Seattle Now & Then: East Olive Way, Sept. 21, 1938

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The busy apartment house development on Capitol Hill in the early 20th Century included the Belvedere Vista Apartment, on the left of this 1938 look northeast on East Olive Way. Filling its flatiron block, the Belvedere Vista is also bordered by E. Olive Place and Melrose Ave. East. While the Belvedere Vista does not appear on the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map, it is listed in the 1915 Polk City Directory.
NOW: Seventy-eight years later many of the structures from 1938 survive in Jean Sherrard’s repeat from late winter of 2017.
Later – May 10, 1940 – and a block west on a part of Olive Way that is now the I-5 Freeway overpass,  This is,, perhaps obviously, another Foster and Kleiser billlboard photo.
Olive Way on its ascent to and joining with John Street, August 13, 1942. The view looks southwest thru the block between Howell Street and Bellevue Avenue. CLICK TO ENLARGE
The intersection of Broadway – another “way” and with the Broadway Theatre on the right – looking west on John Street. In the first proposal for the Olive way this two block extension east from Harvard Avenue was planned as an underpass meant to avoid the inevitable jams at Broadway – this intersection.

Without shadows or a sidewalk clock we cannot tell the time of day in our feat ured photo at the top, but we do know the date.  It is printed on the negative: September 21, 1938.  We may easily imagine what the drivers and passengers in these vehicles feel as they percuss across the red brick paving of East Olive Way as it intersects with Melrose Avenue on the west slope of Capitol Hill.  Seattle’s first ‘ways’ – Broadway, Yesler Way, Denny Way – were distinguished for acting as borders between the city’s large sections: i.e., northeast, north, northwest and so on.  The sections also eased the sorting and delivery of mail.  ‘Way’ was later used for roads requiring more eccentric work, such as for cutting a diagonal through a neighborhood. (I’ve counted about 25 of them north of Denny Way.) The diagonals Olive Way and Bothell Way were both supported by ordinances in 1920, followed by bulldozers

A Times report from September 3, 1920 treating on new “ways.” [CLICK to ENLARGE]

A TIMES report from March 23, 1922. CLICK-click to ENLARGE

in 1922-23.  The Olive cut was first proposed in 1907 by what the press –The Times included – identified as a few “real estate boomers.”  The speculators were stopped by a neighborhood protest of over one-hundred “prominent men and women (living in) the Harvard Avenue and Broadway districts.”

From The Times for February 6, 1907
CLICK-CLICK TO ENLARGE – from February 16, 1907

The later slicing for Olive Way began at Bellevue Avenue, where we see it make its turn to the left at the center of the featured photograph, below the Edwards Coffee billboard.  From there, it swoops through five blocks to where it joins with a widened John Street at Harvard Avenue.  The original 1920 proposal to speed the traffic with an arterial underpass beneath both Harvard Avenue and Broadway was dropped.  And so was a new name proposed.  

CLICK CLICK to ENLARGE –  This detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map shows that some later hand has drawn in the proposed Olive Way extension Joining Olive Way with East John Street.  

Originating in Belltown, Olive Street was first named for Olive Julia Bell (1846-1921), daughter of pioneers Sarah and William Bell.  President Warren G. Harding’s death, which followed soon after his 1923 visit to Seattle, inspired a variety of panegyric proposals, including one to City Council for a name change of Olive Way to Harding Way.  The sentiment was, however, denied when the local forces of heritage beat it back.  One City Councilman rationalized the defeat by observing that Olive Way was not really long enough for a president.  

From The Times, October 5, 1923
A clip from The Seattle Times for October 26, 1923.

By reading The Seattle Times archives for September 21, 1938, we can also speculate about what many – probably most – drivers and passengers would be thinking before the day was out.  This was the day when Czechoslovakia accepted the British-French plan of a compromise capitulation (aka the Munich Agreement) for restraining the Czech’s maniacal neighbor, Adolf Hitler, from inciting greater chaos. The Germans were allowed to annex much of the Sudetenland, the Czech borderlands with Germany inhabited primarily by ethnic German speakers. A summary of this World War II kindling began on the front page of this issue of the Wednesday afternoon Times. (We will remind you that The Times archive can be accessed with a library card, computer, and some help from a Seattle Public Library librarian.)

From The Times, September 23, 1938.   CLICK TO ENLARGE


Anything to add, boys?  SURELY Jean, with Ron’s relevant neighborhood and thematic past blog features  first introduced with a full-page clipping from The Seattle Times for January 6, 1907, which puts Olive Way within the border of  what some North End Optimists professed was fast developing into “The Heart of Greater Seattle” in – or by – 1910.   (You may have a chance of also reading the presentations prophetic rationale if you click this scan and then click it again.)

 THEN: For the first twenty years of his more than 40 years selling tinware and other selected hardware, Zilba Mile's shop looked south across Yesler Way down First Ave. S, then known as Commercial Street.

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 Dog House at 714 Denny Way was strategically placed at the southern terminus for the Aurora Speedway when it was new in the mid-1930s.  (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archive, Bellevue Community College Branch.)


THEN: Roosevelt Way bustling after the war.  This subject first appeared in The Seattle Times on July 7, 1946.  (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: With his or her back to the original Ballard business district, an unnamed photographer looks southeast on Leary Way, most likely in 1936.

THEN: As the caption at the bottom allows, the Juneau Street footbridge opened for pedestrians on March 26,1915. It crossed the main track lines – not spurs – of three railroads and reached east from the Georgetown business district to a sprawling neighborhood of workers’ homes on the gentle slope of the Beacon Hill ridge. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives.)

THEN: The Oregon and Washington Railroad Georgetown Depot was built in 1910 about two blocks north of the Seattle Lighting Company’s Gas Works, far-right. (Courtesy, Frank and Margaret Fickheisen)

THEN: Extended thanks to Ron Edge and his maps and aerials for properly siting Braun’s Brewery, to collector Dan Kerlee for letting us use this company portrait, and to Gary Flynn, the Bellingham-based breweriana collector and brewery historian.

THEN:The front end damage to the white Shepherd Ambulance on the right is mostly hidden behind the black silhouette of either officer Murphy or Lindberg, both of whom answered the call of this morning crash on Feb. 18, 1955.


THEN: Pioneer Arthur Denny's son, Orion, took this photo of popularly named Lake Union John and his second wife, Madeline, sometime before the latter's death in 1906.

THEN: Part of the pond that here in 1946 filled much of the long block between Massachusetts and Holgate Streets and 8th Avenue S. and Airport Way. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

Then: Photographed from an upper story of the Ford Factory at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street, the evidence of Seattle's explosive boom years can be seen on every shore of Lake Union, ca. 1920. Courtesy of MOHAI

THEN:  Looking across Capitol Hill’s Broadway Avenue during its 1931adjustments. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: Pier 70 when it was still Pier 14, ca. 1901, brand new but not yet "polished."  Courtesy, Lawton Gowey

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: The thousands of skaters on Green Lake in this late January 1916 view could not have known that the skating would soon be over, one of the victims of the Big Snow of 1916. Courtesy Fairlook Antiques

THEN:  A circa 1908 look northeast through the terminus of the Loyal Electric Street Railway line at the corner of now Northwest 85th Street, 32nd Ave. Northwest, and Loyal Way Northwest.  (Courtesy, the Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: While visiting Seattle for some promoting, silent film star Wallace Reid shares the sidewalk at 4th and Olive with a borrowed Stutz Bearcat.  (Courtesy, Museum of History & Industry)


6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: East Olive Way, Sept. 21, 1938”

  1. I believe the Eba’s Grocery (The 1937 City directory lists several) to the right of the Edward’s Coffee billboard was home to Fillipi’s Old Books and Records for many years…it was a favorite haunt of mine when I was 15 or so, in the late 1960’s.

  2. I believe Fillipi’s Books was in the building on the far right of the historic image – the one with the “Paint and Hardware Co.” sign

  3. Fillipi’s Books was indeed in the building on the far right. Eba’s Grocery is now, I believe, where the Hillcrest Market building stands.

    Man, those huge eye-level billboards back in those days are so irritating. I’m glad they were outlawed.

  4. OK, thanks for the clarification. As I’ve lived in Yakima for many years, I probably haven’t been up Olive Way since shopping for old records as a teenager!

  5. Thank you for this article! I love it when your stories make their way up onto Capitol Hill.

    Regarding the Eba’s that other commenters mentioned — I wrote a history of that building and used it as a frame for my own story of Olive Way. Here’s a link to that, “Buy your rubber at City Market”:

    I found that there was also a proposal to call it “Capitol Way”.

    While I’m at it I’ll plug the history I put together of Eba’s,

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