(click to enlarge photos)
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.)
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.)