Seattle Now & Then: Roll on, Columbia Street

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In this 1887 look up Columbia Street from the waterfront is the bell tower of the fire station, tucked into the hill on the right. It would soon fail to halt the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The station and everything between it and Elliott Bay were reduced to ashes, smoldering bricks and offshore pilings shortened like cigars. (courtesy, Kurt Jackson)
THEN: In this 1887 look up Columbia Street from the waterfront is the bell tower of the fire station, tucked into the hill on the right. It would soon fail to halt the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The station and everything between it and Elliott Bay were reduced to ashes, smoldering bricks and offshore pilings shortened like cigars. (courtesy, Kurt Jackson)
NOW: After the Great Fire, the waterfront was extended farther into Elliott Bay, first above pilings and eventually on fill packed behind a seawall.
NOW: After the Great Fire, the waterfront was extended farther into Elliott Bay, first above pilings and eventually on fill packed behind a seawall.

Charles Morford, who migrated with his parents from Iowa in the spring of 1887, was 20 years old when he recorded this unique Seattle cityscape a few months later. Morford’s subject looks east up Columbia Street from the Seattle waterfront as far as the Coppin water works at Ninth Avenue. The four-story tower’s open First Hill observatory stood 300 feet above Morford’s prospect. The well below it supplied most of the neighborhood, and its bored-log pipes reached down the hill at least as far as James Colman’s mansion. Its Italianate tower also breaks the horizon, here at the southeast corner of Columbia and Fourth Avenue.

We may be confident that the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway baggage/express car, at the bottom, is new. By historian Thomas Prosch’s reckoning in his “Chronological History of Seattle” (1901), the car was delivered in September 1887. This timing is in fine coincidence with the construction scaffolding attached to the Toklas and Singerman Department Store, on the right. The rough lumber is soon to come down. The store was completed on Sept. 28, although the formal opening waited until Nov. 9.

A few days after the opening of the department store, which was then the highest building in Seattle, the railway was also celebrating. On Thanksgiving Day it gave 108 locals a free round-trip ride to its then new end-of-the-line in Bothell.

Included among Morford’s surviving glass-plate negatives are several more of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern. At what point Morford also became an employee of this railway is unclear. But in the fall of 1887 he would not yet have known that most of his gainful employment here would be with the retail business behind the scaffolding. Morford became a clerk, first, with MacDougal Southwick, the partnership that bought out Toklas and Singerman in 1892. Morford soon became the store’s general manager and one of its stockholders.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?  The solo feature that Ron Edge pulled and placed directly below includes several subjects that relate to this week’s feature.   The “lead” feature, printed here below, shows the Toklas and Singerman department store completed, and so without the scaffolding that hides its north facade in the prime feature at the top.  The reader may wish to search the several other features that can be found by clicking on the link.   Please give special attention to one about the 1884 snow as seen looking east up the waterfront from close to the same prospect that Morford used for his shot at the top.   Much has changed in these three short years that felt both the lingering effects of the 1883 recession and the general excitement of the completion of the Norther Pacific to the northwest, also  in 1883.   Seattle’s boom years were at the front door, which is to say, both on the waterfront and heading this way from Chicago, Portland and, resentfully from Tacoma too, across the tideflats south of King Street on rails.

======

FOLLOWS NOW (soon) A FEW MORE PHOTOS OF THE WATERFRONT AT or NEAR COLUMBIA STREET

A Peterson and Bros. photograph taken from the end of a dog-legged Yesler Wharf and looking up Columbia Street on the right in 1878.  Note the tower for the "White Church" on the right, the Methodist Episcopalian congregation that was the first in Seattle.  It sits there at the second lot south of Columbia on the east side of Second Avenue.  Also note that for the most part First Hill has been denuded of the virgin forest that still covered this skyline as late as 1872.
A Peterson and Bros. photograph taken from the end of a dog-legged Yesler Wharf and looking up Columbia Street on the right in 1878. Note the tower for the “White Church” on the right, the Methodist Episcopalian congregation that was the first in Seattle. It sits there at the second lot south of Columbia on the east side of Second Avenue. Also note that for the most part First Hill has been denuded of the virgin forest that still covered this horizon as late as 1872.
Seattle's first church the "White Church" and the Methodist Episcopalian parish home to this side of it on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Columbia in the 1870s.
Seattle’s first church, the “White Church,” and the Methodist Episcopalian parsonage to this side of it on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Columbia in the 1870s.
The waterfront ca. 1884 with an early Colman Dock on the left, Columbia Street on the right, and a short feature essay below the contemporary repeat photographed officially - only - in the anxious glow of 911 by Shawn Devine, and employee of the Washington State Ferries.
The waterfront ca. 1885 with an early Colman Dock on the left, Columbia Street on the right, and a short feature essay below (after I search and find it tomorrow), and the contemporary repeat photographed officially – only – in the anxious glow of 9/11 by Shawn Devine, an employee of the Washington State Ferries.

x-Colman-Dock-ca87-NOW-BW-mr

COLMAN DOCK AND THE WATERFRONT ca. 1886 (text to come)

Seattle's Great Fire of June 6, 1889 reaches the foot of Columbia and the depot for the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, and will soon consume it and everything south of it to the tideflats.
Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889 reaches the foot of Columbia and the depot for the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, and will soon consume it and everything south of it to the tideflats.

McManus-1889-fire,-prob-Columbia-st-WEB

Columbia Street looking west from the waterfront in the first year following the 1889 fire.  The new Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern depot is on the right, and the rear facade of the new Toklas and Singerman Department Sore rise five stories behind it. Photo taken by the Nothern Pacific Railroad's official photographer, F. J. Haynes. (Courtesy, Tacoma Public Library and Murray Morgan)
Columbia Street looking west from the waterfront in the first year following the 1889 fire. The new Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern depot is on the right, and the rear facade of the new Toklas and Singerman Department Sore rises five stories behind it. Photo taken by the Northern Pacific Railroad’s official photographer, F. J. Haynes. (Courtesy, Tacoma Public Library and Murray Morgan)
Horace Sykes' (or possibly Robert Bradley's) look east up Columbia Street from the top of the new - and as yet not used for traffic - Alaskan Way Viaduct aka Freeway.
Horace Sykes’ (or possibly Robert Bradley’s) look east up Columbia Street from the top of the new – and as yet not used for traffic – Alaskan Way Viaduct aka Freeway in 1953.

 

 

Leave a Reply