Seattle Now & Then: First and Seneca

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: An electric trolley heading north for Green Lake completes its crossing of Seneca Street, continuing its passage beside a diverse cluster of one small tailor shop – at the center – and four hotels named right-to-left, the Hotel Ramona, the Yates, the Yellowstone, and at the corner with University Street, the Hotel Diller. (Courtesy, MUSEUM of HISTORY & INDUSTRY)
THEN: An electric trolley heading north for Green Lake completes its crossing of Seneca Street, continuing its passage beside a diverse cluster of one small tailor shop – at the center – and four hotels named right-to-left, the Hotel Ramona, the Yates, the Yellowstone, and at the corner with University Street, the Hotel Diller. (Courtesy, MUSEUM of HISTORY & INDUSTRY)
NOW: Only the 126 year-old red brick Hotel Diller, at the southeast corner of First Avenue and University Street, survives in what a 110 ago was a block of seven hotels and one tailor.
NOW: Only the 126 year-old red brick Hotel Diller, at the southeast corner of First Avenue and University Street, survives in what a 110 ago was a block of seven hotels and one tailor.

This week’s feature on First Avenue, like last week’s on Third, looks north from Seneca Street, here a few yards south of Seneca.  Imagine, if you will, in place of Seneca, a ravine.  Following the 1852-3 pioneer settlement on the east side of Elliott Bay, a bridge was eventually needed to cross this gully that broke through the waterfront bluff.  The Native Americans had favored the eroded cut as suitable for burials, and during pioneer days bodies were still exposed during heavy rains. In 1876 the bridge over the ravine was reinforced with a log retaining wall during the regrading of Front Street (First Avenue) from Mill Street (Yesler Way) to Pike Street.  It was Seattle’s first oversized public work.

The bridge over the Seneca Street ravine is marked in this detail from the Peterson & Bros. 1878 panorama of the nearly new Front Street Regrade (1876). The green coloring clumsily "enhances" the green growth that is attached to the log-constructed retaining wall on the west side of Front Street. The vegetation was encourage or fed by the drainage on Seneca.
The bridge over the Seneca Street ravine is marked in this detail from the Peterson & Bros. 1878 panorama of the nearly new Front Street Regrade (1876). The green coloring clumsily “enhances” the green growth that is attached to the log-constructed retaining wall on the west side of Front Street. The vegetation was encourage or fed by the drainage on Seneca.  The intersection is shown again below in a detail from the 1888 Sanborn Map and in post 1889 Great Fire photo.
The intersection of Seneca and Front Street (no.5) photographed from a waterfront rebuilding after the Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The 1888 map show the fire-destroyed subject including the Cracker factory and the electric generating plant to either side of Seneca and just west of Front/First.
The intersection of Seneca and Front Street (no.5) photographed from a waterfront rebuilding after the Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The 1888 map shows a few fire-destroyed subjects including the Cracker factory (3) and the electric generating plant (4) to either side of Seneca and just west of Front/First.

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First appeared in Pacific Nov. 12, 2000.
First appeared in Pacific Nov. 12, 2000.

I speculate that this energetic featured subject – at the top –  was photographed in 1906.  A clue is found at the far end of this block of crowded hotels between Seneca and University Streets.  There across University Street parts of the first two floors of structural steel point skyward above the Arcade Annex construction site.  In The Times for Jan. 10, 1907, the building is shown incomplete but well along.  (In 1991 the Arcade Annex was replaced with the Seattle Art Museum.)

A screen photo of the Arcade Annex from The Seattle Times for February 1, 1907.
A screen photo of the Arcade Annex from The Seattle Times for January 10, 1907.
A scene from the Preparedness Parade of June 10, 1916 that shows both the Diller Hotel on the right and the Aracde Annex at the center. (Courtesy Everett Library)
A scene from the Preparedness Parade of June 10, 1916 that shows both the Diller Hotel on the right and the Aracde Annex at the center. (Courtesy Everett Library)
Lawton Gowey's March 4, 1982 record of what remains of the Arcade Building at the northeast corner of Univeristy St. and First Ave.
Lawton Gowey’s  record of what remains of the Arcade Building at the northeast corner of Univeristy St. and First Ave. on March 4, 1982.   At some point two floors have been added and its north half razed for a larger Rhodes Department Store.

Let’s imagine the cluster of five brick structures that comprise the centerpiece of the featured subject as a sampling of how Seattle might have developed without the interruption (and inspiration) of its Great Fire of 1889.  Built in the 1890s just beyond the fire zone, the five are not architecturally current as were the more commonly larger structures that were built on the ashes.  Here is a lingering devotion to the French curve, chimney caps, arching window lintels and rectangular bays. 

Side-by-side the Yates and Ramona hotels in another Webster and Stevens Studio photograph, courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry, AKA MOHAI.
Side-by-side the Yates and Ramona hotels in another Webster and Stevens Studio photograph, courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry, AKA MOHAI.

The best survivor here is the most distant one, the Diller Hotel at the southeast corner of University and First.  A heavy cornice, since removed as an earthquake precaution, tops its four floors.  The Diller developed into a popular hangout for political and fraternal huddling.  Named for its builder’s family – the family home had been on the corner – the Diller was conceived before the Great Fire and built soon after of Japanese bricks.  Understandably, bricks were then hard to come by.

The Diller Hotel at the southeast corner of University Street and First Avenue.
The Diller Hotel at the southeast corner of University Street and First Avenue.
First appeared in Pacific, March 20, 1994.
First appeared in Pacific, March 20, 1994.
A 1892 record of the new SAM (Seattle Art Musuem) and the old Diller to either side of University Street facing First Ave. from its east side.
A 1992 record of the Seattle Art Museum and the Diller Hotel, on the, respectively, north and south sides of University Street, facing First Avenue.  The Hammering Man is as yet not in his place. 

Jumping now to the south end of the block and the Hotel Ramona, we may hazard a suspicion that some of its 100 rooms were used for unlicensed therapies.  Given the boisterous growth of Seattle that began even before its Great Fire, and kept building during the Yukon gold rush of the late 1890s, there was a general over-building of hotels, including the larger and finer ones two-to-five blocks up the hill.  Consequently, the seven hotels on this block (counting both west and east sides) offered relatively cheap stays. In 1907 a room could be had at the Hotel Ramona for fifty cents a night or $2.50 a week.  Such prices encouraged the steady transformation of First Avenue into the Flesh Avenue that some may still remember from the 1970s.  For instance, in a Feb 12, 1904, Seattle Times classified, May Donally in room no. 9 offered massages and vapor baths, while in room 10 Miss Harrison did the same. Miss Ellsworth, “accomplished masseuse,” offered a “famous Assyrian treatment,” and in room no. 3 of the Ramona, the “experienced masseuse” Miss Las Riu offered both new treatments and “real luxury.” 

A clip from The Times for April 17, 1908.
A clip from The Times for April 17, 1908.

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WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, ye wise men?   Because you treat us so swell, surely we will.  Before browsing through this week’s relevant Edge Clips, we will top them with Ron’s seasonal card to all our readers.  Typically, it is an old card created  a little while before the Great Fire of 1889 when the jeweler Nichols was still at 709 Front Street, and so a tenant in the fanciest address then town, the show-strip of pre-fire well-ornamented structures built on the west side of First Avenue between Yesler Way and Columbia Street, and all of them doomed.   Following the clips we will allow the remaining  neighborhood relevant subjects we have gathered  to remain wrapped and left beneath this tree, in order to open or show a few more seasonal subjects at the bottom.

Seasons Greetings from the Festive Ron Edge
Seasons Greetings from the Festive Ron Edge
The Jeweler Nichols' shop was shaded by the awning on the far left at 109 Front Street and so closer to the Foot of Cherry Street than Columbia, which is at the knees of the photographer.
The Jeweler Nichols’ shop was shaded by the awning on the far left at 709 Front Street (First Ave.) and so closer to the Foot of Cherry Street than Columbia, which is below the knees of the photographer.

Then: Looking north from Pioneer Place (square) into the uptown of what was easily the largest town in Washington Territory. This is judged by the 3218 votes cast in the November election of 1884, about one fourth of them by the newly but temporarily enfranchised women.Tacoma, in spite of being then into its second year as the terminus for the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad, cast 1663 votes, which took third place behind Walla Walla's 1950 registered votes.

THEN: The Moose float heads south on First Avenue at Columbia Street during the 1912 Potlatch parade of fraternal and secret societies. Behind them are Julius Redelsheimer's clothing store and the National Hotel, where daily room rates ran from 50 cents to a dollar.

THEN: Seattle Architect Paul Henderson Ryan designed the Liberty Theatre around the first of many subsequent Wurlitzer organs used for accompanying silent films in theatres “across the land”. The Spanish-clad actor-dancers posed on the stage apron are most likely involved in a promotion for a film – perhaps Don Q, Son of Zorro (1925) or Douglas Fairbanks’ The Gaucho (1929) that also played at the Liberty. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

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)

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THEN: Arthur Denny named both Marion and James Streets for his invalid brother, James Marion Denny, who was too ill to accompany the “Denny Party” from Oregon to Puget Sound in 1851. (Courtesy, Gary Gaffner)

THEN: Following the city’s Great Fire of 1889, a trestle was built on University Street, between Front Street (First Avenue) and Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way). By the time Lawton Gowey photographed what remained of the timber trestle in 1982, it had been shortened and would soon be razed for the Harbor Steps seen in Jean Sherrard’s repeat. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Charles Louch’s grocery on First Avenue, north of Union Street, opened in the mid-1880s and soon prospered. It is possible – perhaps probable – that one of the six characters posing here is Louch – more likely one of the two suited ones on the right than the aproned workers on the left. (Courtesy RON EDGE)

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THREE EARLY 20TH CENTURY LIVING ROOM “STUDIES” AT THE BROWN FAMILY HOME ON DEXTER AVENUE, NEAR DENNY PARK.

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The Brown children, a girl and a boy, are, it seems, enjoying their presents.
The Brown children, a girl and a boy, are, it seems, enjoying their presents and younger than in the family snapshot above this one. .
The family tree and a few opened presents. Note the painting of Snoqualmie Falls on the wall behind the tree.
Another family tree and a few opened presents. Note the painting of Snoqualmie Falls on the wall behind the tree.
Christmas on The Ave.
Christmas on The Ave.
More Xmas-Ave, north of 43rd Street.
More Xmas-Ave, north of 43rd Street.
Ivar playing - and singing - his Christmas contribution, "The Sixteen Days of Christmas" for radio host Don McCune. (see the story below)
Ivar playing – and singing – his Christmas contribution, “The Sixteen Days of Christmas” for radio host Don McCune. (see the story below)
From the Seattle Times for December 22, 1963. [Click it to Read it]
From the Seattle Times for December 22, 1963. [Click it to Read it]
A younger Ivar takes his Aquarium star Patsy to visit Santa at Frederick and Nelson's department store.
A younger Ivar takes his Aquarium star Patsy to visit Santa at Frederick and Nelson’s department store.
Frederick and Nelson's - closed. Shot by Lawton Gowey through the front door.
Frederick and Nelson’s – closed. Shot by Lawton Gowey through the front door.

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Waiting for the saint's visit at the Duffy family home on Queen Anne's Highland Drive, ca. 1900.
Waiting for the saint’s visit at the Duffy family home on Queen Anne’s Highland Drive, ca. 1900.
First appeared in The Times for December 20, 1998.
First appeared in The Times for December 20, 1998.

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