Seattle Now and Then: Christian Scientists

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Made of Bedford Limestone, the First Church of Christ Scientist at the southwest corner of 16th Avenue and E.Denny Way on Capitol Hill, took five years to complete. (Courtesy John Cooper)
NOW: The landmarks exterior has been protected during its conversion inside into living spaces. While it cannot be seen from the street, the sanctuary’s stained glass atrium with its 40-foot ceiling has also been save as a public space.

First Church of Christ Scientist on Seattle’s Capitol Hill needed three services to celebration the completion of their sanctuary on Sunday June 7, 1914.   The Seattle Times reported that “following the unostentatious custom of the Scientists, there will be no joy-making.”  There would, however, be music from the church’s new three rank organ, but it would not, the Times assured, be “blaring music” nor would there be any “speech-making.”   (Still, we suspect that often it was joyful.)

The services featured the regular Christian Science practice of two readings, one from the Bible – ordinarily the King James version – followed by “correlative passages” from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the denomination’s “textbook on Christian healing” written by its founder Mary Baker Eddy.   Christian Science was so popular in the early 20th Century that within a few years several Seattle congregations were formed, all of them in distinguished sanctuaries, many of which survive.  There are local examples in the University District, on Queen Anne Hill, and downtown.

Many of these sanctuaries have been saved by conversion to other uses.  A vibrant example is the Fourth Church of Christ Scientist, at 8th Ave. and Seneca Street, which has since 1999 been home for Town Hall, a local cultural venue that I have often heard blare joyfully.  (A very good example was the trombone choir playing in 2006 during Town Hall’s 70th birthday celebration for U.W. professor trombonist Stewart Dempster.)

The Fourth Church of Christ Scientist, now the home to Town Hall, gleaming with its creme-colored tiles on the left, in the mid 1920s.  Above it construction on the Olympic Hotel is in progress.   (Courtesy of Ron Edge)

Architects Charles Bebb and L.L. Mendel designed the First Church sanctuary when they were probably the paramount architectural firm in Seattle, busy with a great variety of building types. Surviving examples of their diverse designs include the Hogue Building (1911), the Ballard Fire Station No. 18 (1911), University Heights School (1902) and the Walker-Ames house (1907), home for the president of the University of Washington.

First Church (1914) also survives by dint of conversion.  It has been artfully adapted into a dozen condominiums.  The congregation continues to meet at its Christian Science Reading Room quarters on Thomas Street near Denny Park.


Anything to add, Paul?

Yes Jean, and all from the neighborhood, except for the first feature, which is another Christian Scientist sanctuary that has been saved for other uses: the one on Queen Anne Hill.

Above: Dedicated in 1926 the Seventh Church of Christ Scientists has survived on the roof of Queen Anne Hill as one of Seattle’s finest creations.  Below: Sturdy, intact and wrapped in its own landscape the landmark is yet threatened with destruction for the building of three or four more homes in a neighborhood primarily of homes.  Many of the sanctuary’s neighbors are fighting alongside the Queen Anne Historical Society to keep their unique landmark. (Historic photo Courtesy Special Collections Division, U. W. Libraries.  Negative no:  26935)


Secreted and Saved Landmark

On the late morning of Tuesday, May 22nd last (2007), the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation held a press conference intended to turn the fate of one of Seattle’s most exquisite landmarks away from its planned destruction and towards something else – something “adaptive” like another church, a community center or even a home – a big home.

The Trust not only included the Seventh Church of Christ Scientist on its 2007 list of the Washington State’s “most endangered historic properties.”   It then also used the front steps of this Queen Anne landmark as the place to circle the wagons for statewide preservation.  It was an especially strong sign by the Trust and for its extended family of historians, architects, citizens – including sensitive neighbors of the church – of how cherished is the Seventh Church.

Seattle architect and painter Harlan Thomas (1870 – 1953) created the unique sanctuary for the then energetic congregation of Christ Scientists on Seattle’ Queen Ann Hill in 1926.  It was the year he was also made head of the Architecture Department at the University of Washington, a position he held until 1940.

Although a local architectural marvel this sanctuary is not well know because of its almost secreted location.  The address is 2555 8th Ave. W. — at the Avenue’s northwest corner with West Halladay Street.  Except to live near it or to visit someone living near it there are few extraordinary reasons to visit this peaceful neighborhood, except to enjoy this fine melding of architectural features from the Byzantine, Mission, Spanish Colonial and other traditions.

Since the Trust created it in 1992 the “Endangered List” has not been an immoderate tool in the service of state heritage.  Less than 100 sites have made this register, which is really the Trust’s emergency broadside for historic preservation.  [This campaign from 2007 was successful.  The sanctuary was saved.]


Through eighty-six years (in 1993) of dramatic changes on Capitol Hill and Methodist sanctuary at Sixteenth Avenue and John Street has kept its Gothic character intact.  (Historical view courtesy of Museum of History and Industry)


(First appeared in Pacific, 8-23-1993)

That there is very little to distinguish Capitol Hill Methodist church from its dedication in 1907 to its recent [1993] re-dedication as the offices of the architectural partnership Arai/Jackson is evidence of this landmark’s power to escape the crowbars and vinyl sidings of outrageous progress.

When we think church many of us — perhaps most — think Gothic.  Since the Victorian revival of medieval style the popularity of this type of English Parish sanctuary spread speedily throughout Christendom including the southeast corner of 16th Avenue and John.  The architect John Charles Fulton, a Pennsylvanian, was so good in designing popular parishes that in 30 years he sold the plans to nearly 600 of them.

This is the third sanctuary — all of them Gothic variations — built by the city’s second oldest congregation, the members of First Methodist Protestant Church.  The first, the “Brown Church” at Second and Madison, was raised by Daniel Bagley the congregation’s founder and first minister.  It was the second sanctuary built in Seattle and the first to be destroyed by the city’s Great Fire of 1889.  The congregation fled its second edifice at Third and Pine when the 1906 regrade of Third Avenue put its front door more than ten feet above Third’s new grade.

When new, the Methodist’s Capitol Hill address was nearly in the suburbs, but briefly so.  The neighborhood quickly grew and changed replacing its single-family residences with the culture of mixed uses that still distinguishes Capitol Hill.  But with the steady loss of its families the congregation dwindled.   The church’s successful application in 1976 for official landmark status for its sanctuary was done as much to help preserve the congregation as its building.  But by 1991 when the costs of maintaining the old Gothic sandstone pile accelerated well beyond the small congregations powers they moved nearby to share the quarters of Capitol Hill Lutheran Church on 11th Avenue.

The church’s new residents have neither fiddled with its exterior nor made changes within which cannot be readily reversed should the church ever return to being a church.  Actually Arai-Jackson’s work on the structure’s interior is nearly religious.  Their conversion of the sanctuary’s dome room is uplifting.  Its worth a visit.

And these particularly sensitive architects have other responsibilities besides caring for their office’s landmark status.  It is essential that sanctuaries  — especially Gothic ones — so evocative of the preternatural as this should have had at least one ghost sighting.  For the Methodists on Capitol Hill, however, it required one of the building’s latter day users, a new age divine, to claim to have seen none other than old Daniel Bagley anxiously pacing the sacristy.  Now partners Steve and Jerry Arai, Cliff Jackson and Tom Ryan must expect that not only architectural tourists will want to occasionally eavesdrop on their quarters but also an ancient cleric in a “diaphanous bluish light.”


Tabernacle Baptist held its last service in their old 1903 Capitol Hill sanctuary in 1974. This view of it looks east on Harrison Street across 15th Avenue N.E. The modern structures that replaced the church include a bagel shop where Thomas Ruhlman, the TAB’s pastor since 1980, often meets with parishioners who retain connection with Capitol Hill. (Historical photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)


(First appeared in Pacific, June 9, 2002)

For its 1996 centennial celebration Tabernacle Baptist Church – or “TAB” as its member call it – published a church history replete with pictures, the line of pastoral succession, the statistics of worship service and Sunday School attendance, descriptions of its several moves, and the dramatic story of its origins.

The TAB began in conflict.   A protesting minority of members left First Baptist Church after the freshly ordained young Bostonian Pastor S.C. Ohrum failed by a few votes to win 3/4ths approval to keep him beyond a six months trail at the central “mother” church.   The dissenters formed Tabernacle Baptist in 1896 and hired Ohrum as its first pastor.  Their formidable leader was a Ulysses Grant appointee who for many years was the chief judicial officer of Washington Territory.   Judge Roger Sherman Green carried a pedigree to his protests; he was the grandson of Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

For a short while the new church hoped to challenge the old as Seattle’s, to quote Green, “but one central Baptist Church” however, the lure of affordable land on the top of the then booming residential Capitol Hill proved more attractive than old protests.  On Sept 21, 1902 Sunday school children paraded from the TAB’s temporary barn-like hall at 11th Avenue and Jefferson Street to the southeast corner of 15th Avenue N.E. and Harrison Street where the congregation would stay for three-quarters of a century.   Soon after the TAB’s present senior pastor Thomas Ruhlman answered the call in 1980 his congregation moved from temporary quarters at 15th N.E. and 92nd Street to join with North Seattle Baptist in Lake City.

This view of the Capitol Hill sanctuary was photographed about 1914 when the parishioners briefly entertain relocating their church downtown.  But they stayed on 15th and spread — adding first seating and then an educational wing to the 1903 sanctuary.   Through its years on Capitol Hill the Tab called eleven pastors.  Forest Johnson, the eighth of these, stayed the longest, from March 1944 to June 1969 when he resigned to become director of the church’s Camp Gilead on the Snoqualmie River.



(First appeared in Pacific, March 29, 1992.)

Seattle’s first Unitarians dedicated their second sanctuary March 11,1906. The Boylston Church, as it was called, seated 800 and had a hand-pumped pipe organ. It also had excellent acoustics.

At the time of the church’s move to Capitol Hill, the liberal Dr. William Simonds was its minister. Defending Socialists’ right to hold public street meetings in 1906, Simonds told the local press, “The Salvation Army is allowed to preach hell and fire, which no one believes in. I am not a Socialist, but I believe in freedom of speech and will protect its rights.”

Also an advocate of women’s suffrage, Simonds held a public debate on the subject with First Presbyterian’s charismatic Mark Mathews, a suffrage opponent. The press declared Simonds the winner. Simonds’ successor, Dr. Jesse Daniel Orlando Powers, gave monthly book reviews to his congregation. Classes in drama and psychology were also popular, and the church’s adult Sunday school was led by University of Washington professors. However, Powers’ drift toward “psychic science and self-expression” eventually led to his resignation in 1919. Thereafter First Unitarian’s fortunes floundered. The sanctuary was sold to Seventh Day Adventists in 1920, and the Adventists worshiped there until the structure was ruined by fire in 1963.

Without a sanctuary, several attempts to unite First Unitarian with University Unitarian failed. For years the small congregation met in homes and rented halls. In 1945 the church’s surviving assets, $11,500 from the sale of the Boylston property a quarter-century earlier, was sent to the American Unitarian Association in trust. Twelve years later the sum was returned – with interest – when First Unitarian Church of Seattle re-formed in Des Moines where it still thrives and you will see – if you click this Youtube link – dances.  [We will propose that the Unitarian-Universalist community in Des Moines, Washington feels some unity with the same in Des Moines, Iowa.  In finding the above Youtube link, we missed the mid-western point of it.  That fellowship of dancers is dancing in Iowa.  The locals – here in Washington – do, however, also dance. as Saltwater Church at 2507 14th Place S., Des Moines, Washington.  The sanctuary is nestled in a greenbelt, and describes itself as “a Unitarian Universalist congregation serving South King County since 1954. Our members come from Burien, Normandy Park, Des Moines, Federal Way, SeaTac, Tukwila, Renton, Kent, Auburn and other South King County communities.” (For our accidental purposes only we will add Des Moines, Iowa.) ” Join us for services at 9:30 a.m. or 11 a.m. on any Sunday morning. Programming for children and youth as well as childcare for crawlers and toddlers is also available at this time.”


Nels and Tekla Nelson’s residence was in the Capitol Hill neighborhood best known by its “granite pile,” Broadway High School, seen here behind and to the right of the Nelson home. Most of the residences in this part of Capitol Hill have been replaced by apartments, and Broadway High (most of it) was razed for Seattle Community College.


(First appeared in Pacific, March 15, 1992)

Standing on his front lawn, Charles Whittelsey aimed his camera across Boylston Avenue toward Nels and Tekla Nelson’s home at the northeast comer of Olive and Boylston. The Nelsons’ was the most lavish residence on the block. Nels was C.D. Frederick’s partner in what was one of the Northwest’s largest mercantile establishments: Frederick and Nelson. Whittelsey, an accountant for the city’s water department, photographed this view in 1906.

The city directory lists the Nelsons at their new home at 1704 Boylston in 1901, the year construction began on Seattle High School (Broadway High). Whittelsey’s snapshot includes, behind and right of the Nelson home, a good glimpse of Broadway High’s western stone facade.

Born in’ Sweden in 1856, Nels Nelson crossed the Atlantic as a teenager. In the years before his arrival in Seattle, he farmed in Illinois, mined for gold and raised livestock in Colorado, and there met C.D. Frederick.  In 1891 Nelson visited Frederick in Seattle and stayed as his partner. The following year Nelson helped found the local Swedish Club and in 1895 he married Tekla, another Swedish immigrant.

Nelson was C.D. Frederick’s second partner. J.G. Mecham, his first, left their then still-mostly-used-furniture store soon after Nelson arrived with his $5,000 raised in Colorado on cattle. The three, however, remained friends. After Nelson died in 1907 on the Atlantic returning from an unsuccessful attempt to renew his health at a Bavarian spa, Mecham remembered him as “Truly one of God’s noblemen. With his passing I lost a valued friend.”

The Nelsons had three sons, but no grandchildren by them. In 1913 Tekla married Daniel Johanson, another Swedish immigrant, a mining engineer, fish wholesaler and ship builder. They lived in the Boylston home until Daniel died in 1919. Daniel and Tekla had two children of their own, Sylvia and Tekla Linnea, and ultimately one grandchild, Marilyn DeWitte, a Kirkland resident.

[Note, if you like, how the Nelson home above appears in part in the feature above it, the one on the Unitarians, also at Olive and Boylston.]



(First appeared in Pacific, April 17, 1994)

Only seven years after it opened in 1902, Seattle High School, the city’s first structure dedicated exclusively to secondary classes, was renamed Broadway High for the busy street that passed its front door. It was also in 1909 that Asahel Curtis took this view of Broadway High from the rear of the Oddfellows Hall on Pine Street.

At first, students came from everywhere – from Bothell to Broadway – and the mix of races and classes received not only a progressive education but a fund of loving memories to cherish as alumni. It was a remarkably busy place. The addition of night classes in 1907 swelled enrollment by nearly a thousand. During the 1930s the school became a self-help center for learning skills to negotiate the depression. During World War II, Broadway High and its neighbor, Edison Technical School, instituted classes to help run the home front.

In the fall of 1946 students were directed to other secondary schools and Broadway High was rededicated to completing the education of returning veterans. In the Broadway-Edison Evening School anyone – in 1945 the oldest student was 66 – could follow a hobby, take a class in making clothes, painting or cooking, or complete high-school credits. Adult education enrollment in 1949 was 9,645.

Seattle Community College acquired the plant in 1966 for its central branch and in the summer of 1974 wreckers razed most of Broadway High School. The school’s auditorium was saved and given a new facade made from large stones salvaged from the school’s front entrance.

(When this was first written in 1994, the school’s large and energetic alumni association was anticipating the 1996 golden anniversary of Broadway High’s closure.)

Earliest record of the Broadway High Schools shown here.

The merging of Capitol Hill and First Hill (and Second Hill), on the right, seen from the roof of Broadway High School. The view looks east over the Broadway Playfield. The Oddfellows Hall is right-of-center facing Pine Street.


FIRESTATION NO. 7 at 15TH Ave. & HARRSON Street.

(First appeared in Pacific, May 4, 1989)

In 1924 the Seattle Fire Department got rid of the last of its horses. At the beginning of that year the city bought motorized fire apparatus #66 and at the end of year rig #82.  Showing here is one of the city’s earliest fire engines, #7.   According to fireman Galen Thomaier, the department’s official historian and also the proprietor of the Last Resort Fire Department, a fire fighting museum in Ballard, it is a coincidence that this rig was also assigned to Firestation #7 at 15th Ave. E. and E. Harrison Street on Capitol Hill.

The red brick Station #7 opened in 1920, sans the poop-shoots and hayloft of the 27 year-old frame firehouse it replaced. The jewel-like station served for fifty years more, closing March 23, 1970.  Apparatus #7, however, worked out of Firestation #7 only until 1924 when it was moved to Station #16 near Green Lake. It survived in the system until 1937 when it was sold.  The department’s first motorized apparatae were displayed at the 1909 Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exposition before they were commissioned in 1910.  Numbered consecutively the department’s most recent 1988 addition is apparatus #386.  It cost $328,000 or $319,000 more than rig #7 (not figured for inflation).

Station 7’s survival was briefly threatened when the city surplused it in 1970.  QFC, its neighbor to the north, petitioned to purchase and raze the structure for parking; however, as many readers will remember, 1970 was a watershed year for preservation.  On Earth Day of that year a number of community design activist at the UW School of Architecture formed Environmental Works.  Then with the health clinic Country Doctor and a number of other then new social services they leased the old station from the city and so saved it.  They also renamed it, Earthstation # 7.  In its now [1989]  nearly two decades of community service, the interior of the old station has been rennovated four times.


Jessie Parker remembered taking her 1887 snapshot of the Broadway Coach near the present intersection of Madison St. and Harvard Avenue. Judging from the horizon line, the likely position was one block west of Harvard, where Madison begins its short descent to Broadway at its intersection with Boylston Avenue: the subject of the “now” photo that accompanies the next feature – the one about the Burke residence.


(First appeared in Pacific, June 1, 1997)

Recently, Pacific reader Linda Hand shared this print of the Broadway Coach – although difficult to make out, the name is written along the side of the stage, above the windows.  A typewritten caption on the back of the snapshot reads in part, “Stagecoach line operating on Madison from First Avenue to about Harvard . . . taken in 1886 by Mrs. Jessie Parker.” If the reporter who interviewed Jessie Parker on March 18, 1940, got it right, the year she made this rare snapshot of the coach to First Hill was 1887, not 1886, two years before the cable street railways on Yesler Way and on Madison.

Jessie and her husband, Charles, were reportedly the city’s first amateur photographers, exploring the pioneer community with their bull’s-eye camera. In the late 1880s Charles worked as a clerk for First Hill druggist W.A. Hasbrouch, possibly there learning about the latest photographic devices while selling chemicals to photographers. By 1892 Parker was a professional, opening a photographic supply business in the Scheuerman Building at the First Avenue foot of Cherry Street.

Jessie long outlived Charles, and at the time of her interview – 50 years to the day after the opening of a Madison Street cable line that was to be dismantled only days later – she still lived on First Hill. Jessie described Madison Street as a wagon road that “wound crookedly through stumps and clumps of trees. It was dusty in summer, and the mud was almost bottomless in winter. But no one complained. Even when the stagecoach had an unexpected spurt of business … the men gallantly took seats on the careening roof, attempting to look as dignified as possible.”

How Hand’s grandmother, Marcia Helthorpe, came by this photograph she has yet to discover, but the possibility of other Parker snapshots has encouraged her to explore further the boxes of photographs and ephemera collected by her grandparents.


The Burke Mansion, above, at Boylston Avenue and Madison Street (northeast corner) survived for a half century until razed for the Opticians Building, below, another part of the conversion of First Hill to “Pill Hill.”   This “now” will also do for the Broadway Coach feature, the subject which preceded this feature.  [In fact, I put it in there to make the point twice.]

(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 8, 1995)

In the half century – from 1875 to 1925 – that Thomas Burke made Seattle his home, he managed to so insert himself into its politics and development that the historian Robert Nesbit would stretch the truth of Burke’s effects only a little when he titled his biography of the attorney and judge, “He Built Seattle.”

The judge and his world-hopping wife Caroline moved into their First Hill home at the northeast comer of Boylston and Madison Street in 1903, a year after he retired from his legal practice. The Burkes were childless and since his wife was as fond of Paris as she was of First Hill society, he was often left alone in this big home with his library. He was an avid reader and was generally considered the town’s chief orator.

The Burkes purchased an Italianate mansion built about 10 years earlier by another judge, Julius A. Stratton. They made one substantial addition: While on an around-the-world tour their “Indian Room” was attached to the north wall.

(The south wall shows here.) Designed by Spokane’s society architect, Kirtland K. Cutter, and completed in 1908, it was 25 feet high with a surrounding interior balcony. It was really an exhibition hall for the Burkes’ collection of Native American artifacts, a collection that later became the ethnographic foundation for the University of Washington’s Burke Museum.

Besides the museum, a monument in Volunteer Park and a street in Wallingford, Burke is also remembered in the Burke Gilman bike trail, which follows the line of one of the judge’s industrial efforts, The Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad. The S.L.S.E.R.R., financed largely by Easterners, was also an example of what Nesbit so thoroughly elaborates as Burke’s principal historical role in the building of Seattle; that is, as “representative for ‘pioneer’ absentee capital.”


Two new Seattle Municipal Railway buses are posed for photographer Asahel Curtis along the west curb of Broadway Avenue between Pike (behind the photographer) and Pine Streets in 1919.  The Booth Building appears above the buses in both the “now” and “then” views, although in the intervening years some of the ornate Spanish roofline has been removed.   (historical view courtesy Lawton Gowey)


While the subject here is evidently the two new White Motor Company (WMC) buses in the foreground we also catch above them, center left, a glimpse of Cornish School.  Below the eaves the sign “Cornish School of the Arts” is blazoned and to either side of it are printed in block letters the skills that one can expect to learn in its studios: “Art, Dancing Expression, Language.”  From its beginning in 1914 Cornish meant to teach all the arts and the whole artist.

The official Curtis number (38871) for this image indicates that it was probably photographed late in 1919, or two years before Cornish moved from the Booth Building here at the southeast corner of Broadway Avenue and Pine Street north a few blocks on Capitol Hill to another Spanish-styled structure, the school’s then new and still used home at Roy Street and Harvard Avenue.

When the city took public control of all the streetcars in the spring of 1919 they purchased a dangerously dilapidated system at a price so dear it precluded most improvements.  The few exceptions included these buses that were purchased to reach parts of the city that the old private trolley system did not service. These buses are signed for Magnolia where most of the developing neighborhoods were not reached by the street railway line that ran to the front gate of Fort Lawton.

Thomas White began making sewing machines in Massachusettes in 1859.  He was still around in 1901 when his company made its first steam-powered automobile in Cleveland. Gas powered trucks were added in 1910; buses followed.  Vancouver B.C. also purchased WMC buses to service the Grandview area to the east of that city.  The best-known and longest-lived White buses were the red ones used for narrated tours at Glacier National Park.  They were a park fixture (moving ones) until retired with “metal fatique” in 1999 after 64 years of continuous service.


Built in 1903 to serve the generally oversized homes in its First Hill neighborhood Firehouse No. 3 survives nearly a century later.  Since 1932 Harborview hospital has been the big non-residential neighbor for No. 3, and the firehouse has for many years been used by the hospital.  It is now home for the departments of Engineering, Environmental Services and Planning.  (Historical photo courtesy of Peter Rackers.  Contemporary photo by Tobi Solvang.)


(First appeared in Pacific, June 23, 2002)

The most gilded of curiosities connected with this fire station is a combination of its age and style.  Built in 1903 it is the oldest surviving firehouse in the city although it has long since left the service of extinguishing blazes.  The Seattle Fire Department abandoned this three-bay Tudor jewel in 1921.

Except for the loss of its hose drying tower it looks much the same today as it did the day that Engine Company # 3 moved over in April 1904 from the old Station #3 on Main Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.  A ladder company was soon added to the services kept in this First Hill firehouse, and both the engine and ladder companies were horse-drawn.  In fact this station at the Northwest corner of Alder Street and Terry Avenue was never motorized.

Jim Stevenson’s book “Seattle Firehouses of the Horse Drawn and Early Motor Era” published in 1972 seems to be the first printed source for the commonplaces of Firehouse No. 3: it status as oldest survivor, brief in service and only for horses.  Practically every description since Stevenson published his sketchbook in 1972 repeats them, as have I.

On pages facing ink sketches drawn by his own hand Stevenson has written lovingly detailed captions to his subjects.  About Firehouse No. 3 he writes in part “Today, one can go inside and see the old stall doors and stables where the horses were kept. Also remaining are the steel rails embedded in the brick floor of each bay on which the apparatus were parked.  The firemen kept these rails well greased, allowing the horse an easier and faster start when the bell hit.  When the firemen returned to the house the rails acted as guides for backing in the apparatus.”

The artist-author Stevenson concludes his description by noting that No. 3 “was recently placed on the National Register of Historic sites.”  Larry Kreisman, Pacific Northwest’s – and Historic Seattle’s – own preservationist, concludes his description of Firehouse No. 3 in his book “Made to Last” by noting how well it originally fit First Hill.  “Set back from the street and with its landscaped lawn, the building respected it residential neighbors with an appropriately residential character.”



Almost certainly 1935 was the year this photograph of the Roycroft corner was recorded.  The names of these businesses at the southeast corner of Roy Street and 19th Avenue E. all appear in the 1935 business directory, and business life expectancy at the hard heart of the Great Depression was poor.

We may note that neighborhood movie houses were one exception to this general attrition.   At little palaces like the Roycroft for 15 cents – a price made more or less permanent here with neon – one could waste a shiftless afternoon sitting through three B movies.   The “Great Hotel Murder”, listed here at the center of this triple feature, is described in the often grouchy Halliwell’s Film Guide as a “lively program filler of its day.”

“Air Hawks” the last film listed is good corroborating evidence for choosing 1935. Released that year by Columbia pictures this story of two aviation firms fighting over a U.S. airmail contract starred the pioneer pilot Wiley Post playing himself.   It was one of the aviator’s last roles.   Later that year Post visited Seattle with the comedian Will Rogers before the two flew off for Alaska and the crash that took both their lives.

The Roycroft was one of the many neighborhood theaters that was built around Seattle in the late 1920s to feature the then new pop culture miracle of talkies.  Watson Ackles managed the Roycroft Theater in 1935, a year in which three other Ackles are listed in the city directory as working in some capacity with motion pictures.

By 1935 this largely Roman Catholic neighborhood was already quite seasoned.  The 19th Avenue trolley line was laid through here as far north as Galer Street in 1907 – the same year that St. Joseph Parish was dedicated nearby at 18th and Aloha and that Bishop O’Dea laid the cornerstone of Holy Names Academy.

In the historical view the cross-topped Holy Names dome stands out.  In the contemporary scene [if I could have found it] the recently restored cupola is hardly visible because the Capitol Hill urban landscape has grown up in the intervening 66 years. Although all of the structures here at the northeast corner of Roy Street and 19th Avenue survive the Roycroft Theater stopped showing films in 1959.  Later it became the Russian Community Center   (courtesy Museum of History and Industry.)



(First appeared in Pacific, August 7, 1988.)

Like most other booming young cities in the American West, garbage took Seattle by surprise. In the habit of distributing the waste in ravines or dropping it from timber trestles onto tideflats the stuff seemed to take care of itself. Until, that is, the ravines filled up and the great waste bucket of Elliott Bay returned some of this rubbish to the beaches.

By the time a city photographer recorded this scene of garbage men at work in the early afternoon of October 28th, l915, Capitol Hill, the scene, was crowding with apartments filled with materialists ready to buy their way through the coming century of consumption and waste. And here wagon number 71 of the city’s Health and Sanitation Garbage Department is gathering the early consequences.

1915 is the year the Health Department took control of garbage collection and disposal from the Street Department. Whereas the latter had contracted private haulers, the former used its own equipment, and introduced the technique of sanitary fill by daily covering some of its dumps with dirt. This waste from Capitol Hill’s Belmont Avenue might have wound up in the landfill on Smith Cove, or Union Bay, or East Green Lake, or at the foot of Wallingford Ave. at the north end of Lake Union. All were active dumps in 1915.

One year later the nine-foot lowering of Lake Washington for the ship canal opened a volume of potential new landfills in the exposed sloughs.

One of the reasons for the transfer of waste duties from the street people to the health experts was the steadily diminishing mass of street dirt that accompanied the retirement of horses from the scene. Animal droppings were for centuries one of the more substantial facts of street life, a fading reality the Health Department’s horse-drawn rigs helped keep alive for a few years more. Notice the scoop attached to the wagon’s side.

Another development that changed the quality of a wagon’s average load was the introduction of oil burners.  Homes with this modern convenience no longer had coal clinkers to put out with the garbage.  (As a child “working for the family” I was pulling clinkers from the basement furnace in the late 1940s.)  The health department kept tabs on the city’s solid waste until 1939, when it was transferred to the engineering department.


Unable to find the “now” or repeat of the “then,” I have scanned the clip and include it below.   The story mentions Mary Randlett, who shares the family with those in the “then,” but not the father and son walking on the sidewalk behind her.  They are Dan (the father) and Dylan (the son) Patterson.   As noted above, the clipping dates from 1993.  The son is by now a man.  A question comes forward.  Can he shoot baskets as well as his dad once did?



(First appeared in Pacific,  March 19, 1995)

When first constructed – the tax records indicate 1898 – this frame apartment house featured many endearing architectural touches: gables, bay windows, balconies, a tower and its row of brick chimneys.  Although now deprived of some character, it is a survivor at the northeast corner of 12th Avenue and Pike Street.

Photographed in 1908 for the city’s engineering department, the intended subject of this view may have been the intersection, not the building, since the photographer has cut away the tower.  The condition of Pike Street, on the right, is quite rough; the year was on the cusp of street transportation, between a past dominated by horses and a future given to internal combustion.  Eventually Pike Avenue became “Auto Row” and this apartment house was jacked up and moved back to accommodate a new first floor of storefronts.

The corner restaurant is easily its oldest occupant.  Agnes Hansen and Bonnie McBride opened their café in 1929.  The A&B – from their first names – survived until 1968, when purchased by Norm Brekke and renamed the Emile for his uncle, the building’s owner.  Emile Gaupholm was a Norwegian immigrant who, after studying engineering at the University of Washington, ran a service station with his wife on the old road between Renton and Bellevue.  The station was sold in 1945 soon after the Gaupholms bought this building.

The building’s present owner and resident [in 1995], Frederick Braymer, can survey the intersection from the bench of his grand piano.  The antique décor of Braymer’s corner apartment (above Emile, which is still open although under new management) includes a large blow-up of the subject featured here.


Concludng with another Christian Science sanctuary with classic features – this one in Tacoma.

One thought on “Seattle Now and Then: Christian Scientists”

  1. That last photo is of the First Christian Church (name is on front and side of the building), not First Church of Christ, Scientist – Christian Science, which is on Division Ave. opposite Wright Park.

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