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)

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Beaumont Apartments”

  1. The McRae & Branigan Grocery is certainly in the same building as the present Benson’s Grocery at the NW corner of Pike & Bellevue. While the front facade was updated, the windows along the east side match. If the motorcar in the other picture is on Pike Street, I think it’s taken close to Boren. The neo-classical building in the background is unexpected. Perhaps that is the location of Six Arms, at E Pike & Melrose?

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