HELIX Vol. 1 No.8 – July 27, 1967

The dates we have attached to both No. 7 and No. 8 may be skewered by a day or two or three.  We have yet to crack their dates, for neither issue confesses such.  The audio below – by Dorpat – is another revelation  – for Dorpat – as he reads this issue No. 8, like the rest, for the first time in 45 years, and confesses his own inadequacies in remembering in detail its subjects.  To read thru the issue either with the commentary or without it just click the cover.

Paul’s Comments:

[audio:http://pauldorpat.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/01-08.mp3|titles=Helix Vol 1 No 8]


Seattle Now & Then: The Wilkes Theatre

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Photographed in 1921 by the Webster and Stevens Studio for a Seattle Times report on the Wilkes Theatre’s imminent change from stage shows to motion pictures. (Courtesy of MOHAI)
NOW: Jean Sherrard’s repeat is part of a collection of other contemporary views of historical theatre sites he has recently recorded for what will be the first temporary exhibit of the new MOHAI when it opens later this year.

I first learned of the Wilkes Theatre from Seattle’s silent film expert David Jeffers.  Typical of David, his research on the Wilkes is thorough, and I was tempted to simply quote extensively from his recent letter.  I will, however, dwell instead on some implications of this Webster and Stevens studio photograph that looks south over Pine Street at the Wilkes’ full-facade at the southwest corner with 5th Avenue.  It was Jean Sherrard, my cohort in this feature, who first showed it to me.

This photograph is one of about forty of historic movie theatre locations that Jean has repeated this Spring for what will be the Museum of History and Industry’s first “temporary exhibit” when it opens later this year in the museum’s new home, the Naval Armory that is still being converted for MOHAI at the south end of Lake Union.  The exhibit’s title will be “Celluloid Seattle – A City at the Movies.”

Let us remember that another collection of Jean’s photography of contemporary Seattle is still up as part of the last “temporary exhibit” at the now soon to be old MOHAI.  In case you have forgotten – or not visited it yet – its name is “Repeat Photography” and it was first curated early last year by Jean, Beranger Lomont and myself.  It will be waiting for your visit until the fifth of June.

Returning to the Wilkes, for such a grand presentation, it was relatively short-lived.  Built of concrete as the Alhambra in 1909 with 1600 fireproof seats, it tried vaudeville, musical comedy, melodrama, and photoplays (films) sometimes mixed and other times as committed specialties.  This view of it appeared in The Seattle Times on April 10, 1921 with an explanation that it was soon “to become a motion picture house.”  That week was its last for scheduling still live acting on stage with the Wilkes Stock Company in a romantic comedy named “That Girl Patsy.”

In the summer of 1922 the Wilkes became a venue not for film or theater but for political rallies and other temporary uses like worship for the Fourth Church of Christ Scientist. Next, in 1923 the corner began its long history of selling women’s finery.


Anything to add, Paul?

Yes Jean and most of it nearby, beginning with a feature on Westlake’s 5-star corner that was the first now-then feature I wrote – and assembled – for Pacific.  It appeared first on January 17, 1982.  Frankly, it seems like that long ago too.

Looking north from the southeast corner of 4th Avenue and Pike Street. (Courtesy, U.W. Libraries, Special Collections)

WESTLAKE & FOURTH – March 12 1919

(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 17, 1982)

The day is Wednesday, March 12, 1919. The silent film “The Forbidden Room” is in the last day of a four-day run at the Colonial Theater on Fourth Avenue between Pike and Pine Streets. The film stars Gladys Brockwell who plays a “girl stenographer saving a big city from looters and plotters.” Brockwell’s performance, however, probably will be missed and the theater empty for tonight the city itself will be the show as it celebrates the homecoming of “Seattle’s own regiment, the 63rd Coast Artillery.”

The photograph was taken in mid-afternoon and the parade of local heroes through downtown has just ended. Uniformed men and celebrating citizens are mingling in the streets and rehearsing, perhaps, for the night’s street dance in Times Square. At 8 p.m. fireworks will be set off from the roof of the Times Building and the newspaper’s next-day reporting of the celebration will continue these pyrotechnics: “Nothing in the successions of explosions that made the day the 63rd came home a day to be remembered with such historical red letter days as Armistice Day (and night), the Great Fire, the first Klondike gold ship, and the opening of the Exposition was more characteristic of the atmosphere of benevolent and jubilant dynamite than the merry street carnival and pavement dance last night that made Times Square a mass of swaying, noisemaking, exuberant humanity . . . ”

Fireworks at the Times Building represented literally the figurative fireworks that found expression in every other event of the dizzy program which piled sensation on sensation until the city’s homecoming soldier sons admitted they scarcely knew whether they were coming or going . . .  “From the roof of the Times Building rockets soared screamingly upward and flared out in fantastic shapes and lights and showers of fire . . .  Meanwhile bands – four of them – were making the night melodious with war tunes and the jazziest of jazz music – and throngs were dancing, looking skyward as they danced, and not bothering to apologize for bumps.” It is doubtful that even Gladys Brockwell’s melodramatic heroics could soar so high.

The Spring Festival of Fun was designed to bring shoppers into the central business district.. Frank Shaw snapped this on May 14, 1964 at the Westlake end of the Monorail.
Two springs later Frank Shaw returns to record a Vietnam protest on May 16, 1966, also near the Westlake terminus for the monorail.



(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 13, 1983)

Both this “now” and “then” look north up Westlake Ave. from the southwest corner of Fourth Ave. and Pike Street. Great things have been expected of this five-star hub since its creation in 1906 when the odd but bold intrusion of Westlake Ave. was at last cut through from Denny Way. (As of this writing [1983] the city is still waiting.)

Our historical setting dates from 1909. All of the larger structures are new and seem to elegantly promise that this unique hub will develop into Seattle’s 20th-century civic center. On the right is the Seaboard Building, which now, with another five stories added, still fills that comer. Just beyond it is the American Hotel, and across Westlake, the Hotel Plaza. The flatiron Plaza stood there until 1931 when it was razed to the first floor level and rebuilt more modestly for Bartell Drugs, which remained a tenant for over 50 years. During the prohibition years a cabaret in the Plaza’s basement was one of the town’s more popular speakeasys.

In our 1909 scene (on top) only a few horses, hacks, and three or four automobiles are at play. The streetcars and people actually own the street, and the former are outfitted with cowcatchers to mercifully ensnare the latter. In 1909 if you stayed off the tracks (and stepped about what the horses left) you were usually free to safely jaywalk or even stand about and converse in the street – like the two men on the right of our scene.

To contemporary eyes the oddest feature of this cityscape is surely Fourth Ave.’s ascent up the southeast flank of Denny Hill. There is a grade difference of 85 feet between our “now” and “then” at Fourth’s intersection with Virginia St. –  point we almost see on the photograph’s far left. Within a year and a half this hill would be leveled to the non-descript elevation we are now used to.

But it is Westlake that is the centerpiece of this scene. If its sweeping line were continued on south through the central business district (behind the photographer), it would at last meet First Ave. at Marion St. And that was the route for a Lake Union-bound boulevard proposed in 1876 by Seattle doctor and Mayor Gideon Weed. Although the citizens disagreed with Weed’s proposal, they were familiar with this part of the route north of Pike Street for in 1872 a narrow-gauge railroad was cut through the forest here to carry coal from scows on Lake Union to bunkers at the foot of Pike St. The coal cars ran up this draw until 1878 when the route was abandoned for a new coal road to Newcastle that went around the south end of Lake Washington. Then this old railway line, and future Westlake Ave., grew into a shrub-sided path popularly travelled for family picnics at Lake Union. It was called “Down the Grade.”

The Pike Street part of the narrow-gauged coal railroad runs, left-right, thru the center of this ca. 1873 look from Denny Hill towards the territorial university on Denny's Knoll and First Hill beyond it. The intersection of Third Ave. and Pike Street is far left - some of it.

In 1882 a narrow boardwalk to the lake was built along the old line and David Denny’s Western Mill first started Lake Union “working.” By the late 1880s the sides of this little valley between Denny and Capitol hills were cleared; however, the streets which were cut across this gentle ravine did not conform to the lay of the land. The district of clapboard apartments and working men’s homes which developed here was one of Seattle’s more obvious examples of the tendency of promoters’ town plats to disregard the real topography. In 1890 Luther Griffith, Seattle’s young wizard of electric trolleys, realized this mistake in city planning. After buying up 53 lots along the old coal road’s grade, he proposed to cut a multi-use boulevard through to Lake Union. The city council disagreed.

March 6, 1901 Seattle Times report on the plans for cutting Westlake directly thru from Pike Street to Denny Way.

By the early 1900s the city’s businesses had begun to move north out of Pioneer Square. A new city center was desired, and the city engineers went back to the old Westlake proposals. The old route was surveyed in January 1905, and by November of the next year the 90-ft-wide street was paved and completed. This was 30 years since Mayor Weed’s original 1876 proposal.

An early imagined monorail at Westlake.
The monorail terminus to the side of Bartells.

If this Westlake precedent holds true, then the Westlake Mall, which was first proposed in 1958 and has since been a frustration for five mayors – Clinton, Braman, Miller, Uhlman, and Royer – should be completed in 1988 to the glory of the reelected fifth.

(As it developed Royer was reelected but the more splendid visions for this five-star corner and its “run” to the north were compromised to contingencies of the usual sort, like traffic on Pine Street and commercial urges.)


A "found" (unintended) near "repeat" from 1995.

PIKE & FOURTH – JULY 25, 1938

(First appeared in Pacific, 1-8-1989)

Although the date for this Fourth and Pike scene is recorded on neither the original negative nor on its protective envelope, uncovering it was not difficult. The newsstand at the center of this view includes face-out copies of both The Seattle Times and The Post-Intelligencer. Although we can’t read the date, we can, with the aid of magnification, make out a few of the headlines in the original negative. With those generous clues and a little fast-forward searching through the Seattle Public Library’s microfilms, the date for this scene is soon discovered. It is Monday, July 25, 1938.

The P.I., just above the dealer’s head, announces “A New Forest Fire Rages at Sol Duc.” A week-and-a-half of record heat had not only encouraged fires but also filled the beaches. And this Monday, Seattle was even hotter with the anticipation of a Tuesday night fight. Jack Dempsy’s photograph is on the front page of the P.I. The “Mighty Manassa Mauler” was in town to referee one of the great sporting events in the history of the city: the Freddie Steele vs. Al Hostak fight for the middle-weight title.

About 30 hours after this photograph was taken, hometown-tough Hostak, in front of 35,000 sweating fans at Civic Field (now site of the Seattle Center stadium), made quick work of the champion Steele. The P.I.’s purple-penned sports reporter, Royal Brougham, reported “Four times the twenty-two-year-old Seattle boy’s steel-tempered knuckles sent the champion reeling into the rosin.” Hostak brought the belt to Seattle by a knockout in the first minute of the first round.

The day ‘s super-heated condition was also encouraged at the Colonial Theatre (one-half block up Fourth) where the Times reported that “an eternal triangle’ in the heart of the African jungle brings added thrills in “Tarzan’s Revenge.” The apeman’s affection for a Miss Holms, on safari with her father, fires the resentment of her jealous fiancee, George Meeker. However, we will not reveal the ending to this hot affair, although by Wednesday the 27, Seattle had cooled off.


Both views look north on Westlake from its origin at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Pike Street.  The Seaboard building, on the far right, has survived the about 95 years between them.


I confess to having featured this intersection four times – that I remember – in the last 23 years.  So here’s the fifth, and I wonder what took me so long.  There are so many delightful photographs taken from this five-star corner looking north on Westlake from Forth and Pike.  But this scene with the officer probably counts as a “classic” for it has been published a number of times and he has not tired.

It is only recently that I looked closely at the policeman, and I think I have figured out what he is doing.  He is scratching his head.  Since this is a sign of deep thought – or at least puzzlement – I suggest that the officer here is wondering about the great changes have occurred in the only three years before he was sent this afternoon to help with the traffic.  (I’m figuring that this is 1909 or very near it.)  Heading north for Fremont, trolley car number 578 – to the left of the officer – is only two years old and so is the Plaza Hotel to the left of it.  If the officer returns to this beat in a few years more he’ll probably know that there is a speak-easy running it the hotel basement.

Westlake Avenue was cut through the neighborhood in 1906 along what its planners described as “a low-lying valley, fairly level, with just enough pitch to give it satisfactory drainage.”  The plan was to connect it with “a magnificent driveway around the lake.”

But then some readers will remember that there have been many magnificent plans for this part of Westlake as well.  Beginning in 1960 with the opening of the Westlake Summer Mall — that quickly had its name changed to Seafair Mall — the blocks between Pike and Stewart streets were talked and dreamed over for a quarter century as the best available site for developing a civic center with a wide broad public place for a central business district that somehow wound up without one.

In 1960 one concerned person described the Seafair Mall as “This sorry little bit of pavement with a few planter boxes.”  Forty-five years later there are many more planter boxes.


A part of the Baillaergeon-Pacific Security Building, far right, survives into the “now” scene.   Built in 1907, it is, for Seattle, an early example of a steel-frame structure covered with terra-cotta tiles and ornaments.


(First appeared in Pacific Oct. 14, 2007)

Here the gleaming symmetry of the Strand Theatre rises above the confused queue of a sidewalk crowd jostling for tickets to Wet Gold.   The elegant Strand opened as the Alaska Theatre in 1914.  Two years later this then overworked name was dropped for the London sophistication implied in the new name “Strand.”

Most likely this is a first run showing of J. Ernest Williamson’s 1921 hit Wet Gold, the story of a sunken ship, its gilded treasure and the passions released in finding it.  Resting nicely on the theatre’s terra-cotta skin, the film’s sensational banners are nestled between the Strand’s classical stain glass windows. Williamson became a pioneer of undersea photoplays by attaching an observation chamber to an expandable deep-sea tube invented by his sea captain father.  The younger Williamson called it his “Photosphere”.

I’ve learned from Eric Flom’s historylink.org essay on the Alaska/Strand that Frederick & Nelson Department Store was contracted to furnish and decorate the interior and that the elegance begun on the street was continued in the theatre’s lobby with onyx and marble.  Before the 1927 introduction of synchronized sound the silent films shown at the Strand were generally accompanied by its Skinner Opus No. 217 pipe organ, which later wound up in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bellingham.

Flom also notes that this 1114 address on 2nd Avenue (the east side between Spring and Seneca Streets) was showing films years before it’s terra-cotta makeover.  The Ideal Theatre opened there in 1909 and in 1911 it too was renamed The Black Cat, which, as noted, was elegantly overhauled three years later into the Alaska/Strand.  Flom has tracked the 1,110-seat Strand “well into the 1930s.”


More than a century separates these two looks east up Pike and across First Avenue.  In the first block before Second Avenue among the shops on the left are a tobacconist, a beer hall, a tailor, and two restaurants, the Boston Kitchen and the Junction Restaurant.  On a sidewalk sign the latter offers “Mocha Java Coffee.”    Historical photo courtesy Lawton Gowey.


Standing at the entrance to the public market in the crosswalk on the west side of First Avenue and looking east up the centerline of Pike Street – like in this week’s “now and then” — you may imagine trains rolling directly through you and also under you.  And while you may no longer see them they can still be felt.

The once popular Seattle historian-journalist J. Willis Sayre explains why in “This City of Ours” his entertaining book of Seattle trivia that was published for Seattle Schools in 1936.  Describing a tour on First Avenue he writes, “Now lets go down to Pike Street.  Here you are directly above the Great Northern tunnel built under the city in 1904.”  Today, if you are sensitive and wear wooden shoes (preferably) you can still feel the rumble below.  The choo-choo-coming-at-you through most of the 1870s was Seattle’s first railroad, the narrow gauged train that carried coal cars transferred from scows on Lake Union to bunkers at the waterfront foot of Pike Street.

This historical view east on Pike was recorded a few years before the tunnel was built beneath it – sometime between 1897 and 1900.   One block away the trolley turning west off of Second Avenue onto Pike carries a roof banner advertising the sale of Gold Rush outfits at Cooper and Levi’s in Pioneer Square.  That national hysteria began in ’97, and in 1901 the rails for the Front Street (First Ave.) Cable Cars were removed. Here on the right they still take a right turn to Pike from First Avenue.

In “Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle,” another 1930’s classic of local history, pioneer Sophie Frye Bass recalls jumping upon the coal cars as they rumble along Pike in the ‘70s.  The Bass family home was on Pike.  She also remembers Pike before the train when it was “a blazed trail that became a road which dodged between stumps as best it could.”  Much later when Pike was planked Bass recalls how “when the street sweeper . . . came rumbling along, all would rush frantically to close the windows.”

But here in the late 1890s a momentarily silent Pike is paved with bricks, although First Avenue is still planked.  One block away when the tunnel was being built the public works department made it’s by now oft-sited traffic count at Second Avenue.   Of the 3,959 vehicles that used that intersection at Pike on Friday Dec. 23, 1904 only 14 were automobiles and 178 buggies.  More than three thirds were one or two horse express wagons.  Walking and public transportation – trolleys — were the way to get around.

April 21, 1976. Photo by Lawton Gowey.



(First published in Pacific, Dec. 5, 1993)

In the late summer of 1953 the officers of the Seattle Symphony began the promotion of the orchestra’s golden anniversary with a public campaign to discover “Where were you on the night of December 28, 1903?”  The night Harvey West directed the Seattle Symphony’s first concert in the ballroom of the Arcade Building at Second and Seneca.

West got his start playing second violin in pit orchestras for local theaters.  His widow was invited to the 50th anniversary concert but could not attend because of illness.  But others who were there in 1903 either as players or payers did answer the call, and were delivered beside the neon lit marquees of the Orpheum Theatre aboard the vintage autos of the local Horseless Carraige Club.  Boston Pops’ Arthur Fiedler guest conducted the Seattle Symphony for this November 3rd concert, and local virtuoso violinist Byrd Elliott was featured with Prokofieff’s Second Violin Concerto.  Fiedler’s program also included Beethoven’s First Symphony, Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music and an encore of The Stars and Stripes Forever.  Fiedler explained that he rode this old horse “for fun” because of the 50th-anniversary celebration.  Of course the Orpheum was filled to its 2600 seat capacity.

Earlier, in January of 1953, Arturo Tosconini’s assistant, the violist Milton Katims, made his first appearance as guest conductor here.   The Seattle symphony was then still playing in the Civic Auditorium, an acoustic hole which violinist Jasha Heifetz called the “barn”.  Heifetz opinion was shared by Sir Thomas Beecham — and extended.  The already famous English maestro conducted the Seattle Symphony during most of World War Two, and before leaving dropped his own bomb here remarking that Seattle was a “cultural dustbin.”

The caption for the trio above is printed below.

As an antidote, perhaps, the Symphony’s first post-war conductor Carl Bricken found cultural encouragement in the doomsday peace that followed Hiroshima.  Perhaps, he mused, “a new era is beginning…that people the world over…dazed by the known element of complete annihilation, are ready for a millenium of the peaceful pursuit of the sciences, arts, literatures and music.”  However, after Bricken resigned in 1948 the Symphony’s musicians soon abandoned its officers, formed their own Washington Symphony League and scheduled a season of 16 concerts at the Moore Theater with a conductor of their own choosing, Eugene Linden of the Tacoma Symphony.  This rebellion was short-lived and the following year the organization was peacefully reunited under Milton Katims the Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s new resident conductor, a position he held for twenty two years.

It requires no money to love a symphony, some money to hear one live, and lots of money to make one.  In its 90th season the Seattle Symphony is quietly campaigning for a new auditorium.  You do not have to be Heifetz to figure out that a culture which although it may resent paying athletes millions to play minutes in a big barn like the Kingdome will still do it and even scream for it, may not want to pay for a new concert hall where they will be expected to shut up and listen to a sound more profound than an electric organ.   This symphony may have to resort to a technique used here during the Great Depression.  Symphony Sunday: a fund raising technique used nearly 60 years ago, was proclaimed from the pulpits of the cathedrals, synagogues and chapel city-wide.  The recording successes of the 1993 Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwartz should also help.


Between 1914 and 1955 the Liberty Theatre held the center of the First Avenue block between Pike and Pine Streets.  Replaced by a parking lot in 1955 its neighbors survive.  To the north (left) is the Gatewood, one of the 11 downtown buildings improved by the non-profit Plymouth Housing Group for low- income housing.  To the right is one of the few survivors of the old “Flesh Avenue” that was once First Avenue.  (Historical photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)


How many Times readers can still remember the ornamental Liberty Theatre on First Avenue across from the Market?  On bright afternoons the light bounced off its terra-cotta façade illuminating the street.

It is now fifty-one years since Theatres Incorporated sent a letter to Ralph Stacy, then the King County Assessor, that the company had “demolished and removed the Liberty Theatre and accordingly request that you remove the building from your assessment rolls.”  Their intention to open a parking lot to “relieve the congestion around the Pike Place Market” was a sudden one.  Only months earlier the theatre’s managers had briefly closed the Liberty for a CinemaScope and stereophonic fitting – but for naught.

The Liberty first opened on Oct. 27, 1914, and it was built for movies.  There were only two dressing rooms, and both were in the mezzanine.  The theatre — with no pillars — was built around a 1500-pipe Wurlitzer organ that was famous in its time for special effects like birds cooing, crows cawing, and the surf pounding — an effect made within the organ by a rasping together of sandpaper blocks.  The organist also kept ready in his pocket a pistol loaded with blanks for William S. Hart shoot-em-ups.  The Organ’s largest part, a 32-foot bass pipe was removed when its soundings continued to knock plaster from the ceiling.  Throughout its 41 years the Liberty was known for splendid acoustics.

In “Household Magazine’s” review of “The Winning of Barbara Worth,” the 1926 silent film showing here at the Liberty, Gary Cooper is described as “the handsome young chap who stole the picture from Ronald Colman.”  And that’s something.  The movie was a hit and still being reviewed when the Liberty closed in December for new management and a new name. When it opened again on Jan 7, 1927 as the United Artists Theatre, Seattle Mayor Bertha Landes did the opening-honors standing beside a battery of U.S. Navy searchlights operated by uniformed sailors.  They were recruiters, it was explained.  Appropriately, the Wallace Beary vehicle “We’re in the Navy Now” was the film shown.

Two years and some bad debts later the theatre was again the Liberty and stayed so until replaced by the parking lot in 1955.






HELIX Vol. 1 No. 7 – July (date to be announced) 1967

It seems that Tuesday – not Monday – will become the more likely day of the week these Helix Redux offerings will appear here.  (But don’t necessarily count on it.  We will still aim for “Wash Day” to hang these sheets.) Here’s another 12-pager.  It includes many delights, and I took the opportunity of the attached audio to read one of them: an early Dump Truck Baby feature by John Cunnick in which he reflects on the meanings surrounding having ones own newspaper in its eighth week and still learning.  Inside is also an adver for the OCS concert with The Grateful Dead at Eagle Auditorium, and in that line we will attach several snapshots from that bright blue Sunday afternoon picnic with power at the north end of the Golden Gardens parking lot.  You will recognize the Dead faces, surely, but also some others I suspect in the rapt listeners.  There are a few snaps of other musicians performing as well including one of Larry “Jug” Vanover who will be delighted to see his own slim self in 1967 with jug in hand – I expect.


I’ll not caption any of these Dead photos.  There are nine of them and they come from the remnants of the Helix darkroom.  I’ve not determined as yet who recorded them.  At the bottom of this line-up are four or five  shots of other players, include – at the very bottom – one of Larry Vanover with jug in hand.

Here's "Jug" on the left.


Seattle Now & Then: Mrs. Anderson's Eccentric Ride

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Mason County “lumberpersons” Agnes and Alfred Anderson built this big home at the southeast corner of Minor Avenue and Columbia Street, appropriately in the First Hill neighborhood of mansions. Here’s Agnes poses in her carriage, before taking her daily ride. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
NOW: The Anderson mansion was purchased by Seattle University and used first as a residence hall for men and then women. In 1968 Swedish Hospital bought and converted it into a clinic, which was more recently replaced by the high-rise escaping Jean Sherrard’s repeat.

It was around 1906 that Agnes Healy Anderson started taking a carriage ride every morning around 10 o’clock and kept at it for nearly thirty years.  As motorcars took over she remained faithful to her covered brougham in the cooler months and her open carriage in the warmer ones, and also to her coachman who in full livery drove her horses.

All grew old together in their routine – with side trips for shopping downtown – until 1935 when the last of the teams – by then their names, Lord and Lady, were known in the community – was retired, and Agnes switched to a chauffeur-driven limousine.  William Gyldenfeldt, the coachman, had been given his own home next door, and in ’35 a pension, and the retired brougham too.

Agnes’ husband, Alfred H. Anderson, was a lumber baron of such size that in 1897 he raised this home with seven bedrooms lined in Honduran mahogany, rosewood and Siberian Oak, 4 onyx fireplaces and five marble toilets.  One of the five thrones was fitted with a copy of the oversized President William Howard Tafts’ bathtub, eight feet long and 40 inches wide.  A hole was cut in the side of their mansion to install the tub.  Alfred needed it; he was six feet six inches tall and weight many stones. The couple had left Shelton, Washington and their mills there in the mid 1890s to invest in the opportunities of many sorts found then in booming Seattle.

When Alfred died in 1914 in the Waldorf hotel while visiting New York, Agnes was left with one of the great fortunes of the city.  At her own passing in 1940 she was described as “the largest individual stockholder of the Seattle First National Bank.” She gave generously to many charities, and always had.  Anderson Hall, home for the U.W.’s Department of Forestry, was a gift from her in 1925.  Still it is for her eccentric rides and her husband’s bathtub that journalists, like me, still primarily exploit the couple.  (In that line, the Kaiser of Germany ordered a second copy of Taft’s tub.)


Anything to add, Paul, heh heh?


Yes Jean, and additions of such radical reach that I have renamed it all “Mrs. Anderson Please Meet Mrs. Burke.” Before joining older features to this week’s new one – as is our custom –  I need to make both a correction and confession.   I was wrong!  But you know that, for earlier this day you have returned to the soiled spot of my sins of omission and recorded it as Payday Loans – Indeed!

That is not Mrs. Anderson posing in her open carriage before her First Hill Home, although I first believed it was she and her famous team well back into the last millennium.  I have had this photograph in the wide pool of possible subjects to treat with an extended caption and your repeat Jean. Then six weeks ago (our lead time) I was thumbing thru a file of “candidates” and came upon her again.  I then embraced the patient Mrs. Anderson with my foolish confidence born of habit and some success that I knew something that I, in fact, did not know.

(Click to Enlarge)

My ignorance was first suggested when I went searching yesterday for other looks at the Anderson home to share today.  The big home behind the posing carriage and its rider were otherwise not familiar to me, but I was confident that I could probably find some distant look at it for, as indicated in the feature above, the Anderson home was both large and long-lived.   Then Ron Edge came forward with his 1950 aerial (above to the right) and it was unsettling.  Although its detail is not as sharp as desired, it is clear enough to show that the home it shows at the southeast corner of Minor and Columbia is not the same home as that one in the picture with the posing carriage. It is, however, the same home that appears in the 1957 Seattle Times clipping from a story about the old home’s use as a women’s dormitory for Seattle University.   We have put them together side-by-side. (Click to Enlarge)

The Anderson footprint appears her right of center and a short ways down; that is the first lot of block 101.

Next, with these unsettling doubts I rushed to find a solution – to save face.  First I checked the 1912 Baist Real Estate map’s footprint for the Anderson home, and it remained faithful to me, showing an overall shape that feature symmetrical swelling at both the northwest and southwest corners of the structure.  But this was small consolation, for both homes – the one in the photo with the carriage and the one from space – had such extended corner features.

Agnes Anderson portrait in her short obit, Seattle Times April 6, 1940.

I next compared a newsprint portrait of Agnes Anderson copied from her obituary (above) with a magnification of the Agnes – I still hoped – in the carriage.  Although the age difference was a generation – or even two – that boxish anatomy they shared – in the face – meant that they still might be the same Agnes.

Agnes or Not Agnes and still in the carriage.

Following that slight encouragement I made a mostly fruitless try at finding the three other photographs of Mrs. Anderson and/or her carriage that I knew were in my collection. I found only one of the three.  In that one Agnes was out shopping with her livery at Frederick and Nelson Dept. Store.  Here there was some encouragement because although as Agnes begins to step into her coach she is seen mostly from the rear and in shadows the features of her driver seem similar to those in the featured photo with the posing mansion.

Agnes and her Livery preparing to leave Frederick and Nelson Dept. Store.
Popular Times humorist John Reddin's treatment of Agnes and her habits - Times 9-21-1969 (Click to Enlarge - to read.)
1927 Times coverage of Agnes Anderson and her by then nearly singular routines.
Another nostalgic carriage clipping, this one also from the Times, August 6, 1961.

Still I knew my chances for redemption were slim and figured that it was time to imagine that the home with the carriage was not Mrs. Anderson’s, but another home, most likely also on First Hill, perhaps with Agnes posing during a visit.  But I was clueless as to where such a big home with towers and a metal roof might be found in the neighborhood – a neighborhood I had visited for stories many times in the past.  As is sometimes my habit, I then contrived to daydream, this time about First Hill and its appointments as I imagined floating above it.  It was when so “transcended” that I remembered that the Thomas and Caroline Burke home had a tower at last at one of its corners although not one that was, I thought, so impressive as the one with my younger Agnes and her Carriage.  After fumbling – again – this time to successfully find the photograph of the Burke’s home at the northeast corner of Madison and Boylston, all – or nearly all – was revealed.  This, indeed, was the Burke’s home and much more majestic than I remembered it from having written about it years ago.  (I include that feature below.)

[The original feature that interpreted the above now-then is printed directly below the conclusion of this confession-correction and the several poses by Caroline Burke.]

Even after this discovery I still had two strings to my old belief.  This, I put it with whatever remaining salt of self-deception I could muster, was Agnes Anderson visiting Carolyn Burke; after all they lived only four short blocks apart.  This hope was abused by comparing my Agnes in the carriage with several photographs of Carolyn.  With this I was sentenced.  The person in the carriage was surely Mrs. Carolyn Burke, wife of “He Built Seattle” Judge Thomas Burke.   But still I sputtered.  Was it possible that Agnes had brought her carriage around to take Carolyn for a ride and to also pose for her Tom in it?  Whichever – Mrs. Anderson please meet Mrs. Burke.

One consolation – it is, I think, the first such resolute mistake I have made – if we don’t count errors of direction like left-right – in the now 30 years that I have pulled these repeats from a wonderful variety of sources.

And once more MRS. ANDERSON Please Meet MRS BURKE


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 young Thomas Burke

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 and west facades appear here.) Designed by Spokane’s society architect, Kirtland K. Cutter, and completed in 1908, the new addition was 25 feet high with a surrounding interior balcony. The addition 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.

The "exhibition hall" attached to the Burke home's north side.

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.”

(Click TWICE to Enlarge)



The Carkeek home at the southeast corner of Boren and Madison.

Early members of the Seattle Historical Society pose on the front stairway to the Carkeek mansion at the southwest corner of Boren Avenue and Madison Street.  The group portrait reminds us that it was once the practice for almost any group interested in culture – the arts, heritage, and philanthropy – to have been founded, attended, and run by women.  Historical photo courtesy Lawton Gowey.

A more satisfying "repeat" than the Bartell plastic is this reunion of the Morningtown Coop, but not at the site of the Carkeek manse, but at Carkeek Park. Morningtown was a chummy small restaurant built into a two car garage near the north end of the University Bridge. I ate there often in the 1970s and sometimes tossed pizza too.


(First appeared in Pacific, Aug/Sept 2005)

Except for one man – and can you find him? (click to enlarge) – none of the costumed members of the Seattle Historical Society posing here (above) is wearing pants. (That little man in the upper-right corner seems to have snuck into the scene.)  The front porch of the Emily and Morgan Carkeek First Hill home at Boren and Madison was used more than once for such a group portrait.

Another costume occasion for the founder's of the Seattle Historical Society on the front steps of the Carkeek home.

The Carkeeks where English immigrants and their children Guendolen and Vivian kept the family’s Anglo-Saxon flame lit.  More than a student of the King Arthur legend, the lawyer Vivian Carkeek was a true believer and for years the national president of the Knights of the Round Table.  The daughter Guendolen was packed off to England as a teenager for an English education, although she wound up living in Paris and marrying a Russian count. Later she returned to Seattle to help revive the historical society that her mother founded in 1911.

A Carkeek family exhibit inside the commercial building that replaced the service station that replaced the mansion. A cut-out of Guendolen stands on the floor.

A few of these period costumes are very likely still part of the Society’s collection at the Museum of History and Industry.  Although early, this is not the first costume party.  That was held on Founders Day, Nov. 13, 1914 and there survives a different group portrait from that occasion.  This is probably soon after.

But who are these early leaders in the celebration and study of local heritage?  The only face familiar to me here (from other photographs) is that of Emily Carkeek herself.  She looks straight into the camera at the center of the fourth row down from the top.  Two rows behind her and also at the center, the woman with the large while plume in her hat resembles the artist Harriet Foster Beecher, but it is almost certainly not she.

An early panorama of part of the First Hill neighborhood seen from the Coppins water tower on Columbia Street east of 9th Ave. The Carkeek home is seen above the scene's center and to the left. On the far left is the Ranke home, which is visited in detail below. (Courtesy Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries)

On March 30, 1915, Harriet Beecher along with the historian-journalist Thomas W. Prosch, pioneer Margaret Lenora (Lenora Street) Denny and Virginia McCarver Prosch all drowned when the Carkeek’s Pierce-Arrow touring car crashed off the Riverton Bridge into the Duwamish River.  Only the chauffeur and Emily Carkeek survived.

Both Virginia Prosch and Margaret Denny were involved either as officers or trustees of the historical society and neither of them appears in the cheerful group portrait at the top.

Emily Carkeek, the hostess, is second from the right.


Built in 1883, the Haller Mansion filled the block on the north side of James Street between Minor and Broadway Avenues.  The homes was replaced with federally leased housing during the Second World War, and was later developed with the modest glass curtain Swedish Hospital Annex showing in the “now.”

A WARRIOR’S REWARD – Castlemount

(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 2005)

To a retirement of writing memories about his battles, Col. Granville O. Haller blazed his last trail.  With wife Henrietta and their four children the five Hallers built the first mansion on First Hill.  There were as yet no streets so the home, at the future northeast corner of Minor and James, was approached by path.

“Castlemount” – their name for it – stood so high that at night the light in its tower could be seen from the end of Yesler’s wharf.   It helped that by then Yesler had clear-cut First Hill and also that no exotic urban landscape had yet taken its place to shroud the new mansion’s singularity on the Seattle horizon.   Still Henrietta soon went to work draping this naked landscape with flowers.  Known for her gardening she was also generous with her bulbs helping neighbors – all of them, of course, new – plant their own flower beds.   Behind the home – although not seen here – was a barn and on the far (north) side an orchard.

Henrietta’s talents were also applied inside.  At night by candle light she made the hooked rugs that helped warm the high-ceilinged rooms that were often in the cold months penetrated by drafts.  Some, no doubt, came from the crawl space below the first floor where in shallow ground Indian sculls had been found when the foundation for the big home was being prepared.

These bleached body parts were on permanent exhibition at Castlemount beside the oil portraits of several of Henrietta’s distinguished 17th century English ancestors.  The Colonel who had fought in several Indian wars — besides the war with Mexico, the Civil War and the exceptionally bloodless “Pig War” in the San Juans – may have found inspiration in them for his writing.

Lifted from the Beau Arts book on Seattle big homes published in the early 20th Century.

(Most of these tidbits of Haller history were recycled from Margaret Pitcairn Strachan’s always-helpful series on Seattle Mansions published weekly in the Seattle Times in 1944-45.)


When Norval Latimer (in the front seat) married Margaret Moore (in the back seat) in 1890 he was the manager of the pioneer Dexter Horton bank.  When they posed with three of their children for this 1907 view on Terry Street with the family home behind them, Norval was still managing the bank and would soon be made both president and director as well.

THE LATIMERS of First Hill

(First appeared in Pacific, 2006)

There are certainly two artifacts that have survived the 99 years since the historical view was recorded of the Latimer family – or part of it  – posing in the family car and in front of the family home on First Hill.

The scene was almost certainly recorded in 1907 because a slightly wider version of the same photograph shows construction scaffolding still attached to the north side of St. James Cathedral’s south tower, far right.  The Cathedral is the most obvious survivor.  By the time of the church’s dedication on Dec. 22, 1907 the scaffolding was removed.   The second artifact is the stonewall that once restrained the Latimer lawn and now separates the Blood Bank parking lot from the sidewalks that meet at the southwest corner of Terry and Columbia.

In the “now” Margaret Latimer Callahan stands about two feet into Terry Street and near where her banker father Norval sits behind the wheel in the family Locomobile.   Born on July 22, 1906, Margaret is the youngest of Norval and Margaret Latimer’s children.

For a while, Margaret, it was thought, might be a third visible link between the then and now — although certainly no artifact.  The evidentiary question is this.  Who is sitting on papa Norval’s lap?  Is it his only daughter or his youngest son Vernon?  After polling about – yes – 100 discerning friends and Latimer descendents the great consensus is that this is Vernon under the white bonnet.   And Margaret agrees.  “I was probably inside with a nurse while three of my brothers posed with my parents.”

Margaret also notes that her father is truly a poser behind the wheel, for he was never a driver.   Sitting next to him is Gus the family’s chauffeur with whom he has traded seats for the moment. (See Margaret’s explanation at the bottom of this feature.)

The clever reader has already concluded that Margaret Latimer Callahan will be celebrating her centennial in a few days.   Happy 100th Margaret.  [This, of course, was first published in 2006.]

A ca. 1930 look north from the then brand new Harborview Hospital. The south facade and roofline of the Latimer can be searched for - and much else.

[Margaret suggests, “The Locomobile used the English configuration for the driver’s position (to the right) until about 1912.  Gus (I think his name was Gus.) the normal driver or (that French word) Chauffeur is closest to the camera.  He is a big guy with either a lantern jaw or a weak jaw as I remember.  On the other side of Gus is Norval.  He is all suited up with gloves and riding gear and behind the wheel with his child on his lap.  Yes this is Norval and so father is further from the camera than is the big-guy-gus-that-is-not-behind-the-wheel but would normally be because Norval was not a driver and he is only posing like one here.”]


The Ranke home at the southeast corner of Terry Avenue and Madison Street was once one of the great mansions of First Hill.  Built in 1890-91 it was razed in 1957 for an extension of the Columbus Hospital.  Presently [in 2004] the home and hospital site are owned by the Cabrini Sisters and are being prepared by the Low Income Housing Institute in two stages for a mix-use development that will feature for the most part low income housing. (Historical view courtesy Lawton Gowey)


(First appeared in Pacific, 2004)

When new in 1891 Dora and Otto Ranke’s First Hill home was appropriately baronial for a family of six and one of the Seattle’s most prosperous pioneer contractors.   The mansion was lavishly appointed with carved hardwoods, painted tiles, stained glass, and deep Persian rugs.  On the first landing of the grand stairway was a conservatory of exotic plants including oversize palms that grew to envelope the place.

Also inside were the family’s famous traditions of performance and fun. The Rankes were married in Germany and immigrated together.  Dora was a dancer and Otto a tenor.  Together they supported and performed in the local productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas.  The couple also helped found the Seattle Juvenile Opera Company giving it rehearsal space in their home and instructions from an imported coach.

Perhaps the most surprising moment of Ranke family theatre was the informal one noted by Margaret Pitcairn Strachan in her 1944-45 Seattle Times series on Seattle Mansions.  After Dora confounded Otto by declining to accompany him to a masquerade ball at Yesler’s Hall, she sneaked down in a baby costume with baby mask, and baby bottle.  Dora danced with many men and sat on the laps of many more – including her husband’s although he did not know it was she – offering them a drink.  Near the end of the evening with the judging of the costumes, Otto, who was one of the judges, “was chagrined to find he had awarded a prize to his wife.”

Most of the Ranke’s playful life was centered in their home at Fifth and Pike.  Otto had little time to enjoy this their third Seattle home.  He died in 1892.  The family stayed on until1901 when the house was sold to Moritz Thomsen.  The last occupants were student nurses training at Columbus Hospital that much earlier had been converted from what was originally the Perry Apartments, the large structure seen here directly behind the Ranke Mansion.


The Furth family followed the procession of the Seattle’s movers and shakers to First Hill in the late 1880s and built this mansion at the northeast corner of 9th Avenue and Terrace Street.  By the early 1900s they had move again, a few blocks to Summit Avenue, and for a few years thereafter their first mansion was home for the Seattle Boys Club.  With the building of Harborview Hospital in 1930 Terrace at Ninth was vacated and bricked over as part of the hospital campus.  (Historical View courtesy Museum of History and Industry.)


(First appeared in Pacific, 2006)

When the Furths moved to Seattle in 1882 their new hometown was enjoying its first buoyant year as the largest community in Washington Territory.  (It stepped ahead of Walla Walla in 1881.)  In the next 30 years Seattle would roar, its population expanding from about five thousand to nearly 240 thousand, and much of this prosperous noise was Furth’s contribution, the ringing of his wealth and the rattle of his trolleys.

Born in Bohemia in 1840 – the eighth of twelve children – at the age of 16 Jacob immigrated to San Francisco, and managed during his quarter-century in California to express his turns as both a brilliant manager and caring citizen.  In 1865 Jacob married Lucy Dunton, a Californian, and with her had three daughters.   Once in Seattle with the help of San Francisco friends he founded the Puget Sound National Bank, and was in the beginning its only employee.  After Furth built this substantial family home on First Hill he continued to list himself as the “cashier” for the bank.  But he was effectively the bank’s president long before he was named such in 1893.

After the city’s “Great Fire” of 1889 Furth is quoted as cautioning his own board of directors to restrain their urge to take advantage of the ruined by calling in their loans.  “Gentleman . . . what you propose may be good banking, but it is not human.”

When the 74-year-old capitalist died in 1914 he was probably Seattle’s most influential citizen, president of its big bank, its private power and streetcar company, a large iron works – fittingly named Vulcan – and much else.  But it was his thoughtful kindnesses that were memorialized.  His First Hill neighbor Thomas Burke noted how Jacob Furth’s “faculty for placing himself in another’s situation gave him insight . . . [and] he always found time to express understanding of and sympathy for the motives of even those who were against him.”  (Click to Enlarge)

(Jacob Furth would have surely have had his life story told in detail had Seattle historian Bill Speidel managed to live a year to two more than his seventy-six.  With his death in 1988 the creator of the Seattle Underground Tours was not able to complete the biography of Furth he was then preparing.)


The obvious continuities between this week’s photographs are the monumental twin towers of St. James Cathedral, upper right, at 9th and Marion and far left the unadorned rear west wall and south sidewall of the Lee Hotel that faces 8th Avenue.  Judging from the cars, the older scene dates from near the end of World War Two. The weathered two-story frame building at the scene’s center also marks time.  It was torn down in 1950 and replaced with the parking lot seen in the “now.” (Historical photo by Werner Lenggenhager, courtesy of Seattle Public Library.)


(First appeared in Pacific, 2004)

In 1949 architects Naramore, Bain and Brady began construction on new offices for themselves at the northeast corner of 7th Avenue and Marion Street. Their new two-story building filled the vacant lot that shows here, in part, in the foreground of the older scene.  Consequently if I had returned to the precise prospect from which Werner Lenggenhager (the historical photographer) recorded his view ca. 1947 I would have faced the interior wall of an office that was likely large enough to have once held several draughting tables.  Instead I went to the alley between 7th and 8th and took the “now” scene about eight feet to the left of where the little boy stands near the bottom of the older view.

That little boy is still younger than many of us – myself included – and he helps me make a point about nostalgia.  The less ancient is the historical photograph used here the more likely am I to receive responses (and corrections) from readers.  Clearly for identifying photographs like the thousands that Lenggenhager recorded around Seattle there are many surviving “experts.” And more often than not they are familiar not only with his “middle-aged” subjects but also with the feelings that may hold tight to them like hosiery – Rayon hosiery.

Swiss by birth Lenggenhager arrived in Seattle in 1939, went to work for Boeing and soon started taking his pictures.  He never stopped.  Several books – including two in collaboration with long-time Seattle Times reporter Lucile McDonald – resulted and honors as well like the Seattle Historical Society’s Certificate of Merit in 1959 for building a photographic record of Seattle’s past.  The greater part of his collection is held at the Seattle Public Library. For a few years more at least Lenggenhager will be Seattle’s principle recorder of nostalgia.


From 1894 to their deaths in 1928 Henry and Kate Holmes raised their family in the ornate Victorian mansion seen here in part at the center of the historical scene.  The residence in the foreground that survives in the “now” view was for many years the home of one of the Holmes daughters; Ruth Huntoon and her lawyer husband Richard. The historical photo is used courtesy of their grandson, also an attorney, Peter Buck.


(First appeared in Pacific, 2005)

In 1894 the retail-wholesale druggist Henry and his wife Kate Holmes followed the increasingly fashionable move to the ridge overlooking Lake Washington. Their grand home was three houses north of Jackson Street on 30th Avenue S and consequently conveniently close to the Yesler Way Cable Railway.  When the Holmes moved in the Leschi neighborhood was already clear-cut and the view east unimpeded.  Now the lofty greenbelt of Frink Park partially obscures it.

From whomever the couple bought the well detailed and mansion-sized Victorian – (the tower rises here at the center of the scene) they may have got it at a good price from an owner injured by the nation-wide financial crash of the year before.  And the purchase may have also been speculative for it was expected by many of their neighbors that one day the ridge would be lined with hotels and apartments.

But the Holmes stayed put and raised a family of daughters.  As each grew to maturity they stayed on the block building homes beside their parents and creating thereby a kind of Holmes family compound.  The larger modern bungalow in the foreground was built in 1910 (if you believe the tax records) for Ruth Holmes Huntoon and her lawyer husband Richard W. Huntoon, and they lived there for many decades.  After the druggist and his wife both died in 1928 none of their children wanted to live in the ornate mansion of high ceilings and winter drafts. So it was razed in 1929.

A stand alone showing of the old Holmes home is featured on page 116 of “Leschi Snaps”, the third of Wade Vaughn’s books on the neighborhood.  Of the three, this photo essay is the best evocation of Vaughn’s sensitive eye for his surrounds and like the first two it can only be purchased at the Leschi Food Mart.  The proceeds all go to the Leschi Public Grade School Children’s Choir.


This two-story office building with the First Hill address, 613 Ninth Avenue, is one of the oldest and also distinguished structures in Seattle.  The “Victorian” was built in 1886 by the hard-working historian-journalist Thomas Prosch with an inclination here also for dalliance.   He included a ballroom.  In 1898 the feds took control of it for the U.S. Assay Office and stayed until they moved in 1932 to a government building.  The landmark next returned to play when it became the German House in 1935.  The building is still owned by the German Heritage Society.


(First appeared in Pacific, 2006)

If I have counted correctly there are here nineteen men posing before the U.S. Assay Office.   Most likely they are all federal employees.  Those in aprons had the direct and semi-sacred duty of testing the gold and silver brought then to this First Hill address from all directions.   Of course, in 1898 the year the office opened, most of it came across the waterfront.

After the Yukon-Alaska gold rush erupted in the summer of 1897 Seattle quickly established itself as the “outfitter” of choice.  Most of the “traveling men” bought their gear here before heading north aboard one or another vessel in the flotilla of steamers that went back and forth between Seattle and Alaska.  The importance of the Assay Office was to make sure that when the few of these “latter-day Argonauts” who returned actually burdened with gold that they would be able to readily convert it to cash here in Seattle, for by far the biggest purchaser of these minerals was the U.S. Treasury.

In the competition with its northwest neighbors by 1898 Seattle was getting pretty much anything it wanted it and so it also got this office and these “alchemists.”  Still the anxious Seattle lobby worked especially hard on this for locals understood that having the assayers here considerably improved the chances that the lucky few might well spend their winnings here as well.


In 1883 the city’s first industrialists Henry and Sarah Yesler rewarded themselves by building a 40-room mansion in their orchard facing Third Avenue between Jefferson and James Streets.  After its destruction by fire in 1901, the site was temporarily filled with the Coliseum Theatre (“The largest west of Chicago, seating 2600.”) until the first floors of the King County Courthouse – aka the City-County Building – replaced it in 1916.  This comparison looks east across Third Avenue. (Historical photo courtesy Plymouth Congregational Church.)

Henry and Sarah Yesler’s mansion was not yet twenty when it burned down early in the morning of New Years Day, 1901.  Actually, from this view of the ruins it is clear that while the big home was gutted by fire neither the corner tower (facing 3rd and Jefferson) nor the front porch – including the library sign over the front stairs – were more than blistered by it.

The Yesler landmark had a somewhat smoky history.  Although completed in 1883 Sara and Henry did not move in, and instead continued to live in their little home facing Pioneer Place for three years more.  When Sarah died in the late summer of 1887 it was in the mansion, which was then opened for the viewing of both Sarah – she was “resting” in its north parlor – and the big home too.

Soon after Sarah’s death Henry and James Lowman, Yesler’s younger nephew who was by then managing his affairs, took a long trip east to visit relatives, buy furnishings for the still largely empty mansion and, as it turned out, find a second wife for Henry.  It was a local sensation when next the not-long-for-this-world octogenarian married in his 20-year-old (she may have been 19) cousin Minnie Gagler.

After Henry died in the master bedroom in1892 no will could be found. While Minnie was suspected of having destroyed it this could not be proved.  Consequently, the home was not — as Lowman and others expected — given to the city for use as a city hall.  Instead Minnie stayed on secluded in it until 1899 when she moved out and the Seattle Public Library moved in.

Instead of partying on New Years Eve 1900 Librarian Charles Wesley Smith worked until midnight completing the annual inventory of books that only hours later would make an impressive fire.  Except for the books that were checked out, the Seattle Public Library lost about 25 thousand volumes to the pyre.  (The charge that Smith had started the fire was never proven.)

YESLER home across Jefferson Street.

HELIX Vol.1 No.6 – June 23, 1967

While preparing the audio – below – first Bill White showed – coming down the steps – and then Jean Sherrard – calling on the phone.  Both had intimate memories of one of the subjects included in this  Vol. 1 No.6, and so I interview them.  The subject is the Last Exit on Brooklyn, a popular cafe that opened in 1967 on Brooklyn Ave. two doors south of 40th Street on the east side.  The result of these interviews is a longish (relative to the first five & 1/2 iterations) but invigorated commentary, which begins with what is by now my typical approach to this extemporaneous blabbering – beginning at the front cover and reading along as long as I last – followed by the two interviews: Bill first and Jean second.  This has also given me an idea – this idea.  To do more interviews on future subjects that are revealed in these issues and to post those too.  This is also a lot of fun for me and an extraction from my bunker of writing – even for those interviews I might do by phone.

Paul’s Comments & Interviews:

[audio:http://pauldorpat.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/01-06.mp3|titles=Helix Vol 1 No 6]


Seattle Now & Then: The Emma Haywood


(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: One hundred and seventy-seven feet long, and twenty-nine feet wide, the Emma Hayward had a hold seven feet deep. It rests here on the Seattle Waterfront ca. 1885 at the foot of Main Street. (Courtesy Michael Maslan)
NOW: After Seattle’s “Great Fire of 1889” consumed all the waterfront south of University Street, this part of it south of Yesler Way was reconfigured with larger docks and warehouses including Pier 48, which covered the waterway at Main Street. With the recent razing of Pier 48 the site has added more sprawling paving.


Launched in Portland in 1871, the slender sternwheeler Emma Hayward gave her first eleven years on the lower Columbia River dashing between Portland and Astoria.  She was, the McCurdy Marine history claims, the favorite passenger boat on that packet.

Anticipating the 1883 completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad’s transcontinental to Puget Sound, the sternwheeler’s owner, the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company, sent her across the Columbia Bar en route to her new Puget Sound service.  She reached Seattle on Oct. 24, 1882, and soon after began her daily round trips between Seattle and Olympia, with the most important stop at Tacoma for connecting passengers with the Puget Sound terminus there of the Northern Pacific.

Here she rests in the slip between Seattle’s Ocean dock on the right, for the larger ocean-going vessels, and its City Dock on the left, for the Puget Sound “mosquito fleet” of buzzing smaller steamers.  Most of the latter were home ported in Seattle in spite of Tacoma’s alluring railroad.

These Oregon Improvement Co. docks were added to the waterfront in 1882-83.  Taking notice of the dainty tower on the Ocean Dock, here to the far right, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, for Dec. 9, 1883, included it in its list of then recent waterfront improvements. “Not the least of these is the placing of the fog bell above the Ocean Dock warehouse.  The neat little cupola erected for this bell enhances the fine appearance of the building considerably.

The Emma Hayward returned to the Columbia in 1891 where she was repaired a year later to serve as a river towboat until 1900 when – quoting McCurdy once more – she was abandoned.


Anything to add, Paul?

Certainly Jean.   Anyone who is especially keen on this subject of waterfront history might like to browse our Illustrated History of the Seattle Waterfront.  It can be found with its own cover (for clicking) here on the far right.  Next we will include a few waterfront features from past printings in Pacific-plus.   But first we will begin with another recording of the Emma Haywood, this time after the 1889 fire destroyed most of the waterfront, and now bobbinh between the post-fire Pier A and the much larger side-wheeler, the T.J. Potter.

Looking north from the King Street wharf. LaRoche has dated this June 6, 1891, the second anniversary of Seattle's "great fire." The Emma Haywood bobs at the center. Note the as yet unopened Denny Hotel on the horizon. It straddled 3rd Ave. between Stewart and Virginian Streets on the southern summit of Denny Hill.
The North Pacific, on the left, and the T.J. Potter, again looking north from the King Street wharf.


(First appeared in Pacific, April 23, 1989)

If Puget Sound organized a maritime hall of fame, the sidewheelers North Pacific and T.J. Potter would be promptly included. They won most of their races and made their fortunes. In today’s historical photo they are moored beside the Oregon Improvement Company’s “B” dock at the foot of Main/Jackson Street.

The North Pacific resting in Elliott Bay.

The smaller North Pacific was built in San Francisco in 1871 to battle the steamer Olympia for supremacy on Puget Sound. Beating the Olympia by three minutes in a mightily wagered and still famous race from Victoria to Port Townsend, the North Pacific effectively kicked its competitor off the Sound – but only after Olympia’s owners received an $18,OOO-a-year subsidy to stay away. For 32 years, the North Pacific worked Puget Sound until striking a rock in a summer fog off Marrowstone Point and sinking in the deep waters of Admiralty Inlet.

T.J.Potter underway - most likely on the Columbia River.

The lush sidewheeler T.J. Potter arrived on Puget Sound in 1890, and during her short time here was probably the classiest and fastest ship on these waters. But it had competition. In her first race from Tacoma with the Ballard-built Bailey Gatzert, the T.J. Potter reached Seattle first but only after the Gatzert blew the nozzle from her

Stack.  Soon after, on April 27, 1891, the Bailey Gatzert returned the favor, and after victory, flaunted it with a whistle-tooting trip around Elliott Bay. Two months later, the T.J. Potter set a record on the Tacoma run of 82&1/2 minutes.

T.J. Potter at Ilwaco near the mouth of the Columbia River.

The 230-foot T.J. Potter was built on the Columbia River in 1888. Designed for the relatively smooth waters of the Columbia, she was also good on Puget Sound when it was calm. But when the waves kicked up, the rocking Potter’s sidewheels would alternately flap in the air and dig into the saltwater, and her passengers – sometimes even her crew – would get seasick. Consequently, the Potter was sent back to the river, where she worked the Portland-Ilwaco and Astoria runs with distinction until being abandoned on the beach near Astoria 10 1921, where the remnants of her stout timbers rest still (Or at least did in 1989.)

A different photo studio, Boyd and Braas, but still the early-1890s, and also recorded from the King Street Coal Wharf - its outer end. The sidewheeler here is the Olympia, and the steel-hulled steamer on the left, the Queen of the Pacific and the Walla Walla.
A Similar point-of-view by Frank Shaw on Nov 9, 1968, and during late construction of the Seafirst tower.



(First appeared in Pacific, May 29, 2005)

Between 1877 and 1903 the King Street coal wharf was probably the most popular prospect from which to study the city. Fortunately, a few photographers took the opportunity to record panoramas stitched from several shots. This view is the most southerly of four photographs that probably date from the spring or early summer of 1882. The photographer was the prolific “anonymous.”

The scene looks east toward the block between Jackson Street on the far left and King Street on the right. King was then still a railroad trestle built above the tides, and all the structures that appear on the right side of this view – the railroad shops and a lumber mill – are also set above the tideflats. The white hotel on the far left with the wrapping porch, shutters and shade trees is the Felker House, the first Seattle structure built of finished lumber.

Two of what we may kindly call the hotel’s “urban legends” survive its destruction in the “Great Fire” of 1889: First, that it was the town’s original whorehouse. Second, that its overseer – Mary Ann Conklin, aka “Mother Damnable” – turned to solid stone sometime between her death in 1873 and difficult resurrection in 1884 when her body was hauled to a second grave. Believe it or not, her features were intact.

Two more semi-solid points – both about the “native land” shown here: First, it is still a quarter-century before the ridge on the horizon would be lowered 90 feet with the Jackson Street regrade. Second, the tide is out and the small bluff above the beach is the same on which the Duwamish tribe built its longhouse. There, the Indians looked out on the bay probably for centuries before Captain Felker substituted whitewashed clapboard for cedar slabs.

A montage of scenes photographed by LaRoche in the early 1890s, with the exception of the Chief Seattle portrait, which he copied from the Sammis photo of 1864 or '65. Princess Angeline - the Chief's daughter - is at the center. At the bottom is another example of a waterfront panorama taken from the King Street dock.


(Courtesy Seattle Public Library)


(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 15, 1989)

If the present Washington Street Public Boat Landing were plopped down into this week’s historical scene, the ornate shelter would straddle the Crawford & Harrington Wharf just beyond the pile of stacked planks – about halfway between the shore and the shed at the end of the pier. This view was copied from the best of the few surviving prints of what is one of the city’s photographic classics. On a different and inferior print, photographer Theodore Peiser has inscribed his name and this caption, “Crawford & Harrington and Yesler’s Wharves with S.S. Dakota 1881.” (The absence of Peiser’s signature and caption on this clearer print suggests that he might have later added his mark to a scene left behind by another photographer, for which he had a poorer copy -a common practice among pioneer photographers.)

One year earlier when the side-wheeler Dakota was awarded the mail contract between San Francisco and Victoria, it added Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia to a West Coast packet it’d been running since 1875. Here the side-wheeler pauses at the end of Yesler’s Wharf which, until the fire of 1889 destroyed it and every other dock south of Union Street, was the principal pier on the waterfront.

Just right of center arid also tied to Yesler’s Wharf is a smaller side-wheeler, the J.B. Libby. The Libby was launched at Utsaladdy on Camano Island in 1862, and in its quarter-century of working Puget Sound, became the best known small steamer on these waterways. In November 1889 while en route from Roche Harbor to Port Townsend carrying 500 barrels of lime, the Libby lost its rudder in a storm and caught fire. It carried seven crew and seven passengers, the latter escaping on the steamer’s lifeboat and the former on rafts. All survived.

At the outer end of the Crawford & Harrington Wharf sits the pier shed for the Talbot Coal Yard, named for a San Francisco capitalist who bankrolled early mining of the Renton coal fields.  The greatest coal exporter from this waterfront was the Oregon Improvement Company’s big coal wharf and bunkers at the foot of King Street.  The company’s coal exports then to San Francisco were many times greater than its imports to Puget Sound.  Especially from 1878 to 1881 the OIC’s greatest import was ballast that it would dump in the bay before loading up on coal.  These contributions constructed our “Ballast Island” off of Washington and Main Streets.


Recorded at the end of Yesler’s Wharf in 1875 by an unnamed photographer,  this is one of the earliest photographs of any part of Seattle.  It may also be the last surviving record of the side-wheeler Pacific, on the left. Now the historic site of Yesler’s Wharf is part of the staging grounds for Washington State Ferries.  (Historical Photo courtesy Puget Sound Maritime Society.)


(First appeared in Pacific, May 15, 2005)

On what is perhaps the earliest (and only) surviving print of this maritime scene an inked caption is scribble along the right border.  It reads, “Steamships Salvador [middle] and Pacific [left] and bark Harvest Home [right] at Yesler Wharf in 1875.” The bible on the subject, “Lewis and Dryden’s marine History of the Pacific Northwest” (published in 1895) describes 1875 as “The Disastrous Year.”  And of all the ill-fated vessels of that year the Pacific’s ending was by far the worst .

Here the side-wheeler leans against the outer end of a Yesler Wharf that had been lengthened considerably in the preceding year with a dogleg.  Perhaps this is her last visit. The Pacific was then involved in a rate war and the passengers who boarded her considered themselves extremely lucky to be paying a fraction of the normal thirty dollar fair to San Francisco.

After steaming from Victoria at 9:30 A. M. November 4th, and rounding Tatoosh at about 4:00 P.M. the Pacific then met stiff winds and hard going but would have easily survived the weather except that when fifteen miles off-shore she improbably collided around 10:00 P.M. with the collier Orpheus that was headed north to Nanaimo for coal. Of the about 240 passengers on the Pacific only one survived by clinging to some wreckage.  It is still a grim regional record.

Seven years later the Harvest Home was wrecked about eight miles north of Cape Disappointment but with different results.  With its chronometer broken the barkentine went aground, to quote again from Lewis and Dryden, “in thick weather . . . and the first intimation the man on watch had of danger was when he heard a rooster crowing in an adjoining barnyard . . . When day dawned all hands walked ashore without dampening their feet.”  The wreck was for years after a Long Beach attraction.


BALLAST ISLAND by Arthur Warner

(First appeared in Pacific, April 24, 1983)

On Jan. 5,1865, the Territorial Legislature granted Seattle incorporation, and the small town of about 300 responded by quickly electing a board of trustees. The new council answered its citizens’ urge for municipal order by giving them 12 laws. The first, of course, was for taxation. There followed ordinances for promoting the public peace by prohibiting drunks, restraining swine  (the 4-legged kind) and setting a speed limit against reckless horse racing on the city’s stumpy streets.

The fifth ordinance was titled, “The Removal of Indians,” and read in part: “Be it ordained that no Indian or Indians shall be permitted to reside or locate their residence on any street, highway, lane or alley or any vacant lot in the town of Seattle.” For the Indians’ hospitality and help in teaching the settlers the ancient techniques of nurturing the abundant life on Puget Sound they were given reservations, smallpox, firewater, blankets, a kind of Christian education for their segregated young and the ” security” of the white man’s laws. In Seattle of 1865, this included that ordinance to keep them out of town.

Actually, the citizens both wanted the natives out of town and in it, and often both at the same time. For many years a kind of solution for this ambivalence was a rocky man-made peninsula called Ballast Island. At the foot of Washington Street the natives would set up camp in their canvas and mat-covered dugout canoes and sell clams and curios. From there they would venture into town to sell baskets and other artifacts on street comers, and meet employers offering odd jobs. (The locals ambivalence towards and treatment of the natives may be compared to the contemporary treatment of Mexicans.)

A detail from the city's 1884 birdseye shows the "captive" condition of Ballast Island set behind the pier, bottom-right. Compare this to the 1888 real estate footprint of the same site that follows.
A waterfront footprint at the foot or feet of Washington and Main Streets in 1888. This, of course, was all flattened by the '89 fire, excepting Ballast Island.
A post-fire 1893 footprint of the same neighborhood with the surviving ballast.

Ironically, Ballast Island was made from the hills of Australia, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and, in largest bulk, San Francisco. Ballast was the stabilizing deadweight of rocks and rubble that the many-masted ships would carry here and simply dump into the bay. They then would fill their empty holds with coal or lumber.

Sometime in the late1870s the captains were persuaded to unload ballast in one place: alongside the short wharf at the foot of Washington Street. The site was good, for it was between the city’s two busiest piers: Yesler’s wharf (1853) and the Oregon Improvement Co’s King Street coal bunkers (1877).  The site was also bad – at least it was so decreed by the Seattle City Council on May 7, 1880, as revealed in the accompanying clipping from the Intelligencer.  By then, however, the ballast at the foot of Madison was formidable enough to be serve as the foundation for the island, and most likely the dumping was eventually resumed for the purpose not of giving refuge and accommodations to visiting Indians, but rather to give more secure foundations to the network of wharfs that would be built there in the early 1880s.

(click TWICE to enlarge – and thanks to Ron Edge for the “Edge Clipping”)

Our look into of Ballast Island was photographed by Arthur Warner sometime in the early 1890s. After the 1889 fire destroyed the entire waterfront south of Union Street, property owners usually rebuilt, three and . four times grander than before the destruction.

The Oregon Improvement Co. filled the waterfront between its coal docks off King Street and Yesler’s wharf with two large pier sheds it designated simply as A and .B. The area between these sheds and the business district along First Avenue was neither entirely filled with ballast and rubble nor was it in every place covered with piers. Thus until the mid-1890s it still was possible for native dugouts to make their way between the Oregon piers and up under the overhead quay to Ballast Island.

Another June 6, 1891 recording by LaRoche from the King Street Wharf. In the foreground is the waterfront neighborhood whose footprint of 1893 was include above. A glimpse of Ballast Island can be found above the stern of the Sehome, the larger side-wheeler resting in the slip between Piers A and B. I have not as yet identified the side-wheeler seen in part far right on the outside of Pier B. Central School is the largest building on the horizon. It set in the block between Madison and Marion Streets and Sixth and Seventh Avenues - now part of the Seattle Freeway trench.

During the winter of 1891 the Oregon Improvement Co., seeking to improve itself, pressured local officials to remove the “some 40 clam-selling, garbage-raking remnants of a great people” who then were living on the island. But the eviction was only temporary, and especially ineffective every fall when the island was the jumping-off spot for natives from as far north as Upper British Columbia who gathered to pick hops in the White and Snoqualmie River Valleys.

In 1895, the Oregon Improvement Co. went bankrupt. By then the native encampment had moved south toward Utah Avenue and Massachusetts Street.  The ambiguous area between the waterfront and the wharves was increasingly filled in not with ballast but the city’s construction waste and Railroad Avenue was planked over all these contributions to Ballast Island.


Dugouts at the foot of Washington Street.


(First appeared in Pacific, May 20 1984)

Today is Waterfront Day in Seattle. (To clarify: on May 20, 1984) At Pier #55, the Virginia V will toot its steam whistle at one o’clock to begin the festivities, including rowboat races, a parade of working boats off shore and a casual procession of waterfront walkers on shore. Many of the vessels in the slips between piers will be open for tours. And on the Virginia V, the last of Seattle’s century old Mosquito Fleet, there will be a photography exhibit of maritime Seattle.

Today’s historical photo is one included in the show. The view is east from the foot of Washington Street to a scene from the early 1890s. But the occasion is not known. Why should the wooden quay on the right be topped with a row of gawkers?  It seems to big a line for that popular post-pioneer pastime of Indian watching.

Below them are a dozen dugout canoes. Behind’ them, and out of the picture to the other side of the pile trestle, is Ballast Island, then a frequent camping ground for natives on their way to hop picking in the fall or canoe races in the summer.

Only on the left are the races mixing. Judging from the postures (the natives are sitting) and the costumes (the suits are standing) it is possible that some bartering for curios or clams is transpiring there.

My hunch is that this scene is somewhere on the beach below Denny Way - before the regrading - or north from there, although I have not been able to confirm it - as yet. This speculation makes the horizon line part of Queen Anne Hill.
Another Elliott Bay waterfront, again with the most likely part of it that is north of Denny Way.
Another unidentified camp.

By the 1890s, the Indians were mass-producing the items of their ritual culture – masks, totems, baskets – for sale to the white man. The Indians themselves often preferred the manufactured products of the white man’s world, with one notable exception – the ·dugouts. Myron Eels, a missionary/anthropologist, explained the enduring success of the cedar canoes.  “The canoe is light, and one person often travels as fast in one with one paddle, as the white man does with two oars. He looks forward and sees where he is going . . . True we think the boat is safer, but the Indian, accustomed to his canoe from infancy, meets with far less accidents than the white man.”

Work on a dugout on some Alaska waterfront.

Today at 2 p.m., folks will be racing – backwards – in rowboats with two oars here at the foot of Washington Street. There may be some accidents.

Races off the Belltown waterfront. The highrise left-of-center is the New Washington Hotel at the northeast corner of Second Ave. and Stewart Street - since renamed the Josephinum.


While the contemporary “repeat” photograph was recorded from within feet of where the historical photographer’s site, it pivots about 45 degrees to the left (or north).  The change was made to show both the historical plaque for Ballast Island and beyond it the Pergola at the foot of Washington Street in the “now.”  The “then” scene shows part of “Ballast Island”, a pile of rubble built for the most part during the early 1880s from the contributions of ships’ ballast.  (Historical PHOTO courtesy: Lawton Gowey)


(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 16 2005)

The historical view looks to the northeast from a timber trestle that following the “Great Fire of 1889”was built into the bay along the south margin of Washington Street.  The site is identified by the line of minimal white posts in upper left corner of the photograph.  They are supports for the short-lived Harrington and Smith warehouse that was constructed to the west of the railroad track (upper-right) that linked this south end of the central waterfront with the Yesler’s wharf (one pier to the north) and beyond it the great swath of tracks and piers along Railroad Avenue that was then under construction following the fire.  The Great Fire had destroyed everything on the waterfront south of University Street to the waterline.  Everything, of course, except Ballast Island.

The neighborhood in 1893 looking north from the then recently elevated King Street trestle. Note the white pillars or posts of the Harrington and Smith warehouse - identified above - on the north side of Washington Street. A glimpse of Ballast Island evident this side of the warehouse and to the other side of the little steamer Mabel, which rests in the hidden slip to the other side of the sheds that are prominent near the center of the scene.

There are conflicting stories of the “island’s” origins.  By one telling captains were ordered to unload here the broken rocks and bricks they carried to give stability to otherwise empty ships.  By another friendlier account pioneer wharf owners John Webster and Robert Knipe asked that the ballast be dropped to the side of their Washington Street pier to protect the piles from wood-eating worms. Whichever, a modern core sample taken near the plaque would bring up a cosmopolitan mix of rubble from San Francisco, Hawaii Islands, Australia and many other far-flung ports.

Another post-89' fire Ballast Island scene near the boot of Main Street.

The “foreign land” of Ballast Island, of course, is most famous as the strange terra infirma on which the region’s displaced indigene camped during hop-picking time in September.  This “foreign-native” irony seems to have been totally missed by the “Indian-watchers” of the time.  They crowded the perimeter of the imported dirt pile in the early 1890s for close-up looks (like this one) of the “exotic” Indians who came prepared to skillfully barter to the locals the baskets and other curious with which they loaded extra dugouts to the brim.

Some of the construction work in this scene can be found in the subject directly above it.


Pre-'89 fire Langston Stables on the south side of Washington Street mid-block between Commercial Street (First Ave. S.) and the waterfront. (Courtesy, MOHAI)

The Langston’s Livery Stable was a busy waterfront enterprise through most of the 1880s, Seattle’s first booming decade.  After it was destroyed during the Seattle fire of 1889, the St. Charles Hotel, seen in the “now,” was quickly erected in its place facing Washington Street, and was one of the first “fireproof” brick buildings built after the “Great Fire.”


(First published in Pacific, July 9, 2006)

Helen and John Langston moved to Seattle from Kent in 1882 and soon opened their namesake livery stables on the waterfront at Washington Street.  Like all else in the neighborhood it was, of course, destroyed in the city’s Great Fire of 1889.   Sometime in the few years it served those who wished to park or rent a horse or buggy downtown a photographer recorded this portrait of a busy Langston’s Livery from the back of the roof of the Dexter Horton Bank at the northwest corner of Washington and Commercial Street (First Ave. S.).

In Helen’s 1937 obituary we learn from her daughter Nellie that Helen was “known for her pen and ink sketches of horses and other animals and scenic views.”  Perhaps the livery stable sign, far right, showing the dashing horse with buggy and rider is also her work.  It was Helen who saved the family’s business records from the fire and was for this heroic effort, again as recalled by her daughters, “severely burned before she left the livery stable.”  After the fire the couple quickly put up the St. Charles hotel, seen in the “now.”

Helen married the 38-year-old John in 1870, the same year he began providing ferry service across the White River at Kent and three years after he is credited with opening also in Kent “the first store in King County outside Seattle.”  During these pre-livery years in the valley the Langstons also managed to carve a model farm out of the “deep forest.”  Before they sold it in 1882 their farm was known county-wide for dairy products produced by its “75 excellent milch cows.”

The Langston Livery appears far left in this birdseye prospect, probably taken from the top floor or roof of the Occidental Hotel on Mill Street (Yesler Way). Note how Ballast Island is here nestled within the trestles and warehouses of the Oregon Improvement Co. This scene may also be compared to the first one on top - the one showing the Emma Haywood resting in that slip at the top. Here we also see the King Street Coal Wharf (top-left), from which so many photographers took panoramic views of the city.

After the fire the Langston’s soon opened another Livery Stable uptown beside their home at 8th and Union.  In the 1903 collection of biographies titled “Representative Citizens of Seattle and King County” John Langston is described both as “now living practically retired” and also busy “in the operation of his magnificent funeral coach, which is one of the finest in the northwest and which is drawn by a team of the best horses.” Three local undertakers kept him busy.  For the moment we may wonder – only – if when he died in 1910 the then 68-year-old pioneer took his last ride in his own coach.



(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 13, 2005)

Frank LaRoche was born in Philadelphia in 1853, the year that Henry Yesler got the first steam sawmill on Puget Sound operating at the foot of Mill Street (Yesler Way) in Seattle.  Thirty-seven years later LaRoche made this record of Yesler’s Wharf when the city was still rebuilding from its “Great Fire” of 1889.

Even before the fire Yesler moved his mill to Union Bay on Lake Washington.  The wharf was too valuable a commercial space to be wasted on processing logs.  The corralled timber floating here in the foreground may be logs picked for piles in the rebuilding of the waterfront.   Or this may be merely the log pond for the Stetson and Post mill that was then just off the tideflats south of King Street.

LaRoche had worked as a professional since his late teens, taking assignments from railroads and publishers (Harpers’s Bros sent him to Australia) opening studios in Salt Lake and Des Moines and teaching photography in New Orleans.  As might be expected after he arrived on Puget Sound in 1889 his work hereabouts is some of the best extant.  The University of Washington Northwest Collection has about 400 Puget Sound examples but he shot many more including several thousand as he followed the Alaska gold rush of the late 1890s.

The professional has numbered this view1080, and thankfully also dated it December 1890.  Here the LaRoche oeuvre included many of what were then our “obligatory” subjects like Chief Seattle’s daughter Princess Angeline and Mt. Rainier from several prospects.  But he also left us cityscapes of every sort – buildings, parks, streets, mills, trolleys and scenes along the waterfront like this one.

After he moved to Arlington a popular trick was cramming Snohomish County lumberjacks together atop huge cedar stumps for company portraits.   LaRoche continue to act the pro until the mid-1920s and lived until 1936.

Perhaps some member in good standing with the Puget Sound Maritime Historic Society can come up with the names of those windjammers.



(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 2, 1986)

During the thick of the Alaska gold rush, Seattle controlled more than 90 percent of shipping to and from the territory. In 1890, there were 40 steamships commuting, the fastest of which was the ship shown here, the City of Seattle. It was 244 feet long, and plush. Built in Philadelphia in 1890, it sailed through the Strait of Magellan to Puget Sound in time for its most prestigious moment. On May 6,1891, leading an armada of the Puget Sound “Mosquito fleet” of small steamers, the City of Seattle carried President Benjamin Harrison from Tacoma to Seattle.

The City of Seattle, with Pres. Harrison aboard, reaches Yesler Wharf (left-of-center) with a flotilla of Puget Sound steamers following and tooting.

The steamer was so well-appointed that when the crash of 1893 hit, she was too expensive to run and was laid up until the gold rush of 1897 got the economy under way again. In 1900 the fast and reliable City of Seattle returned from Alaska with real booty -three tons of gold, two tons more than the steamer Portland’s sensational 1897 haul that – at least in mind of a hysterical public – started the gold rush.

A first class passenger enjoys the elevated view of Alaska from the top deck.

The steamer lost its crown for speed in 1902 when it raced the steamer Dolphin the 800 miles from Vancouver, B.C., to Skagway. The two were often abreast and seldom out of sight of each other. In the end the Dolphin won by a half-mile.

The City of Seattle pausing for a stretch at a small Alaskan port in 1919.

Seattle’s namesake worked Northwestern waters until 1921, when it returned to the East coast, this time through the Panama Canal, for a new career of hauling passengers for the Miami Steamship Co. In 1937, it was sold for scrap. But the steamer is still in fine form in the accompanying photo, which was taken about 1897. The City of Seattle leans slightly to her port side loading or unloading in a slip alongside old Pier near the foot of Washington Street.

Happy Passenger types aboard the City of Seattle.


Then Caption:  The Victoria pulls away from the slip between Pier 2 (51) and Colman Dock sometime in the early teens.  (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)  Now Caption: The modern Colman Dock from the 1960s is without tower – except for the advertising spire near the sidewalk – and the open water slip along its south side has long since been covered for vehicular access to the Washington State Ferries.


(First published in Pacific, March 18, 2007)

With “clues” from the tower, upper-right, and a scribbled negative number, lower-left, it is possible to, at least, compose a general description of this crowded scene.  The clock turret, here partially shrouded in the exhaust of the disembarking steamer S. S. Victoria, replaced the Colman Dock’s original tower in late 1912.  That spring the first tower was knocked into Elliott Bay by the steel-hulled steamship Alameda during a very bad landing.  The second clue, the number “30339” penned on the original negative by the Curtis and Miller studio, dates the scene – still roughly – from 1914 or 1915.

In 1908 the by then already venerable Victoria was put to work on the Alaska Steamship Company’s San Francisco-Seattle-Nome route.  Considering how packed are both the ship and the north apron of the Northern Pacific’s Pier 2 (at the foot of Yesler way) it is more likely that the Victoria is heading out for the golden shores of Nome rather than the Golden Gate.

The 360-foot-long Victoria was built in England as the Parthia in 1870 and made her maiden voyage that year to New York as the finest ship of the British Cunnard Line, for many years the dominant North Atlantic shipper. With compound engines she required half the coal of her sister ships, and with the gained room was the first Cunnard ship to have, among other niceties, bathrooms.  Eighty-six years later the Victoria (She was renamed with a 1892 overhaul, again in England.) was sold to Japanese shipbreakers and in 1956 her still sturdy hand-wrought iron hull was salvaged for scrap in Osaka, Japan.

Most likely a few Pacific readers will still remember the Victoria from the depression years of 1936 to 1939 when she was laid up in Lake Union unable to meet the cost of U.S. fire and safety regulations.  A least a few eastside readers will recall the steamer from the summer of 1952 and following.  On Aug. 23rd of that year the then oldest steamer in the U.S.A. was tied to the old shipyard dock at Houghton (Kirkland) on Lake Washington where she waited first for an ignoble 1955 conversion into a log-carrying barge, and briefly renamed the Straits, before taking the last of her many trans-Pacific trips.  That most fateful of journeys was her first trip under tow.


BALLAST – Yet Again

(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 25, 1992)

Identifying the landmarks – including a few churches – in this 1880 view of Seattle requires a print considerably larger than that provided here. (Originally, that is, in the relatively small Pacific printing from 1992.) So, like the print, we are reduced to making some generalities regarding the scene’s features.

First, this record is but one section of a five-part panorama of the city. It was recorded from the railroad coal wharf that, beginning in 1878, extended into the bay from the foot of King Street. The panorama extended north from Beacon Hill along the waterfront to Queen Anne Hill.

This is the third section of that wide-angle cityscape and extends from Washington Street on the right to Columbia Street on the far left. On the far right, Jefferson Street climbs First Hill. To the left of Jefferson, the fruit trees in Henry and Sarah Yesler’s orchard darken the block between Third and Fourth avenues and Jefferson and James streets, since 1914 the site of the King County courthouse. The Yeslers’ orchard also silhouettes the white facade and tower of Trinity Episcopal Church at Third and Jefferson.

Pioneer Square (or Place), in the scene’s center, is as-yet undistinguished by the three-story brick-and-cast-iron landmarks that in 1883 began to surmount this cityscape.

Asserting a kind of independence from the scene is the pile of rubble in the foreground. This, I believe, is the beginning of Ballast Island, (or nearly) the mound of imported earth that was dropped here by coal colliers visiting the King Street bunkers for coal in exchange for the ballast rubble contributed here between Washington and Main streets.  The ballast was need to steady the otherwise mostly empty ships as they sailed north from San Francisco – mostly – to pick up Seattle’s coal, and/or sometimes lumber too. This “foreign” pile developed into a favorite camping ground for Native Americans – as already noted twice earlier or above.






HELIX Vol. 1 No.5 – JUNE 6, 1967

A brief (sort of)  audio commentary is attached directly below.  The disciplined listener might want to illustrate the “sound track” by opening the pdf to the paper itself – first – giving HELIX time to materialize before punching the audio button.

Paul’s Commentary

[audio:http://pauldorpat.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/01-05.mp3|titles=Helix Vol 1 No 5]





Paris Chronicle #41 The Bastille

François Hollande was elected french President yesterday on May 6th with 51,7%.  He is the first socialist to win since 1981.

A huge crowd gathered at Place de la Bastille to celebrate the victory. It reminded me of the Mondial Soccer 1998 World Cup. People were so happy,  friendly and filled with hope.  François Hollande arrived  at Place de la Bastille around midnight and declared “I am  the president of Youth of France.” At the end of his humanist speech, all the people began to sing the french hymn : la Marseillaise, it had been a very long time that I had neither heard it nor sang it!

François Hollande a été élu Président hier le 6 mai à 51,7%, il est le premier socialiste a gagner depuis 1981. Une  immence foule était rassemblée Place de la Bastille pour célébrer la victoire. Cela me rappelait le Mondial en 1998, les gens étaient si heureux, proches  et plein d’espoir. François Hollande est arrivé Place de la Bastille vers minuit et à déclaré aussi  qu’il était le président des Jeunes. A la fin de son discours humaniste, tous les gens ont commencé à chanté la Marseillaise, il y avait bien longtemps que je ne l’avait entendue ni même chantée !


Seattle Now & Then: 9th & University

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: On the hot and quiet Sunday afternoon of June 4, 1961 Frank Shaw stepped onto the short pedestrian bridge that once extended from the Normandie Apartments, here far right, over the lower intersection of 9th and University. The intersection was divided in half - a high part and a low part - because this was one of the very few precipitous parts of First Hill. (Historical photo by Frank Shaw)
NOW: Jean used his long pole to reach an elevation approaching that of the lost bridge. His “repeat” is also wider in order to include more of Freeway Park and the Horizon House’s North Tower on the far right. The Exeter, the Tudor-Gothic hotel-apartments on the left of Shaw’s view, can also be glimpsed just above the park trees in Jean’s repeat.

An active member of the Mountaineers, the photographer Frank Shaw also liked to hike Seattle with his Hasselblad camera, especially in pursuit of cityscapes and public art.  Building the Seattle Freeway was one of the subjects he followed, and at the center of this elevated look west from University Street and 9th Ave. into the Central Business District he has recorded a surreal swath of cleared lots prepared for digging the I-5 ditch.

A closer look at what Plymouth Church faced - a parking lot to the east - before the freeway construction. University Street is on the right.
Looking south from the Washington Athletic Club sometimes soon after its completion in 1930. Sixth Avenue is on the right, with Plymouth Congregational Church at the center with the neighborhood that surrounded it not yet interrupted by parking lots. (Courtesy Ron Edge.)

Almost certainly Shaw followed the freeway news, which this June of 1961 was enlivened by protests against the freeway’s design. They were led by the First Hill Improvement Club and Century 21 architect Paul Thiry.  Shaw recorded this on Sunday June 4, 1961, one day before the club’s Monday protest march thru these same blocks.  With practically every public official against them, the club’s proposal to cap or lid the ditch with a green parkway was doomed.  In a city then ambitiously building a world’s fair, the political and technical tasks required to study the lid proposal were described as annoying by those charged to do them.

The April 11, 1961 Seattle Times coverage of the proposed covered freeway plan.

Once the ditch was dedicated in 1967 the artful urge to cap it was revived with some of the same public officials in line to, perhaps, atone.  The results were Freeway Park dedicated on July 4, 1976, and seen, in part, in the “now.”  The sprawling Washington State Convention Center followed in the eighties.

Most likely Frank Shaw read his Sunday Times that June morning.  Front page was news of Soviet Premier Khrushchev’s enchantment “like a smitten schoolboy when the ice thaws along the Volga in the springtime” with Jacqueline Kennedy at a Vienna banquet.  There was also news of “freedom riders” in the Jackson Miss. Jail, the decision to also name Century 21 as the Seattle World’s Fair, and arguments over Castro’s proposal to exchange 500 American tractors for 1,200 Cubans captured in that April’s failed invasion of the biggest island in the Caribbean.

More June 4, 1961 Seattle Times coverage on Jacqueline and Nikita's affair.


Anything to add, Paul?

A few more features past from the neighborhood, and other to some sides of University Street Jean, and beginning with a repeat of the feature we put up in 2009, which looks back up the steep University Street clime from eighth Avenue.


(First appeared in this blog on Aug. 15,2009)

There were only two precipitous places along the west side of what the pioneers soon learned to call First Hill where an imprudent trailblazer might have fallen to injury or worse.  These steep exceptions would be obvious once the forest was reduced to stumps.  But when the old growth was intact it was best to stay on native paths or stray with caution, especially to two future prospects on 9th Avenue – the one near Jefferson St. and the other here on University Street.

Exploring the hillside behind Jefferson Terrace at 8th one can still intimate the cliff, which Seattle Housing’s largest and probably also highest low-income facility nestles.  Eighth Ave. stops just south of James Street at that high-rise, because the cliff behind it never would allow the avenue to continue south.

The other steep exception was here on University Street where it climbed – or tried to climb – east up First Hill between 8th and 9th Avenues.  The goal is half made. On University, 9th  has two levels and only pedestrians – like the gent here descending the steps – could and can still climb between them.  All others had to approach the lower of the two intersections from below.  They could throttle their motorcar into the photographer’s point-of-view west up University from 8th Avenue, or they could make another steep climb from the north, up from Hubble Place.

The bridge is another exception.  It reached from the upper intersection of 9th and University to the top floor of the Normandie Apartments, whose south façade we see here covered in Ivy.  Thanks to Jacqueline Williams and Diana James for a helpful peek into their work-in-progress “Shared Walls: Seattle Apartments 1900-1939.”  We learn that when it was built a century ago James Schack, the Normandie’s architect, included the bridge as a convenience to the big apartment’s residents who rented 84 units, and all of them with disappearing beds.

For another view of the same location prior to Freeway Park, check out this post at Vintage Seattle.

The view looks northwest from the upper level of the “intersection” of University Street and 9th Avenue, ca. 1912, to the Normandie Apartments when the ivy that covers the south facade (on the left) has reached the band between the first and second floors, went counted up from 9th Avenue. In the principal photograph used above, that south wall is covered with that creeper, and probably the east wall too. Here we may note the planters on the roof and on the far left the canvas shelter open for studying the skyline in any weather without high winds.
Perhaps the earliest look at the creeper-free south facade of the Normandie.
Another early view and from a position near that taken by the photograph directly above. This one, however, looks northwest to the intersection of 8th Avenue and University Street, bottom-left, where one of the city's solid waste wagons is beginning to climb University Street to the east - it seems.


Plymouth dressed in green for Lawton Gowey's recording from Aug. 5, 1964.
Plymouth's contribution to the small park at the northwest corner of Pike and Boren. The view looks to the northwest, and was recorded for the 1997 feature below.


(First appears in Pacific, Nov. 2, 1997)

One of our more curious local landmarks is the arrangement of four fluted columns and their surrounding screen of trees that look over Interstate 5 from a triangular patch of park at the northwest corner of Boren Avenue and Pike Street. This week’s “repeat” has followed these now-headless shafts from their original location near the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Seneca Street, where they were formerly united for 44 years with their classical capitals above the grand front door to Plymouth Congregational Church.

The mother church of local Congregationalists had its cornerstone laid at this location in July 1911 (the next feature below), and 10 months later opened all 136 doors of its new sanctuary to the admiring community. The architecture was sober and demure and, except for the classical portico and belfry, showed little ornament. As explained in “The Congregational Washington,” it was a “plain, chaste example of classic architecture . . . peculiarly characteristic of New England.” As noted by Mildred Tanner Andrews in “Seeking To Serve,” her history of Plymouth, plans for this church were influenced by the “practical reformist and democratic positions of many of its members.”   The architect was John Graham Sr.

The sanctuary ca. 1963 during the construction of the IBM building, here behind it.
March 21, 1966, the chancel exposed. Photo by Lawton Gowey.
Robert Bradley's record of the pillars to be saved.

Demolition began the first week of March 1966. By the 20th, all that remained were the columns, and on the 29th, these were pushed and pulled down by a tractor and crane. Meanwhile, the congregation worshiped nearby at the 5th Avenue Theatre.

The four stone columns were reconstituted largely by local builder and art collector John Hauberg, influenced, perhaps, by the example of his wife, art activist Anne Gould Hauberg, and the then relatively new enthusiasm for preservation.

Plymouth’s pillars – each of their seven four-ton segments in place – were dedicated at their new location on Oct. 24, 1967. Thirty years later, their austere formation has been considerably softened by the park’s trees.

At the column’s “new” site overlooking Interstate 5, the common misconception endures that these classical pillars were saved not from Plymouth Church but from the University of  Washington’s first building on the original campus in downtown Seattle.

The Territorial University's main hall stripped of its columns, the only substantial part of the U.W.'s first home for the state's own higher education that was saved and moved to the new Interlake campus.
The Columns on campus, 1993.


Above: Mark Matthews, the pastor for First Presbyterian Church, welcomes the parishioners of Plymouth Congregational Church to the neighborhood during the 1911 cornerstone laying ceremonies.  Both views look from University Street south to the block between 5th and 6th Avenues; also the contemporary repeat has been adjusted to show both the street and a portion of the neighboring IBM Building on the far right. (Historical view courtesy of Plymouth Congregational Church.)


(First appeared in Pacific, Spring of 2005)

Here on the Sunday afternoon of July 30, 1911 at the southwest corner of University Street and Sixth Avenue the members of Plymouth Congregational Church are laying the cornerstone for their third sanctuary.  A mere three blocks from their second home at the northeast corner of Third and University, Plymouth picked up after Alexander Pantages, the great theatre impresario, made them an offer that the congregation could not refuse.

In a passage from the 1937 parish history “The Path We Came By” this scene is described. “The shabby old frame tenements of the neighborhood, gray with dust from regrade steam shovels, must have looked down in amazement at the crowd gathered there that Sunday afternoon, women in silks and enormous beflowered hats, men in their sober best.”  From the scene’s evidence, bottom-center, we may add one barefoot boy with his pants rolled up.

While the surrounding tenements were really not so old they were certainly dusty for the lots and streets of this Denny Knoll (not hill) neighborhood were still being scraped and reshaped with regrades.  Less than ten months following this ceremony the completed church was dedicated on Sunday May 12,1912.  On Monday an open house featured “music, refreshments and athletics” and also “130 doors – all open.”

Fifty years later Plymouth’s interim senior minister, Dr. Vere Loper, described another dusty scene.  “Wrecking equipment has leveled off buildings by the wholesale around us.  The new freeway under construction is tearing up the earth in front of us, and the half bock behind us is being cleared for the beautiful IBM Building.” Plymouth’s answer was to stay put and rebuild.  Opened in 1967, the new sanctuary was white and gleaming like its neighbor the IBM tower and seemed like a set with it, in part, because the same architectural firm, NBBJ, was involved in the design of both.



(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 28,1982)

With his back against Elliott Bay the photographer shoots across the entire width of Railroad Avenue. The view looks east to the ramp that extended University Street from First Ave. to what was then still the extended timber quay of the waterfront.  A seawall with a fill behind it was still several years in the future in this scene from 1908.  This is one of about 60,000 subjects in the Asahel Curtis collection preserved, but

rarely seen, in the photo archives of the Washington State Historical Society in Tacoma. The subject is oddly empty of the carriages, wagons, cautiously crossing pedestrians and plethora of boxcars that ordinarily congested Railroad Avenue.

While his older brother Edward was roaming the west and photographically chronicling the vestiges of native America, Asahel, “the Curtis brother with the hard-to-pronounce first name,” after a gold rush reconnoitering to Alaska, kept closer to his many favored subjects hereabouts, including the Cascades.

Born in Minnesota in 1874 but reared in Port Orchard, Asahel moved to Seattle in his late teens. His photographic career ‘began in 1894, and after a few years of his wanderings first about Alaska and the Yukon and then testing his ambitions in San Francisco, tie returned to Seattle and, by the century’s turn, was owner of one of the city’s largest commercial studios.

Unlike his brother Edward, whose steadfast urge to record the “noble savage” required the patronage of Theodore Roosevelt and J. Pierpont Morgan, Asahel paid his own way. Always the businessman and only incidentally the artist – with the exception of his cherished mountainscapes – Asahel would photograph most anything as long as it paid. Like this oddly sedate View of the normally hazardous Railroad Avenue. It was surely a job done for hire or on speculation for future sale, but for or to whom?

Asahel sitting at the cluttered table most likely in his own studio, and cutting cake for the happy fellows behind him. Note the vertically lodged negative holders in the protected shelves behind those celebrants on the right. Most of these negatives wound up in the keep of the Washington Historical Society (and Museum and Research Library) in Tacoma. (Courtesy Bob Monroe)

Perhaps It was the city that hired Asahel to take a photograph showing that waterfront conditions were not as filthy, congested and dangerous as the local press kept harping they were. A weekly, The Commonwealth, summarized these charges this way: “That name, ‘Railroad Avenue,’ is a grim and ghastly joke. Four counts, four charges of negligence have been established – negligence in the matter of policing, lighting, maintenance of sanitary conditions and the enforcement of municipal ordinances regulating the blockade of streets by railway cars.”  This picture is virtually clean of everything except for that lone boxcar, a few pedestrians, and that silhouetted figure at the left. That figure’s presence seems to suggest two contradicting readings of this photograph. Either the photographer did not care what moved in the way of his shot or this was the one brief instance that was free of the crowded intrusion of railroad cars and carriages that were coming in fast from all sides and would soon fill the photographic frame and so confirm popular opinions toward this boardwalk – that it was too congested to travel and too dangerous to cross.

Or was this rarely peaceful instance used to reveal the dangerously rough condition of the sea of planking over which boxcars and crowds would normally be jockeying for right-of-way? These boards were forever corning undone, stubbing the toes of commerce and revealing the rat-infested mess of refuse, driftwood and broken concrete below that put up a flimsy wall against a tide range of 16 feet. Here, in an unguarded stumble, one could run a splinter through the foot, and catch the plague to boot! (Or through it.) But it always was routinely claimed that the planking was only temporary – temporary in some places for a half a century.

Looking west down the University Street trestle ca. 1899 with the Snug Harbor Saloon on the right. (Courtesy, U.W. Libraries Special Collections.)

Perhaps it was the proprietor of the Snug Harbor Saloon who called on Curtis to photograph his cozy drinking establishment. The flags and bunting suggest, perhaps, that the grand opening is in progress and the beer and Polish sausages are cheap.  What remained of the Snug’s picturesque life on the waterfront was, however, brief. By 1910 the saloon had moved on up to First and Union, where it was not so snug with the harbor.

In 1911 the Port of Seattle was formed in part as a response to the mess on Railroad Avenue. But it was not until 1934 that an impervious seawall was constructed and that Railroad Avenue – now Alaskan Way – was given relief from the tides in this section north of Madison Street.  The older part, south of Madison, got its own and earlier seawall in the teens.

By 1934, Asahel Curtis was a celebrated 60-year-old, and he was still photographing this city and the “charmed land” that surrounded it. Ever the promoter of local development, he died in 1941 and left thousands of images which still are testimony to the making of this modem American city.

East on University Street from the Alaskan Way viaduct before it was opened to traffic in 1953. Photo by Horace Sykes.
Lawton Gowey's recording of the Cornerstone project looking south from the University Street Trestle on Sept 22, 1982. Lawton looks through the block that was filled with hotels - including the Arlington - in the 1890s. The excavation sat undeveloped for many years before Harbor Steps started to fill it.
Construction of Harbor Steps, photographed in the spring of 1994.
A circa 1980 before to the above construction scene's 1994 after. This stub of the viaduct had been long-lived.
Some changes including the building on the left and the symbol for Pi. The date may be guessed on the evidence of the cars and the price of parking.


Looking south above and on Western from the University Street timber trestle to the waterfront. Asahel Curtis is, again, the photographer, and the picture is used courtesy of Clarence Brannman.


(First appeared in Pacific, April 28, 1996)

From above the center line of Western Avenue, this week’s historical scene looks south into the Commission District. The photograph was taken from the University Street timber trestle, which once spanned from First Avenue to Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way). Judging from its number, this view from the studio of Asahel Curtis was photographed near April Fools’ Day 1904, days before the planks were pulled up and the pilings below them buried in fill.

These street planks are five years old, about as long as they could be expected to survive the pounding of loaded wagons. In 1899 Western had been repaved when the rotting parts of the supporting piles were cut away and recapped.

The 1904 filling of Western represented the public-works commitment to solidify a waterfront that had been quickly rebuilt above the lapping tides after the Great Fire of 1889, which destroyed everything along the waterfront as far north as University Street. The row of makeshift tin shacks on the left was another post-fire commercial improvisation, meant to get the offshore neighborhood quickly back to work. Three horse stables separate the two-story hotel at the far (Seneca) end of the block from Compton Lumber Co. at this end. This last is still in business, although not at this corner. These shacks survived for five more years before they were removed, their tideland basements filled to grade and new brick warehouses eventually built in their place.

Looking back and north on Western - here on the left - from the roof of the steam plant south of Columbia Street ca. 1903. The Denny Hotel is evident on the Denny Hill horizon, on the right. The name was changed to Washington Hotel in 1903 for the visit of its first guest, Theo. Roosevelt that spring. The University Street trestle cuts through, right-left, near the center of the scene.

The contemporary photo steps back to show off Harbor Steps Park and its monumental staircase, which repeats with ornamental relish the funky old timber trestle along University Street. The park is part of the Harbor Steps project, a work in progress (in 1996), the 17-story residential-commercial building glimpsed here on the right takes the place of the old tin shacks and more.

The red brick Diller Hotel shows here left-of-center across First Avenue at the top of the steps.



(First appeared in Pacific, March 20, 1994)

Edward Diller opened his hotel on the southeast comer of Front Street (First Avenue) and University on June 6,1890. As the first anniversary of Seattle’s “Great Fire” of 1889, the day was a celebration of renewal – and a good way to get attention.

Scores of new buildings were being built side by side above the ashes of the fire district, more than 30 blocks of the city’s business center. The demand for brick was so great after the fire that Puget Sound brick yards could not keep up with it. A number of local commercial buildings, including Diller’s, were built with brick imported from Japan.

Diller built his new hotel in front of the family home and later extended it to alley lots originally saved for the family. This is that full hotel as it was photographed about 1909. The differences between the two bricks is quite obvious if you stand below the hotel’s facade on University Street. These views look cater-cornered across First and University. .

With the 1897 beginning of the Klondike gold rush, the Diller Hotel got busy.  The following spring Diller was elected to the City Council. Especially in those years, First Avenue north of Yesler Way was crowded with hotels, mostly for men working on or near the waterfront or traveling to or from the gold fields. No block was as packed as this one, with seven hostelries between Seneca and University.

SAM, on the left, and the Diller on the right in April 1992 and with no Hammering Man.

The Diller is one of the last landmarks surviving from those energetic years. The hotel’s decorative cornice was judiciously removed after the area’s 1949 earthquake. Now (in 1994, that is) within the old hotel’s walls are Asian importers and galleries, professional fashion designers and photographers, a shop specializing in fine papers, the antique store on the comer and several artists in the upper floors. The building, which is still owned by the Diller family, stands directly across University Street from the new art museum.  [Perhaps someone who knows the Diller’s recent past will help us learn of it with a written comment.]


South on First through its intersection with University Street. The Arlington Hotel - last known as the Bay Building - in on the right and part of the Diller, far left. Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey.
Lawton Gowey's early "now " from May 23, 1969. Four or five loans sharks on the left and one music store, Myers. I bought a used keyboard there long ago. Far right is the Diller hotel during its "white period." Far right is the Arlington Hotel by then long since known as the Bay Building.


(First appeared in Pacific, May 1, 1997)

The centerpiece of this early-century look down First Avenue from University Street is the bright white trolley on the southbound tracks. That is Mail Car A, the first of the Seattle Electric Company’s 400-series freight cars, signed on its side, “United States Railway Post Office.”

Standing mail cars were commonplace at First and University; the city’s main post office was in the Arlington Hotel, far right, for a few years while the new Federal Building was completed at Third and Union. After sorting, the mail was distributed by the white cars to several branch post offices.

The Arlington, still with its tower, at the southwest corner of First Ave. and University Street. The work-in-progress on its concrete foundation in 1889 helped stop the northward movement of the city's "Great Fire of 1889."

The opening of the new post office in 1908 – a short while after this photograph was made – was no doubt a relief to the seven hotels that crowded First Avenue between University and Seneca streets. The Diller Hotel, far left, is the only one that survives (in 1997, at least). Built in the first year after the “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889, in this view it is only the second-oldest building on the block. Construction on the Arlington Hotel began before the fire, and the brick work of its foundation is credited with stopping the fire’s northerly advance.

With the Arlington Hotel on the left - home then for the Fed. Post Office - looking west on the University Street Trestle from First Ave.

Among the Arlington’s other occupants were the city’s first tour service, “Seeing Seattle” (far right), and United Parcel Service, which in 1918 moved into the post office’s old sorting room.

Looking back - north - through the same block on First, this time with the photographers back to Seneca Street. The Diller hotel is on the right and across University Street is the Arcade Building, now the site of the Seattle Art Museum. The name and date of this parade are marked upon it.
My repeat from about 12 years ago. The feature essay that accompanied this has not reveal itself as yet, but will. plcd
Another parade on First into the first block south of University Street.

By the depressed ’30s, First Avenue had become a relatively low-rent strip for people on fixed or no income. The 1974 razing of the Arlington was seen by some as a kickoff for the avenue’s gentrification. Only now (1997), however, is that hole being topped with the 31 stories of Harbor Steps East. When completed, the entire Harbor Steps project will have added 750 new apartments (plus a 20-unit bed and breakfast) to the harbor side of First Avenue, a development that cannot help but swell the old avenue’s street life.