Seattle Now & Then: Big Clock in Big Snow, 1916

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Big Snow of 1916 trims two jewelers’ clocks on the west side of Second Avenue, north of Marion Street. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
THEN: The Big Snow of 1916 trims two jewelers’ clocks on the west side of Second Avenue, north of Marion Street. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
NOW: The landmark entryway to the otherwise razed Burke Building abides on the far left.
NOW: The landmark entryway to the otherwise razed Burke Building abides on the far left.

Along with Jean Sherrard, photographer for these weekly “now-and-thens,” I would like to have another BIG SNOW.  The kids would love it.  In the 165 years since the pioneer Denny Party stepped ashore on Alki Beach, in the rain, our temperate city has been capped with only two snows big enough to print in upper-case.  The first and deepest was the Big Snow of 1880, with four-foot drifts dumped

With much of its big blanket dwindled, the Great Snow covers Yesler's Wharf and the King Street Coal Wharf beyond it, with the West Seattle ridge on the horizon. The photo was taken from the back 2nd floor window or porch of the Peterson & Bros studio at the foot of Cherry Street.
With much of its big blanket dwindled, the Great Snow of 1880 covers Yesler’s Wharf and the King Street Coal Wharf beyond it, with the West Seattle ridge on the horizon. The photo was taken from the back 2nd floor window or porch of the Peterson & Bros studio at the foot of Cherry Street.  Note that at least one of the sheds have collapsed.

from above.  The second was heaven’s dish-out, the Big Snow of 1916, sampled in the featured photo.  Aside from their depths, the difference between the two Big Snows was cameras.  There survive, perhaps, a dozen photos from the 1880 winter-tide. But there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of amateur snapshots and professional “real photo” postcards that in 1916 were witnesses to its eccentric Big Snow.  By then cameras were commonplace, and the piling snow, in spite of the chill, was an enticing subject.

Feb. 2, 1916, looking south on Fourth Avenue from near Pike Street.
Feb. 2, 1916, looking south on Fourth Avenue from near Pike Street.
1916 Big Snow looking west on Pike towards Fourth Avenue.
1916 Big Snow looking west on Pike towards Fourth Avenue.
1916 Big Snow, First Ave. looking south toward Pike Street with the Liberty Theatre on the left.
1916 Big Snow, First Ave. looking south toward Pike Street with the Liberty Theatre on the left.
Scene from the 1916 Big Snow, looking south on Second Avenue from Pike Street.
Scene from the 1916 Big Snow, looking south on Second Avenue from Pike Street.

Certainly for the featured photograph’s  look north on Second Avenue, it is the 1916 Big Snow’s alluring banking on the Hardy and Co. Jeweler’s big clock that attracted the photographer.  A second sidewalk clock, for the Burnett Brothers’ Jewelry Store, stands behind it. According to Seattle historian Rob Ketcherside, both of them survive in communities south of Seattle: the Hardy Clock in

A Hardy adver from The Times for December 26, 1915.
A Hardy adver from The Times for December 26, 1915.
The Burnet Bros clock surviving at 9400 Gravelly Lake Drive S.W.
The Burnet Bros clock surviving at 9400 Gravelly Lake Drive S.W. in  Lakewood. (Courtesy, Google Earth)

East Olympia and the Burnett Brothers in Lakewood. Ketcherside’s study of Seattle’s clock history began about five years ago, and the origin of his scholarship seems ordained with a revelation.  Falling asleep on a bus while returning from the Eastside, he awoke wondering what time it was, while the bus was momentarily parked beside a street clock. The historian also woke up to a new passion for research: the history of Seattle’s sidewalk clocks.  Ketcherside makes note that a jeweler’s unique opportunity to advertise with a sidewalk clock required that his clock ran on time. Three times in the 1920s the street clocks were checked by the City, inspired at least in part by complaints about incorrect times.  Ketcherside notes that “at their peak around 1930, there were about fifty street clocks in Seattle. From the intersection of Pike and Fourth Avenue you could see sixteen of them.” 

One of the few survivors: the clock on Fourth Avenue south of Pike Street. I remember taken the photo but not when, so I contribute a circa 1999 date.
One of the few survivors: the clock on Fourth Avenue south of Pike Street. I remember taking the photo but not when, so I contritely contribute a circa 1999 date.
The Stetson Post Building (1883) at the northeast corner of Marion Street and Second Avenue.
The Stetson Post Building (1883) at the northeast corner of Marion Street and Second Avenue.
The Stetson Post Building at the northeast corner of Marion and Second Ave. with the Empire Building behind it and under construction, ca. 1907.
The Stetson Post Building at the northeast corner of Marion and Second Ave. with the Empire Building behind it and under construction, ca. 1907.

Leaving the clocks, on the far right we can catch a glimpse of the Stetson Post Building.  This snow-capped Victorian at the northeast corner of Marion and Second was constructed in 1883.  Through its thirty-five years of existence it was also known as the  New York Kitchen Block, the French Row Dwellings, and the Rainier Block.  Next to it, in the featured photo,  stands one of Seattle’s first steel skyscrapers, the American Savings Bank (1904-6), also known as the Empire Building and the Olympic National Life Building.  You may remember its sensational destruction on February 28, 1982, with Seattle’s first implosion. To its left and across Madison Street stands the Leary Building (1909), named for the last family to live in the pioneer Weed home, which was razed to make way for its construction. (Both John Leary and Gideon Weed served terms as Seattle’s mayor.)

The Leary/Weed home with a large front lawn at the Northeast corner of Madison Street and Second Avenue. Mayor aka Dr. Weed poses behind the fence.
The Leary/Weed home with a large front lawn at the Northeast corner of Madison Street and Second Avenue. Mayor aka Dr. Weed poses behind the fence.  CLICK TO ENLARGE
Ca. 1903, with the pioneer endurer, the Stetson Post Building on the right, and the post-1889 fire red brick landmark, the Burke Building, on the left. Of course the view looks north on Second Avenue through its intersection with Marion Street. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
Ca. 1903, with the pioneer endurer, the Stetson Post Building on the right, and the post-1889 fire red brick landmark, the Burke Building, on the left. Of course the view looks north on Second Avenue through its intersection with Marion Street. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
First appeared in Pacific, January 25, 2004.
First appeared in Pacific, January 25, 2004.

Far left in the featured photo and in the photo directly above is a slice of the Romanesque Revival Burke Building, which was planned but not built before the city’s Great Fire of 1889 by Thomas Burke (of the avenue, monument and museum).  Burke also developed the Empire Building noted above.  Finally, we will point out, upper left, optician Charles Holcomb’s oversized spectacles attached outside the window to his second floor office.  Like the sidewalk clocks and the five-globe street standards, the spectacles also make an exquisite ledge for the fallen Big Snow. 

A Times ad for Chas. Holcomb and his iconic opticals. (And that may be one of the better if many uses of "iconic" you will trip over this week.)
A Times ad for Chas. Holcomb and his iconic opticals. (And that may be one of the better if many uses of “iconic” you will trip over this week.)
Optician Holcomb's Obituary from The Seattle Times for October 5, 1921. He was a mere 55 years old.
Optician Holcomb’s Obituary from The Seattle Times for October 5, 1921. He was a mere 55 years old.
Click-Click to enlarge and find the glasses hanging outside the second floor window above-left of the arched entrance to the Burke Building. Also note the Har
Click-Click to enlarge and find the glasses hanging outside the second floor window above-left of the arched entrance to the Burke Building. Also note the Hardy and Co. Jewelers storefront to the right of the corner entrance into the Burke Building.  There is here as yet not sidewalk clock for the jeweler.
First appeared in Pacific March 3, 1996.
First appeared in Pacific March 3, 1996.
Lawton Gowey's Sept 14, 1967 portrait of the Burke Building. Perhaps Lawton knew it was doomed.
Lawton Gowey’s Sept 14, 1967 portrait of the Burke Building. Perhaps Lawton knew it was doomed.
Lawton Gowey's record of the Burke's deconstruction as of February 5, 1971.
Lawton Gowey’s record of the Burke’s deconstruction as of February 5, 1971.
Following the Great Fire of June 6, 1889 cleared and available lots were fitted with tents for temporary use of the local businesses dispossessed if not ruined. This prospect looks north on Second from Marion Street. The photographer most likely climbed that first stairway to the upper floors of the Stetson Post Building at the northeast corner of Marion Street and Second Avenue.
Following the Great Fire of June 6, 1889 cleared and available lots were fitted with tents for temporary use of the local businesses dispossessed if not ruined. This prospect looks north on Second from Marion Street. The photographer most likely climbed the first stairway to the upper floors of the Stetson Post Building.  The Burke Building would soon fill much of this block on its western side north of Marion Street.  The Burke was in planning before the fire.  (click click)
Mid-block on the east side of Second Avenue between Marion Street and Madison Street in the early 1890s. Appears first in Pacific, May 7, 2000
Mid-block on the east side of Second Avenue between Marion Street and Madison Street in the early 1890s. Appears first in Pacific, May 7, 2000

WEB EXTRAS

Greetings, lads! Before I ask my perennial question, let me add a shot of the same scene from the 6th of February – riddled with a few flakes; pathetic compared to any of our Big Snows, but rare enough to intrigue, I’m thinking…  Darn sure Jean, and directly below the first of you snowflake additions we will insert a rear view of the Burke Building arch that appears as stand along artifact on the far left of you photo.   The one we join with it was taken by Frank Shaw in November 1974 and therefore soon after the Federal Building was completed with the Burke’s keepsake gateway retained in memento.

NOW 2: Same location as 'Then' with a dusting of snow
NOW 2: Same location as ‘Then’ with a dusting of snow
The salvaged arch front door arch to the Burke Building, recorded by Frank Shaw in November 1974.
The salvaged arch front door arch to the Burke Building, recorded by Frank Shaw in November 1974.

And here’s a few more shot that same morning…

Looking up First toward Pioneer Square
Looking up First toward Pioneer Square
Portraits in snow of Henry Yesler and family, not far from their early home
Portraits in snow of Henry Yesler and family, not far from their early home  (Jean, more likely this is Henry, Sarah and their dog.)
The Chief looks especially somber with a mantle of white
The Chief looks especially somber with a mantle of white
Here Jean in another counterpoint with the leitmotif of your flurries is Mary Randlet's portrait of Murray Morgan, the "The Dean of Northwest Historians" posing with the Chief.
Here Jean in another counterpoint with the leitmotif of your flurries is Mary Randlett’s portrait of Murray Morgan, the “The Dean of Northwest Historians” posing with the Chief.
Looking north from the Marion Street pedestrian overpass
Looking north from the Marion Street pedestrian overpass – and Jean, keeping our rhythm going, we will follow your snow-traced Marion with a look north from its during the 1916 Big Snow.   This was fun Jean.   May we duet again sometime soon?
Looking north on Railroad Avenue while it is a work-in-progress clearing snow.
Looking north on Railroad Avenue while it is a work-in-progress clearing the 196 snow, and simply on the waterfront.   Wagon’s carried the contributions from other business district streets as well.  

Anything to add, fellahs?   Jean we will start again with a few Edge-Links that Ron has pulled from recent features.   Tomorrow, following a late breakfast (it is 5a.m. now) of oatmeal and maple syrup we will search for a few more features of greater antiquity, scan ’em and put ’em up.  We wonder now and out loud if there is any retired lover of local history who will help us to in scanning the bulk of the nearly 1800 features we have written and illustrated in the last 34 years, then please step forward and be embraced.   We will supply the scanner and plenty of packets of instant oatmeal.

THEN:

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.)

native-basket-seller-then-mr

THEN: The west side of Second Avenue between Columbia and Marion Streets was typical of the commercial district that was quick to develop after the city’s Great Fire of 1889. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

pacific-snow-then-web

THEN: Adding a sixth floor to its first five in 1903, the Hotel Butler entered a thirty-year run as “the place” for dancing in the Rose Room, dining at the Butler Grill, and celebrity-mixing in the lobby. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

 

3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Big Clock in Big Snow, 1916”

  1. Small edit that I missed Paul. I’ll leave it hear in case someone assembles my biography in future decades.

    I’ve had this mysterious street clock fixation for about fifteen years now. The database has been going for just over five years though.

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