Seattle Now & Then: The Making of Western Avenue

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: James P. Lee, Seattle’s busy public works photographer of the early 20th century, recorded this 1922 look north from near the west end of Denny Way on the bluff above the then-forming Elliott Way. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: James P. Lee, Seattle’s busy public works photographer of the early 20th century, recorded this 1922 look north from near the west end of Denny Way on the bluff above the then-forming Elliott Way. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: For three generations, going on four, the Andrews family has owned the two buildings bordering the “postage stamp” park, which holds to what is left of the bluff that James Lee used as a prospect for his 1922 photo. The is a mix of planting, ramps and a few parking place. It is maintained with the volunteer stewardship of the Andrews.
NOW: For three generations, going on four, the Andrews family has owned the two buildings bordering the “postage stamp” park, which holds to what is left of the bluff that James Lee used as a prospect for his 1922 photo. The is a mix of planting, ramps and a few parking place. It is maintained with the volunteer stewardship of the Andrews.

Here the reader will wonder, we hope, how Jean and I sought and found (we are confident) the site for his contemporary repeat. While the date, “1-4-22,” carefully hand-printed at the lower-left corner of the subject, does not, of course, name the place, the general environs and directions are familiar. The right horizon is Queen Anne Hill with the dark forehead of its Kinnear Park landscape top-center. Magnolia makes the more distant horizon, on the left, and below it the dark elevator on the Great Northern Railroad’s Smith Cove pier stands tall.

The Great Northern pier and elevator as seen from Queen Anne Hill. The Photographer Andres Wilse dates this March 21, 1899, and (if I understand his caption) described this ship Kidship Maru as the first vessel to visit the GN's pier.
The Great Northern pier and elevator as seen from Queen Anne Hill. The Photographer Andres Wilse dates this March 21, 1899, and (if I understand his caption, bottom-left) describes this ship, Kidship Maru, as the first vessel to visit the GN’s pier.

Considerable help for our search arrived when we flipped the hard card on which the original print was glued and gratifyingly read another caption: “Streets Western Ave. W. looking N.W. from 1st Ave. W. Jan 14, 1922.” Note that the caption’s author has misread by 10 days the date printed on the print itself, which was most likely both correct and written by the photographer and city employee James P. Lee. Lee’s early 20th-century photography for public works was both prolific and in focus. Obviously, Lee liked his work, and on the fourth of January 1922 he was at it on a Saturday.

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MAPS AND AERIALS OF  CONCERNED CORNER FROM 1904, 1912, 1929

This detail from the 1904 Sanborn real estate map shows the line-up of First Avenue W. and Denny Way and the string of squatters shacks that were ultimately razed for the Elliot Ave. regrade and, if they survived into the 1920s, the continuation of Western to Elliott.
This detail from the 1904 Sanborn real estate map shows the line-up, bottom-center,  of First Avenue W. and Denny Way and the string of squatters shacks that were ultimately razed for the Elliott Ave. regrade and, if they survived into the 1920s, the continuation of Western to Elliott.
Detail of the same site from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map.
Detail of the same site from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map.
A detail of our corner, and a little more, from the 1929 aerial survey of Seattle. Courtesy, Municipal Archive and Ron Edge.
A detail of our corner, and a little more, from the 1929 aerial survey of Seattle.  The intersection (or meeting of concern or study here ) is left-of-center. Denny Way comes in from the upper-right.   Western runs from the bottom-right corner to the upper-left.  Courtesy, Municipal Archive and Ron Edge.

Lee is looking from where First Avenue North and Denny Way would have formed an intersection except for this bluff. If we draw lines (or consult Google Earth) west on Denny Way and south on First Ave West, they meet here. First West and Denny “met” by extending Western for a half block between them, while not yet cutting it through to the waterfront, which in 1904 and 1912 was still the beach.  In Jean’s repeat, the sidewalk along the west side of Western Avenue West continues down and north to the waterfront. What the municipal photographer is showing his engineers is where they will be both cutting and filling to extend Western Avenue down to the also new Elliott Avenue, part of the tidelands regrade and reclamation then under way below the bluff. 

Looking north on First Avenue West from where it meets the extended Western Avenue before Western was continued to the new Elliot Ave. soon after the featured photos was recorded by Lee. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey, not from his camera but his research and collecting. This is very possibly also a Lee photo, but an earlier one by a decade or so.))
Looking north on First Avenue West from where it meets the extended Western Avenue before Western was continued to the new Elliot Ave. soon after the featured photos was recorded by Lee. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey, not from his camera but his research and collecting. This is very possibly also a Lee photo, but an earlier one by a decade or so.)
This is my - and neither Jean's nor Lawton Gowey's - repeat of the supposed Lee photo above it. This means that I probably wrote one of the now about 1750 Pacific "now and then" features, but have since misplaced it. Which makes me date to ask, if there is anyone among you dear readers who would give me a hand in organizing and scanning this 34-year opera I will embrace your help and also have a better chance of batting 2000 sometime in 2021. Bless you - bless me.
This is my – and neither Jean’s nor Lawton Gowey’s – repeat of the supposed Lee photo above it. This means that I probably wrote one of the now about 1750 Pacific “now and then” features on this comparison, but have since misplaced it.  Which makes me dare to ask, if there is anyone among you dear readers who would give me a hand in organizing and scanning this 34-year opera I will embrace your help and also have a better chance of batting 2000 sometime in 2021. Bless you – bless me. (CLUE: I’ve dated this “now” photo, 1995.)
Here it is! Our intersection in the foreground where Western meets Denny Way, on the right, and extends it north to First Avenue West, at the curve. This too is possibly an earlier Lee recording. [Bless Lee and Gowey and the Seattle Municipal Archive.)
Here it is! Our intersection in the foreground where Western meets Denny Way, on the right, and extends it north to First Avenue West, at the curve. This too is possibly an earlier Lee recording. [Bless Lee and Gowey and the Seattle Municipal Archive.)  I may have also done a now-then feature on this, but have not stumbled upon a “now” as I did for the now-then above this eureka.  Note that the billboard furthers to the right appears in both the above shot and in the one above it as well. 

The decision to continue Western on to the waterfront north of Denny Way was made in 1917 but prevented by the city’s preoccupations with building ships and handling transshipments during World War I. By then, Seattle had become the second busiest port in the nation (after New York), and it was hard to keep city employees from fleeing for better work in the shipyards. Here, below, the Elliott sanitary fill is taking form, lifting the old tidelands to three feet above high tide. In 1923, both Elliott Way and Western, reaching with 15th Avenue N.W. to the then new Ballard Bridge, created a new speedway to the north end for a commuting population then riding rubber wheels, not hooves. 

Looking south up the completed link on Western Ave. to the also new Elliott Ave. on the right. Is it not a wonder how still it is?
Looking south up the completed link on Western Ave. to the also new Elliott Ave. on the right. Is it not a wonder how still it is?   This is the early 1920s; O.M. Kulien’s Northwest Industrial Buildings do not as yet fill the flat-iron block center-right between Western and Elliott.

In the late 1920s, O.M. Kulien built the Northwest Industrial Buildings that still stand here on the west side of Western Avenue West. Later, the Andrews family purchased the buildings, and later still, in 2000, remodeled them with a new name: the Northwest Work Lofts. Sid Andrews explains, “The Andrews family have by now owned the buildings for three generations – with the fourth in training.”  

WEB EXTRAS

I’m going to divert attention from our historical remit for just a moment to wish Stu Dempster a very happy 80th birthday!

A photo Jean took of Stu in 2008
A photo Jean took of Stu in 2008

Anything to add, lads?   Surely Jean, and an  joyful excuse. (You might might have included more of tonight’s photos of Stu and the crew.  It was because we enjoyed tonight’s orchestral tribute to Stu at the Chapel performance space in Historic Seattle’s Wallingford venue at Good Shepherd, and preluded it with a visit to a private affair celebrating Historylink’s prexy Marie McGaffrey’s 65th Birthday that we did not get as far into this week’s blog as we might have.  The neglect was worth it.   We start these “adds” with more links panned-out by Ron Edge, and will turn tomorrow with more discoveries including a dozen looks along Elliott Avenue mostly in the 1930s.  We will put it then to our readers to repeat any of them with their smart phones or other digital hardware and send them along to us and we will will slip them in.  All of them and with much credit and thanks.  What fun.  I may do it too Jean.  Ron?    (These mildly manic proposals are probably influenced by Fats Domino to whom I am now, by coincidence. listening, “all by myself” at 3am Sunday morning.)

THEN: Pier 70 when it was still Pier 14, ca. 1901, brand new but not yet "polished." Courtesy, Lawton Gowey

THEN: A circa 1912 look at the Wall Street finger pier from the foot, not of Wall, but Battery Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

belltown-moran-then

https://sherrlock.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/bell-st-bridge-then-web1.jpg?w=1122&h=673

THEN: Tied momentarily to the end of the Union Oil Co dock off Bay Street, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s ship Maud prepares to cast-off for the Arctic Ocean on June 3, 1922. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

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: The 1974 fire at the Municipal Market Building on the west side of Western Avenue did not hasten the demise of the by then half-century old addition of the Pike Place Market. It had already been scheduled for demolition. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive)

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TIMELY INTERRUPTION from JAN 25, 1922 (The Times)

Z-ST-Jan-15,-1922-Copettes-w.-pistols-WEB

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AN ELLIOTT REPEAT CHALLENGE (or Game)

We invite you dear readers to take your digital cameras and repeat the dozen or so recordings below of Elliott photographed by/for the Foster Kleiser Billboarders between 1938 and 1942.   All of them have their own captions, however beware.  The descriptions are of the billboards and their positions  in relationship to the nearest streets that intersect with Elliott. Most of the captions also include company code.  If you have the gumption to partake in this Repeato-Exploration then please send us your digits and we will insert them with credits.  Include any insightful or heart-felt captions you like. Jean where do they send them?  Paul, they should send them to paul@dorpat.com

Here they are in no particular order.

[BEWARE and careful with the traffic]

No. 1

FK---Elliot-EL-240'-N-[prob-web

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No. 2

FK-Elliott-(EL-240'-s-of-Mercer-Pl-R-90-Sept-29-39-web

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No. 3

FK-Elliott-&-Harrison-(NW)-Seattle-11-28-41-web

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No. 4

FK-ELLIOTT-&-Harrison-(sw)-March-14,-1940-web

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No. 5

FK-Elliott-&-Prospect-pl.-N.E.-[lk-no.]-B-2612-Aug-13-40-web

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No.  6

FK-ELLIOTT-&-republican-(nw--Jan.-31,-1939-web

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No. 7

FK-ELLIOTT-&-W-Prospect-Pl--Jan-31,1939-web

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No. 8 [Elliott Ave. lk. n. to 4th W., 1940]

FK-Elliott-Ave-lk-n-to-4th-W-1940-web

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No. 9 [Elliott near Roy and Prospect, Feb. 12, 1940]

FK-ELLIOTT-Ave.-[near-Roy,-Prospectd]-2-12-1940-web

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No. 10 [Elliott lk s. fm 4th Ave. W.  Sept 21, 1939]

FK-Elliott-Ave.-lk-s-fm-4th-Ave.-W.-Sept.21,-39-web

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No. 11

FK-Elliott-meets-Westlake-&-Thomas-(WL-60'-s-Thomas-P-1)-March-19,-1937-web

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No. 12

FK-ELLIOTT-near-Thomas--6-10-1940-web

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Making of Western Avenue”

  1. While researching James P. Lee today, I’ve happened upon your site. In an earlier article your mentioned he lived on 11th NE which triggered my memory. I grew up (until 10 or 11) at 8052 11th NE. Jimmy Lee, his son, and my brother, Johnny, were friends and I have some wonderful photos of these little boys (also of myself). Mr. Lee also took our family photos in 1932-1933. His photography skills covered a wide range.

    Thanks for bringing back some memories. And by the way I enjoy each of your Times articles and photos! As a native Seattleite, born in 1930 I remember many of those scenes.

    1. Janet
      Thanks for your neighborly reply. Sorry it sometimes takes me an eternity to read them. I’m not sure why, except that I’m probably paying attention to something else. I too live in Wallingford.
      Paul

  2. Til the mid 80’s Western operated like a to.the.trade. Car traffic street….one could cut through to Western and be beyond Belltown on the way to Ballard in a jiffy or better yet take the Battery street tunnel then the Mercer cut and gun it up to Capitol Hill the back way. The early Public Market spilled over to Western all the way to Madison street as the area was wholesale heaven….back when…..

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