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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?