(click to enlarge photos)
By June 4, 1922, the Sunday this waterfront scene first appeared in The Times under the banner “In Quest of Great Unknown,” its principal subject, Capt. Roald Amundsen, was long known to readers – from pole to pole. Twenty years earlier with provisions for four years and a crew of seven aboard a converted herring boat, the Gjoa, the “athletic Viking” set out from Oslo, Norway to locate the magnetic North Pole. While it did not reach the North Pole on this try, this Amundsen’s expedition was the first to complete the Northwest Passage by ship alone in 1906. The Norwegian’s name then rose to the top of the long list of explorers who had bundled their bodies in bear skins for sailing thru freezing seas in the service of science and self.
Next in 1910 the fearless Viking left Oslo for Antarctica and reached the South Pole Dec. 14, 1911. Amundsen later reflected, “The area around the North Pole – devil take it – had fascinated me since childhood, and now here I was at the South Pole. Could anything be more crazy?”
The explorer returned to his fixed fascination in 1918 with the Maud, a Norway- built ship meticulously designed by Amundsen to complete his arctic circumnavigation of the globe by sailing east from Norway across the top of Russia. Victorious with this Northeast Passage the Maud – named for the Norwegian Queen who had helped finance it –reached the Ballard Locks on Sept 11, 1921, and thereby made it onto the first Clemmer Graphic, the local newsreel produced for the Clemmer theatre, one of the larger motion picture houses in Seattle.
The Seattle Yacht Club moored the Maud while Amundsen went lecturing and looking for more sponsors to make another run on the North Pole. He reached but did not touch it at last on May 12, 1926, and not aboard the Maud but from the airship Norge with his American sponsor. Piloted by the Italian Umberto Nobile, on May 12, 1926, their flyover was the first undisputed sighting of the North Pole. Two years later Amundsen disappeared with a crew of five while trying to rescue Nobile who went down while returning from another flight to the North Pole.
Anything to add, Paul? Thanks for asking Jean. The overnight shutdown of this program pulled me over a timeline of deadlines and I proceeded to work on our next submissive submission to the Times, the one on Lady Rainier, the brewery’s fountain sculpture yearning now, its seems, to return to Georgetown, having some years back been sent north to South Seattle (& Tullies) to rest in the landscape by the old Rainier Brewery there (like the Georgetown brewery, it too has been long abandoned by beer), and without her hydraulics. As you know, although submitted this week it will not appear in the times for about one month. That is what is called the “lead time.”
Returning now to the north Seattle waterfront in the block between Wall and Bay but most often associated with Broad Street, we have, again, Ron Edge’s help from the sky. We will insert his polish of both the 1929 and 1936 vertical (map) aerials of the neighborhood and follow them with an elliptical aerial – also from Ron – of considerable detail, showing us the Union Oil installations in 1932, ten years after Amundsen and his Maud’s visit, and four years before the completion of the Seawall as far north as Bay Street.
MATTULATH’S BUNCO BARRELS
(First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 9, 1997)
The thought that pioneer Seattle had some sort of guardian ghost was supported by the young town’s relative prosperity in 1879, when elsewhere on Puget Sound, according to pioneer historian Thomas Prosch, “the times were exceedingly dull . . . the logging business was dead, the fisheries were unprofitable . . . and every trade was depressed or suspended. And yet the town grew right along, and seemed to flourish.”
The Mattulath barrel factory was one of Seattle’s creations that year. Built north of Belltown near where Broad Street now ends at Elliott Bay, the big factory was an impressive landmark, its pier extending a good way out form the shoreline. Here barrels of cottonwood staves were manufactured in “impressive numbers,” most sent to San Francisco and Hawaii. For two years the plant “gave employment to a hundred men and boys . . . and seemed very successful, but it suddenly collapsed.” The factory and its wharf were deserted to “decay and ruin.”
In this chronological history of Seattle, Prosch explains. “It subsequently developed that the enterprise was a stock-jobbing affair. . .made to appear highly profitable when it did not actually pay expenses, and that the projectors slipped out with considerable money obtained in the doubtful manner indicated.” In other words, a common scam. Bunco.
NATIVE CAMP BY ANDERS WILSE ca. 1899
(First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 5, 2000)
This photo of dugouts beside a temporary Indian camp on the Seattle waterfront has been published often, but not always captioned accurately. Pioneer journalist-historian Thomas Prosch’s description of this site as in the vicinity of the “west end of Vine, Cedar and B road streets” is surely correct – or nearly so. The top of Queen Hill may be glimpsed on the left horizon.
For the contemporary photograph I have chosen Broads street – near it. Before the seawall was constructed here in the mid-1930s, the waterfront had a small point at the foot of Broad Street. The little bay we see in the older picture most likely extends north from that point.
For dating this scene, Prosch is not so helpful. He describe it as a “common scene” between 1882 and1886. “The canoes were those of Indians on their way from the north to the hop fields of the White and Puyallup valleys.” Hop farming in the Puyallup and White River valleys did reach its peak in 1882, with large profits that were largely the gift of the Indians’ cheap labor. At its height, the industry employed more than 1,000 Indians and many came by dugout canoes over long distance from villages far north along the Canadian coast. The hop-louse infestation in 1899 and plunging prices stopped the boom.
We learn from MOHAI Librarian Carolyn Marr, that the Norwegian photographer Anders Wilse gave this the negative number 1,010, and it is helpful for dating the subject. All of Wilse’s negatives between Nos. 1,000 and 1,050 are of Indian-related subjects and at least two of these are copyrighted for 1899.
The description on the negative sleeve for this image – although not in Wilse’s hand – supports both Prosch’s siting and my own speculations. It reads, “Indian camp at North Seattle.” In 1899 the foot of Broad Street was still considered part of North Seattle.
Then ABOVE: Photographed from a railroad trestle and not a boat this ca. 1909 scene looks southeast from near the waterfront foot of Eagle Street. The brick warehouse on the far right survives as Seattle’s link in the Old Spaghetti Factory chain. (Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)
Now BELOW: This “repeat” was recorded soon after the Olympic Sculpture Park was opened in January last year when some of the construction fences were still in place. The wider “now” view also shows a portion of Pier 70, far right, Alexander Calder’s sculpture Eagle, far left horizon, and in the foreground sculptor-architect Roy McMakin’s “Love & Loss” a mixed media installation made of both profound sentiments and concrete.
BELOW: Frank Shaw’s snapshot of the “garden” mixed with concrete rubble along the future site of the Sculpture Park. Frank recorded this on May 23, 1975.
(First Published, Jan. 2008)
North of Broad Street, where the waterfront turns slightly north, was once a small cove where the Duwamish often beached their dugout canoes sometimes to walk a worn path to the fresh waters of Lake Union. We might doubly call this Eagle Cove, first after Eagle Street that ends here and now also for Olympic Sculpture Park’s soaring piece of public art, Alexander Calder’s Eagle.
The beach is still exposed in the historical scene, which was photographed from the railroad trestle that first crossed in front of the cove in 1887. Here, a rough collection of modest residences, squatters’ shacks and floating homes are scattered about the two blocks between the beach and Western Avenue, to both sides of Eagle Street. But this ca. 1909 scene is doomed. The Union Oil Company purchased and cleared these blocks for the installation of its first waterfront row of tanks in 1910.
After the fuel facility closed in 1975 these predictably polluted acres were first scrubbed and then sold at a bargain price to the Seattle Art Museum and the city. The result is another belated fulfillment first of the Olmsted Brothers 1903 description of a Harbor View Park running in part through these blocks and later for Park Commissioner Sol G. Levy’s radical proposal of 1951 that much of the central waterfront be ridded of its wharfs and railroads and seeded for a park.
The city got its first central Waterfront Park at the foot of Union Street in 1974, but the greener visions of both the famous Boston brothers and the local Levi are better fulfilled with SAM’s new 9 acre sculpture garden especially when enjoyed in its verdant chain with the contiguous (to the north) Myrtle Edwards Park. Like Frank Shaw – but not as often – I too walked the waterfront in the 70’s and 80s with my camera. The sectioned 76 Sign across a field – perhaps a hazard with carbon pollutants – I recorded at sunset, while wandering thru the nearly abandoned Union Oil site. I consider it the first piece of sculpture in the new garden, although not one has as yet recognized it as such. The generous genre is Found Art.
THE BLUE FUNNEL LINE
(First appeared in Pacific, Sept. 3, 1989)
If color were available for this early 1920’s view of Pier 70 it would be dominated by the blue stacks of the Blue Funnel Line’s steamers Protesilaus andTyndareus
The steamship company was formed in 1865 by two Englishman who named all their vessels after characters of Greek mythology. The unfortunate Protesilaus was killed as he jumped ashore at Troy, fulfilling a prophesy that the first Greek to touch Trojan soil would die. Tyndareus was a Spartan king.
In 1911, the Protesilaus broke all previous records for speed in delivering raw silk from Yokohama to the Northern Pacific wharf in Tacoma. Seventeen days after the vessel left Japan the fibers were in New York.
Three years later, returning fro Asia, it was boarded by English officers at Victoria – the first steamer at a Pacific Northwest port requisitioned for war service. After delivering its cargo to Seattle, the Protesilaus was reworked into a troop carrier. Following the war it came back, posing for this picture.
Pier 70 was built in 1901 by the salmon packers Ainsworth and Dunn, and the pier’s shed served, for a time, as a cannery. It was primarily used as a shelter for the trans-shipment of cargoes like cotton, tea, rubber and soybeans. The soybeans were quickly delivered directly across Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) for refining into plywood glue at Lauck’s Mill, now the Spaghetti Factory.
During World War 2 the odors of Eastern spices inside the pier shed were exchanged for those of Western spirites when the dock was requisitioned as a warehouse fo the state’s Liquor Control Board. Its original pier number -14 – was changed to 70 when the army gave continuous numbers to all Elliott Bay piers near the end of the war.
The construction work on Railroad Avenue in the foreground has not yet anything to do with the extending of the waterfront’s seawall north from Madison Street to Bay Street. That pubic work was done from 1934 to 1936.
PIER 70 FROM THE BAY
(First published, summer of 2009)
It is very rare for this little weekly feature to get its present before its past, and yet for this comparison I photographed the “now” view of the water end of Pier 70 before I found the “then.” Aboard an Argosy tour boat I prudently recorded everything along the waterfront. That was in 2006 – about. A sign for the law firm Graham and Dunn, the pier’s principal tenant since 2003, shares the west wall with the pier number. Although it is not a perfect match with the “then,” it will do for studying the latest remodel of this big wharf at the foot of Broad Street.
Constructed in 1901-2 for the salmon packers Ainsworth and Dunn, at 570 x 175 feet it was the first large pier at the north end of the waterfront. Here nearly new, it seems still in need of paint and shows no signs of signs and few of work. On the left, Broad Street makes a steep climb to what is now Seattle Center. The northern slope of Denny Hill draws the horizon on the right. (It is still several years before that hill was razed for the regrade.)
Besides Salmon, through its first 70 years Pier 70 was the Puget Sound port for several steamship companies including the English Blue Funnel (as we know from above) and the German Hamburg American lines. Among the imports handled here were cotton, tea, rubber, liquor (It was a warehouse for the state’s Liquor Control Board during Word War 2.) and soybeans. The beans were processed across Alaska Way from Pier 70 in what is now the Old Spaghetti Works, although not for a nutritious gluten free noodle but for glue used in the making of plywood.
Joining the general central waterfront tide from work to play, Pier 70 was converted to retail in 1970. Still far from the central waterfront, it was no immediate success. There was then no waterfront trolley, no Sculpture Garden, and, next door, no new Port of Seattle. By now both the Belltown and Seattle Center neighborhoods above the pier are piling high with condo constructions and conversions and the waterfront foot of Broad is quite lively.
The same pier at the foot of Broad Street a few years after its 1999 remodel for the short-lived tenancy of Go2Net, one of the many local internet providers that faltered in the new millennium. (dorpat this time)