Seattle Now & Then: An Eastlake Cutie

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: A carpenter’s jewel with Victorian ornaments recorded by a tax assessor’s photographer in 1936, nestles at 615 Eastlake beside the surviving Jensen Apartments, aka the O’Donnell Building, on the left. (Courtesy Stan Unger)
THEN: A carpenter’s jewel with Victorian ornaments recorded by a tax assessor’s photographer in 1936, nestles at 615 Eastlake beside the surviving Jensen Apartments, aka the O’Donnell Building, on the left. (Courtesy Stan Unger)
NOW: For a wider perspective on the now crowded address, Jean Sherrard has shot west from the east side of Eastlake, a half block north of Mercer Street.
NOW: For a wider perspective on the now crowded address, Jean Sherrard has shot west from the east side of Eastlake, a half block north of Mercer Street.

For this week’s “then” we have picked another of the tax photos saved from the County Assessor’s wastebasket.  About sixty years ago, Stan Unger, then a young King County employee with affection for the built city, salvaged about three-thousand of these prints.  Like this portrait of 615 Eastlake, most were copied from 2 1/2 by 4 inch negatives, originally exposed for the late-1930s Works Progress Administration’s survey of taxable structures in King County.  On the whole this ambitious study was the work of skilled WPA workers using good cameras with sharp lenses.  For the most part, however, the tax cards and files that described the measurable qualities, including lot sizes, fixtures, building materials, architects, values, and much more, were destroyed, including those for this charming home yearning to be enjoyed as a Victorian landmark. 

A tax card for our feature's first neighbor to the north, the larger four unit apartment house from 617 thru 619 Eastlake. The photo was most likely taken on the same visit to the addition in 1937. Our Gothic "cuties' is hidden behind it, but the part of the Jensen Apartment on the northwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake is showing on the far left.
A tax card for our feature’s first neighbor to the north, the larger four unit apartment house from 617 thru 619 Eastlake. The photo was most likely taken on the same first visit to the addition in 1937. Our Gothic “cutie’ is hidden behind it, but part of the Jensen Apartments on the northwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake is showing on the far left.

Often the subject’s date of construction was hand-printed on the back of the surviving prints, but not on this one.  We will need to use other sources to summon an outline of the home’s history.

This detail from the 1893 Sanborn map includes thee footprints of our feature side-by-side with its twin upper-center
This detail from the 1893 Sanborn map includes upper-center the footprints of our feature side-by-side with its twin upper.  They snuggle together to the right of the block’s number “900” and left of the printed “street,” which then was still Albert and not yet Eastlake.  The street running left-right nearly thru the center of the frame, is Mercer.  The blocks to the right of Albert are now taken by I-5.   Compare this to the next Sanborn map, from 1904/5. 
Mercer and Roy are named in thsi 1905 Sanborn detail, and our Gothic twins are still facing Albert/Eastlake, left-of-center, and their block is now joined but two structures to the north. The larger of these is shown on the tax card print two images up.
Mercer and Roy are named in thsi 1905 Sanborn detail, and our Gothic twins are still facing Albert/Eastlake, left-of-center, and their block is now joined but two structures to the north. The larger of these is shown on the tax card print two images up.  Here, bottom left is the footprint for four storefronts at the southwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake.  This corner is shown next below, circa 1909. 
The southwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake, ca. 1911.
The southwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake, ca. 1911.

From earl real estate maps and other photographs (and Ron Edge’s help in uncovering them), we learn that 615 Eastlake had a twin standing beside it from at least the early 1890s until 1906.  It was removed for the construction of the three-story Jensen Apartments and storefronts (601 to 611) at the northwest corner of Eastlake Ave. and Mercer St.  The Jensen, restored in the 1990s, stands on the left of our “now.”  The surviving Victorian cottage, showing in our “then”, was moved west in 1905 or 1906 to create more open space between the new apartment house and the substantial frame residence (617) on the right. 

 

 

Churchill Warner's early 1890s look east across the south end of Lake Union to Capital Hill includes a the Gothic twins on Albert/Eastlake.
Churchill Warner’s early 1890s look east across the south end of Lake Union to Capital Hill includes the Gothic twins on Albert/Eastlake.  They stand out as the two white boxes left-of-center.  Note the two floors of windows. We may imagine their  unobstructed views west to Puget Sound and the Olympics.  The box, far right, also on Albert/Eastlake, sits at its northwest corner with Republican.  This plain home would soon be remodeled (or perhaps rebuilt) with Gothis features.  The Western Avenue trestle begins its run to Fremont at the bottom of the scene.  (Remember to CLICK CLICK to enlarge)
A detail pulled from a mid-1890s McDonald pan, also looking east across the south end of Lake Union and also showing left-of-center the Gothic twins and their not ornamented but bright western facades.
A detail pulled from a mid-1890s McDonald pan, also looking east across the south end of Lake Union and also showing left-of-center the Gothic twins and their not ornamented but bright western facades.  Here also is the bright white home at the northwest corner of Republican and Eastlake, now beginning it second life long into the 20th century as a Gothic landmark.  (We will soon – tonight or tomorrow – include a close-up of its near the bottom.) Note the several tries at grading Republican up Capitol Hill, on the far right.
Here the Gothic twins are no more. Which one survives, we do not know (as yet). The Jensen Apartment, right of center has moved in the from the northwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake, so perhaps it was the south twin that was razed or moved far away.
Here the Gothic twins are no more. Which one survives, we do not know (as yet). The Jensen Apartment, right of center has moved in from the northwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake, so perhaps it was the south twin that was razed or moved  away.  The surviving twin has been moved far enough to the west and away from Eastlake to make room for passages between it and both the Jensen Apartments and the smaller four-unit apartments to the north, as well as opening a front lawn.  These changes are revealed  in the featured photo.

Built on the lowest part of Capitol Hill’s western slope and from their many rear windows looking east over the Cascade neighborhood “flats,” these charming Gothic twins were not dainty. Their daylight basements served more like lower main floors, and were fitted with several windows each. (See them  three photos up.)  Still it was their well-ornamented east facades that these Victorians showed-off to Eastlake Avenue.  And on the evidence of the 1893 Sanborn real estate maps, they were also originally closer to the avenue. (See five images up.)  Beginning in the mid-1880s Eastlake was the railed route for horse-drawn cars carrying picnickers and others to Lake Union.  With users assured, immigrant William Jensen developed Jensen Grove, a German beer-garden, boat rental, bowling green and swimming beach attraction at the southeast corner of the lake.

Jensen's' Grove cartooned and nostalgically recalled by a bike shop in the Times for April 27, 1919.
Jensen’s’ Grove cartooned and nostalgically recalled by a bike shop in the Times for April 27, 1919.

When built, we speculate in 1890, the Victorian twins were set at the center of the block between Mercer and Roy Streets with the property line squeezed between them.  But who built the twins and who first lived in them?  The 1892 Colbert Directory has German immigrant, William Koch, at home in the north twin, while living in the snuggling south twin was William Jensen, the same Jensen of the Grove.  Most likely they built them too.  In the 1908 Baist Real Estate Map, Jensen’s name is printed on his south side of the block. By then the south twin (most likely) has been removed to make way for the Jensen Apartments at the northwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake.

A detail from the 1908 Baist real estate map. Note the red-colored red brick footprint for the Jensen Apartments at the northwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake.
A detail from the 1908 Baist real estate map. Note the red-colored red brick footprint for the Jensen Apartments at the northwest corner of Mercer and Eastlake.  The surviving Cothic twin is shown here to the right of “19,” the new number for the block.  Its length is disturbing, and probably a mistake.  Or was the missing twin simply attached to the west facade of the surviving one?  The third illustration above, which includes it, it not detailed enough to rule  this speculation in or out.
By the time this tribute was published in The Times on Feb. 25, 1906, the brothers-in-law immigrants from Germany were well known hosts for food, spirits and bowling too.
By the time this tribute was published in The Times on Feb. 25, 1906, the brothers-in-law immigrants from Germany were well known hosts for food, spirits and bowling too.   Jensen is top-left and Koch top-center.

The two Williams, neighbors Koch and Jensen, were partners in the Louvre, a popular café-tavern built quickly at the northeast corner of Madison St. and First Ave. following the 1889 fire.  The partners were also brothers-in-law.  Koch’s sister, Hulda , arrived in Seattle two weeks after its Great Fire, and soon married her brother’s business partner.  In the fall of 1909, the Times reported, “Mrs. William Jensen (Hulda) was hostess at a very pretty reception given in honor of their daughter Gertrud’s eighteenth birthday.”  By 1910 Jensen was sufficiently celebrated to lend, or more-likely sell, his name for use in a local advertisement for rheumatism and lumbago cures.

 

A Jensen testimony from Sept. 15, 1910.
A suffering Jensen with his get relief testimony from Sept. 15, 1910.
Another 1937 tax photo, this one looking southeast at 1317 Roy Street but also showing parts of our three primary subjects, the north facade of the Gothic 'miniature,' far left, above it the rear east facade balconies of the Jensen Apartments, and far left the north facade of the 4- unit apartment on Eastlake. This is another formerly "lost" image released by
Another 1937 tax photo, this one looking southeast at 1317 Roy Street, but also showing parts of our three primary subjects, the north facade of the Gothic ‘miniature,’ far right, above it the rear east facade balconies of the Jensen Apartments, and far left the north facade of the 4- unit apartment on Eastlake. This is another rescued image recently uncovered by Stan Unger.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, Jimmy (I say Jimmy to honor Scotland’s ‘Remain’ vote – on the streets of Glasgow, if you call out ‘Jimmy’ every male in shouting distance will turn in acknowledgement – it’s the Scots equivalent of ‘fellah’)?   Yes Jean.  Do you imply that Scotland gave its majority to ‘Remain?’  Yes and yes again.  Ron has piled below eighteen past neighborhood features, some of which our readers will remember and then, probably remember again, for we do repeat and repeat.  That’s what we do, hey Jimmy?

THEN: The Cascade neighborhood, named for its public grade school (1894), now long gone, might have been better named for the Pontius family. Immigrants from Ohio, they purchased many of the forested acres north of Denny Way and east of Fairview Avenue.

THEN: Samuel McKnight’s early 1890s panorama of Lake Union also looks north into most of Seattle’s seventeen square-mile annexation of 1891, when the city limits were pushed north from McGraw Street to 85th Street. Fremont, Edgewater, the future Wallingford, Latona, and Brooklyn (University District) were among the neighborhoods included. (Courtesy, Dan Kerlee)

THEN: Photographed in the late 1950s, the floating restaurant’s huge on deck hooligan got no competition as yet from the Space Needle (1962) in breaking the horizon.

THEN: Werner Lenggenhager's recording of the old St. Vinnie's on Lake Union's southwest shore in the 1950s should remind a few readers of the joys that once were theirs while searching and picking in that exceedingly irregular place.

THEN: The now century-old Norway Hall at the corner of Boren Avenue and Virginia Street opened in 1915, on May 17, Norwegian Independence Day. (Courtesy, Nordic Heritage Museum)

THEN: The scene looks north through a skyline of steeples toward the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.

THEN: Pioneer Arthur Denny's son, Orion, took this photo of popularly named Lake Union John and his second wife, Madeline, sometime before the latter's death in 1906.

Then: Photographed from an upper story of the Ford Factory at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street, the evidence of Seattle's explosive boom years can be seen on every shore of Lake Union, ca. 1920. Courtesy of MOHAI

THEN: Both the grading on Belmont Avenue and the homes beside it are new in this “gift” to Capitol Hill taken from the family album of Major John Millis. (Courtesy of the Major’s grandchild Walter Millis and his son, a Seattle musician, Robert Millis.)

THEN: Built in the mid-1880s at 1522 7th Avenue, the Anthony family home was part of a building boom developing this north end neighborhood then into a community of clapboards. Here 70 years later it is the lone survivor. (Photo by Robert O. Shaw)

THEN: In 1913, or near to it, an unnamed photographer recorded this view southeast across the Lower Queen Anne corner of Denny Way and First Avenue North. Out of frame to the left, the northeast corner of this intersection was home then for the Burdett greenhouse and gardens. By its own claim, it offered plants of all sorts, “the largest and most complete stock to choose from in the state.” Courtesy, the Museum of North Idaho.

THEN: A.J. McDonald’s panorama of Lake Union and its surrounds dates from the early 1890s. It was taken from First Hill, looking north from near the intersection of Terry Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: The city’s north end skyline in 1923 looking northwest from the roof of the then new Cambridge Apartments at 9th Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: This portrait of the Seattle Gas Company’s storage tank dates from the spring of 1907, which explains its somewhat steeper topography. Between 1908 and 1911, both Republican Street, here on the right, and 9th Avenue N. were lowered to a grade close to that of Westlake Avenue, which is behind the photographer.

THEN: William O. McKay opened show rooms on Westlake in July of 1923. After fifty-seven years of selling Fords, the dealership turned to the cheaper and more efficient Subaru. Now reconstructed, the old Ford showroom awaits a new tenant.

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: An Eastlake Cutie”

  1. Thanks for the photo of the little house on Eastlake. My husband recognized it as that of his Grandmother, Mary Ann Engelson. Digging into the City Directories and the 1930 & ’40 census, we figure she lived there, renting the house, from 1930 until after WWll. ( Incidentally, Polk’s City Directories and the two census list the address as 613 Eastlake.) My husband remembers (then about 9 yrs old) standing in the backyard, watching the parade of cars and people along Lake Union celebrating the end of the War. He has fond memories of family gatherings in that house,but never had a photo. What a thrill to have this one!
    JoAnne King

  2. Thanks to you and your hubby JoAnne for partnering with you.* Of the hundreds of tax photos i have reviewed in the last few weeks from Stan Unger’s collection it is surely one of my favorites. I’d love to see photos of the inside too – of both Mary Ann Engelson and her Gothic landmark, either together or singly. Any chance?
    Paul
    * marrying you

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