Seattle Now & Then: Third & Virginia, 1936

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The five buildings shown here on the west side of Third Avenue south of Virginia Street have endured with few changes since the ‘then’ photo was snapped in 1936. The exception is the smallest, far-right, the Virginian Tavern now stripped for an open garage at Third’s southwest corner with Virginia Street. The six-story Hardon Hall Apartments, at the center of the five, was renovated in 2006 for low-income housing by the Plymouth Housing Group.
THEN: The five buildings shown here on the west side of Third Avenue south of Virginia Street have endured with few changes since the ‘then’ photo was snapped in 1936. The exception is the smallest, far-right, the Virginian Tavern now stripped for an open garage at Third’s southwest corner with Virginia Street. The six-story Hardon Hall Apartments, at the center of the five, was renovated in 2006 for low-income housing by the Plymouth Housing Group.
NOW: To avoid sidewalk landscaping Jean moved to the curb for his repeat. The 3rd Avenue block between Virginia and Stewart streets has largely escaped the recent structural changes in the Denny Regrade Neighborhood.
NOW: To avoid sidewalk landscaping Jean moved to the curb for his repeat. The 3rd Avenue block between Virginia and Stewart streets has largely escaped the recent structural changes in the Denny Regrade Neighborhood.

Here is yet another billboard negative from the Foster and Kleiser collection that Jean and I have visited a few times for this Sunday feature. The anonymous photographer chose a prospect that exposed the company’s two billboards on the roof of the Virginian Tavern, the tenant of the modest brick building at the southwest corner of Virginia Street and Third Avenue. This time Jean’s ‘repeat’ shows us that in this block not much has changed in the intervening eighty years.  To gain some perspective on this booming town, the negative date, December 11, 1936, roughly splits the years between when the first settler-farmers landed near Alki Point in 1851 and now.

Here (above) we are about 100 feet higher and one block further north. This is F.J. Haines look south on 3rd Avenue from north summit of Denny Hill to Denny Hotel on the front or south summit of the hill.
Here (above) we are about 100 feet higher and one block further north than in the featured photographs. This is F.J. Haines ca. 1891 look south on 3rd Avenue from the north summit of Denny Hill to Denny Hotel on the front or south summit of the hill.   This is remote.  Most of Seattle is to the other side of the hotel and below it.  (Courtesy, Murray Morgan)
This looks north on Third Avenue from an upper story in the Denny (aka Washington) Hotel. The negative was shared with me by Carrie Coe, she did, however, knowo who took it, although it may have been her mother who had talent with her camera. The roof bottom-left covers the frame apartment house at the northwest corner of 3rd and Virginia. Queen Anne Hill marks most of the horizon.
This looks north on Third Avenue from an upper story in the Denny (aka Washington) Hotel. The negative was shared with me by Carrie Coe, she did, however, knowo who took it, although it may have been her mother who had talent with her camera. The roof bottom-left covers the frame apartment house at the northwest corner of 3rd and Virginia, the corner taken by the building that covers most of the bottom of the photo below this one.    Queen Anne Hill marks most of the horizon.
I recorded this in 2003 from the roof of the parking garage at the southeast corner of Virginia and Third Avenue. The view, then, looks northwest with Virginia on the left and Third Ave. on the right.
I recorded this in 2003 from the roof of the parking garage at the southeast corner of Virginia and Third Avenue. The view, then, looks northwest with Virginia St/ on the left and Third Ave. on the right.   In the ensuing thirteen years the Denny Regrade, aka Belltown. neighborhood has seen many changes with the high rise structures promised or envisioned for it a century ago when the regrading was done.
Like the Haynes photo above it, this was taken sometime in the early 1890s and years before the hotel was opened by its fighting developers. The hotel is behind the unidentified photographer of this illustration copied from a piece of stationary.
Like the Haynes photo above it, this was taken sometime in the early 1890s and years before the hotel was opened by its fighting developers. The hotel is behind the unidentified photographer of this illustration, which we copied from a piece of stationary. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan)
A warning published in The Seattle Times for the day the featured photo was dated and most likely recorded, December 11, 1936.
A warning published in The Seattle Times on the day the featured photo was dated and most likely recorded, December 11, 1936.

What were they thinking, the pedestrians and motorists here on Third Avenue?  Surely of the kings of England: both of them.  This is the day, a Friday, when it was at last fulfilled at 1:52 pm that the Duke of York took – or was given – the throne of his older brother Edward VIII who abdicated it for love. The Seattle Times, of course, trumpeted news about the switch, including a front page photograph of the new king’s daughter, the ten-year old Elizabeth who, an unnamed friend of the royals assured, as an “astute sharp-witted little girl” was figuring it out.  

 A sizeable detail from the front page of The Seattle Times for December 11, 1936.
A sizeable detail from the front page of The Seattle Times for December 11, 1936.

The neighborhood was then variously called the Uptown Retail Center, Belltown, and the Denny Regrade.  Only the first two names survive.  It is likely that many of these motorists on Third Avenue between Virginia and Stewart Streets remembered the regrade itself, and knew that they were driving under what only thirty years earlier was the south summit of Denny Hill. 

LaRoche's early 1890s look north on Third Avenue
LaRoche’s early 1890s look north on Third Avenue with his back to University Street.  The Denny Hotel effectively looms over the citiyi. 
The Washington Hotel, formerly the Denny, recorded from the southwest corner of Pike and Second Ave. The Pine and Second Avenue regrades encroaching on the hotel began their cuttings in 1903. (Courtesy, Washington State Museum, Tacoma)
The Washington Hotel, formerly the Denny, recorded from the southwest corner of Pike Street and Second Ave. The Pine and Second Avenue regrades encroaching on the hotel began their cuttings in 1903. (Courtesy, Washington State Museum, Tacoma)
The lobby most likely briefly before the hotel opened to Theo Roosevelt, its first guest, in the spring of 1903.
The lobby. most likely recorded briefly before the hotel opened in the Spring of 1903 to its  first guest, President Theodore Roosevelt,   With the hotel straddling the as yet undeveloped Third Avenue north of Stewart Street, the lobby was also stationed about 80 feet above Third’s future post-regraded elevation. 
Passing the mid-point in the hotel's destruction as seen looking north on Third Avenue looking through Pine Street.
Passing the mid-point in the hotel’s destruction as seen looking north on Third Avenue through Pine Street.
The White Garage's ornamental banding across Third Avenue from the garage on its east side. (2003)
The gone yellow White Garage’s ornamental banding at its cornice (or below it) across Third Avenue from another garage on the avenue’s  east side in 2003.

Just left of center, the six-story White Garage, the tallest of the five buildings on the east side of Third Avenue, fails to reach the elevation of the historic summit.  It is also short of reaching the elevation of what before the regrading was the basement of the majestic Denny Hotel, a.k.a. Washington Hotel, that sat atop the hill and advertised itself as “the scenic hotel of the West.”  Both the south summit and the hotel were razed between 1906 and 1908.

The Methodist church at the southeast corner of Pine Street and Third Avenue with the east wing of the hotel above it.
Left-of-center, outfitted and signed for theatre, the Methodist church at the southeast corner of Pine Street and Third Avenue with the east wing of the hotel still holding to the hill above it.
The church-as-theatre on the right at the southeast corner of Third Ave. and Pine Street, with the hotel long-gong and the south summit of Denny Hill mostlyi gone as well.
The church-as-theatre on the right at the southeast corner of Third Ave. and Pine Street, with the hotel long-gone and the south summit of Denny Hill mostly gone as well.

Given that the featured photo at the top was photographed  in the midst of the Great Depression, Third Avenue seems surprisingly rife with motorcars. A review of some historical vehicular statistics may explain the motorized zest.  Four blocks away at Second Avenue and Pike Street, and only thirty-two years earlier, the city’s street department counted 3,959 vehicles visiting the intersection, of which only fourteen were automobiles.  One year earlier there were no motorcars – everything moved by horse or by pedal. By 1916 many Seattle cyclists had turned into motorists, and Seattle had some 16,000 cars.  By 1921, with the doughboys returned from World War I, there were about 48,000 cars in Seattle. By 1929 there were 129,000 cars on the city’s streets.  

Of the two billboards above the Virginian Tavern, the one on the left advertises next year’s model 1937 Buick for $1,099.  Figured for inflation, the price seems surprisingly affordable.  In today’s showroom, the sticker would convert to about $18.400.   It seems that despite the ongoing depression, if one had a good middle class job, it was possible to own the mobility and prestige of a brand new Buick. 

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, fellahs?   Ron Edge has put forward this week’s neighborhood links below – neither less nor more than nineteen of them, except that each is also bound to be packed with other links and so on and on.   I have not lifted so much.   It is, Jean, now nearly 5 am Sunday morning and I’m surrendering to my heart’s beating pleading for sleep.   However, should I survive the night I will return tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon to finish up this feature.  Now I lay me down to sleep . . . and the rest that passes all understanding.

THEN: The northeast corner of Belltown’s intersection of Blanchard Street and Fourth Avenue was about 100 feet higher than it is now. The elegant late-Victorian clutters of the Burwell homes’ interiors are also featured on the noted blog. (Courtesy John Goff)

THEN: Sometime between early December 1906 and mid-February 1907 an unnamed photographer with her or his back about two lots north of Pike Street recorded landmarks on the east side of Third Avenue including, in part, the Washington Bar stables, on the right; the Union Stables at the center, a church converted for theatre at Pine Street, and north of Pine up a snow-dusted Denny Hill, the Washington Hotel. (Used courtesy of Ron Edge)

THEN: Where last week the old Washington Hotel looked down from the top of Denny Hill to the 3rd Ave. and Pine St. intersection, on the left, here the New Washington Hotel, left of center and one block west of the razed hotel, towers over the still new Denny Regrade neighborhood in 1917. (Historical photo courtesy of Ron Edge)

THEN: Steel beams clutter a freshly regraded Second Avenue during the 1907 construction of the Moore Theatre. The view looks north toward Virginia Street.

THEN: An early-20th-century scene during the Second Avenue Regrade looks east into its intersection with Virginia Avenue. A home is being moved from harm's way, but the hotel on the hill behind it would not survive the regrade's spoiling. Courtesy of Ron Edge.

THEN: Before this the first shovel of the last of Denny Hill was ceremonially dropped to the conveyor belt at Battery Street, an “initial bite of 30,000 cubic yards of material” was carved from the cliff along the east side of 5th Avenue to make room for both the steam shovel and several moveable belts that extended like fingers across the hill. It was here that they met the elevated and fixed last leg of the conveyor system that ran west on Battery Street to the waterfront. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: Built in 1888-89 at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street, the then named Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church marked the southeast corner of Denny Hill. Eventually the lower land to the east of the church (here behind it) would be filled, in part, with hill dirt scraped and eroded from North Seattle lots to the north and west of this corner. (Courtesy, Denny Park Lutheran Church)

THEN: While visiting Seattle for some promoting, silent film star Wallace Reid shares the sidewalk at 4th and Olive with a borrowed Stutz Bearcat. (Courtesy, Museum of History & Industry)

THEN: Looking south from Pine Street down the wide Second Avenue in 1911, then Seattle’s growing retail strip and parade promenade. (courtesy of Jim Westall)

belltown-moran-then

THEN: In 1910, a circa date for this look north on First Avenue across Virginia Street, the two corners on the east side of the intersection were still undeveloped – except for signs. The Terminal Sales Building, seen far right in Jean Sherrard’s repeat, did not replace the billboards that crowd the sidewalk in the “then” until 1923. (Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: Thanks to Pacific reader John Thomas for sharing this photograph recorded by his father in 1927. It looks north across Times Square to the almost completed Orpheum Theatre. Fifth Avenue is on the left, and Westlake on the right.

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Third & Virginia, 1936”

  1. I worked as a commercial photographer in the Heiden Building (top photo center) from 1980 to 2001. It was an interesting space and I was told that it was once a dance hall. We were on the second and third floors. Beatty Books took up two thirds of the first floor and Barge French Cleaners the other third. There was a huge amount of lumber used in it’s construction and there were giant skylights in the ceiling. The back area had what appeared to be what was left of a stage. The third floor only took up the first 20 ft or so of the building so the main part of the second floor had 17 ft ceilings. We shot ads here for Fredrick & Nelson, The Bon, Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Skyway Luggage, Neiman Marcus and more.

Leave a Reply