(click to enlarge photos)
Englishman Charles Louch first crossed the Seattle waterfront, it seems, in 1885, and for many reasons, including the “bag of money” he reportedly carried, prospered and stayed for eighteen years. He returned to England in 1903 with enough American assets to purchase an estate near Southhampton, which he shared with his two single sisters.
Louch first opened a stand for “fancy fruits” on the east side of Front Street (First Avenue) but soon expanded his fare to the “cigars, tobacco, groceries and provisions” that are indicated on the sign above his front door located on the third lot north of Union Street. It is these “groceries and provisions” that are first noted in the 1885-86 Polk City Directory, where Louch is listed as one of twenty-two Seattle grocers.
In the Polk’s citizen section, Louch is recorded as living at the same address, almost surely in the back of the store. Based on the evidence provided by the 1888 Sanborn real estate map, Louch later installed both a “Sausage Room” and a “Smoke House” in his former living quarters. Louch’s ‘1888 Brand’ smoked hams were a long-time favorite and not just locally. During the Alaska Gold Rush, beginning in the late 1890s, many of the hams were shipped north.
In 1888 Louch began promoting his hams by distributing to his customers a mounted photograph of his store, as seen from an upper window of a nearby building at Front and Pike. This second photo featured a panorama of Seattle rising above a roof top sign reading “Chas Louch” and running at a right angle to Front Street. Set on the crest of the roof, the corner of that sign is barely seen here above the “cigars and tobacco” sign that faces the street.
The city’s great fire of 1889 was also good to Louch and his hams and sausages. As the fire moved north up the waterfront and Front Street it was stopped less than two blocks south of Louch’s grocery. About one-half of the 36 groceries listed in the year’s city directory we consumed. Also in 1889 Louch moved into a mansion-sized Beacon Hill home he had built on Othello Avenue overlooking Rainier Valley.
After partnering in 1889 with M.B. Augustine, a traveling food salesman from Nevada, the ambitious pair moved into the much grander post-fire quarters of the Colman Building, (still at First Avenue and Columbia Street.) There they became famous for their “upscale” specialty foods and the dozen wagons needed to make free deliveries throughout the city. After Louch returned to England, Augustine took on a new partner and the company was renamed Augustine and Kyer. It grew to five locations, with the last one, in the University District, holding on through the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Anything to add, boys? Yes Jean, more of the neighborhood and also a look up Front Street from Pioneer Square, which is the second Edge-Link that Ron has put in place immediately below. After Ron’s links we’ll pull a few clips from past “now and then” features. They are also from the neighborhood. Well Jean, you know this well, for this week it was you who did the scanning of the clips having nearly completed your inventory of all 1700-plus features on the way to publishing later this year another collection – which might even be permitted the cheesy title “100 Best.”
EIGHT PAGES from the AUGUSTINE & KYER BULLETIN, from 1912. click to enlarge
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Louch Grocery on First Avenue”
Thanks for continuing to provide details about Charles Louch!
Here’s what I wrote after we exchanged email while back. Also links to my article about Augustine & Kyer, and A&K on Capitol Hill that your readers will hopefully enjoy.