Seattle Now & Then: Jackson St. and First Avenue South

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This view looking east from First Avenue South on Jackson Street in 1904, is still four years short of the Jackson Street Regrade during which the distant horizon line near 9th Avenue was lowered by more than 70 feet. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: This view looking east from First Avenue South on Jackson Street in 1904, is still four years short of the Jackson Street Regrade during which the distant horizon line near 9th Avenue was lowered by more than 70 feet. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Most of the structures in the “then” photo survive in the “now” after more than a century of use.
NOW: Most of the structures in the “then” photo survive in the “now” after more than a century of use.

The oversized posters hanging in the first floor corner windows of the Wax and Raine Building, on the right, reveal the date for this look east on Jackson Street from First Avenue South.  (Granted, you can not read them at the print size offered here, but you can trust us.)  They promote the 1904 visit on August 24 and 25 of the Ringling Brothers Circus to Seattle’s exhibition grounds, located at what is now the High School Stadium in Seattle Center.  The circus came with one rhinoceros, two giraffes, and forty elephants. It was also the year that the earnest and still steady Wax and Raine Building first opened. 

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There is as yet no Wax and Raine Building showing here at the southeast corner of First and Jackson.    The view looks east on Jackson from the top level of the King Street Coal Wharf.  The spire puncturing the skyline belongs to Holy Names Academy (before their move to Capitol Hill), and the large west facade below the Academy is the home for the Washington Shoe Manufacturer at the southeast corner of Jackson and Occidental.  It appears in this week’s featured photo “behind” the Wax and Raine and also in the “now” photo where it has grown three more floors.   South School stand on the far right horizon.
Another of Jackson Street looking east from the King Street Coal Wharf in the early 1890s.
A wider angle on Jackson Street looking east from the King Street Coal Wharf in the early 1890s.

In our featured photo at the top, the lonely man standing in the company of a fire hydrant on that same southeast corner of Jackson Street and First Avenue South might be adopted as a symbol or sign for this sturdy street.  Aside from a few hotel lobbies, there is little sidewalk commercial bustle here.  Jackson Street was then primarily stocked with wholesalers and manufacturers at home in new quarters built in the early years of the twentieth century, most of which survive.  Perhaps the man on the corner is headed north for the big bar facing First Avenue inside the Jackson Building, out of picture on the left.  It was the sudsy

The Tumwater Tavern facing First Ave. South from the Rainier Hotel recorded, again, by the Webster and Steven Studio. It served as the editorial photographer for The Seattle Times for many years.
The Tumwater Tavern facing First Ave. South from the Jackson , home of the Capitol Hotel recorded, again, by the Webster and Steven Studio. Beginning early in the 20th-Century it served as the editorial photographer for The Seattle Times for many years.  (Courtesy;, Museum of History and Industry)
Another look at the Tumwater Tavern, here looking north on First across Jackson Street about 1911. This is one of a few negatives struck by the Public Works Dept. to show off the city's first decorative light standards, which used five bulbs on the primary arterials like both Jackson Street and First Avenue South.
Another look at the Tumwater Tavern, here looking north on First across Jackson Street about 1911. This is one of a few negatives struck by the Public Works Dept. to show off the city’s first decorative light standards, which used five bulbs on the primary arterials like both Jackson Street and First Avenue South.
Looking north on First S. across Jackson in the late 1890s and before the 1901 construction of the Jackson Building.
Looking north on First S. across Jackson in the late 1890s and before the 1901 construction of the Jackson Building.  (Courtesy, Murray Morgan)

home for Olympia Beer, the “it’s the water” that was Rainier Beer’s principal Puget Sound competitor.  The Jackson Building, construction in 1901 for the Capitol Hotel, is also distinguished by the loving attention it has since received.  Architect and preservationist Ralph Anderson restored the classical landmark in 1963.  It was the first renovation in what soon became a movement and a decade later the Pioneer Square Historic District.

Potland photographer Huntington's look north on Commercial Street from Jackson ca. 1880. Huntington's caption is printed directly below.
Portland photographer Huntington’s look north on Commercial Street from Jackson ca. 1881.  Hold the paper “properly” with the subject somewhat close to your eyes that hold  themselves somewhat cross-eyed and you may manage to pull the third dimension from this stereo.   Huntington’s caption is printed directly below.   Both are – again and again – used courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry.  Bless the MOHAI.   [click click to ENLARGE]

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An etching of Commercial Street looking north from Jackson Street ca. 1884.
An etching of Commercial Street looking north from Jackson Street ca. 1884. The Arlington Hotel, with the flag, is on the right.   The University Building, a box with a cupola, is on the horizon, left-of-center.

Through its first half-century First Avenue South was easily the busiest retailing strip in Seattle and was appropriately first named Commercial Street.  After its largely framed four-block-run from Yesler Way to the tide flats below King Street was consumed by the Great Fire of 1889, along with all else in Seattle’s original neighborhood, Commercial Street quickly returned to its varied enterprises.  In the roaring 90s, following the fire, Jackson Street

Great Fire (June 6, 1889) ruins looking north from Jackson street with Commercial Street (First Ave. S.) on the right. A McManus marketed this and several other photos of the ruins in July, 1889. By then much of the rubble was cleared away, the ruins razed, and the rebuilding begun.
Great Fire (June 6, 1889) ruins looking north from Jackson street with Commercial Street (First Ave. S.) on the right. McManus marketed this in 1912 and dated  it and several other photos of the ruins July, 1889. By then much of the rubble was cleared away, the ruins razed, and the rebuilding begun.
The Salvation Army band posing on Jackson Street in front of the Palace Theatre, possibly during or following a "battle of the bands" with the house orchestra. The subject looks east from Commercial Street (First Ave. S.).
The Salvation Army band posing on Jackson Street in front of the Palace Theatre, possibly during or following a “battle of the bands” with the house orchestra. The subject looks east from Commercial Street (First Ave. S.).

was a generous contributor to Seattle’s skid road neighborhood of bars and cheap lodgings, especially on its south side where it nearly reached the King Street train trestles above the tide flats.  During the 1890s, Salvation Army street bands trumpeted concerts that competed with house bands in the bars along Jackson Street.  This sawdust row of cheap lodgings and obliging bars was razed to make way for the manufacturing and wholesaling brick neighborhood shown at the top.

Below: THE PLUMMER HOME at the NORTHWEST CORNER of OCCIDENTAL AND JACKSON IN THE LATE 1870s.

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Occidental looking north from Jackson, ca. 1899.
Occidental looking north from Jackson, ca. 1899.

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Within a block of this intersection in the 1904 Sanborn Real Estate Map there are five hotels, a flour and feed warehouse, a ship chandler, a second-hand store, several machine shops of various sizes, a shirt factory, a printing press, a rubber factory, three plumbers’ supplies, a candy factory, a photo engraver, a bakery (in the alley behind the Capitol Building) and a saw shop, the latter promoted by the billboard, shaped like a circular blade, that sits atop the roof, right-of-center.   The blade also appears above the roof of the Luna Park bound electric trolley below, circa 1907.  Note as well the Washington Shoe Manufacturer sign left-of-center and the Wax and Raine Building on the right.

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WEB EXTRAS

I’m going to deviate from our usual pattern and include a few photos from the Hands Around Green Lake event that just concluded minutes ago.

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Anything to add, guys?  Certainly Jean.  Your “Hands Around Green Lake” diversion is most caressing.  Thanks much.   Living near the lake you have often shared some unique moments out of its vibrant life with us.  NEXT: Ron Edge has gathered an assortment of neighborhood features and strung them below.

THEN: Sitting on a small triangle at the odd northwest corner of Third Avenue and the Second Ave. S. Extension, the Fiesta Coffee Shop was photographed and captioned, along with all taxable structures in King County, by Works Progress Administration photographers during the lingering Great Depression of the late 1930s. (Courtesy, Washington State Archive’s Puget Sound Branch)

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THEN: Looking northwest from the 4th Avenue trestle towards the Great Northern Depot during its early 20th Century construction. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: 1934 was one of the worst years of the Great Depression. This look north on Third Avenue South through Main Street and the Second Avenue South Extension was recorded on Thursday, April 19th of that year. Business was generally dire, but especially here in this neighborhood south of Yesler Way where there were many storefront vacancies. (Courtesy Ron Edge)

THEN: In the older scene daring steel workers pose atop construction towers during the 1910 building of the Union Depot that faces Jackson Street.

When compared to most city scenes relatively little has changed in his view west on Main Street from First Avenue South in the century-plus between them. (Historical photo courtesy of Lawton Gowey)

Then: The Pacific House, behind the line-up of white-gloved soldiers, might have survived well into the 20th Century were it not destroyed during Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry

THEN:In late 1855 the citizens of Seattle with help from the crew of the Navy sloop-of-war Decatur built a blockhouse on the knoll that was then still at the waterfront foot of Cherry Street. The sloop’s physician John Y. Taylor drew this earliest rendering of the log construction. (Courtesy, Yale University, Beinecke Library)

THEN: Looking north-northeast from the corner of Main Street and Occidental Avenue two or three weeks after the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. (Courtesy the Museum of History and Industry – MOHAI)

THEN: The original for this scene of a temporary upheaval on Mill Street (Yesler Way) was one of many historical prints given to the Museum of History and Industry many years ago by the Charles Thorndike estate. Thorndike was one of Seattle’s history buffs extraordinaire. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)

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Appeared first in Pacific, June, 1, 2008
Appeared first in Pacific, June, 1, 2008

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First appeared, Nov. 9, 1999
First appeared, May. 9, 1999

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First appeared March 14, 1999
First appeared March 14, 1999

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Another Billboard negative, this one sighting west on Jackson from or thru the Second Avenue extension in 1934.
Another Billboard negative, this one sighting west on Jackson from or thru the Second Avenue extension in 1934.  (Note:  The address given at the base of the photograph refers to the position of the billboard not the camera.]
Six years later looking west on Jackson Street thru 4th Avenue on July 16, 1940.
Six years later looking west on Jackson Street thru 4th Avenue on July 16, 1940.

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First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 29, 1998
First appeared in Pacific, Nov. 29, 1998

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Not yet hidden behind the
Not yet hidden by the Was and Raine Building, the Jackson Building at the northeast corner of First Ave. S. and  Jackson Street stands out on the right.  The photograph was taken from the railroad overpass used by coal cars to reach the King Street Wharf bunkers.   
First appeared in Pacific June 29, 1997
First appeared in Pacific June 29, 1997  

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Jackson St. and First Avenue South”

  1. I’m astounded. I don’t think there is any set of Then and Now photos of any part of the city you have posted that look almost identical more than this one! Seriously, with the exception of the addition of a couple of stories on the brick building and a tree (and the absence of the trolley tracks), these could have been taken a few days apart. I love it!

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