Here we stand – about a century ago – with an unidentified photographer recording five U.S. Postal Service teams and their drivers. The year is about 1905, six years after the Post Office moved from its previous headquarters on Columbia Street here to the Arlington Hotel. Larger quarters were needed, in part for sorting mail.
On the left (of the top photo) is the hotel’s north façade extending west from the corner of University Street and First Avenue. Above the sidewalk on First, the hotel reached four ornate brick stories high with a distinguished conical tower at the corner, not seen here. To the rear there were three more stories reaching about forty feet down to Post Alley. First named the Gilmore Block, after its owner David Gilmore, for most of its eighty-four years this sturdy red brick pile was called the Arlington, but wound up as the Bay Building, and it was as the Bay that it was razed in 1974.
By beginning the construction of his hotel before the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, Gilman performed a considerable, if unwitting, service. The south foundation of the structure was formidable enough to stop the fire from reaching University Street. Off shore, a chain of volunteer fire fighters, passing buckets of water pulled from Elliot Bay, stopped the fire’s northerly advance as well along the off-shore quays and trestles built of pilings for warehouses and railroad tracks.
Free mail delivery started in Seattle on September 11, 1887, with four carriers. Remembering that booming Seattle’s population increased in a mere thirty years from 3,533 in 1880 to the 237,194 counted by the federal census in 1910, we may imagine that this quintet of carriers and their teams were a very small minority of what was needed to deliver the mail in 1905. Behind the posing carriers, University Street descends on a timber trestle above both Post Alley and Western Avenue to Railroad Avenue (Alaska Way). Most likely some of the mail was rolled along the trestle both to and from “Mosquito Fleet” steamers for waterways distribution.
After the post office moved three blocks to the new Federal Building at Third Avenue and Union Street in 1908, First Avenue between University and Seneca Streets continued as a block of hospitality with seven hotels.
Anything to add, Paul? A few variations from the neighborhood, Jean, beginning with a look south on First Avenue through University Street.
FIRST AVENUE SOUTH THRU UNIVERSITY STREET
WHERE THE UNIVERSITY STREET RAMP REACHED RAILROAD AVENUE
[NOTE: The NOW describe directly above has not been found, or rather a good print or the negative for it stays hidden.]
WESTERN AVENUE LOOKING SOUTH FROM THE UNIVERSITY STREET VIADUCT
[ANOTHER NOTE: The “Contemporary photo noted in the paragraph directly above may have joined the other “now” subject missing above it. ]
Here – if Ron Edge reads his mail on awakening Sunday Morning – we may find a link for the story feature we published here on the Buzby’s Waterfront Mill, which was nearby at the foot of Seneca Street. After the story of Buzby and his pioneer flour, we follow Jean and his students off to Snoqualmie Falls for another now-then. After a few more digressions, the linked feature returns to the “hole,” above, for more of Frank Shaw’s photos of it. This may all transpire soon for Ron arises about the time I join the other bears here for another long winter’s sleep.
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