(click to enlarge photos)
My hunch is that this smartly named Central Seattle Service Station opened in 1925. It does not appear in the 1924 Polk City Directory – not as a garage or service station, both of which it was a year later.
One lot south of Marion Street on the east side of 6th Avenue – and now part of the I-5 pit – the station appears in a promotional photograph taken in the spring of 1925. The unidentified photographer aimed east from 5th Avenue through a block empty except for at a covey – or perhaps bevy – of white-uniformed nurses pointing at a big billboard that makes the hopeful, but as it turned out mistaken, claim that “On this Site will be Built Seattle General Hospital.”
Directly above the billboard the gleaming white service station appears at 812 Sixth Avenue, one lot south of Marion Street. Its own covey of signs offer Associated Oil Products, Motormates Official Brake Service, Cycol products, parking, storage, repairs, cars washed and polished and free crank case service. Located on the side of First Hill the incline was handy for coasting and starting cars with bad starters – a common problem then – on compression.)
My second hunch is that the close-up of the by then Standard Oil station printed here – and beside it the Crescent Apartments, a tenement row facing Columbia Street – was recorded sometime during the 1930s. Cars were in need of more service then because so few new ones were being bought during the Great Depression.
Still there were lots of cars. While the population of the previously booming Seattle slowed to a mere 22 percent in the 15 years between 1922 and 1937, the number of motor vehicle increased then by 211 percent. Then in 1941 more than 50,000 new residents migrated to Seattle’s busy home front for the USA’s first official year in the Second World War. Boeing built a parking lot near its new Flying Fortress Plant 2 for 5,000 cars. By then and back here in Central Seattle – and as just noted – the block once hoping for a hospital had been parking cars for years.
Anything to add, Paul?
We shall try Jean, again with a few past features from the neighborhood. And we will lead with a detail from our helpful Baist Real Estate Map of 1912.
Then above: The city’s regarding forces reached 6th and Marion in 1914. A municipal photographer recorded this view on June 24. Soon after, the two structures left high here were lowered to the street. (courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive) Now below: The corner’s final “humiliation” came as a ditch dug and concrete-lined in the early 1960s for the Seattle Freeway section of Interstate-5. (Photo by Jean Sherrard)
JAMES & VIRGINIA McNAUGHT’S PROMINENCE
(First appeared recently in Pacific and here too, May 2, 2010)
In 1880 or 81 Joseph and Virginia McNaught began building their home at the southeast corner of Marion Street and Sixth Avenue. It sat on a high point – a knoll – that made it stand alone against the sky when viewed from the waterfront. The couple took some kidding about having moved so far east of town.
Soon after following his brother James to Seattle in 1875, Joseph drove a herd of cattle from the Willamette Valley to a beef-poor Seattle. With the profits he then returned east for a law degree and marriage to the good-humored Virginia. She was known for her wit. Returning to Seattle the McNaughts became one the city’s most entrepreneurial couples with investments in transportation, mining, shipbuilding, Palouse homesteads, and stockyards.
For much of the two square blocks between 6th and 7th, and Marion and Cherry – all of it part of the I-5 ditch now – First Hill was mostly no hill. Parts of it even lost altitude before joining again the often steep climb east of 7th Avenue. With the grading of 6th Avenue, first in 1890, the home was lowered a few feet. That year it was also pivoted 90 degrees clockwise. So what is seen here facing north at 603 Marion previously was facing west at 818 Sixth Ave. The regrade of 1914, seen here, lowered the sites old prominence about two stories to the grade of this freshly bricked intersection.
By then the McNaughts were off in Oregon raising alfalfa hay and living in Hermiston, one of the two town sites they developed. The other was Anacortes. Virginia named Hermiston, and it includes a Joseph Avenue.
Following this 1914 regrade the old McNaught mansion was modified and expanded into the porches for eight apartments. All the Victorian trim was either removed or lost behind new siding. Through its last years it was joined with its big box neighbor on Marion as part of a sprawling Marion Hotel until sacrificed for the freeway.
MADISON POPLARS – LOOKING EAST from SIXTH Ave.
(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 17, 1985)
In 1910, Madison Street, where it climbs First Hill, was a fashionable strip bordered by better brick apartments and hotels. This stretch of Madison was also lined by what Sophie Frye Bass described as “the pride of Madison Street . . . the stately poplar trees made it the most attractive place in town.” She wrote this in her still engaging book “Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle.”
The strip was not only popular but populated. Madison was evolving into a vital city link. The two cable cars pictured in this early-century view up Madison from Sixth Avenue started running there in 1890 when the Madison Street Cable Railway first opened service up First Hill and Second Hill and through the forest to Madison Park on Lake Washington. The white sign hanging from the front of the closest car reads, “White City, Madison Park, Cool Place, Refreshments, Amusements.” White City was a short-lived promotion designed by the cable railway’s owners to attract riders onto the cars and out to the lake. White City failed in 1912, but by then the top attraction at the lake end of the line was not the park but the ferry slip and the ferry named after the 16th president of the United States: Lincoln.
Madison’s popular poplars did not survive into the 1930s, according to author Bass. The granddaughter of pioneer Arthur Denny lamented in her book that by then, the endearing trees “had given way protestingly to business.”
In 1940, Madison lamented another loss when its cable cars gave way to gasoline-powered buses. Then, 20 years later, the entire block pictured in the foreground of the historical scene gave way to the interstate freeway built in the early 1960s.
Madison Street was named for the county’s fifth president. Arthur Denny, while platting Seattle’s streets in alliterative pairs, named the street one block south of Madison “Marion” after a young brother, James Marion Denny. Arthur needed another “M.”
Then Caption above: Looking northwest across a bench in the rise of First Hill, ca. 1887. The photographer was probably one of three. George Moore, David Judkins or Theodore Peiser, were the local professionals then most likely to leave their studios and portrait work to point a camera northwest from near the corner of Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey) Jean’s repeat, below, looks from the western border of the Harborview Hospital campus near what was once the steep intersection of Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street.
THE BENCH ON FIRST HILL
(First appeared in Pacific, Independence Day, July 4th 2010)
Long ago when first I studied this look northwest across First Hill I was startled by its revelations of the hill’s topography. The hill does not – or did not – as we imagine steadily climb from the waterfront to the east. For instance, here Cherry Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues – the white picket fence that runs across the scene’s center marks the north side of that block – keeps a fairly flat grade and then where it intersects with Sixth Ave. defies all our modern expectations and dips to the east.
James Street, on the left, climbs First Hill between 5th and 6th Streets on an exposed timber trestle. To the lower other (north) side of that bridge there was an about four-block pause between James and Columbia, Fifth and Seventh, in (or from) the steady climbing we expect of First Hill. Now in these blocks the flat Seattle Freeway repeats this feature ironically.
There are enough clews here to pull an approximate date for this unsigned cityscape, which looks northwest from near Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street. It is most likely sometime during the winter of 1887-88. The best clew is the Gothic spire atop the Methodist Episcopal Church far left of center. There is still construction scaffolding on the south side of the sanctuary, which was completed at the southeast corner of Marion and Third Ave. early in 1888. On the far right horizon is the big box of Central School – it burned down in the Spring of 1888 – and to this side of it the McNaught big home sits at its original grade on the southeast corner of Marion and Sixth.
In its details this panorama is strewn with other pioneer landmarks including the Western House (the name is on the roof – see the market detail below) at the southeast corner of 6th and James. It is the large L-shaped box below the scene’s center. Built in 1881, it was finally named the Kalmar House after a new owner’s hometown in Sweden. It survived until 1962 when, in what architect-preservationist Victor Steinbrueck called “an act of esthetic idiocy on the part of the city,” it was razed for the Freeway.
The above detail shows the roof crest sign reading “Western House” marked in red. The view below, while similar to the one above is later – ca. 1890. It is also photographed from a distance further south on Seventh Avenue. The Western House, however, has stayed place, holding to its same footprint at the southeast corner of 6th and James, and it has added a new top story. It appears right-of-center. Above the Kalmar is the grand bulk of the Rainier Hotel, which is directly across 6th Avenue from the McNaught home. It appears far right. The photographer here was F.J. Haynes, the Northern Pacific Railroad’s official photographer (he had his own RR-car) during his first visit to Seattle following its “Great Fire of 1889.”
KALMAR INN – Southeast Corner of JAMES & 6th Avenue.
(First appeared in Pacific, April 13, 1986)
In 1962, when Seattle showed the world Century 21, the fair with a “forward thrust,” the late Victor Steinbrueck first published “Seattle Cityscape,” the sketchbook that was to become a local classic. One of Its most lovingly rendered pen-and-ink drawings was of the Hotel Kalmar. In the caption, Steinbrueck wrote: “The only remaining example of an early pioneer hotel is the old Kalmar Hotel at Sixth Avenue and James Street. With Its pumpkin· colored wooden siding end hand-sawn details, It has been e picturesque pert of Seattle’s personality. Built In 1881, much of Seattle’s history has been viewed from Its wide veranda, but now It is being destroyed to make room for the freeway.”
And destroyed It was, in April of 1962, despite efforts of local preservationists. It was razed “In a rumble of wreckers, derricks end c1amshell loaders,” The Seattle Times reported. For more then 70 years the Kalmar had lived intimately next to a different rumble, one that was regular – the c1anglng struggle of the James Street cable cars as they gripped their way up and down the steep side of First Hill.
Leonard Brand, who with his sister Viola were the last managers and residents of the Kalmar, grew up with the constant noise. In fact, the cable cars had rocked young Leonard to sleep. He was only three months old when his parents moved into the old Michigan Hotel after purchasing and renaming it after his mother s hometown In Sweden.
This week’s scene was probably photographed for the Brands, who are seen posing on the veranda. Leonard is in his mother’s arms and Viola stands by. The Kalmar was the only home these children knew until they were forced by the Freeway to retire to West Seattle.
All attempts failed to save the landmark. Steinbrueck lamented in an article at the time: “When I go back now to many of these places, nothing is left . . . I have only my pictures.” And for now, all attempts to find Victor’s sketch of the Kalmar, have failed. We will either insert it or add an addendum later. We have promised a few of those in the past – promises we may still keep when the objects of our desire fall into our laps. Meanwhile, here follows Lawton Gowey’s 11th hour record of the Kalmar, photographed on Jan. 17, 1961.
NOW and THEN Captions together. 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 featured in Pacific, Dec. 5, 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.
A RON EDGE CODA
This from Ron, and most fitting. Another aerial that looks directly onto the block and showing most of the landmarks of concern this week, including a still spiffy service station on 6th, the McNaught home, Central School and its annex and part of the row homes on Columbia too – those that anchor at its northeast corner with Sixth Ave.
We may use it again when we soon respond with “extras” to our Town Hall feature – on the 16th of this month – where, among other uses, we give a last minute reminder that that Sunday Jean’s Town Hall Christmas Stories are being produced – by Jean as “A Rogue’s Christmas” – its his seven year. Now you know two weeks in advance – thanks to Ron and his aerial. The show begins at 4pm Dec. the 16th – yes that Sunday!
We might also use Ron’s aerial again for our feature on the Rainier Club’s expansion, for there it is – the club – near the lower left corner. And so on and thanks to Ron. (Really click this one to enlarge.)
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Central Seattle Service Station”
Thanks for your wonderful collection of photographs. I have lived in the Zindorf in First Hill for about two years now and have recently started searching for the history of this building (built in 1910). I have hit a lot of dead ends. Your website is the first real glimpse I have got on my neighbor hood and apartment in it’s early days. It’s truly very exciting for me.
I look forward to checking out more of your Seattle now and then posts.