Seattle Now & Then: Fire Station No. 9

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Seattle’s Fire Station #9 in Fremont replaced a volunteer force in 1901 with this stately box. Built on the west side of Linden Ave. N. just south of N. 39th Street, the wood frame station was replaced by a new station in the early 1950s.
NOW: With no need to house horses, the new station, at the same address, was kept to one-story and so in this “now” it is mostly hidden behind Station No.9’s new red rig. North of N. 39th Street the roofline of the B.F.Day school appears in both the “then” and “now,” as does the home directly north of the station.:

Apparatus No. 63, a White City Service Ladder, was delivered to Fremont’s Fire Station No. 9 in 1923. In his “Seattle Firehouses,” Jim Stevenson’s 1972 sketchbook of about 40 Seattle stations, the author considers station No. 9 (1901) as “standing out from many other wood frame stations built after the turn of the century because of its excellent treatment of detail along the eaves and above the doors.”

Most of Stevenson’s chosen stations were designed for horses.  Here at 3829 Linden Ave. N. the five or six horses got the main floor, while above them the firemen shared the second floor with the horses’ hayloft.  An early alarm for this station came in the spring of 1902 when the nearby Fremont home of R.G. Kilbourne caught fire. The firemen and their horse-drawn rig failed to reach the fire because the streets were impassable.  On August 16, 1904 the “timely and efficient work” of the Fremont station was haled for speeding in twenty-two minutes to the home of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority in University Heights and thereby saving “what remained of the building.”

The heroic age of galloping horse-drawn hose wagons answering fire calls ended for good in 1924 when the department retired its remaining horses, citywide.  At the Fremont station, as it developed, the replacement, Apparatus #63, was not so terrific.  At a mere 29.8 horse-power, department historian Galen Thomaier described it as “one of those rigs that kids used run after and keep up with when it was climbing a hill.”  In 1930 No.63 was withdrawn into “reserve status” until sold in 1955 for $75.  Thomaier “stumbled” upon it in 1994, while visiting his daughter at Washington State University in Pullman.  He found old No.63 parked on the front lawn of a fraternity house.  House members had replaced the original gas tank with a beer keg.

Galen Thomaier collects retired fire engines, and has several of them in his Ballard “workplace” also known as the Last Resort Fire Department.  You can visit it thru www.lastresortfd.org.  And on Wednesdays from 11-to-3, you can also visit the Last Resort’s exhibit at the Seattle Fire Dept. Headquarters, at Second Ave. S. and Main Street.  Until his recent passing, the artist Jim Stevenson was a steadfast volunteer there.  Now you will often find Thomaier doing the tending.

WEB EXTRAS

Just a few shots of the lads at No. 9.

The crew of Station No. 9
Their mascot: the Eveready Cat, borrowed with permission from the battery maker. The '9' through which the cat is jumping represents the Eveready nine-volt battery; nine (long) lives; and for Station No. 9, preparedness, courage, and endurance.
Eveready insignia

Anything to add, Paul?

As time permits a few more related features and circling illustrations, beginning with another look at the same station and engine and shoot.   Here again, B.F. Day school appears upper-right.   Like the other this comes on a string of “courtesies,” which goes like this.  Elizabeth Prescott showed these engines to Mike Shaughnessy who shared them with Ron Edge.  It is Ron that put them here.

Next we will insert a few “Edge Clippings” from the Seattle Times that help construct our short history of the station – and much more for which there was no room in the paper.  I’ll intersperse that with other early or general illustrations of Fremont.

An early clip from the Times for June 14, 1902, describes the first false alarm.
The oldest extant pan of Fremont, taken from Queen Anne Hill sometime in the 1890s.
Two early clips - 1902 and 1904 - with new about Fremont fire prevention.
Fremont sometime in the 1890s as seen far across Lake Union from Capitol Hill (before it was named that.) Queen Anne Hill is far left.
This Edge Clipping described the heroic efforts of the Fremont Station apparatus to reach the University District and help extinguish a Greek fire.
Side-by-side a detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate map and another from Google Earth showing the location of the Fremont Station.
Top-center the location of the Fremont station is indicated with an arrow. The aerial dates from some few years after the new station was built in the 1950s.

Two more clips – both from the 1950s and having to do with the construction of the new station.

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B.F.DAY PRIMARY

While the north end annexations of 1891 nearly doubled the size of Seattle, the increase in population was paltry. Since Ballard was not yet included in this expansion, the barely 4-year-old mill town of Fremont was the most populated neighborhood added.

B.F. and Francis Day treated the enlargement as an opportunity. The couple offered the Seattle School District 20 lots of the·Fremont farmland they had recently platted into city blocks and streets. Their one condition was that a brick schoolhouse be built there at a cost of not less than $25,000. The district obliged and indicated its gratitude by naming the new school after the developer-farmer.

The school stood out on the clear-cut ridge above Fremont, and in the quarter century needed to complete its campus, B.F. Day performed as a barometer of the explosive growth in Seattle population. In 1892 it opened with only four of its first eight classrooms ready. English-born architect John Parkinson designed the brick box so a second eight-room section could be added later. The accompanying “then” view is an early•20th-century record of the H -shaped fulfillment of the Parkinson plan. The north wing was added in 1901.

When the Ballard Locks were completed in 1916, it was generally expected that Fremont would continue to multiply its number of both families and board feet produced at the mill. Nearly 700 students were then attending B.F. Day, some in temporary structures. School district architect Edgar Blair extended Parkinson’s symmetry with four-room wings, added in 1916. While massive, the results were elegant and restrained. The restoration of the school in the 1990s is a testimony in red brick to the virtues of preservation.

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Greenwood Firehouse No 21 at Greenwood Ave. N. and N. 73rd Street is an example of the several box facilities that were built for the fire department in the early 1900s.  While the modern facility that replaced it in the early 1950s was more efficient it lent the Phinney neighborhood none of the elegant gravitas of the old wooden box.  Historical photo courtesy Phinney Neighborhood Association.

GREENWOOD BOX

(First Appeared in Pacific, Oct. 14, 2005)

After the Seattle Fire Department’s unfortunate response to the city’s “Great Fire” of 1889 the city learned a lesson and immediately set about building a handful of new firehouses.   The first of these were up already in 1890 and all of them showed considerable architectural flare, with curving towers, grand gables and meandering rooflines, fanciful doors and several different sidings in the same structure.

Then in the early 20th century came what Jim Stevenson in his book “Seattle Firehouses” describes as the “standard style.”   With an ever-growing need for fire protection in a booming city the additions were “plain, boxy houses . . . uniform in size, materials and plan and usually without decoration.”  Greenwood’s Firehouse No. 21 is an example in which the standard big box has had a wing – one the right – added to it.  There is also considerable variation in the windows, and siding with this box.

Firehouse No. 21 opened here at the northeast corner of 73rd Street and Greenwood Avenue in 1908 and for 14 years bedded six horses until a tractorized steamer and a motor hose wagon replaced them in 1922.   While the new apparatus could respond more quickly to neighborhood emergencies the old ways were not without their ingenuity.  When the horses were still galloping from these big doors they were first speedily hooked to their wagons with harnesses hung from pulleys on the ceiling.

This view appears in this year’s Greenwood-Piney Calendar, a production of the ever-vital Phinney Neighborhood Center.  Purchase a calendar  (at $10 each they are available at several Greenwood neighborhood businesses, as well at the Center itself at 6532 Phinney Ave. N.) and see the other eleven photos plus a 1912 map of the Greenwood-Phinney neighborhood.  Some people roll them up and put them in sox.  (PERHAPS, only, the Center is still making a fresh calendar every year.   The above was first written in 2005.)

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PROTECTING HOMES & HERITAGE

(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 8, 2003)

Like road work and jury duty fire fighting was a community obligation for every able bodied male before professional skills and standards were embraced often after a large portion of a firetrap pioneer city burned down – like thirty-plus blocks of Seattle in 1889.  In Renton the prudent reason for opening its Moderne fire station and staffing it with professionals was the wartime boom that accompanied the manufacture there of Boeing’s B-29 bomber.

The population of Renton in 1942, the year the station opened, was roughly 4000.  In three years more it quadrupled to 16,000.  This view of the station at 235 Mill Avenue South dates from about 1945.  The station was a late project of the depression-time Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Russian-born architect Ivan Palmaw, had already both St. Nicholas and St Spiridon parishes in Seattle to his credit before he took it on.

Boeing's B-29 factory in Renton. The aerial looks south, with the channeled Cedar River diverted to Lake Washington since the Black River, which it once joined in a flow to Elliott Bay, went dry with the 1916 nine-foot lowering of Lake Washington for the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

In 1978 the firemen moved out and soon the historians moved in, converting the 6000 square feet for the uses of heritage.  One save in this shift from machines to artifacts is the smallest of the three engines posing in the bays.  The 1927 Howard-Cooper pumper on the far left is now parked permanently within the museum – directly behind where it is seen here.

The first of the Renton Museum’s many blessing was the political and fund raising work of fireman Ernie Tonda who began his career in this station when it opened in 1942 and retired as a captain from here as well before guiding the building through its conversion.  And the blessings continue with the City of Renton’s commitment.  Steve Anderson the museum’s director is a city employee and the city also owns the building and the grounds and pays for the utilities.

Museum archivist Stan Green has lived in and studied Renton since the 1950s when he recalls the siren at the top of the timber tower that surmounts the roof of the station sounded its Cold War test every Wednesday at noon.  The combination bell and siren tower was removed from the Renton Fire Station for its 1979 conversion into the city’s museum.  The oak tree on the right, however, has both stayed rooted and flourished behind the station/museum through the roughly 58 years between this week’s then and now.

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The 1903 record of the Fremont Dam was photographed from the old low bridge to Fremont.  It, like the contemporary bascule bridge, was in line with Fremont Avenue.  The contemporary view looks at the old dam site framed by the Fremont Bridge.   Historical view courtesy Army Corps of Engineers.

DAM PUZZLE

Here’s a dam puzzle for the recently revived Fremont Historical Society.  The original photograph for this scene comes from an Army Corps collection and is dated 1903.  That year the Fremont dam broke in October lowering Lake Union about two feet and sending a torrent of fresh water into Salmon Bay.

The question is this; is this that dam before the break or after it?  Another way of putting it is this.  Was this photo taken in connection with the 1903 break or as evidence of the work the Army Corp had done on the outlet the year before?

This is, at least, conventionally dated 1903 as well. The subject looks east to the bridge in line with Fremont Ave. and the mill to the east of it The old Ross Creek has got a lot of "regularization" in the first steps toward making a canal. (Pix courtesy Army Corps) .

1902 was an ambivalent year for both Lake Washington Ship Canal advocates and those who opposed the canal.  The Army Corp that year straightened and widened the outlet between Fremont and Salmon Bay enlarging the capacity of the old meandering stream by three times.  But while seeming with this work to encourage construction of the canal the Corps that year also dampened those hopes with its 1903 report that while favoring the route through Shilshole Bay over all others still concluded that there was no urgency to build the canal – that the locals had exaggerated the need for a fresh water harbor.

Another early look at the Fremont Dam. The Gasworks are up on the Wallingford Peninsula so this will date from between 1907 and 1911 when the first "High Bridge" was built across the outlet and into Fremont - as will be shown with the next feature to follow.

In the accompanying dam scene (at the top of this feature), the stone-lined outlet directly below it would be bone dry except for what appears to be a leak – or two of them.   The dam is spouting a small stream from the left (north side) and another, perhaps, from the right side although lower down.  Perhaps then this photograph is evidence both of the Corps 1902 work on the canal and also of a dam that is about to break.   Perhaps.

Looking west from the bridge connected to the dam to the low bridge in line with Fremont Ave. that carried Trolleys and all else into and out of Fremont. This view dates from about 1907.

At the close of 1903, or about two months after the break in the dam, the Corps appropriated funds for “enlarging the gates of the Lake Union outlet.”  This new and bigger Fremont dam lasted ten years until it too broke with bigger results.  The rupture lowered Lake Union seven feet.  Two years later when the new locks at Ballard were first closed and the Lake Union outlet allowed to fill Salmon Bay with fresh water the old Fremont dam site was inundated.

1914 High Bridge washout with the Fremont dam break. A peek at the Stone Way Bridge is available below the two counter-phobic fellows standing on the bridge.

 

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The historical view looks north into Fremont on June 21, 1911 from a new grade on Westlake Avenue set to ultimately serve the steel bascule bridge shown in the “now” view.  The timber trestle bridge under construction in the historical scene was a temporary structure until work began on the bascule bridge in 1915.  Then all traffic was diverted to the Stone Way Bridge, which was used until 1917 when the bascule of opened to traffic.  The contemporary view shows only part of a long line of cars waiting for what is one of the busiest bascule bridges in the world. The Fremont Bridge is scheduled for upgrade in 2005. The lines will be longer. (Historical view compliments of Seattle Municipal Archive)

The HIGH BRIDGE to FREMONT

(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 28, 1002)

This 1911 record of the construction on Fremont’s first “high bridge” looks north from the Queen Anne side.  The old grade is below to the right – a grade picked in 1890 when the first trolley line was constructed to Fremont along the eastern shore of Lake Union.

Two years earlier in 1888 Isaac Burlingame, whose lumber mill at Fremont was then new, built the first dam between the Lake and its outlet Ross Creek, named for a pioneer family that settled beside it.  Burlingame’s dam controlled the level of the lake and so secured his millpond behind it.  Twice the dam broke.  First in 1903, when the lake lowered about three feet, and in 1914 when it suddenly dropped nearly 10 feet, stranding houseboats on the lake bed and washing out the center supports of this trestle.

On June 23rd, two days after this photograph was snapped, the supporters of the Lake Washington Ship Canal learned from the “Other Washington” that their nearly 15 year struggle was about over.  Construction was about to begin.  Many of the improvements along the route of the canal, including the building of this high bridge and the new grades approaching it, were done in faith that the canal would ultimately be dug.

This high wooden trestle was meant to be temporary.  In the late summer of 1915 it was scrapped and the building of the steel bascule bridge begun.   Traffic was then shunted to the temporary trestle that crossed the lake between Westlake Avenue and Stone Way.  It too was a temporary structure built in 1911 in preparation for the canal and razed in 1917 following the opening of the bascule.

Another look at the "high" bridge, this one in 1915 before the bridge was closed for construction of the bascule bridge. Unless my eyes deceive me, part of the south facade of Fire Station #9 appears below B.F. Day school, seen center-right on the horizon, and just above and to the right of the top of the Fremont Baptist church steeple on 36th Street. (Click TWICE)
1911 construction - it seems - on the "High" bridge seen from further up Queen Anne Hill.
The busy postcard real photo "artist" Oakes look due north across the Fremont Bridge from Queen Anne Hill. This is the "Low" bridge before the 1911 changes. Note B.F. Day school near the horizon center-right. And there also just below it and wee bit to the right is Station #9 with three second story windows showing on its south facade. (click TWICE)

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The “then” photo from Dec. 11, 1914 shows Fremont canal under construction and still at a narrower channel than it would soon be in late 1917 when it was opened to ships.  The “High” bridge is still in use.   The unnamed photographer of the “then” view was standing on the bank at a spot that is somewhere to the right of the man rowing his kayak west along the north bank of the canal in the “now” photo.  The similar photo that follows the “repeat” was photographed by the same hand on the same day.  It retains the superimposed white line that indicates how high the waters of the canal will reach.  Historical Photo: Courtesy Army Corps of Engineers.

FREMONT SPILLWAY – 1914

(First appeared in Pacific, July 16, 2006)

By its own caption (neatly hand-printed at the bottom left corner) this is the “Lake Washington Canal Dam and Spillway at Fremont Avenue looking east.”   The scene is one of many captioned photographs produced for or by the Army Corps of Engineers during the construction of the ship canal.

This caption, however, is mildly misleading.  More properly this is the dam and spillway not “at Fremont Ave.” but rather as seen roughly from the line of Evanston Avenue N., or one block west of Fremont Ave.   The distant trestle, left of center, is the Fremont Bridge as it was rebuilt after the center support collapsed and was washed away when the Fremont Dam broke open earlier in 1914.

This Corp’s study is dated Dec. 11, 1914.  The dam broke on the previous March 13.  It was, perhaps, a not-so-unlucky 13th because the damage and the scouring allowed the Army Corps to build a new dam to this side, the west side, of the reassembled Fremont Bridge, and to also construct this spillway.   With the new dam and spillway the government engineers could prepare the Fremont site for the construction of the bascule bridge that is now being renovated.

In this view the spillway looks as if it is about to overflow.  Perhaps that is the point of the photograph – to show it stressed.  In fact it was effective and essential to building the bridge.  The bridges two concrete piers were kept dry by this wide flume during their construction in 1915-16.   The flume was then extended east between the two sides – north and south – of the bridge work.  When the piers were completed the flume was removed and the channel dredged.  In the late summer and early fall of 1916 the canal from Lake Washington to the Ballard Locks slowly settled to its navigable level.  The dedication waited until the following Independence Day, July 4, 1917.

Testing the new bridge in 1917. Part of the Stone Way bridge appears beyond the opening. The view looks east toward Capitol Hill, similar to the point of view of the first photos of this feature on the spillway.

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The nearly two year construction on the Fremont Bridge began in the late summer of 1915.  It first opened to traffic on June 15 1917 in time for the July 4th dedication of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.  This construction scene was photographed in the summer of 1916 soon after the canal was flooded behind Chittenden Locks to the level of Lake Union.  Both views look east across the canal to the north pier of the bridge.    (Historical view courtesy of Margaret Wilhemi)

FREMONT BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION or Busy Bascule

This record in the construction on the north pier of the Fremont Bascule (French for teeter-totter) Bridge was taken soon after the Lake Union outlet was transformed into one of the more picturesque sections of the slack water Lake Washington Ship Canal.  It required 13 days to fill the waterway between Fremont and Ballard to the level of Lake Union.  The flooding began at low tide on July 12, 1916 when the gates of the big and small locks at Ballard were closed.

Here, probably in late July or August 1916 a dredger scoops up submerged pieces dropped during the construction while it carves the channel to the fairly deep standard required for the regular visit of over-sized ocean-going ships.   Soon, however, it became apparent that it was not dreadnaughts but mostly recreational vessels, both sail and power, which were answering the call to this new fresh-water harbor.

In 1991 after embracing a rough estimate of a half a million openings, the Fremont Chamber of Commerce proclaimed its bridge the “busiest bascule on planet earth.”  The Chamber ran a boat parade through its open bridge for their celebration.   While they expected the lights they had strung across the bridge to be permanent they were not.

Although it may have yet to register to motorist who regularly use it, the incidence of the ordinarily three minute long openings at Fremont has begun to slack.  In 1998 the bridge opened about 7200 times.  Last year there were about 900 fewer interruptions.  The explanation for the decline is probably some combination of the recession and an increase in moorings at salt-water marinas.  It is also possible in this muscular age powerboats are gaining in popularity over sail boats.  Even big crafts without sails, like the Goodtime III seen cruising under the bridge in the “now” scene, are still in no danger of scraping the bottom of the bridge which at only 30 feet above the channel makes it the lowest bascule on the canal.

Looking north in line with Fremont and across the old "High" bridge on May 10, 1915, and so near the beginning of work on the Bascule Bridge. Note B.F. Day school on the horizon.

If the most ambitious projections of the Seattle Engineering Department are realized starting early in 2005 openings at the Fremont Bridge will take a sudden – although temporary – drop when the long expected work of reviving the old bascule is begun.  With much urging and thanks from the Fremont community the bridge most likely will not be closed down completely for a year and a half while the approaches are rebuilt and the mechanicals restored.   Instead traffic will be limited to single lanes either way except for a half dozen or so week ends when all traffic on the bridge will be stopped through an extended construction project of approximately two years.

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The Fremont Draw Bridge – or bascule bridge – opened in 1917, and this “then” scene is from its first day, June 15.  The cozy traffic in the “now” is exceptional.  Although with about 35 openings each day the Fremont Bridge is one of the busiest bascules in the world it is now also under repair, and it lanes reduced from four to two.  Both views look north toward Fremont.

FIRST DAY (or) PREPARE TO BE DELAYED

(First appeared in Pacific, August 13, 2006)

Judging from the lean shadows it was about lunchtime when a photographer from the city’s department of streets recorded this look north towards Fremont and thru the new Fremont Bridge.  It may be the by now venerable draw bridge’s first portrait – formal or informal – for the beautiful bascule opened that day, July 15, 1917, at a little after midnight.

At first it was only the “Owl Cars” or last street cars of the night that were permitted to cross the span, and City Engineer A.H.  Dimock stayed up to catch the excitement.  But at five in the morning of its first day, a little after sunrise, the bridge was opened also to pedestrians and vehicles of all sorts.  No doubt the drivers and riders of all those shown here  – including the Seattle-Everett Interurban car – understood the significance of this day’s passage.  Mayor Hi Gill also showed up in the afternoon for a little ceremony.

The truth is that the bridge inaugural – like practically anything else that did not have something to do with the First World War – got less attention than deserved.   Woodrow Wilson – formerly the president who “kept us out of war” – spent much of the first half of 1917 promoting entering it.  At last on May 6th Wilson declared war against the “Huns” and suddenly Americans of German decent were either suspicious or downright suspect.

In the days to either side of the bridge’s opening the Red Cross drive to raise 300 thousand dollars in Seattle was given several front pages in the local dailies while the Fremont Bridge got only a few inches of copy.

At a construction price of about $400,000 the bridge cost only a hundred thousand more than the Red Cross kitty, which was promoted as needed for “ministering” to the potential front-line needs of Seattle recruits.

(If I have followed the inflation charts correctly the bridge’s cost would be about $5 million today.  Curiously that is only about one-eighth of the projected $41.9 million that it will be expended to complete the current [in 2006]  bridge repair.  Go ye and figure.)

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Both views look east on North 34th Street through its intersection with Fremont Avenue at the north end of the Fremont Bridge.   Both scenes are exceptional.  In one the intersection is being replenished with a new brick paving between the trolley tracks and in the other N. 34th Street is temporarily give over to this year’s [2006] Fremont Fair.

The GRAND UNION

(First appeared in Pacific, July 23, 2006)

Barely hidden below the intersection of 34th St. and Fremont Avenue  – at the north end of the Fremont Bridge – rests an iron cross of intersecting rails appropriately called the Grand Union.  We see here the most western part of this steel matrix on June 29, 1923 at 6:30 in the morning.  This is number ten in a series of thirty photographs that record the steps of replacing the plank paving framing the rails with bricks.

The artful work of laying the original Grand Union was guided by plans drawn in 1916 by Seattle Electric Company.  It was timed of necessity with the building of Fremont’s bascule bridge that opened in 1917.   Although this Fremont route was the major trolley feed to the north end the elaborate rail crossing at 34th would not have been needed except that it was also the way for trolleys to reach the Fremont Car Barn a few blocks west.  (In 1905 when the barn was completed 34th St. was still called Ewing Street.)

The last photograph – number thirty – of this repaving dates from the third of March the following year.  Titled “Completed Layout” it looks west on 34th St. from the east side of the intersection and reveals a very spiffy Grand Union indeed.  It was then as much a piece of public art as a public work.   And as noted above this landmark survives below the veneer of blacktop that was first applied during the Second World War after locals complained about the slipper bricks on Fremont Avenue.   One day, perhaps, the Grand Union will be revealed again, but beneath a transparent street surface – one that is not slipper – that we can now but imagine.

Times readers in the “groove” or romance of rails have an opportunity this coming Thursday July 27 to join a Fremont Historical Society sponsored, guided, and illustrated walking tour of a street car line that once passed through this junction.  The tour begins promptly at 7:00 p.m. at the South side of the Fremont Car Bar (at N. 34th and Phinney Avenue) and winds up at N. 45th Street and Woodland Park Ave. N. an estimated one and one-half hours later.  It will be a good exercise for body and soul.

Seattle sculptor Mark Stevens hovers in his work above the northwest corner of Fremont Ave. and 34th Street.

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A circa 1937 W.P.A. survey photo of the Fremont Library.

After years of meeting in “reading rooms” the Fremont Public Library moved into its new “Italian farmhouse” at 731 N. 35th Street in 1921.  From the street the landmark structure is deceptively small.  Inside are 6,840 useful square-feet that were recently [2005] reopened after renovation. Historical View Courtesy of Seattle Public Library.

“ITALIAN FARMHOUSE”

(First appeared in Pacific, May 5, 2005)

In the late 1970s – surprisingly long ago – I spent many delightful afternoons in the basement of the Fremont Library paging through the dry and often chipped pages of The Seattle Times.  The Seattle Public Library’s early bound copies were then stored in that Fremont sanctum when it had a musty charm that complimented the venerable ink that was inevitably transferred to my fingers.

Now this still charming place is so fresh and clean that I feel that I must wash my hands before visiting it, for in recent years the Fremont Library has been scrubbed and scrubbed again.  In 1987 it got an eight-month makeover after a bond issue to renovate the city’s Carnegie branch libraries succeeded.  And as witness that we are still a “reading city” the Fremont Library reopened at noon this past April 16th after another upgrade.  This one a gift from voters in the 1998 “Libraries for All” bond issue.

Although Fremont got Seattle’s first branch library in1903 it did not move into this “Italian Farmhouse” – as Donald Huntington, its architect, liked to call it — until it opened in the summer of 1921.  Since Huntington was then the city’s official architect they saved money using him, and it’s a good thing for this national landmark is admired by practically everyone – even other architects and they easily classify Huntington’s farmhouse as in the “Mission Style.”

As most of Seattle has learned Fremont is the unique “center of the universe.”  Inevitably, it is Fremont history that has brought it this distinction, and this coming Saturday May 7 from 2 to 5 p.m. [2005] the clean and fresh Fremont Library will celebrate it.  At 3 o’clock the newly formed Fremont Historical Society, will give a mildly eccentric slide show on Fremont History interpreted by a panel comprised of three kernels (nuts, that is) of the Fremont cognoscenti, Carol Tobin, Roger Wheeler, and Heather McAuliffe and one outsider – although only five minutes away – yours truly.

McAuliffe, the new society’s founder, encourages anyone with Fremontian interests – even if they live in Wallingford – to attend, tour the Library and join the show and or the Society.

Some of those attending the "kickoff" of the Fremont Historical Society in the auditorium of the Fremont Public Library on May 7, 2005.

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With this week’s comparison many may be reminded of how the skies above Seattle were once considerably more confused with poles and wires than they are now.  Both views look north on Albion Place North from North 36th Street.  (Historical photo courtesy City of Seattle Municipal Archives.)

 

ALBION TOWERS

(First appeared in Pacific, 9-11-2005)

As the photographer from Seattle City Light intended the principal subject here is the power pole.  Unusually thick, tall, and well-stocked with its own “limbs” the pole is both curious and grotesque, qualities that result from its proximity to the electric substation behind it, a half block north on Albion Place North.  The station is also topped by its own tower.

Seattle Electric Co., Puget Power’s predecessor, built the substation in 1902, for the several lines of electric trolleys it was then laying into the north end.   This was the company’s first north end substation.  More than a century later it may be the oldest surviving industrial structure in Fremont.  Also in 1902 voters approved the founding of Seattle City Light with many effects including the lowering of Seattle Electric’s rates and the growth of an overhead mess with  “duplication.”   Much of the city was wired twice when City Light strung its own wires from its own poles beside Puget Power’s.

In 1919 Seattle purchased Seattle Electric’s dilapidated trolleys and five years later the city also bought the substation on Albion.  A wing was added and both the red brick tower and front brick façade along Albion were given a fresh stucco skin.  The city continued to transform power here for the north end.

While the parked cars on Albion suggest an earlier date, the original photographic print is captioned on its flip side “Before duplication lines were removed . . . April 1952.”   So the photograph is only 53 years old, and the given date is already two years after the citizens of Seattle, by a mere majority of 754 votes, agreed to push Puget Power into the suburbs and give City Light exclusive Seattle coverage.  The vote, of course, also meant fewer poles and wires overhead.

In 1955 the city surplused the substation and then soon sold it.  Although the unique landmark is now marked for destruction and the site for redevelopment a group of concerned citizens has banded in an attempt to save this Fremont survivor.

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The AURORA BRIDGE  – IT’S DEDICATION

( First appeared in Pacific, June 1l, 2000)

The dedication of the George Washington Memorial Bridge (aka the Aurora Bridge) was surely one of the great spectacles staged hereabouts.  February 22, 1932, the 200th anniversary of the first president’s birthday was chosen for the dedication.  It was a sunlit winter afternoon.

The dedication is still remembered by a few locals for what is shown here: a throng of 20,000 crowding what one speaker described as “another link in the Pacific Coast Highway; the concrete chain between Canada and Mexico.” The dedication program included a few surprises. There were, of course, bands, choruses, booming cannons, speakers and, as if on cue, a roaring crowd.

That the day’s final speaker was the state’s governor, Roland H. Hartley, was doubly ironic. First, Hartley had never been an advocate of the bridge and had once described paved highways as “hard-surfaced joy rides.” The second irony occurred when the long-winded governor was interrupted midsentence by President Hoover. The interruption seemed fitting, since Hartley was then heralding George Washington’s “avoidance of foreign entanglements,” even though the new bridge was designed in part to promote better “entanglement” of Canada, Mexico and the U.S..

In the other Washington, however, Herbert Hoover was motivated not by political nicety, but by a strict schedule that called for him to dedicate the bridge at 2:57 p.m. – which is exactly when he pressed a golden telegraph key in his White House office. Almost instantly, field artillery on Queen Anne Hill roared, trumpets blared, the fireboat Alki in the canal directly below the bridge shot water high into the bridge arch, an oversized American flag unfurled at the south end of the bridge, and the governor regrouped to shout into his microphone, “The president has just pressed the key!” Then thousands rushed from both ends of the bridge to its center.

The new bridge at dusk, again looking north from the Queen Anne side.

=====

This clip is reprinted from Pacific for May 28, 2000. It is a revealing witness to the depth of some of the cuts in "ordinary" street regrading - looking southwest across the intersection of Fremont Ave. and 39th Street, and nearby Fremont's Station #9.
A typical corner in Fremont, and about one block west of "the center of the universe." Note George Dude in black with real cool hat.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Fire Station No. 9”

  1. THANK YOU for this wonderful article on Station #9 in the Fremont district.
    My grandparents, Murray (Mike) & Pearl Holmes were given the lot directly across from the station (3828 LInden) when they got married in 1917. The lot was vacant and I was told by my mom, that the fire horses grazed there until my family home was built. My grandparents raised their 2 daughters there and when my grandpa died in 1950, my parents moved into the house and raised my sister and I in that house. My husbands granddad was also a firefighter at Station #9 so we have a long history with Station #9.
    When my dad died in 1988 the crew of Station 9 attended his memorial services in their formal uniforms, & the fire truck in stand down outside the funeral home. My mom lived in that house until 2001 when she moved to a retirement home. When she passed away in 2010, the crew of active and retired firefighters from station 9 were there in formal uniform and the fire truck again outside the funeral home. The Chief ordered the station to ‘stand down’ in honor of my mom. It was quite a tribute to my mom & dad and gives me chills even now.
    During the Centennial celebration in 1996, my mom was honored, by not only the men of station #9, but by the major as well. My mom was known as the ‘cookie lady’ and was interviewd by KING 5’s Evening Magazine. Many, if not all, of those stationed at #9 were not only public servants, but became personal friends of my parents and lovingly watched over my mom after my dad died, and frequently visited her after her move to the retirement home.
    Our family history with fire fighters continues today as our oldest son is now a Captain with the Wenatchee Fire Department. After his promotion, we arranged for him to receive Captains bars from Station 9 to wear on his dress uniform. This was one final tribute to my parents from those who loved them.

    I am sending a separate email with photos attached that were not included in this pieces of Now & Then. And the remarks by the fire fighters at my mom’s memorial service.

    As a side note: my sister and I are thoroughly disgusted with the city and the powers that be that OK’d the design for the new station. What an insult to this fine neighborhood. This new station may be modern and up to date, but it could have and should have been designed in keeping with the ‘old’ neighborhood. It is totally out of character for this neighborhood.

  2. THANK YOU for this wonderful article on Station #9 in the Fremont district.
    My grandparents, Murray (Mike) & Pearl Holmes were given the vacant lot directly across from the station (3828 LInden) when they got married in 1917. I was told by my mom, that the fire horses grazed there until my family home was built. My grandparents raised their 2 daughters there and when my grandpa died in 1950, my parents moved into the house and raised my sister and I in that house. My husbands granddad was also a firefighter at Station #9 so we have a long history with Station #9.
    When my dad died in 1988 the crew of Station 9 attended his memorial services in their dress uniforms, & the fire truck in stand down outside the funeral home. My mom lived in that house until 2001 when she moved to a retirement home. When she passed away in 2010, the crew of active and retired firefighters from station 9 were there in dressuniform and the fire truck again outside the funeral home. The Chief ordered the station to ‘stand down’ in honor of my mom. It was quite a tribute to my mom & dad and gives me chills even now.
    During the Centennial celebration in 1996, my mom was honored, by not only the men of station #9, but by the major as well. My mom was known as the ‘cookie lady’ and was interviewd by KING 5’s Evening Magazine. Many, if not all, of those stationed at #9 were not only public servants, but became personal friends of my parents and lovingly watched over my mom after my dad died, and frequently visited her after her move to the retirement home.
    Our family history with fire fighters continues today as our oldest son is now a Captain with the Wenatchee Fire Department. After his promotion, we arranged for him to receive Captains bars from Station 9 to wear on his dress uniform. This was one final tribute to my parents from those who loved them.

    I am sending a separate email with photos attached that were not included in this pieces of Now & Then. And the remarks by the fire fighters at my mom’s memorial service.

    As a side note: my sister and I are thoroughly disgusted with the city and the powers that be that OK’d the design for the new station. What an insult to this fine neighborhood. This new station may be modern and up to date, but it could have and should have been designed in keeping with the ‘old’ neighborhood. It is totally out of character for this neighborhood.

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