Seattle Now & Then: Independence Day at 3rd and Yesler

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking east up Yesler Way with the Seattle Police Department during the city’s celebrations for the 1899 Independence Day.
NOW: The construction disruption at Third Avenue and Yesler Way includes City Hall Park, once home for the Seattle City Hall with the nickname “Katzenjammer Kastle.”

With both muncipal landmarks – the one on the hill and the other at the southeast corner of Jefferson Street and Third Avenue  – aka the Katzenjammer Kastle –  one may compare the photograph above with the Baist map detail above it.


The reader will easily note that with few exceptions the featured photo’s line-up of Seattle Police on the north side (left) of Yesler Way, between Second and Third Avenues, are looking east at the long parade float that is either crossing Yesler Way or standing in its intersection with Third Avenue. The rooftop banner that runs the length of the float names the sponsor, the “National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.”  The flip side for at least one of the four MOHAI prints covering this Independence Day scene, holds a type-written sticker that reads “taken July 4, 1898, before the Spanish American War veterans returned.  Picture made in front of police headquarters.”  A hand-written addition to the sticker reads “3rd and Yesler,” and the gray-blue back of the print itself concludes the captioning with “Called ‘Electric Float’ Taken by W.T. Milholland.”    

Another record of the Electricians float (Courtesy, MOHAI)

The inscribed date, 1898, is very inviting.  The Independence Day weekend that year included the sensational news that America’s revenge for the February 15th unexplained sinking of the USS Battleship Main – “Remember the Maine!!!” – in the Havana harbor was at hand.   On the third of July, with the American navy in pursuit, the Spanish Caribbean fleet fled the Santiago, Cuba harbor.  In the days that followed the Spanish dreadnaughts that were not destroyed, surrendered.  Certainly this waxing war news was on the minds of nearly every one among the estimated 75,000 citizens and visitors that crowded downtown Seattle on the 4th for 1898. One year later this patriotic party was remembered by The Times reporter covering the 1899 Independence Day festivities as “the biggest celebration that the city ever had.”   However, and almost certainly, this Yesler Way scene was not part of that record-setting event.  The caption was incorrect by one year.  The float named “Electric” won second place in the 1899 – not 1898 – parade competition.

Read the left column for a partial description of the 1899 Independence Day parade. Pulled from the Times for July 5,1899.  CLICK to ENLARGE

In The Times 3 O’clock Edition for July 5, 1899, [SEE ABOVE] the float is described as a “dynamo in full operation.”  The electricity was generated by steam from a boiler flaunted on the float.  It powered a “call system of the Postal Telegraph Company, a phonograph and a telephone” and was also wired to a printing press carried on the Metropolitan Printing and Binding Company float was next in line. On the far-right end of the float a tower of steam shoots from its roof.  Most likely the hissing noise of escaping steam also attracted the attentive white-gloved police. 

Standing beside the sidewalk on the east side of Third Avenue, the photographer looks northeast at the Seattle Police Department’s first motorized paddy wagon in 1907. posed beside the entrance to the garage it still shared with horses and at the front steps to City Hall, aka the Katzenjammer Kastle.  

Independence Day for 1899 was a wet one, and many outdoor events were either canceled or avoided.  The fireworks, however, were not expunged but rather admired for their reflections off the low clouds.  In the featured historical photo, the gray sky offers little contrast with the scene’s two famous towers, both of them serving for part of their careers, as King County Court Houses.  In 1890, the top-heady tower on the First Hill horizon, replaced the frame one rising far left on Third Avenue. With King County moved up the hill, its abandoned home at Third Avenue and Jefferson Street served as Seattle’s City Hall from 1890 to 1909, and was famously nicknamed the Katzenjammer Kastle for its Rube Goldberg collection of additions, which included the police department. 

From July 30, 1898, the first clip was could find covering news about Union No. 77 of the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of Seattle.

Below: ANOTHER TIMELY INTERRUPTION with PALMISTRY from in-with-and-under the Late-19th Century (the clip is from July 5, 1898) and its claim to have broken or penetrated the barriers between the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE and so ALSO of or between NOW and THEN, or if your prefer THEN and NOW.   (Note that scheduled sittings with a “reader” are required.)

A Clip from The Seattle Times for July 5, 1898.


A Yesler mess…

Anything to add, boyos?  Yes Jean the kids on the block have a few past features to adjoin.  Some of these will be like growing chestnuts to some of the reders.   (Note: a careful or curious eye will find blog contributor Ron Edge posing in one of them, but only after clicking) May we ask that the mother of all learning is what?   May our mothers answer, “REPETITION.”)

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: This “real photo postcard” was sold on stands throughout the city. It was what it claimed to be; that is, its gray tones were real. If you studied them with magnification the grays did not turn into little black dots of varying sizes. (Courtesy, David Chapman and

THEN: Looking north-northeast from the corner of Main Street and Occidental Avenue two or three weeks after the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. (Courtesy the Museum of History and Industry – MOHAI)

THEN:Ruins from the fire of July 26, 1879, looking west on Yesler’s dock from the waterfront. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: At Warshal's Workingman's Store a railroad conductor, for instance, could buy his uniform, get a loan, and/or hock his watch. Neighbors in 1946 included the Apollo Cafe, the Double Header Beer Parlor, and the Circle Theatre, all on Second Avenue.

THEN: With the clue of the ornate Pergola on the right, we may readily figure that we are in Pioneer Square looking south across Yesler Way.

THEN: The Lebanon aka Jesse George building at Occidental and Main opened with the Occidental Hotel in 1891. Subsequently the hotel’s name was changed first to the Touraine and then to the Tourist. The tower could be seen easily from the railroad stations. It kept the name Tourist until replaced in 1960 with a parking lot. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Seen here in 1887 through the intersection of Second Avenue and Yesler Way, the Occidental Hotel was then easily the most distinguished in Seattle. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: Built in 1900 the Corgiat Building lost its cornice and identifying sign to the 1949 earthquake. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)THEN: The original for this scene of a temporary upheaval on Mill Street (Yesler Way) was one of many historical prints given to the Museum of History and Industry many years ago by the Charles Thorndike estate. Thorndike was one of Seattle’s history buffs extraordinaire. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)

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: Pioneer mailman Dutch Ned poses on his horse on Cherry Street. The ca. 1880 view looks east over First Avenue when it was still named Front Street. (Courtesy: The Museum of History and Industry, aka MOHAI)

tHEN: An unidentified brass band poses at the intersection of Commercial Street (First Ave S.) and Main Street during the 1883 celebration for the completion of the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad.

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)

THEN: The Phoenix Hotel on Second Avenue, for the most part to the left of the darker power pole, and the Chin Gee Hee Building, behind it and facing Washington Street to the right, were both built quickly after Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. (Courtesy: Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN: Local candy-maker A.W. Piper was celebrated here for his crème cakes and wedding cakes and also his cartoons. This sketch is of the 1882 lynching from the Maple trees beside Henry and Sara Yesler’s home on James Street. Piper’s bakery was nearby (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: 1934 was one of the worst years of the Great Depression. This look north on Third Avenue South through Main Street and the Second Avenue South Extension was recorded on Thursday, April 19th of that year. Business was generally dire, but especially here in this neighborhood south of Yesler Way where there were many storefront vacancies. (Courtesy Ron Edge)

THEN: When it was built in 1864 Charles and Mary Terry’s home was considered the finest in Seattle. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)


First appeared in Pacific on June 1, 2008.

















KNIGHTS TEMPLAR parade up Yesler Way during national convention or something similar.
THEN: Looking east up Yesler Way with the Seattle Police Department during the city’s celebrations for the 1899 Independence Day.

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