(click to enlarge photos)
At about 10:20 on the Friday morning of August 21, 1903, a summer picnic in Woodland Park planned by the parishioners of Ballard’s Norwegian Danish Baptist Church was derailed by what that afternoon’s Seattle Time’s named “a boy’s meddlesomeness” without naming the boy.
Both of Seattle’s afternoon dailies, the Times and the Star, printed the story front page and with pictures. The Star’s two illustrations, of which this is one, were credited to the “well-known Fremont photographer, LeRoy Buck.” Buck lived on Aurora Ave, three blocks from the trolley mishap. The Star probably telephoned him. Their appellation of Buck as “well-known” is, perhaps, part of the Star’s payment to this freelancer. (I know of one other Buck photo, also from 1903, an oft-printed classic looking north through the then still low bridge into Fremont. I used it in these pages about a quarter-century ago.)
To “standing room only,” the special but fated trolley was packed in Ballard mostly with women, children and their picnic baskets. After crossing through downtown Fremont and climbing east up Blewett Street (now N. 35th) under full power, the car crossed thru Aurora Ave. and begin its unrestrained descent to what was ordinarily a sharp but negotiable left turn on to Albion Way. This time, however, the trolley’s “controller handle” had locked up with the brake handle, with which the “meddlesome boy” had been playing.
ABOVE: Looking north up Albion from 36th in 1952. The competing power poles for Seattle City Light and Puget Power were still an ungainly feature of Seattle neighborhoods.
BELOW: The same but recent prospect on Albion north from 36th St. Note the surviving tower from the old City Light sub-station.
Instead of turning at Albion, the speeding trolley then jumped the curving track seen at the center of Buck’s photo, and “plunged down an embankment” into an orchard. The about 62 passengers plunged as well to the buried front end of the car crying out like a broken accordion. Several were hurt badly. One, 80-year-old Maren Eggan, was still in the hospital in September.
The Star concluded its report with “an interesting side light on the character of the average small boy.” After the accident, they picked up the pies, sandwiches and cakes that had filled the picnic baskets and ran to and fro hawking refreshments, which they announced were “fresh from the street car accident.”
Anything to add, Paul? Yes Jean, and we shall start with two Edge Links (attached by Ron Edge sometimes known here for his Edge Clippings) that are relevant to the Edgewater neighborhood and/or to trolley wrecks – lots of them. In this line I am also reminded of the Edgewater Eiffel Tour, a tragicomic episode in North End Life that naturally leads to Paris and the real thing. During our French visit you – Jean – will share some tour pictures with use and perhaps of our Blogbuddy Berangere as well. Closer to home, if I can find it I’ll attach a mid-1960s slide of parents Cherry and Ted Dorpat standing in profile with the famous French tower. I show devotion to my parents and put them up first. You follow with your own Eiffel Tour photos – and Berangere’s – and I’ll conclude the Tour part of this post with the short story – behaving like a fable – of La Tour Eiffel Edgewater. And we might find a few things more to add Jean, like other evidences of our city in 1903. But only a few for we are behind in our commitment to write an introductory essay for Historic Seattle’s up-coming book on First Hill. This Jean reminds me to remind our blog consumers that you and I will be giving a lecture on First Hill history at TOWN HALL late this month. Do you have the details, and will you share them?
I do indeed Paul. We will be lecturing at Town Hall on June 25th at 7:30 in the evening. Here’s the link!
Still Jean here. I’ll set and match with a photo of my own mother just a couple years prior.
I’m also reminded of our blog partner Berangere Lomont’s remarkable photo of the Eiffel Tower disappearing into the clouds, part of our MOHAI Now and Then exhibit from 2011.
And, just for fun, let me toss in a few thumbnails of my own views of and from that evocative edifice, each of which may be clicked to enlarge.
Un jour, l’histoire de la Tour Eiffel Edgewater sera recontee!
“Some day the story of the Edgewater Eiffel will be told.”
Now in a time when such muddles are often brought forward and trumpeted on television with the hope of shaming something or someone, this hidden story was also bound to rebound, and here you have it. We share it for we cannot imagine why anyone should now feel any shame. Still we can at least wonder if any members of the Fremont Historical Society may care to exploit this history.
The photograph below of the nearly near Aurora Bridge was sent along by a concerned person who, for reasons we will not question, wishes to be kept anonymous. They did indicate, however, that before sharing the lantern slide they had attempted to find any surviving members of the club introduced below but without success. They concluded, “Go ahead. I’m sure it will be alright.” Such confidence is comforting.
LA TOUR EIFFEL EDGEWATER
Long ago during an after school treat of cornbread and Ovaltine around the Cornbell family’s kitchen table, Fremont Chamber of Commerce Toastmaster Wally Cornbell’s mother told us, “Some day the story of the Edgewater Tower will be told.” Wally’s mother continue, “But never mind.” We were, she explained, just a few years too young to understand.
The Cornbell’s lived on Whitman Avenue in the Seattle neighborhood of Edgewater, although some now claim it all for Fremont, others divide it between Fremont and Wallingford. Like both Fremont and Wallingford the Edgewater community was never incorporated into or unto itself.
Edgewater got a lot of recognition on maps, and for a while had its own railroad station on the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern line, still it never reached the reputation of its neighbors. By the time the Aurora Bridge was completed in 1932 any sense of a boundary between the east portion of Fremont and the west of Edgewater had blurred and the trend indicated that eventually Edgewater would either slip beneath the eastward tide of Fremont, or from the other direction, the somewhat later push of the Wallingford neighborhood west into Fremont would also overtake it.
Since Stone Way, ran north and south along the trough of a small watershed that got contributions from both Wallingford and Fremont it seemed most likely that Stone Way would be eventually identified as the border between the two neighborhoods and that then Edgewater would be forgotten. The Stone Way division was, however, confused by the construction of the Pacific Coast Limited Access Speedway north from the new bridge on Aurora. It was an artificial border, but a handy one. The story of what followed had considerable effect on these questions of neighborhood identity and on the ultimate fate of Edgewater.
As you may know, in 1933, the Eiffel Tower celebrated its 50th anniversary for the 1889 Centennial of the French Revolution. It was a few years early. The early scheduling took advantage of the cheap construction costs of the Great Depression that touched the French economy as much as ours. Worldwide French Societies were encouraged to fall in line early and do something to celebrate the building of the Eiffel Tower, which was dedicated in 1889.
Here in Seattle the Edgewaterian Eiffelers were the only local group at all prepared and they were encouraged to take the lead by the local French consul. The club was originally formed and continued to take encouragement from the fact that like the Eiffel Tower in Paris rising high above fleuve de Seine, their neighborhood stood beside a great waterway, the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
The French Clubs of the nearby Wallingford, and Green Lake neighborhoods were ready to help and happy to follow the Edgewater lead. Similarly, the French Department of the University of Washington was pleased to be included in this endeavor of mixed patriotism. They helped with translations. Only Fremont residents were cool to the idea, for they were generally not willing to recognize the legitimacy of Edgewater as a neighborhood not enfolded in their own, and with the 1933 construction of the Aurora Avenue north approach to the new bridge these anxious concerns were heightened for, as noted, the new highway effectively created a new border.
It is safe to say that the Edgewater tower would have been celebrated from Seattle to the Seven Arrodissement were it not for an unfortunate turn in events. A combination of haste, cheap labor, and liters of drinkable free champagne contributed by the local French consulate resulted in shoddy work and la Tour started to collapse soon after it was topped off. Rather than risk dismantling its uncertain parts, de l’Edgewater Eiffel la Tour was torched after neighboring homes were first covered with wet sheets and traffic was stopped on the new Aurora Speedway for the duration. Understandably feelings for the French dipped some after the fire. It was also the end of the Edgewater club and perhaps of the identifiable neighborhood. Certainly, one did not hear much about Edgewater or Edgewaterians after this unfortunate turn of events. The fated memorial was an embarrassment and forgotten except for spontaneous although guarded references like that from Wallace’s mother, Mrs. Cornbell. But now is later and, at last, the story is told – a matter of record.
(With discipline, that is with frequent visits, one can still find an Edgewaterian Eiffelers Bowling Club shirt in a north end second-hand store.)
The next two photos are, again, Ron Edge links to first a variety of rail’s mayhem on Seattle’s streets, followed by a now-then tour of Edgewater’s Woodland Park Avenue, 1937/8 repeated in 1911. Both groupings, the trolleys and the homes, appeared earlier on this blog. We return then for “context.”
The year of the Fremont derailing, and more. We have pulled a few photographs of events from 1903 for illustration here with short captions.
The IVARY TOWER
The Tour Eiffel Edgewater reminds us of Ivar – twice. First, of course, his valiant attempts to prepare for Trans-Sound Submarine Commuting (TSSC) with underwater billboards promoting his ever-rejuvenating clam chowder, and second, of course, for his daring-do to fly a salmon-sock from the top of what he described as his “last toy,” the Smith Tower, aka the Ivary Tower.