(click to enlarge photos)
California’s intrepid and prolific pioneer photographer, Carleton Watkins, titled this subject “Suburban Residence, Seattle W.T.” Watkins visited Seattle late in the summer of 1882 while adding Puget Sound subjects to his eponymous “New Series” of marketable views he recorded from Alaska to Mexico. He numbered this one 5230. It was Ron Edge, a frequent help in this feature, who first directed me to Watkins’ suburban home posing with its unidentified family. We wondered together “But where near Seattle?”
The answer came quickly when intuition led us to another Seattle view from 1882, one that I used for this column on Oct. 3rd 1982. An exquisite and revealing panorama of Seattle from Beacon Hill, it too was photographed by Watkins during his ’82 visit, although I did not know it a century later when I used it during my first year between Pacific’s covers.
My intuition, I speculated with Ron, put the home “somewhere on Beacon Hill” because of the site’s slope to a waterway crossed by a line of pilings (above the roof far right), and a distant horizon suggestive of West Seattle across Elliott Bay. Ron soon answered with Watkins’ panorama revealing that our suburban home was in it as well – and the abandoned pilings too. We figured that it may have taken Watkins three minutes to get from one prospect to the other. *
Finally, nearly, Ron remembered journalist-historian Thomas Prosch’s early caption for the Watkins’ pan, which the pioneer included in one of his helpful albums about Seattle history. Prosch writes, in part, “Seattle in 1882 from Dearborn Street and 12th Avenue south looking northwest.” His siting is supported by other recordings of the home and its neighborhood, included in photographs that look back from the waterfront and First Hill to Beacon Hill in the 1880s and 90s.
We have placed the home near what was once the elevated intersection of 10th Avenue South and Dearborn Street, but now – since the Dearborn Cut of 1909-1912 – a paved ditch through Beacon Hill. So far we have not determined who lives in this tidy home, but we have hope.
Anything to add, Paul?
Yup, including more on the labors – joyful ones – of identifying and locating the Watkins views, a selection of a few other looks into “Gas Cove” and the city from Beacon Hill, and a few looks back at it and up the waterfront from the King Street Wharf, which Watkins also visited during his 1882 tour of Puget Sound.
(Double Click this to enlarge)
Thanks again to Ron Edge for helping search out the answers for the “suburban” Seattle subject on the top and to Jean for reflecting on our reflections and testing them again our evidences. We will continue with another Edge discovery, one of the first that he introduced to us, now already years ago. This panorama, and the detail from it above it, were photographed from the King Street Coal Wharf looking east towards Beacon Hill. The original print has been dated Oct. 15, 1880 – almost two years before Watkins’ visit. Note the ragged condition of the forest in the vicinity of the “Suburban” home (marked with the red arrow in the detail). The panorama – below the detail – shows two curving trestles heading east and south from the King Street Wharf. The one that heads more-or-less directly for the shore is the newer one, built to replace the one that heads out on its curve across the tideflats. Soon after it was built the wood-boring worms – about which Ivar Haglund sung so eloquently – began to ruin it. (We will include the lyrics at the bottom.) So the trestle on the left was constructed to replace it and at least some of its difficulties with worms and their appetite for wood by reaching land above the tides sooner. The curving and abandoned trestle on the right is already beginning to lose sections. Can you find the gap(s)? It is that broken trestle that was our first clue for where the “suburban” photo was taken. The trestle appears in that view on its right side. (Click to Enlarge)
Here follows a few more aids – constructions – used by Ron, Jean and I for identifying the location of Watkin’s “suburbs.”
Here we return to Watkins more familiar view – the one from Beacon Hill over “suburbia” to the city, and also from his visit in Sept. 1882. The feature that follows it was first printed in Pacific Magazine now thirty years ago! It makes not of several landmarks that appear in the pan, and we will insert close-ups of a few of them, although for the most part from later years and so not 1882. (Please Click TWICE to ENLARGE)
1882 VIEW FROM BEACON HILL
(First appeared in Pacific, Oct 3, 1982)
Early in the 20th Century, Thomas Prosch, a retired newspaper publisher, assembled and captioned three photo albums now preserved in the University of Washington Special Collections. The Prosch volumes are, of course, helpful for identifying the earliest pictorial records of Seattle. For instance, Prosch’s caption for the accompanying panorama from Beacon Hill reads, “Seattle in 1882 from Dearborn Street and Twelfth Avenue South looking northwest. Among the buildings are the Stetson and Post Sawmill, County Courthouse, Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist churches, Squire’s Opera House, Post Building and Yesler’s Mill Co.”
The city’s “Great Fire” of 1889 destroyed almost all the landmarks included in this panorama. And since Prosch’s caption means little to all but a few 21st Century viewers – you perhaps included – readers will need to take a careful look to see what is there to see.
Easiest to locate is the Stetson and Post Sawmill – the daring intrusion onto the tideflats at the far left. The mill was built in 1882 at the present location of First Ave. South, between King and Weller Streets. During the next year its crew of 117 men would cut some 14 million feet of lumber. The city’s pioneer Yesler Mill was left in its scattered chips.
Next, look for the Catholic Church, Our Lady of Good Help. It’s the large white Gothic structure on the right. Like the mill the church was also new in 1882. Its new pipe organ was the second in town. The first pipe organ was installed in Trinity Episcopal Church in July of the same year. A visiting organist from New York christened it with a well-attended grand opening. Trinity is the white sanctuary with tower just to the right and a little above the Catholics. Dedicated in 1871, Trinity stood at the northwest corner of Third Ave. and Jefferson Street, and was the only major structure on Third Avenue north of Yesler Way (Mill Street then) destroyed by the 1889 fire.
To the right of Trinity Church is the County Courthouse Prosch noted. Also new in 1882, the large white and boxish structure (with a box-tower too), shows seven windows on its south façade at the southeast corner of Jefferson and Third Ave., now the site of City Hall Park. Unlike the nearby church, the Courthouse survived the fire as jurors and witnesses anxiously adjourned from a murder trail to spread wet blankets across the roof. In 1891 after the county moved to a new home on top of First Hill, the city moved in and through its seventeen-year residency kept enlarging the frame structure in a floundering attempt to keep up with the growing boomtown it tried to govern. The odd additions soon gave city hall a new name in allusion to a then popular screw-ball comic strip. It was called Seattle’s Katzenjammer Kastle.
The slender pointed spire of the Methodist Church is just to the left of the Courthouse. When it was built in 1855 at Second Ave. and Columbia Street, it was the town’s first church.
Squire’s Opera House is the dominant dark structure near the center of the photograph. It stood on the east side of Commercial Street (First Ave. S.) closer to Main Street than to Washington Street. In 1882 it was still the largest auditorium in town.
In 1880 the view from Beacon Hill was still obscured by old growth forest in places. But by 1882 it had been clear-cut and at night the city glowed (in places) with 30 gas lamps lining the busiest streets. The Gas Company building can be seen in the crook of the bay, which may also be called “Gas Cove.”
1882 was a boom years for Seattle. In the Nov. election 1,274 votes were cast, the most for any community in the territory, and for the first time more than were counted in Walla Walla – sixty more. New buildings with stone and iron facades were on the drawing boards, many modeled after the Post Building on Mill Street between Pioneer Place and Yesler’s Wharf and mill.
In the photo directly above Prosch is the bearded figure standing at the base of the steps of the Post Building at Yesler Way and Post Street. In 1882 he was editor and part owner of the Post-Intelligencer, which had been formed the year before by merging his Daily Intelligencer with the Daily Post. Thomas Prosch died on March 30, 1915, while crossing the Duwamish River in a chauffer-driven motorcar. He was returning from a meeting of the Tacoma Historical Society. (For now 97-years – in 2012 – the industrious editor has been resting in peace, and if memory serves within a few headstones from Walt Crowley’s place in Capitol Hill’s Lakeview Cemetery. Walt, along with his wife Marie McCaffrey, and myself, helped found historylink.org. where more can be read about Thomas Prosch and much else.)
Although both the “now and then” views look east at the waterfront towards King Street the historical scene was photographed many yards further to the west from the top of the King Street Coal Wharf. The adjustment allows the “now” to avoid the obstruction of a building and get closer to the site of the “native land” that still shows in the “then” scene. The site of that historic shoreline with the little bluff is now a few feet east of the Alaska Way Viaduct on the north side of King. Historical photo courtesy Seattle Public Library.
NATIVE LAND & URBAN LEGENDS
(First appeared in Pacific, May 29, 2005)
Between 1877 and 1903 the King Street Coal wharf was probably the most popular platform from which to study the city. Fortunately a few photographers took the opportunity to record panoramas stitched from several shots. This view is one of several stitched together (below). It was photographed in Sept. 1882 by the itinerant Californian named Carleton Watkins.
The scene (two and three subjects above) looks east towards 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. (In the stereo above, the Felker House is on the far right.)
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 first whorehouse. Second, that its overseer Mary Ann Conklin — aka “Mother Damnable” — turned to solid stone sometimes 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 we in tact.
Two more solid points – both about the “native land” shown here (“Here” and in the photos now a few above.) 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 built their longhouse. There from its comfort they looked out on the bay probably for centuries before Captain Felker substituted whitewashed clapboard for cedar slabs.
For linking to the pix above we will provide-print again the Watkins pan already offered five images up. There may well be another Watkins part to this pan – one that looks left to the northwest. The stereo of Jackson Street, four photos up, identifies it as “No. 7.” Watkins recorded many more than seven images in Seattle, so does the “7” refer to his sequence from the King Street pier? Counting all we have here (but not that the stereo is framed differently) we have, it seems, five parts to the pan.
Follows several looks down upon the city from Beacon Hill from different – slightly – prospects.
We will conclude this week’s now-then contribution – nearly – with a visit to a later Beacon Hill home up on the hill that is – or was – no longer part of suburbia.
BEACON HILL VICTORIAN
(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 19, 1995)
The Beacon Hill home that Gertrude and George Spencer built soon after their wedding in 1901 is one of those Victorian fancies that divide tastes. Some love these ornate testaments to the woodworking arts; others regard all this craft as functionless clutter. I like it.
George Spencer was a Pennsylvania-trained teacher who arrived in Washington in 1890 and was hired by Lewis County to teach and later serve as superintendent of its public schools. With his marriage, George moved to Gertrude’s hometown and, after a stint as deputy superintendent of King County schools, became principal of lower Queen Anne’s Mercer School. In 1907 Spencer left teaching for real estate but remained active in education as a member of the Seattle School Board.
In the mid-’20s George was chairman of the Seattle Real Estate Association. Gertrude kept up the business after his death, and for the 1946-’47 term was president of the Women’s Council of the Seattle Real Estate Board. For seven years she also chaired the Seattle Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Both Spencers were members of the Beacon Hill and Jefferson Park Improvement Clubs. They had one office downtown and another on Beacon Avenue, just two blocks from their home. The Spencers could look across their backyard fence to the rear door of the Beacon Hill Bakery on Beacon Avenue. Soon after their post-World War II arrival in Seattle from Anchorage, Eugene and Theresa Odermat bought the bakery and then the Spencer home.
Their son · Victor Odermat (later “king” of Seattle’s car washes) has warm memories of the home’s large rooms, high ceilings, ornate staircase, elegant hardwood wainscoting and clawfoot cast-iron tub. But soon after the widowed Theresa moved out in 1966, the Spencer-Odermat home was razed and replaced by the modern apartment house showing here in the “now.”
As advised, we conclude with a printing of one of the waterfront shanties that Ivar Haglund, the aquarist, wrote in order to serenade his customers at the front door to his Pier 3 (later Pier 54 after the WW2 renumbering) Aquarium from 1938 to 1956. His book of ballads was first published in 1953. So far as I know Ivar never lived on Beacon Hill nor below it.
*(Judging from the shadows Watkins took the panorama first.)
2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Suburbia near Dearborn”
Carleton Watkins’ photo of a “suburban residence, Seattle W.T.” is a photo of my 2nd great grandparents, Edward and Emma Turner and their daughter Minnie. According to the Seattle, Washington, City Directory, 1879 the address is, Terrace and Fourth sts, Seattle, Washington, USA
the 1880 census tells their address as 543 first ave. i’m thinking this is the one.