(click to enlarge photos)
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.
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.
MAPS AND AERIALS OF CONCERNED CORNER FROM 1904, 1912, 1929
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.
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.
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.”
I’m going to divert attention from our historical remit for just a moment to wish Stu Dempster a very happy 80th birthday!
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.)
TIMELY INTERRUPTION from JAN 25, 1922 (The Times)
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 email@example.com
Here they are in no particular order.
[BEWARE and careful with the traffic]
No. 8 [Elliott Ave. lk. n. to 4th W., 1940]
No. 9 [Elliott near Roy and Prospect, Feb. 12, 1940]
No. 10 [Elliott lk s. fm 4th Ave. W. Sept 21, 1939]
3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Making of Western Avenue”
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.
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.
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…..