Seattle Now & Then: First Hill and Yesler Terrace

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This Seattle Housing Authority photograph was recorded from the top of the Marine Hospital (now Pacific Tower) on the north head of Beacon Hill. It looks north to First Hill during the Authority’s clearing of its southern slope for the building of the Yesler Terrace Public Housing.   (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
THEN: This Seattle Housing Authority photograph was recorded from the top of the Marine Hospital (now Pacific Tower) on the north head of Beacon Hill. It looks north to First Hill during the Authority’s clearing of its southern slope for the building of the Yesler Terrace Public Housing. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
NOW: Jean’s “repeat” from the same prospect is revealing of changes on First Hill and to its sides over nearly three-quarters of a century.
NOW: Jean’s “repeat” from the same prospect is revealing of changes on First Hill and to its sides over nearly three-quarters of a century.

When the Marine Hospital opened in 1933 to eighty-four veteran patients, many moved from the Fed’s old hospital in Port Townsend, the new Art Deco high rise on the head of Beacon Hill looked much higher than its sixteen stories. And from its roof it also “felt” taller, as evidenced by this panorama that looks north over both the

T.T. Minor's Marine Hospital in Port Townsend
T.T. Minor’s Marine Hospital in Port Townsend
From the sky looking northwest over the Marine Hospital to neighborhood below it and Beacon Hill.  The date is July 28, 1935.
From the sky looking northwest over the Marine Hospital to the International District neighborhood below it and Beacon Hill. The date is July 28, 1935.  Much of the “low land” seen beyond the hospital and to either side of Dearborn Street and its billboards, is now covered and congested with the I-5 Freeway.   The next illustration shows that work in progress.

Dearborn Cut (1909-1912) and the Jackson Street Regrade (1907-1909).  This hospital observatory afforded this most revealing profile of First Hill.  It made it actually look like a hill.   Since the early 1960s the developing ditch of the Seattle Freeway, far left

Seattle Freeway construction looking northwest from Beacon Hill, August 20, 1965.  (Courtesy, MOHAI)
Seattle Freeway construction looking northwest from Beacon Hill, August 20, 1965. (Courtesy, MOHAI)

in the “now,” made the western slopes of First Hill more apparent and gave the hill a western border. The slope of its eastern border, here far right, is occupied for the most part by the low-rise structures on the Seattle University campus, east of Broadway.

Another but narrower and earlier look into the I-5 Freeway construction from Beacon Hill.  (Courtesy, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Another but narrower look into the I-5 Freeway construction from Beacon Hill. (Courtesy, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Dearborn looking east through 9th Avenue on Dec. 8, 1938.
Dearborn looking east through 9th Avenue on Dec. 8, 1938.    More billboards.
Although I do not remember snapping this through the windshield while heading east on Dearborn, I will date a date for it of 1980.
Although I do not remember snapping this through the windshield while heading east on Dearborn, I will date a date for it of 1980.

In 1940, the likely year for this “then,” the skyline of First Hill was scored with landmarks that are still standing, although by now most are hidden behind higher structures. These include more apartment buildings and the well-packed Swedish Medical Center campus, which is right-of-center in the “now.”  The grandest exception is Harborview Hospital.  In the circa 1940 photo its gleaming Art Deco tower stands out, left-of-center.  In Jean’s colored “repeat,” Harborview, while half-hidden, still shows its true color, which is like a pale café-latte.

Harborview during freeway construction.  The work required exceptional measures to hold First Hill - aka Yesler Hill, Profanity Hill, Pill Hill - in place because of its hydraulics or fluid dynamics: the springs that the first settlers found so appealing.
Harborview during freeway construction. The work required exceptional measures to hold First Hill – aka Yesler Hill, Profanity Hill, Pill Hill – in place because of its hydraulics or fluid dynamics: the springs that the first settlers found so appealing.  The most northern part of Yesler Terrace appears far-right.  Photo by LaVanaway.

We know the photographer’s primary subject here.  It is neither the First Hill horizon nor the man-made valley between First and Beacon Hills.  Before the regrading began in 1907, the hills were two parts of the same ridge.  Rather, the intended subject is the swath of

F. Jay Haynes, the Northern Pacific Railroads official photographer (with his own car), visited Seattle in 1890.  His records include this revealing look at the waterfront a year-or-so after the city's Great Fire of June 6, 1889.  The Haynes pan also reveals the knoll, right-of-center, that interrupted the ridge between Beacon hill, on the right, and First Hill, on the left.  Much of the landfill used for reclaiming the tides for the Northern Pacific's tracks were cut form this knoll or knob.  This preceded the Jackson Street Regrade by several years.  (Which is to say, I'll find the date later.  It is described in my - and City Council's - Illustrated History of the Waterfront.  You can find it all on this blog, with its own button.)
F. Jay Haynes, the Northern Pacific Railroad’s official photographer (with his own car), visited Seattle in 1890. His records include this revealing look at the waterfront from Elliott Bay  a year-or-so after the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The Haynes pan also includes on its horizon the knoll, right-of-center, that interrupted the ridge between Beacon hill, on the right, and First Hill, on the left. Much of the landfill used for reclaiming the tides for the Northern Pacific’s first tracks was cut form this knoll or knob. This preceded the Jackson Street Regrade by several years. (Which is to say, I’ll find the date later. It is described in my – and City Council’s – Illustrated History of the Waterfront from 2005. You can find it all on this blog, with its own button.) – CLICK TO ENLARGE

open lots and mostly doomed residences that run west to east (left to right) through the center of the subject.  Within two years of this recording, a photographer from the Seattle Housing Authority visited the Marine Hospital again and recorded another panorama

The "pretty much" completed Yesler Terrace photographed from the same Marine Hospital prospect.
The “pretty much” completed Yesler Terrace photographed from the same Marine Hospital prospect.

with the same frame, but of the completed Yesler Terrace Public Housing. Nearly 700 housing units with their own front yards, new General Electric ranges, free utilities and low rents averaging about $17 a month replaced the former neighborhood of mostly modest Victorian residences..

A SEATTLE TIMES clip from August 13, 1941
A SEATTLE TIMES clip from August 13, 1941

There are two more panoramas photographed from the Marine Hospital by the Seattle Housing Authority.  One shows the Yesler Terrace project completed (included here directly below), and the other, an early record of its construction (placed here directly below).  Or dear reader come and see much of this on the big screen at Town Hall this coming Friday evening when Jean and I share illustrated stories on FIRST HILL & BEYOND.  Again, this is next Friday evening, October 3.  The Hall will also then “unveil” in its lobby our “now and then” exhibit of this and other First Hill subjects.

Again from the Marine Hospital and Seattle Housing Authority's unnamed photographer's look into the work-in-progress on the Yesler Terrace Housing project.
Again from the Marine Hospital, Seattle Housing Authority’s unnamed photographer’s look into the work-in-progress on the Yesler Terrace Housing project.   The north approach to the 12th Avenue Bridge spanning the Dearborn cut is bottom-right.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?   Yes.  We will start with seventeen links to past features from this blog.  As is our way, some we will have shown earlier in support of some subject or other.   Ordinarily these links, of course, hold links within.  And so on and on.  For the most part they are relevant to the neighborhoods of the north end of Beacon Hill and the south end of First Hill, and the ridge/regrade that shares them.  The first linked feature looks familiar because it repeats, far left, the Rininger Home at the northwest corner of Columbia and Summit, although at the time we submitted this feature to Pacific Northwest Magazine, now thirteen years ago, we knew nothing about its medical motives.  We concentrated then on the Otis Hotel on the right.   The next link is packed with relevance, built about a rare photo of a pioneer home near the future Deaborn Street on the slop leading up to the ridge that included both First and Beacon Hill before much of it was lowered with the combined cuttings of the Jackson Street Regrade and the Dearbort Cut.  The third link uses the Sprague Hotel on Yesler Way to lead into a small survey of buildings in the Yesler Terrace neighborhood that were removed because of it.   Some of them were surely worth saving and/or moving.  Links sixteen and seventeen, the last two,  give Jean and I an opportunity to first wish you a too early Seasons Greetings and second to promote the First Hill lecture we are giving at Town Hall this coming Friday Evening – early.  It is cheap – $5 – and the title is FIRST HILL & BEYOND.  (The title suggests more hills.)

Thanks again and again – seventeen times – to Ron Edge for finding and putting these “associates” up.

THEN: The Sprague Hotel at 706 Yesler Way was one of many large structures –hotels, apartments and duplexes, built on First Hill to accommodate the housing needs of the city’s manic years of grown between its Great Fire in 1889 and the First World War. Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey

THEN: A speeding coupe convertible heads north on Beacon Hill’s 15th Ave. S. in 1937.

THEN: Looking east on University Street towards Ninth Avenue, ca. 1925, with the Normandie Apartments on the left.

Looking southwest from Walker Street to the burning ruins.

THEN: The work of filling the tidelands south of King Street began in 1853 with the chips from Yesler’s sawmill.   Here in the neighborhood of 9th Ave. S. (Airport Way) and Holgate Street, the tideland reclaiming and street regrading continue 70 years later in 1923.  (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)

THEN: Part of the pond that here in 1946 filled much of the long block between Massachusetts and Holgate Streets and 8th Avenue S. and Airport Way. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

======

THE MARINE HOSPITAL

Marine-Hosptial-THEN-web

MARINE-HOSP-TEXT-10-13-94-WEB

The Feature above was pulled from Pacific Magazine for Nov. 13, 1994.  Perhaps the older of you dear readers will share some sympathy with me when I confess that those twenty years went by far too fast.   “It doesn’t seem possible” that I took the “now” for this – printed directly below – so long ago.  I can still smell the pine cones and feel the breeze off the Bay.

This "repeat" was moved from the historical prospect of the "then" in order to see around the trees.
This “repeat” was moved from the historical prospect of the “then” in order to see around the trees.  There have, you know, been many changes here since 1994.

Marine-Hospital-in-shadow-WEB

Marine-Hospital-WEB

                                                                        xxx

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: First Hill and Yesler Terrace”

  1. Back then, did you get off 5 and take Dearborn to 90? I remember the unfinished stack of ramps throughout my childhood, and every time I drive onto 90 I puzzle over what the old run looked like. Thanks so much for your great work.

    Ben

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s