Seattle Now & Then: Smith Cove Glass Works

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Like Smith Cove’s own slim version of the Colossus of Rhodes, a yellow brick chimney – the remains of a glass factory - stood for about forty years at the “gate” to the mud flats of Interbay. (Courtesy Florence Drummond)
NOW: Most likely the chimney was destroyed in the early 1940s when “Finntown” and all else near it was removed by the navy for its Smith Cove supply base. The Admiral’s House, seen here perched on the graded bluff, was built in 1944. Jean Sherrard has kept his “repeat” wide enough to include the west end of the Garfield Street Bridge, better known as the Magnolia Bridge.


Long ago a Californian named Florence Drummond, once a “child of Finntown”, sent a friend a handful of small captioned snapshots of that “Mud Bay” community on the shores of Smith Cove, and her friend shared them with me. Many of its floating homes, and beach cottages were concentrated below the Magnolia and Queen Anne bluffs that marked, respectively, the west and east openings to what were once the tideflats of Interbay.

This 1922 Drummond print is also the most intimate record I’ve seen of the glass works impressive landmark chimney, which here rises high above the squatting neighborhood clinging with it close to the then still exposed cliff at the southeast corner of Magnolia. The wood frame factory once attached to the tower is gone, unless it hung around reconstituted in these salvaged quarters.

The glass works had a fitful history.  Researcher Ron Edge found perhaps its earliest footprint on an 1899 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey map, where for the benefit of surveyors and navigators is it captioned “yellow chimney.” Edge notes, “At least we know its color.”

The 1899 NOAA map shared by Ron Edge. The sand bar steaming from the Magnolia point can be found in several Smith Cove maps including the one that follows directly below: the 1894 "real roads" map, which Ron expresses a special affection for, as do I.
McKee's "Real Roads" map shuns real estate boasting and features only what he found on the ground. Here there is as yet no glass factory. The map does include the sand bar, the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern spur to the point and a sample of the land around, reaching from Salmon Bay, top center, to Fremont top right, and Mercer Street on the bottom. "Boulevard" was then the name for the neighborhood build around Dravus Street.
Here the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern spur is shown concluding at the railroad's coal bunkers, which probably did not amount to as much as the map suggests. There is as yet no glass factory. Later the factory's builders no doubt chose the site not only for the sand they believe was suitable for making glass but also for the railroad spur that made building the plant much easier and also promised to be ready to help deliver their dreamed of bottles and such.
This early-to-mid 1890s map shows a delicate rendering of the sand spit, no glass factory, no coal bunkers, but does show the S.L.S.E. spur.
While concentrating on real estate this 1899 Polk Map includes the by now Seattle and International spur and marks the glass factory - identified on the full map with a legend - as No. 16. Thanks to Ron Edge for all of them.

The works may have had more names – including Northwest, Puget Sound, and Pioneer – than glassware.  Whatever the moniker, the factory rarely appeared in the press, except for litigation among a string of owners, and one sizable 1903 story in which Seattle’s then super-developer James Moore (of the theatre) trumpeted his plans to get it going with new equipment.  It seems that the works were one of Moore’s few fizzle s, but still the yellow chimney survived as a helpful marker.

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Trouble at the Glass Factory. A clip from the Seattle Times.

In her letter Florence Drummond makes note of a Finnish necessity: the sauna or steam bath.  John Reddin, the Seattle Times humorist from the 50s and 60s, remembered several of them in Finntown, frequented mostly by Finnish bachelors, whom he described as thereby “neat and clean.”  He also lists “boisterous speakeasies” and “bootleg joints all around the Smith Cove area . . .That’s where the action was.”  By a curious contrast, included among Drummonds snapshots is one of her posing grandmother, another of a line-up of no less than thirty-one children attending five-year-old Wanda Corbett’s birthday party on a Finntown boardwalk, and a helpfully captioned snap of courting Elma Jakkaneu and Charles Ivana on a Mud Bay footbridge.  She explains, “later they married.”

PAGE ONE of Drummond's letter


I’ve included a few other glimpses of Smith Cove – from further south, looking towards the yacht club, and through the chain link fence of the Port of Seattle storage yard.

Another view Port storage

Anything to add, Paul?

Certainly Jean.  We will start by continuing with some other examples of Florence Drummond’s snapshots in Finn Town’s 1920s. A string of 10 related features will follow concluding with another look into Finn Town – the part of it on the Queen Anne side of Smith Cove.

This is an example of how Jean and I sometimes communicate in searching for the proper prospect for his "repeats." It is a combination of our subject - the glass factory - and in this example a space shot captured from Google Earth, and a detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map which we feature in toto on this site.
1912 Baist


This detail pulled from the A. Curtis Smith Cove "classic" discussed below shows - and fairly clearly - the glass factory at the point, but no smoke is rolling from its landmark chimney like the white puffings trailing a Great Northern Railway passenger train heading south to its waterfront Seattle terminus.
Having momentarily lost the black-&-white original for the A. Curtis subject we substitute this colored postcard.
The "now" I found - sort of. The print is not marked for a date, and I have visited that Kinnear Park prospect more than twice. I will speculate and propose a mid-1990s date for this, which would make it latter-day for me.


(First appeared in Pacific 4-17-1983)

Photograph number 6577 is one of the some 30,000 negatives included in the Asahel Curtis collection at the Washington State Museum and/or Historical Society in Tacoma. Asahel was the younger brother of the celebrated Edward Curtis whose romantic posed photographs of American natives will currently cost you a pretty sum. However, number 6577 cost me only a little more than four dollars (in the early 1980s) paid to the Washington Historical Society, and it is easily one of the most popular images in the history of local photography.

Asahel’s photograph, actually, has its own variety of staged romance. Besides its pleasing composition, this scene resonates with a local industrial drama, which was staged here on Smith’s Cove in 1905, the year the younger Curtis recorded this view from Queen Anne Hill. In the foreground is the Oriental Limited rushing its passengers from St. Paul and all points west over the last few miles of trestle into Seattle. In a few months it will be trailing its white ribbon of steam under Seattle while passing through the Great Northern’s new tunnel. And soon it will exhale its last transcontinental gasps alongside the new King Street Station, which in 1905 was still under construction.

Another detail from the Asahel Curtis subject.

Beyond are the Great Northern docks and between them the largest steamers in the world, the railroad’s Minnesota and Dakota. They are being prepared for their trans-Pacific routine of delivering raw cotton to the orient and returning with raw silk.

The director for this industrial drama was James Jerome Hill, the Great Northern’s “empire builder.” Years before, Hill discovered that “one acre of Washington timber will furnish as many carloads of freight as 120 years of wheat from a Dakota farm.” So when the first Great Northern freight train rolled into Seattle in 1893, Hill was anxious to tum it right around and head east with carloads of lumber. This was a turn-around from the old notion that railroads to the West were built to carry people and cargo in that direction and then return east almost empty.

Another prospect on the Great Northern pier and its oversize Pacific steamers.

In 1905 J. J. Hill was moving his show onto the biggest stage. Acting like Atlas, Hill developed his double docks at Smith Cove to be the shoulders upon which the world would turn. Having moved the country around, Hill was here attempting to revolutionize international trade. For 300 years most trade with the orient had passed India and Africa. Now with the encouragement of Great Northern steam on both land and sea, the empire builder taught some of it to follow the shorter great circle route past Alaska. Here the perishable silk was unloaded from the jumbo steamers Minnesota and Dakota and sent rushing east on trains that had priority over all other service including mail, passenger, and that mainstay, lumber.

James Hill

In 1853 Dr. Henry A. Smith built a log cabin at his namesake cove. Smith’s arrival was less mighty than the Minnesota’s but he stayed longer. For 63 years, Smith was easily one of the most remarkable characters on Puget Sound. Most of that time he spent at Smith Cove. Today he is best remembered as an ethnologist and linguist who “composed” Chief Seattle’s prophetic treaty speech. But Smith was also a surgeon who successfully used hypnotism as anesthesia, a psychotherapist who encouraged dream analysis for solving personal problems, a poet who published in Sunset Magazine under the pen name Paul Garland, a botanist who grafted the area’s first fruit trees, and a  universally-loved gentleman farmer of whom one of his seven daughters, lone, wrote: “Papa had a passionate love for the beauties of nature, was kind to all the farm animals and they, in turn, seemed to understand and love him.”

Henry Smith

Henry Smith was King County’s first school superintendent and a very rare statesman who seemed to inspire absolutely no resentment. As a territorial legislator for several terms, he still “never sought office, never asked for a vote and was never defeated in an election.”

When the 22-year-old Smith first arrived at Smith Cove, the highest tides filled potholes for sun-warmed swimming farther north than today’s Galer Street. When he died here at his Interbay home in 1915 at the age of 85, it was from a chill caught while setting out tomato plants in his garden. At that time the tide flats of Smith Cove were being filled in by the cove’s new owner, the Port of Seattle. The consequences were the half-mile long piers 90 and 91 which were the longest earth-filled piers in the world. The lucrative silk trade, which J. J. Hill had originally channeled through Smith Cove, was severely torn in 1940 by a filament made from coal with characteristics of strength and elasticity called nylon.

Years later the Navy took Smith Cove from the Port of Seattle for a condemnation fee of 3 million dollars. The Port bought it back in the mid-1970s for about 15 million and added another four million in improvements, including Smith Cove Park. There in the spring of 1978 a plaque was placed honoring the remarkable Dr. Henry A. Smith.



(First appeared in Pacific June 4, 2000)

This maritime scene is both delicate – afternoon light shapes the vessels and scatters upon the water – and monumental by reason of its largest subject, the steamship Dakota.

On the heels of its sister ship, the Minnesota, the Dakota was built in 1903 in Connecticut for the steamship arm of the Great Northern Railway and brought around the horn to its home port between the railroad’s long piers at Smith Cove in Elliott Bay. It began its first trip to Yokohama, Japan, in September 1905.

The steel-hulled cargo-passenger steamers were by far the largest vessels on the Pacific Ocean. Eleven decks high, they could hold the equivalent of 107 freight trains of 35 cars each. In fact, on its first voyage, the Dakota delivered more than one locomotive to Japan.

Clarence R. Langstaff, a carpenter and longtime resident of Magnolia, recorded this exquisite view in late 1905 or 1906. On the right is the 283-footsteel-hulled Oregon, oldest passenger vessel on the West Coast, built in Chester, Pa., in 1878.

Something beside this Smith Cove slip and the trail of smoke ties thes vessels. At midnight on Sept. 13,1906, while heading for Nome, Capt. Horace E. Soule ran the Oregon onto an uncharted rock near the entrance to Prince William Sound. On the clear afternoon of March 3 the next year, Capt. Emil Francke drove the Dakota onto a well-charted reef about 40 miles south Yokohama. Although the big ship was running at only 14 knots, its inertia was considerable, and the reef sliced through about a third of the Dakota’s 622 feet.

All the passengers were saved – but not the ships, most of their cargo and Francke’s job. While Soule was not held at fault, Francke lost his license and wound up working as a watchman on the San Francisco waterfront.

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Smith Cove Fill Quartet from the 1960s. Reading left-to-right top row first, the years are 1962, 1964, 1967, and 1969. (All photographed by Lawton Gowey)


Ascending from Citizens Light & Power and beyond the Great Northern dock a glimpse may be had of the glass factory below the Magnolia bluff.


(First appeared in Pacific, April 7, 1996)

The quality of life for the hill folk living along the sides and summit of Queen Anne Hill has periodically been threatened from below. The recent hubbub over unloading acres of foreign automobiles onto Interbay’s parking lots was preceded by more than a century of railroad racket climbing the western slope of the hill. The Great Northern laid its Seattle yard down below in 1903.

The peace, quiet and clean air were peculiarly threatened at the beginning of this century, when the Citizens Light and Power Company began to drive piles for a gas plant just offshore in Smith Cove. Since the manufacture of gas from burning coal was a notoriously foul process, the residents of Queen Anne Hill had a right to be wary. They also had the political clout to win.

The gas plant was eventually built – it appears in the “then” view – but only after the company installed the first downdraft smokeless boiler furnaces used on the West Coast. With this innovation the plant spewed neither smoke nor smell, and since its height didn’t intrude on Queen Anne’s view of the Olympics, the gas plant was a good neighbor. (Nearby, years later, the Port of Seattle’s much taller grain elevator did screen this view in spite of objections by Queen Anne residents.)

Looking north along the trolley trestle paralleling Elliott Avenue.

The plant’s innovations were cited by Citizens’ business rival, the Seattle Gas and Electric Company, in its attempt to stop its new competitors from laying pipe into the older company’s preserve: the Central Business District. The SGEC claimed that the new gas from Smith Cove was more lethal and thus responsible for the slew of gas suicides reported in the newspapers. In fact, investigators determined that the victims did not discriminate in their choice of gas and were taking it from both pipes.


The Magnolia Bridge, brand new and still rising above the wreckage of the timber trestle is replaced. The Glass Factory chimney can be found. (Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archive.)


(First appeared in Pacific, March 24, 1991)

When it was completed in 1930, the. sweep of the Magnolia Bridge as it ascends west of Pier 91 was considered a modern engineering wonder: At nearly 4,000 feet, it was the largest of only three reinforced concrete spans built anywhere. .

The big bridge was first proposed six years earlier when the West Wheeler Street Bridge was set on fire by a spark from a Great Northern locomotive passing beneath it. At first, the Seattle city council refused to build a high ridge to the bluff, since, it reasoned, only 4,000 people lived west of Interbay and south of Ballard. The city chose a humbler alternative by extending the West Garfield Street Bridge with a timber trestle that reached Magnolia at an elevation just a few feet above high tide.

Recorded in 1929 - its last year - the Garfield Street bridge, seen here from Queen Anne Hill, headed west from 15th Ave. N.W. across the Smith Cove entrance to Interbay before turning abruptly north to reach upland Magnolia at a low elevation.
Looking northeast from Magnolia into the snarl of trestles that negotiated the threshold between Smith Cove and Interbay before the 1930 concrete span surmounted it. Bottom-right are vestiges of Finn Town, aka Finntown, aka Mudtown.
Dedication Day freedoms
Seattle Times clip from Oct. 20, 1925.

Magnolians, however, organized the Garfield Bridge Club and eventually persuaded the city to replace the trestle with the soaring trusses shown here. The strewn timbers of the temporary low bridge, cluttering the base of the new span, are also evident.

The topmost view of the bridge was photographed Dec. 22, 1930, two weeks after the high bridge was dedicated with band music, the usual speeches and a procession of motorists and pedestrians. Then the tidelands of Interbay still reached far north of Garfield Street, requiring the bridge to be built above piles driven 20 to 40 feet into the ground. Now the tide basin has been reclaimed and blacktopped as a parking lot – most often for Japanese imports.

[Note: The public works destroyer earthquake of a few years back damaged the Magnolia Bridge so that it was closed for repairs, and locals had to abide the long detour over the Dravus Street viaduct several blocks to the north.]

Looking over Finn Town to the Port of Seattle piers and beyond. This was recorded from the nearly-new Magnolia Bridge. The dark outline of the Glass Factory appears far-right, and part of the new bridge, far-left. Courtesy Ron Edge.
The new bridge seen from Queen Anne Hill. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)
Frank Shaw's Dec. 22, 1979 record of the Port of Seattle's parking for imports.


In the Lowman family album of Victorian-era snapshots from which this subject was copied it is captioned "1887, Interbay."
The Interbay P-Patch a few years past.

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The Henry Smith home at Interbay

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Emily Inez Denny's painting of the Smith home and its setting on Interbay. Magnolia is on the right, Elliott Bay beyond, and the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad is heading north before he turns east for Lake Washington and reaching what is now the Burke Gilman Recreation Trail. Note the sand spit seen in the maps near the top. (Courtesy of MOHAI)


Looking south toward Smith Cove from the long-since destroyed Wheeler Street trestle for motorcars, the old Garfield Street trestle can be faintly detected on the horizon.  Left of center is the sign of the Portland Cordage Company written on the west side of the long factory designed to make rope from hemp.  (Historical picture courtesy of John Cox) With neither bridge nor tower to lift him as high as the plank floor of the timber trestle that once ran in line with Wheeler Street, Jean Sherrard substituted a stepladder and a ten-foot extension pole held by him high above his 6’7” frame.  He nearly made it while looking directly into the sun.


In “Magnolia, Making More Memories,” the second volume on Magnolia history published recently by that neighborhood’s historical society, Hal Will returns to the rich story of transportation along and across the Interbay valley that separates the hills of Magnolia from those of Queen Anne.  (Note the clay cliffs on the left.)   In the first volume, “Magnolia, Memories and Milestones” Will wrote about “Magnolia’s Wooden Trestles.”  Now in the second volume he goes after its “early railroad days.”

The first railroad here was the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern whose rails first crossed the soggy length of this valley in 1887 heading north on the bed that here supports a coupled string of tank cars.  The SLSER originated on the Seattle waterfront and hoped to continue as far as both Spokane and British Columbia.  Railroad history is well stocked with ironies, and here’s one. The SLSER was Seattle’s robust answer to the neglect of the Tacoma-oriented Northern Pacific Railroad. According to Will’s caption, “at the time of this photo, the track [with the posing train] was owned and used by Northern Pacific Railroad.” The Great Northern used the tracks on the right.

At first I imagined that this photo was recorded looking south from a water tower.  The truth I discovered in Hal Will’s essay on trestles noted above.  Here the unnamed photographer stood on the Wheeler Street timber trestle that ran the width of the valley, east-west from 15th Ave. west to Thorndyke Ave. West.  The trestles one big span crossed the tracks here.  Will gives this picture a ca. 1918 date.  The trestle was a total loss to fire in 1924.

A photographer from the city's public works department took this view on May 17, 1914 and labeled it for the Wheeler Street bridge that was planned for the Interbay tidelands that then still reached far north of Smith Cove. This view looks northeast from Magnolia.
An early 1920s aerial of the developing Port of Seattle facilities at Smith Cove also shows, at the top, the Wheeler Street trestle.
The Wheeler Street Bridge from the Magnolia side.


Looking south on Elliott with West Mercer Place on the left and tidelands still on the right.
Jean and I used this subject in our - and Berangere's - "Repeat Photography" exhibit that is now entering its last month at MOHAI. We did not use this "now" but rather one that Jean took recently. This I have dated 1996 and I recorded it with my arm out the window of whatever car I was driving then. Jean, I think, actually got out of his car..


(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 6, 1985)

It was a Wednesday afternoon late in the summer of 1921 when a photographer from the Seattle Engineering Department drove out to where West Mercer Place descends from Queen Anne Hill’s Kinnear Park to the waterfront and shot this week’s historical scene.

The Mercer Place opening to the waterfront was cut through in 1890 when Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman (remembered now in the Burke-Gilman Trail) started their ambitious service on the West Street and North End Electric Railway. It was built to move workers and settlers between downtown Seattle and their new manufacturing town, Ballard. It was one of the first interurban trolley lines in America.

The historical photograph looks south from where the timber trestle, called Water Street, turned with the municipal trolley lines for its climb to the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. For more than 30 years the six-mile trolley line ran from downtown Seattle through Belltown and Lower Queen Anne, returned to the waterfront at this Mercer Place intersection and continued on to Ballard. For much of its two mile run between this Mercer Place intersection and Salmon Bay – part of it thru the Interbay wetland – the trolleys ran atop a low trestle from 20 to 60 feet off shore. For the entire distance between Interbay and Pike Street the waterfront was often home to squatters shacks and a scatter of sawmills and boat builders.  In places, like that seen here, the waterfront was separated from the city by a dense greenbelt.

The BURKE BLDG northwest corner of Marion St. and Second Ave.

The trolley cars were powered by electricity generated in the basement of Burke’s namesake building at Second Avenue and Marion Street (now the site of the Federal Building). But the power was insufficient, and as the cars approached Ballard, their speed would decrease steadily, the lights in the Burke Building would dim and its elevators would slow to a crawl. One account of this slow ride to Ballard claims that the passengers took to carrying guns for protection against muggers who would crash from the forest along Queen Anne Hill to jump aboard the poking trolley for a stickup.

A different kind of danger and speed characterized the one hilly part of this nickel trip to Ballard. At West Mercer Place, after a speedy descent, cars occasionally would jump the track at the curve onto Water Street and, at high tide, take a bath in the bay.

By 1940, the rails had been pulled up and trackless trolleys were gliding on pneumatic tires along a concrete paved Elliott Avenue and a long way from sand, sawmills and shacks. Now only the greenbelt remains.

Looking north (towards Ballard) along the Elliott Ave. trestle. The streetcar trestle is to the left, and Magnolia on the horizon. The glass works tower is there. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)


Another tax photo from the WPA survey of the late 1930s of all taxable structures in King County. (Courtesy, Washington State Archive, Bellelvue Branch - for all of these.)
Jessica Dodge washing dishes in her studio home at the Full Circle Artists Coop in 1998.


(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 4, 1998)

You may recall writer David Berger’s feature “Site as Folk Art,” which appeared Dec. 7 in this magazine. As fate would have it, two days after we first followed Berger’s reconnoiter through the charmed land of the Full Circle Artists Coop, his subjects got their eviction notice.

The city of Seattle plans to route Elliott Avenue traffic destined for the proposed Immunex plant at Interbay up and over Elliott and the Burlington Northern railroad tracks that run between that thoroughfare and the Smith Cove piers. This overpass – called a “flyover” in the plans – would cut directly through the artists’ homes, studios and gardens now nestled against the Queen Anne Hill greenbelt.

Another Tax photo from the 1930s.

The cottage in the foreground (on the top) of this week’s comparison is the most northerly of the structures at the site. Its materials and houseboat design suggest it may have been dragged ashore during the reclamation of Smith Cove. The legal description defacing the older view was scrawled by a Works Progress Administration photographer during the WPA’s late-1930s inventory of every taxable structure in King County. “Little Finland” was then a popular name for this tidelands neighborhood. The larger structure on the right is still home to a sauna that for many pre-Full Circle years was a commercial operation.

Jessica Dodge - a friend of mine since the 1970s - in her studio when it was still in Finn Town.

The real splendor of this site – the folk art – is on the far, hidden side of this scene. Gardens for flowers , vegetables, sculpture and found objects meander between studios and greenbelt. This growing collage of plants and artifacts was included last spring in the Pacific Northwest Art Council’s Artist Garden Tour.

This site has also been reviewed favorably by a number of City Council members, nourishing a hope that at least part of this charmed land will be saved by turning the flyover into a “fly-nearby.”

Jessica with two other members of the Full Circle Artists Coop - one of them named Walt - when it was still below the Queen Anne Hill greenbelt.



(First appeared in Pacific Jan 12, 1992)

The brick shell of the N & S Foundry is one of the few early-century constructions that survives on the waterfront at the base of Queen Anne Hill. The two-story brick construction that appears on the left of the “then” scene, although similar, is not the foundry but the N ‘& S Machine Works, built in 1902. The foundry was added in 1906 on the lot to the south, or to the right and behind the construction site for the wooden boat. That means this picture was made between 1902 and 1906.  (Remembering that this was all composed first 20 years ago, I now imagine that none of this survives, but would be pleased to learn otherwise.)

The Machine Works, left, and the Foundry side by side ca. 1910.

After 12 years of manufacturing bricks in New Zealand, the German immigrant Robert Niedergesaess moved to Seattle in 1887 to continue making bricks at his Seattle Brick and Tile Co. His three sons, Otto, Wilhelm and Wilson, soon moved up the industrial ladder to electrical engineering. With financial help from their father, they formed the Niedergesaess and Sons Electric Co.

The Niedergesaess boys took advantage of their waterfront site to build boats. There was, as yet, no off-shore landfill – Elliott Avenue -separating them from Elliott Bay. (The historical photographer is on the Niedergesaess dock with his back to the bay,)

The sons separated their business in the early 1920s, with Otto moving to New York to manufacture propellers, Wilhelm staying put with the dynamos, and Wilson moving two blocks south on Elliott to open the Wilson Machine Works, a business now run by Wilson’s grandson, Robert D. Wilson. (Much earlier, Wilson Robert John Niedergesaess, tired of pronouncing and spelling out his last name for the tongue-tied, dropped the Niedergesaess and swung his first name, Wilson, to last.)


A last glimpse of the Glass Factory chimney and the saltwater flood into Interbay as seen from Queen Anne Hill circa 1914.
Smith Cove aerial Oct. 14, 1970 (Courtesy Port of Seattle)




1917  Soap Lake Wash. Feby 5, 1917:    Sister  Am very sorry I did not get to say Good By the morning I left but I was late getting up.  Milo C   To Mrs. Frank Townsend, Burlington, RFD No. 1 Wash. [Postmark Feb. 6, 1917 Soap Lake WASH]


1937  Dearl Harold,  I am enjoying soap lake fine.  I like the lake to Swimin too. Mary  To Master Harold Wieland, Pinehurst, Washington Box 122  [Postmark Jul 20, 1937 Everett WASH]


1950 Soap Lake Mon. May 29  Dear Phene (?),  We will be Home next week – having perfect weather that I ____ let you know that I shall plan to be at the banquet.  I hope you can get out a big crowd “the more the merrier” Give my love to John and keep a lot for yourself – Anna Rolleen Johnson  To Mrs. Phine (?) Buckley Lowell, Washington [Postmark May 29, 1950 Soap Lake WASH]



Paris chronicle #39 Message on a building

Usually, during their restoration,  buildings are covered with a tarpaulin, to print  them,  or using giant adhesives has become a new dynamic communication, and like this  Paris walls are transformed in a gallery of images.

Recently I photographed during a weekend the event of laying giant adhesive 1160m2 on a building 62 meters high.

Artif, a rope construction company achieved this feat in one day for the company Amundi announcing its next installation in the building Pasteur near the Gare Montparnasse.

En général, pendant leur restauration, les immeubles sont recouverts d’une bâche de protection. L’utilisation de bâches imprimées, d’adhésifs géants  est devenu un moyen dynamique de communication, ainsi les murs de Paris sont transformés en une galerie d’images.

Récemment j’ai photographié pendant un week-end la pose évènementielle d’un adhésif géant  de 1160m2 sur un immeuble d’une hauteur  62 m .

ARTIF, société de travaux à corde a réalisé cet exploit en une journée pour la société Amundi qui annonçait sa prochaine installation dans l’immeuble Pasteur près de la Gare Montparnasse.



ARTIF crew on the top of the building

On Sunday afternoon !


HELIX Vol. 1 No.3&1/2 – May 4, 1967

Don Edge, once again, did the coloring of our symbolizing bug or representive logo – the masthead.

We continue to turn the screw – of Helix – reaching now the fourth issue, which is curiously numbered “3&1/2.”  This will be explained in the audio link. At the bottom of it all are several snapshots scanned from Helix negatives that I wound up with after the paper folded.  We will try to identify the photographer – later.  Perhaps it was Gary Finholt.  Gary?  A few of these are also printed in the gnarly centerfold of Issue Three and One/half.

[audio:|titles=Helix Vol 1 No 3.5]

Artists Gertrude Pacific aka Trudi and Ted Jonsson. Note the issue of Helix that Ted is holding with his left hand. And Trudi is barefoot.
One of a few circle dances that was launched.
Our Norwegian angle-protector, perhaps, under the park's big spreading tree. Imagine bongo drums here for this was a most p0pular place - under this tree - for drum jams.
Flower Isness Fashions
I believe that Tim Harvey is far right, with the rolled up white sleeves. Tim was one of the stalwart-editors for Helix.
Seattle Magazine - and sometimes Helix too - photographer Frank Denman is aiming on the right. Oh the paisley! bottom-right.
While I remember two faces here I cannot name them.
On stage
The flutist's name eludes me, but - unless I am mistaken - I once threw his cat across a set in a duplication of the Dada Moment titled "The Dali Atomicus" and photographed by Philippe Haisman in 1948, which includes several flying cats and furniture too. The cat ran up a tree and was not noticed, I believe, until later when "our subject" returned home looking for his pet. By then his somewhat abusive friends, myself included, had left unwitting and so innocent but only sort of.


This I pleasantly discovered while scanning the few Be-in negatives I could find includes John Reynolds with beads, bells, Spanish hat, thongs and comfortable clothes, the Far East scholar who named Helix "Helix." I remember the woman that's with him, but not her name.



Seattle Now & Then: The Beaumont Apartments

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Beaumont, upper-left at 1512 Summit Ave. in 1920, was one of hundreds of apartment houses built on First and Capitol Hills in the early 20th Century. Typical of many were two bays that like these on the Beaumont climbed to the roof. The Beaumont’s bays are also given ornamental crowns beyond the roof. Between the bays and framed at the center, open balconies lead to the hallways on the apartment’s top four floors, offering breezeways in the summer. (Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, SMR 149)
NOW: In the 1950s the Beaumont was renamed the Summit Arms. While in Jean Sherrard’s repeat a street sign, upper right, conveniently orients us, most of the Beaumont/Summit Arms is hidden behind the non-descript structure that takes the place of the elegant Union Gasoline Service Station that once held the northwest corner of Summit and Pike.

This week’s Capitol Hill subject is an apt example of how Diana James in choosing the one hundred local apartment buildings to feature in her book “Shared Walls” could sometimes be influenced by an illustration.  James explains,

“Everything has a context but you cannot always find it in a photograph.  Here you can.  My choice, the Beaumont Apartments hovers above the appealing Pike Street Gas Station and, in the photo’s composition, between the Ford Dealer on the northeast corner of Summit and Pike and the porch of the large dark home on the left. I was intrigued that the building has stood there forever preserved.”

In her essay on the Beaumont Apartments she reveals that after the contractor F.G. Winquist built it in 1909 he moved in with his wife, five children and three servants.  Of their apartment building’s twenty-seven three- and four-room units, the Winquists may have needed several.

The Beaumont’s architects, Elmer Ellsworth Green and William C. Aiken, are mentioned in the book “Shaping Seattle Architecture.” Aiken later helped with the design of the Yesler Terrace Housing Project, while “Green designed dozens of houses and apartment houses in Seattle neighborhoods including Capitol Hill, the Central Area, and Mount Baker.”

Two weeks ago we featured the Hermosa Apartments in Belltown (on the edge of it), another of Diana James’ 100 choices.  Overlooking Tilikum Place it also had “context.” The Beaumont is part of the city’s most generous swath of apartments that were built conveniently along the western slopes of First and Capitol Hills, a quick trolley ride to downtown.  The Beaumont was advertised in The Seattle Times for July 28, 1913 as featuring “Close-in choice apartments, 10 minutes walk to 4th and Pike . . . strictly modern, rent reasonable.”


Seeing that so much of the Beaumont was obscured in the ‘Now’ photo, I walked around the corner and snapped a couple extra shots.

Looking at the Beaumont from Pike. The eagle-eyed (click to enhance vision) may note that Theater Schmeater is just next door to the south.
The Full Beaumont(y)

Anything to add, Paul?

Yes Jean.

First four links  – the four next photos below – to other past blog features on related subjects, most having to do with First and Capitol Hills.  For instance, the first of these – directly below – was featured Feb. 11 this year. It begins with a description of the First Church Christ Scientist and strings below it several other features.   Here’s the list, and in order.

– Queen Anne 7th Church Christian Science

– Methodists at 16th and John

– Tabernacle Baptist 15th N.E. and Harrison

– Unitarians on Capitol Hill at Boylston

– Nels & Tekla Nelson’s home on Boylston & Olive

– Broadway H.S.

– Fire station NO. 7 15th and Harrison

– Broadway Coach Madison and Harvard 1887

– Burke Mansion

– Cornish & Buses at Broadway and Pine

– Fire Hill Fire house No. 3 at Alder St. and Terry Ave.

– Roycroft Theatre 9th Ave E. and Roy St.

– Garbage Collection 1918 at Belmont Ave.

– Bagley Family promenade on 12th at Thomas, 1905

– Pike Apartments, Pike and 12th

(Again, the four photos below may be moused or clicked as links to their stories – and others.)

Jean has learned that Phil Smart’s Mercedes Dealership has been sold, and will be moved to an Airport Way location.  And so the last stalwart of the car culture on Seattle’s Auto Row (The Pike Street part of it) will be gone.


Looking west on Pike through its intersection with Summit. This view can be compared to the primary feature look (above) into the same intersection but from its southwest side.
A repeat of the scene above it and not so old – about six or seven years.


Looking west on Pike Street through its intersection with Summit Avenue we get a glimpse of what this street became once the motorcar began to reshape just about every part of our culture. On the far right is a small sign attached to a corner brick column that reads “The Ford Corner,” and across the street is a Union brand service station. The red tile roof of this fanciful Spanish-styled gas station is a sign of the prestige connected with owning a car in 1919 – the likely date of this photograph – although automobiles were then quickly becoming commonplace, especially the Model T Ford. (Note the black sedan on the right.)

In 1915, automobile licenses were issued to 6,979 people in Seattle. Five years later the number had multiplied more than six times to 44,046. By then the greatest variety of servers and sellers that supported the auto trade chose to park themselves on Seattle’s “Auto Row” along Pike Street and the connecting Broadway Avenue.

This photograph, however, was most likely recorded not to advertise Fords but to show off the Romanesque stone mass of First Covenant Church that was dedicated in 1911 at the northeast corner of Pike and Bellevue. The congregation first built a frame sanctuary there in 1901 that was soon jacked up when Pike Street was regraded in 1905 and squeezed when the street was widened two years later.

The ornate home between the church and the gas station was the residence of William and lona Maud, and their daughters, Ann and Vales. The English-born Maud moved to Seattle in 1885 and did well here in real estate. For instance, he built the surviving Maud Building at 311 First Ave. S. in 1889 over the ashes of the city’s “Great Fire” of that year.

Not long after this photograph was recorded, the Mauds moved to Los Angeles. After William’s death there in 1931, his body was shipped back to Seattle for burial. By then his distinguished Victorian home at 416 E. Pike St. had been replaced by Mill Motors, the used-car lot that grabbed motorists’ attention with a fanciful windmill tower facing Pike Street.

Mills Motor Co. with the Covenant Church on the left, ca. 1938 – a tax photo courtesy of the Washington State Archive.

Lewis Whittelsey took this photo of his wife Delia in the back seat of an unidentified motorcar posing on Pike Street and looking east to the Covenant Church at Pike and Bellevue. The photograph, from a family album, is date June 15, 1916.  For comparison – or lack of it – with the next subject note the structures facing Pike here on the left or north side of the street.  The grocery subject below is also sited on Pike at its northwest corner with Bellevue, and yet it is quite a different construction than those seen above, unless it can be squeezed in but not seen behind the motorcar.
The McRae and Branigan Grocery at the northwest corner of Pike and Bellevue – or is it?



(First appeared in Pacific, May 10, 1987)

It was the Episcopalians of Trinity Parish who started Grace Hospital and first administered it, but most of the established Protestant power in town gathered October 18, 1885, at a stumpy slope on the edge of town, at the present comer of Summit Avenue and Union Street, for the ceremonial laying of the cornerstone.

Grace was Seattle’s second dedicated hospital (not counting a variety of doctor’s backrooms that preceded it). By comparison, Seattle’s first, the Catholic Providence, was less lavishly appointed, without the comforts that can come with capital. Actually, in this business Grace was in direct competition with Providence for local bodies more than souls. Grace Hospital was built with Protestant lumber, on Protestant ground, and endowed with Protestant beds. When it opened February 21, 1887 over 300 persons attended and were entertained with music, card playing and dancing.

This church hospital, however, did not survive the crash of 1893. The operation of Grace was then passed on to a group of doctors, but in 1899 they too abandoned it. The building stood vacant for a time, and then operated as a boarding house and hotel. In 1905 the 20-year-old Grace was demolished to make room for the site’s second landmark, Summit School.

Built in 1905 the still-standing Summit School at first served a neighborhood of large families, many of them living in homes that were nearly mansions. When the grade school closed in the mid-1960s the community around it had been transformed into a neighborhood of apartment buildings, small businesses, and – once again – hospitals.

For a brief while Summit School served as a satellite to Seattle Community College until an alternative high school took over the building and the name as well.

When Summit Alternative High School moved on in 1977 the building was sold to developers who planned to refurbish the old landmark with offices. The plan failed, and in the fall of 1980 the present occupant, Northwest School, moved in. With a faculty of nearly 40 full-and part-time instructors serving a student body of about 200, Northwest School is truly an alternative.   (Remembering that this was written a quarter-century ago, Northwest School still thrives and at the same location.)


For the contemporary repeat I could not resist moving a bit closer to the two landmark brick apartments at Summit Ave. and Republican Street on the right.  When constructed in 1909 and 1910, from right to left respectively, they were given the romantic names the Menlo and the El Mondo.  The latter has kept its original moniker but the former (the one nearest the camera) has a new name: the Bernkastle.   Between them they added 31 units to a neighborhood that was then only beginning its conversion from single-family residences to low-rise apartments like these. (Historical Photo courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)


After seven inches of rain in two days the pipeline that supplied Seattle its Cedar River water was undermined and broke near Renton on November 19, 1911.  The week-long water famine that followed closed the schools for want of steam heat, sent whole families packing to downtown hotels where the water service was rationed but not cut off, and featured daily front page warnings to “Boil Your Water” – meaning the water one caught in a downspout or carted from one of the lakes.

There were alternatives.  One could purchase water for 5 cents a gallon or wait in line to fill a bucket from one of the 24 water wagons – like this one — that the city dispatched to residential streets.  Pioneer springs on the slopes of First Hill were also uncapped.  Pioneer historian Thomas Prosch who lived near the spring at 7th Avenue and James Street told a Seattle Times reporter,  “I went down and got a pail of it myself. I have drunk it for years and no better water exists.”

Finding the unidentified site of the historical scene with the city water wagon was mildly intuitive for I lived on Capitol Hill’s Summit Ave. for five years in the early 1970s.  I quickly drove to the spot just south of the intersection of Summit and Republican Street.

In 1911 – the date of the photograph – brick apartments like those on the right were still rare in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.  Eventually, however, much of this part of Capitol Hill was converted to higher densities because of its proximity to downtown and the convenient rail service.  (Note the northbound rail on the right for the trolley loop that returned to downtown southbound on Bellevue Avenue one block to the west.)

The 1911 break in the Cedar River line and the resulting flooding in Renton.


At 8:30 on the Sunday morning of November 19, 1911, the church bells of Renton began to peal too early for a call to worship. Earlier that morning church services had been called off, for during the night the Cedar River that normally ran through the town began to run over it.

The bells were joined by the Renton coal mine’s siren whose shriek, as one old Rentonite remembered, “could run up and down five octaves and raise the hair on the back of your neck.” This was the signal that 28 miles upstream the Cedar River dam had burst, releasing eleven square miles of fresh mountain water impounded behind it in the City of Seattle’s reservoir.

Cedar River Dam

The Monday morning Post-Intelligencer reported that “extraordinary sights ensued” as Renton “fled pell mell to the hills . . .Stampeding horses galloped along the streets, barely held in control by their struggling drivers . . . Sons carrying their old mothers on their shoulders . . . Women with bundles on their heads, dragging their children behind . . . while baggage-laden fathers followed.”

From the Renton Hills they looked back at their deserted town and waited for the disaster to suddenly drown it.  It was a false alarm. The dam had not burst, and there was no wall of water. By noon many of those who fled in the morning waded back to their homes to peer into flooded basements or to gather floating woodpiles – until 3:30 that afternoon when the siren wailed again and the scene of flight was repeated.

This time the dam did break, but those who felt its main effects were in Seattle not Renton. Only the dam’s top timbers gave way but the ensuing erosion undermined the bridge at Landsburg, a short way down stream from the dam, and with it the pipelines that fed Seattle its water. Thus, the Renton flood was followed by the Seattle water famine. Soon the warm Chinook winds that had brought seven inches of rain in two days and melted the early snows turned cold. The waters receded; but while Renton was shoveling mud from its basements, Seattle was filling its bathtubs with lake, spring and rain water-or any kind of water it could get. Private water merchants sold it for 5 cents a gallon. The mayor encouraged citizens to put washtubs under their downspouts, and when the city dispatched 24 water wagons into the streets, “they were besieged by hundreds of men and women armed with receptacles of every sort.”

It took a week to repair the pipes, and every dry day the warnings of the city’s health commissioner were quoted on front pages, “BOIL YOUR WATER!” Seattle’s schools were closed for want of steam heat, and on Wednesday 2,000 bundles of Seattle’s dirty laundry were shipped to Tacoma.

The limited supply of fresh water in the city’s reservoirs on Beacon and Capitol hills was directed to the business district. The P.I. reported, “Entire families in the dry districts have deserted their homes.” Seattle’s hotels were filled with visitors from Seattle. “Downtown cafes are feeding capacity crowds.”

At week’s end the Saturday P.I. reported, “Cedar River Pipe Ready To Shoot Water to City.” It was the last front-page story on the event. By then Renton’s flood was almost dried up, and on Sunday its citizens could, if they wanted, respond to a regular call to worship without running for the hills.


Looking east from 8th Ave. with Howell on the Left and Olive on the right.


(First appeared in Pacific, JUNE 23, 1996)

Block 28 of Sara Bell’s Second Addition is one of those pie-shaped lots that are a relief from the predictable space of the American urban grid. The buildings on them seem to put on a show – pushing their faces into the flow of traffic.

Like others of this flatiron class, what this three-story clapboard gives up in space it makes up in facades. Surely every room within is well-lit. Photographed here Nov. 18, 1910, this building also shows up in a panorama recorded from the summit of Denny Hill 20 years earlier.

This mixed-class (retail and apartment) structure sticks its forehead into the five-star comer of Olive Square. Here Howell Street, on the right, originates from the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Olive Way. After Yesler Way west of Broadway, Olive is the second odd tangent that enlivens the otherwise monotonous street configuration of Seattle’s central business district.

The scene was probably recorded by the Public Works Department’s photographer, James Lee, which may explain the photograph’s enigmatic purpose: It is a record of something having to do with public use rather than private glory or mere architectural pleasure.

Still, this vain little clapboard is a pleasure – although it may be an idle one. The bright sign taped to the front door is a real-estate broker’s inquiry card. The only other sign showing is on the left. It is for the Angelo, the residential rooms upstairs.

The flatiron block (circa 1908) is marked upper-left with a red arrow. The subject looks east over 5th Avenue with Pine Street on the right and Olive on the left. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
The pie-shaped block is marked again with a red arrow. The subject from the early 1890s, I believe, looks east up Olive Street from Denny Hill before its regrade.
Looking north and west towards Queen Anne Hill from First Hill. The photographer stands somewhere between Terry, Boren, Union and University.  Pine street crosses the scene – some of its built on a trestle. Pike street is the next paralleling street beyond it. 9th Avenue is on the left and Terry far right. The triangular subject is marked with another red arrow. Although I have charted the grid and am confident that it is properly placed it is yet troubling.  The windows on the south facade bear some resemblance in their order to those seen in the top photo of this subject, but there are not enough of them.  Nor does the cornice of his earlier record – from the early 1890s – have the gravitas of that in the top photo, but here there seems to be but two stories whereas above there are three.  I am assuming that the building was at some point enlarged above and to the rear – but I may be wrong.
Meanwhile and nearby, El Goucho at 7th and Oliver in 1961. Red meat anyone? (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)

I'LL WRITE A LONGER LETTER LATER – Ephrata, Sequim, Seattle

Collector Drew Miller left three shoe boxes filled with “real photo postcards” of Washington State subjects long enough so that when he recently picked them up we hardly recognized each other.  It occurred to me – unfortunately late in the routine of scanning his cards – that when there are messages attached I should ordinarily scan those as well.  For instance, notice how sweet is the message for the top card below – a salmon pie left for Tressy and a cream colored casserole too.  Surely, these personal greetings and reflections are often revealing, or at least suggestive, of both the subjects and the writer.   And I imagined that if a large enough sample could be collected of both cards and their messages that an entertaining and often funny short film could be made of them.  (Share them if you have them and if you will.  Or make your own films.)  Here are three without comment from Miller’s cards.


How are the babies? Salmon pie for Tressy in the refrigerator cream colored casserole We are here just for a few minutes just 20 miles from Moses rather nice little town.  Love Frank & Merle xoxox  – Mr. and Mrs. Ned Hill, 10015 – 17th S.W. Seattle, WN – Postmark Ephrata Wash Oct. 12, 1943


Dear. W.A. – This is the H.S. of which my brother in law is principal.  Si was borne and raised on the Sequim prarie and is a wonderful person.  I have yet to hear anyone say an unkind word about him he’s one in a million. Sequim is noted for its nice people most of Jane’s and Si’s friends are farmers and nearly all of them have had some college education, they aren’t at all like I’ve always that farmers should be, their houses are modern and they dress so much like city folk you’d  never know they difference.  Love J.C.   – To Sgt. D.A. Peterson  McClosky Gen Hosp  Ward 31 A Temple Texas / Postmark: Sequim Wash, Jan 12, 1943


Pinkie – Just a line from Seattle to a pal.  Having a swell time.  Hate to go home but all good things must come to an end.  The weather is swell and not too hot.  Will be seeing you soon.  Mabel  – Mr. W.E. Lomax, 508 W. 9th St. c/o Acme Typewriter Co., Los Angeles 15, Calif. / Postmark Seattle Wash July 2, 1945

HELIX Vol. 1, No. 3 – April 27, 1967

This week we have made it to the third issue of Helix.  (It shows a date – April 27, 1967. A few did not.)  Above is Ron Edge’s coloring of the Helix masthead we have chosen to represent this two-plus year project of putting up all the issues.  (Last week it was Ron’s brother Don who started this coloring.  We are looking for colorists – Photoshop artists to have a go with it.  Below is a link to download a blank Helix masthead for those who would like to try their hand at coloring one for use in future post.

Below is another commentary of my first reading of this issue – as with all the others – in 45 years.  So far in these rough and recorded remarks my time runs out – about ten minutes – before I get to the centerfold.  Let it be.

[audio:|titles=Helix Vol. 1 No.3 s]