bandwagon in 1911.  The Floorwalker, starring Charlie Chaplin opened on Thursday, May 18 1916 for a three day run . . . The Alhambra included the annoying slogan in all its ads, ‘When it’s a good Chaplin comedy we buy it.’  Unfortunately, it is too late to inquire about the bad ones. In 1917 the theatre was renamed for Seattle’s well-known dramatic company, the Wilkes. It featured live theatre, stock and movies.”

Finally, Fred Cruger, our equally frequent motorcar authority, writes about the cars speeding west on Pine, “Well, I’d bet the one in the background is a Ford, the one closest I believe to be a REO (I was torn between REO and Overland), and the one on the right is a real mystery.  Maybe it’s a trick of the lighting that makes the radiator shell look unusually-shaped, but I don’t recognize it.  If I absolutely had to take a guess, I’d say ‘Metz’.”  Here’s a chance for some Pacific reader to surprise Fred.


Anything to add, Paul?

A few pictures and one story about dragons.  Most of the relevant stories written heretofore are napping on old floppy disks or waiting for a volunteer to revive them with a character recognition program.  Most of the pictures touch on Pine Street.  But touch only.  The stories must come later with other opportunities.  After they are awakened and/or are rescued. [Click to Enlarge – with the single exception of the pix that follows.  Click it and it will shrink.]

Looking south on Westlake from Pine Street. Note the Chief Seattle drinking fountain (for man and beast) out in the street with little to set it apart or protect it. It was one of three of the same.
Looking east on Pine from the top of the old Standard Furniture Building, which survives as the Rack, or Sack, or Knack. All apply. Fourth Avenue is the first north-south or left-right avenue seen in this view. Courtesy of Jim Westall. (This one we used earlier.)
The entrance to the nearly new monorail. The photographer Frank Shaw looks north with his back nearly at Pike Street. The old flatiron Bartell Drugs is on the left. Date: April 29, 1962.
The view looks east from the Bon's parking highrise at 3rd and Pine. Frank Shaw recorded this on March 17, 1962.
Like the daylighted scene directly above this night view is taken from 3rd and Pine looking east on the latter, and this time also on March 17, 1962. Frank Shaw is, of course, the photographer.
Frank Shaw looks down on the kitschy roof of the Monorail. It was snapped on June 6, 1965.
Shaw's mall on Dec. 13, 1966 looking south on Westlake from near Pine.
An early anti-Vietnam War protest at Westlake Mall recorded by Frank Shaw on April 16, 1966.
A Seafair information booth on the mall. Shaw looks north over Pine between 4th and 5th Avenues. The date:June 28, 1966. Shaw was consistently good about noting the date and more.
Not a Frank Shaw photograph - an unidentified one. The scene looks north from Pine on 4th on May 30, 1953. It shows the once famous Ben Paris sporting goods store.

DRAGON ON FIFTH AVENUE (First appeared Jan 9, 1983 in Pacific.)

In the Western World slaying a dragon is a crowning achievement for any hero, and champions have been rescuing damsels from the fiery embrace of these beasts and also carrying away treasures from their fierce protection for a very long time.

But in the East, the dragon is a different beast, a persistent sign of vital power, fertility and well being.  And a vegetarian. In our historical photo of the Chinese dragon dance, we see the lead bearer carrying a staff tipped with a symbolic fruit.  The dragon wants it, and will dance through many city blocks to get it.  Here it is on Fifth Avenue, with its tail still crossing Pine Street.  This is a long way from the International District where the great dragon is released on Chinese New Year to dance amid fireworks and the persistent beat of drums and cymbals through the streets south of Jackson.  It still is. (I think.  This first appeared in Pacific’s Jan 9, 1983 edition.)

The event pictured here is part of another celebration: the city’s 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition.  This may be China Day.   There is no crowd, and the question occurs, what is this herbivore doing on Fifth Avenue?  In 1909, Second Avenue and not Fifth was Seattle’s parade street.  Second was was not planked but bricked, and “canyoned” by skyscrapers like the still-standing Alaska Building, the by now razed Savoy Hotel and the New Washington Hotel (today’s Josephinum.)

We will ask what the man in the Caucasian costume at right is thinking.  Could he be confusing this happy procession of the Asian monster with a fire-breathing history of its European cousin?  Or could he be carrying beneath that derby another kind of demon – that old stereotype of the Chinese “coolie boy?”

The crude image of the opium-eating heathen, who worked more for less and then gambled it away, was the stock response to these Asian immigrants.  By 1909, it had resulted in more than half a century of terrible treatment.  First these “celestials” were used as cheap labor to mine the gold and coal, build the railroads and do domestic service.  Then when the work was scarce they were peculiarly taxed and prevented from owning property, gaining citizenship and sending for relatives and wives.  Often they were shipped or railroaded out of town – both Seattle and Tacoma in the mid-1880s – on the very rails they had helped lay.

Here, on Fifth Avenue, some of them are back.  Both their costumes and cutback hairlines are from the Ching Dynasty, which in 1909 was in its 265th year.   It would have two years to go.  In 1911 demonstrators in the International District would replace the dynasty’s dragon flags with the new republic’s single white star floating on a field of blue and red.  This was a design inspired by the Stars and Strips.

The contemporary scene is changed in every detail but one. The Westlake Public Market behind the dragon’s head has been replaced by Frederick & Nelsons.  (In 1983, yes, but not now in 2010. No no now it is Nordstrom.)  Across Pine the Olympic Stables and behind it the Methodist Church have both and long ago also left this corner on 5th Avenue to Jay Jacobs.  (But now Jay Jacobs has left it too for Gap.)  The survivor: the four-story brick building a half-block south on 5th that is signed the Hotel Shirley in the historical view is now a southern extension of the Banana Republic – I believe.

The dragon still dances every Chinese New Year, but not on this part of Fifth Avenue.


This dragon was captured by Frank Shaw in the International District, or Chinatown, depending.  The slides date from April 19, 1966.

At the start.
Temporarily heading east on King Street.
Shaw titles this "A Dragon Drop-out."
Wandering about Chinatown aka China Town.
The dragon used on April, 19, 1969 is identified by Frank Shaw as coming from the Thomas Burke Museum on the U.W.Campus.

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: East on Pine”

  1. I love all of today’s pictures!

    Regarding the Dragon picture on 5th Ave and its 1983 follow up, I’m inclined to think the small building next to (north of) Hotel Shirley also survived to 1983 – and on to today. The building, if it is the same, has been drastically altered, but the scale sure seems to be the same.

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