Seattle Now & Then: A Golden Rule for April Fools

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: It was surely a bright idea to use Golden Rule, the name for the central moral maxim of humankind “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” as also the banner for one’s emporium of often bargain-priced housewares. (Courtesy Michael Maslan)
NOW: In the “mirror” of his repeat recording of what once was the 713 3rd Avenue address of the Imperial Studio, Jean Sherrard has without trying included himself.


For posing before the decorative backdrop in Rasmus Rothi’s Imperial Studio, why, we wonder, did this sturdy woman hang dolls low on her theatrical dress? We will call it our April’s Fool question for we have no bright answer on this first day of April.  What’s more with Jean Sherrard’s repeat we were at first fooled and confused – until he explained it.

“Shooting west, I stood with my back to the bus stop near the southwest corner of Third Ave. and Columbia Street.  While I was photographing the reflecting face on the Third Ave. side of the elegant Chamber of Commerce Building, a pedestrian crossed in front of me either mumbling to himself, I thought, or grumbling at me.  The photograph, however, reveals that while thoughtfully stooping to avoid interrupting my shoot he was talking on his cel.  Still I got the top of his head.”

Arriving from San Francisco in 1881, Julius and Louisa Bornstein, with help from sons and brothers, opened the Golden Rule Bazaar in 1882, and with good timing.  One year more and the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Tacoma, the first transcontinental to Puget Sound.  Both Tacoma and Seattle boomed, accompanied by an industrious symphony of dynamite, hammers, saws and cash registers.  The Bornstein’s registers were especially musical for their prices were often low.  They claimed to be the first store on the Pacific Coast to have 10, 15 & 25-cent counters.

Through its more than 20 years selling the essential stuff of home economics – like crockery, chambers, spectacles, nutmeg grinders, trunks, lamp chimneys, dollar watches, potato mashers, glassware, enamelware, and willow ware – the Golden Rule Bazaar prospered.  It should be noted, apropos the hanging dolls, they also sold toys.


Considering that the actual location of 713 3rd Ave. was one of two bays in the side of a building, I shot, as you know, Paul, two possible ‘Nows’.  The first was the mirrored window we chose to use. The second was the next bay south. Here it is:

Another interpretation. The closed door...

Anything to add, Paul?

We will not disappoint you Jean – yes we do!  But not so much this time,

In part it is because of the April Fool’s “theme” – we are habitually so wise, seemingly, that this foolishness does stump us some. “I thank the lord for my humility.” said Richard III.  The other part player in our paucity is Helix.  We spent most of the day putting up the “Helix Returns” feature – with lots of help from Ron Edge – which starting tomorrow, will follow Seattle Now and Then as surely as Monday follows Sunday West of the Mississippi and, for that matter, as surely as Sunday comes before Monday East of the Mississippi.  They are easy confused.

Now we will add three – only – more features that appeared first in Pacific, and the first of these is another on the Golden Rule, consequently, we do repeat some from the one to the other.  Then we will go across the street – First Ave. aka Front Street – to the Southwest corner with Marion Street and study Seattle Hardware’s window decorations for some Christmas in the 1890s.  We will also study the window, for the reflections are also revealing.  And then, but not finally, we will reprint a feature from the last time April Fools sat hard on a Sunday, with a story about that one who was so talented in making us feel – ordinarily – happily fooled by his hoaxes.  Ivar.  We have one.

After a few foolish interludes we will conclude with an art quiz, which is, in its “art is anything you can get away with” way, quite appropriate for April Fools, like you and I and the readers, Jean.  We will ask “How was this art made?”  It is a question about artistic technique – sort of.  We will wait first for readers to offer their conclusions on these aesthetics, and then next Sunday we will describe the technique in detail in case anyone would like to use it.


Golden Rule Bazaar at the southeast corner of Front St. (First Ave.) and Marion Street in the late 1880s and before it was destroyed in the city's "great fire" of June 6, 1889.


( First appeared in Pacific, Aug. 11, 1991)

One of Seattle’s first department stores, the Golden Rule Bazaar, was founded by a man who failed in the gold fields. Down and out in Comstock, Nev., Julius Bornstein chose Seattle over Portland and Walla Walla to begin again. He brought his family here in 1882, and within three years the Bornsteins had their own storefront on First Avenue, at Marion Street.  Eighty years later Julius and Louisa’s son, Sam, recited for Seattle Times writer Lucille McDonald some of the pioneer staples the Bornsteins sold here: “Lamp chimneys and wicks, dollar watches, chamber pots, spectacles, clothes hampers, market baskets, wooden potato smashers, . nutmeg grinders, luggage … telescopes and toys at Christmas.”

Sam Bornstein recalled a brisk business in baskets that his father purchased from the natives in exchange for cooking utensils. Sam also claimed that the Golden Rule Bazaar was the first store on the Pacific Coast to have counters devoted exclusively to cut-rate items priced at a nickel, a dime, 15 cents and a quarter.

The Golden Rule Bazaar - its sign - appears here just left of center. The Frye Opera House with its mansard roof is on the left, and below it, far left, is the dark rear facade of the Pontius row on Front's (First) west side south of Madison. It is there that the city's Great Fire of 1889 started. Top-center and on the horizon is Central School on the south side of Madison Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, and now part of the I-5 freeway trench, or ditch, or drawn-out pit or concrete canyon. Columbia Street is on the right. A likely date is 1886.

Seattle’s “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889 was made considerably less spectacular by the 12-year-old Sam. News of the fire reached his school soon after it started about one block north of the family business. Sam bolted, commandeered an idle wagon and two horses, and hauled away three truckloads of fireworks that his father had recently purchased for a Fourth of July promotion. The fireworks and a few blackened pieces of china were all the Bornsteins saved from the flames, which soon overran’ the entire business district. They did, however, hold their Independence Day sale in a tent.

The family’s business prospered again. During the gold rush Sam recalled that “the miners were nuts. They just took the stuff away from us. We didn’t have to do any selling.” By 1910 the firm of J. Bornstein and Sons was operating exclusively wholesale, a business that in 1927 was favorably sold to the Dohrman Hotel Supply Company.

This feature, Seattle Now and Then, is now in its thirty-first year. This is, I believe a poor second place to the record for free lance publishing longevity set by C.T. Conover for his feature "Just Cogitating." Conover kept at it and at it - he is best remembered as the promoter to named Washington the "Evergreen State," and near the end frequently repeated himself. Perhaps no one would tell him, or perhaps no one was paying attention. Here Conover treats on a subject the includes the Golden Rule. Click to Enlarge


The reader may wonder – with the writer – if the molding just above the sidewalk in the ca. 1900 record of the Seattle Hardware storefront at 823 First Avenue is – in spite of the obvious changes here – the same as that in front of Starbucks – this Starbucks – in the Colman Building at the southwest corner of Marion Street and First Avenue. (History photo courtesy of Lawton Gowey)


(First appears in Pacific for Christmas, 2005)

Considering the mix of reflections and fancy stuff emitting from this elegant window the reader may miss the “Merry Christmas” that is written with fur sprigs.  The letters are attached to a wide white ribbon that arches from two posts of presents, left and right.  And in the center is a third pile of gifts including a few dolls and a cluster of oil lanterns just below the banner bearing the company name, Seattle Hardware Co.

Once a stalwart of local home improvements Seattle Hardware tempted shoppers through these plate glass windows at First and Marion beginning in 1890 when the Colman Building was new.   Like the clapboard structure John Colman lost here to the “Great Fire” of 1889, he prudently kept his post-fire brick replacement at two stories until it proved itself.  Eventually with both Seattle Hardware and the popular grocer Louch and Augustine (predecessor to Augustine and Kyer) at the street level this was one of the busiest sidewalks in town.

When Colman was preparing to crown the success of his two floors by adding four more to his namesake building Seattle Hardware built and moved to its own brick pile at King Street and First Ave. South in the fall of 1905.  The elegant post-fire neighborhood you see reflected in Seattle Hardware’s big sidewalk windows, of course, stayed put.  The Burke Building at Second and Marion and the Stevens Hotel – seen here back-to-back on the right – were razed in the early 1970s for the lifting of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Office Building.  (The reader can get a correct reading of these reflections just below.  We have flipped the picture.)

In the century since Seattle Hardware moved out and the building grew to six floors this storefront has been home for a parade of purveyors beginning with Wells Fargo.  More recently Bartells Drugs, and Dalton Books held the corner and now Starbucks.  In the “now” photograph a second promoter stands near the door to the coffee magnet and holds a sign that reads, “Disabled. Will Work. Navy Vet 78/82 Thanks.”  This thankful modeling cost the photographer five dollars.  Merry Christmas.


Photo by Ivar Haglund, Courtesy of Ivar's Inc.


(A smaller version of this appeared in Pacific the last time April Fools fell on a Sunday – surely within the last ten years.  This is a longer version – a rough draft for the part this story will play in “Keep Clam,” the book I am still writing about Ivar and Ivar’s.  I certainly do hope to finish it this year!)

It was a late February afternoon, 1947, and Ivar was still riding the tail of international excitement over the spilled syrup.  A gardener named Thomas (no first name given) saw it first.  While trimming a hedge beside the A.B. Barrie home above Madrona Beach, Thomas looked out over a placid Lake Washington and saw “the hump.”  Almost immediately his employer, Mrs. Barrie, saw it too, the “large crinkly-backed object” swimming south towards Leschi.  “It was about 100 feet long but I could only see the middle which was about 25 feet . . . I thought its tail and head were submerged.”  In the excitement both still reasonably assumed that the tale was probably forked and that the head resembled the face of a dragon.   The experience shook Mrs. Barrie’s gardener.  “He paled and left. I haven’t seen him since.”

The four-year-old Ivar already keeping an eye out over troubled waters.

What was needed to corroborate this first sighting of the Madrona Sea Monster was someone who could both get a picture of it and keep clam while doing it.  Enter the historic opportunist Ivar Haglund, the steady owner then of two aquariums, one on Pier 54 beside his nearly new Acres of Clam seafood café and the other in Vancouver B.C. beside Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.

To speed the capture Ivar offered a $5000 reward.  “While the cost of building a tank for a hundred-foot long ferocious monster would be considerable I was willing to make the sacrifice.”   Next Ivar got the picture, or a picture, which he claimed, “clearly shows an uncommon creature,” but also hid its forked tail and ferocious face.  Ivar conceded that this first evidence of the Madrona Sea Monster might be interpreted as the rumps of several ducks swimming in a line.   “Still I took a picture anyway. Five minutes later the thing submerged and didn’t come up again.”

Other sightings soon followed including confirmation from another landmark restaurateur, Ray Lichtenberger of Ray’s Boathouse in Ballard.  Ray claimed to have seen it “heading out to sea.”  A.T. Goodman, assistant lockmaster, agreed that a clever monster could have made it through the Chittenden locks by hiding beneath a vessel.  Goodman also hinted that should the monster be caught in foreign waters it may be extradited to face charges on not paying for its flight through the locks at Ballard.  Another authority confirmed that “sea monsters can survive on salt water, fresh water, or bourbon and water.”

In a relaxed interval from chasing monsters, Ivar Haglund keeps clam with something bigger than a clam but smaller than a monster.

While Ivar felt the monster hysteria rising around him he kept his wits.  For instance, he instantly caught the failure of army barge skipper Sam Wiks’ report of seeing a snake-necked creature browsing on Kelp south of Dutch Harbor.  “Sea monsters are carnivorous! What was this one doing munching on kelp?”  Ivar was certain that they favored fresh tuna.”

With every failure to catch the monster Ivar’s confidence grew.   “Madrona will probably be caught soon.  It’s getting careless.”  Confident that Madrona was headed for Vancouver, he equipped every aquarium attendant there with gill nets and sliced Tuna.  The Vancouver Sun reported that Ivar had also parked purse seiners behind his aquarium “preparing to net Madrona, the Sea Monster, which he intends to place in the aquarium for the rest of eternity.  ‘Sea monsters never die’ Ivar explained.”

In early March the United Press reported that Madrona had been sited heading for the open ocean.  Dismayed that the monster might escape, Ivar exclaimed, “I’ve spent the past 24 hours scanning the waters of Puget Sound along with every fisherman I know.  All we’ve seen is debris.  I don’t know which I saw the most of  — flotsam or jetsam.”  In the end Haglund found consolation in philosophy.  “Who are we to say that from the boundless depths of the ocean all the mysteries have been uncovered and brought to the surface?”

Ron Edge contributes this rendering of a certain serpent heading west past the Ediz Hook lighthouse at Port Angeles as encouraging evidence that, as the United Press noted above, that when feeling chased other Puget Sound monsters have headed for the open ocean years before Ivar's Madronna Monster made his or her run. There may well be other examples.


The oldest and best known bazaar on the waterfront - here at Colman Dock.
Ye Old Curiosity Shop founder Pop Stanley at the front door with one of his many admirers. (photo boy Link.)
A curio competitor on the Marion Street overpass.
And another - this time Ivar's own Trader Sravi (yes Ivar's spelled backward) at the front of Pier 54 in the early 1960, and designed, in part, to take advantage of Century 21 tourist trade.
Carrying our theme from the top, more ladies on strange foundations.
These dancers at Sunrise seem to have missed the mountain.
Another EDGE CLIPPING from Ron Edge, and good advice as well.
Here's a puzzle of motives. Was the figure cut from the group out of resentment or special admiration? Most likely the former, for both pictures here were taken from Stanwood native Mamie Staton's photo album. From the evidence of that album Mamie was a real player in Stanwood High Schools athletics. And there as a premonition in the juxtaposition we, alone, have wrought. Here she stands on the right with her own caption - not ours - "Missing Link." Mamie's standout quality was her height. She was tall and must have been a good rebounder, at least.


A Blog Exclusive!!!




It required three  years – or more – to complete these four paintings and several others, if they are completed.  But I like this quartet, and so will decide now  to let them go.   They are, again, part of a group that is distinguished by the technique I used to paint them.  The medium was, fortunately, not expensive or I would not have developed its techniques.   As noted above I’d like to “game” it, and ask readers – those who have got this far – to suggest what they imagine or know that the technique and media might be or are.  I’ll report on the reports next week, and then reveal all, which will either confirm what is offered from others or prove to be unique.   Frankly, it takes perhaps more than I have got to develop a new medium and/or technique, or are their new things under the sun that also continue into the dark and through it?

Edgar Allen Poe in Profile
Leda and the Swan
Still Life by my Window
Sunrise thru my Window


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