(click to enlarge photos)
This week’s ‘Now & Then’ is a rare – and perhaps the only – occasion in the thirty-four years of this weekly feature to find a ‘then’ that is a harbinger of a ‘now.’ After Jean Sherrard photographed the latter a while ago, I kept it on my desk as a challenge to find a historical scene that foretokened it, or nearly so. The omen recently reached us through the agency of Ron Edge, a frequent help to this feature. Ron let us know that a mutual friend, the public historian and collector Dan Kerlee, had earlier shared this week’s ‘then’ with him. The pioneer photographer recorded his shot within a soft shout of Jean’s storm-soaked capture. It will do nicely.
Here’s Jean recollection. “On a spring evening, driving north on I-5 from downtown, I found myself in a torrent – a quantity and quality of rainfall that occurs in the tropics, but rarely in Seattle. Buckets, cats and dogs, and Noah’s flood were the metaphors that came to mind. The windshield wipers pushed through liquid an inch thick, and everyone in their right mind had slowed to a crawl. Then, minutes before setting behind Queen Anne, the sun broke through the downpour, slicing away a few lower-lying clouds. I exited at Lakeview Drive and splashed up to a viewpoint overlooking the freeway. Like most natives, I don’t carry an umbrella, so I held a cardboard box over my head to protect my camera while I snapped a dozen shots of the city north and south, capturing Seattle in one of its rarer incarnations, under a sun-soaked deluge.”
Samuel F. McKnight, the photographer of the fortuitous early scene (at the top) operated a studio here for a few years before and after the city’s Great Fire of 1889. His surviving work is not large. The featured print looks north-northwest across a Lake Union only recently divested of its surrounding forest.
On this southeast corner of the lake, the line of Louisa and David Denny’s electric trolley to Brooklyn (University District) and Ravenna Park passes between the homes on Eastlake Ave., bottom-left, and a park/beer garden landscaped with a swimming beach and a screen of shade trees growing beside it. This park with its windmill and tower was opened in 1886 as a lure to what was then the terminus of the horse-drawn Seattle Street Railway. The little bay beyond the trees has since been mostly filled in. The ships of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, were long parked here, and the Lake Union Dry Docks, off-camera to the left in the featured photo at the top (but markedly shown three photos down), has been at work since 1919. Fremont and Ballard, upper-left, are mottled with smoke and steam from their mills.
Anything to add, lads? Surely – another necklace of links from more recent features unfolded by Ron and pulls in the ancient majority pulled by me. Some visitors – five or ten – may noticed that we have again failed to introduce our blog with a little and somewhat improvised video on the week’s featured photo. In the midst of Jean’s play production and my organizing/editing some 1400 pages of “Keep Clam” (a bio of Ivar Haglund), we are now and for a while so busy. But at some point in this rejuvenating season we shall return with our playful – we hope – videos.