Seattle Now & Then: 1st and Virginia and an invitation!

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In 1910, a circa date for this look north on First Avenue across Virginia Street, the two corners on the east side of the intersection were still undeveloped – except for signs.  The Terminal Sales Building, seen far right in Jean Sherrard’s repeat, did not replace the billboards that crowd the sidewalk in the “then” until 1923.  (Seattle Municipal Archive)
THEN: In 1910, a circa date for this look north on First Avenue across Virginia Street, the two corners on the east side of the intersection were still undeveloped – except for signs. The Terminal Sales Building, seen far right in Jean Sherrard’s repeat, did not replace the billboards that crowd the sidewalk in the “then” until 1923. (Seattle Municipal Archive)
NOW: The early-twentieth century promoters of the Denny Regrade – including this part of it in Belltown – expected that the central business district would soon move north and develop the diminished blocks with high rises.  Only their timing was wrong.  Now, at last, the Denny Regrade is gaining altitudes much higher than those of the lost Denny Hill.
NOW: The early-twentieth century promoters of the Denny Regrade – including this part of it in Belltown – expected that the central business district would soon move north and develop the diminished blocks with high rises. Only their timing was wrong. Now, at last, the Denny Regrade is gaining altitudes much higher than those of the lost Denny Hill.

I think it likely that this candid photo of a lone pedestrian on a bright sidewalk was snapped to show off the new streetlights.  Recorded by a municipal photographer, the view looks north on First Avenue from its southeast corner with Virginia Street.  The city’s first ornamental light standards, of City Light’s own design, were introduced in 1909-10, and on Seattle’s busiest streets featured five-ball clusters like these.  Here the elegance of the new lights is interrupted by the somewhat comedic counterpoint of older and much taller power poles – all in the name of progress.

Above and below: First Ave. looking north from Virginia Street during the BIG SNOW of 1916 and recently.
Above and below: First Ave. looking north from Virginia Street during the BIG SNOW of 1916 and recently.   On the right, note the HOTEL PRESTON, a later name for the RIDPATH seen in the featured photo on top.

x  2. 1916-snow-Virginia-St.-NOW-WEB

Detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map.  The Hotel Ridpath appears near the center with the Troy Hotel acroos First Ave. from it.   The Livingston Hotel at the southwest corner of Virginia and First  has been home for the Virginia Inn Tavern now for many years.  We include directly below an interior from the bar photographed in 2006 with Jean Sherrard and Berangere Lomont, both of this blog.  BB was visiting from Paris.
Detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map. The Hotel Ridpath appears near the center with the Troy Hotel across First Ave. from it. The Livingston Hotel at the southwest corner of Virginia and First has been home for the Virginia Inn Tavern now for many years. We include directly below an interior from that bar photographed in 2006 with Jean Sherrard and Berangere Lomont, both of this blog. BB was visiting from Paris.
Jean and Berangere at the Virginia Inn on Oct. 12, 2006.  It was BB's first visit to Seattle after our time with her in Paris a  year earlier.  Oh what joy!
Jean and Berangere at the Virginia Inn on Oct. 12, 2006. It was BB’s first visit to Seattle after our time with her in Paris a year earlier. Oh what joy!

This neighborhood was sometimes named North Seattle on early maps, but more popularly it was also called Belltown, for the family that first claimed and developed it.  Like many of the first settlers, William and Sarah Ann Bell kept two homes, one in the platted village that was growing to the sides of Pioneer Square and Henry Yesler’s sawmill, and the other on their claim, in order to “prove” it.  (Virginia Street was named for their long-lived third daughter, Mary Virginia,1847-1931).

Four pages merged from Seattle Now and Then Vol. 3.  Click to enlarge, and perhaps read.  The panorama looks north from the back porch of the Bell Hotel at the southeast corner of First and Battery.  The still somewhat forrested Queen Anne Hill marks the horizon at the center.  First Ave. (Front Street) extends north on the left, and Battery Street runs east, on the right.  There also Denny School stands out at the northeast corner of 5th Avenue and Battery.  The photo was taken by Morford, courtesy Kurt Jackson.
Four pages merged from Seattle Now and Then Vol. 3. Click to enlarge, and perhaps read. The panorama looks north from the back porch of the Bell Hotel at the southeast corner of First and Battery. The still somewhat forrested Queen Anne Hill marks the horizon at the center. First Ave. (Front Street) extends north on the left, and Battery Street runs east, on the right. There also Denny School stands out at the northeast corner of 5th Avenue and Battery. The photo was taken by Morford, courtesy Kurt Jackson.  (Click this you will probably be able to read it – if you wish.)

Seattle’s first major public work was the 1876 regrading of Front Street (First Avenue) between Pioneer Square and Pike Street. Soon after it continued with an improved path over the western side of Denny Hill, meant to help the Bells develop their claim.  In 1884, First Avenue was lowered and improved north of Pike Street with a cut that allowed the community’s then new horse-drawn street railway to continue north to Belltown and beyond, as far as the lower Queen Anne Neighborhood. Then in 1898-99, this cut was deepened to the grade we see here, leaving a cliff along the east side of First Avenue.

The temporary bluff along the east side of First Avenue, ca. 1902.  The view looks north from near Virginia Street.
The temporary bluff along the east side of First Avenue, ca. 1902. The view looks north from near Virginia Street.
The cliff along the east side of Second Avenue, looking south from near Bell Street.  The Moore Theatre and beyond it the New Washington Hotel are evident beyond Virginia Street.
The cliff along the east side of Second Avenue, looking south from near Bell Street. The Moore Theatre and beyond it the New Washington Hotel are evident beyond Virginia Street.

In 1903 the earnest (and long) razing of Denny Hill began by moving that cliff to the east side of Second Avenue.  By 1911 the regrading reached the east side of Fifth Avenue with another cliff, and there it rested for seventeen years.

The steel frame for the New Washington Hotel appears on the far left.  The view looks west on Virginia Street with the photographer Louis Whittelsey's back near Fourth Avenue.  The structure, upper-right, is at the northwest corner of Third Ave. and Virginia Street.  Small although still easily seen at the scene's center if the old Central School that was moved to this site in the early 1880s from its original location near the northeast corner of Third Ave. and Madison Street.  (see below)
The steel frame for the New Washington Hotel appears on the far left. The view looks west on Virginia Street with the photographer Louis Whittelsey’s back near Fourth Avenue. The structure, upper-right, is at the northwest corner of Third Ave. and Virginia Street. Small although still easily seen near the scene’s center, is the old Central School that was moved to this site in the early 1880s from its original location near the northeast corner of Third Ave. and Madison Street. (see next photo below)   It sits here near the northeast corner of First and Virginia and so behind the billboards that crowd the same corner at the far right of the featured photo on top.  The structures that seem to extend from the school to the New Washington’s frame, are actually on the west side of First Avenue between Virginia and Stewart Streets.   The Alaskan  Building breaks the horizon, right-of-center, at the northwest corner of Second and Virginia. You can find it in the 1912 Baist detail printed above, and it is also seen in the second photo below this one, which photo dates from 1908.   This scene dates from ca. 1907.
In this look south on Fourth Avenue from the Terretorial University Building at Seneca, Central School appears right-of-center near the northeast corner of Madison and 3rd Avenue.
In this look south on Fourth Avenue from the Territorial University Building at Seneca, Central School appears right-of-center near the northeast corner of Madison and 3rd Avenue.
Date 1908, bottom-right corner, this view looks north from near Stewart Street at the crowds probably gathered to witness the parade celebrating the 1908 visit of the "Great White Fleet" to Puget Sound.
Dated 1908 at the bottom-right corner, this view looks north from near Stewart Street through the crowds both standing on Second Avenue and sitting in the bleachers on the left.  The have probably gathered to witness the parade celebrating the 1908 visit of the “Great White Fleet” to Puget Sound.
The Puget Sound News Company building "filled the bleachers"
The Puget Sound News Company building, at the southwest corner of Virginian and Second, “filled the bleachers” sevens years after the 1908 crowd scene above this clipping.

While construction of the brick Hotel Ridpath, center-right in the featured subject at the top, waited for the cliff to be pushed east to Second Avenue, the ornate clapboard Troy Hotel across the street, far left, was built soon after the 1898-99 regrade.  The Troy survived into at least the late 1940s.  The Ridpath, long since renamed the Preston, I remember almost like yesterday.

The Ridpath/Preston seen from Western Avenue about a quarter-century ago.
The Ridpath/Preston seen from Western Avenue about a quarter-century ago.

In the featured photograph from about 1910, First Avenue’s Belltown blocks were mostly given to hotels and shops and a few vacant lots. Some of the latter were fitted with elaborate billboards, like the one on the right, which is stacked with exotic murals promoting popular habits, like vaudeville, cigarettes and chewing gum.

An advertisement posted in the May 5, 1916 Times for the Puget Sound Marble and Granite Company, which by then had filled the northeast corner of Virginia and First with its stones.
(Above) An advertisement posted in the May 5, 1916 Times for the Puget Sound Marble and Granite Company, which by then had filled the northeast corner of Virginia and First with its stones.
Since 1923 Seattle architect Henry W. Bittman's Terminal Sales Building has held the southeast corner of First Avenue and Virginia Street.
Since 1923 Seattle architect Henry W. Bittman’s Terminal Sales Building has held the southeast corner of First Avenue and Virginia Street.

WEB EXTRAS (featuring story and song!)

Paul-and-Jean-in-grotto

Paul, I know you and Ron have much to add. Please do so, but let me interject a touch of Public Relations for our annual Town Hall program ‘A Rogue’s Christmas‘.

Terrifying Santa at Seattle bus stop. Paul Dorpat, 1976
Terrifying Santa at Seattle bus stop. Paul Dorpat, 1976

As you well know, this Sunday at 2 PM, you and I, Marianne Owen and Randy Hoffmeyer, will be reading stories and poems from E.B. White, Nabokov, Ken Kesey, and much more, including original music by Pineola, for this event – the eighth we’ve presented in collaboration with ACT Theatre.  Join us for an antidotal and deliciously subversive holiday treat!

I’ll be there Jean.  Remember you are picking me up.   Here, repeating our by now weekly path, are a few relevant past features pulled and placed by Ron Edge.   Ron might also come to the Rogue’s show.  He took his then 96-year old mother last year.

THEN:  Louis Rowe’s row of storefronts at the southwest corner of First Ave. (then still named Front Street) and Bell Street appear in both the 1884 Sanborn real estate map and the city’s 1884 birdseye sketch.  Most likely this view dates from 1888-89.  (Courtesy: Ron Edge)

 Montana-Horse-Meat-MR-THEN

belltown-moran-then

2nd-and-Blanchard-THEN

THEN: Looking south from Pine Street down the wide Second Avenue  in 1911, then Seattle’s growing retail strip and parade promenade.  (courtesy of Jim Westall)

THEN: In 1913, or near to it, an unnamed photographer recorded this view southeast across the Lower Queen Anne corner of Denny Way and First Avenue North. Out of frame to the left, the northeast corner of this intersection was home then for the Burdett greenhouse and gardens. By its own claim, it offered plants of all sorts, “the largest and most complete stock to choose from in the state.”   Courtesy, the Museum of North Idaho.

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4 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: 1st and Virginia and an invitation!”

  1. Ah, First and Virginia. I know it well. In fact, I would not exist without it. The Terminal Sales Building is where my dad came (from Kentucky by way of Los Angeles) to work as a Northwest manufacturer’s representative for clothing lines in 1947. His office was on the 10th floor. Not long thereafter, he met the woman who became my mom because she worked in a dishware shop on the first floor. The two married in 1950, and a year later I was born.

    As a child, I accompanied my dad on weekends to the Terminal Sales Building when he worked on the sixth floor, then to a larger one on the fourth floor. I had the run of the building (racing him downstairs, he riding the elevator and I running the stairs) and of downtown (favorite spots included the Security Market, the basement bookstore next to the Town movie theater and the Trick & Puzzle shop on First Avenue).

    I still think the Terminal Sales Building is the most beautiful structure in Seattle. One other direct connection: My mom’s first name is, you guessed it, Virginia!

    Clay Eals
    ceals@comcast.net

  2. P.S. Would love to attend your event tomorrow but have a Southwest Seattle Historical Society board event of my own at the same time. Good reading to you both!

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