Seattle Now & Then: The Louch Grocery on First Avenue

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Charles Louch’s grocery on First Avenue, north of Union Street, opened in the mid-1880s and soon prospered.  It is possible – perhaps probable – that one of the six characters posing here is Louch – more likely one of the two suited ones on the right than the aproned workers on the left.  (Courtesy RON EDGE)
THEN: Charles Louch’s grocery on First Avenue, north of Union Street, opened in the mid-1880s and soon prospered. It is possible – perhaps probable – that one of the six characters posing here is Louch – more likely one of the two suited ones on the right than the aproned workers on the left. (Courtesy RON EDGE)
NOW: The sidewalk sites of Charles Louch’s storefronts are now held by tenants of the Harold Poll building, which was built in 1910 as the Hancock Building.
NOW: The sidewalk sites of Charles Louch’s storefronts are now held by tenants of the Harold Poll building, which was built in 1910 as the Hancock Building.

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. 

A look directly across Front Street (First Ave.) and the Front Street tracks.  (Courtesy, MOHAI)
A look directly across Front Street (First Ave.) and the Front Street tracks. (Courtesy, MOHAI)
The Louch offerings seen from the front door.  (Courtesy MOHAI)
The Louch offerings seen from the front door. (Courtesy MOHAI)

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. 

A rare look at the waterfront ca. 1897 with the Hotel York escaping the horizon on the right, at the northwest corner of Pike and Front/First Ave.   The Augustine
A rare look at the waterfront ca. 1897 with the Hotel York escaping the horizon on the right, at the northwest corner of Pike and Front/First Ave. The Louch Augustine & Company waterfront warehouse is on the left.   Pike Street climbs the hill as an irregular path.   (Courtesy Ron Edge) CLICK TO ENLARGE

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 store's larger rooftop sign and much of the First Hill horizon from a prospect south of Pike and overlooking Front Street in 1888-9.
The store’s larger rooftop sign and much of the First Hill horizon from a prospect south of Pike and overlooking Front Street in 1888-9.  Rolland Denny’s home is at the northeast corner of Front and Union, lower-right.   This first appeared in Pacific on Oct. 4, 1987 and was later included in one of the three “Seattle Now and Then” books, all of them collections of the features.
The Louch credit can be carefully read in the sign above the ham-burdened wagon.  The original print was poorly fixed.  (Courtesy, MOHAI)
The Louch credit can be carefully read in the sign above the ham-burdened wagon.  The Louch wagon is either in a local parade or making a very big delivery of 1888 hams.  Someday some bright young scholar will figure out what corner this is.  The original print was poorly fixed. (Courtesy, MOHAI)

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. 

The Colman building at the southwest corner of Marion and Columbia with the Augustine and Kyer storefront near the middle  of the block and the store's delivery buggies posing in front.  (Courtesy, MOHAI)
The Colman building at the southwest corner of Marion and Columbia with the Augustine and Kyer storefront near the middle of the block and the store’s delivery buggies posing in front. (Courtesy, MOHAI)
The Colman Bldg first appear in Pacific on March 1, 1987.
The Colman Bldg first appear in Pacific on March 1, 1987.  CLICK TO ENLARGE & READ

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.    

Christmas inside Augustine & Kyer.  (Courtesy MOHAI)
Christmas inside Augustine & Kyer. (Courtesy MOHAI)
Care for a cookie from Augustine and Kyle's formidable display topped by a happy boy and a happy girl.  (Courtesy MOHAI)
Care for a cookie from Augustine and Kyle’s formidable display topped by a happy boy and a happy girl? (Courtesy MOHAI)

WEB EXTRAS

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.”

THEN: The driver, lower left, leads his team towards First Avenue up a planked incline on Madison Street.  (Courtesy MOHAI)

Then: Looking north from Pioneer Place (square) into the uptown of what was easily the largest town in Washington Territory. This is judged by the 3218 votes cast in the November election of 1884, about one fourth of them by the newly but temporarily enfranchised women.Tacoma, in spite of being then into its second year as the terminus for the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad, cast 1663 votes, which took third place behind Walla Walla's 1950 registered votes.

THEN: During the few years of the Klondike Gold Rush, the streets of Seattle’s business district were crowded with outfitters selling well-packed foods and gear to thousands of traveling men heading north to strike it rich – they imagined.  (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: The ruins left by Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, included a large neighborhood of warehouses and factories built on timber quays over the tides.  Following the fire the quays were soon restored with new capping and planking.  A close look on the far-right will reveal some of this construction on the quays underway.  (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)

THEN: In this April morning record of the 1975 “Rain or Shine Public Market Paint-in,” above the artists, restoration work has begun with the gutting of the Corner Market Building.  (Photo by Frank Shaw)

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The home next door to the south, the Rolland Denny home at the northeast corner of First and Union.  First appeared in Pacific December 30, 2001.
The home next door to the south, the Rolland Denny home at the northeast corner of First and Union. First appeared in Pacific December 30, 2001.

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Across Union Street from Rolland, his parents, Arthur and Mary Denny's home at the southeast corner of Front (First) and Union.
Across Union Street from Rolland, his parents, Arthur and Mary Denny’s home at the southeast corner of Front (First) and Union.

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Looking north on First across Union Street,
Looking north on First across Union Street,  The Rolland Denny home is behind the stylish couple and the Louch storefront up the way.  First appeared in Pacific, April 18, 1993.

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Z-YMCA-1st-ave-WEB

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 First appeared in Pacific, March 13, 2005.
Princess Angeline resting and/or posing on the boardwalk west of Front and Pike.  First appeared in Pacific, March 13, 2005.

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EIGHT PAGES from the AUGUSTINE & KYER BULLETIN, from 1912.  click to enlarge

A&k-bulliten-jan-1912-web

A-&-K-JUNE-BULLITEN-WEB

A-&-K-AUGUST-BULLITEN-1912-WEB

A&K-BULLITEN-Autumn-1912-WEB

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Louch Grocery on First Avenue”

  1. 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.

    http://ba-kground.com/charles-louch-farm-tradewell-grocery-story-part-2/

    http://ba-kground.com/augustine-kyer-tradewell-grocery-part-1/

    http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2015/01/chs-retake-capitol-hill-fancy-groceries-since-1912/

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