Seattle Now & Then: Georgetown Firemen on Pike

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Outside of the “fire district” where building in brick and stone was required following Seattle’s “Great Fire” of 1889, the rest of the central city was still built mostly of wood, often with lodgings above and retail at the sidewalk, like here at 7th Ave. and Pike Street.
NOW: With its brilliant arch Pike Street now resembles a gate to paradise. Not so long ago when Seattle was occasionally featured as a “sin city,” one of the tainted corners picked on was here at 7th and Pike. Some readers will surely recall the Gay 90s Restaurant, Oaken Bucket Cocktails, the Golden Egg, the Caballero Dance Tavern, and many more bars including the Chi Chi, the Manhattan, the Circus, and the Lucky Boy.

We can tell from the printing on their helmets that these are the volunteers of the Georgetown fire department.  And we can easily discover that all are posing at the southwest corner of Pike Street and 7th Avenue – the street names are signed on the power pole left-of-center.  Pike, with its trolley tracks and still fresh bricks, is in the foreground while 7th is mostly hidden behind the force.

Very likely most of these men were also employee’s of Georgetown’s Rainier Brewery.  Their leader is posing with two children at the corner.  He is also distinguished by his white helmet on which is printed “captain.” Appearing again but alone, the captain was snapped a half block west on Pike Street posing in front of a sidewalk billboard promoting the two-day – Wednesday and Thursday – visit of the Ringling Brothers circus to Seattle on August 19 and 20.

The Georgetown fire brigade captain again but alone, posing in his buggy on Pike mid-block between 6th and 7th Avenues. The steeple mostly hidden behind the billboard scaffolding stands on the third lot north of Union Street on the east side of 7th Ave.. It was Seattle's first Unitarian Parish. The timing of the circus promoted on the billboard - or broadside - here, helped us date these two older photos from the Fickeisen photo album. Mostly likely these were done professionally.
With help from Ron Edge and Margaret Fickeisen – checking calendars, directories and maps and such  – we think we know the “when” for this well-wrought scene.  It is 1903.  By then Pike Street was already the north end’s “Main Street.”  The “why” for this pause-to-pose is most likely a parade.  Notice, far right, the bunting on the hose wagon’s big wheel.



A detail from the 1904 Sanborn real estate map shows the corner. It also names the Unitarian Church footprint, left of bottom-center.

Both subjects – the one shown and the other described – were copied from Henry J. Fickheisen’s revealing photo album, which was shared with us by his son Frank, whose grandfather, Carl W. Fickheisen opened a bakery in Georgetown in the 1890s.  Both the baker and his son were members of the brewery town’s volunteer fire brigade, and at least young Henry has been identified posing here on Pike in 1903.  The teenager is the second uniformed figure from the right.  Both the trumpet* (a bugle actually) he holds in his right hand and his clean face distinguish him.

* Thanks to John Dunne we have changed “trumpet,” our first choice for the instrument in “young Henry’s” hand – the one printed on pulp with The Times Sunday edition – to “bugle.’  Here’s the whole of John’s kind correction.  “Paul,  I always enjoy reading your column, often the most interesting part of the Sunday supplement.  I have a slight correction for your photo today.  You identified the instrument carried by young Henry as a trumpet.  What he is actually carrying is a bugle, used to alert the volunteers and residents to a fire.  The bugle call is prosaically named “Fire Call”, which I recall playing during my time as a Boy Scout camp bugler and still fondly remember.”

With its fine-line gilded lettering, the cover to the Fickeisen album is typical for its time.


Anything to add, Paul?    Jean, I am now searching for the parts to a feature I wrote on this block – Pike between 7th and 8th – a few years back.   If found it will be part of a short list of items that, again, relate to this neighborhood.  If I do not find it, I may still scan the clipping from the Times – when I find it.   Beyond that we will include a few other photos from the Fickeisen photo album from which we copied this feature.   (Thanks again to Ron Edge for scanning the entire album and to Ron’s standards, which are very steady and pixel-rich.) I’ll have it up before I climb the steps to nightybears (aka Nighty Bears) around 2:30 am.   [Actually is now 3:00 am.  We will return later this morning to do the proofing.]

The three-story frame structure on the southeast corner of 7th and Pike appears just above the center of this look east up Pike Street from a high prospect in or on top of the Eitel Building at the northwest corner of Pike Street and Second Ave. The new Broadway High School nearly fills the Capitol Hill horizon.
Face with red bricks and terra cotta tiles, the McKay Apartment-Hotel replaced the frame building in 1913. The sturdy new building was given a foundation that would allow for more stories, but 1921 plans to add three more were not fulfilled. The namesake owners, D.R. and Mathilde McKay, retired instead and "devoted considerable of their time to traveling."
This detail from a 1925 real estate map marks the McKay's place and its neighbors too including the Hotel Waldorf across Pike Street and the then new Eagles Auditorium behind it at the northeast corner of Union and 7th Ave. where it survives as home for ACT Theatre and as part of the state's convention center..

Above:  A circa 1923 look south on 8th Avenue over Pike Street, bottom-left. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)   Below: Jean’s repeat took him high above the historical photographers prospect to the roof of Grand Hyatt Hotel’s parking garage stacked for about ten stories atop Ruth’s Chris Steak House at 8th and Pine.  From that height the considerable bulk of the Convention Center screens most of the First Hill horizon.   Jean thanks Darcy, Michelle, Steve and Lam, the helpful string of contacts, which guided him to the roof.


(First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 2008))

Throwing long shadows across 8th Avenue, a late winter sunset lights up a trolley heading south from Pike Street (bottom-left) to Union where it will turn right for its last leg into the business district.

The unnamed photographer stands on the roof, probably, of the Jackson Apartments at 1521 8th and records a neighborhood of hotels, apartments and furniture stores in the middle ground, below a First Hill horizon.  We’ll name, left to right, the line-up of landmarks there.

Upper-left, the still plush Sorrento Hotel. Below it the dark brick mass of the since passed Normandie Apts. at 9th and University.  Next are the twin towers of St. James Cathedral and to its right the Van Siclen Apartments which face 8th a half-block west of Seneca.  Follows the nearly new Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist with its gleaming cream tiles and centered dome, since 1998 home of one of Seattle’s greatest cultural assets, Town Hall.  To the right are the twin domes of the exciter-preacher Mark Matthew’s First Presbyterian Church – one dome for his office and the other for the radio station of what became, the congregation claims, “the largest Presbyterian church in the world.”   Far right, the brick tower of Central School at 6th and Madison completes the horizon-line tour.

The likely date for this scene is 1922-23.  The same photographer on the same visit to the roof turned around and recorded the Cascade Neighborhood to the north.  We will study that next week.


Above: Looking north through a skyline of steeples towards the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.  Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.  Below: Like last week’s repeat, this “now” took Jean much higher than the unknown historical photographer to the top of a windowless garage.  Here, on the far right, the landmark Camlin Hotel (1926), for decades home of the distinguished Cloud Room, is now dwarfed by new neighbors.


(First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 2008)

If we recall last week’s selection, which looked south on 8th Avenue over Pike Street in the early 1920s, then we may here pivot with the unnamed photographer and look north on the same afternoon.  Here on the distant horizon are parts of Queen Anne and Capitol Hills, left and right respectively, and between them Phinney Ridge and Wallingford beyond the hazy north shore of Lake Union.

Like last week’s subject this one also has landmarks on its horizon, although unlike those none of these are brick.  Most are wooden churches serving the Cascade Neighborhood, which quickly filled with homes for working families, many of them Scandinavians, during the city’s booming years between 1890 and 1910.  There are five steeples here.  Farthest to the left is Gethsemane Lutheran church, which was dedicated in 1901.  The congregation with Swedish roots still holds that southeast corner of 9th Avenue and Steward Street.   Directly behind it facing Terry Avenue are the German Lutherans and their Zion parish, which dates from 1896.  In 1951 the congregation moved to Wallingford.

Three more steeples, left to right, belong to the Norwegian-Danish Methodists at Stewart and Boren, next more Norwegians at Immanuel Lutheran (1912), kitty-corner to Cascade School (1894) at Thomas and Pontius, and last at Terry and Olive, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, with a tower that here crowds the smoke stack on the far right.   Also on the horizon, and nearly at the scene’s center is the smaller stepped tower of Fire Station No 15 at Minor and Virginia.

The resident rooms in the Astoria Hotel, left foreground, at 8th and Pine, were brightened by bay windows that were then typical of hotels and apartments built beyond the central business district.  Across 8th Avenue from the Astoria, Bernard Brin kept his Brin School for Popular Music for a few years.  His rooftop sign reads, “Learn To Play in Ten to Twenty Lessons.”  No instrument is named.


On the northeast corner of Pike Street and Seventh Ave., and so directly across Pike from the McKay Apt-Hotel, the Waldorf was distinguished by its bays, a variety of banded windows and an imposing cornice. The Waldorf can be seen in the feature that follows, which looks west on Pike from near Eighth Ave.
Since I failed - for now - to uncover the original scans for both the "now" and the "then" in this feature, I have scanned the Times clipping as a tolerable substitute.



(First appeared in Pacific, Jan 29, 1995)

This flash food along Pike Street came not from above, but below. On the morning of May 3, 1911, a contractor’s steam shovel cutting a grade for Fifth Avenue through the old University of Washington campus sunk its steel teeth into a sizable city water main. In moments the pressure within tore the pipe like a cooked noodle, releasing a geyser at Fifth Avenue’s intersection with University Street. There the flood divided, one channel moving west along University toward First Avenue and the other north on Fifth Avenue, where it split twice more, first at Union and then Pike streets.  This is the last of those three floods.

This view – complete with wading dog – looks east on Pike toward its intersection with Fifth Avenue. “For half an hour the district between Pike and Madison streets from Third to First avenue was flooded,” said the next morning’s Post -Intelligencer; “Improvised bridges of planks served to carry pedestrians across the rivers, horses floundered along hock-deep in the yellow waters, street cars left a swell like motor boats and the appearance of things was generally demoralized.”

Damage from this man-made freshet was minimal – a few basements were puddled. The water rarely leaped the curbs, although this sidewalk along Pike seems an exception. At the alley behind the former Seattle Times plant on Union Street, a dike was quickly constructed from bundles of newspapers, preventing the tide from spilling onto the presses. The reporter for The Times was amused by the many “funny situations” created, including the scene “where a hurrying couple avoided delay and kept the feet of a least one dry by the man picking up his companion and carrying her across the small river.”



(First appeared in Pacific, Jan 19, 1997)

The occasion for this small disaster on Sixth Avenue has eluded me. Neither the records of the city’s engineering department (the photo is theirs), nor those of the fire or water departments (a hydrant has been broken), nor a search of the daily papers for March 3, 1920 (the date captioned on the negative), has offered the slightest hint. Still, the event was significant enough to call out the city’s photographer to record it.

One flood at Sixth and Pike, however, gives me an excuse to refer to another.

In her delightful book “Pig-tail Days in Old Seattle” – a treasure of local pioneer reminiscences – Sophie Frye Bass, who grew up beside this intersection when Pike was still an ungraded wagon road, recalls how after a rain the streams that once ran across Pike “became torrents.” One stormy Christmas, Sophie took a “pretty mug” she had found in her stocking outside “to play in the water when the swift current caught it out of my hand and carried it away. Evidently it was not meant for me, for it said on it, in nice gold letters, ‘For a good girl.’ ”

Also in her book, Bass, granddaughter of Mary and Arthur Denny, recalls how on a Saturday morning in the late summer of 1890 the peace of this place was suddenly interrupted when a cougar raided a chicken coop and bounded through the intersection, scattering pedestrians along Pike. The puma’s Pike was already a mix of residences and storefronts, and Sophie Fry Bass’ streams had been diverted.



(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 20, 1983)

In 1888 young Dr. Frantz Coe came west from Michigan looking for a practice and found one in Seattle when ex-mayor Gideon Weed, then one of the oldest, best respected and established physicians in town, invited Coe to share his offices.

So the 32-year-old doctor sent for his wife, Carrie, and soon they were nestled into 606 Pike St., one of the six newly built and joined abodes that together were called “Bridal Row.”

The Coes, however, were not on a honeymoon, for they had three children, Frantzel, Harry and Herbert. Within a year, the city’s Great Fire of 1889 would destroy the Weed and Coe medical offices but not the domestic peace along Bridal Row, which was described by Sophie Frye Bass in her book, “Pigtail Days In Old Seattle,” as “an attractive place with flowers in the garden and birds singing in the windows.”

Sophie also lived on Pike Street with her pioneer parents, George and Louisa Frye, just across Sixth Avenue from the Coes. The Fryes had moved there many years before when Pike was a path and their back door opened to the forest.

Although no longer at the end of town, the corner of Sixth and Pike was still largely residential in 1890. While the central city was loud with the noises escaping from its booming efforts to rebuild itself after the Great Fire, the residents along Pike were still listening to birds Sing and sniffing flowers. Some of them, like the Frye family, continued rural routines of milking cows and gathering eggs.

6th and Pike southwest corner, kitty-corner from Bridal Row ca. 1918.

Around 9:30 on the Saturday morning of Sept. 20 this settled peace was interrupted by what the next day’s Intelligencer called the “Panic on Pike Street.” Both Sophie Frye and young Herbert Coe witnessed a wild event.

Sophie Frye Bass recalled how “I heard the chickens cackle loudly . . .  and I shuddered when I saw a cougar cross Sixth Avenue; I could hardly believe my eyes.”

The cat had killed a chicken in the Kentucky Stables a short distance from the Frye home. There it also was shot in its behind and, quoting the newspaper’s account: “Enraged and uttering a terrific yell bounded the sidewalk and rushed down Sixth Avenue.”  The cat turned up Pike Street and, as “the panic spread to the thronged thoroughfare and all pedestrians made a rush for safety, with two great bounds the cougar landed in the yard of Dr. F.H. Coe’s residence.”

Nine-year-old Herbert, who was playing on the porch, heard the warning shouts and fled inside behind the front-room window. The big cat went to the window and looked at him, with his claws on the pane. For one long transfixed moment, they stared at one another until a man with a 44-caliber revolver emptied it into the cougar. Eight feet and 160 pounds the wild cat stumbled, bloodied the flowers along Bridal Row, and then lay still.

In our view of the Row, Herbert sits atop a fence post. Behind him is the window that kept him from the cat. In front of him is the then conventional wooden planking for the sidewalk, and here for the street as well.  With trolley service, Pike was the “main street” of the north end.

PP 70 and 71, the first two of four pages on Pike Street included in Pigtail Days.

By 1895, with the encouragement of a very good practice and the steady conversion of Pike Street into a commercial thoroughfare, Frantz Coe and his wife, Carrie, would leave Bridal Row and take their children up to a “better neighborhood” on First Hill.  In 1902 they moved again, this time to Washington Park and into a new home with a view out over the lake. In 1903, Pike Street was regraded to Broadway Avenue and Bridal Row put on stilts with a new first floor of storefronts moved in beneath it.

Dr. -Frantz Coe died suddenly in 1904, two years before his son, Herbert, would graduate from his father’s alma mater, the University of Michigan Medical School.  On July 15, 1962, The Seattle Times published a feature titled “Seattle’s Four Grand Old Men.” One of these was the “beloved” Dr. Herbert Coe who by then had for 54 years been an essential part of the Children’s Orthopedic’ Hospital, including 30 years as its chief of surgical services and ten years as chief of staff.

Herbert Coe died in 1968 at 87.  He was survived by his two sons and widow, Lucy Campbell Coe, daughter of a pioneer hardwareman, James Campbell. Mrs. Coe recalled for us the details of young Herbert’s confrontation with the cougar and supplied the photograph of Bridal Row. This year (1983) Mrs. Coe will celebrate her 96th birthday.

Looking east on Pike thru Sixth Avenue with the Waldorf hotel sparkling at 7th Avenue in spite of this bruised negative. The shops on the left are the same addresses as those in the "now" photograph printed above. Note the light standards that date from the late 1920s. The McKay Apt-Hotel can be glimpsed thru and below them. The scene dates from 1939.


Now follow a few subjects from the Fickeisen album
A fine variation on the once popular domestic subject of a family reading together.
Another convention and still a popular gag. With so many witnesses it - something - must be there.
The family's Georgetown Bakery
At the oven. Note the Fickeisen on the right whose profile is so perfect that he appears (to me) to be nearly a mannequin.
Another well-wrought Fickeisen - we assume - doing some well-wrought work beside a well-lighted home (we continue to assume) laboratory table.
The Georgetown Oregon and Washington Depot, circa 1912.
Excluding the children, of course, workers at the brewery perhaps posing with part of factory to the rear. (This too is speculation.)
This is surely part of the Georgetown brewery - the famous fountain part on a winter day. Recently Jean and I discovered this brew-mistress still holding her glass aloft but now at the old Rainier plant in South Seattle, or just north of Spokane Street and long the home of Tullies, which, it seems, will soon be in now need of a home. I might have include the snapshot I took of Jean taking a picture of the statues but, again, I could not find it in a timely fashion. We might return to this really sensational (very cold) subject for a now-then feature in the Times, later. Minerva, I suspect.
All the young dudes, or some of them, well-hatted and posing with distinction.
Here's Louis Hirsch leaving Seattle's main Carnegie Library on August 18, 1912. And here we may understand the once popular Seattle instruction between literate friends, "Meet me at the steps."
A good part of the Fickeisen album is given to a grand trip east. This since roughly fated Atlantic City beach is the only east coast image we are including here.
A rare scene from White City, Madison Park's short-lived amusement park.
Another Madison Park attraction, this time on the race track that once attracted everything that could compete for speed and duration - horses, motorcycles, motorcars. Here two devilish fellows both stand on two horses, an attraction reported by the track promoters as an ancient Roman spectacle.
At the northwest corner of Cherry Street and Second Avenue - still - the 1911 construction of the Hoge Building was at its completion claimed to have set a record for speed.
From the rear of the Rainier-Grand hotel on First Ave. between Marion and Madison Streets, looking to the intersection of Madison and Western, where a Madison Street Cable Car makes its way, and above it the nearly new finger piers from No. 4 (now 55) on the left. Note the temporary trestle in Elliot Bay, pile-driven there to distribute Denny Hill into depths.
Finally, for this small selection, a wonderfully composed and flowing portrait of Snoqualmie Falls beneath a sympathetic sky, but one also in need of some tender Photoshop polish.











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