(click to enlarge photos)
A moderately large heading, “Going Up or Coming Down, It’s Still Progress,” is set between two press photos on page three in the Seattle Times for Monday, Feb. 25, 1974. The illustration above the heading is an aerial of the Kingdome under construction, while below is a dramatic exposure of the Normandie Apartments being demolished by a wrecking ball. The caption noted that the “five-story 112-unit condemned building” was 65-years-old but
would be “razed by the end of the week.” The Times reporter could not have known, of course, that “progress” for King County’s sports palace would amount to less than one-half that of the worn brick apartment building at the northwest corner of University Street and Ninth Avenue. As many PacificNW readers will remember, the Kingdome was reduced to rubble and dust in an instant with its implosion of March 26, 2000.
The Normandie, designed by prolific local architect James A Schack, opened its unfurnished units to tenants in the spring of 1910. The agents, West and Wheeler, advertised this newest addition to First Hill’s growing abundance of apartment houses as “absolutely fireproof [with] all outside rooms, free telephone, elevator service, disappearing beds, ample closet room, roof garden, porcelain refrigerators, gas ranges, etc., in fact every convenience of an up-to-date apt. house.” In 1928, an classified ad for the Normandie promised “an ideal home for business people” with “no squeaky floors or thin partitions.”
What was routine for local landlords during Seattle’s 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair was a regular practice for the Normandie as well. Prices were raised. Through the duration of the Fair, the Normandie’s managers referred to their apartment house as an “apartment hotel” and charged the higher “daily rates only.” The Normandie was promoted as only “five blocks to the Monorail terminal and department stores.” After that half-year of sometimes unfair fair accommodations, news from the aging Normandie was limited to a few funeral notices for residents, and a 1974 notice that along with its close-by neighbors, Horizon House and the Cambridge Apartments, the Normandie was included in “area 197” of the federal government’s list of bomb shelters.
In spite of Seattle’s many hills and ridges and imbricating waterways, the lay of our land is much more picturesque than precipitous. This First Hill intersection is an exception. After climbing east from 8th Avenue, the steep grade on University Street stopped here and the street took a right turn (to the left) down 9th Avenue to Union Street. The alternative, continuing east on University, was strictly for pedestrians using the stairs evident in the featured postcard. Normandie residents enjoyed the added convenience of a pedestrian bridge that accessed the apartments’ top floor from the upper and eastern half of this eccentric intersection.
Anything to add, gents? Jean, here’s a game. Ron reminds us that we used the featured photo at the top in a previous feature as a “supporter” or more evidence for another subject. Ron suggests that we invite the readers into a “hide-and-seek” for it, while assuring them that it is not included in the last of the dozen or so features he will next post below these salutations and explanations.