Seattle Now & Then: Our Lady of Good Help – Part 2

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Our Lady of Good Help at the southeast corner of Jefferson Street and Fifth Avenue, its second home from 1905 to 1949, was abandoned following a shifting of its foundation after a heavy rain. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Originally commissioned in 1978 as a mural for the then nearly new Kingdome, “Tumbling Figure – Five Stages,” is artist Michael Spafford’s interpretation of the classical tale of Icarus falling from the sky. Following the stadium’s destruction in 2000, it was placed in storage. Five years later it found an appropriate home on the exposed east façade of the King County parking garage at 6th Avenue and Jefferson Street. Former Seattle Times Art Critic Sheila Farr recently reflected, “Spafford’s work is timeless. His references to Greek mythology are often about hubris and power. What could be more appropriate to our current political climate?”


Another early look at Our Lady of Good Help in its new position at the southeast corner of Jefferson Street and Fifth Avenue, this time with a glimpse of the King County Court House on First Hill behind it.  This first appeared in Pacific  on December 12, 1986, – gosh three decades ago.. We will attach the clip below.  I remember well the precariously steep parking lot which visitors to city hall and the county exec building used  when the meager lots attached to them were full.   The intention here is to show the parking lot and apparently not to reprint the full flow of the 1986 text.  This was scanned out of one of the Seattle Now and Then books, and all three of those can be found on this blog.

We continue last week’s feature about the friendly pioneer priest Father Francis Xavier Prefontaine and his Our Lady of Good Help parish.  On October 12, 1904, The Times published what was most likely the last contemporary photograph of the first Our Lady, although the caption, “Old Catholic Church is Being Torn Down” was premature.  Nearly one month later, the ladies of Our Lady held a one-day bazaar on November 22 in the “parlors of the church,” where beside serving a “hot home cooked dinner, ” they sold their own “fancy (needle) work … at moderate prices.” 

The bazaar was a benefit for Our Lady, but which one?  Certainly not for the little Lady first built by Prefontaine’s own hands at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Washington Street in the late 1860s.  It was enlarged in 1882 for the growing congregation.  (Shown directly above.) The archdiocese, anxious to build its new cathedral, sold the Our Lady corner lot to the Great Northern Railroad for construction of the south portal of its railroad tunnel beneath the city.  At that time a new and nearby Our Lady was in the planning for the southwest corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue.  However, a month before the benefit bazaar, the city’s building department discovered that James Stevens, architect of the new Our Lady, had drawn outside walls for the church that were higher than the thirty-six feet allowed by the fire code.  Following the process of what the city’s inspector termed “wrestling with the problem,” the new Our Lady of Good Help wound up not on Main Street but here where it is photographed at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Jefferson Street.   It was close to the old corner, but not as close. 

The The Seattle Times for September 25, 1904, the architects sketch illustrates some parish news – and more.  [CLICK to ENLARGE]
A March 19, 1905 clipping from The Seattle Times  CLICK to ENLARGE

A more comely version of the featured photo first appeared in The Times May 13, 1905, with the header “New Church of Our Lady of Good Help Completed.”  (The sizeable power standard on the right was cropped.) The article also noted that “The new edifice will be opened tomorrow with a grand sacred concert … Right Rev. Bishop O’Dea will deliver an address of welcome.  The church will be ready for service on Sunday May 21.”  By then the two painters in the featured photo at the top working at the corner beside the small gothic window with the curvilinear wooden tracery would surely have completed their brushwork.  Weeks later, June 16, 1905, The Times reported that Prefontaine was present for the silver anniversary of Holy Names Academy, noting that he “made a brief address,” for he had “aided in founding the school in 1880.” 

A Times clip from June 6, 1905 notes Prefontaine’s part in Silver Jubilee for the Holy Names Academy.
I copied these three (or four) pages out of the Seattle Public Library’s card catalogue about forty years ago. I can still fee the thrills of flipping those cards in their sturdy drawers, and the smell too.

Most of his remaining years were spent with his niece Miss Marie Pauze and her piano in their home overlooking Volunteer Park.  She later recalled that when the archdiocese moved from Vancouver, WA to Seattle in 1903, the original Our Lady of Good Help at Third and Washington was used for three years as a procathedral while St. James was being built on First Hill. “My uncle didn’t want to leave, but he was the little dog, as we say.  He wouldn’t fight, he simply quit.”

Father Prefontaine died in the spring of 1909 of “heart trouble,” a few months after Pope Pius X made him a Monsignor and five years after Seattle’s mayor R.A. Ballinger named Prefontaine Place for him on Christmas Day 1904. 

An early rendering for Prefontaine’s fountain, above, may be compared to the fountain that was built, below.
The fountain as built. CLICK to ENLARGE


Anything to add, fellahs?  Certainly Jean but dawdling.  Following Ron’s faithful clip collecting just below, we will not just now add more of our discovering until tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon.  It is 5am and time to climb the stairs in remembrance of Bill Burden’s nighty-bears.  Thanks Ron and thanks bill.

THEN: Looking north from Yesler Way over the Fifth Avenue regrade in 1911. Note the Yesler Way Cable rails and slot at the bottom. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: A winter of 1918 inspection of some captured scales on Terrace Street. The view looks east from near 4th Avenue. (Courtesy City Municipal Archives)

THEN: The Sprague Hotel at 706 Yesler Way was one of many large structures –hotels, apartments and duplexes, built on First Hill to accommodate the housing needs of the city’s manic years of grown between its Great Fire in 1889 and the First World War. Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey

THEN: Harborview Hospital takes the horizon in this 1940 recording. That year, a hospital report noted that "the backwash of the depression" had overwhelmed the hospital's outpatient service for "the country's indigents who must return periodically for treatment." Built in 1931 to treat 100 cases a day, in 1939 the hospital "tries bravely to accommodate 700 to 800 visits a day."

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

THEN: On his visit to the Smith Tower around 1960, Wade Stevenson recorded the western slope of First Hill showing Harborview Hospital and part of Yesler Terrace at the top between 7th and 9th Avenue but still little development in the two blocks between 7th and 5th Avenues. Soon the Seattle Freeway would create a concrete ditch between 7th and 6th (the curving Avenue that runs left-to-right through the middle of the subject.) Much of the wild and spring fed landscape between 6th and 5th near the bottom of the revealing subject was cleared for parking. (Photo by Wade Stevenson, courtesy of Noel Holley)

THEN: The clerk in the city's old Engineering Vault attends to its records. Now one of many thousands of images in the Seattle Municipal Archives, this negative is dated Jan. 30, 1936. (Check out to see more.)

THEN: The city's regrading forces reached Sixth Avenue and Marion Street in 1914. A municipal photographer recorded this view on June 24. Soon after, the two structures left high here were lowered to the street. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)

THEN: Looking west on Madison Street from Seventh Avenue circa 1909. (Courtesy, Washington State Museum, Tacoma)

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.)

4 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Our Lady of Good Help – Part 2”

  1. Concerning Our Lady of Good Hope: The diocesan headquarters were moved from Vancouver, WA (not BC), to Seattle in the early 1900s. The diocese was elevated to an archdiocese in 1951.

    1. Paul thanks you for your correction. He credits advancing age for typing BC rather than WA, and beats himself up for the sins of his fingers, which often betray his brain.

  2. Sorry for being off-topic but I’d like to say “thank-you” for the Helix uploads. As relevant now more than ever.

  3. My great grandparents were married by Father Prefontaine in Our Lady of Good Help 1894. I am interested if you have come across any photos of social gatherings that they might be in? I found your articles to be most informative. We have visited his fountain also.
    Thank you for any help.
    Cathy Hook
    Gr Grandparents-Thomas H Cowan & Rose Green

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