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Most likely the photographer for this record of dilapidation was James Lee who worked with his cameras (both still and moving) for the city’s public works department. Both the Municipal Archive and the University of Washington archive include helpful examples of Lee’s field recordings, some as old as 1910.
This subject was used in the 1930s as evidence in favor of slum clearing for the then new Seattle Housing Authority’s plans for Yesler Terrace, the city’s first low-income housing project. Once built, Yesler Terrace came close to this site, missing it by a block. Lee looks north down the alley to James Street in the short 500-block between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. His back is to Jefferson Street.
Perhaps the man standing in the shadows of the alley, bottom left, is Andrew Knudsen, who is listed in the 1938 Polk City Directory as living at 511&1/2, the likely address for one of these alley houses. A 72-year-old Knudsen is still there in 1948 when this newspaper reported that he was hit by a car driven negligently by Ken C. Johnson. Fortunately Harborview Hospital was nearby. Knudsen was treated and soon released, but Johnson, most likely, surrendered his license. Four years more when John W. Pearson is found dead at the same address, the city published a notice – again in The Times – asking anyone who knew him or off him to contact the Johnson and Sons Mortuary.
These little homes date from the 1890s – perhaps one or more may have been built already in the late 1880s when the slope up First Hill began its rapid development. And they were survivors. It was only the building of the Seattle Freeway – not Yesler Terrace – that brought them down.
Anything to add, Paul? We will stay near “our alley” for the most part Jean – perhaps every part.
We return, above, to the Webster and Stevens 1913 look into the neighborhood from the Smith Tower in order to point out the Kalmar Hotel, at the southeast corner of 6th Avenue and James Street. James climbs the hill on the left. Fifth Ave. is the first street that crosses the subject – north to south, left to the right – near the bottom of the scene. (Our Lady of Good Help is found at Fifths intersection with Jefferson Street, the street that climbs from the subjects center.) Sixth Ave. is the next street up the hill, crossing the subject, left to right i.e. north to south. Jefferson Street between Sixth and Seventh (and further to half way between Seventh and Eighth) is not graded. So it shows the darker gray of weeds and such. Our alley, however, does cut a light swatch across it. Following the alley north to James puts us, as it seems, on the roof of the big and boxish Kalmar Hotel.
The Kalmar Hotel with the James Street Trolley climbing to First Hill at the intersection of James and 6th. (The text below appeared with this pix long ago in Pacific.)
Then Caption: The grades up First Hill from the Central Business district involved a variety of uneven dips that can scarcely be imagined since the construction of the Seattle Freeway Ditch. If preserved these old clapboards would have been suspended several stories above Interstate Five. (Pix courtesy Lawton Gowey) Now Caption: Jean’s contemporary view repeats the presentation of the Harborview Hospital tower, upper-right, while looking north from the Madison Street bridge over the freeway. Two blocks south of Jean’s prospect Columbia Street climbs First Hill.
(First appeared in Pacific, May 18, 2008)
Here is yet another unattributed, undated, and unidentified historical photograph with yet very helpful clues – this time two of them.
First is the obvious one, the tower of Harborview Hospital upper-right, which was completed in 1931. We may compare the tower to a fingerprint, for when Jean Sherrard visited 6th Avenue, which we agreed was a likely prospect for this view of the tower, he first discovered that when he set his camera on 6th about 20 yards north of Madison Street that the basic forms in his view finder of Harborview tower and the tower in the historical photograph lined up. But it still “seemed” that he was too far from the tower to, for instance, imagine having a conversation in normal tones with the unnamed historical photographer across – I’ll estimate – about seventy years. Jean needed to move south.
The second helpful clue is the sign on the wall of the frame building right of center and above the hanging wash. It reads, “Admiral Transfer Company – Day – Night – Holiday Service.” The address for Clyde Witherspoon’s Admiral Transfer in 1938 is 622 Columbia Street, which puts it at the northwest corner with 7th Avenue and Columbia. Now we may move south from Jean’s original position on 6th Ave. to the alley a half block south of Marion Street and between 6th and 7th Avenues. If Jean could have managed to make it there he would have been suspended sixty feet or so above the center of the Interstate-5 ditch. Instead, for his second look to the tower he stood on the Madison Street overpass.
The houses on the left are in the 800 block on Seventh Avenue. Real estate maps show them set back some from the street. And whose uniformly white wash is this? Again in the 1938 city directory the laundryman Charles Cham is listed at 813 7th Avenue. Perhaps this is part of Cham’s consignment from a neighborhood restaurant.
MORE FIRST HILL LAUNDRY
THE ROW on SEVENTH
OUR LADY OF GOOD HELP
(First appeared in Pacific, Dec. 14, 1986)
That Our Lady of Good Help no longer graces the southeast comer of 5th Avenue and Jefferson Street is not the result of a slide in her parishioners’ faith but of one in the earth beneath her. The church’s 1949 demise was reported by the Times. “The city’s oldest Catholic church was abandoned hurriedly yesterday afternoon when it was discovered that the old frame structure . . . was threatening to slide into Fifth Avenue.” The heavy rains in February shifted the church, threw the windows out of line, tilted the chimney and, as the Rev. Joseph P. Dougherty noted while negotiating his way through the congregation’s last Mass, twisted the altar steps.
Our Lady took her first “slide” 45 years earlier when the original sanctu•ary at Third Avenue and Washington Street was tom down and the valuable property sold for commercial use. The $104,000 received was not used to build this modest replacement on 5th Avenue, but rather helped fuel the building fund for the grand twin-towered St. James Cathedral above it on First Hill. When Seattle’s cathedral was dedicated in 1907, it fulfilled the archdiocese’s 1903 decision to move here from Vancouver, W A.
In its last year, 1903, the old Our Lady at 3rd and Washington was used by the archdiocese’s Bishop Edward O’Dea as his pro-cathedral while he made plans for St. James. This meant that the city’s first priest, Father Prefontaine, not only lost the old church he’d built, but that his congregation would ultimately lose its distinction as Seattle’s center of Catholicism.
The cross-topped octagonal spire is the one part of the old Our Lady which was incorporated in this, its 1905 replacement on the corner of 5th and Jefferson. By then Father Prefontaine had retired to a home overlooking Volunteer Park. The home was his, for the French-Canadian Prefontaine was known not only for his jovial disposition, delightful ecumenical manner and love for Protestants, but also for his taste for fine food, good cigars, and real estate.
The city powers-that-were were so fond of the pioneer priest that while he still lived, they named for him the short street that skirts the property south of Yesler Way and that Francis X. Prefontaine himself first cleared for his sanctuary in the late 1860s. After his death, Prefontaine added to his landmarks by leaving $5,000 for the Prefontaine fountain that intermittently still spouts at Third Avenue and Yesler Way. But his “Lady” has slipped away.
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Alley to James Street”
Would you have a source for theYesler Terrace period aerial view drawing? (For a request to publish the image.)