(click to enlarge photos)
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.
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.
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.)
ALKI BATH HOUSE INTERLUDE
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.
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 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
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.
(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:
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.
VARIATIONS ON THE SPUD