Seattle Now & Then: Schmitz Park

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking southeast from above Alki Avenue, the Schmitz Park horizon is serrated by the oldest trees in the city. The five duplexes clustered on the right were built 1919-1921 by Ernest and Alberta Conklin. Ernest died in 1924, but Alberta continued to live there until well past 1932, the year this photograph was recorded. (Seattle Municipal Archives.)
THEN: Looking southeast from above Alki Avenue, the Schmitz Park horizon is serrated by the oldest trees in the city. The five duplexes clustered on the right were built 1919-1921 by Ernest and Alberta Conklin. Ernest died in 1924, but Alberta continued to live there until well past 1932, the year this photograph was recorded. (Seattle Municipal Archives.)
NOW: With no bucket truck or bathhouse roof to help him, Jean climbed a ladder and extended his ten-foot pole to get this repeat over the roof of the now 80-year-old Spud fish and chips on Alki Avenue.
NOW: With no bucket truck or bathhouse roof to help him, Jean climbed a ladder and extended his ten-foot pole to get this repeat over the roof of the now 80-year-old Spud fish and chips on Alki Avenue.

True to the Seattle Public Works Department’s archival practices, the negative for this Alki Point subject is both numbered and dated. It is not of the revered Point itself, to the west and behind the photographer, but rather of the forested ridge to the east.   The photographer looks toward a horizon of view lots, but even now much of this landscape has not been developed beyond the row of sizeable homes in the scene’s mid-ground.  Such is the gift and “natural monument “ of Schmitz Park. 

A part of Schmitz Park recorded by that most prolific of early 20th-century postcard artists, Otto Frasch. (Courtesy Mike Maslan)
A part of Schmitz Park recorded by that most prolific of early 20th-century postcard artists, Otto Frasch. (Courtesy Mike Maslan)
The Ferdinand Schmitz chosen by The Seattle Times editors to illustrate his obituary notice of August 23, 1942. Seventeen years later Emma's passing was noted but not illustrated by The Times.
The Ferdinand Schmitz chosen by The Seattle Times editors to illustrate his obituary notice of August 23, 1942. Seventeen years later Emma’s passing was noted but not illustrated by The Times.  She is, however, heard in the Seattle Times clip from January 1, 1949 that follows. 
Pulled from The Seattle Times for Jan. 29, 1949.
Pulled from The Seattle Times for Jan. 29, 1949.

The park is named for Emma and Ferdinand Schmitz who gave this old growth slope with its own stream to the city.  The couple rejected the proposal that the city purchase the land for fear that their “green cathedral” might be parceled up and sold.  Today, the Seattle Park and Recreation Department describes the Schmitz gift as protecting the only old growth stand surviving in the city.  Most likely the city’s arborist – and the naturalists among the park’s neighbors – can identify some of those trees on the horizon.

A steady but searching eye might find some of the same Schmitz treeline standing about thirty years earlier in this ca. 1912 look east over the at play Alki Beach to the West Seattle ridge.
A steady but searching eye might find some of the same Schmitz treeline standing about thirty years earlier in this ca. 1912 look east over the at play Alki Beach to the West Seattle ridge. [Click to Enlarge]

With a little study we might name many of the surviving features in this “now and then.” For instance, surely many of those elegant homes beyond the playfield climbing the ridge towards Schmitz Park survive.  I stay stumped, however, on naming the elevated prospect from where this subject was recorded.  The likeliest choices were a public works bucket truck, or a truck-mounted ladder, or the by then 21-year old Alki Bathhouse (1911), which was directly across Alki Avenue. (Note the attached photos of the bathhouse below and the 1936 aerial too.) And what may we make of the pole that breaks through the bottom border of the featured scene? Seattle City Archivist Scott Cline found that this negative, No. 11058, is surrounded by a white-gloved handful of others.  All are dated May 24, 1932, and all are labeled simply ‘Schmitz Park.”  Quoting Cline, “Most are shots of what I presume is the old bridge on Admiral Way that crossed over the Schmitz Park Boulevard where it first entered the park’s ravine.”  (Note first the 1936 aerial in which the new bridge on Admiral Way is under construction, and then the Bath House photos that may help you figure if a photographer from its roof could have managed the shot at the top of this feature.)

The Admiral Way bridge is easily found right-of-center in this recent Google-Earth detail. The green Alki Playfield is upper right. It is "topped" by the lighter green of the tennis courts at the corner southwest corner of 59th Ave. SW and . Alki Primary School is directly below the play field. Schmitz Park, of course, is lower-right.
The Admiral Way bridge is easily found right-of-center in this recent Google-Earth detail. The green Alki Playfield is upper right. It is “topped” by the lighter green of the tennis courts at the corner southwest corner of 59th Ave. SW and . Alki Primary School is directly below the play field. Schmitz Park, of course, is lower-right. [Click to Enlarge]
A comparison of the 1929 and 1935 aerials, left and right, show the work in progress on the new bridge of Admiral Way over the Schmitz Park Boulevard in the 1936 detail on the right. The dark roof of the bath house appears in the upper-left corner of the 1936 half of t his diptych, which is printed along below. [Courtesy Ron Edge and the Seattle Municipal Archive.]
CLICK AND CLICK TO ENLARGE! !  A comparison of the 1929 and 1936 aerials, left and right, show the work in progress on the new bridge on Admiral Way over the Schmitz Park Boulevard in the 1936 detail on the right. The dark roof of the bath house appears in the upper-left corner of the 1936 half of this diptych, which is printed alone below. [Courtesy Ron Edge and the Seattle Municipal Archive.]
Even the beach shack that was home to the first SPUD cam be found in this detail from the 1936 aerial. It appears directly across Alki Avenue from the bath house that appears here right-of-center.
Even the beach shack that was home to the first SPUD cam be found in this detail from the 1936 aerial. It appears directly across Alki Avenue from the bath house that appears here right-of-center.  The first SPUD does not appear in the featured photo at the top.  SPUD opened in 1935.  [Keep Clicking Please]
The first SPUD home polished up from a 1937 King County tax photo. The home on the right and the treeline above it should look familiar. [Courtesy Washington State Archive]
The first SPUD home polished up from a 1937 King County tax photo. The home on the right and the treeline above it should look familiar. [Courtesy Washington State Archive]
The yellow-tinted block, upper-right, is the block that appears in the foreground of the featured photo at the top. The Alki Bath House is footprinted across Alki Avenue from it. Might the small footprint first in the "yellow block" be the future home of the first SPUD, only 23 years earlier? It is in the right spot - or nearly.
[CLICK TO ENLARGE]  In this detail from the 1912 Kroll’s map atlas, the yellow-tinted block, upper-right, is the block that appears in the foreground of the featured photo at the top. The Alki Bath House is footprinted across Alki Avenue from it. Might the small footprint below the bath house, the first south across Alki Ave. in the “yellow block,” be the future home of the first SPUD, only 23 years earlier? It is in the right spot – or nearly.
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ALKI BATH HOUSE INTERLUDE

Beach and Bath House under storm.
Beach and Bath House under storm.
Alki Bath House looking northeast from the Alki Band Stand.
Alki Bath House looking northeast from the Alki Band Stand.
Bath House (aka Pavilion) from the beach at a low tide. The day may be hot, but it is also windy. (Courtesy, North Idaho Historical Museum)
Bath House (aka Pavilion) from the beach at a low tide. The day may be hot, but it is also windy. (Courtesy, North Idaho Historical Museum)
From the Sound, the nearly new bath house with the familiar horizon. Note especially the tall pine on the left.
From the Sound, the nearly new bath house with the familiar horizon. Note especially the tall pine on the left.

Looking northeast from the observation portico on the roof of the Bath House. The long dock and building, upper-right, was a short-lived whaling station. Luna Park is seen further to the right below Duwamish Head. Magnolia is on the left horizon and Queen Anne Hill (buth humps of it) on the center-right horizon and over the whalers.
Looking northeast from the observation portico on the roof of the Bath House. The long dock and building, upper-right, was a short-lived whaling station. Luna Park is seen further to the right below Duwamish Head. Magnolia is on the left horizon and Queen Anne Hill (both humps of it) on the center-right horizon and behind the whalers. [CLICK CLICK]
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Looking through the Schmitz Park arch south on Schmitz Park Boulevard (s.w. 59th ave.) from its corner with S.W. Lander Street. This was used by Jean and I in a feature about three years ago, and Ron Edge has included it below among this week's relevant links. [Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry]
Looking through the Schmitz Park arch south on Schmitz Park Boulevard (59th ave. S.W.) from its corner with S.W. Lander Street. This was used by Jean and I in a feature about three years ago, and Ron Edge has included it below among this week’s relevant links. [Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry]

On the left of the featured photo at the top stands the rustic post and lintel gate spanning 59th Ave. S.W..  The Alki Park tennis court is seen behind it.  (We did a now-then feature on this gate two years ago or three.  We’ll attached it below among the “Edge Links.”)  The monumental gate was raised by the Schmitz family to mark the near-beach beginning of Schmitz Park Boulevard.” From this corner showing on the left, the boulevard extended to the Park proper between two rows of evenly-spaced street trees, until it was closed to traffic in 1949 after Alki Primary School took possession of the block-long part that ran in line with Stevens Street at the north end of the school and between it and the play field. The worn arch was condemned in 1953.   

More help from Google Earth and from Photoshop's red pen.
More help from Google Earth and from Photoshop’s red pen.  [CLICK CLICK CLICK]

Albert and Ernest Conklin lived in the nearby home to the right of the arch. (It has been marked “19” in red on the accompanying diptych that compares the featured photo with a detail borrowed from Google Earth.) Beginning in 1906 the Conklins were active in West Seattle community affairs for many years. Ernest died at home in 1924, but Alberta lived on and is reported in The Seattle Times for Jan 24, 1942 as a member of “one of the busiest groups aiding the Red Cross.”  It was composed of clubwomen in the Alki Point district who “sew and knit Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:30 until 4 o’clock and receive first-aid instruction Fridays from 1 until 3 o’clock in the Alki School portable.  Interest in first-aid instruction has increased so greatly that additional classes for women and men are now being held Wednesday evenings in the Alki Fieldhouse.  To break the tension of the day’s work, speakers discuss timely subjects, such as gardening and cookery.  Travelogues also have added to the entertainment.  Through Mrs. Alberta Conklin who had lived in the district for many years, the group has donated 100 knitted squares for afghans and $10 for the Red Cross war chest.”

The Akron over Seattle, photographed by Price of Price Photo on May 24, 1932, "our day."
The Akron over Seattle, photographed by Price of Price Photo on May 24, 1932, “our day.”

The subject’s date, May 24, 1932, suggests another admittedly speculative “why” for the timing of this shot and what may have been its pie in the sky hopes.  On this Tuesday the navy’s grandest dirigible, the Akron, at that time the largest airship in the world, made a non-stop round-trip tour from California to Puget Sound.  It entered Seattle over this ridge in the late morning. That afternoon it was top-of-the-front-page news in this newspaper: “AKRON SOARS OVER CITY.”  The Times explained, “So huge is the bulk of the Akron

 

The Akron's Tuesday arrival came too late to include a picture of it soaring over Seattle, so The Times included on in the Wednesday paper.
The Akron’s Tuesday arrival came too late for the same day edition, so The Times included it in  the next day Wednesday paper.  CLICK CLICK!!

that it cast a vast shadow on the streets as it passed. The sky was ideal for watchers.  White fleecy clouds kept the sky from being too brilliant.  Due to favorable winds she was more than an hour ahead of schedule.” Flying over the city’s business district, the Akron was greeted by a mighty noise of sirens and a great honking of horns. Here on Alki Point we don’t see the cigar-shaped airship, but we do note some of the fleecy clouds, and the shadows put this picture-taking in the morning.   

A California clip on the Akron's safe and speedy return after the round-trip to Puget Sound. Notice that the Akron outsizes the Zeppelin.
A California clip on the Akron’s safe and speedy return after the round-trip to Puget Sound. Notice that the Akron outsizes the Zeppelin.
Also appearing in the Tuesday May 24, 1932 Times was this advertisement full of health claims for Luck Strike. It is the kind of glib lying we have become so used to, and even more so now thru e-mail.
Also appearing in the Tuesday May 24, 1932 Times was this advertisement full of health claims for Luck Strike. It is the kind of glib lying we have become so used to, and even more so now thru e-mail.  CLICK CLICK

WEB EXTRAS

(Off topic from Jean) As you know, Paul, in July I took a group of 18 students from Hillside Student Community School on a tour of London, Paris, and environs. This is my fifth trip with students over the past 15 years; and when we visit Versailles, it has become a school tradition to jump in the air in front of the palace.  Here follows this year’s photo:

Hillside at Versailles!
Hillside at Versailles!

Anything to add, fellahs?  Yes Jean but first this.  Why not put up your other Versailles Jumps, aka “Hillside at Versailles!”?  Also, how do they do that without power tools?

Turning to Alki.  Ron Edge will put up, again and again, several past features that relate to this week’s “repeat.”  And we’ll stuff into the main text some of the research materials – clips and pics – that went into writing it.  And we will place here a unique 1890 pencil sketch of Alki Beach and Point drawn from Duwamish Head.  The last of Edge’s contributions will be familiar: last week’s feature, which was also, some of you may remember, an Alki Point subject.   So first, here’s Ron.

portala-queen-annegrab-web

THEN: Included among the several detailed photos taken for the Bernards of their new and yet rustic Fir Lodge, was this one of the living room with its oversized fireplace and the piano on which Marie, their older daughter, learned to play well enough to concertize. (Courtesy Doris Nelson)

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VARIATIONS ON THE SPUD

Yakima First Prize Potatoes courtesy of Michael Maslan
Yakima First Prize Potatoes courtesy of Michael Maslan
First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 16, 2003.
First appeared in Pacific, Feb. 16, 2003.
The ca. 1937 tax photo of the SPUD, again.
The ca. 1937 tax photo of the SPUD, again.
SPUD at night, ca. 1945.
Modern SPUD at night, ca. 1945.
Post-Modern Spud, 1961,
Post-Modern Spud, 1961,
I took this for the Times now-then that is offered a few pics up. That was 2003, when we were also putting up on its walls an photo exhibit of Alki history. Below: the south wall in the upstairs dining room includes a long run on Alki Ave. featuring now and then from the tax photos of the late 1930s to the repeats I took in 2003.
I took this for the Times now-then that is offered a few pics up. That was 2003, when we were also putting up on its walls an photo exhibit of Alki history. Below: the south wall in the upstairs dining room includes a long run on Alki Ave. featuring now and then from the tax photos of the late 1930s to the repeats I took in 2003.
SPUD'S upstairs exhibit, 2003. All those repeats are on Alki Beach Ave. and in order too.
SPUD’S upstairs exhibit, 2003. All those repeats are on Alki Beach Ave. and in order too.

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Dated 1890, this sketch of Alki Point from the ridge is included in an unattributed sketchbook. Some of the pages were used on both sides for its pencil sketches with the consequences show here. The graphite was shared from one page with the page it faced.
Dated 1890, this sketch of Alki Point from the ridge is included in an unattributed sketchbook. Some of the pages were used on both sides for its pencil sketches with the consequences show here. The graphite was shared from one page with the page it faced.
A detail of Alki Point from the 1912 Baist Real Estate map, and it is notable how much of it was still available for development in 1912. The "Halgund First Addition" to the left of the "27" printed far-right, was developed by Johan Haglund on property he and his son Ivar (Keep Clam) interited after the death of his wife and Ivar's mother, Daisy Hanson Haglund died in 1907. There is presently an exhibit of IVAR and his "works" up at the Nordic Heritage Museum. I'm schedule to do a lecture there on Ivar and the exhibit this month on the 22nd in the evening. Please come if you read captions.
A detail of Alki Point from the 1912 Baist Real Estate map, and it is notable how much of it was still available for development in 1912. The “Halgund First Addition” to the left of the “27” printed far-right, was developed by Johan Haglund on property he and his son Ivar (Keep Clam) interited after the death of his wife and Ivar’s mother, Daisy Hanson Haglund in 1907. There is presently an exhibit of IVAR and his “works” up at the Nordic Heritage Museum. I’m schedule to do a lecture there on Ivar and the exhibit this month on the evening of the 22nd.  Please come if you read captions.
Alki Point, circa 1950. Courtesy The Seattle Times.
Alki Point, circa 1950. Courtesy The Seattle Times. …………………………………………………………………………

3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Schmitz Park”

  1. Mr. Dorpat;
    A question; Can you steer me in the direction of someone in California who may have access to photographs such as the ones you publish in “Now and Then?”

  2. My great grandparents and grandparents lived at alki the same time those pics where taken. My great grandpa Tilden McCoy and my grandpa Roy C McCoy And my dad Roy A McCoy all lived on 61st. Tilley was a Lt. For the SPD and my grandpa was a King county sheriff. Quite few other family members were from or lived at Alki. When I was about 5 years old I met a guy by the name of Mr. Smith he was the grandpa of a friend of mine. He was very old my dad new him when he was growing up. He told Phillip his grand son and me that he new Chief Seattle and once owned from Alki point to the Duwamish river. He was some how related to Ivar. He carved totem poles and was in the civil air patrol. There were a lot of people that lived and played at Akli. My dad and his friends were know as the sons of beach by the Akli residents. Mr Richy owned the drug store and I think aces more things. I think we are forgetting a lot things or just over look them. My dad has 2 cousins alive all the rest are gone. It’s sad. Oh Mr. Smith told us that there was bear in Schmitz park when he would walk to school. Just a little West Seattle trivia.

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