Seattle Now & Then: Coo Coo Flats

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: On December 6, 1962, Frank Shaw recorded this look north from Cherry Street. The doomed structures that remained for only a few more weeks were in the chosen path for the Seattle Freeway. The block-wide line between Sixth and Seventh Avenues was chosen in the 1950s for the construction of Interstate-5’s concrete landscape through the business district.
NOW: A notable surviving landmark, a large apartment building, is repeated upper-left at the northwest corner of Marion and Sixth Avenue. Embellished with bay windows, it has changed its color at least once, from red brick to a painted beige or buff. As historic preservationist Diana James discovered while writing Shared Walls, a history of Seattle’s apartments built between 1900 and 1939, it has also changed its name at least four times, beginning as the Laveta Flats in 1904, followed by the Highland, the Amon, and since the mid-1930s, the Dover.  The early snapshot from the Smith Tower, below, includes the Laveta Flats (now the Dover) on the far left without its bottom two floors, and so before the regrade of Marion Street between Fifth and Seventh Avenue.  The regrade is described in  the fifth feature include in this weeks Edge Features below.   In the photograph below most of the block featured this week can be found on the far right.  
This detail from from the Smith Tower (dedicated in 1914) shows St. James Cathedral, upper-right corner, with its cupola still intact, uncrushed by the heavy snow of February 1916.  Far left, across Seventh Avenue from the formidable brick pile of Central School, the Laveta Flats aka Highland aka Amon and now Dover Apartments stands at the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Marion Street, as  yet without the two floors added with the Marion Street Regrade between Fifth and Seventh Avenues.  A feature treating on that  regrade is included below as the fifth illustration in the “pile” of EDGE EXTRAS that follow below.   Most of this week’s featured block appears far right.  
The record of I-5 clearing on the right looks north over James, Cherry, Columbia, and Marion Streets to the temporarily surviving wall on the north side of Marion, which was built to support a Central School brick annex.
Frank Shaw’s August 15, 1964 record of the Seattle Freeway creeping south, reaching  as far as Jefferson Street.

This Sunday’s feature is another witness to photographer Frank Shaw’s interest in the changes to our cityscape that came with the building of the Seattle Freeway on the western slope of First Hill.  Through its construction in the 1960s, this part of the I-5 Freeway kept to a block-wide swath between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Shaw dated this example of his Hasselblad’s work December 6, 1962, a mere fifty-seven years ago.

Fire Dept headquarters at the southwest corner of Columbia and 7th Avenue photographed by A. Wilse in the 1890s. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

PacificNW first visited this block with another now-and-then feature pulled from the Shaw collection that showed the sunlit façade of the same brick and stone building whose back fills most of this week’s feature.  Located at the southwest corner of Columbia Street and Seventh Avenue, it was the Seattle Fire Department’s new headquarters built soon after the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. We may speculate that the preservationist in Shaw took his earlier photo in admiration of his subject’s substantial architecture, as well as it distinguished past.  Dated August 6, 1960, it was first printed in Pacific on Sunday, January 19, 2014. (Shaw’s colored shot of the fire station and the 2014 feature that interpreted it, are included below as the first of the many Edge Extras that follow Jean’s question below “Anything to add, blokes?)

A detail from the 1888 Sanborn real estate map showing block 304 bordered by Columbia Street at the top and 7th Avenue on the right. The first two parts of the row built along the west side of 7th Avenue take lots 11 & 12. The back-porch is included with a dashed line. Lots 5-thru-8 would be taken by the fire station. The house on lot 15, facing Cherry Street, would survive 70-plus years of changes in the block.
The featured block in this detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate map is No. 47. Here the row at the northwest corner of Cherry Street and Seventh Avenue has grown to include five residences. The brick Monticello Hotel is just north of the row and the fire department headquarters north of the hotel.

The more “in your face” subject in the feature at the top is the collapsing rear stairway of the three-story apartment row that in time strung five addresses together on the west side of Seventh Avenue, north from its corner with Cherry Street to the Monticello Hotel.  Construction of the row began in the late 1880s, but not at the corner.  Footprints of its first two flats, the most westerly units of the row, are drawn in the 1888 Sanborn Fire Insurance map.  (Included here two illustration up.)  These two were built on the largest of the row’s five lots, and their roofs distinguished them from the addresses beginning at Cherry Street.  It seems fitting that the

This detail pulled from a c.1913-14 panorama taken from the then new Smith Tower includes most of the block. The five-part row begins on the far right with a pointed tower above the northwest corner of Cherry and Seventh Avenue. The rows fourth part, near the center of the detail, has its unique – for the row – roof. The back-porches here are the same as those failing in the featured photo at the top. The fire station and its tower are on the left with the brick Monticello Hotel sitting snug between the row and the fire station. (CLICK to ENLARGE)
Lawton Gowey (again) took this look at First Hill east from the Smith Tower on June 6, 1921. The featured block appears on the far left. It is still intact, but not for long. James Street climbs the hill at the center of Lawton’s snap. Fifth Avenue is at the bottom. CLICK TO ENLARGE
The featured block’s northern half selected here from a 1950 aerial. Some of the Coo Coo Row appears on the above-center right. The Yale Apartments fill the block’s northwest corner at Columbia and Sixth Avenue. (Courtesy MOHAI)

often generous flow from the First Hill springs that supplied pioneer Seattle are shown rushing across the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Cherry Street in the 1878 birdseye view of the city.  Perhaps the centuries-old fluid dynamics at this corner had something to do with the eleventh-hour settling of the Coo Coo’s back porch.

The featured block bordered by Sixth and Seventh Avenues and Cherry and Columbia Streets.  A detail  is first selected here from Seattle’s 1878 birdseye, and followed by the entire lithograph. (Click Click to Enlarge.) Note the route of the creek (with bridges) cutting across the upper-right corner of the detail and hence through the featured block.  

The recent revelation of the row’s last name, Coo Coo, seems to us both appropriate and surely silly.  The name of the apartments and the tavern at the corner appear in my copies of the Polk City Directory for 1938 and 1950.  In the 1938 edition the Coo Coo’s proprietor, George H. Thomas, lives at 701 1/2 Seventh Avenue, and so perhaps above the Tavern listed at 701 Seventh Avenue.  We learn from a Times clipping for May 12, 1944, that both George and his wife Ethel had their tavern license suspended for twenty days for their “purchase of improperly stamped beer from an unlicensed wholesaler.”  This, I’m guessing, was a profitable racket learned during Prohibition and continued afterwards.


Anything to add, blokes?  Yup Jean, and its again more features (relevant or appropriate)  that we unload on your digity-dock.  

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: A close “read” of this concrete pile at 714 7th Ave. will reveal many lines of tiles decorating its gray facades. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)

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 city's regrading forces reached Sixth Avenue and Marion Street in 1914. A municipal photographer recorded this view on June 24. Soon after, the two structures left high here were lowered to the street. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)

THEN: A circa 1923 view looks south on Eighth Avenue over Pike Street, at bottom left.

THEN: Looking northwest to Seattle General Hospital at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Marion Street, circa 1909. (Courtesy of Michael Maslan)

THEN: A circa 1923 view looks south on Eighth Avenue over Pike Street, at bottom left.

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: The Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper)

THEN: Through its now long life as a local landmark, the Sorrento Hotel, at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Terry Avenue, has been variously referred to as Seattle’s “Honeymoon Hotel,” its “Most Romantic Hotel,” a “remnant of Seattle’s original cocktail culture,” and now, more often, “Seattle’s original boutique hotel.” (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)

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

THEN: A half-century after they reached the top of First Hill, electric streets cars and cable cars prepare to leave it. (Courtesy, The Museum of History and Industry)

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

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: At the northwest corner of Columbia Street and Boren Avenue, two of the more ordinary housing stock on First Hill in the 1890s. (Courtesy MOHAI)

THEN: Of the three largest Seattle roofs – the Alki Point Natatorium, a grandstand section of the U.W.’s Denny Field, and the St. James Cathedral dome - that crashed under the weight of the “Northwest Blizzard” in February 1916, the last was the grandest and probably loudest. It fell “with a crashing roar that was heard many blocks distant.” (Courtesy Catholic Archdiocese.)










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