( click to enlarge photos)
My first impression on viewing Victor Lygdman’s dramatic meeting of a boy and his alien was “we come in peace.” It is the name we gave this subject in “Repeat Photography,” the MOHAI exhibit of many “now and then” features that appeared first here in Pacific over the past nearly 30 years. (The Seattle Times is one of the exhibit’s sponsors.)
Often we hear that it is “icon this and icon that.” There is presently an icon hysteria. We, however, will avoid calling the Space Needle such, although for a devoted Seattle it quickly became our steel and concrete analogy for an Eastern Orthodox Madonna painted on wood. The boy we don’t know, or rather the photographer Lygdman has left no name for him. Perhaps he is still in Seattle, sometimes still facing its Space Needle, and this morning reading its Sunday Times.
Through the so far brief history of this city it has had only, it seems to me, three graven images: the Smith Tower (1914), the Kalakala (1935), “world’s first streamlined ferry,” and since 1962 this friendly usurper that was raised as the centerpiece for the city’s second worlds fair: Century 21.
When viewed from Pioneer Square, the Smith Tower, with its gleaming terra-cotta tile skin, continues to stand out favorably with the taller towers that followed after and behind it. In 1967 the Kalakala was sold into an Alaskan exile of processing crab & canning. Then in 1998 it was heroically rescued, towed and returned to a Seattle that had, however, grown inured to its art deco charms and unforgiving of its dents. It was thumbs down for the ferry, which was towed away – ultimately to Tacoma.
The pampered and polished Space Needle, however, is now being prepared for next year’s golden anniversary.
Here are a handful of Needle-related shots for your amusement, Paul. They were taken when Berangere was in town for the opening of our MOHAI exhibit.
And a few thumbnails looking down from above.
Look closely, Paul, and you’ll find Berangere posing before the Calder which conceals the Needle.
Anything to add, my friend? Yes Jean, and I see! there is BB indeed!
Again, I’ll put up what I can in the time remaining before climbing the stairs. They should all more or less relate to the Seattle Center and/or the Space Needle. We will start with another needle work-in-progress and then go to the Warren Avenue School.
WARREN AVENUE SCHOOL
In the mid-1880s, the patriarchs of North Seattle – David Denny and George Kinnear included – urged settlers aboard a horse-drawn railway to their relatively inexpensive lots north of Denny Way. Their efforts were rewarded as the flood of immigration, which increased steadily after the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, pushed settlement into the land between Denny and Queen Anne hills.
By the turn of the century, this crowd of newcomers had established a neighborhood full of large families. And beginning in 1902 more than 400 of the neighborhood children attended primary school on Block 35 of David and Louisa Denny’s Home Addition.
Warren Avenue School (on Warren Ave.) was built in 1902 and abandoned in 1959. The above view of the school is an early one. The school’s demise came when the site was chosen first for an expanded civic center and soon after for a world’s fair: Century 21. By closing time, the neighborhood around the school had long since stopped swelling with prolific working class families.
The siting of the contemporary photograph was adjusted to make a comparison of the Key Arena’s and the school’s west walls. The school’s fine-tuned position would put the children posing near the school’s front door on the Key Arena’s floor beneath the rim of its north end backboard (if there is still a backboard around since the flight of the Sonics.)
FIRE STATION No. 4
(First appeared in Pacific, 6/12/88)
At different times, two towers have looked down on the neighborhood around Fourth Avenue and Thomas Street. As landmarks go, they hardly can be compared. One tower is the city’s present baton, the Space Needle. The other tower belonged to Fire Station No. 4 with its elegant English-style architecture.
Station No. 4 was built in 1908 and was first occupied on Oct. 15 of that year. Its three grand double doors opened to a steamer, a pump, and a hose wagon, all of them horse-drawn. Engine Company No. 4 had moved over from an old clapboard station nearby at Fourth Ave. and Battery St., which had been razed that year during the Denny Regrade. According to fire service records preserved faithfully by Seattle Fire Dept. historian Galen Thomaier, only 13 years later the company moved back to Fourth and Battery into yet another new station. It is still there.
For four years following this final move in 1921, the still relatively new but deserted structure was idle until the Seattle Fire Department transferred over its alarm center from the SFD’s old headquarters at Third Ave. and Main Street.
For some reason, when this station was picked for the alarm center, its third floor gables were cut away. The tower looked awkwardly stranded beside its flattened station before it, too, was lowered. As pictured here, Fire Station No. 4 is the original stone-and-brick beauty designed by one of Seattle’s more celebrated historical architects. After James Stephen won a 1902 contest for school design, he was employed as the city’s school architect and gave most of his time to designing public schools, more than twenty of them.
In the historical scene, above, a photographer from the Asahel Curtis studio photographs the brand new Seattle Armory in 1939. His shadow, bottom-right, reveals that he was using a large box camera on a tall tripod. In the contemporary view, photographed from one of the food concession rows at the 2003 Bumbershoot Festival, the old Armory/Center House is effectively hidden behind the landscaping of Seattle Center. Both views look north on 3rd Avenue North towards its intersection with Thomas Street. (Historical scene courtesy of the University of Washington Libraries. Contemporary view photographed by Jean Sherrard.)
Armory / Food Circus / Center House
For anyone – well, like me — whose physical impression of the city was first etched in the 1960s (I visited the fair in 1962 but only moved here for good from Spokane in 1966) the big Moderne structure shown here is the Food Circus at Seattle Center. That was the name given to the 146th Field Artillery’s Armory when it was surrendered to Century 21 in ‘62, or as wits at historylink.org put it when it was “drafted into K.P. duty.”
When the Armory was built on the future Seattle Center site in 1939 it had, of course, military functions like a firing range and a garage for tanks and so no prescience for Belgian waffles and cotton candy. But it might have for of all military structures it has been armories that have best melded with the community.
Seattle has had three armories and all of them were ultimately used more by citizens than soldiers. The first was built in 1888 on Union Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. When much of the city including City Hall burned down in 1889 the National Guard Armory served as headquarters for city government. The old brick battlement at Virginia Street and Western Avenue that replaced it (1909 – 1968) was used for dances, car shows, and conventions and during the Great Depression of the 1930s as a distribution center for free food and baths.
This third and last of our three centers for community defense (built before the atom bomb) was used regularly for events sponsored by the pleasure principal. For instance Duke Ellington played here in 1941 for the University of Washington Junior Prom. Some events were more painful, like the Canwell hearings in the post-war 40s.
The name Food Circus was pronounced stale in the early 1970s when the big building got a low budget makeover and renamed Center House. A greater renovation came in the mid-1990s when the Children’s Museum – a primary resident since 1985 – expanded by building its giant toy mountain. In 2000 the Center House Stage became only the fifth national site to be designated as an Imagination Celebration National Site by the Kennedy Center. Now the old armory is busy promoting peace with over 3,000 free public performances each year. (This is 2003, remember.)
Between 1909 and 1968 the National Guard Armory on the west side of Western Avenue filled most of the block between Virginia and Lenora Streets. (Courtesy: Chris Jacobsen) The historical photo, above, was taken from the top of the retaining wall shown below behind the railroad engine. This north portal was built during the 1903 construction of the Great Northern railroad tunnel beneath the city.
ARMORY ON WESTERN
From this prospect (top) on the bluff below its battlements the military lines and slotted towers of the old National Guard Armory on the slope of Denny Hill stood out like the bastion it was not. The architectural style was strictly high military kitsch. Through its 59 years the honeycomb of about 150 rooms within its 3-foot thick brick (about one million of them) walls saw more auto shows, conventions, athletics (in its own pool), and Community services than it did military drills and standing guard in defense of Seattle.
Built just north of the Pike Place Market on Western Avenue the armory was dedicated on April 1, 1909 or two years after the market opened. A month later during an indoor Seattle Athletic Club meet an overcrowded gallery collapsed maiming many and killing a few. During the Great Depression the armory was outfitted with showers and free food services, and during the ensuing Second World War it was used by both the Greater Seattle Defense Chest as a hospitality center for servicemen and by the Seattle General Depot as a warehouse. Earlier, in 1939, most of the military uses were transferred to the then new steam lined armory that survives as the Seattle Center Centerhouse. (The one treated above.)
Following WW2 the state’s unemployment compensation offices were housed within these red walls. In April 1947 a fire that began in the basement furnace room swept through the state offices postponing the payment of nearly 2000 checks to the unemployed and veterans. With only two exits the building had already in 1927 been tagged as a firetrap. Following the 47 fire the Armory was repaired. Following the larger fire of 1962 it was merely shored up. In the January 7, 1962 blaze much of the west wall fell on the northbound lanes of the Alaskan Way Viaduct knocking holes in its deck and cracking its supports.
While asking to purchase the armory from the National Guard the Seattle City Council described its 1959 vision of the armory site that featured some combination of lookout park and garage but without the brick battlements. Nine years later when demolition expert John McFarland began tearing it down local preservationists including architects Victor Steinbreuck, Fred Bassetti and Laurie Olin put a temporary stop to it. The proposals that quickly followed featured either restoring what was left of the Armory for small shops or saving its “symbolic parts” including a surviving south wall turret for a lookout tower connected with the proposed park. Revealing a preservationist stripe of his own the contractor McFarland offered to Save the armory’s grand arched entrance at his own expense. In this instance, however, the City Council turned a cold cheek to preservation and instructed the wrecker to resume with his wrecking.
In 1968, the year Stanley Kubrick’s mysterious black monolith appeared and reappeared in his epic film “2001: Space Odyssey” Seattle built its own soaring black box, the Seafirst Tower, at 3rd and Madison.” While it has held its block the city’s first modern scraper is now less evident. (Historical photo courtesy of Lawton Gowey.)
“The Black Box”
From Elliott Bay and looking up Madison Street – as we do here – it is still possible to see the “Big Black Box” that on its own in 1968 lifted the first shaft for a new Seattle super-skyline. From most other prospects the thicket of often-taller skyscrapers that have given Seattle its own version of the modern and generally typical cityscape has long since obscured what was originally the headquarters for Seattle First National Bank, R.I.P.
Lawton Gowey photographed the older view of it from a ferry on March 1, 1970. The long-time accountant for the Seattle Water Department was good about recording the dates for the many thousands of pictures he took of his hometown and lifetime study.
A sense of the untoward size of the “Big Ugly” – another unkind name for it – can be easily had by comparing it to the Seattle Tower, the gracefully stepped dark scraper on the left. In the “now” it is more than hidden behind the 770 foot Washington Mutual Tower (1988). After its lift to 318 feet above 3rd and University in 1928 this Art Deco landmark was the second highest structure in Seattle – following the 1914 Smith Tower. The 1961 lifting of the “Splendid” 600-plus foot tall Space Needle moved both down a notch, and inspired the now old joke that we happily repeat. Soon after the SeaFirst tower reached its routine shape in 1968 it was described to visitors as “the box the Space Needle came in.” And at 630 feet it was both big and square enough.
Many of Seattle’s nostalgic old timers (50 years old or older) consider the SeaFirst Tower as the beginning of the end for their cherished “old Seattle.” For the more resentful among them the Central Business District is now congested with oversized boxes that have obscured the articulated charms of smaller and older landmarks like the Smith and Seattle Towers. Some find solace in the waterfront where a few of the railroad finger piers survive – like Ivar’s Pier 54 seen on the far left in both views.
But Ivar’s has grown too. In 1970 Ivar Haglund employed about 260 for his then three restaurants including the “flagship” Acres of Clams here at Pier 54. Now in its 68th year Ivar’s Inc serves in 63 locations. (This was first published in 2006.) This summer it will employ more than 1000 persons to handle the busy season’s share of an expected 7 million customers in 2006. Every one of them – not considering tourists for the moment — will be an “Old Settler” with refined and yet unpretentious good taste – and so says Ivar’s CEO Bob Donegan.
IVAR’S FISH & CHIPS CENTURY 21 STAND (now also serving hamburgers)
Here follows and in-house notice Ivar “Keep Clam” Haglund sent to his employees ahead of Century 21. Within the message Ivar confesses a slight worry about how the festival and fish will turn out. As it happened both did swell.
Ivar’s Fish Bar at Century 21, above and below. (Courtesy, the Ivar’s Archive)
Historian Col Thrush’s book “Native Seattle” includes this Potlatch scene of “The Tilikums of Elttaes” among its illustrations. His caption reads, in part, “The [Tilikums] shown here on parade during the Golden Potlatch of 1912, enthusiastically adopted “savage” symbolism for their displays of civic boosterism.” (Picture Courtesy Dan Kerlee) Lined with bleachers in 1912, 4th Avenue has long since been developed as a typical Denny Regrade street sided by apartments, condos, small businesses and a few theatres. This view looks north across Lenora Street.
“Going Native” or “Faux Natives” or “The Tilikums of Elttaes”
The Seattle Times called the 1912 Golden Potlatch – Seattle’s summer festival – a “triumph of symbolism.” Fortunately, the multi-day spectacle was also sensational. Fireworks, aero plane exhibitions – “1500 feet above the waterfront and at nearly 60 miles per hour” – illuminated water pageants, band concerts galore, smokers and long parades filled end-to-end with fanciful floats and “barbaric grotesqueries” like these marching ersatz totems did not require interpretations only giddy appreciation.
The 1912 Golden Potlatch was considered a great improvement over the festival’s first installment in 1911. It was “Ben Hur to 1911’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The Golden part of the festival name was a nostalgic reference to Seattle’s many turn-of-the-century years as the “jumping off place” for the gold rushes to Alaska and the Yukon. So the festival’s semantic “triumph” was, to quote the Times again, “a collaboration of two great independent themes which though not at all similar, easily were fused in the joint definition of the Potlatch’s significance.”
What are we to make of that part of our abiding Native American history that is urban, and also what of the recurring Euro-American (mostly) urge to “go native?” With Coll Thrush’s new book “Native Seattle, Histories from the Crossing-Over Place” (University of Washington Press) we get often wise and witty interpretations of urban Indians of all kinds. It is a surprising subject, which has been more often neglected than not in the many retellings of Seattle history – mine included.
Thrush got his PhD at the University of Washington, and is now an assistance professor of history at the University of British Columbia. In his preface he explains, “Local historian David Buerge deserves credit for writing a series of Seattle Weekly articles that inspired my interest in Seattle’s indigenous history in the first place.” I will echo Thrush. Buerge has taught me too. Here also is a hope that David will soon be able to publish his own Magnus opus, a long-awaited history of Chief Seattle.
Moderne, brand-new and state-of-the-art are terms that may seem to cling to the stucco and reinforced concrete surfaces of the Royal Crowne Cola bottling plant at Mercer Street and 3rd Avenue North when it opened in the Spring of 1939. Now (in 2003 when this was first written – and not checked recently) this corner of the block is landscaped with a small grove of cherry trees that shade a plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of the close of World War Two. It may be that Teatro Zinzanni is back! (Historical photo courtesy of Ralph c. Seamens, deceased.)
This structure will be vividly remembered by a few but also faintly familiar to many others if they put a thumb over the tower. For many years beginning around 1950 this was the home of Moose Lodge #211 sans tower. Here, however, in 1939 it is brand new and showing the superstructure that would soon announce that this was the new home of Par-T-Pack beverages.
In the eternal competition for even a small slice of the cola pie (after Coke and Pepsi) Royal Crowne hired Seattle architect William J. Bain Sr. to design this “Streamline Moderne” styled bottling plant at 222 Mercer Street, kitty-corner to the city’s Civic Auditorium. When the plant opened management lined up its new fleet of GMC trucks along Mercer Street for the photograph reprinted here. The date is May 24.
Perhaps most spectacular was the state-of-the-art bottling line that was exposed to pedestrians and the traffic on Mercer through the corner windows. When the levered windows were opened the clatter of the bottles moving along the assembly line added to the effect of industry on parade. The Mooses replaced the bottling line with a lounge and dance floor.
Beginning in the mid-1980s the Kreielsheimer Foundation began buying up this block 24 of pioneer Thomas Mercer’s 2nd Addition with the intention of giving it to the city for a new art museum. When SAM moved downtown instead, a new home here was proposed for the Seattle Symphony. However, SSO also chose to relocate downtown.
For 14 months including all of 2001 this corner was the first home for One Reel’s still popular dinner tent show Teatro Zinzanni. (It is billed “Love, Chaos & Dinner.”) Permission to use the corner came from Kreielsheimer trustee Don Johnson nearly at the moment that the charitable foundation completed its quarter-century run of giving 100 million mostly to regional arts groups.
A GRAND DEXTER
The three images grouped here all look north along the centerline of Dexter Avenue and through its intersection with John Street, and so beside the west boundary of Denny Park. This may be considered a “now, then and might have been” triptych for the sketch among these is Seattle architect David John Myer’s Beaux Arts vision of what Dexter might have been had the 1911 Bogue Municipal Plan been approved by Seattle voters in 1912.
The illustration appears facing page 33 of 191-page (plus maps and illustrations) published plan and the drawing’s caption reads “Central Avenue, Looking North to Central Station.” Dexter Avenue (named for banker Dexter Horton) between Denny Way and the north end of Lake Union would have become Central Avenue, which, the plan trumpeted was “destined to be the principal artery through the city.” These blocks between the plan’s Civic Center, in the then freshly lowered Denny Regrade, and the exalted transportation center with its majestic tower rendered in the sketch would have been the city’s most exalted boulevard.
The “then” photograph shows the same stretch of Dexter in about 1904 with Leon and Margaret Brown playing with their wagon on a carpet of stones near the center of the street. (Here I want to thank and remember again Michael Cirelli, my now passed friend who while he lived was a devoted student of Seattle history. It was Michael who first identified the Browns.)
The father, William LeRoy Brown, took the photograph (at the top). He and Abba lived with their two children nearby at 225 Dexter. William was both a professional plumber and a charter member with the local musicians union. He played the clarinet in “Dad” Wagner’s popular concert and marching band. And he was good with a camera, leaving a small but unique collection of glass negatives that includes this family scene.
“Tenth Anniversary Candles” is written on the slide.
Tenth Anniversary fireworks, below. Photo by Frank Shaw
This early view of Taylor Memorial Church was photographed soon after the simple parish was constructed in 1887 at the southeast corner of Thomas Street and Birch Street. In 1895 when many of the city’s streets were renamed Birch was changed to Taylor. Many of our historical street names were then dropped for numbers thereby losing all allusion to our community’s past. The Executive Inn is the most recent occupant of the site.
IN MEMORIAM – OR – A STREET NAME THAT REMEMBERS
Taylor Avenue runs north from Denny Way through David and Louisa Denny’s pioneer claim and continues with interruptions for about a mile and half before it stops in the greenbelt above Aurora Avenue on the east flank of Queen Anne Hill. It got its name from this little church at its southeast corner with Thomas Street and the church was named in memory of a Reverend Frank Taylor.
Taylor, a young pastor from Guilford Connecticut, began his ministry at Plymouth Congregational Church on Jan. 18, 1884. “The Path We Came By”, a parish history published in 1937, recalls, “The entire membership at once proceeded to fall in love with him and his young wife.” Early that summer Taylor was shot and killed in a hunting accident. The church history continues, “The young people who had adored him, stripped the summer gardens of flowers to decorate the church for his funeral”
By the evidence of his daily journal parishioner David Denny was as likely to stay home and read as to venture into town on Sunday morning to hear the preacher. So in 1887 he and Louisa donated the land for Taylor Memorial Church in part so that they could attend services closer to their home. David also liked to sing. His daughter Emily recalled that he had a “fine ringing tenor voice and could carry a tune very well. It was a treat to hear him as he sawed or chopped in the great forest singing verse after verse of the grand old hymns.” Taylor Memorial became the first “daughter church” for its mother Plymouth Congregational. W. E. Dawson, George Lee, Lambert Woods and George Fair were a few of the pastors who served there and lived in the parsonage that was built next door at 226 Taylor.
During the 1880s as the booming city quickly moved north to their claim the Denny family also gave land for Denny Park and the first permanent resident of Seattle’s first charity, The Seattle Children’s home. While the park and the charity (now on Queen Anne Hill) have survived, Taylor Memorial Church did not. It disbanded in 1904 or 1905 (the records are not clear) although the sanctuary continued to be used for a few years by nonsectarian congregations.
In 1971, I think, – on Art Day – John Hillding of the Land Truth Circus and much more, and I and many others raised the Universal Worm to the lip of the Space Needle. There the 230 foot long inflated soft sculpture fulfilled its calling and promptly ripped on a concrete protrusion directly below the restaurant. It then began a rapid deflation and flapping fall to the base of the Needle. The Universal Worm is – or was – one of the recurrent images in the art of members of the sort of mysterious Shazzam Society, a kindly cabal created – perhaps – by novelist Tom Robbins. (He may deny it.) I adopted the worm for Sky River Rock Fire, (a film I mean to return to and complete once I am thru with the Ivar “Keep Clam” tome.) Next year. We also took lots of 16mm film of the worm’s ascension here, and more film of its moving about and up and over and around in many other places. All will be revealed, or as much as the Shazzam Society encourages – if we can find it. The Universal Worm was the first MONUMENTAL ADJUSTMENT of the Space Needle. Of that, at least, we are certain.
(First published in Pacific, June 14, 1987)
The four wide shots from Queen Anne Hill included here all look south across what was David and Louisa Denny’s pioneer claim and is now – much of it – Seattle Center. The views show roughly the same territory and were photographed within an easy stone’s throw of one another.
Across the sky of the oldest view, photographer C.L.Andrews has scrawled his dramatic caption, “Seattle when the Klondike was struck – 1896.” Beginning in 1897, Seattle was “struck” by the gold rushers, who bought their outfits here and later, if they were fortunate, invested their gold here, or at least assayed it here.
David Denny was not so fortunate. The Alaska Gold Rush came three years too late to save him from bankruptcy following the 1893 market crash. So by 1897, the first year of Seattle’s economic recovery, David and Louisa no longer owned their claim.
Our oldest photograph also shows Denny Hill, with its namesake hotel on top gradually rising from the meadows in the foreground. The hotel straddled Third Avenue between Stewart and Virginia Streets, on the “front” or southern summit of the hill. (From Queen Anne Hill one could not easily tell that Denny Hill was made from two humps with Virginia Street the draw between them.) Part of what was once Denny Hill is marked in the scene photographed by A. Curtis. The rough clearing on the left is the flattened hill following its last regrade in 1929-1930. (Actually is continued into 1931 but not that one could easily notice from this prospect.) Curtis took his photograph in 1930, the first complete year of the next depression, the “great” one.
As the photograph shows, the city has changed so radically in the 34 intervening years that it is difficult to find any connection between the two views. There are but a few familiar homes in the foreground of the two scenes.
The 1930 view shows the Seattle skyline that essentially represented the city until the Space Needle was built in 1961-62. Another World’s Fair creation, the Opera House, is not included in any of the views. Originally constructed out of the old Civic Auditorium with a lavish renovation in 1961-62, it was more recently – in 2001-03 – stripped for another make over into the current McCaw Hall and Kreielsheimer Promenade. (Ordinarily there is not much talk about the Promenade, although there is a lot of talking in it, as McCaw Hall visitors use it for pre-concert mixing. Jean and I were part of group of arts oriented writers who wrote the history of the Kreielsheimer Foundation in 2000 – or near it.) All of its – the Civic Auditorium-cum-Opera House-cum-McCaw Hall – permutations (or mutations), along with the contiguous ice arena and playfield, were built on the site of the old Denny garden in 1927-28. The fourth view included here dates from Jan. 9, 1928 and shows that construction underway.
Like the Memorial Stadium that replaced it in the late 1950s, Civic Field (seen to the right of the auditorium in the Curtis photograph) was the city’s primary stage for high school football. For a few years in the 1930s it was also the home field for the Seattle Indians until the baseball team changed it’s name to the Rainiers and moved to Sick’s Stadium in Seattle’s Rainier Valley.