(click to enlarge photos)
In 1889 the parishioners of Plymouth Congregational chose to sell their first church, a frame-construction on Second Ave. near Spring Street, for $32,000, a sum that allowed them to build nearby the bigger brick sanctuary seen here at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and University Street. The rear façade of their new
landmark faced the University of Washington’s first campus, whose ten acres made a verdant back yard for the monumental sanctuary. On the right, the northwest corner of the campus climbs what was called Denny’s Knoll, until that unique hillock on the western slope of First Hill was regraded away for the creation of the Metropolitan Building Company’s “city within a city.” The Cobb Building, the most distinguished survivor of the Metro Company’s lavish commercial makeover of the campus, can be easily found right-center in Jean Sherrard’s “repeat.”
For my taste the featured photograph is the grandest of the many photo-portraits of this hybrid Romanesque/Gothic landmark recorded during its tenure at this site. By some mystifying morning reflection, the light out of the east brightens the tracery of the church’s grandest window, which faced west over Third Avenue. After about twenty years, the rapidly growing Plymouth congregation received an offer it could not refuse. Alexander Pantages, the vaudevillian impresario, wanted the corner for a
namesake terra cotta-clad theatre. On the fifth of May, 1913, The Seattle Times reported that a day earlier the “steeple was shorn from old Plymouth Church . . . to make way for the new Pantages Theatre.” Once its timber supports were sawn through, the lassoed spire was successfully guided by ropes and fell on the roof, rather than the street. The congregation then moved to their present corner of Sixth Avenue and University Street, three blocks east of this one.
In the featured photo, both Third and University Streets still sit at their original nearly natural grade. The later regrade that began in 1906, noted above, lowered the streets here by about ten steps. That is what it took, after the second regrade, for Plymouth parishioners to climb from the new sidewalk up to their sanctuary’s pews. Here there are no stairs, because the Webster and Stevens photograph was taken sometime before that 1906 regrade. The photographers, Ira Webster and Nelson Stevens, were migrant Midwesterners who met while working in the Seattle Photo Studio, which they soon quit to found their own photography business in 1903. They advertised their reach as “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere.”
We confidently speculate that the W&S partners took the featured photograph sometime in 1904. The number, 658, that they inscribed on the negative, is a relatively low one, especially for an enterprise that ultimately produced over sixty-thousand images, many of them glass, and now shared and protected in the library of the Museum of History and Industry. To the left of the number, and also on the street, the partners have written the name of their subject, “Plymouth Church.” This treatment suggests that they considered the image worthy of their general commercial stock – perhaps for distribution as a “real photo postcard,” which were then becoming popular.
Our proposed date of around 1904 is somewhat supported by the presence, far left, of the Antlers Hotel, which opened in the summer of 1903 on the northwest corner of Union Street and Fourth Ave. More evidentiary, directly north of Plymouth Church, the big corner lot, here on the left, was purchased in 1901 by the Federal Government for Seattle’s Beaux Arts Federal Building. Construction began at that corner in 1904. Surely, many PacificNW readers will remember its pigeon-marked classical columns.
Anything to add, fellahs? Certainly Jean, and beginning with Ron’s gathering of a comfortable smoking jacket’s pocket of scans from other features from nearby the congregationalists – most of them on Third Avenue. (We should note that Ron Edge does not smoke. I do not know if he ever has. He seems to have a good diet, based largely on cabbage. Me too.)
ONCE MORE ON THE CORNER
We will add a few more neighborhood scene’s and some proof reading tomorrow following a night, we hope, of remembered dreams.