Seattle Now & Then: Hole off of Holgate

   (click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The work of filling the tidelands south of King Street began in 1853 with the chips from Yesler’s sawmill.   Here in the neighborhood of 9th Ave. S. (Airport Way) and Holgate Street, the tideland reclaiming and street regrading continue 70 years later in 1923.  (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)
THEN: The work of filling the tidelands south of King Street began in 1853 with the chips from Yesler’s sawmill. Here in the neighborhood of 9th Ave. S. (Airport Way) and Holgate Street, the tideland reclaiming and street regrading continue 70 years later in 1923. (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)
NOW: Jean Sherrard stands snug to the freeway overpass on Holgate Street, named for the Seattle pioneer John C. Holgate who might have appreciated such a convenient ascent to his claim on Beacon Hill.
NOW: Jean Sherrard stands snug to the freeway overpass on Holgate Street, named for the Seattle pioneer John C. Holgate who might have appreciated such a convenient ascent to his claim on Beacon Hill.

The “revelator” here is the hole on the right.  From the guardrail on Holgate Street we get a somewhat rare look down into the old tideflats, or nearly so.  A lot has already been dumped in that hole, but far from enough to yet fill it.  In Jean’s “now” it is as high as Holgate and sturdy enough to support trucks.  Buildings now stand on concrete foundations and not on driven pilings like those supporting, at the 1923 scene’s center, the 45 steam-heated rooms of the Holgate Hotel, and the Alaska Stables, far right.

Asahel Curtis (the more famous Edward’s younger brother) dated this negative May 22, 1923. It is one of Curtis’ many recordings of what was named the “Ninth Avenue Regrade.”  (We will attach more of them below.) Ninth is now long since renamed Airport Way, and here at the end of Holgate, it can just be made out running north and south – left to right. On the far side of Ninth are joined-twin factories that were built like wharves early in the 20th Century above the highest tides that then still reached Beacon Hill behind them.  In Jean’s repeat the


surviving “inland piers” are partially outlined in white.  As the Seattle Times advertisement printed above reports, its Feb. 12, 1905 edition – and many more – were printed from plates using Great Western Smelting and Refining Co.’s metal.  The Seattle branch of Great Western was housed here, one door south of the Salvation Army’s Industrial Department, in these wharf-like sheds.


Above: Looking east across 9th Ave. S. with the north facade of the Great Western factory on the right.  The photo is date 1923.   A year later the Salvation Army’s Industrial Dept. has moved to 914 Virginia Street and 406 12th Ave. S..  Possibly the reclamation work on 9th Ave. S. had something to do with the moves.

Below: Like the subject above, this was also recorded on May 22, 1923 and includes on the right the south facade of the Great Western factory.  The largest structure on the left – on the west side of 9th Ave. S. south of Holgate Street – is the Holgate Hotel.  The two story darker box to the south of the Holgate is the Bon Apartment House.


Taken from the trestle that reached 9th Ave. S. from the Great Western factory and looking north with the Salvation Army on the right - but not dated.  I suspect that the reclamation is already underway here and that the tidelands showing here are getting early flooding of salt water enriched with mud blasted further north from the sides of Beacon Hill.
This Curtis was taken from the trestle that reached 9th Ave. S. from the Great Western factory and looks north with the Salvation Army on the right.  it is not dated although surely sometime in 1923. I suspect that the reclamation is already underway here and that the tidelands showing are getting an early flooding of salt water enriched with mud blasted further north from the sides of Beacon Hill.


Above: Entrance to the Bon Apartments, on the right.  The sign above the Bon’s open front door reads, “The Bon Apartments, 1915 Holgate, furnished, housekeeping and sleeping rooms.  $1.25 a night and up.  Free gas and lights.”

Airport Way’s first incarnation was in the early 1890s as a 24-foot wide plank trestle called Grant Street.  Approaching the business district at its north end Grant was given the grander name, “Seattle Boulevard.”  For the most part, it ran a few feet off shore from the often-sodden Beach Road that was first surveyed in 1862 at the base of Beacon Hill.  (In the winter travelers took to the hill.) The trestle was soon joined in 1892 by the Grant Street Electric Railway that reached its power plant in Georgetown and beyond that South Park too.

Already in 1919, the Alaskan Stables, far right, began running in The Times classifieds under “Livestock” its horses, harnesses and saddles for sale.  By then the sounds of trolleys, trucks, and motorcars were readily heard on Seattle Boulevard.  Here the great sliding door into the stables is closed above the hole that was once no doubt covered with the stable’s own timber trestle.


As you know, Paul, the blog has been plagued with server problems which recently seemed to grow exponentially. We have, however, made alternate plans which we hope to put in place over the next week. There may be some downtime, but it should be temporary and certainly shouldn’t be any worse that the interruptions we’ve already encountered. So onwards and upwards! Anything to add, Paul?

Yes Jean.  First and directly below Ron Edge (of the sometimes Edge Clippings Service on this blog) has put up three links to other features from this tidelands neighborhood, or nearby it.  They may be familiar for two have appeared here recently.  But, again, we treat these now-then repeats as themselves repeatable –  like musical themes used in different contexts.   Following these pictures-as-buttons I’ll put up a few more Asahel Curtis photos take for this project of raising the tidelands to the level of the streets, here on 9th Ave. S. (aka Airport Way) and connecting streets like Holgate.

And then I’ll reread the text at the top and revisit my notes to see if there may be something in the latter that will add to the former.






FOLLOWS more photos by Asahel Curtis – or his studio – of the public works on 9th Ave. S. in 1923.

Another look north on 9th Ave.S. on May 22, 1923.  The trolley line on the right and the "wagon road" on the left, between them a pipeline that is most likely installed to help in this tidelands reclamation - giving 9th Ave. W. a platform of high and dry dirt rather than a trestle over tides.
Another look north on 9th Ave.S. on May 22, 1923. The trolley line on the right and the “wagon road” on the left, between them a pipeline that is most likely installed to help in this tidelands reclamation – giving 9th Ave. S. a platform of high and dry dirt rather than a trestle over tides.  The Great Western factory at the Beacon Hill foot of Holgate Street is right-of-center.


ABOVE AND BELOW:  Two by Curtis looking north on July 19, 1923 from, the captions explain, from the southeast corner of Henry’s Cook House.


Dated Nov. 27, 1923, and so later than the rest, the fill seems to be here mostly in place both west and east of the trolley tracks now bedded in dirt - it seems.  The pipes on the left may have done the work - in part.  Both the Great Western factory and the Holgate Hotel appear about two block north on 9th.  As the caption indicates, this view looks north from Walker Street, or near it.
Dated Nov. 27, 1923, and so later than the rest, the fill seems to be here mostly in place both west and east of the trolley tracks now bedded in dirt. The pipes on the left may have done the work – in part. Both the Great Western factory and the Holgate Hotel appear about two block north on 9th. As the caption indicates, this view looks north from Walker Street, or near it.
The neighborhood around 9th Ave. S. and Holgate Street, to the east of 9th, from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map.
The neighborhood around 9th Ave. S. and Holgate Street, to the east of 9th, from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map.  This is a fine confession of the errant grandeur of real estate maps.  Holgate in 1912, of course, did not climb Beacon Hill as shown here.  It still doesn’t, but requires a curve.
Holgate and the tidelands to the west of 9th, again or still in 1912.
Holgate and the tidelands to the west of 9th, again or still in 1912.


John C. Holgate
John C. Holgate

* John Holgate made the first potential settler’s footprint on future Seattle soil in 1850 when he visited that summer and built a lean-two somewhere near the future Pioneer Square – or Place.   He explored the surrounds until October and then returned to Portland and beyond to promote Puget Sound to his family and look for a wife.  When he returned the land he had chosen beside the Duwamish River and near its mouth had been taken in the interim and so Holgate substituted a claim on top of Beacon Hill and in line with his future namesake street.   Holgate’s younger brother Milton also settled in Seattle, tragically.  The teenager was one of two settlers who lost their lives during the Battle of Seattle on Jan 26, 1856.

* The Holgate Hotel, listed at 1901 9th Ave. S., was managed by John and Minnie Wildzumas, who lived in the  hotel.  In a 1917 classified ad is described as a workingman’s hotel with steam heated rooms, and restaurant “in connection.”  The fees for this “modern” hotel were then $1.50 and up.   The Holgate endured.  A May 19,1960 classified lists it as “close to Boeing (with) reasonable, single, housekeeping rooms and parking.”  The Holgate was put up for Public Auction on Dec. 1, 1968, listing “furnishings of 45 room hotel: Curved glass china cabinets, bookcase-secretary, bentwood chairs, brass beds, commodes, dressers, chests, gas and electric ranges, refrigerators, miscellaneous tables, chairs, wardrobes etc.  Preview Sat. 11am to 4pm.  United Auction Service, Bud Chapman., Auctioneer.”

* Great Western Smelting and Refining Co. came to Seattle in 1903, but not directly to this factory on 9th Ave. S., although nearby.  The first factory was at First S. and Connecticut until a roof fire uprooted them.  An adver. for March 3, 1912 puts them at 1924 9th Ae. S.,     The 1924 Polk Directory listing for Great Western makes note that the city directory was printed on metal GW metal.  By 1928 the business has changed its name to Federate Metals Corp and continue to note that the printing of that year’s business directory was done with plates furnished by Federate.

















Seattle Now & Then: Seattle (aka Broadway) High School

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THEN: Aiming north into Capitol Hill from the north end of First Hill, an as yet anonymous photographer made a rare record of the then new Seattle High School’s south façade. (Courtesy: Ron Edge)
NOW: In the about 110 years between them, nothing, it seems, from the old survives unless it is hidden behind the new. Both views look north on Harvard Ave. from the block between Union and Pike Streets.


What, we wonder, motivated this photographer to move off the sidewalk and use these mid-block weeds in her or his composition.  Was it, perhaps, to keep the brand new stone apartment on the left in the picture? The address is 1425 Harvard and the apartment is fittingly named the Boston Block.  It opened its flats to renters in the summer of 1903.  The location was certainly convenient but the monthly fee of $37.50 was not especially cheap for even the five room flats it was renting.

However, the primary subject here is probably the “vaguely Romanesque” but also new Seattle High School on the nearby horizon.  It opened in 1902.  On the evidence of a short stack of snapshots of which this is one, the likely year for this recording is 1903 or ’04.  With the photographer’s back near Union Street, the prospect looks two blocks north to the school’s south façade on the north side of Pine Street.

That, of course, puts Pike Street at the bottom of the hill, less than a block away in the draw between First Hill – with the photographer – and Capitol Hill with the school. Soon motorcars and their servers would crowd the sides of Pike with show rooms and parts stores for Seattle’s first “auto row.” The domestic clutter here of what appear to be single family residences would for the greater part be either replaced with business blocks, converted into boarding houses or succeeded by substantial apartment houses like the one on the left.

Lincoln, Seattle’s second high school, opened in Wallingford in 1911 the year Seattle High Changed its name to Broadway and first opened night classes.  This Broadway diversity was extended with skills schools like Edison Tech and “self-help” courses during the 1930s.  In 1946 Broadway was given over entirely to adult education including classes for veterans returning from World War Two.

After pioneer architect William E. Boone’s grand stone pile was sold in 1966 to Seattle Community College, Dr. Ed Erickson, the school’s president, publically hoped that “nostalgia and emotions will not get in the way” of College plans to raze what some of the high school’s activist alums still lovingly called the Pine Street Prison.  Alums and architects on both sides were enlisted for the battle that followed to preserve or pull down Broadway Hi. Second only then to the fight to save the Pike Place Market, the Broadway effort managed to keep only the school’s auditorium.


Anything to add, Paul?

Because of the lingering ghost or ghosts in our blog machine we will keep it short Jean.  When these spirits are exorcized – or these problems answered – we can return to offering good-‘n-big additions to our features.  We love this recycling of years of features written and old photos collected and interpreted.  But for now we will wait, except we will also not wait.  That is, I’ll attach a few other photographs of the new High School, understanding that at least a few of our readers will have discovered the temporary trick for reaching the latest offerings on this blog, which is to go fir to its archive, aka its past pages.   There the ghost is temporarily restrained.

The Nelson - of Fredericks and Nelson - home behind Broadway High. Can you refine its place? It has not survived.
On the evidence of those construction sheds this is from late in the school's construction.
School is open and so is Warren Art Company across Broadway. Classes in the arts were nurtured by Seattle's then progressive public schools.
An early look east from the roof to the neighborhood and the playfield part of - then - Lincoln Park.


Paris chronicle #47 The historical restoration of Panthéon

At the top of the Montagne Sainte Geneviève in the 5th arrondissement, the Pantheon rises to 82 meters. Built between 1764 and 1790 by the architect Soufflot, at the request of King Louis XV, this religious building dedicated to Sainte Genevieve was immediately transformed into a temple dedicated to the Great Men during the Revolution (1789).

In the eighteenth century, Soufflot reimagined architectural style, combining the height and the light of a Gothic cathedral with the structure of a Greek cross, with supporting columns similar to ancient temples. He freed the space from its massive foundations.

It is also the first to use the principle of the “reinforced stone”, connecting the blocks of stone to metal fittings. For the past fifteen years the Pantheon has shown deterioration due to lack of impermeability  of its cover. Metal elements have rusted in stone and made it burst.

The company LEFEVRE was selected to perform this historical project, one of the largest in Europe. The project will focus on the stabilization of the dome and drum.

A gigantic scaffold (unsupported by the structure of the Pantheon) is now being installed. Micropiles 17 meters deep in the four corners of the building will be used to support the massive scaffold weighing 315 tons and standing 37 meters in height. In one corner a huge crane 96 meters high will be installed with the capacity to support 4 tons.
As the official photographer of this extraordinary project, might I suggest that you follow its progress on this blog and on my website.


La restauration historique du Panthéon

Au sommet de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève dans le 5éme arrondissement, le Panthéon culmine à 82 mètres. Construit entre 1764 et 1790, par l’architecte Soufflot, sur la demande du roi  Louis XV, l’édifice religieux dédié à Sainte Geneviève est aussitôt transformé en temple consacré aux Grands Hommes à la Révolution.

Au XVIIIème siècle, Soufflot  renouvelle le style architectural, alliant la hauteur et la lumière des cathédrales  gothiques a une structure en forme de croix grecque, avec des colonnes portantes semblables aux temples antiques. Il libère ainsi l’espace  de ses fondations massives.

Il est aussi le premier à utiliser le principe de la pierre armée. Il relie  les blocs de pierre à des armatures métalliques.

Depuis une quinzaine d’années le Panthéon montre des désordres dus au manque d’étanchéité de sa couverture. Les éléments métalliques ont rouillé dans la pierre et provoque son éclatement.

L’entreprise LEFEVRE a été choisie pour réaliser ce chantier historique, l’un des plus grands d’Europe. Le chantier portera sur la stabilisation du dôme et de son tambour.

Un gigantesque échafaudage autoportant, c’est-à-dire ne prenant pas appui sur la structure du Panthéon a commencé par être installé.

Des micropieux profonds de 17 mètres  installés aux quatre coins de l’édifice  serviront de support à l’échafaudage de 315 tonnes  et 37 mètres de hauteur. A l’un des quatre coins sera installée une immense grue de 96 mètres  pouvant supporter 4 tonnes.

Je suis la photographe de cette opération, je vous propose d’en suivre les étapes sur ce blog et sur mon site.





Seattle Now & Then: 2nd and University

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THEN: For reasons not revealed, in the late winter of 1901 a photographer turned her or his camera on the soon to be cleared clutter at the northeast corner of Second Avenue and University Street. (Courtesy: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections)
NOW: In the late 1990s, The Seattle Symphony filled the corner and the entire block with Benaroya Hall.

The satisfactions of street photography include cluttered cityscapes like this one at the northeast corner of University Street and Second Avenue.  The principal tenant was a lawyer named Joseph Jones, who also hustled here, “nice dry wood to burn.” The mostly hidden banner sign reads, we think, “Joe’s Wood Yard.”  Even without a caption this subject is easily located with the grand contribution of Plymouth Congregational Church, the upstanding brick pile one block east on University at Third Avenue, far right.

Also on Third and made of brick, the backside of the Ethelton Hotel, far left, suggests a tenement except that the weekly rates of “$9 and up” were not cheap for the time. And we know the time within a few days.

The clue comes bottom-center with the 3rd Avenue Theatre’s sidewalk poster for the play “A Woman’s Power.”  It opened at “Seattle’s only popular prices theatre” on Sunday March 10, 1901. This scene was recorded surely only a few days earlier.  The repertoire players, led by Jessie Shirley, are trumpeted again far left with the larger and no doubt colorful billboard behind the horse.  And The Seattle Times theatre reviewer was pleased.  Shirley’s performance is described as “highly infectious to her audience.” The play is complimented for the “purity and excellence of the moral it teaches,” lessons we would more readily expect from the Congregationalists up the hill.

A few days later on the Times theatre page, Plymouth Church, with the Ladies Musical Club, did some of their own promoting of a strong woman, this time with a celebrated musical virtuosity.  On Monday Evening, March 25, the “world-renowned pianist Teresa Correna” performed on a Steinway in its sanctuary.  Tickets were one dollar.  Meanwhile – and repeatedly – in a small movie theatre directly across 2nd Ave. from Jones’s wood yard, one could buy for one dime the cheap thrill of a “ride through the Great Northern Railroad’s Cascade Tunnel.”

After a good deal of delving with maps, directories, and photographs, we learn this northeast corner’s pioneer oddity.  Beyond woodpiles it was never developed until 1903 when the brick and stone Walker Building was raised and stayed until the late 1980s.  And Joe Jones was not the first fire wood salesman at the corner. In the 1892 Corbett Director John King is listed doing the same.


Anything to add, Paul?

Blog Troubles & Shamless Commerce  April 4, 2013

 Northern Life Tower  Feb. 16, 2013

 Northold Inn  Nov. 3, 2012

Seattle Now & Then: Seattle's First Rep

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THEN: Some of the 1946 cast for Calico Cargo face-off at the Seattle Repertory Playhouse on University Way at N.E. 41st Street. (Courtesy, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections Division, Neg. No. UW 30033)
NOW: Kurt E. Armbruster dedicated his new book “to the actors of Seattle, who against all odds have kept theater alive.” This caption for Jean’s “repeat,” is also Kurt’s. “Today, the theater continues the grand tradition as the Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse, presenting UW School of Drama plays – most recently, a superb and thought-provoking production of David Edgar’s Pentacost. Burton and Florence James would have been proud.”

Seattle is often admired for its live theatres and the many actors who walk their boards and perform for a city that is also known – we are not surprised – for its love of reading, besides listening.  Now one of our more prolific historians, Kurt Einar Armbruster, comes with “Playing for Change.”  Given its subject – and subtitle – “Burton and Florence James and the Seattle Repertory Playhouse,” we may expect that many of Pacific’s theatre-loving literati will be drawn to it.

In “Orphan Road: The Railroad Comes to Seattle,” (1999) this author untangled the complex early history of Puget Sound’s railroads.  In 2011 the University of Washington Press published “Before Seattle Rocked” Armbruster’s early history of Seattle’s musical culture.  And now comes his also dramatic history of our first “Rep” written this time with what was surely inspired speed.  “Playing for Change” is also self-published, a practice that it getting more-and-more popular, possible, and fast.

Pictured here are some of the cast of Calico Cargo, local actor-playwright Albert Ottenheimer’s musical telling of the then already famous Seattle story of the “Mercer Girls:” the New England women, some of them Civil War widows, who followed Asa Mercer, the University of Washington’s first president, to Seattle to teach and/or have their pick of a well-stocked selection of industrious and lonely bachelors who eagerly awaited them on Yesler’s Wharf.   That, it seems, is probably the scene depicted here.

Calico Cargo opened in September 1946, and played to great success, filling the 340-seat Repertory Playhouse at the southwest corner of 41st Street Northeast and University Way for fifteen weeks.  George Frederick McKay, the University’s admired composer, was a contributor.  (A good selection of his compositions can be found on the Naxos label.)

The Jameses started the Rep in 1928.  Thru its long and vigorous life, it played both the classics and original plays, some local and some controversial.  For the more than 20 years of the James direction it inspired imagination and reflection in its players and patrons. But that story is told best by Armbruster in his radically affordable book.  “Playing for Change” can be had for small change – $13.99.  It is found at the University Book Store, Elliott Bay Books and on line.


Anything to add, Paul?

Jean I’ll gather these “extras” as I may, but considering the recurring troubles we are having with this server or program or what? there is – it seems my now – a likelihood that the link will shut its door sometime before I can deliver.  This inspired a new attitude that resembles patience on our parts, and we hope on our dear readers too.  Someday we will have this sorted out or corrected.  Then we will return to our full schedule and perhaps more.


This group portrait also appears, p.259, in the second of Richard C. Berner's three volumes on "Seattle in the 20th Century." It is titled "Seattle 1921-1940" and is one of our preoccupations. Ron Edge and I are working to illustrate it with the same "splendor" that we contributed to Berner's Vol.1, which can be searched thru this blog. We hope you will. Rich Berner's caption for this photograph, used courtesy of the Special Collections Division, U.W. Libraries, (Neg. No. 14054) reads, ""The Washington State Theatre also was a spinoff of the SRP, once funding was received form the Rockefeller Foundation. That State Department of Public Instruction sponsored this traveling theater group's statewide tour. "No More Frontiers" was written by Idaho's Talbot Jennings."


(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 4, 1992)

The scene above of the players preparing to take their Washington State Theater to schools across the state is one of the handful of photographs that illustrated former university archivist Richard Berner’s most recent book.    “Seattle 1921 – 1940 From Boom To Bust” is volume two in Berner’s projected trilogy, “Seattle in the 20th Century.”  Northwest historian Murray Morgan says the 556-page book, “is the best-organized more thoroughly researched, most useful book yet written about the city.”

As for the theater: After teaching drama at Cornish School in the mid-1920s, Florence and Burton James established Seattle Repertory Playhouse in 1928, renting stages around town.  They moved out on their own in 1930.  The brick playhouse here in the background, was designed for them by local architect Arthur Loveless.

The James persuaded the Rockefeller Foundation and the state’s Department of Public Instruction to sponsor the country’s first state theater.  Scenery and costumes were moved about the state in this truck; the caravan of actors trailed in cars.

The theater’s first production, “No More Frontier,” was written by Idaho playwright Talbot Jennings.  In their first season, the touring company played – astonishingly – before 70,000 students.  After each show the players, in costume, took questions from the audience.  They were paid a livable $75 a month. (Actor Howard Duff is third from the right, top row.)

The James were also responsible for securing Works Progress Administration funding for a local “Negro Repertory Theatre,’ which, for some productions, employed as many as 50 African-American actors.

Also printed in Rich Berner's Volumn 2, "Seattle 1921 - 1940 From Boom to Bust," appearing on page 258, and captioned . . . "Negro Repertory Theatre was inspired by Florence Bean James as an offspring of the Seattle Repertory Theatre productions, beginning with presentation of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' in the 1931-32 season. The Jameses got WPA funding for the NRT in 1936. The scene above is from Paul Green's Pulitzer Prize winning play 'In Abraham's Bosom', 1937"
Two of the many opportunities for entertainment advertised in The Seattle Times for Jan. 1, 1937, with the cost of The Natural Man four times that of . . . The Blushing Bride.
Rich Berner at that time, serving with the Ski Patrol during WW2.


The placid description below of Glenn Hughes and his Showboat Theatre should be supplemented/adjusted with a reading of Kurt Einar Armbruster’s, “Playing for Change.”


(First appeared in Pacific, May 4, 1986)

The old Showboat Theater on the University of Washington campus was recently called “a distant derivation of a derivation of a derivation of the riverboat.”  That description was offered by Ellen Miller-Wolfe, coordinator of the local Landmarks Preservation Board [in 1986]. It may be that lack of architectural purity which will eventually doom the sagging Showboat. It is scheduled to be demolished soon.

When or if it bows out, the Showboat will leave a legacy of fine theater and personal stories. (It is said to be haunted by the ghost of its founder Glenn Hughes, a man once known on the English-speaking stage west of Broadway as “Mr. Theater. “)

The theater’s opening night, Sept. 22, 1938, was a banner-draped, lantern-lighted, elegant black-tie setting for the old farce, “Charlie’s Aunt.” One of the showboat’s best remembered offerings was the 1949 production of “Mrs. Carlyle, ” written by Hughes and starring Lillian Gish, the silent screen star and stage actress.


Opening night with Lillian Gish on the right.

The theatrical variety and often professional quality performances that six nights a week moved upon the Showboat’s stage were a far cry from the fare of the old ”’mellerdrammers” that played the real showboats of the Mississippi River days. Chekhov, Thurber, Sophocles and, of course, Shakespeare all made it onto Seattle’s revolving proscenium stage. And some of its players were Frances Farmer, Robert Culp and Chet Huntley (who later switched careers to the theater of national news).

The original design for the Works Progress Administration-built “boat” came from another member of the UW’s drama faculty, John Ashby Conway, who envisioned it being occasionally tugged about Lakes Washington and Union for off-shore performances. Instead, for its nearly 50 years [by 1986] it has been in permanent port on Portage Bay, supported, for the sake of illusion, a short ways off shore on concrete piling.


The Showboat seen across Portage Bay on the right ca, 1946. The fated Fantome on the left. (We’ll attach some of the Fantome’s story later – once we find it.)

[In 1the mid-1980s the destruction of the then unused but not sinking showboat was forestalled for a time by a group called SOS (Save Our Showboat).  Many of its members once acted on its stage and have left their sentimental shadows there.  As I recall it was long after an SOS denouement that, as if in the night, the Showboat was razed to below its waterline.]


The Showboat mid-1980s.


PREVIEWING A PREVIEW (Appeared in The Seattle Times, April 14, 1940) Prof. Glenn Hughes, executive director of the U.of W. Division of Drama, Mrs. Hughes and four enthusiastic playgoers stop by the Showboat Theatre on their way to a dinner engagement, to discuss "What a Lie," next Showboat production. Pictures on the top deck of this picturesque playhouse are, standing, Dean Judson Falknor, head of the University Law School, accepting a wafer from the plate offered by Mrs. Hughes; Dr. Charles E. Martin, head of the political science department at the University, and Professor Hughes. Seated are Mrs. Falknor, left and Mrs. Martin.


An earlier example of University drama, here in Meany Hall (the old one) in 1926. (Courtesy, The Seattle Times)



There are 300 clips in the Seattle Times archives with reference to the TRYOUT THEATRE, another theatre group associated with the University of Washington but not necessarily on it.  A Dr. Savage in the school’s Department of English was one of the generous drivers of this nearly eight-year program to produce plays written for it – most of them from the region.  The last clip is a chatty letter from Savage’s wife to the Times during their visit to the theatre scene in New York City, and after the couple and their family have moved on to California for a new appointment with the Drama Department of U.C.L.A.   Printing such a chatty family letter as news would be unlikely these days.  It is an old flower that is now refreshing.

The Times Aug. 8, 1943 of Tryout's first play, "Blue Alert," a wartime drama written by Zoe Schiller, a former U.W. Student, with some editing help from Prof. Savage.
A fine review of Tryout's status with the production of its 40th play in the Spring of 1949. Mack Mathews, the author of the review, not the play, was an admired wit-polymath in the local culture-culture, but with a drinking problem. He wound up in the King County Jail at one point for an alcohol-inspired and botched robbery in a downtown hotel. This Times review dates from March 27, 1949.
The headline reads "Tryout Joins Forces" when in fact it folded by being enfolded within the routines and priorities of the U.W. Drama Department. After this Oct. 29, 1950 clip beside Oscar Peterson at the Civic Auditorium, there was very little news of Tryout. Two clips at best, including the one that follows reporting on the Savage family's trip to New York.
As the last paragraph of this Sept. 9, 1951 report indicates, while in New York George Savage visit an assortment of writers, actors and agents that had been involved in those apparently vibrant eight years of the Tryout Theatre in Seattle. We learn as well that the Savage's boys are having a swell time, we assume, that summer at the Little Meadows Camp for boys, we presume. Now 62 years later we may wonder what became of them, and with the web we might even find out, although not this evening.



The Northwest corner of Republican Street and 2nd Avenue before Century 21. The slide was taken by Les Hamilton, one of the mainstays of the Queen Anne Historical Society for many years.
A clip from Pacific, ca. 2000
The Rep behind a recent Folklife scene.
Folklife, Feb. 28, 2012
May 12, 2012


A Vietnam era example of nearly spontaneous campus theatre - Guerilla Theatre.
Mrs. Hazel Huffman grabs a smoke before testifying before the house un-American Activities Committee in New York on Communist Party interests in the WPA Federal Theatre Project. The members of the committee were all ears as the smoking former Communist puffed thru her recollections of party propaganda. The AP Wirephoto dates from Aug. 19, 1938.


RETURN to AUTHOR KURT E. ARMBRUSTER and his Penultimate Book

Left to right, Alice Stuart, Bill Sheldon and Dallas Williams at the Pamir Folksingers cabaret on “the Ave” in 1962. (Courtesy Alice Stuart)
Forty-nine years later Alice is still singing professionally, sometimes with the same Martin D-18 guitar she carried with her into the coffee houses of Seattle in the early 1960s. Beside her is Kurt Einar Armbruster holding a copy of his latest book, “Before Seattle Rocked.”


(First appeared in Pacific, Dec. 10, 2011)

Jean and I recently met Alice Stuart and Kurt Einar Armbruster on the University District’s “Ave.” in front where the Pamir House – featuring “variety coffees” and folk singing – might have been had it not been replaced by a parking lot more than forty years ago.

Two lots north of 41st Street, Alice led us from the sidewalk thru the parked cars to the eloquent spot where she sang and played her resonant Martin D-18 guitar one year short of a half-century earlier.  It was near the beginning of a remarkable singing career for the then 20-year old folk artist from Lake Chelan and blessed with a beautiful voice.  She still uses it regularly.  (This past year Stuart was on stage “gigging” an average of nearly three times a week – often with her band named Alice Stuart & The Formerlys.)

Alice Stuart is one of the many Seattle musicians that author-musician Kurt E. Armbruster splendidly treats in his new book “Before Seattle Rocked.” The index of this University of Washington Press publication runs 25 pages and covers most imaginable music-related subjects in our community’s past from Bach thru Be-bop to the Wang Doodle Orchestra. This author has a gift for interviewing his subjects.  Stuart expressed amazement at his elegant edit of what she thought of as her “rambling on” about her long career.

Armbruster’s first book, “Whistle Down the Valley” (1991) was built on interviews with railroad workers in the Green River valley.  His second book “The Orphan Road” took a difficult subject, Washington’s first railroads, and unraveled its tangles with wisdom and good wit.   The “Orphan” is easily one of our classics.  Now with “Before Seattle Rocked” Armbruster’s place is insured among those who chose important regional subjects that waited years for their devoted revelators.

Armbruster is a “proud member of Seattle Musicians’ Association, AFM Local 76-493.”  Among other instruments, Kurt plays the bass for music of many kinds including rock and pop.  The book’s dedication reads, “To  Ed ‘Tuba Man’ McMichael (1955-2008), a working musician.”

Alice Stuart on stage at the 1969 Sky River Rock Festival & Lighter Than Air Fair near Tenino, Washington.








Montesano girls - Count the Stars and Stripes


You may have noticed that here – recently and often – you cannot notice.  The blog is up and down regularly as of late.  Now it is up for as long, I hope, as it takes to write that we are looking for alternatives to our present server.   In Paris, Berangere is too far away to fix it.   Wherever – now in Wallingford – I don’t know how.  And so Jean has had to stretch his work bench to handle these – to use now two rarely used categories from our “All Gategories” list for this blog –  “unintended effects” and this “shameless commerce.”   Last Sunday’s now-and-then got no “extras” to the title story about the regrade on Spring Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues because, again, we could not “write to” or add additional contributions to the blog.  This coming Saturday/Sunday we hope to elaborate on the Repertory Theatre feature that will be published in Pacific – we think – and I will then contribute as well a few of the missed “extras” to the Spring Street story.  Meanwhile we await our fates while trying to keep our faiths.  But then what became of these students (below) in the well-ordered typing and shorthand class at the Wilson Business College in Seattle, ca. 1900?

Human Hair - usually yours or a relative's - Art (not for sale - courtesy Granite Falls Historical Museum)
Pedestrians at First and Wall, March 7, 2013