(click to enlarge photos)
This subject is, almost certainly, the formal opening of the Golden Potlatch on the afternoon of Wednesday July 19, 1911. To find the ceremony itself we would need to go out-of-frame, far-right, following the attentions of those packed atop the long line of boxcars on the left. This rolling stock was often used as convenient bleachers through the many years that the waterfront, where “rail meets sail,” was stage (or platform) for local celebrations. With his or
her back to Madison Street, the photographer looks south on Railroad Ave (Alaskan Way) to the also packed Marion Street overpass. It was built by the railroads to permit safe passage for the hordes of locals and visitors here in 1909 for the city’s Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exhibition (AYP). The Golden Potlatch was, in part, an attempt by local boomers to recapture some of the civic splendor and hoopla that had accompanied the summer-long AYP. And the Potlatch had its own reverberations. As the first citywide, multi-day, summer festival, the several Potlatches were precursors for the now retirement-age annual Sea Fair celebration.
Another prospect for watching the opening day ceremonies, from both the windows and the roof of the Maritime Building, on the left, fills the block between Madison and Marion Streets and Railroad and Western Avenues and rises five stories above the boxcars. It was filled with the offices and warehouse spaces for distributing the daily needs for foodstuffs and such brought here from distant lands (like California and Mexico). Built of reinforced concrete with lots of windows for light, the big building’s architect, contractor and builder was Stone and Webster, one of the nation’s great commercial octopi, with its tentacles already active in Seattle’s trolleys, interurbans, and power plants.
A gust from a mid-summer breeze flaps the American flag, top-center on the featured photo, posted above the southwest corner of the Maritime Building. Every corner had one. More evidence of the wind is the woman in the dazzling white blouse heading toward the photographer and holding tight with both hands her oversized hat. However, none of the men here seem worried for their own crowns.
What are they watching? The ceremonial mish-mash of Kings and Queens, and performers acting as Alaskans landing aboard the “ton of gold” ship, the S.S. Portland, followed by a double line of navy ships, tooting Puget Sound “mosquito-fleet” steamers, and northwest yachts. Meanwhile overhead Curtiss aviators Ely and Winter flew back and forth. At two o’clock, the Gold Rush flotilla was scheduled to reach the Grand Trunk Pacific Dock, the largest wooden pier on the coast and in 1911 brand new. With fireworks, fireboat displays, and band concerts from the pier, the rubbernecked folks on the boxcar roofs were entertained until midnight.
Anything to add, lads? MOSTLY waterfront features Jean. More to come tomorrow, perhaps. Proofreading too.