Seattle Now & Then: The Epler Block

 

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The west side of Second Avenue between Columbia and Marion Streets was typical of the commercial district that was quick to develop after the city’s Great Fire of 1889. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: The west side of Second Avenue between Columbia and Marion Streets was typical of the commercial district that was quick to develop after the city’s Great Fire of 1889. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: The ends of the block now show Seattle’s first glass-curtain skyscraper, the Norton Building (1956-59) on the left at Columbia Street, and the Art Deco delights of the Exchange Building (1929-31) at the southwest corner with Marion Street.
NOW: The ends of the block now show Seattle’s first glass-curtain skyscraper, the Norton Building (1956-59) on the left at Columbia Street, and the Art Deco delights of the Exchange Building (1929-31) at the southwest corner with Marion Street.

A manic reconstruction of the city followed the Great Fire of June 6, 1889.  With a conspiring of decree and desire, a new brick business district was built that with only momentary slackenings – in 1893 and 1907 – continued expanding for a quarter-century.  Although it first centered around Pioneer Square, brick buildings soon spread north up First, Second, and Third Avenues, steadily transforming the city’s residential neighborhood there to commerce.  Still, most of the new brick blocks were modest ones, from one- to four-stories, like those shown here.

Another photo of the Epler Block, but later. A motorcar enthusiast might roughly date them from those in the street. Sometime in the teens, it seems. Jean and I got to chatting about this scene in the attached video at the top.
Another photo of the Epler Block, but later. A motorcar enthusiast might roughly date them from those in the street. Sometime in the teens, it seems. Jean and I got to chatting about this scene in the attached video at the top.

This photograph includes all or parts of the four post-fire buildings that filled the west side of Second Avenue, from Columbia Street on the left, to Marion Street on the right. Beginning on the left, their names were the Haller Block, the McDonald Block, the Epler Block and the Poncin Block.  We will concentrate on the Epler, whose owner, real estate agent William F. Epler, crowned it with his family name. He also held rooms 40 and 41 as offices for him and his son, the lawyer James M. Epler.  I assume their quarters are on the fourth floor behind those crowning windows with the date of construction, 1890, centered above them.

The Epler block is found directly to the left of - and snuggling with - power or phone pole right-of-center. The Burke building at the northwest corner of Marion and Second is far-right, and the Hinkley block is far-left at the southwest corner of 2nd and Columbia. Holding the subject's center at the northwest corner is the five floor Haller Block. The scene is early - from the early 1890s when everything showing here was nearly new.
The Epler block is found directly to the left of – and snuggling with – the power or phone pole right-of-center. The Burke building, at the northwest corner of Marion and Second, is far-right, and the Hinkley block is far-left, at the southwest corner of 2nd and Columbia. Holding the subject’s center, at the northwest corner, is the five floor Haller Block. The scene is  from the early 1890s when everything showing here was nearly new.

The architect was John Parkinson, an Englishman who fortuitously arrived in Seattle in 1889, a half-year before the fire.  Parkinson’s career flourished during the five years he lived and worked in Seattle designing buildings, managing the construction of many. With their U.W. Press books, Distant Corner (2003) and Shaping Seattle Architecture, second edition, (2014). Dennis Alan Andersen and Jeffrey Karl Ochsner are our usual sources for studying Seattle’s built history.  Ochsner clearly admires Parkinson’s contributions, describing his work as “displaying a remarkable level of coherence and repose in contrast to the agitated work of so many of his contemporaries.”

Parkinson's drawing for one of his early commissions, the B.F.Day school in Fremont, include a central tower, which was somewhat typical for ambitious architects hoping to convince clients - the Seattle School Board - to show off. It was, however, dropped from the plan. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
Parkinson’s drawing for one of his early commissions, the B.F.Day school in Fremont, includes a central tower, which was somewhat typical for ambitious architects hoping to convince clients – the Seattle School Board – to show off.  Parkinson’s vision was,  however, humbled when the tower was dropped from the plan. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
First appears in Pacific April 27, 2003. Other example of Parkinson's surviving work will be included at the bottom of this blog.
First appears in Pacific April 27, 2003. Other example of Parkinson’s surviving work will be included at the bottom of this blog.

For my somewhat more demure part in praising Parkinson, I have, in the now thirty-three years of this weekly feature, included illustrated essays on approximately nine of his creations.  At least four survive: the Interurban Building at Yesler Way and Occidental Avenue, the Gerrard Building on the Seattle University Campus, Alexander Hall on the Seattle Pacific Campus, and the B. F.Day School in Fremont.   This survival rate for schools is explained, in part, by Parkinson’s added role as the first official architect for Seattle’s public schools.

"Our block," fills the center of this look north from the roof or upper floor of the then new Alaska Building - Seattle's first scraper - at the southeast corner of Cherry and Second Avenue.
“Our block,” fills the center of this look north from the roof or upper floor of the then new Alaska Building – Seattle’s first scraper – still at the southeast corner of Cherry and Second Avenue.  We chose the circa 1904 date long ago because the 1904 additions to the Colman Building, far left, are completed and the Denny Hotel on the still Denny Hill horizon, upper-right, is still in ts place.  It was raced in 1906 for the regrade.  It is stirring to reflect that this  is nearly all new since the Great Fire of 1889.  Seattle’s population here is easily three times that of its roughly 40,000 in 1890.    The Haller Building, reaches the subject’s center.  It, again, sat on the northwest corner of Columbia and Second, now the home of Seattle’s first glass-curtain scraper.  Below you might check the extra that features two or three views up Second Avenue  from the Smith Tower, one block south of the Alaska Building and about thirty floors higher.  [Courtesy, MOHAI].

The Epler Block was a victim of success, not its own, but that of local bankers. Beginning in 1919, they began seriously foot-printing the city’s financial district with grandiose structures, such as the Bank of California building for which the Epler was razed in 1923.

A parade on Oct. 8, 1931 for the trans-Pacific pilot Clyde Pangborn. The Ionic column clad Bank of Ca;lifornia is on the right. The Haller Building, far left, and inbetween them the McDonald Building. (Gratitude, Ron Edge)
A parade on Oct. 8, 1931 for the trans-Pacific pilot Clyde Pangborn. The Ionic column clad Bank of California is on the right. The Haller Building, far left, and in between them the McDonald Building. Jean’s photos of the bank’s contemporary interior are included below at the head of his salutation to Ron and I.  (Gratitude, Ron Edge)

Subsequently, in the 1970s, the banking Californians moved up to Fifth Avenue.  Much earlier John Parkinson had moved on to California. He was still designing landmarks into the 1930s, including, notably, the Los Angeles Coliseum and its City Hall.

This Seattle Times clip from Oct. 19, 1935 reveals that the family has flourished. Two sisters and a brother, grandchildren of W.F. Epler, the builder of the Epler Block, have returned for, for the sisters, more than a year of adventure and art in Europe.
This Seattle Times clip from Oct. 19, 1935 reveals that the family has flourished. Two sisters and a brother, grandchildren of W.F. Epler, the builder of the Epler Block, have returned for what has been, for the sisters, more than a year of adventure and art in Europe.
To have a chance of reading this Seattle Times clip from May 13, 1923 you must click it and your heels several times. It include news of the Epler Block's - at the mere age of thrity-three, destruction.
To have a chance of reading this Seattle Times clip from May 13, 1923 you must click it and your heels several times. It includes news of the Epler Block’s – at the mere age of thirty-three – destruction.

WEB EXTRAS

Let me add in a few interiors of the Bank of California (now Bank of America) building. The skylight in the ceiling is kind of special.

Interior skylight
Interior skylight
Looking out onto 2nd
Looking out onto 2nd
Downstairs, the remnants of a fallout shelter
Downstairs, the remnants of a fallout shelter
An unused basement room next to the shelter. Note the Bank of CA 1972 calendar!
An unused basement room next to the shelter. Note the Bank of CA 1972 calendar!

Anything to add, lads? Lovely bank shots Jean.  Looks pretty secure too.  Yes we again have more to offer in the way of neighborhood features of which we found a flood of about forty within two blocks. So we grabbed about ten of those.  The first one, attached at the top of Ron’s Edge Links, directly below, is a look from the front lawn of pioneer photographer Peiser.  It’s a 4th of July parade in the late 1880s before the Great Fire of June 6, 1889 destroyed this side of Second Avenue (with Peiser’s studio) but not the other, east side of Second.  Click it an the story and much else jumps out.  The Epler block, this week’s feature, was built on the site of (and also south of) Peiser’s losses, and they were many: cameras and negatives.

THEN: In this 1887 look up Columbia Street from the waterfront is the bell tower of the fire station, tucked into the hill on the right. It would soon fail to halt the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The station and everything between it and Elliott Bay were reduced to ashes, smoldering bricks and offshore pilings shortened like cigars. (courtesy, Kurt Jackson)

THEN:

native-basket-seller-then-mr

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FROM THE WATERFRONT

The sketch and the 1869 photograph below are very early records of our central waterfront, and, for our purposes here, of our block on Second Avenue between Columbia and Marion Streets. Here Columbia is on the right and Marion on the left. The waterfront street is Front, the first name for First Avenue.
The sketch and the 1869 photograph below are very early records of our central waterfront, and, for our purposes here, of our block on Second Avenue between Columbia and Marion Streets. Here Columbia is on the right and Marion on the left. The waterfront street is Front, the first name for First Avenue.  With care and kindness you can find several of the same structures shared by the sketch and photo.

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Nine years later and also photographed from the dog-ear turn on Yesler's Warf.
Nine years later and also photographed from the dog-ear turn on Yesler’s Warf.  Here, again, Columbia Street is on the right and Marion on the left.  Front Street (First Ave.) has been regraded, filled-in behind a timber wall.  Note that First Hill is for the part cleared here in 1878 of its timber.  Our block runs left-right across the center.  Indeed, the over-sized white construction on the left at the southeast corner of Second and Marion can be found above in the first of the Edge Links  that follow Jean’s “what’s up fellows?”

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waterfront - Moore-photo-fm-bay-right-sec-to-columbia-WEB

First appeared in Pacific May 4, 2008.
First appeared in Pacific May 4, 2008.

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MORE ON PEISER

First appeared in Pacific August 9, 1987.
What follows first appeared in Pacific August 9, 1987.

Peiser's-Art-Studio-clip-8-9-1987-web

Jean and I chatted about these Peiser items in the video at the top.
Jean and I chatted about these Peiser items in the video at the top.

Peiser AD w. artist easel-WEB

Peiser has persuaded five Seattle women to pose for him in this group portrait from the 1880s. At least, this is how we read it.
Peiser has persuaded five Seattle women to pose for him in this group portrait from the 1880s. This is how we read it.  You may notice that the studio backdrop as the same as that, which the photographer used for his self-portrait with cameras, above.
Peiser's poetic promotion for is studio in 1887. Jean and I discuss this in the video on top, and make plans to use the poem as narration for a montage of Peiser's work - sometime in the future. Another wall-made plan?
Peiser’s poetic promotion for his studio in 1887. Jean and I discuss this in the video on top, and make plans to use the poem as narration for a montage of Peiser’s work – sometime in the future. Another wall-made plan?

Peiser-Parade-2-Marion-WEB

Above and below: a reminder to check out the first of the Edge Links above to see study or visit the extras attached to this look across Second Avenue from Peiser’s studio when it first appeared in Pacific on December 4, 2011.

Peiser-parade-Marion-bldg-NOW

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FIRST FIRE STATION –  AROUND THE CORNER ON COLUMBIA

Columbia Fire-station-on-Columbia-1880s-used-in-Pac-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, January 14, 1996.
First appeared in Pacific, January 14, 1996.

Columbia-Street-Fire-Station-'Rebuilt-in-1888'-WEB

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NORTH ON SECOND AVENUE THROUGH COLUMBIA STREET

2nd-Pioneer-Band-crossing-Columbia-web2

First appeared in Pacific, January 17, 1999
First appeared in Pacific, January 17, 1999

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My old caption for this reads north through Columbia on Second, late in 1907. This dating has something to do with the near-completion of the ghostly Empire Building at the southeast corner of Second and Madison. The bank on the right, at the northeast corner of Second and Columbia, survives. Last I saw of it - long ago- it was an exercise gym.
My old caption for this reads north through Columbia on Second, late in 1907. This dating has something to do with the near-completion of the ghostly Empire Building at the southeast corner of Second and Madison. The bank on the right, at the northeast corner of Second and Columbia, survives. Last I saw of it – long ago- it was an exercise gym.

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Second north through Columbia during a Golden Potlatch Celebration parade, 1911. [Courtesy Michael Maslan]
Second north through Columbia during a Golden Potlatch Celebration parade, 1911. [Courtesy Michael Maslan]
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SOUTH ON SECOND AVENUE THROUGH COLUMBIA STREET

2nd ave south-thru-Columbai-to-back-of-Dexter-Horton--&-Smith-Tower-WEB2

First appeared in Pacific, May 24, 1998
First appeared in Pacific, May 24, 1998

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WEST ON COLUMBIA FROM THIRD AVENUE

9.-Columbia-w-f-3rd-then-web-

Looking west on Columbia during the 1907 regrade.
Looking west on Columbia during the 1907 regrade.  This regrade photo has been added to the line – it is not noted in the text that follow next.

9. columbia-w-fm-3rd-ca-1900-3-30-2008

9. West on.-Columbia-w-f-3rd-NOW-web

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HINKLEY & HALLER

Hinkley's-block-clip-2-7-1999-WEB--

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The Haller Building at the northwest corner of Columbia and Second decorated for the 1908 visit of the Great White Fleet.
The Haller Building at the northwest corner of Columbia and Second decorated for the 1908 visit of the Great White Fleet.

The Haller Building at the northwest corner of Columbia and Second decorated for the 1908 visit of the Great White Fleet.

More bunting on Second Avenue for the Fleet's visit in 1908. Elements of both the Haller and roofs are on the left.
More bunting on Second Avenue for the Fleet’s visit in 1908. Elements of both the Haller and Hinkley roofs are on the left.   PLEASE CLICK to ENLARGE  And for those with the knack to do it, cross your eyes for the third dimension.

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NORTH ON SECOND  THRU MARION STREET

Burke---Stetson---Marion-THEN-c1903-WEB

First appeared in Pacific January 25, 2004.
First appeared in Pacific January 25, 2004.

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AYP SEATTLE Welcome arch at Marion 2nd web

First appeared in Pacific, May 18, 1997.
First appeared in Pacific, May 18, 1997.

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Knights Templar arch-Marion-classic-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, March 18, 1984
First appeared in Pacific, March 18, 1984

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LOOKING NORTH ON SECOND AVENUE FROM THE SMITH TOWER QUIZ – YOU DATE THEM

Smith-Tower-lk-up-2nd-vert.-ca.1948-web

Smith-Tower-Norton-Building-&-2nd-ave-WEB

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THREE MORE ALEXANDER PARKINSON SEATTLE SURVIVORS

Parkinson---Alexander-Hall-then-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, November 28, 1993
First appeared in Pacific, November 28, 1993

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Parkinson INTERURBAN-BLDG-THEN-web2

First appeared in Pacific, March 20, 2005
First appeared in Pacific, March 20, 2005

Parkinson INTERURBAN BLDG-now-scew

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Parkinson Garrand-then-WEB

First appeared in Pacific, October 13, 1991, Seattle University's Centennial.
First appeared in Pacific, October 13, 1991, Seattle University’s Centennial.

Parkinson Garrand-NOW-Color-WEB

A 1937 (most likely) tax photo revealing the hall's condition (and legal description) during the Great Depression.
A 1937 (most likely) tax photo revealing the hall’s condition (and legal description) during the Great Depression.

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3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Epler Block”

  1. Do you remember the newspaper vender on 2nd and Pike? He was nailed to a board and he would race around delivering papers I guess. Anyway he wou[d scare my sister and me because his wheels were so loud. Do you have any interest in doing a feature on him? I cant find any info about him so hopefully you might. Thanks Bob Southard Date: Sun, 6 Dec 2015 01:16:24 +0000 To: r_southard@msn.com

  2. I walk pass the Garrand Building all the time and always thought that something didn’t look quite right about where the balcony was placed. So cool to see that there was a grand staircase to an entrance there before.

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