From the roof, but more often from his second-floor window of Wedgewood Court, a comely lower Queen Anne apartment house, Frank Owen Shaw watched Seattle’s Century 21 take shape, especially the largest part of it: the Washington State Coliseum. It was directly kitty-corner from his flat.
In 1957 the life-long bachelor moved into one of what the Wedgwood Court appropriately advertised then as its “nicely furnished bachelor apartments.” From his privileged prospect, the Boeing quality control inspector, could also watch the Space Needle rise like a barometer of the fair’s heated construction, and he kept photographing this great pubic work both on site and from his window above the northwest corner of First Ave. N. and Republican Street.
Before Shaw moved out one month before the fair opened on April 21, 1962, he carefully framed his last 2×2” color slide from his second floor flat with his curtained window, and meticulously captioned it “Last shot from former Apt., March 20, 1962, 5:30 p.m.” It showed the shining Coliseum topped by what I remember a friend’s daughter – a 6-year-old promoter-poet – describing for me then as “our splendid Space Needle.”
On the evidence of his carefully ordered negatives, one of Frank Shaw’s last photographs is of Bob Geigle posing at the top of the Needle in April, 1985. For Geigle, a young employee then also at Boeing, Frank O. Shaw was “Frankoshaw” with the accent on the first syllable. Bob remembers Frank’s dry wit as “sort of English old school. And he was quite prim and proper too. He loved to travel and climb mountains. He took lots of pictures while climbing and some were published. As he explained it, when he got too old to climb he started walking the city with his camera taking picture of what he called ‘what is.’” Leaving lots of exquisitely real pictures, Frank died on Nov. 1, 1985, age 76.
Anything to add, Paul? Jean, we will begin with a short stack of other 2×2 colored reversals that Frank Shaw took from his apartment at the northwest corner of First N. and Republican Street of work-in-progress on the Coliseum. If there is time left we’ll pull a past feature or two from the neighborhood, as well – if time allows – some other fair photography by Shaw.
Leaving the ambiguity of the above slide’s caption, ordinarily Frank Shaw kept his slides and negatives in good order and well marked with captions that included place names and dates and sometimes even the hour of the day. These tidy habits are also evident in the two recordings that follow of the living room in his new apartment after nearly 15 years of use. They were photographed on June 10, 1977
DECATUR TERRACE: On May 31, 1961 Frank Shaw – still from his apartment window above Republican Street – turned his camera to the west and recorded the old David and Louisa Denny home, known as Decatur Terrace in its grander days, holding to its second footprint, the one at the southeast corner of Queen Anne Ave. and Republican. It was originally built on a terrace that was near the center of the Shaw’s block – the block between First Ave. N. and Queen Anne Ave., Mercer Street and Republican.
The view directly below was photographed in the late 1890s by Anders Wilse from a prospect near the corner of Mercer and Queen Anne, or Temperance Ave. as it was then still called. (There were no spirits even sipped in this home.)
Follows now a two-column copy of the text for this Pacific feature as it was printed in the second of the three “Seattle Now and Then” books. (All three can be called forth and read in Ron Edge’s scan of their every page. You will find them under the “history books” button on the front page of this blog.
WARREN AVENUE SCHOOL
In the mid-1880s, the patriarchs of North Seattle – David Denny and George Kinnear included – urged settlers aboard a horse-drawn railway to their relatively inexpensive lots north of Denny Way. Their efforts were rewarded as the flood of immigration, which increased steadily after the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1883, pushed settlement into the land between Denny and Queen Anne hills.
By the turn of the century, this crowd of newcomers had established a neighborhood full of large families. And beginning in 1902 more than 400 of the neighborhood children attended primary school on Block 35 of David and Louisa Denny’s Home Addition.
Warren Avenue School (on Warren Ave.) was built in 1902 and abandoned in 1959. This view of the school is an early one. The school’s demise came when the site was chosen first for an expanded civic center and soon after for a world’s fair: Century 21. By closing time, the neighborhood around the school had long since stopped swelling with families.
The siting of the contemporary photograph was adjusted to make a comparison of the Key Arena’s and the school’s west walls. The school’s fine-tuned position would put the children posing near its front door on the Key Arena’s floor beneath the rim of its north end backboard (if there is still a backboard around since the flight of the Sonics.)
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Frank Shaw's Big Neighbor”
Thanks for the Frank Shaw snaps and history lesson. I have been looking for more examples of Frank O. Shaw’s photography, without luck, for several years. As a avid hiker in the Olympic Mountains, I have been inspired by Mr. Shaw’s work featured in an older edition of Robert L. Wood’s “Olympic Mountains Trail Guide”.