(click to enlarge photos)
Pacific’s “now and then” is but one of many such heritage features that have appeared in this paper and others through the years. For instance, The Times first used the subject shown here on Sunday March 14, 1934 for its then popular pictorial series titled “Way Back When.” The photo was submitted by Times reader Mrs. Loretta Wakefield and was but one of ten historical scenes sharing a full page. We assume that the photo captions were also first drafted by those who first entrusted the photographs. And for this each contributor received from The Times the thankful prize of one dollar.
The caption for this subject concentrates on its line up of carriages, teams, pedestrians, employees and clapboard storefronts posing and/or standing on the far southwest corner of First Ave. and Bell Street. It reads, “A buggy show during 1875 – Louis S. Rowe was the manufacturer whose carriage display enticed Seattleites sixty years ago.” Not quite. 1875 was the year that the 40-year old Lewis (not Louis) Solomon Rowe first arrived in Seattle to stay.
Rowe’s way with carriages began in 1848 when as the youngest of nine children he left the family farm at the age of fourteen and bound himself for two years to a carriage maker in Bangor Maine. He was paid $30 dollars the first year. By 1861 Rowe was in San Francisco and still employed by a carriage manufacturer. However, by also running the shop and working by the piece he made $60 to $70 a week.
Next – and last – in Seattle Rowe first turned to selling groceries from a shop built for him by Henry Yesler on First Avenue at the foot of Cherry Street. With the cash got from cauliflower and candy sales, Rowe bought land and lots of it, including this southwest corner of First and Bell. Here in the mid 1880s he built his “Rowe’s Block” and soon started both selling and caring for carriages at his corner.
By the evidence of his neighbors – his renters included a drug store; the Watson and Higgens grocery; the Burns Barber Shop; and the Saginaw House, a small hotel – this photo of Rowe’s row was recorded late in 1888 or early in 1889. On March 30, 1889 electric trollies first took the place of horse cars on these tracks running through Belltown to Lower Queen Anne. Trolley wires do not as yet seem to be in evidence.
Anything to add, Paul? We will begin with a few snapshots taken during the preparation of the Apex Coop in 1983-4 followed by few features from the neighbor as these late hours allow.
A QUESTIONABLE CORNER
SEATTLE FROM NORTH SEATTLE, ca. 1884
(First appeared in Pacific, July 4, 1999)
For many years I puzzled over this scene’s foreground. The distant part is familiar. Beacon Hill holds the horizon; below it protrudes the darker forms of what was then the central waterfront. It extends south from Yesler’s Wharf (center) to the King Street coal wharf, which reaches farthest west into Elliott Bay. Two tall ships are tied to either side and another (far right) holds just beyond it.
The boardwalk, homes and fresh excavation are more difficult to place. The Museum of History and Industry print reads “Seattle from vicinity of First and Pine, ca. 1882.” The date is closer to circa 1884. Magnification reveals structures that were not completed until 1883 was itself completed. And this is surely not First and Pine, but more likely five blocks north at First and Bell. The 1884 birds-eye view of the city and the Sanborn real-estate map of the same year show a home at the southwest corner of Bell and Front (First Avenue) with a shape similar to the one here, far left. In both, a small extension is attached to the rear of the house.
In September 1884, the territory’s first street railway began its horse-car service as far north as Battery Street (less than a block behind the photographer, if my identification is correct). Although we cannot see the street beyond the boardwalk, far left, we can speculate that the fresh dirt spread across the foreground was placed during the first regrade of First Avenue, undertaken, in part, to give horses an easier grade reaching Belltown.
Topographical maps from as early as the 1870s show a “Belltown Ravine” extending from the waterfront to just beyond First Avenue – hence the bridge, far left (again, if I am correct.) This, then, is evidence of the first fill into a ravine now covered.
Finally, an 1882 view (above) by the visiting Californian Watkins, looks into Belltown from the west side of Denny Hill and shows a fence at the southwest corner of First and Bell that looks (to me with reserve) like the fence running nearly the width of this scene behind the freshly excavated dirt.
BELLTOWN PAN, ca. 1887 by MUMFORD
(First appears in Pacific, Feb. 27, 1983)
In 1883 the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad at last reached Portland and Puget Sound. Seattle, and the rest of the Northwest, had been yearning for this invasion. Arthur Denny and William Bell, two of the Midwestem farmers who years earlier had come to this wilderness to start a city, waited with subdivided real estate for the coming tide of settlers.
Only 32 years after they landed at AIki Point, their city of close to 7,000 residents was the largest In the territory, and their contiguous claims were next in line for serious development. The border between their claims ran diagonally across Denny Hill. A view from the top looked south over Denny’s land toward the center of town. Turning around one looked north toward Belltown. Here, In November 1883, William Bell completed his namesake hotel: a four-story landmark with a showy mansard roof and central tower.
It was the 66-year-old pioneer’s last promotion. Within the year, Bell’s depressing symptoms of fits and confusion would confine him to his home two doors south of his hotel. There, on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1887, he died of what then was called “softening of the brain: dementia. Bell’s only son, Austin, then living In California rushed home to his father’s funeral and a Belltown inheritance that appeared much as it does in the above panorama (above the Bell home.). This 1887 (or perhaps 1888) subject looks north from near Second Avenue and Blanchard Street. That’s Blanchard at the lower right. .
William Bell’s hotel is the centerpiece of both this picture and the neighborhood, and his home is the house with the white picket fence and the cheery white smoke streaming to the east from its chimney.
The intersection of Front Street (now First Avenue) and Bell Street is seen with a posing pedestrian standing at its northeast corner, center left. Front Street is lined with a few frontier facades and down its center runs the railway for the horse-drawn trolley, which in 1884 began its somewhat leisurely 17-block service between Battery and Mill (now Yesler Way) Streets.
Belltown was first a forest into which William carved a small clearing for a garden and log cabin. There, Jan. 9, 1854, Austin Americus Bell was born. When the 1856 native attack on Seattle destroyed the first Bell home, William moved the family to California. At David Denny’s urging, he tentatively returned in the early 1860s to subdivide his claim, but not until the early 1870s did William Bell come home to stay.
In 1875 the family moved back to Belltown and into the home with the picket fence. One year later, as a member of the City Council, Bell voted with the majority for Seattle’s first public-works ordinance, which paid for the regrading of Front Street from Mill to Pike Streets. When a boardwalk was added for the additional six blocks out to Belltown, this long and relatively mud-free walk became Seattle’s favorite Sunday and sunset promenade.
For the decade preceding his father’s death, Austin Bell spent most of his time in California. Returning in 1887, he and his wife, Eva moved into their home at Second and Blanchard (Just right and out of frame of our subject.) Now Austin began to act like a promoter, and by 1889 when he moved his offices to 2222 Front St. (Just left of our scene), he had more than doubled his inheritance to an estimated quarter million.
On the afternoon of April 23 of that year he took a nephew for a buggyride through the streets of Belltown. Stopping on Front Street between his father’s old home and namesake hotel (the Bellevue House), he enthusiastically outlined with dancing hands the five-story heights to which his own planned monumental brick building would soon reach.
That night Austin Bell slept fitfully but arose at 8 o’clock to a “hearty breakfast.'” At 9:30 he walked one block to his office, locked the door and, after writing an endearing but shaky note to his wife, shot himself through the head. He was dead at 35, his father’s age when he first carved a clearing in the forest that would be Belltown.
Among the crowd of hundreds that gathered outside the office was Arthur Denny who recalled for reporters the history of both William and Austin Bell. He indicated that “the symptoms of his father’s disease also had begun to manifest themselves in Austin . . . This he fully recognized himself and the fact played on his mind so that he finally killed himself.”
Eva Bell completed Austin ‘s decorative five-story brick monument and fittingly named and dated it, “Austin A. Bell, 1889.” However, the rebuilding of Seattle’s center after the Great Fire of that year diverted attention from Belltown and Bell’s new building, which even before the 1893 international money crash was popularly called “Bell’s folly.” After this, a series of reversals, including the early-century Denny Hill Regrade, the elections failure of the 1912 Bogue Plan, which included a
proposed new civic center in Belltown, prohibition and the Great Depression all conspired to keep Belltown more or less chronically depressed.
Today the neighborhood is inflating with high-rises all much taller than five stories, but so far none of them quite monumental. However, now one also can choose a window seat in the Belltown Cafe, order an Austin A. Bell Salad and gaze across First Avenue to the depressingly empty but still grandly standing red brick Austin Americus Bell Building.
(Reminder: this was composed 30 years ago. The Austin Americus Bell Building has since been gutted – except for its front façade. A new structure has been built behind it. The Belltown Café folded many years ago, but while it lasted this early and arty attraction was much enjoyed by many.)
The LEADER BUILDING, Across First Ave. from the Austin Bell Building.
The CAMERON HOTEL
The PRESTON HOTEL
PRES. HARDING, JULY 27, 1923, MANITOBA HOTEL, 2124 FIRST AVE.
LOOKING NORTH From the BACK of the BELL HOTEL ca. 1887
Click Twice to Enlarge
Keep CLICKING to Enlarge – to read. Or find the entire book under this blog’s books-button.
TWO 1926 CLIPPINGS on PUBLIC WORKS DELIBERATIONS that Eventually Led to Both the ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT and the BATTERY STREET TUNNEL
The PAUPS at the NORTH END of the BLOCK (The Northwest Corner of First and Blanchard)
The PAUPS of BELLTOWN
(First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 25, 1987. It also appears as Feature No. 35, in Seattle Now and Then Vol. 3, which can be opened on this blog – with some searching of the front page.)
There is a remarkable continuity to the northwest comer of First and Blanchard street. Martin Paup bought it in the late 1880 & when Belltown was still part of North Seattle and Martin Paup still owns it today_
Some of the character of this comer has also held. Until it closed three years ago [in 1987] the Queen City Tavern was, according to the contemporary Martin Paup, the longest continuously operating union bar in the city. Consequently, that watering hole shows up in the older view as does the historical Martin Paup posing with his wife Ellen and their three children to the right of the sign reading “General Store.” Paup is the one with the mustache, but without the hat. By the time this Martin Paup died here in 1938 he’d become a cherished pioneer. Born in 1846 to poverty and as a child indentured by his parents to an abusive farmer, he eventually escaped to the Civil War as a boy cavalryman for the Union side. Years later, as old as 86, he marched the entire route in local parades as color bearer for the remaining Civil War veterans.
The still young Paup came west after the war and soon settled on Bainbridge Island, working for many years as an engineer for the Port Blakely Mill Company on the famous pioneer steamer Politofsky. Married in 1877, Ellen and Martin began to raise a family and save their money, investing it in real estate and rental homes mostly in Belltown.
Interviewed by the Post-Intelligencer in 1888, Paup explained, “A number of years ago 1 came to the conclusion that Seattle would someday become a great city. 1 talked the matter over with my wife and we both agreed to live as economically as possible and lay by a few dollars every month to put into property. It does not take any shrewdness to get ahead in this county, barring sickness. All that is necessary is to layout a plan and then follow it . . .1 think about five years more of hard work will let me out of steam-boating and 1 will come to Seattle and settle down.”
And so he did, moving with his family to Belltown in 1895 to a home at Western Avenue and Blanchard Street, one block west of where Ellen and he soon built this two-story commercial building with the tavern, a general store, bakery and modest hotel upstairs for “traveling men” (two of whom may be posing on the roof).
When this short-lived clapboard was razed in 1910 for the brick property in the “now,”  its basic commercial uses as a bar downstairs and a hotel upstairs were retained. And in this there is yet another continuity, for the contemporary Martin Paup (grandson of the Civil War veteran) has, with the help of the city, renovated the old Lewiston Hotel to retain its service to low-and-fixed-income tenants. The average rent for the Lewiston’s 48 units is only $113 a month . When this good work was done in 1980 it was the nation’s first federally-supported SRO (Single Room Occupancy) project. Today the Lewiston is managed for Paup by the nonprofit Plymouth Housing, an agency of Plymouth Congregational Church, an institution with a long record of inner-city social activism.
In 1987 the comer regained its Queen City name when Peter Lamb, owner of the Pike Place Market’s popular II Bistro restaurant, opened the Queen City Grill here, next door to the Frontier restaurant and cocktail lounge.
4 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Rowe's Row at 1st and Bell”
This neighborhood is the destination of my own history search. As a fan of Almost Live, I wondered the location of the Lame List. This feature has the same clips of long-haired rockers saying “Lame!” to various categories that an off-screen announcer mentions. It takes place in what looks like an information kiosk filled with band posters in front of an old building, probably Pioneer Square. It wasn’t until I saw a different sketch on the show, “The Last Northwesterner,” that they showed the Lame List site again, and then panned around to show the west portal of the Battery Street Tunnel. Now I knew where it was, and I had walked by it not a few months ago and not recognized it. I went to Street View, and found the boarded up door now leads to a Starbucks in the Austin Bell Building. I don’t know if I would have been able to spot this location without the help of the other sketch.
Paul, looking for more info on the Leader Building on First close to Battery. there is a galvanized steel Pallet of Wilkeson Sandstone on the pallet that once was the structural skin of the Leader Bldg. I think the Paper printed there was a labor union publication, correct. Also we at belltown art trying to save the Battery tunnel and retrofit it in to some ecological or civic use. Paul this is a test to see if your read these replies, buster simpson. love you
Not sure if Paul ever read this, Buster, but I just did.
Love you and miss you. Charlie.
Charlie, love back to you. The wilkeson Sandstone blocks flanking the entrance to the Leader Building on First ( presently residing over the Battery Street Tunnel, now being land filled with Alaskan Way Viaduct rubble (rather that a community effort to reuse the tunnel space as sustainable urban resource.
BUT the question remains, What was the business that took place inside the Leader building? One story i heard was that it was a printing house for a union newspaper…..any further comment from anyone appreciated. Buster