Seattle Now & Then: The Federal Courthouse

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The future Federal Courthouse site packed with ice in 1937. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)


THEN: Show here in late 1939, across the intersection of Spring Street and 5th Avenue, the building site chosen for the Federal Courthouse, was surrounded for the most part by hotels, apartments, schools, churches, and, to the west across 5th Avenue, the lush landscape of the Carnegie-built Seattle Public Library, here lower-right. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

NOW: Jean Sherrard set his “repeat” wider in order to better show the courthouse’s position in the neighborhood.
For its April 22, 1940 edition, the Seattle Times perambulating wit responsible for this paper’s once popular feature “Strolling Around the Town” visited the work on Seattle’s new Federal Courthouse. The writer described the workmen pouring concrete for the “elevator’s penthouse twelve stores above the street.” There they “paused, mopped their brows and surveyed the flag they had hoisted on a temporary pole.” It was the informal “topping off” of the U.S. Justice Department’s modern addition to Seattle.
Like the Smith Tower, which it otherwise does not resemble, the Fed’s modern box glows in proper light.  It too is covered for the most part with terra cotta tiles with a reflecting color that the contractor N.P. Severin – of Chicago – described as light peach-bloom. The austere structure’s few ornaments and color choices were, of course, its architect’s, Louis A. Simon, who like the $3 million that paid for this our first modern box, came to us from the other Washington.
Naturally, local architects and contractors could have used such a federal plum during the depression.  Soon after the federal funding was announced in the summer of 1936, James A. Wood, Seattle Times Associate Editor, lamented that once again, it seemed, the city would miss the opportunity to build a needed civic center around the new courthouse.  Instead, the fed’s purchased the Standard Station and its sprawling parking lot across 5th Ave. from the Carnegie Library, which a half-century earlier was the first site for Providence Hospital.
Pulled from The Seattle Times for Sept. 37, 1937.
Groundbreaking news in the Times for June 17, 1939.
From The Seattle Times, Jan. 14, 1940
The work went fast, beginning with the groundbreaking in the summer of 1939 when Federal Judge John C. Bowen, shovel in hand, decided to “start the dirt flying.”  By late October of 1940, the F.B.I. and many other federal enforcers were ready to move in.  City Light was soon shamed into clearing the block of its weathered utility poles, which were described as “a ‘disgrace’ to the sightlines of the new building.”  The imperial fuss over the earnest new courthouse was also “expressed” on the front lawn. The Times Stroller returned in the summer of 1941 and described what is still seventy years later an inviting green expanse as “stuffed with red-white-and-blue shields upon which appeared the words: ‘U.S. PROPERTY KEEP OFF THE GRASS’.”
August 7, 1941, from the Times.
Almost complete the Federal Courthouse poses still surrounded by the city's offensive poles. (The link directly below will open the Times page that uses the above photo and much more.)

Times Aug 17, 1940 p14

The courthouse front lawn looking north to the Olympic Hotel on March 13, 1963. Another photo by Lawton Gowey.
Lawton Gowey photographed this from the 8th floor of the City Light Building (on Third Ave.) on June 7, 1960. He recorded two of Seattle's then best examples of modern architecture, the relatively new Seattle Public Library on 4th Ave. with the Federal Courthouse behind it on 5th. There is as yet no SeaFirst tower to get in the way of Lawton's vision from his office at City Light.
After its 1967/8 construction, Lawton Gowey look east into the curtain of the SeaFirst Tower. Here he has visited a friend's office on the 33rd floor of the tower, and from there looks down - and east - to the courthouse and a front lawn only mildly tinted by the summer of 1981. Lawton dates his slide that year on July 15.


The top of the parking garage offered several unique perspectives of the city – here’s a few taken on the fly:
Anything to add, Paul?
Surely Jean, although only a few from the site.  By introduction a slide I took on May 19, 1997 of the plaque set at the front stairs to the courthouse.  It commemorates Providence Hospital, the former occupant of this block borders by 5th and 6th Avenues, and Madison and Spring Streets.
(First appeared in Pacific, August 24, 1986)
This wonderfully detailed historical view (above) looks southwest from the old metropolitan campus of the University of Washington. The photographer (probably Charles Morford) carried his camera to the cupola (most likely) of the Territorial University building for an elevated sighting of his primary subject, Providence Hospital.
The scene is relatively easy to date. The hospital’s central tower on Fifth Avenue and its south wing at Madison Street (here on the right) were completed in 1887. Central School, behind the hospital, left-center, burned to the ground in April, 1888. Since the leaves on some of these trees and bushes seem to be just beyond budding, and there is no wind-stacked mulch of autumn collecting in the gutter along Seneca Street below, we can say, almost confidently, that this scene was shot in the early spring of 1888. It may have been but a few days before that unnaturally hot bright April night when men armed with brooms and pails of water darted across the Providence roof dowsing and sweeping aside the embers falling from the flaming school and sky.
An earlier look at the same neighborhood recorded from the Territorial University's main building. Note that the hospital's central tower on 5th Avenue is not as yet in place.
But in the Spring of 1888, the sisters were less worried by physical fires than by Protestant ones. A century ago the religious temper was somewhat less ecumenical than it is now, and the quality of care given by the strange-to-Protestants, black-habited Sisters of Providence was chronically embattled by anti-Catholic resentment and rumors. When the Episcopalians opened Grace Hospital in 1886, the open competition for patients resulted in the area’s first health insurance plan. The Grace administrators offered, for five and ten dollars, yearly health bonds to the Catholic sisters’ “bread & butter” clients, the working class.
The Protestant's Grace Hospital was too costly to keep open.
The sisters responded with their own plan. After eight months the Sister Chronicler wrote, “Our tickets are doing well, even in the territory of our adversary . . . A good number of patients left his hospital dissatisfied, while ours leave happy. His hospital is luxuriously furnished with Turkish carpets, furniture with marble tops, and so forth. Ours is simply furnished, but our Sisters are so devoted that they aptly compensate for the lack of wealth.”
In 1893, the overextended Grace Hospital failed following the economic panic of that year. But Providence survived and kept enlarging. When the last addition along Madison Street was ready in 1901, Providence Hospital was the largest in the Northwest.
Looking northeast across Madison Street and 4th Avenue to the block-long Providence.
The sisters survived in a hospital of their own making. The restrained but satisfying symmetry of the completed plant was designed by artist-architect Mother Joseph, who was also the founder of the Sisters of Providence in the Northwest. Self-taught, she was known as “The Builder,” and was ultimately honored by the American Institute of Architects as the first architect in the Northwest.
The sisters arrived in Seattle in 1877, accepting a contract to care for the county’s poor house in Georgetown. The next year, they bought the John Moss residence at Fifth and Madison, and under Mother Joseph’s supervision, converted it into their first hospital. Seventy-five beds were added to those in the Moss home when the first wing (at Spring Street) of Mother Joseph’s structure was dedicated on Ground Hog Day, 1883.
After 28 years at Fifth Avenue and Madison Street, the sisters moved in 1911 to their present site at 17th Avenue and Jefferson Street. The central tower of that surviving hospital is a brick variation on Mother Joseph’s frame tower along Fifth Avenue and so may remind us of “the builder.”
The "new" Providence Hospital on Second Hill.
Recently, the hospital’s tower part of what is now called the 1910 Building was threatened when its original construction was found wanting by modem earthquake standards. [A reminder: this feature first appeared in 1986.] However, the tower escaped the wrecker’s ball (or imploder’s charge) when the neighborhood’s Squire Park Community Council successfully campaigned to save it. This preservationist’s success included a reciprocity. For its part Providence Hospital agreed to restore and reinforce the 1910 tower, and the council agreed to not stand in the way of the hospital’s plans to add a modem wing (construction began in 1989) to their old hospital.
Both views, above and below, look west through the intersection of Spring Street and Sixth Avenue.
(First appeared in Pacific, June 18, 2006)
When its last of several additions was attached along Madison Street in 1901, Providence Hospital became the largest hospital in the Pacific Northwest. Mother Joseph, “The Builder,” – as she was called – of this and many more structures for the Sisters of Providence, died the following year in Vancouver, Wash., where she first “answered the call” with her Bible in 1856.
This rear view of the hospital looks west across the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Spring Street, most likely in the spring of 1909 when the Dept. of Public Works was regrading Spring and Seneca streets east of Fourth Avenue. The cut here at Sixth, as revealed to the left of the steam shovel, is at least 20 feet.
Aside from its central tower facing Fifth Avenue, the part of the hospital most evident here is the first wing that was dedicated on Feb. 2, 1883. With architect Donald McKay, Mother Joseph designed a three-story frame hospital with a brick foundation, large basement, open porches and the first elevator in town. Mother Joseph also supervised the construction.
Despite the Protestant town’s general prejudice toward Catholics, the hospital was busy. Epidemics of many sorts and accidents at work were commonplace. The work day did not shrink from 12 hours to 10 until 1886.
In 1911, Providence moved to its new plant at 17th Avenue and East Jefferson Street. Two years later, Seattle’s progressive mayor George Cotterill temporarily converted this old Providence – then vacant – into the Hotel Liberty for homeless and unemployed men. However, as Richard Berner explains in his book, “Seattle 1900-1920: From Boomtown, Urban Turbulence, to Restoration,”* there were no sisters of any sort at the hotel. “Women were not allowed . . .and had to shift for themselves.”
(*Berner’s illustrated history can be studied on this blog.)
Two looks, above and below, north from the Smith Tower were photographed respectively, 1913/14 and ca. 1946.  The first show Providence about the time that Mayor Cotterill used it to shelter homeless men.  The second subject records the luminous aspect of the nearly new courthouse on the right.
The "new" brick Central School at the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and Madison Street.
(First appeared in Pacific June 17, 1990)
Among the distinct pleasures of doing this work are the discoveries shared by readers. One uncovered this view of Central School, among a handful of glass negatives forgotten but snugly preserved in a small wooden box.
When fire destroyed the city’s first high school, the Seattle School District took the opportunity to raise this heroic Gothic building in its place. Central School was built on the ledge of First Hill, where the pitch of Madison Street’s steepest part Relaxes for its less strenuous climb east of Interstate 5. Now part of the 1-5 ditch, it was once a commanding setting filling the block bounded by Marion and Madison streets and Sixth and Seventh avenues.
Central High was razed by a sensitive wrecker named Henry Bacon. “I’m far-from a new hand in this game, but this is the strangest job I’ve ever worked on,” Bacon said. Even the building’s interior walls were 2 feet thick, and all of Seattle-baked brick. The wrecker estimated that there were 2 million bricks.
Central School circa 1945 without its towers.
The envelope protecting the glass negative for this view was dated 1902 – the year Central’s ascendancy as a high school was considerably diminished with the construction of Broadway High School on Capitol Hill. Central served as a primary school only until 1938; for a time, it was used as a vocational school, but after the 1949 earthquake the towers were dismantled and the big brick pile closed for good. Henry Bacon finished this work in 1953.
In 1883 the largest school in Washington Territory opened on the south side of Madison Street between 6th and 7th Avenue.  This wooden Central School survived only five years before it burned to the ground in 1888.  A larger Brick Central School followed and the last parts of it survived until razed in the early 1960s for the pit that would become the Seattle Freeway.
(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 15, 2006)
Thanks to Gilbert Costello and his namesake collection at the Seattle Public Library this portrait of the Central School faculty not only survives but also is carefully annotated on its flip side.  There at the center is the official stamp of the “photographic artist” Theo E. Peiser who arrived in Seattle, by most descriptions, in 1883, which is also the year that this view was most likely recorded.  The hand-written notes explain that here are the “Old Central Teachers” at the “opening of Central.”  Actually, this is the second “Old Central” and it is brand new.
The statuesque long coat on the left is Professor Edward Sturgis Ingraham, who arrived in Seattle in 1875 and ten days later became the head of the community’s schools.  In 1883 he completed his first year as the first Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools and got married.  The 31-year old professor (taught for the most part in the “school of experience”) and Myra Carr, 24, chose the eighth of April for their wedding because it was for both of them also their birthdays.  One month later on the seventh of May Ingraham marched his students and faculty three blocks east up Madison Street from the really old Central School on 3rd Avenue to this new and then largest school in Washington Territory.  Behind that front door are twelve classrooms and every one of them measures 28 by 35 feet.
Aside from Ingraham and the Janitor on the far right the scene shows ten teachers, but only eight are named: Pearce, Nichols, Penfield, Condon, Piper, Kenyon, Vroman, and Jones.  This last, O.S. Jones is the “other man” on the right. (If he looks like a younger version of the man with the brooms it is because the janitor is his father.)  In 1884 Jones would pose on different steps when he became the principal of the then new Denny School at 5th and Battery.  Only bad health in 1913 stopped him from teaching.
Another of Ingraham at Central Schools steps, this time with some of his scholars divided by sex in an "A Class."
Follow another lift from the Seattle Public Libraries Costello scrapbook on the early history of Seattle Public Schools.  First the pictures of five Central School teachers, followed by his description.
Construction on the Seattle Freeway, Jan. 26, 1963, looking north from Jefferson Street. Photo by Frank Shaw.
Another Frank Shaw recording, looking north from near Jefferson on August 15, 1964. Included in the changes is the IBM Building, It rises in the later photo directly behind and above the Federal Courthouse.
Jean it is once more time for “nighty bears,” the silly but endearing expression for “good night” first taught by Bill Burden, my old housemate from 1978-79.  A few weeks past Bill was in town and Jean you remember that we attended the party that Michael DeCourcey gave for Bill and his friends hereabouts at Michael’s new home near Granite Falls.  Jean did you make any snapshots of it all?
Later this morning after breakfast – and a few hours sleep – I’ll go searching for some TDA protest photographs taken at the front door to the Federal Courthouse now long ago.
Among the many protests staged at or near the front door of the Federal Courthouse, the most frenzied one was on Feb. 17, 1970 for a demo named TDA for “The Day After.” Even without digital equipment it was well recorded by participants, media and surveyors for the local police and other authorities.   The few shots below come from a collection of surveillance photos shot by a stringer for a local TV station.  I purchased them in a garage sale many years ago.  The bottom photo is from a different and unidentified protest at the courthouse.  It is probably from an early assembly protesting the war in Vietnam.   Walt Crowley, the figure in profile bottom right, looks to be still in high school.   Walt was the primary founder of, and his historylink description of the TDA protest can be reached by clicking the photo that includes him.
Well! There is Walt Crowley at the bottom-right corner of this early anti-war protest at the Fed. Courthouse. At the time, Walt was most likely still in high school. Click the picture and it will bring up Walt's historylink essay on TDA, for which a few pictures follows. Some of those other figures are also familiar to me, although I no longer remember their names.
TDA troopers at the damaged door to the Fed. Courthouse.
Earlier - protestors at the door. Jeff Dowd - one of the Seattle Seven - is center-right.
A detail of Jeff appearing as an avenging angel while facing the protestors at the Fed.Courthouse doors. Jeff would later "cool it" as "The Dude" - an L.A. model for living-in-ones-pajamas cool celebrated in the by now cult film the Big Lebowski.
Doing it in the road: 5th Avenue in front of the Fed. Courhouse. "Those times." It is probably not Feb. 17. Too balmy. Seeing the phalanx of uniforms up the block we suspect that many of those sitting here would soon be running. They are young - or were.

Paris chronicle #44 Rendez-vous au Verre à Pied

This small bistro has kept all the soul of rue Mouffetard market.

The name of the bistrot is a pun. Of course, we walk there because the street is pedestrian, and the wine glasses have stems too, it is an opportunity to meet and talk, read the newspaper, eat very well, see exhibitions and raise glasses to our friends …


Ce petit bistrot a gardé toute l’âme du marché de la rue Mouffetard. Bien sûr on y vient à pied car la rue est piétonnière, et les verres à vin sont à pied aussi, c’est l’occasion  de se retrouver pour discuter, pour lire le journal, se restaurer superbement, voir des expos, et  trinquer à la santé des amis…

Claude Derrien, the owner of the bar and the barman Nicolas

Rue Mouffetard

Le verre à Pied, 118 rue Mouffetard Paris 5th

Seattle Now & Then: The Schmitz Park Arch

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THEN: The Schmitz Park arch straddled 59th Avenue Southwest facing Alki Beach from 1913 to 1953. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)
NOW: Players in the annual “Old Ball Game” at Alki Field break from the diamond to pose for Jean Sherrard at the corner now nearly 60 years without its rustic arch.

In a Seattle Times Classified Ad for August 1913, C.W. Latham, a dealer of West Seattle real estate, asks “Don’t you think it is a good time to come over and select that home site by the seaside?”  Latham’s list of reasons for moving to Alki was its new “$200,000 bathing beach, $60,000 lighthouse, and $75,000 new school.”  And it was easy to reach the beach. Direct 5-cent trolley service from Seattle began in 1908.  The dealer gave no address for his office.  His instruction that it was “near the Schmitz Park Arch” was good enough.

Prolific postcard artist Frasch's 1910 glimpse into Schmitz Park. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan)

The arch may have been better named the Schmitz Boulevard Arch for it was not in the park but rather faced the beach.  In 1908, one year after West Seattle was incorporated into Seattle, the 2,700 foot long boulevard was graded to the park proper, which was then first described as a 40 acre “cathedral” of old growth forest.  In 1908 the German immigrant-philanthropists Emma and Henry Schmitz donated both the park and the boulevard to the city.

Looking down from the back of some higher structure along Alki Ave, this public works photo looks east-southeast over the arch (with urns to its sides) and the tennis courts of the Alki Playfield to the West Seattle horizon. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)

A stripped log spans the arch’s columns made rustic with a facing of river rocks.  The construction is here still a work in progress, for the two additional posts to the sides have not yet been topped with their keg-sized stone flowerpots.  The new Alki School, seen here far left across Alki Field, is partially hidden behind one of these incomplete shorter columns.  The school’s primary classes opened in 1913, also the likely year for this pubic works photograph, which we first discovered in “West Side Story,” the 1987 history of West Seattle edited by author Clay Eals.

Another roadside attraction on Alki made of river rocks (or rounded rocks rolled from somewhere.) Courtesy, John Cooper.

Clay, by now an old friend, along with David Eskenazi, Seattle’s baseball historian, lured Jean Sherrard and I to their annual summer softball game at Alki Field.  Jean and I, in turn, lured their players off the baseball field and onto 59th Avenue West.  Jean explains.

“Herding the two dozen or so cool cats that comprised Clay and David’s annual baseball game/gathering was an amiable chore. We ambled from the diamond to 59th and SW Lander during the seventh-inning stretch, following rousing choruses of “Take me out to the ballgame,” the National Anthem and unanimous sighs of regret at Ichiro’s loss. On this glorious July day, the amenable players, on command and between passing cars, spread themselves across the avenue with one caveat from the photographer: ‘If you can’t see me, I can’t see you’.”  Both David and Clay can be seen.  (They can be seen again below in a manly embrace in the 11th of Jean’s snapshots of the Alki Players.)


I’m posting a few thumbnails of the annual game, Paul. These include Lil Eskenazi, the team mascot, the oldest and youngest players, mighty Clay Eals at bat, pitcher Dave Eskenazi, T-shirt prizes, and a few more highlights.

And here’s the group portrait – enough players for two teams with more than three outfielders for each:

Anything to add, Paul?

Yes Jean – a few related features from the past, and we may be repeating some of them – even from this blog.  Remember, rather than check we promote a policy of benign redundancy in which every story or feature or photo is made fresh by context.  We use the musical analogy of a leitmotif.   First, here’s another “artist’s league” group portrait from long ago – ca. 1976 – in Cascade Park or playfield, about two blocks east of The Seattle Times.  Remarkably, one of the players in this group has made it – with a borrowed glove – into Jean’s 2012 portrait straddling 59th Ave. SW at Lander Street. (Possibly this fond bit of local softball ephemera has also appeared here earlier.)

Cascade Players off Pontius Ave. N.
A Google-Earth inspection of our play field, Alki Beach, Schmitz Park, and Alki Elementary too. (The U-Shaped school is directly below the ball diamond.) Compared this to the two maps directly below. The one grabbed from the real estate plat for Alki Point and the other from our 1912 scan of the Baist Real Estate Map.
Curiously the two maps do not agree on the location for the school. You can determine which is the closer by comparing the maps with the satellite photo.


Spud began on Alki Beach in 1935 as a seasonal sidewalk service in a clapboard shack.  Here in the late fall of 1938 it is boarded up until spring.  Now Spud is a year-round two-floored emporium that seats 80-plus lovers of deep-fried fish served with both tradition and a view of Puget Sound. [Historical view courtesy Washington State Archive, Bellevue Community College branch.]


(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 16, 2003)

Brothers Jack and Frank Alger opened The SPUD on Alki Beach in June of 1935.  It was the beginning of summer but also the dead of the depression. At 10 Cent for a cardboard boat stuffed with fries and two big pieces of breaded ling cod the English-born Alger’s fish and chips serving was affordable, delicious and filling – but only in the warmer months.   In late fall the stand was closed and looked as it does here in this Works Progress Administration tax inventory photo recorded on Oct. 14, 1938.

To either side of SPUD in 1938 was a line of small beach homes, a few small apartments, Turner’s Shell station, Sea Home Grocery, Seaside Pharmacy, Alki Bakery, two groceries, a barber, a cobbler, a plumber, a tailor and four other eateries — two serving hamburgers and hot dogs and the other two fish and chips.  Most commonly on Alki Ave. s.w. were the vacancies but most importantly for the life of the beach was the Alki Natatorium Swimming Pool built across from Spud on pilings over the tides.

Following the war the shanty seen here was replaced with a nifty modern plant featuring portholes, and SPUD written in big bas-relief block letters over the front door.  Sheltered inside was a counter with four stools.   By then there were Spuds at Green Lake and Juanita as well.   The family continued to run the Alki Spud until Frank’s son Rick decided prudently at the age of 55 that he needed “to slow down and enjoy life more.”   Recently retiring to build their “dream home” on Hood Canal Rick and Terry Alger sold Spud to Ivar’s.

SPUD in the dark, ca.1945
SPUD - 1948
SPUD - 1961

It was a both sensitive and poetic choice for also in 1938 when Ivar Haglund opened his first café – a fish and chips stand at the entrance to his aquarium on Pier 54 — the Alger brothers helped him.   Roy Buckley, Ivar’s first employee, learned his fish and chips while working at Spud.  All of them, Frank, Jack, Ivar and Roy were West Seattle lads.

Roy Buckley when still working for the Algers.

While both Spud and Ivar’s survive in 2003, we may conclude by listing a few popular restaurants of 1938 that do not.  All are still savored in memory only.  Manca’s and the swank Maison Blanc; The Green Apple (home of the Green Apple Pie); The Jolly Rogers, The Dolly Madison Dining Room, and Mannings Coffee (several of them); the Moscow Restaurant and the Russian Samovar; Ben Paris downtown and Jules Maes in Georgetown; the Mystic Tea Cup, and the Twin T-P’s, Seattle’s Aurora strip landmark most recently lost to a (w)reckless midnight wrecker.

A visit to SPUD on ALKI offers more than breaded fish. Here ca. 2003 an exhibit of Alki Beach now-and-thens is being hung on the south wall of the fish-and-chips second floor dining room. The stairway to this exhibit of Alki repeats is also replete with other historical photographs of the neighborhood.

Two Examples of the Alki Ave now-then repeats, follow.


In 1910 the city purchased much of the Alki Beach waterfront for the development of a groomed park and the seawall showing on the far right of the “now” scene.  Both views look east on Alki Beach from near 64th Avenue SW. About one century separates them. (Historical photo courtesy of Lawton Gowey – Contemporary photo by Jean, now nearly eight years past.)


(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 10, 2004)

This beach party scene comes from that most popular and yet unknown source: somewhere.   The beach is familiar enough – at the scene’s center is Duwamish Head marking the entrance to Elliott Bay – but neither the year nor the group nor the photographer whose back is to Alki Point are identified.

Depending upon who is throwing it this scene is a stone throw or two from the site where the Denny Party landed on Nov. 13, 1851.  Judging from the costumes and the development  (or rather lack of it) on the beach it was photographed about a half century later.  Most likely then if this is not a group from the neighborhood its members came to their picnic by boat for the electric trolley did not reach the beach until 1907, the year that West Seattle incorporated into Seattle.

By the time this driftwood tableau was photographed the attraction of Alki Beach as a summer retreat was already commonplace.  After regular steamer service was launched across Elliott Bay in 1877 the Daily Intelligencer advised “Now is a good time for picnics on the beach at Alki Point, so it will pay some of our new settlers to go over and see the spot where Messrs. Denny, Maynard and others lived during the ‘times that tried men’s souls.’” (I found this reference in “The West Side Story”, the big book of West Seattle history.)  We can only imagine what pains those we see frolicking and lounging here gave to the hardships of the founders.

There is a revealing similarity between the beach visitors in the “now” and the “then” scene: how few of them there are.  Alki Beach was frequented by throngs after the arrival of the trolley and the 1911 opening of Alki Beach Park with its oversized bathing and recreation pavilion  – 73,000 of them in 1913.  By comparison Jean Sherrard took this week’s “now” photograph last July 24, one of the hottest days of the summer.  While there are surely many more offshore attractions in 2004 then in 1913 when it comes to chilling dips we may also have become less robust.


About 80 years separate the two later afternoon views on Alki Beach Park. Both look to the southwest from near the foot of 61st Avenue Southwest. (Historical photo courtesy of Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, and, again, the contemporary one by Jean.)


(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 17, 2004)

Last week’s “then” looked northeast on Alki Beach.  This week’s record surveys the same stretch of sand but in the opposite direction.  Why spend two weeks on one beach?  Because about a quarter century separates the two historical photographs – last week’s and this one – and the changes are revealing.

As shown seven days ago a picturesque litter of driftwood distinguished the ca. 1900 West Seattle waterfront.  Here a quarter-century later the same waterfront is littered instead with bathers in wool suits and separated from a wide planked promenade by a seawall.   Actually the change from the irregular strand landed on by the founding settlers of 1851 to a groomed shoreline occurred very rapidly after the city condemned and purchased in 1910 the nearly 2500 feet of this shoreline between 57th and 65th Avenues Southwest.

In quick order the city built a large bathing pavilion (the historical photo is photographed from its roof) and the wide walk protected by the sturdy wall.  This radical makeover was dedicated on Independence Day 1911 and the following year the covered bandstand was extended over the tides.  That first year the city’s Parks Department estimated that 103,000 persons were attracted to the 75 concerts performed from its octagonal stage.

A 1912 off-shore look at the Alki Beach facilities. This was taken from a Fickeisen family album, and used courtesy of Margaret & Frank Fickeisen.
Another early off-shore look at the big bath house.
Looking northeast from the bath house portico to Duwamish Head with Luna Park, far right, and a temporary Alki Beach pier that once serviced whaling ships. Magnolia is far left.

In 1925 the wooden seawall was replaced with a concrete one that was designed to protect the beach with a concave profile that inhibited the undertow of high tides.  In five years more the seawall was extended in the other direction (to the northeast) to within 150 feet of Duwamish Head.  At last in 1945 this gap was also acquired and improved to make a continuous recreational shore between the Head and the string of homes that lie between the public park and the closed – since 911 – Alki Point lighthouse (1913).

This chronology was gleaned from the book “West Side Story” and Don Sherwood’s unpublished (but often photocopied) manuscript history on local parks. (You can find it all on the Seattle Park Department’s web page – the history part of it.)  Much on Alki Beach history is featured in the exhibits and publications of the Log House Museum (one block from the beach at the corner of Stevens St. and 61st Avenue) and – as noted and shown above –  also in permanent display on the walls of the by now venerable SPUDS fish and chips on Alki Avenue.

Ivar "Keep Clam" Haglund's aunt and uncle, Rena and Al Smith, once owned a good part of Alki Point - as did Ivar - inherited from Ivar's grandparents who settled on the point in 1868 after purchasing it from pioneer Doc' David Maynard. (That story will soon be told in detail in "Keep Clam.") The Smiths built this bath house to service their Alki Point restaurant, the Stockade. (Courtesy, Bob Bowerman)
Another changing house of similar construction as the Smiths but only perhaps on Alki Point.


For the 19 years that the Alki Natatorium covered the beach it was closed and or in disrepair about as much as it was open to plungers and other recreations. The sprawling facility was camped on the tides side of Alki Avenue between 58th and Marine Avenues Southwest. Historical Pix courtesy of Don Myers.


(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 6, 2005)

If we could but read the license plate on the bumper of the car (that looks very much like the one my dad drove the family west in from North Dakota in 1946) we could date this stark portrait of the Alki Natatorium.  Since much of the glass along the Alki Avenue façade is busted out we know that this scene was photographed sometime when the fitful entertainment center was not serving.

But when jumping there was more than swimming here.  For instance, the neon sign with the diving swimmer also advertises dining and dancing at the Shore Café.  And at least during the late 1930s when the Premier Amusement Company was running it, the “Nat” was also a skating rink.

This natatorium was the last of three built along the beach.  The first opened near Alki Point in 1905, but quietly closed while planning an “Oriental-styled” enlargement complete with “real Geisha Girls” serving tea and the “world’s largest swimming pool.”  The second opened in 1907 with Luna Park at Duwamish Head.  And although the amusement park was soon closed for introducing “lewd and disorderly behavior” the big indoor natatorium stayed open until 1931 when it was one of many targets torched by an arsonist that year.

Perhaps the short-lived natatorium at Alki Point before the light house - photographed - perhaps - from the Alki Point Wharf included in the map below.
The Alki Point natatorium is marked in this real estate promotion of May 20, 1905.

Three years later this “Nat” opened a short distance up the beach from the Municipal Bath House towards the Head not the Point.  The “Nat” managed to survive the Great Depression but not a lawsuit by an injured swimmer in 1939.  In 1942 the Seattle Park’s Department renovated and reopened it in time for the preoccupations and parsimony of the war, and the place again closed.  Especially when dark, its great expanse of roof glass was pelted by naughty children (read boys) with rocks borrowed from the beach.  Several moves by the Parks Department and City Council to restore it following the war turned out to be good intentions only and in 1953 the Alki Natatorium was razed to the beach.


Seattle Now & Then: Mrs. Anderson, Co-eds, and Mea Culpa

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: With their windows open, joyful Seattle University co-eds greet Spring and a Seattle Times photographer from their First Hill mansion-dormitory in April 1959. (Picture courtesy, Lois Crow)
NOW: 53 years later co-eds Frances Farrell and Lois Crow, left and right, return to 718 Minor Avenue and different steps. Jean Sherrard has also posed me “hiding my shame” – for past mistakes - in the tree behind them.

Looking up the front steps of Seattle University’s McHugh Hall (the name and address are painted on the steps) we count nine coeds waving to a Seattle Times photographer.   The subject was first published in this paper on April 12, 1959, along side a second photo of the dorm’s oversized bathtub, both used to illustrate a feature written by Frances “Fran” Farrell and titled “It’s HOME to Seattle U. Co Ed’s”  Fran’s SU instructor in journalism advised her to write something for publication and the Times liked her story on McHugh Hall – her school dorm converted from the Anderson Mansion on First Hill  – so well that they gave it a full page.

In Jean Sherrard’s “repeat,” Fran, on the left, stands on newer Swedish Hospital steps beside Lois Crow.  With two others they shared a dorm room on the top floor – here upper right in the “then.”  Barbara Owen, one their upper-class quartet, waves from the open window.  Fran Farrell chose her subject with enthusiasm.  “Living in McHugh was a complete delight! As upper classmen we wanted someplace with more independence and camaraderie and we got it at McHugh.”  Freshmen and sophomores were housed in Marycrest, a new six-story dormitory.  It held none of the ornate charms of a lumber baron’s mansion.

Jean suggests that I ask readers if this week’s “now” is familiar.  He knows that it is.  As the “repeat” for a different story, we used this location recently – last May 19th.  And there I – but not Jean – made a big mistake.  What I had learned years earlier – and earnestly believed until the Saturday before the Sunday publication – was that our May subject was Mrs. Anderson posing in her celebrated coach in front of her mansion here near the southeast corner of Minor and Columbia.  But – and alas – it was instead Mrs. Burke posing in her coach in front of her First Hill Manse, but three blocks away.  (If it helps, they remain short blocks.)  When Lois Crow, already an acquaintance of mine, discovered my mistake and shared it with me that Sunday morning, I was at least able to tell her that I too had discovered it a day earlier, but that it was too late to stop the presses.

We encourage you to read Fran Farrell Vitulli’s Times feature on the Anderson manse.  You can access it readily through the Time’s older archive (1900 to 1984) serviced on the Seattle Public Library web page.  It is a service that also offers what we may call the “joys of the key word search.”  You can also find a facsimile of Fran’s feature printed in Jean and my blog noted at the base of this writing.  And there, if you will, you may study my full confession, at once contrite and illustrated.


Anything to add to this moving mea culpa, Paul?

Yes indeed, Jean!

As explained in this week’s feature, but more elaborately last May in this blog’s 11th hour anticipation or “catch” for the mistaken feature published in Pacific then – the one proposing to be about Mrs. Anderson and her famous First Hill carriage but actually showing Mrs. Burke and her’s, also on First Hill – here is the link to that May 17th feature.  It repeats, again, my full confession.  It also includes – perhaps as compensation Ron Edge suggests – a long list of other features having to do with First Hill and a few other large Seattle homes.   Thanks for your compassion.   To get to this replete repeat either CLICK THIS LINK or the picture below.  The picture is of another Anderson: Anderson Hall on the U.W. Campus.  After her lumberman husband’s death, Mrs. Anderson paid for its construction as a warm and useful tribute to him.   It was appropriately built for the school’s Dept of Forestry.

Anderson Hall, U.W. Campus

HELIX: Vol. 3 No. 3, March 14, 1968

In proper order and again below is the next issue of Helix, and the commentary by Bill White and myself.  In this issue John Bixler makes his first appearance  – on a motorcycle stopped by some plainclothes police ready to slap on him the tough charge of not having paid off a parking ticket.  In that reportorial snap, the Helix office can be seen across Harvard Ave. E. (beneath the freeway).  Hereafter John will be an enduring participant in our productions, except when he was away doing road work for the band The Youngbloods.  In Jef Jaisun’s 1992 shot taken for the 25th anniversary of the founding of Helix  – Not So Strait John Bixler appears far right with those posers who made it out of the Blue Moon and onto the sidewalk in front it.   They are, right to left,  John Bixler, Jacque Moitoret, Tom Robbins, Walt Crowley, Alan Lande, Paul Heald, myself, and standing in front with his own row, Maury Heald.  We have printed this earlier and will probably print it again later.  (Thanks again to Ron Edge in Lake City for steadfast wrestling all this Helix matter on the blog that ends with the last name of our editor in Paris.)

B. White and P. Dorpat

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