(click to enlarge photos)
The now century old Gables on Capitol Hill is surely one of the most courtly of Seattle’s apartment houses. The landmark holds the northwest corner of 16th Avenue East and Harrison Street. Most of our apartments – what architectural historian Diana James calls our “shared walls,” the title of her recent history of them – were built in Seattle during the city’s years of exploding growth. Our population quadrupled between the mid 1890s when Seattle got very busy outfitting miners for the hardships of the Yukon and the First World War when different “traveling men” were sent off not to gold fields but to the muddy and bloody ones of France.
The Gables first opened to renters in 1911, although the shared observatory with billiard table, dance floor and attached roof garden on the fourth floor was a year late. It was one of the largest of the 61 apartment buildings managed by Seattle’s super-realtor then: John Davis & Co. The 24-unit apartment was built in two parts, the Annex on the southwest corner of the triple lot – here to the far left – and the much larger U-shaped expression of Tudor nostalgia. At the time it’s style was described as “Old English.”
Neither the Gables rent nor renters were cheap. This addresses’ highest call for 1912 was $45 for a 5-room apartment – about $1,000 today. While the kitchens were cramped, the living rooms were large enough to entertain. For what may be one of the earliest scheduled cultural moments there, Mrs. Harry Louis Likert opened her apartment’s door on the Tuesday afternoon of Nov. 12, 1911 to the Emerson Club. We assume it was for reading and discussing Ralph Waldo.
Readers interested in – or excited by – Diana James’ “living history” of the kind of Seattle’s digs in which residents often enjoy but sometimes endure “Shared Walls,” might want to mark their calendars for June 8th. On that Saturday at 10 am James will lead a Historic Seattle walking tour down and around 16th Avenue East while interpreting what is, she explains, “Probably Seattle’s most intense concentration of apartment buildings representing a wide variety of styles. Of course the Tudor Gables are included. For details and pre-registration best to call Historic Seattle at (206) 622-6952.
Anything to add, Paul?
Yes Jean, a few more old features from the neighborhood but beginning with another Old English apartment – a fresh one. But first a technical confession. We are, you know, in another wrestle with our server Luna Pages. So while we will try to join more features to the Gables story we suspect that we will be stopped along the way.
We begin with something, again, from Diana James, an identification of another Capitol Hill apartment, one that has been recently in the news and will continue to be watched with the construction of the big transit tunnel beneath Capitol Hill. The hill’s station and access to the tunnel service is being built on the site of the now, of course, raised Eileen Court at the southwest corner of 10th Ave. E. and E. John Street. Long before there was household or studio scanning I made inter-negatives from an album that include both the construction subject and the as-built record of the Court, which was first named the St. Albans, after an ancient English town that is now about 20 miles north of the center of London. (By a pleasant coincidence Diana and her family spent a year there many ears ago.) Diana give the Eileen Court photos a circa date of 1908, which fits well-eough the album from which they were copied.
FIRE STATION NO. 7
Back-to-back with the Gables and facing the commercial 15th Avenue at its northeast corner with Harrison was Fire Station No. Seven, a tidy brick pile of which we have snapshots mixed here with “contemporary” subjects taken more than twenty years ago and posing person who were staffed in either the Environmental Works community design group or the Country Doctor health clinic – cleverly combined as Earth Station No. 7 – that replaced the fire prevention paraphernalia.
FIRE STATION NO. 7 at 15TH Ave. & HARRSON Street.
(First appeared in Pacific, May 4, 1989)
In 1924 the Seattle Fire Department got rid of the last of its horses. At the beginning of that year the city bought motorized fire apparatus #66 and at the end of year rig #82. Showing here is one of the city’s earliest fire engines, #7. According to fireman Galen Thomaier, the department’s official historian and also the proprietor of the Last Resort Fire Department, a fire fighting museum in Ballard, it is a coincidence that this rig was also assigned to Fire Station #7 at 15th Ave. E. and E. Harrison Street on Capitol Hill.
The red brick Station #7 opened in 1920, sans the poop-shoots and hayloft of the 27 year-old frame firehouse it replaced. The jewel-like station served for fifty years more, closing March 23, 1970. Apparatus #7, however, worked out of Fire Station #7 only until 1924 when it was moved to Station #16 near Green Lake. It survived in the system until 1937 when it was sold. The department’s first motorized apparatuses were displayed at the 1909 Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exposition before they were commissioned in 1910. Numbered consecutively the department’s most recent 1988 addition is apparatus #386. It cost $328,000 or $319,000 more than rig #7 (not figured for inflation).
Station 7?s survival was briefly threatened when the city surplussed it in 1970. QFC, its neighbor to the north, petitioned to purchase and raze the structure for parking; however, as many readers will remember, 1970 was a watershed year for preservation. On Earth Day of that year a number of community design activist at the UW School of Architecture formed Environmental Works. Then with the health clinic Country Doctor and a number of other then new social services they leased the old station from the city and so saved it. They also renamed it, Earthstation #7. In its now  nearly two decades of community service, the interior of the old station has been renovated four times.
THE BAPTISTS on HARRISON – One-half block west of the Gables and across Harrison Street stood the Capitol Hill Tabernacle. A glimpse of its position can be found far-left in the week’s primary subject at the top.
CAPITOL HILL TABERNACLE
(First appeared in Pacific, June 9, 2002)
For its 1996 centennial celebration Tabernacle Baptist Church – or “TAB” as its member call it – published a church history replete with pictures, the line of pastoral succession, the statistics of worship service and Sunday School attendance, descriptions of its several moves, and the dramatic story of its origins.
The TAB began in conflict. A protesting minority of members left First Baptist Church after the freshly ordained young Bostonian Pastor S.C. Ohrum failed by a few votes to win 3/4ths approval to keep him beyond a six months trail at the central “mother” church. The dissenters formed Tabernacle Baptist in 1896 and hired Ohrum as its first pastor. Their formidable leader was a Ulysses Grant appointee who for many years was the chief judicial officer of Washington Territory. Judge Roger Sherman Green carried a pedigree to his protests; he was the grandson of Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
For a short while the new church hoped to challenge the old as Seattle’s, to quote Green, “but one central Baptist Church” however, the lure of affordable land on the top of the then booming residential Capitol Hill proved more attractive than old protests. On Sept 21, 1902 Sunday school children paraded from the TAB’s temporary barn-like hall at 11th Avenue and Jefferson Street to the southeast corner of 15th Avenue N.E. and Harrison Street where the congregation would stay for three-quarters of a century.
Soon after the TAB’s present senior pastor Thomas Ruhlman answered the call in 1980 his congregation moved from temporary quarters at 15th N.E. and 92nd Street to join with North Seattle Baptist in Lake City.
ST. NICHOLAS CATHEDRAL
(First appeared in Pacific, ca. Jan. 2008)
When the St. Nicholas congregation consecrated their new cathedral on December 19, 1937 it was not quite completed. The accompanying photograph of that day’s procession led by Archbishop Tikhon of San Francisco reveals the tarpaper that still wraps most of the sanctuary. Church historian Sergei Kalfov explains that the brick façade was added sometime later in 1938. The sprightly and surviving entryway was also constructed then.
The five cupolas springing from the roof symbolized Jesus Christ and the four evangelists. Kalfov notes that a church with seven cupolas might stand for the seven sacraments, and so on. Ivan Palmov, the architect, was also responsible for the St. Spiridon sanctuary in the Cascade Neighborhood.
Both congregations primarily served Russian immigrants, beginning with those that fled the 1917 revolution, when the church in Russian was persecuted and the Czar Nicholas II and his family assassinated. The Cathedral was dedicated to the memory of the Czar, but its name also refers to the fourth century “wonderworker” St. Nicholas the bishop of Myra in what is now Turkey.
What separated the members of St. Nicholas from those of St. Spiridon was, in part, the former’s continued devotion to the Russian monarchy. This past May 17th the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russian and the Russian Church, after nearly 90 years of separation reunited in Moscow. Kalfov explains “St. Nicholas was the first Cathedral to a host a pan Orthodox service shortly after the signing of the Act, where over 14 Orthodox clergy served for the fist time in such a service.”
The congregation’s 75-anniversary celebration continues until May 22, another St. Nicholas Day.
CAPITOL HILL METHODISTS
(First appeared in Pacific, 8-23-1993)
That there is very little to distinguish Capitol Hill Methodist church from its dedication in 1907 to its recent  re-dedication as the offices of the architectural partnership Arai/Jackson is evidence of this landmark’s power to escape the crowbars and vinyl sidings of outrageous progress.
When we think church many of us — perhaps most — think Gothic. Since the Victorian revival of medieval style the popularity of this type of English Parish sanctuary spread speedily throughout Christendom including the southeast corner of 16th Avenue and John. The architect John Charles Fulton, a Pennsylvanian, was so good in designing popular parishes that in 30 years he sold the plans to nearly 600 of them.
This is the third sanctuary — all of them Gothic variations — built by the city’s second oldest congregation, the members of First Methodist Protestant Church. The first, the “Brown Church” at Second and Madison, was raised by Daniel Bagley the congregation’s founder and first minister. It was the second sanctuary built in Seattle and the first to be destroyed by the city’s Great Fire of 1889. The congregation fled its second edifice at Third and Pine when the 1906 regrade of Third Avenue put its front door more than ten feet above Third’s new grade.
When new, the Methodist’s Capitol Hill address was nearly in the suburbs, but briefly so. The neighborhood quickly grew and changed replacing its single-family residences with the culture of mixed uses that still distinguishes Capitol Hill. But with the steady loss of its families the congregation dwindled. The church’s successful application in 1976 for official landmark status for its sanctuary was done as much to help preserve the congregation as its building. But by 1991 when the costs of maintaining the old Gothic sandstone pile accelerated well beyond the small congregations powers they moved nearby to share the quarters of Capitol Hill Lutheran Church on 11th Avenue.
The church’s new residents have neither fiddled with its exterior nor made changes within which cannot be readily reversed should the church ever return to being a church. Actually Arai-Jackson’s work on the structure’s interior is nearly religious. Their conversion of the sanctuary’s dome room is uplifting. Its worth a visit.
And these particularly sensitive architects have other responsibilities besides caring for their office’s landmark status. It is essential that sanctuaries — especially Gothic ones — so evocative of the preternatural as this should have had at least one ghost sighting. For the Methodists on Capitol Hill, however, it required one of the building’s latter day users, a new age divine, to claim to have seen none other than old Daniel Bagley anxiously pacing the sacristy. Now partners Steve and Jerry Arai, Cliff Jackson and Tom Ryan must expect that not only architectural tourists will want to occasionally eavesdrop on their quarters but also an ancient cleric in a “diaphanous bluish light.”
Both views look southeast at Holy Names Academy across the intersection of 21st Ave. E. and E. Aloha Street. Now  at the threshold of its second century on Capitol Hill, Holy Names Academy opens each school day to about 650 students. (Historical photo courtesy of John Cooper)
HOLY NAMES ON CAPITOL HILL
(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 2007)
A century of greening on the Holy Names Academy campus has half-draped the full figure of architects Breitung & Buchinger Capitol Hill landmark, with trees. However, if the landscape were stripped away we would discover from this angle (from the northwest) a Baroque Revival plant that has changed very little since the “ real photo postcard” photographer Otto Frasch recorded it almost certainly in 1908. The big exception is the tower at the north end of the school, on the left. While the earthquake of April 29,1965 did not collapse the tower it did weakened it so that it was removed.
The Sisters of Holy Names arrived in Seattle in 1880 and opened first their school for girls in an available home downtown. In 1884 the school moved to its own stately Gothic structure on Seventh Avenue near Jackson Street and remained there until the Jackson Street Regrade (1907-1909) made kindling of the school when the block was lowered about sixty feet.
Construction on this third campus began in 1906, the cornerstone was laid in 1907, and in the fall of 1908 the school was dedicated. Of the 282 students then attending the new facilities 127 of them boarded there. Many came from Alaska, some from “off the farm,” others from distant rural communities, and a few from nearby and yet still hard to reach contributors like Mercer Island. In 1908 Holy Names served all 12 grades plus a “Normal School” for the training of teachers. By 1930 the Normal School was no longer needed, and it closed, as did the grade school in 1963. By 1967 both convenient transportation and distant alternatives were sufficiently available to allow the school to discontinue boarding students.
Classes may already have begun when Frasch took his photo but certainly the structure’s north wing (the one closest to the photographer) with the schools chapel was not yet finished, and wouldn’t be until 1925. The chapel was included in the ongoing cycle of restoration that began for the school in 1990. Scaffolding for the grand structure’s exterior renewal has been a familiar feature for several years. The restoration has kept apace with the funding – not ahead of it.
(First appeared in Pacific in 2005)
Almost certainly 1935 was the year this photograph of the Roycroft corner was recorded. The names of these businesses at the southeast corner of Roy Street and 19th Avenue E. all appear in the 1935 business directory, and business life expectancy at the hard heart of the Great Depression was poor.
We may note that neighborhood movie houses were one exception to this general attrition. At little palaces like the Roycroft for 15 cents – a price made more or less permanent here with neon – one could waste a shiftless afternoon sitting through three B movies. The “Great Hotel Murder”, listed here at the center of this triple feature, is described in the often grouchy Halliwell’s Film Guide as a “lively program filler of its day.”
“Air Hawks” the last film listed is good corroborating evidence for choosing 1935. Released that year by Columbia pictures this story of two aviation firms fighting over a U.S. airmail contract starred the pioneer pilot Wiley Post playing himself. It was one of the aviator’s last roles. Later that year Post visited Seattle with the comedian Will Rogers before the two flew off for Alaska and the crash that took both their lives.
The Roycroft was one of the many neighborhood theaters that was built around Seattle in the late 1920s to feature the then new pop culture miracle of talkies. Watson Ackles managed the Roycroft Theater in 1935, a year in which three other Ackles are listed in the city directory as working in some capacity with motion pictures.
By 1935 this largely Roman Catholic neighborhood was already quite seasoned. The 19th Avenue trolley line was laid through here as far north as Galer Street in 1907 – the same year that St. Joseph Parish was dedicated nearby at 18th and Aloha and that Bishop O’Dea laid the cornerstone of Holy Names Academy.
In the historical view the cross-topped Holy Names dome stands out. In the contemporary scene the recently restored cupola is hardly visible because the Capitol Hill urban landscape has grown up in the intervening 66 years.
Most likely in 1902 Marcus M. Lyter either built or bought his box-style home at the northwest corner of 15th Avenue and Aloha Street. Like many other Capitol Hill addition residences, once the landscape was added, Lyter’s home was somewhat large for its lot. (Courtesy Washington State Archives, Bellevue Community College Branch.) What Jean found when he recently revisited the corner was . . . well what did he find?
15th & ALOHA CAPITOL HILL, ca. 1902
(First appeared in Pacific, late 2008)
Here we have that happy partnership of a new trolley and a new home. And the streets – Aloha on the left and 15th Avenue on the right – are paved as well.
The historical negative from which the print was cast is also signed and numbered, bottom-left, “135 W & S.” This makes it a very early offering of the Webster and Stevens studio. (Through many of its earliest years the studio was the principal provider of editorial photography for The Seattle Times.) This negative is so early that it did not make it to the Museum of History and Industry were the bulk of the studio’s work – more than 40,000 negatives – is protected and shared.
Rather, this print is kept in the much smaller “Metro Collection” at the Washington State Archive. A note on the back of the photograph reads, “James P. Henry motorman taken about 1897.” Hedging on the date was wise for Capitol Hill trolley car #127 was not delivered to Seattle until 1902.
A more likely date is 1903 when another W&S photo – number 130 – of the home, sans trolley, is featured in a spring issue of the Seattle Mail and Herald with several other homes as examples of residences built in the then new – since 1901 – Capitol Hill addition. The weekly tabloid identifies the home as belonging to Marcus M. Lyter, a lawyer. We may imagine – only – that this is Lyter peering through the window of car #127. But Lyter, it seems, soon vanishes from the Seattle scene. And did his home disappear as well?
If the reader visits the northwest corner of 15th and Aloha, as Jean Sherrard did recently, and locates one of the few openings, they will find within the semi-evergreen landscape that stuffs the lot, the same home.
NEARBY – 15TH & MERCER
What is now the southeast corner of Seattle University – it’s Championship Field – was for many years a transportation center for the south end where first the Seattle Electric Company’s street trolleys were sheltered and later the Seattle Transit System’s trackless trolleys, like these. Both views look northwest from 14th Avenue and E. Jefferson Street. Historical photo courtesy Warren Wing
THE TRACKLESS FLEET
(First appeared in Pacific, ca. Oct. 2005)
Around noon on the 15th of December 1940 when the winter sun cast long shadows over the Seattle Transit System’s new fleet of trackless trolleys the by then veteran commercial photographer Frank Jacobs took this and a second view of the Jefferson Street car barn and its new residents. Here Jacob looks northwest from the corner of 14th Avenue and Jefferson Street. (The second view looks northeast over the fleet from 13th Avenue.)
By a rough count – using the second photograph to look around the far corner of the barn – there are 114 carriers parked here outside for this fleet portrait. That is about half of the 235 Westinghouse trackless trolleys that were purchased by the city with a loan from the federal government. The first of them were delivered earlier in March of 1940, and only three years after Seattle voters by a large majority rejected them in favor of keeping the municipal railway’s old orange streetcars. But the transportation milieu of the late 1930s was even more volatile than it is now and the forces of both rubber and internal combustion – for the city also purchased a fleet of buses – won over rails and even sacrificed the cherished but impoverished cable cars.
When the Jefferson Car Barn was constructed in 1910 it was the last of the sprawling new garages built for the trolleys in the first and booming years of the 20th Century. The Seattle Electric Company also built barns in Fremont, lower Queen Anne, and Georgetown to augment its crowded facility at 6th and Pine. The Georgetown plant was also the company’s garage for repairing trolleys and, when it came time in 1940-41, also for scrapping them.
The finality of that conversion from tracks to rubber is written here in the yard of the car barn with black on black. Fresh asphalt has erased the once intricate tracery of the yard’s many shining rails.
For the contemporary repeat I could not resist moving a bit closer to the two landmark brick apartments at Summit Ave. and Republican Street on the right. When constructed in 1909 and 1910, from right to left respectively, they were given the romantic names the Menlo and the El Mondo. The latter has kept its original moniker but the former (the one nearest the camera) has a new name: the Bernkastle. Between them they added 31 units to a neighborhood that was then only beginning its conversion from single-family residences to low-rise apartments like these.
THE WATER FAMINE of 1911
(First appeared in Pacific, summer of 2004)
After seven inches of rain in two days the pipeline that supplied Seattle its Cedar River water was undermined and broke near Renton on November 19, 1911. The week-long water famine that followed closed the schools for want of steam heat, sent whole families packing to downtown hotels where the water service was rationed but not cut off, and featured daily front page warnings to “Boil Your Water” – meaning the water one caught in a downspout or carted from one of the lakes.
There were alternatives. One could purchase water for 5 cents a gallon or wait in line to fill a bucket from one of the 24 water wagons – like this one — that the city dispatched to residential streets. Pioneer springs on the slopes of First Hill were also uncapped. Pioneer historian Thomas Prosch who lived near the spring at 7th Avenue and James Street told a Seattle Times reporter, “I went down and got a pail of it myself. I have drunk it for years and no better water exists.”
Finding the unidentified site of the historical scene with the city water wagon was mildly intuitive for I lived on Capitol Hill’s Summit Ave. for five years in the early 1970s. I quickly drove to the spot just south of the intersection of Summit and Republican Street.
In 1911 – the date of the photograph – brick apartments like those on the right were still rare in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes. Eventually, however, much of this part of Capitol Hill was converted to higher densities because of its proximity to downtown and the convenient rail service. (Note the northbound rail on the right for the trolley loop that returned to downtown southbound on Bellevue Avenue one block to the west.)
Any winter parade on Capitol Hill’s Broadway Avenue in the early 1950s may have had something to do with what was then the national basketball celebrity of Seattle University and its two high-scoring guards Johnny and Eddie O’Brien. (Courtesy Ivar’s Seafoods Inc.) Jean, again with the help of his ten foot pole, gets the credit for a contemporary repeat of another historical scene taken from a prospect and elevation since lost.
Broadway Parade ca. 1951-52
(First appeared in Pacific summer of 2008)
A likely date for this noontime parade on Capitol Hill is late 1951 or early 52. If I have researched Studebaker convertibles correctly that is a 1951 Champion Regal model on the right crossing the Thomas Street intersection with Broadway Avenue. It may well be on loan from the neighborhood’s Belcourt dealership at 12th and Pine, which advertised itself then as “Seattle’s oldest and largest Studebaker dealer.”
The two convertibles – a Stude’ and a Chevy – carry in all five women sitting high in the cars’ backseats. I prefer to think these are honored coeds (rather than Seafair royalty) celebrating some part of the Seattle University’s 1951-52 basketball season when the records set by their O’Brien twins, Johnny and Eddie, brought national fame to the Catholic school in Seattle, which, like its phenomenal guards, was small.
The photograph was taken from Ivar’s on Broadway, which opened in 1951 in a gas station converted for serving an ambitious menu of fish and chips, Mexican and Chinese cuisine, and hamburgers because the students insisted on them. This original print for this scene also comes from Ivar’s – from its archive. It is grouped with other student rally subjects including one’s taken in Ivar’s parking lot appointed with a stage for dancing cheer leaders, the basketball stars and proud priests posing above a swarm of fans.
Across the street at the northeast corner of Thomas and Broadway (upper-left) is the long-lived Checkerboard Café and Cocktail lounge. From my years on Capitol Hill in the early 1970s I remember it as Ernie Steel’s Restaurant, with its dark bar, sportsman’s murals stained by decades of nicotine and deep frying, and that special smell that such places share with each other and which no scented evergreen can cover with its small green branches. Now that red brick corner has been opened to sunlight, as Julia’s on Broadway.