Seattle Now & Then: St. Vinnie’s in Belltown

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: St. Vincent de Paul’s first storefront opened in 1926 in Belltown’s grand clapboard hostelry at the corner of First and Battery.  Originally the Bellevue Hotel, it’s reduced here to the “house keeping and transient rooms” of the Bay State Hotel.  (MOHAI)
THEN: St. Vincent de Paul’s first storefront opened in 1926 in Belltown’s grand clapboard hostelry at the corner of First and Battery. Originally the Bellevue Hotel, it’s reduced here to the “house keeping and transient rooms” of the Bay State Hotel. (MOHAI)
NOW: One of the four St. Vinnie’s red trucks now running picks up some donations from the proprietors of the Sarajevo Lounge, a trendy Belltown Balkan dining establishment at the corner once home to St. Vincent de Paul’s first storefront thrift store.
NOW: One of the four St. Vinnie’s red trucks now running picks up some donations from the proprietors of the Sarajevo Lounge, a trendy Belltown Balkan dining establishment at the corner once home to St. Vincent de Paul’s first storefront thrift store.

Here stands, and it seems also poses, the St. Vincent de Paul’s truck in front of its thrift store at the southeast corner of First Avenue and Battery Street.  With help from MOHAI librarian Carolyn Marr, we know the date of this Webster and Stevens studio photo is1926.  And from Jim McFarland, director of communications for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle/King County, we learn that on the first of April of that year the Society opened its Salvage Bureau in Belltown.  This first storefront was in the grand hotel that Seattle pioneer William Bell built in 1883.  Aside from its busy months following the city’s Great Fire of 1889, the Bellevue Hotel, with its distinguishing central tower, never flourished, nor did the Belltown neighborhood.

The Bell Hotel at the southeast corner of First Ave. (formerly Front St.) and Battery Street in the late 1890s.  The Asa Bell Building stands beside it.
The Bell Hotel at the southeast corner of First Ave. (formerly Front St.) and Battery Street in the late 1890s. The Asa Bell Building stands beside it.
A panorama of three photos taken by Charles Morford in 1887-88.  Someday we will narrow it down.  The photos were taken from the rear of the  Bell (or Bellview) hotel.  If you click the pan you should be able to read the text.  That's Queen Anne Hill on  most of horizo, and Battery Street leading east on the right with the Denny School (1884) at the northeast corner of 5th and Battery.
A panorama of three photos taken by Charles Morford in 1887-88. Someday we will narrow it down. The photos were taken from the rear of the Bell (or Bellview) hotel. If you click the pan you should be able to read the text. That’s Queen Anne Hill on most of horizon, and Battery Street leading east on the right with the Denny School (1884) at the northeast corner of 5th and Battery.

We may prefer to imagine that this delivery van is painted red, the color now long-associated with St. Vinnie’s rolling stock.  The truck is packed with items we might still expect to find in a St. Vinnie’s thrift store: a bird cage or two, some furniture, and, probably for the presentation of this portrait, a man’s coat and vest hanging unbuttoned above the rear wheel.  Through the windows of the Salvage Bureau we can find more of the things commonly available from this not-for-profit economy, noted for its low prices, useful employment, and array of charitable services.  The china, utensils, books (on the table) and framed art (on the wall) are the first examples of what by now for eighty-eight years have been effectively transformed into the Society’s social services, often carried to families in need by the Society’s more than 1000 volunteers here in King County.

A clip - P-I, Sun or Times, I'm not sure - from April 12, 1937.
A clip – P-I, Sun or Times, I’m not sure – from April 12, 1937.

In 1931, from its location in Bell’s hotel, by then renamed the Bay State (razed in 1937), St. Vincent conducted a clearance sale here while preparing to move its Salvage Bureau, first to a warehouse at Valley Street and Taylor Avenue, then on to a home many of us still fondly remember: St. Vinnie’s sprawling market of thrift at the southeast corner of Lake Union.  (The very last of the Edge Links, attache below, is of a Times now-and-feature about the Lake Union St. Vinnies.)

Here I will make something like a full disclosure by noting a ‘family resemblance’ that Jean Sherrard and I share.  Both Jean’s father Don and my oldest brother Ted and sister-in-law Klarese shopped for household goods at St. Vinnie’s while attending the UW Medical School and interning at Harborview Hospital.  Both families made their first homes, conveniently and inexpensively, at the nearby Yesler Terrace. That was in the early 60s for Don and the 1950s for Ted.  St. Vincent de Paul now runs thrift stores in Kent, Burien and Kenmore and in Seattle at 575 Rainier Avenue North and at 13555 Aurora Avenue North. You can either carry your donations to any one of the Society’s stores or call 206 767 3835 for a visit from the bright red truck.

WEB EXTRAS

I’ll include a snapshot from our First Avenue session with the Red Truck:

Right to left: Jim McFarland, Sarajevo manager, and Ben
Right to left: Jim McFarland with the manager of the Sarajevo and Ben the driver

Anything to add, boys?  Yup.  With four hands Ron and I have pulled up ten links that are filled with Belltown Neighborhood links, the last one generously considered, as noted, on the south shore of Lake Union.   Ten links yes, but only on the face of it.  If they are explored, they include among them more than 55 features including a few Belltown waterfront essays pulled from our illustrated history of the Seattle Waterfront, which can be explored in-toto through our books botton – somewhere on this page.   After the links – if time allows – we’ll put a up a few more relevant brevities.  We begin it all again with a snapshot found while searching for this and that.  Just below is the famous “Dude” and I at the Belltown Cafe across First Avenue from the hotel in 1979 or perhaps 1980.   Note the wonderful rendering of an business-sized stove above Jeff’s head.   And my one-of-a-kind down vest designed and sewn by Kathy Hope.  The Belltown Cafe is remember with great fondness by many.

A Booth in the Belltown Cafe, ca. 1979 (or 80) across First Avenue from the site of the old Bell Hotel (razed in 1937) in Belltown, of course.  Jeff Down on the left and Paul Dorpat, otherwise.
A Booth in the Belltown Cafe, ca. 1979 (or 80) across First Avenue from the site of the old Bell Hotel (razed in 1937) in Belltown, of course. the celebrated ‘The Dude”Jeff Down on the left and to the side, or otherwise Paul Dorpat.

belltown-moran-then

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:  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)

THEN: A circa 1912 look at the Wall Street finger pier from the foot, not of Wall, but Battery Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: A float for the 1911 Potlatch parade carries piggyback a smaller 1897 version of a Polk City Directory on a much bigger 1911 copy.  The fourteen years between them is meant to symbolize the growth of the city since the Alaskan/Yukon gold rush of 1897 that the Golden Potlatch of 1911 was created to commemorate.  (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

https://sherrlock.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/bell-st-bridge-then-web1.jpg?w=1079&h=647

THEN: Werner Lenggenhager's recording of the old St. Vinnie's on Lake Union's southwest shore in the 1950s should remind a few readers of the joys that once were theirs while searching and picking in that exceedingly irregular place.

The turned investigator investigated, another side of Stephen Lundgren.
The turned investigator investigated, another side of Stephen Lundgren.

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BELLTOWN CA. 1887 – LOOKING NORTH From SECOND & BLANCHARD

BELLTOWN with the Bell home and the hotel too with its mansard roof and tower at the northeast corner of Front (First) and Battery, ca. 1887.
BELLTOWN with the Bell home and the hotel too with its mansard roof and tower at the northeast corner of Front (First) and Battery, ca. 1887.  CLICK THE ABOVE AND THE BELOW

asa BELLTOWN-PAN-ca-1887-text-WEB-

WATKINS look into Belltown from Denny Hill.  Compare this 1882 view with the one above it.  CLICK to ENLARGE
WATKINS look into Belltown from Denny Hill. Compare this 1882 view with the one above it. CLICK to ENLARGE

Below: FURTHER UP THE HILL and LATER: APRIL 13, 1912  (Courtesy MOHAI)   CLICK to ENLARGE

x. MOHAI-04-13-12-Pan-of-Belltown-from-Denny-Hill-WEB

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The BELLTOWN P-PATCH and its COTTAGES

cottages, Seattle,-Vine-Street-bungalows-Belltown-WEB

First published in Pacific Northwest, Nov. 30, 1997.
First published in Pacific Northwest, Nov. 30, 1997.

cottages Seattle-Vine-Street-Bungalows,-back,WEB-Belltown

cottages - dorpat-Belltown-P-Patch10_27_97-WEB

cottages---Belltown-Cottages-WEB-

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: St. Vinnie’s in Belltown”

  1. Concerning the photo of the old St. Vinnie’s truck. I believe the driver is Jimmy Duggan, one of the founders of St. Vinnies; in Seattle. When I was a child he was my neighbor and friend even though he was very old at the time. The driver of the truck bares a striking resemblance to him.

  2. Talk about nostalgia! my maternal family lived in Gascony, south of Bordeaux.
    St Vincent was a Gascon, and so was Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d’Artagnan, who served Louis XIV as captain of the Musketeers of the Guard.
    They most likely knew one another as their lives overlap (Vincent: 1581-1660 Charles: 1611-1673) and both saw regularly the parents of Louis XIV and Louis XIV.
    Below: Vincent birthplace

    Below: the body of Vincent rest in Parisian chapel. It is a wax repliqua, obviously, but it contains his skeleton.

    Gascon is the historical native language of the Southwest of France and even today the local French is strongly influenced by Gascon, as French wasn’t spoken there until the end of the 19th century (many regions of France have their own version of French as they became part of France quite late)

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