Seattle Now & Then: Town Hall (+ Another Rogue's Christmas)

(click to enlarge photos – sometimes TWICE!)

THEN: During the Spring or Summer of 1923, an unnamed photographer, visited Virginia Mason Hospital at the northwest corner of Terry Avenue and Spring Street to record this panorama of the newest landmarks in the Central Business District above also a few from First Hill, including the Fourth Church Christ Scientist, far left. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
NOW: Although mostly hidden behind the 21 floors of the Royal Manor Condos (1970), center-left, a small corner of the Fourth Church – aka Town Hall - can still be found.

The 1922-23 construction of the Olympic Hotel lured photographers to First Hill to record its grand dimensions while also capturing the central business district’s north end.  By then it had assembled an impressive jumble of brick and terra cotta clad business blocks, much of it retail.  (There was no Smith Tower and no need for one.)

On the far right, at the northeast corner of Second Ave. and Stewart Street, the darker bricks of the New Washington Hotel (1908), top the cluster of business blocks at the southern border of the Denny Regrade. Far left, the Olympic, “Seattle’s first elegant hotel” is getting topped-off sometime in the more verdant months of 1923.

Preparing for the Olympic Hotel's foundation and its wrap-around the Metropolitan Theatre. The view looks east with Seneca Street on the right, and the west facade of the Fourth Church (aka Town Hall) upper-right. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
Construction progressing on the Olympic. Note the terra cotta facade of Fourth Church Christ Scientist, upper-left, and the University Street facade of the Metropolitan Theatre, lower left.

Seattle’s “grand hotel” opened on Dec. 7th of that year, a Christmas gift to the city, and only a few weeks following the dedication on Sunday Sept. 23, of the glimmering terra cotta tiled Fourth Church of Christian Science. That classic sanctuary shows here far left – directly below the Olympic.  It was built one hundred and ten feet square, with 1300 seats in curving mahogany pews, and topped by a copper-covered dome, which helped with its great acoustics.

Seattle Times special on the Olympic's grand opening. Dec. 7, 1923. (Courtesy, Seattle Times)

For his or her recording the historical photographer visited an upper floor of the then nearly new Virginia Mason Hospital (1920). For his “now,” Jean Sherrard went to the hospital’s roof and discovered that the church could be found – a mere corner of its dome. (We encourage you to keep looking for it.)

The extended red box marks what we determined was the point of view and so the line or prospect for the historical photographer. It took Jean to the top of the Virginia Mason hospital with good help from the hospital staff.

In 1999 Fourth Church received its new calling as Town Hall, which returns us to Jean Sherrard, our weekly “repeater.”

Virginia Mason Hosp. when it was nearly new. The view looks northwest on Spring to Terry.
Painted white (for hospital) and with Terry Avenue long ago vacated for Virginia Mason's use.
The Four Church Christ Scientist neighborhood in 1924.

For seven years Jean has been hosting Act Theatre and Town Hall’s Christmas edition of the by now honored series titled Short Stories Live. The Hall started Jean out in the slightly smaller lower level hall, but his productions became so popular that he and his players were moved upstairs into Town Hall’s Great Hall, beneath the high dome.  And on this very Sunday afternoon beginning at 4pm, Jean and three others (including myself invited to represent amateurs) will be reading with a little ham, humbug and Ho-ho-ho, the program of short stories and music that Jean has titled (Another) Rogue’s Christmas.


A couple of years ago, in preparation for another of our Town Hall Christmas Follies, we took the following photo:

Jean on Paul's lap with Frank Corrado

Before I ask Paul our ritual WebExtras question, let me hasten to invite one and all to join us for what promises to be a delightful afternoon. The Seattle actress (and legend) Megan Cole will be joining us; along with our musical guests, the amazing Pineola (Leslie Braly, John Owen, and Josh Woods). For more info, please visit Town Hall’s own website.

And now, Paul, back to blogland with my perennial question – anything to add?

Yes Jean, a few more attractions/features from the neighborhood beginning with one put up on this blog in 2009 and now repeated with some additions.

(click to enlarge photos)

tsutakawa-1967-thenTHEN: Art Critic Sheila Farr describes George Tsutakawa’s fountain at 6th and Seneca as showing a “style that lends modernism with philosophical and formal elements of traditional Asian art, a combination that became emblematic of the Northwest school.” (Photo by Frank Shaw) 

fountain-slowNOW: The original hope that the Naramore Fountain would soften the environment of the Interstate-5 Freeway was later greatly extended with the construction of its neighbor, Freeway Park. For reference, the Exeter Apartments at 8th and Seneca can be seen upper-right in both the “now and then.” (Photo by Jean Sherrard) 

The “Fountain of Wisdom” is the name for the first fountain that Japanese-American sculptor George Tsutakawa built a half-century ago. The name was and still is appropriate for the fountain was sited beside swinging doors into Seattle Public Library’s main downtown branch.  In 1959 it was on the 5th Avenue side of the modern public library that replaced a half-century old stone Carnegie Library on the same block.  Five years ago this “first fountain” was moved one block to the new 4th Avenue entrance of the even “more modern” Koolhouse Library.

As the sculptor’s fortunes developed after 1959 his work at the library door might have also been called “ Tsutakawa’s fountain of fountains” for in the following 40 years he built about 70 more of them including the one shown here at the southeast corner of 6th Avenue and Seneca Street.  Named for Floyd Naramore, the architect who commissioned it, this fountain site was picked in part to soften the “edge of the freeway” especially here at Seneca where northbound traffic spilled into the Central Business District.

Photographer Frank Shaw was very good about dating his slides, and this record of late installation on the fountain, was snapped on June 10, 1967.  Tsutakawa is easily identified as the man steadying the ladder on the right.  Not knowing the others, I showed the slide to sculptor and friend Gerard Tsutakawa, George’s son, who identified the man on the ladder as Jack Uchida, the mechanical engineer “who did the hydraulics and structural engineering for every one of my fathers’ fountains.”

Gerard could not name the younger man with the hush puppies standing on one of the fountain’s petal-like pieces made sturdy from silicon bronze.  However, now after this “story” has been “up” for two days, Pat Lind has written to identify the slender helper on the left. Lind writes, “The young man in the ‘then’ photo is Neil Lind, a UW student of Professor George Tsutakawa at the time, who helped install the fountain.  Neil Lind graduated from the  UW and taught art for 32 years at Mercer Island Junior High and Mercer Island Hight School until his retirement.  His favorite professor was George Tsutakawa.”

When shown Jean Sherrard’s contemporary recording of the working fountain Gerard smiled but then looked to the top and frowned.   He discovered that the tallest points of its sculptured crown had been bent down.  A vandal had climbed the fountain.  Gerard noted, “That’s got to be corrected.”


Jean writes: It is nigh impossible to capture the visual effects of a fountain in a photograph. I took the THEN photo used by The Times with a nearly two-second shutter speed to approximate the creamy flow of white water over the black metal of the sculpture.  But there’s another view, shot at 1/300s of a second, that freezes the individual drips and drops.

Shot at 1/300s of a secondMore particles than waves 

The actual fountain must lie somewhere between the two.

A wider view with onramp and red umbrellaA wider view with on-ramp and red umbrella 


We have made a quick search of the Frank Shaw collection – staying for now with the color – and come up with a few transparencies that record local “art in public places” most of it intended, but some of it found.  Most of these are early recordings of subjects that we suspect most readers know.  We will keep almost entirely to Shaw’s own terse captions written on the sides of these slides.  He wrote these for himself and consequently often he did not make note of the obvious.   He also typically wrote on the side of his Hasselblad slides the time of day, and both the F-stop and shutter speed he used in making the transparency.  He was disciplined in recording all this in the first moment after he snapped his shot.  Anything that we add to his notes we will “isolate” with brackets.  The first is Shaw’s own repeat of the Naramore fountain at 6th and Seneca.

6th &Seneca Fountain, June 11, 1967
6th & Seneca Fountain, June 11, 1967
The nearly new Naramore Fountain by George Tsutakawa, with construction on the SeaFirst tower behind it.

The Tsutakawa Fountain from on high. Seneca Street, on the left, runs from 6th Avenue, near the bottom, to 7th. (Courtesy, Seattle Times.)

The look into this neighborhood printed directly below looks northwest from a vacant lot in the block bounded by 6th and 7th Avenues and bordered on the north by Seneca Street.   That put the photographer somewhere near the center of the block seen above, from above.

Looking northeast to the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Seneca Street in 1925. The Van Siclen Apartment house's west facade shows above and to the right of the subject's center holding above 8th Avenue on its steep grade from Seneca to University Streets. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)
The vacant lot shown above this one is recorded in part here by Lawton Gowey on March 13, 1963, during the site's preparations for construction of the Seattle Freeway. Note the Fourth Church Christ Scientist at the center climbing above the apartment house below it to the west.
Topped by a roof-garden, the Van Siclen Apartments when new - on the east side of 8th Avenue mid-block between Seneca and University Streets.
The record of it - and the 8th Avenue freeway overpass (and Convention Center "thrupass") - recorded for the 1999 publication of this feature in Pacific.


(First appeared in Pacific, March 7, 1999)

Since the construction of Interstate 5 in the mid-1960s, the Van Siclen aka Jensonia Apartment House has been hidden behind the Eighth Avenue overpass. North of Seneca Street there are now two Eighth Avenues: the overpass and a portion of the original lower Eighth Avenue that still descends sharply to the front entrance of the Jensonia Apartments. That building’s name was changed in 1931. In the older view, the original name, Van Siclen Apartments, is signed across the top of its otherwise featureless south wall.

Architect William Doty Van Siclen left his practice in San Jose, Calif., in 1901 for a 10-year career in Seattle. Working both for others and on his own, he left a variety of structures that have survived. These include two prominent office buildings on Pike Street: the Seaboard Building at Fourth Avenue and the Eitel Building at the northwest corner of Second Avenue. Van Siclen also designed the San Remo apartments on Capitol Hill and the Paul C. Murphy residence in Laurelhurst.

Although Van Siden was also the developer, his apartment complex may have been his last Seattle undertaking. The Van Siclen first appears in the 1911 city directory, the year William, his wife Ida and their daughter Rena moved north again, this time to Vancouver, B.C.

In the 10 years that Van Siclen worked here, the city’s population more than doubled, making the construction of apartment houses a prudent thing to do. The 1911 city directory lists more than 350 apartment buildings; six years earlier it had listed only eight. Of the 70 names in the 1939 Jensonian directory, only three – the stenographer Elise Thornton; Mary Crager, a department manager for the Creditors Association; and Daisy Brunt, listed as a “singer” – lived there 10 years earlier. Only two of the 70 from 1938 (and none of the three from 1929) lived there in 1949.

I snapped this while heading north on the 8th Ave. overpass on Nov. 19, 2012. The Van Siclen aka Jensonian was raced "about" three years ago. As yet nothing has filled the hole. Before turning the corner off of Seneca I took a moving snap of the Alfaretta Apts front door, another ruin kitty-korner from Town Hall.
The Alfaretta's ruins at the northeast corner of Seneca and 8th and also on Nov. 19, 2012. Returning from a visit with Rich Berner at Skyline, Ron Edge was driving, and I shot thru the open window and the rain. Compare the above to Jean's own record, below, of the Alfaretta made a while back when we visited the block for another story - one not repeated here.
Jean's splendid portrait of the Alfaretta's elegant ruins two years ago - or so. Note the Exeter at the northwest corner of 8th and Seneca survives. It - the Exeter, that is - survives on was earlier the corner of Ohaveth Sholem, Seattle's first synagogue.
A glimpse of pieces of both the Exeter, on the right, and Town Hall, on the left, when it was still the Fourth Church. As some point I dated this 1990 although I no longer remember taking it.
Fourth Church with one of First Presbyterian's two domes behind it. I do not know the date.
Town Hall recorded like those above on Nov. 19, 2012 as we took our turn right off Seneca heading for the 8th Avenue overpass.
Not Jean on any Christmas past, but the Baltimore Consort at Town Hall for a concert past.
For want of finding the original negative we substitute this clipping from the Seattle Times Pacific Magazine for November 15, 1987 - a quarter-century ago! The view is easily our earliest and looks west on Seneca from near 8th Avenue. For the now, note a portion of the Exeter's south facade. This was where the footprint was set also for the synagogue, which we will get to next.


(First appeared in Pacific, March 1, 1992)

Sometime in the Winter of 1906 an photographer visited the construction site of St. James Cathedral and recorded this rare panorama of the modest swell of Denny Hill. From this point the doomed hill seems to be intact, but actually its western slope, hidden here, has already been cut away to the east side of Second Avenue. Within a year the landmark Washington Hotel, which here dominates the horizon, upper left, will be razed, and this pleasing variation in the city’s topography will be much further along on its transformation from hill to regrade.

Of the scattering of turn-of-the-century landmarks seen in this wide-angle record, the onion-shaped tops of the two towers of Seattle’s first synagogue appear near the scene’s center. At the northwest corner of Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street, Ohaveth Sholem, or Lovers of Peace, is only three blocks from the photographer’s roost at Ninth and Marion.

Ohaveth Sholem Synagogue at the northwest corner of Seneca Street and 8th Avenue. (Courtesy, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.)

Ohaveth Sholem’s new sanctuary was dedicated Sept. 18, 1892. Bach’s preludes, played on the synagogue’s new organ, accompanied the ceremony. It was a sign of the congregation’s reformed tendencies – Orthodoxy would no have allowed the organ.

Although several of Seattle’s most capable citizens, including the banker Jacob Furth and once Seattle Mayor Bailey Gatzert, were members, the congregation was short-lived. The combination of economic difficulties lingering after the market crash of 1893 and the friction between newly arrived immigrants, who were often considerably more traditional than the more well-to-do and established members, spurred the congregation’s first rabbi, Aaron “Brown, to leave in 1896. Two weeks later the synagogue closed for good. Soon after, however, in 1899, many of the more liberal Ohaveth Sholem members formed Temple De Hirsch.

First Hill from Denny Hill. Ohaveth Sholem can be found above and to the right of the subject's center. The graded scar on the hill to the left is the eccentric corner of University Street and 9th Avenue. A wee bit of the U.W. first campus appears as greenbelt on the far right. The dark structure on the left is "Bridal Row," the row houses at the northeast corner of Pike Street and 6th Avenue
Again, First Hill from Denny Hill - or the Denny Regrade - but pivoted to the right and much later. St. James dome has been built and lost - the casualty of the 1916 Big Snow. The white facade far left is Eagles Auditorium at the northeast corner of 7th and Union, and now part of the Convention Center. Fourth Church stands out left of center.
Looking south on 8th from Pine Street with several landmarks, including Four Church, on the horizon. (We featured this with a story earlier on this blog - and in Pacific.) Jean's repeat is below.

We will now conclude – nearly – with two more panoramas from First Hill that include within glimpses of Four Church aka Town Hall.  We leave it to you to figure out from what prospect they were recorded.  (Well . . . which one was shot from the Sorrento?)

We conclude - really - with a 1963 mess of blocks cleared for freeway construction. (We have probably used this earlier.) That's the Exeter and so says the sign on the roof. On the far right still in the shadow of morning light, is part of First Presbyterian at the 7th and Spring. Lawton Gowey took this and much else.





One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Town Hall (+ Another Rogue's Christmas)”

  1. I used to live in the “Alfaretta” apartment building in the 1990s (when it was the “Park Seneca”). This is the first time I found out it has been demolished. Wow. After reading reviews of some of its last tenants, I can see why. It was fun, but it was pretty bad then. I also lived in the “Van Siclen” apartments for a few months prior to moving up the street. I knew that had been demolished. It was horrible. I remember when the gargoyles fell off the facade.

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