Seattle Now & Then: The Silvian Apartments

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: An early portrait, circa 1911, of The Silvian Apartments, one of Capitol Hill’s abiding architectural jewels.  (Courtesy, Bill Burden)
THEN: An early portrait, circa 1911, of The Silvian Apartments, one of Capitol Hill’s abiding architectural jewels. (Courtesy, Bill Burden)
NOW: Now the beautiful brick apartment house, at the northwest corner of Harrison Street and 10th Avenue East, is home for low-income tenants with thirty-two affordable units.
NOW: Now the beautiful brick apartment house, at the northwest corner of Harrison Street and 10th Avenue East, is home for low-income tenants with thirty-two affordable units.
Evidence for my good intention to do a repeat for the Silvian as early as the 1980s.
Evidence for my good intention to do a now-and-then  for the Silvian as early as the 1980s.

Built in 1910, the Silvian has survived with its charms intact – most of them.  Sometime between ‘now and then,’ the graceful four-story apartment house lost its four projecting bays facing Harrison Street and the playful symmetry of its queenly cornice. The ‘then’ was most likely photographed in its first year when the apartment’s agent, John Davis & Co., listed it in this newspaper as “this new and strictly modern apartment building; every known convenience, rooms well arranged; select neighborhood; good car service; convenient to markets and stores.”  The “car” meant here is the trolley on Broadway, a half-block from the front door.  And the Silvian was also promoted as “within walking distance.” 

A TIMES classified for the nearly new Silvian from May 12, 1912.
A TIMES classified for the nearly new Silvian from May 12, 1912.
A detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map including here the red footprint for the brick Silvian Apartments.
A detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map including here the red footprint for the brick Silvian Apartments (near the center).  Note the Pilgrim Congregational Church on E. Republican, which can also be seen, in part, on the right of the featured “then” photo at the top.

The Times soon included a sizeable photograph of the Silvian as the newspaper’s forty-first example out of fifty selections of “Seattle’s Progress.” The text for this April 2, 1911, applause included a direct summary of the Silvian’s vital statistics.  “Recently completed on 10th Avenue and Harrison Street at a cost of $40,000, it occupies a ground space 56 x 96 feet in size, the lot being 60 by 100 feet . . . with a basement and twenty-eight apartments of two, three, four and five rooms.” 

A Times real estate promotion from April 2, 1911 featuring the Silvian as it 41st example
A Times real estate promotion from April 2, 1911 featuring the Silvian as it 41st example of 50 views revealing ” Seattle’s Progress.”    CLICK TO ENLARGE

Jacqueline Williams, author of “The Hill With A Future,” our best history of Capitol Hill, describes the Silvian as a “Very desirable place for people to live, with amenities that some smaller homes might lack.” As a testimony to its desirable qualities, G.W. Wallace, the building’s owner, lived there when it opened.  The Silvian also had a janitor (who perhaps also ran the building’s all night elevator service), public phones (probably in the lobby), rear entrances (historian Williams points out that such were useful for ice delivery), beds in the wall, and “many other attractive features.”  

A Seattle Times clipping from February 13, 1927, CLICK to ENLARGE for the text on the Silvian's sale for $85,000.
A Seattle Times clipping from February 13, 1927. CLICK to ENLARGE for the text on the Silvian’s sale for $85,000.

In 1927 the Silvian Apartments sold for $85,000, a sale illustrated by The Times with another photograph.  On September 8, 1929 – a few weeks before the Crash – a classified offered a “2-room attractive corner apartment; overstuffed (furniture), elevator, phone service for $40.  Just off Broadway.”  A decade later an “attractive” two-room apartment in the Silvian could be had for $22, a depression-era bargain.   

The Silvian's tax card for 1938.  (Courtesy, Washington State Archive, Bellevue College branch)
The Silvian’s tax card for 1938. (Courtesy, Washington State Archive, Bellevue College branch) – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Today the Silvian is one of the many Seattle apartment houses owned and managed by Capitol Hill Housing, the organization that generates affordable housing, while also – and here the Silvian is an especially fine example – preserving neighborhood character. 

A TIMES Clip from March 6, 1960.   CLICK to ENLARGE
A TIMES Clip from March 6, 1960. CLICK to ENLARGE

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, lads?  SURELY Jean.   Ron Edge has pulled and put up ELEVEN past features, and they, as we know, are almost without excepted also holding other features and those features other features and so on and on.  Imagine what chains we might have in five years or ten – assuming a lot, like the blogs and our survival.  Ron’s last link below, which  when one opens it, has, I believe, the title “Street Photography,” begins with the snapshot of our friend Clay Eals’ mother walking on 4th Avenue a half block north of Pike Street, and ends with a few examples of the photographs I took in 1976-77 of the bus shelter at Marketime on Broadway and Republican.   I lived then in the second floor apartment of the corner structure showing immediately below, far-right in the photo with Pilgrim church and the road work on widening Broadway.

THEN:  Looking across Capitol Hill’s Broadway Avenue during its 1931adjustments. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: Both the grading on Belmont Avenue and the homes beside it are new in this “gift” to Capitol Hill taken from the family album of  Major John Millis. (Courtesy of the Major’s grandchild Walter Millis and his son, a Seattle musician, Robert Millis.)

THEN: We have by three years or four missed the centenary for this distinguished brick pile, the Littlefield Apartments on Capitol Hill.  (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

https://sherrlock.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/seattle-hight-school-lk-no-thru-pike-on-harvard-mr-then1.jpg?w=1428&h=881

THEN: The brand new N&K Packard dealership at Belmont and Pike in 1909.  Thanks to both antique car expert Fred Cruger for identifying as Packards the cars on show here, and to collector Ron Edge for finding them listed at this corner in a 1909 Post-Intelligencer. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN: Revelers pose on the Masonic Temple stage for “A Night in Old Alexandria,” the Seattle Fine Art Societies annual costume ball for 1921. (Pic courtesy of Arthur “Link” Lingenbrink)

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