Seattle Now & Then: Mysterious Dance at Olive and Terry

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: For some unrecorded reason in the late 1920s, I figure, an unnamed photographer was attracted to the diverse urban clutter to the sides of this intersection of Olive Street (upper-left) and Terry Avenue (lower-left.) [Courtesy, Lawton Gowey]
NOW: The building boom that continues to punctuate both the Denny Regrade and Denny Triangle neighborhoods with high-rises has so far missed the small flatiron shaped block on which the Church of the Covenanters in 1894 first built their sanctuary facing Olive Street.

Long ago, years before The Times first encouraged me in late 1981 to submit these “now and then” features to Pacific, I came upon this street scene while gently thumbing through a stack of vintage Seattle photographs.  I was stirred by the unnamed photographer’s composition.  Was it the church on the left, or the classy Schoenfeld Standard Furniture billboard beside it that was first intended for recording until, that is, four motorcars reached the intersection and put a lock on it. Did the photographer then sacrifice the church’s steeple and dip her or his camera to record the roofs of the two parked cars and the Detroit square dance that has formed in the intersection of Olive Way and Terry Avenue?

CLICK-CLICK to enlarge. A detail, far right, taken from an early-20th Century real estate map, shows the location that of the Reformed Presbyterian church at northwest corner of Olive and Terry, joined with a thankful snatch of the corner from a Google Earth street shot, and a repeat of the featured photo, also looking northwest through the Olive/Terry intersection.

Perhaps this is less a dance than a tableau of vehicles pausing for something or someone to unclog the jam they have created.  The man in the dark overcoat at the photo’s center is standing very near the right front fender of the small coupe that is clearly prevented from continuing east on Terry by the classy sedan on the left.  We suspect that the latter is waiting to turn north – and left – on to Terry. Meanwhile another sedan at the far right, heading west on Olive Way, waits for the coupe to get out of the way.  The man in the overcoat may believe that he has the right-of-way.  We know the drivers’ rights.  Note the two stop signs: the one, bottom-right and the other standing across the intersection in the narrow parking strip.  Clearly, the right to cross here belongs to the vehicles, the sedan on the left and the sedan entering the intersection far right, on Olive Way


For comparison: Two views, above a circa 1892 look east on Street before the Denny Regrade and below it another from ca. 1912, taken after the south summit of Denny Hill was raced and replace with modern office buildings and the New Washington Hotel, the prospect for the second photograph. the below.

FOR COMPARISON, ABOVE AND BELOW – TWO LOOKS EAST ON OLIVE STREET FROM THE ELEVATED PROSPECTS OF DENNY HOTEL on top of Denny Hill (FIRST) AND THE NEW WASHINGTON HOTEL, built as Second Avenue and Stewart Street following the regrade.  With a careful search the south facade and steeple of the Reformed Presbyterian can be found in the second photo (below) but not in the older look (above) east on Olive.    Olive begins at the recently regraded bottom of the photo below where it separates from Stewart Street at Fourth Avenue.  Again, Gethsemane Lutheran with its shining white facade can be spied  five blocks east on Stewart Street at Ninth Avenue. The Volunteer Park standpipe breaks the Capitol Hill horizon on the left.

Both the man in the overcoat and the driver in the coupe (with his elbow hanging out of his rolled-down window) have, it seems, their eyes on the driver of the big sedan.  Perhaps the two pedestrians crossing Terry Street, on the left, are walking briskly to escape any developing collision.  Everyone involved might have been comforted by what is written on the door of the coupe, which, although hard to decipher in this printing, reads “Seattle Health Dept.”

When I first saw this packed subject, I knew that I could easily return to the intersection with my own camera because of a clue on the horizon at the top-center: the Gethsemane Lutheran steeple on the southeast corner on Boren Street and Ninth Avenue. For decades it was across Ninth from the bus depot.

After enlarging this aerial with a pair of CLICKS you will be able to find both the Presbyterians and the Lutheran – and a few other denominations as well. The southern end of the recently completed Denny Regrade shows with its naked blocks on the far left. Both the Bon Marche and Frederick and Nelson department stores hold their grand footprints at the bottom, but still without their added stories. To find the Presbyterians find Olive Street on the far right.

By the 1920s this was a neighborhood of churches, some new, and others decamped from their original and fiscally more valuable pioneer locations, in what became the central business district. The Reformed Presbyterians dedicated their church on Olive Street in 1894. They had also purchased the corner lot at Terry Avenue and probably collected rent from the billboard company.  The church was later lifted and fitted with a basement for a kitchen and Bible School classes.  Eventually most of the neighborhood churches either closed or relocated to more distant residential neighborhoods where the land was, again, cheaper.  The Reformed Presbyterians, also known as the Church of the Covenanters, moved in the 1940s to the Ravenna neighborhood, where they to continue to worship.

Long before there were scanners and personal computers, a  hand-held snapshot of a clipping  from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer for May 26, 1947,


Anything to add, bubba?  Jean this bubba-blog business is by now routine.  How many years have we been at it?  Only you carry the keys to these mysteries.  So we start again with a few Edge Links – 25 if them – pulled from past blogs by Ron Edge for the Horatian instruction of our readers, and follow it with a few more distant (in time of publishing) features scanned from clips.  We proceed, we keep hinting, hoping that some happy reader will help us scan the rest – about 1200 of them – perhaps  for a break from your surfing or injurious habit.   By now we know that for many of you these added layers and  metalayers within them are becoming increasingly familiar to the attentive readers we imagine among you – bless you.   Finally, please search for the Gethsemane Lutheran Church steeple repeated in the first three of Ron’s links.  It also appears in the featured photo at the top.

THEN: The scene looks north through a skyline of steeples toward the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.

THEN: Swedish Lutheran (Gethsemane) Church’s second sanctuary at the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and Steward Street circa 1920, photo by Klaes Lindquist. (Courtesy, Swedish Club)

THEN: Built in the mid-1880s at 1522 7th Avenue, the Anthony family home was part of a building boom developing this north end neighborhood then into a community of clapboards. Here 70 years later it is the lone survivor. (Photo by Robert O. Shaw)

THEN: As explained in the accompanying story the cut corner in this search-lighted photo of the “first-nighters” lined up for the March 1, 1928 opening of the Seattle Theatre at 9th and Pine was intended. Courtesy Ron Phillips

THEN:The early evening dazzle of the Roosevelt Theatre at 515 Pike Street, probably in 1941. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: First dedicated in 1889 by Seattle’s Unitarians, the congregation soon needed a larger sanctuary and moved to Capitol Hill. Here on 7th Avenue, their first home was next used for a great variety of events, including a temporary home for the Christian Church, a concert hall for the Ladies Musical Club, and a venue for political events like anarchist Emma Goldman’s visit to Seattle in 1910. (Compliments Lawton Gowey)

THEN: With her or his back to the Medical-Dental Building an unidentified photographer took this look northeast through the intersection of 6th and Olive Way about five years after the Olive Way Garage first opened in 1925. (Courtesy, Mark Ambler)

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)

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: Where last week the old Washington Hotel looked down from the top of Denny Hill to the 3rd Ave. and Pine St. intersection, on the left, here the New Washington Hotel, left of center and one block west of the razed hotel, towers over the still new Denny Regrade neighborhood in 1917. (Historical photo courtesy of Ron Edge)

THEN: The row house at the southwest corner of 6th Avenue and Pine Street in its last months, ca. 1922-23. (Museum of History and Industry)


THEN: Thanks again and again to Lawton Gowey for another contribution to this feature, this ca. 1917 look into a fresh Denny Regrade and nearly new “office-factory” at 1921 Fifth Avenue. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.)

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)

THEN: This 1939 glimpse east from Ninth Avenue follows Pike Street to the end of the about three-quarter mile straight climb it makes on its run from the Pike Place Market to its first turn on Capitol Hill.


THEN: The city’s north end skyline in 1923 looking northwest from the roof of the then new Cambridge Apartments at 9th Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: We give this panorama from the roof of the Washington Athletic Club a circa date of 1961, the year that Horizon House, a First Hill retirement community, first opened its doors to residents at Ninth Avenue and University Street. The high-rise L-shaped Horizon stands top-center. (Lawton Gowey)


















BELOW: Later – note the Washington State license plate from 1938, the nativity year for one of us.


2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Mysterious Dance at Olive and Terry”

  1. Thank you for the years and years of Now & Then. It is the most fascinating and delightful part of the Sunday Times!
    In the 06/25/17 Olive & Terry “Then” photo (bottom-center of photo), there appears to be two cars facing cross-ways on Terry right in front of the stop sign. Any idea what that’s about?

  2. Hi History Fans,
    I think the “classy sedan” car turning left stalled when starting to turn. The coupe thought the sedan would turn and started forward, only to be blocked. The car behind the coupe at the stop sign is attempting to turn right, and the sedan on far right is trying to squeeze by between the coupe and car at stop sign. The dark overcoated man is stepping forward to provide assistance, the woman is getting out of the intersection, and the grey suited man is deciding if he needs to help too, or witness what’s happening next. Thank you Paul for your thought provoking Now & Then photos and explanations. Al F.

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