Seattle Now & Then: Queen City Florist at 13th & Union

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: I speculate that in order to lift the photographer for this elevated look south over Union Street and the nearly new Queen City Floral Co.’s nursery, the photograph was recorded from the top of a Madison Street Cable Car. In the mid 1890s, the German-born John Holze got his Seattle start as a florist-gardener for the Madison Street Cable Railway Company. His residence then was at Madison Park. (Courtesy, Dan Eskenazi)
NOW: With a fortunate fate for Jean’s repeat photography, the southwest corner of 13th Ave. East and Union Street was recently cleared revealing most of the row of seven frame houses north of Spring Street that in 1900 were squeezed together on four lots on the east side of Thirteenth Avenue. The large green home survives in the ‘now’ although without its pointed tower that was “remodeled” away. The green home can be discovered in the “then” above the florist’s home.

Here’s looking south and a little east to the Queen City Florist Co.’s verdant nursery at the southwest corner of Union Street and 13th Avenue.   The Florist’s names were John and Sophia Holze. Most likely they are standing at the gate, bottom-center, posing for the unnamed photographer.  (We speculate on whom the photographer might be in the “then” caption.)

John and Sophia’s marriage certificat, June 22, 1898.

The couple – John, 36 and Sophia, 21 – had a June 22 wedding in Seattle 1898.  John was thirty-six and Sophia twenty, which was John’s age when he first immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1883.  It is, I think, probable that the German couple’s nuptials were conducted in German.  Sophia’s parents emigrated from Germany, although she was born and raised in Wilson, Kansas, a railroad town with its own enclave of Pennsylvania Dutch, and so also a German-speaking community. The mid-west was then well stocked with them. (Leaning on the analogy and evidence of the Dorpats and my mother’s family, the Christiansens, all my mid-western grandparents spoke German and/or Danish more comfortably than English.)

In this detail from the 1908 Baist Real Estate Map, Union Street is at the top and 13th Avenue runs up-down the middle of the detail. Madison Street cuts through the upper-left (northwest) corner. The Floral enterprise fills lots 8,9 and 10 of Block 9. The row of four lots holding seven structures on the east side 13th Ave. appears in the featured photos above the florists home on Union Street. Most of these homes survive.
A detail of blocks 9 and 16 from the 1912 Baist Real Estate Map.
Block 9 and 16 from the 1929 aerial survey of Seattle. Again, note the endurance of the seven homes running north on the east side of 13th Avenue from Spring Street.   Can you find it in the greater or larger detail included below?
A larger detail of our blocks from the 1929 aerial survey. CLICK TWICE to ENLARGE – (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)]
Blocks 9 and 16 between 12th Ave. on the left, 14th on the right, Union at the top and Spring at the bottom. (Courtesy, Goggle Earth)

In 1909, about seven years after they opened their nursery, the Holze’s ran a classified in The Times seeking “Girl for General Housework; two in family; German preferred, 1223 E. Union.”  In the 1910 federal census, Emily L. Taylor is listed as living with the Holze’s, but at age 57, the “cook and servant” Emily was hardly a girl.  Herman Andrews, the 63-year-od “laborer, gardener,” also living with them, was also born in Germany.  Keeping track of the Germans on Union Street, the “wage worker” Ernestine Mohr, age 62, and listed in the 1920 federal census, was born in Germany and naturalized here.  Like the widower Andrews, Mohr was a widow. 

The Seattle Florist Association’s ad for its 1905 Chrysanthemum Show in Christensen’s Hall in the Arcade Bldg., on Second Avenue.

In 1912 the Holze’s added a store to their nursery: a “nicely fitted glass structure.” The Florist’s Review for Nov. 14, 1912 reported, “The company has the satisfaction of knowing that the place is now thoroughly up-to-date. The stock is all looking first-class … and everything is in condition for a large business.”  And as it grew the couple and their flora did well.  In 1905, soon after they moved into their Union Street quarters, John served as assistant secretary for the Seattle Florist Association’s flower show, which, the Times reported, was not only an artistic success, but paid for itself.”  It was Seattle’s first big flower show, and The Times concluded that it went a long ways towards proving something “not to be so … the flippant saying that the men and women of Seattle are so busy making money that they have no time for the finer things.”  Meanwhile Sophia did the accounting. 

Longer open hours for munitions workers during World War One. A clip from the Seattle Times for January 18, 1918.
“Respectable” florists promoting softer sales “in the time of bereavement.” A Times clip from October 20, 1914.

For their first adventure after retiring the Union Street enterprise in 1927, the German-American couple vacationed in Germany.  Sophia was 49 and John an appropriate 65.  They stayed involved.  From the 1929 Northwest Florist Association Show they won first prize for Maroon Carnations. 


A detail from the 1904-5 Sanborn Real Estate Map showing our two featured blocks between 12th Avenue, on the left, and 14th Avenue, on the right, and with E. Union Street on the top and E. Spring Street at the bottom.  

At the northeast corner of Spring and Thirteenth the first of seven 1900 homes built on the east side of Thirteen on the first four lots north of Spring Street. [CLICK TO ENLARGE] (Courtesy, Washington State Archive, kept at the branch on the Bellevue Community College Campus.)WEB EXTRAS
Another of the seven, this at 1118 13th Avenue.
The most northerly of the seven, and resting beside the Zelma Apartments, on the left and below.
Jean’s featured NOW repeated. The Zelma Apartments are across Thirteenth Avenue on the far left
One of hundreds of apartment house snapshots taken by The Seattle Times for its Real Estate Pages in the 1930s. This is the same Zelma Apts that appears on the far left of the photograph above this one. The Times explains this photo so.  “The Zelma Apartments, located at 1128 13th Ave., are among the most popular on First Hill. According to Mrs. Pearl Jensen, owner, the apartment rental situation [in the great depression] is much in favor of tenants. Although operating costs, she says, have advanced, rentals have remained the same.” Reports and advertisements for the Zelma begin in the 1920s and with a different name, the Solana Apartments. The name change came soon after the “Great Crash” of 1929 that began the shattering of the economy.  A pre-crash Times classified for May 25, 1928 reads “Under New Management Solana Apts., 1128 13th Ave. near Union. Overstuffed furniture, free ice, gas, light, phone service, linen, dishes, silver. Large sunny rooms, shower bath. Outside dress-room, corner apartment , accommodate 3, $50 to $65.”

WEB EXTRAS – Anything to add, lads?   Yup Jean.  Thirty-four featured links from the neighborhood loosely conceived, and whatever they hold of other links.  Surely many of these will be familiar to our most dedicated readers, who I imagine accept my mother’s wisdom – which we repeat again and again – that “Repetition is the Mother of All Learning.”



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 home at bottom right looks across Madison Street (out of frame) to Central School. The cleared intersection of Spring Street and Seventh Avenue shows on the right.

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



THEN: First Hill’s distinguished Old Colony Apartments at 615 Boren Avenue, 1910.

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: Constructed in 1890 as the Seattle Fire Department’s first headquarters, these substantial four floors (counting the daylight basement) survived until replaced by Interstate Five in the 1960s. (photo by Frank Shaw)

THEN: Built in 1887, the Minor-Collins Home at the northeast corner of Minor Avenue and Cherry Street was one of the grandest and longest surviving pioneer mansions on First Hill. (Courtesy Historic Seattle)

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

THEN: We have by three years or four missed the centenary for this distinguished brick pile, the Littlefield Apartments on Capitol Hill. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Beginning with the Reynolds, three hotels have taken tenancy in this ornate three-story brick block at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pike Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Built quickly in the winter of 1906-07, the Prince Rupert Hotel faced Boren Avenue from the third lot north of Pike Street. About fifty-five years later it was razed for the I-5 Freeway. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: This Seattle Housing Authority photograph was recorded from the top of the Marine Hospital (now Pacific Tower) on the north head of Beacon Hill. It looks north to First Hill during the Authority’s clearing of its southern slope for the building of the Yesler Terrace Public Housing. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Faced, in part, with brick veneer and stucco, and opened in 191l, the Comet Apartments at 170 11th Avenue have made it nicely through their first century. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

THEN: This detail from the prolific local photographer Asahel Curtis’s photograph of the Smith/Rininger home at the northwest corner of Columbia Street and Summit Avenue dates from the early twentieth century when motorcars, rolling or parked, were still very rare on the streets of Seattle, including these on First Hill. (Courtesy, Historic Seattle)


THEN: Built in the early twentieth century at the northeast corner of Jefferson Street and Boren Avenue, Bertha and Frank Gardner’s residence was large but not a mansion, as were many big homes on First Hill. (Courtesy Washington State Museum, Tacoma)


THEN: Built in 1909-10 on one of First Hill’s steepest slopes, the dark brick Normandie Apartments' three wings, when seen from the sky, resemble a bird in flight. (Lawton Gowey)

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