(click to enlarge photos)
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.
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.
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.
I’ll include a snapshot from our First Avenue session with the Red Truck:
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.
BELLTOWN CA. 1887 – LOOKING NORTH From SECOND & BLANCHARD
Below: FURTHER UP THE HILL and LATER: APRIL 13, 1912 (Courtesy MOHAI) CLICK to ENLARGE
The BELLTOWN P-PATCH and its COTTAGES
3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: St. Vinnie’s in Belltown”
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.
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)
I notice that Werner Lenggenhager’s 1953 photo of “the old St. Vinnie’s on Lake Union” has been edited. It looks like some graffiti has been removed from the wall at the upper-left, above the FIRE HOSE sign. Only this part of the photo is smeary looking, while the rest is grainy.