Seattle Now & Then: 2nd and University

(click to enlarge photos)

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?

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