Seattle Now & Then: The North Seattle Trolley Yard

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking west from the southwest corner of 6th Ave. N. and Mercer St. to the trolley barn and yards for the (renamed in 1919) Seattle Municipal Railway in 1936. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
THEN: Looking west from the southwest corner of 6th Ave. N. and Mercer St. to the trolley barn and yards for the (renamed in 1919) Seattle Municipal Railway in 1936. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
NOW: Because of the 1958 dipping of Mercer Street below Aurora Ave., Jean Sherrard needed his 10-foot extension pole to approach the old elevation of 6th Ave. N. Now he records part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s embracing boomerangs, the latest footprints on what was once a Duwamish potlatch meadow.
NOW: Because of the 1958 dipping of Mercer Street below Aurora Ave., Jean Sherrard needed his 10-foot extension pole to approach the old elevation of 6th Ave. N. Now he records part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s embracing boomerangs, the latest footprints on what was once a Duwamish potlatch meadow.
Here's a look south over Mercer Street (in the ditch) that I took recently and casually, not expecting that it would be of use. But lo. There's 6th Avenue continuing across the way and with a little figuring one can choose of find the place where Jean stood with his 10-foot pole (and camera) to take his repeat. Also the habitat in which he made the Youtube video below can be found over there as well - on the far right. pd
Here’s a look south over Mercer Street (in the ditch) that I took recently and casually.   I did not suspect that it would be of use. But lo. There’s 6th Avenue continuing across the way and with a little figuring one can find the place spot – left of center –  where Jean stood with his 10-foot pole (and camera) to take his repeat. Also the habitat in which he made the Youtube video below can be found over there as well – on the far right. And upper-right is the new sculpture hanging above the courtyard caressed within the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation campus.  In the coa of the video, Wendy Walker describes the history and qualities of the sculpture, which while grand and kinetic too also reminded me of the hanging nets in Ivar’s old Acres of Clams on Pier 54.   pd
The corner of Mercer and 6th market three times with red dots. The aerial on the left is used courtesy of Google, and the map at the center is a detail from the Baist Real Estate Map for 1912, courtesy Ron Edge.
The corner of Mercer and 6th marked three times with red dots. The aerial on the left is used courtesy of Google, and the map at the center is a detail from the Baist Real Estate Map for 1912, courtesy Ron Edge. (CLICK to ENLARGE)

I imagine that many Pacific NW readers will remember this parking lot filled with municipal buses.  It was not so long ago. However, few are likely to recall the earlier and regular overnight visits here of the city’s orange trolleys, scores of them packed side-by-side on parallel tracks. 

One of the municipal trolleys yellow-orange trolleys in 1940, in the last weeks of the systems life. (by Lawton Gowey)
One of the municipal trolleys yellow-orange trolleys in 1940, in the last weeks of the systems life. (by Lawton Gowey)

This North Seattle Storage Yard was built in 1906 by the Seattle Electric Company, the transportation “octopus” that by then had consolidated most of the city’s independent trolley lines and also kept on building new ones while Seattle grew like an adolescent. The brick car barn, upper-left, was added in 1907 for trolley repairs.  By 1910 the expanding system had yards and barns in Fremont, Georgetown and at 14th Ave. and Jefferson St.

The Jefferson Yard filled with new buses. Photographed for the Seattle Transit System on Dec. 15, 1940.
The Jefferson Yard filled with new buses. Photographed for the Seattle Transit System on Dec. 15, 1940.
The Seattle Times front page for December 11, 1936. The future Queen Elizabeth has not quite yet learned of her fate, and English labor warns her dad to pump down the pomp.
The Seattle Times front page for December 11, 1936. The future Queen Elizabeth has not quite yet learned of her fate, and English labor warns her dad to pump down the pomp.

As the original print reveals at its base, the subject lookling west over the parking yard was photographed on Dec. 11, 1936.  The “N.E. Corner,” captioned bottom-right, is at Sixth Ave. N. and Mercer St., which is on the right.  The Auditorium Apartments, the dark four-story brick construction at the northwest corner of Fifth and Mercer, is partially hidden behind the power pole on the far right.  This apartment house, with two exceptions, is the only notable building (from this prospect) that has survived from the “then” into Jean Sherrard’s “now.”  The two exceptions are the Civic Auditorium and its linked neighbor, the Ice Arena. And in 1936, from this point of view, the Civic Auditorium seems to be named the Ice Arena. 

 

Much can be found in this late 1920s aerial looking northeast over the construction site of the Civic Auditorium, Ice Arena and Field. The trolley barn is the dark mass to the right of the brilliant civic center grounds. Mercer Street is the bright way that passes left-right behind the Civic Auditorium.
Much can be found in this late 1920s aerial looking northeast over the construction site of the Civic Auditorium, Ice Arena and Field. The trolley barn is the dark mass to the right of the brilliant civic center grounds. Mercer Street is the bright way that passes left-right behind the Civic Auditorium.  CLICK TO ENLARGE
The Civic Center ca. 1930 from Queen Anne Hill. The trolley yard is out of frame to the left. (Courtesy, Washington State Museum, Tacoma)
The Civic Center ca. 1930 from Queen Anne Hill. The trolley yard is out of frame to the left. (Courtesy, Washington State Museum, Tacoma)
An early auto show inside the Civic Auditorium.
An early auto show inside the Civic Auditorium.

However, the sign to the left of the stubby power pole in the featured photo at the top, is not posted on the Civic Auditorium, but rather stands on the roof of the auditorium’s attached neighbor to its east, the Ice Arena. 

You may judge the date for this look across Mercer Street at
You (not I) may judge the date for this look across Mercer Street at Civic Ice Arena by the rolling stock.  The walking stock seems to be both leaving the arena and standing in line to get in.  My dad used to regularly take me to the Ice Capades in Spokane.  I liked the clowns.
Public skating at the civic rink photographed for the Post-Intelligencer and used courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.
Public skating at the civic rink photographed for the Post-Intelligencer and used courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.
Some of the public skaters got special attention in fitting their equipment. Another pix from MOHAI's P-I collection.
Some of the public skaters got special attention in fitting their equipment. {Overheard, “Will you please tie my skates?”) Another pix from MOHAI’s P-I collection.

The 1927 auditorium has gone through two elaborate make-overs: first as the Opera House for the 1962 Century 21 Worlds Fair and again in 2003 as McCaw Hall.

 

This is not our 1962 Opera House redo of the Civic Aud. but the Opera House in Paris during my visit there as a teenager in 1955. It has been cleaned since then. We make this substitution to expresses our thanks for Berangere Lomont, the third person with hands on this blog, and Paris too, her home.
This is not our 1962 Opera House redo of the 1927 Civic Auditorium but the Opera House in Paris during my visit there as a teenager in 1955. It has been cleaned since then. We make this substitution to expresses our thanks and love for Berangere Lomont, the third person with hands on this blog, and Paris too, her home.
The McCaw Hall with its Kreielsheimer court when nearly new in 2003.
McCaw Hall with its Kreielsheimer court when nearly new in 2003.

On this Friday night of Oct. 11, 1936, the Ice Arena was booked for the first night of two with the Nile Temple Shriners Ice Carnival, which mixed “the pick of Seattle’s skating talent,” which included Shriners in their “vivid costumes, freak acts and comedy performances,” sharing the ice with “some of the finest exhibition skaters in the world.”  This was also the season when the Ice Arena’s offerings switched from the faked, if often bruising, melodrama of professional wresting to ice, with the city’s well-outfitted amateur skaters and a professional hockey club.  Devoted Seattle sports fans will know that the professionals then were also called the Seattle Seahawks. 

The Seahawks, Jack Dempsee, and much else on the sports page for The Times on
The Seahawks, Jack Dempsey, and much else on the Seattle Times sports page for November 12, 1933. 

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Paul?

Aside from what is inserted in the text “proper” above, Ron and I have chosen a few more features either from the neighborhood or the subject and attached them below.

THEN: One of a few photographs recording from different prospects the Fremont trolley car barn on Dec.11, 1936. North 35th Street, on the right, was originally named Blewett for Edward and Carrie Blewett. In 1888 the couple, fresh from Fremont, Nebraska, first named and promoted Fremont as a Seattle neighborhood. That year Fremont also got its lumber mill. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

irene_igloo

THEN: The Dog House at 714 Denny Way was strategically placed at the southern terminus for the Aurora Speedway when it was new in the mid-1930s. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archive, Bellevue Community College Branch.)

THEN: Constructed in 1885, the Alice and Clarence Bagley mansion was the first big home built on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

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Seattle Municipal Railway's first yard of its own. First appeared in Pacific August 1, 1999.
Seattle Municipal Railway’s first yard of its own. First appeared in Pacific August 1, 1999.

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Civic-Center-fm-4t-and-Harrison-when-new,-muni-archive-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, November 14, 1993.
First appeared in Pacific, November 14, 1993.

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THREE MORE FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN THE 1930s

First appeared in Pacific, May 18, 2003.
First appeared in Pacific, May 18, 2003.
Looking north on Aurora ca. 1933 thru its stop-lighted intersections with Broad and Mercer, together the busiest crossroads in Seattle and most dangerous. Both Broad and Mercer were tunneled under Aurora in the 1950s.
Looking north on Aurora ca. 1933 thru its stop-lighted intersections with Broad and Mercer, together the busiest crossroads in Seattle and most dangerous. Both Broad and Mercer were tunneled under Aurora in the 1950s.
A depression-time remodel by the state's Emergency Relief Association (E.R.A.). Dated Nov. 18, 1934, the last time I looked the bungalow at 364 Roy Street was still there, part of a restaurant. (Courtesy, Washington State Archive)
A depression-time remodel by the state’s Emergency Relief Association (E.R.A.). Dated Nov. 18, 1934, the last time I looked the bungalow at 364 Roy Street was still there, part of a restaurant. (Courtesy, Washington State Archive)

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The west facade of the North Seattle yard near or during the end of the 1917 trolley strike. The workers - we assume - are standing on Fifth Avenue. The structures to the left of the garage are on the north side of Mercer Street. (Courtesy, the Museum of History and Industry)
The west facade of the North Seattle yard near or during the end of the 1917 trolley strike. The workers – we assume – are standing on Fifth Avenue. The structures to the left of the garage are on the north side of Mercer Street. (Courtesy, the Museum of History and Industry)

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WATERFALL AND WATERFOWL

An exhibit in the Forestry Building for the AYPE of 1909 on the UW Campus.
An exhibit in the Forestry Building for the AYPE of 1909 on the UW Campus.

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The North Seattle Storage Yard at 5th and Mercer during the Big Snow of 1916. First appeared in Pacific April 14, 1991.
The North Seattle Storage Yard at 5th and Mercer during the Big Snow of 1916. First appeared in Pacific April 14, 1991.

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