Seattle Now & Then: 5th and Pike

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking east on Pike Street from Fifth Avenue early in the twentieth century. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: Looking east on Pike Street from Fifth Avenue early in the twentieth century. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Much of the modern Pike Street, including the Coliseum Theatre (1916) on the left, was in place before the Great Depression. The exception, of course, is the Washington State Convention Center (1988).
NOW: Much of the modern Pike Street, including the Coliseum Theatre (1916) on the left, was in place before the Great Depression. The exception, of course, is the Washington State Convention Center (1988).
Title page for F.J. Grant's 1891 History of Seattle.
Title page for F.J. Grant’s 1891 History of Seattle.

In 1891, a dozen years or so before the recording of our featured photo of Pike Street at Fifth Avenue, journalist-historian Frederick James Grant published his “History of Seattle,” the city’s first book-length history.  Grant described Pike as “having been from the first a business street” and predicted that it “will always be crowded with retail houses and minor business establishments.”    We know that it

Pike Street looking east from First Ave., ca. 1899
Pike Street looking east from First Ave., ca. 1899

was not to be.  Pike, the main street of early Seattle’s north end, continued its development into the city’s retail center not with “minor houses” but major multi-story retail blocks, most notably the Frederick and Nelson Department Store in 1918, although not on Pike but on Pine, one block to the north.  

Pike looking east from the public market. You might pull the date by the motorcars or the construction work on the Bon Marche at the southeast corner of Pike and Second, here right of center.
Pike looking east from the public market. You might pull the date by the motorcars or the construction work on the Bon Marche at the southeast corner of Pike and Second, here right of center.

Before the Denny Hill Regrade, Pike was the most northerly street to cross with ease the southern flank of the hill. Essentially, for Pike between First and Fifth Avenues, there was almost no Denny Hill.  It was because of this natural kindness that both a narrow-gauged coal railroad in the 1870s and a horse-drawn trolley in the 1880s used Pike, and not Pine, to move east from the bluff above the waterfront.  Heading for Lake Union from the Pike Street wharf, the coal-hauling railroad turned north toward the lake a few feet from where a Webster and Stevens photographer later set his tripod to record this week’s featured photo printed here at the top.  Judging from the low studio number 679 (seen near the base of the pole far right), the subject was recorded very early in the twentieth century. In this record we also discover two electric trollies, but no motorcars, which were still rare.  Of the 3,959 vehicles counted crossing through the nearby intersection of Pike and Second Avenue on December 23, 1904, only fourteen were automobiles. [We have used that statistic so often that we are blushing.]

Another Webster and Stevens look east on Pike from Fifth Avenue, this one numbered 26939.
Another Webster and Stevens look east on Pike, here from Fourth Avenue, this one numbered 26939.  It is late enough for the studio to add twenty-six thousand negatives to its collection.  It was a hardy labor with most of them on glass, a surface hardly comparable to our facile digits.  Reaching the distant Capitol HIll horizon does not appear to be a challenge.  

From this prospect we can also see Pike Street’s second topographic advantage: it easily climbed First Hill. One block to the east at Sixth Avenue, Pike begins its bearable rise to the hill. Union Street, paralleling Pike one block to the south, could not manage the climb, because it ran into one of the steeper parts of the ridge that aside from a pedestrian path, still blocks Union Street at Ninth Avenue. The paved street resumes one block east at Terry Avenue and about eighty feet higher. 

The Idaho Block at the northeast corner of Piake and Fifth Avenue appears at the center of this detail from the 1904 Sanborn real estate and fire insurance map. The Idaho is just above the "Pike" printed on the street.
The Idaho Block at the northeast corner of Pike and Fifth Avenue appears at the center of this detail from the 1904 Sanborn real estate and fire insurance map. The Idaho is just above the “Pike” printed on the street. (Click to Enlarge)

The Idaho Block, here on the left at the northeast corner of Pike and Fifth Avenue, appears in the 1890 city directory.  It was considered the first business block raised in this then north end neighborhood of mostly modest homes, one-story tenements and tall stumps.  The Idaho was built by and/or for Aaron and Esther Levy. The latter is still remembered as the founder of the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society, the first Jewish charitable organization in Seattle.  The Idaho’s units were stocked with both homemakers and small businesses.  For instance, a Times classified for May 28, 1897, reads

The featured photo used in a "now-then" feature about the "Bridal Row" built one block east on Sixth Avenue.
The featured photo used in a “now-then” feature about the “Bridal Row” built one block east on Sixth Avenue.  (CLICK CLICK to Enlarge)

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Bridal Row, northeast corner of Pike and Sixth Avenue. (Courtesy Luci Campbell Coe)
Bridal Row, northeast corner of Pike and Sixth Avenue. (Courtesy Luci Campbell Coe)  CLICK TO ENLARGE

“Hats and bonnets, reshaped, dyed, cleaned or pressed; latest styles. 1504 Fifth, Idaho Block.”   With the rest of the businesses facing Pike, the Idaho survived a 1906 widening of the street by being moved back.  It just missed a quarter-century of service when it was razed in 1914 for construction of the Coliseum Theatre, which has been revamped as the Banana Republic clothing store in our “now”.

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NAMESAKE JOHN PIKE ( a 1988 letter from his granddaughter)

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Pike Street was named for John Pike by his friend Arthur Denny, the ‘city father’ who made the claim, surveyed it, and sold off its lucrative parts.  A carpenter, Pike helped build the Territorial University and was paid with land and the tribute of his own street.

WEB EXTRAS

Hey, lads and lasses, it’s that time of year again. This year’s Rogue’s Christmas once again features me and Mistah Dorpat, along with special guest Kurt Beattie (artistic director-emeritus of ACT, actor, writer, and our longtime friend) and the amazing Khanh Doan, an actress who has dazzled on NW stages for the past decade. Music, as always, provided by the inimitable Pineola.

Join us tomorrow afternoon at 2PM at Seattle’s Town Hall!

Anything to add, fellahs?   Ya, and relevant too.  The last of the Edge links below – put up by Ron – features some news of a past Rogue’s Christmas.  So there Jean.  See you tomorrow with my rocking chair, and in it.

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Great railroad signs, theatre signs and ranks of neon were still the greatest contributors to night light at 4th and Westlake in 1949. (Photo by Robert Bradley compliment of Lawton and Jean Gowey)

THEN: We are not told but perhaps it is Dora and Otto Ranke and their four children posing with their home at 5th and Pike for the pioneer photographer Theo. E. Peiser ca. 1884. In the haze behind them looms Denny Hill. (Courtesy Ron Edge)

THEN:The early evening dazzle of the Roosevelt Theatre at 515 Pike Street, probably in 1941. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: As explained in the accompanying story the cut corner in this search-lighted photo of the “first-nighters” lined up for the March 1, 1928 opening of the Seattle Theatre at 9th and Pine was intended. Courtesy Ron Phillips

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: 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: Looking west on Pike Street from Fourth Avenue, the variety in the first block of this retail district includes the Rhodes Bros. Ten Cent Store, Mendenhall’s Kodaks, Fountain Pens and Photo Supplies, Remick’s Song and Gift Shop, the Lotus Confectionary, Fahey-Brockman’s Clothiers, where, one may “buy upstairs and save $10.00”. (Courtesy, MOHAI)

THEN: This rare early record of the Fourth and Pike intersection was first found by Robert McDonald, both a state senator and history buff with a special interest in historical photography. He then donated this photograph - with the rest of his collection - to the Museum of History and Industry, whom we thank for its use. (Courtesy MOHAI)

THEN: A motorcycle courier for Bartell Drugs poses before the chain’s Store No. 14, located in the Seaboard Building at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Pike Street, circa 1929. (Courtesy Bartell Drugs)

THEN: The Hotel York at the northwest corner of Pike Street and First Avenue supplied beds on the American Plan for travelers and rooms for traveling hucksters. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: In this April morning record of the 1975 “Rain or Shine Public Market Paint-in,” above the artists, restoration work has begun with the gutting of the Corner Market Building. (Photo by Frank Shaw)

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GRANT’S HISTORY of SEATTLE is introduced with this panegyric by W.P. Heneage.

Grant, we assume, chose to introduce his 1891 History of Seattle with this panegyric by W. P. Henerge, which is dated five years before Walt Whitman's 1992 death, and seems to have not been under any Whitmanesque influence.
Grant, we assume, chose to introduce his 1891 History of Seattle with this panegyric by W. P. Heneage, which is dated five years before Walt Whitman’s 1992 death, and seems to have not been under any Whitmanesque influence.

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