Seattle Now & Then: A Room with a View – Atop the WAC Roof

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: We give this panorama from the roof of the Washington Athletic Club a circa date of 1961, the year that Horizon House, a First Hill retirement community, first opened its doors to residents at Ninth Avenue and University Street. The high-rise L-shaped Horizon stands top-center. (Lawton Gowey)
THEN: We give this panorama from the roof of the Washington Athletic Club a circa date of 1961, the year that Horizon House, a First Hill retirement community, first opened its doors to residents at Ninth Avenue and University Street. The high-rise L-shaped Horizon stands top-center. (Lawton Gowey)  CLICK TO ENLARGE
NOW: From the WAC roof Interstate-5 is mostly hidden behind One and Two Union Squares and beneath the Convention Center and Freeway Park.
NOW: From the WAC roof Interstate-5 is mostly hidden behind One and Two Union Squares and beneath the Convention Center and Freeway Park.

A few weeks ago Jean and I were invited to the Washington Athletic Club (WAC) to give an illustrated lecture on how we go about delivering these weekly “repeats.”  It is Jean’s and my tenth anniversary – about.  With both text and pictures, I began this weekly feature in the winter of 1982.  Jean rescued me in 2005 when he started helping with the “nows.” By then we were old friends. Now he does all the repeats.  I both thank and need him.

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The day before our WAC lecture, Jean took the opportunity of visiting the club’s roof, thereby extending his practice of illustrating Seattle from its high-rises.  This time Robert Laurent, our gracious host and the Club’s Senior Event Manager,  accompanied him.  This Sunday’s “then” is one of the three historical photos that Jean carried with him.  (The other two – or three – are included here below this introduction.)  None of them was named, dated or credited, although I suspect another old friend, Lawton Gowey did the recording.  Lawton also explored the city on its sidewalks and from its roofs, and he (since deceased) and I shared at least three abiding interests: London history, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and historical ephemera of Seattle, which we regularly exchanged.

Lawton Gowey's municipal driver's permit, 1976
Lawton Gowey’s municipal driver’s permit, 1976
St. James tower - not from WAC but for comparison.
St. James tower – not from WAC but for comparison.

Like any high-rise panorama, this one is both stacked and stocked with stories, of which we can only touch a very few.   First, far right in the “then,” the twin towers of St. James Cathedral (1907) transcend the First Hill horizon.  In the “now,” one of the two towers peeks through the slot of First Hill that is revealed between the Park Place Building (1972) and One Union Square (1981).  Left-of-center, its neighbor, the Two Union Square (1987-88) reaches fifty-six stories and is the third highest building in Seattle.  Together, One and Two hide most of the horizon revealed in the “then.”   

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On the left, Eagles Auditorium (1924-5), home of ACT Theatre since 1993, fills the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Union Street, and to the east its terra cotta skin approaches the green glass of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center (1985-88).  From internal evidence the historical pan barely predates the Seattle Freeway section of Interstate-5.  Consequently, there is no Freeway Park, which in Jean’s “now” is knit with both the Park and the Center and the autumnal-toned landscape seen between the two Union Squares.  Instead, the “then” gives us a spread of the parking lots and small hotels that once sat on a few of the thousands of parcels of Seattle properties cleared for the freeway.

With the Federal Courthouse as 5th and Madison at the bottom, this aerial looks north-northeast at a stretch of freeway construction where I-5 curves from the city's grid as it approaches the western flank of Capitol Hill. A few of the surviving buildings noted in the paragraph below can be found here as well.
With the Federal Courthouse at 5th and Madison at the bottom, this aerial looks north-northeast at a stretch of freeway construction where I-5 curves from the city’s grid as it approaches the western flank of Capitol Hill. A few of the  buildings noted in the paragraph below can be found here..  These include the Exeter, Normandie, Cambridge, Van Siclen (the top of it), Fourth Church of Christ (now Town Hall), Horizon House, a touch of Virginia Mason Hospital, the Marlborough and the Panorama, and the northwest corner of the Nettleton (far-right)..

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For a reader’s game of hide and seek, we will name a few more of the built landmarks that appear in either the “then” or “now” panoramas or in both: the Exeter, Normandie, Cambridge, Van Siclen, Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist, now Town Hall since 1999, Horizon House, both Virginia Mason and Swedish Hospitals, the side-by-side Marlborough and Panorama, Nettleton, and – giving these away – the new blue and salmon colored Meridian Tower, which rises behind the spreading Electra apartments on the left.  The concrete Electra was built in 1949 as one of Seattle’s largest mid-century moderns and converted to condominiums in the 1990s.

WEB EXTRAS

Here’s a few more shots from the WAC rooftop:

Robert Laurent (r) with Jack (who has all the keys!)
Robert Laurent (r) with Jack (who has all the keys!)
A panorama looking northwest
A panorama looking northwest
West, with knobs
West, with knobs
From the top of WAC looking northwest
From the top of WAC looking northwest (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, AKA MOHAI)
Find the Camlyn!
Find the Camlyn, Pedro – above and below!
From the top of WAC, looking north to Lake Union and Wallingford.
From the top of WAC, looking north to Lake Union and Wallingford. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry, aka MOHAI)
Looking south with Sixth Ave. on the left and Fifth on the right. Landmarks include Plymouth Congregational Church, the Y.W.C.A., the Smith Tower, far right, and Harborview Hospital on the far-left horizon.
Looking south with Sixth Ave. on the left and Fifth on the right. Landmarks include Plymouth Congregational Church, the Y.W.C.A., the Smith Tower, far right, and Harborview Hospital on the far-left horizon. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry, aka MOHAI)

And the WAC from below:

The Washington Athletic Club from below
The Washington Athletic Club street view

Anything to add, boys?  Yes sir.  First a now-then clip on WAC that we managed in 1999.  That we will follow with a harsh of features Ron Edge has flavored for the neighborhood.   We may conclude by reaching beyond these horizons with some pans we think classic, including at the bottom Seattle’s first, the Sammis 1865 pan of the pioneer town.

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First appeared in The Times on August 22, 1999.
First appeared in The Times on August 22, 1999.

THEN: Of the three largest Seattle roofs – the Alki Point Natatorium, a grandstand section of the U.W.’s Denny Field, and the St. James Cathedral dome - that crashed under the weight of the “Northwest Blizzard” in February 1916, the last was the grandest and probably loudest. It fell “with a crashing roar that was heard many blocks distant.” (Courtesy Catholic Archdiocese.)

THEN: Looking east on University Street towards Ninth Avenue, ca. 1925, with the Normandie Apartments on the left.

THEN: In the 32 years between Frank Shaw's dedication picture and Jean Sherrard's dance scene, Freeway Park has gained in verdure what it has lost in human use.

THEN: The scene looks north through a skyline of steeples toward the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.

THEN: The home at bottom right looks across Madison Street (out of frame) to Central School. The cleared intersection of Spring Street and Seventh Avenue shows on the right.

THEN: Both the grading on Belmont Avenue and the homes beside it are new in this “gift” to Capitol Hill taken from the family album of Major John Millis. (Courtesy of the Major’s grandchild Walter Millis and his son, a Seattle musician, Robert Millis.)

THEN: The brand new N&K Packard dealership at Belmont and Pike in 1909. Thanks to both antique car expert Fred Cruger for identifying as Packards the cars on show here, and to collector Ron Edge for finding them listed at this corner in a 1909 Post-Intelligencer. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN: The Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper)

tsutakawa-1967-then

THEN: The Ballard Public Library in 1903-4, and here the Swedish Baptist Church at 9th and Pine, 1904-5, were architect Henderson Ryan’s first large contracts after the 20 year old southerner first reached Seattle in 1898. Later he would also design both the Liberty and Neptune Theatres, the latter still projecting films in the University District. (Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)

 

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THEN: Revelers pose on the Masonic Temple stage for “A Night in Old Alexandria,” the Seattle Fine Art Societies annual costume ball for 1921. (Pic courtesy of Arthur “Link” Lingenbrink)

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THEN: Built in the mid-1880s at 1522 7th Avenue, the Anthony family home was part of a building boom developing this north end neighborhood then into a community of clapboards. Here 70 years later it is the lone survivor. (Photo by Robert O. Shaw)

THEN: First dedicated in 1889 by Seattle’s Unitarians, the congregation soon needed a larger sanctuary and moved to Capitol Hill. Here on 7th Avenue, their first home was next used for a great variety of events, including a temporary home for the Christian Church, a concert hall for the Ladies Musical Club, and a venue for political events like anarchist Emma Goldman’s visit to Seattle in 1910. (Compliments Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Built in 1887, the Minor-Collins Home at the northeast corner of Minor Avenue and Cherry Street was one of the grandest and longest surviving pioneer mansions on First Hill. (Courtesy Historic Seattle)

THEN: Beginning with the Reynolds, three hotels have taken tenancy in this ornate three-story brick block at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pike Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: This detail from the prolific local photographer Asahel Curtis’s photograph of the Smith/Rininger home at the northwest corner of Columbia Street and Summit Avenue dates from the early twentieth century when motorcars, rolling or parked, were still very rare on the streets of Seattle, including these on First Hill. (Courtesy, Historic Seattle)

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THEN: A.J. McDonald’s panorama of Lake Union and its surrounds dates from the early 1890s. It was taken from First Hill, looking north from near the intersection of Terry Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: The city’s north end skyline in 1923 looking northwest from the roof of the then new Cambridge Apartments at 9th Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: Built in 1909-10 on one of First Hill’s steepest slopes, the dark brick Normandie Apartments' three wings, when seen from the sky, resemble a bird in flight. (Lawton Gowey)

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THEN: The Seattle Central Business District in 1962. I found this panorama mixed in with the Kodachrome slides photographed by Lawton Gowey. It was most likely taken by my helpful friend Lawton, who died in 1983, or Robert Bradley, Lawton’s friend in the then active Seattle Camera Club. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

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clip-van-siclen-apts-march-7-1999-web-copy—–

First appeared in Pacific, August 6, 1995
First appeared in Pacific, August 6, 1995

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First appeared in Pacific, October 12, 2008
First appeared in Pacific, October 12, 2008

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First appeared in Pacific, November 2008.
First appeared in Pacific, November 2008.

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First appeared in Pacific, August 25, 2002
First appeared in Pacific, August 25, 2002

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First appeared in Pacific, March 8, 1992
First appeared in Pacific, March 8, 1992

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First page to a now-then treatment of the 1919 General Strike. When we find page 2 we will insert it.
First page to a now-then treatment of the 1919 General Strike. When we find page 2 we will insert it.

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First appeared in Pacific, August 23, 1987
First appeared in Pacific, August 23, 1987

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A McDonald pan - one of many from the early 1890s.
A McDonald pan – one of many from the early 1890s.

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Another by the California photographer McDonald taken during his brief stay in Seattle in the early 1890s. [Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.]
Another by the California photographer A. J. McDonald taken during his brief stay in Seattle in the early 1890s. [Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.]
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A PANORAMA SAMPLER

Perhaps or probably the most revealing photograph taken of Pioneer Seattle. The photographer, Robinson, took it 1869 from a second window in Snoqualmie Hall at the southwest corner of Main Street and Commercial Street (First Ave. South).
Perhaps or probably the most revealing photograph taken of Pioneer Seattle. The photographer, Robinson, took it 1869 from a second window in Snoqualmie Hall at the southwest corner of Main Street and Commercial Street (First Ave. South).

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Seattle's first pan photographed by its first professional photographer Sammis. Dates 1865 it is interpreted below by pioneer historian Clarence Bagley.
Seattle’s first pan photographed by its first professional photographer Sammis. Dated 1865, it is interpreted below by pioneer historian Clarence Bagley.

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Peterson and Bros pan of Seattle in 1878 from Denny Hill.
Peterson and Bros pan of Seattle in 1878 from Denny Hill.  Second Avenue leaves the frame at the lower-right corner.  Compare with the 1884/5 pan below, also from Denny Hill.
From Denny Hill 1884/5.
From Denny Hill 1884/5.  Third Ave. leads to the bottom-center of the pan.
Looking south down Third Avenue from Denny Hill
Looking south down Third Avenue from the Washington Hotel on Denny Hill
Lake Union from Capitol Hill, early 1890s.
Lake Union from Capitol Hill, early 1890s.
A circa 1912-13 recording from the Smith Tower when it was still under construction.
A circa 1912-13 recording from the Smith Tower when it was still under construction.
A circa 1905 pan from the Alaska Building (1904)
A circa 1905 pan from the Alaska Building (1904)
From First Hill to Denny Hill, ca. 1905.
From First Hill to Denny Hill, ca. 1905.
1956 panorama from Harborview Hospital. The contemporary repeat dates from ca. 1990.
1956 panorama from Harborview Hospital. The contemporary repeat dates from ca. 1990. (Click Twice to Enlarge)
First Hill horizon taken by Watkins from a platform he constructed on top of Denny Hill's south summit.
First Hill horizon taken by Watkins from a platform he constructed on top of Denny Hill’s south summit.  Seneca Street reaches eighth-ninth avenues above where the dark copes of evergreens stands out at the upper-center of the subject.  [Courtesy, University of Washington Northwest Collection]

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: A Room with a View – Atop the WAC Roof”

  1. On the horizon on the left, you can see the earlier KCTS tower when it was on the Edison School, now Seattle Central College.

  2. Last summer several hundred of us had the honor of attending a heart-felt memorial service for retired Marine Col. Dick Francisco at the WAC. A fast-living fighter pilot in both WWII and Korea, he was a Seattle icon for his enduring dedication to supporting the youth of our community..A few years back he received a “Citizen of the Year” award in recognition of his work with special children at his dude ranch on Whidbey Island. Dick was truly larger-than-life and had touched the lives of so many, as evidenced by the stream of speakers who entertained us far into the night. There was much more laughter than tears – just as Dick wanted.

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