(click to enlarge photos)
While pursuing his “repeat” for this week’s feature, Jean Sherrard discovered what he described as a “coincidence of good works” on this pioneer corner. Its location can be figured and so found twice in the older photo, which dates from the mid-1920s. First, the address is scribbled on the wall, top-center, with chalk or perhaps whitewash. It reads “98 Main St.” The second clue is the rusticated block of granite that sits on the sidewalk, bottom-left. It has been part of the footprint of the New England Hotel since 1890, when its frame hostelry was rebuilt with brick, concrete, and stone following the incineration of thirty-plus city blocks, including this one, during Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889.
In the featured “repeat” on top, the two men posing above the building’s sidewalk well are both smiling. They are, first, Martin Johanson, holding the broom in the “then,” and about ninety-two years later the also friendly Tim Harris, who has unfolded the first issue of Real Change, the newspaper he founded. The paper’s web page describes itself as a “weekly progressive street newspaper written by a pro staff and sold by self-employed vendors, many of whom are homeless. The paper provides them with an alternative to panhandling.” When first printed as a monthly in 1994, Harris described it as published by the “Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project.” (We both strongly suspect that many PacificNW readers have patronized Real Change, and hope so.)
Martin Johanson, the man with the sweeper’s broom, was also a founder, and the Millionair Club that he first opened on this corner in 1921 continues to find work – and much else – for the unemployed who seek its services. The Club has long since moved north into Belltown, and so up and away from the basement of the New England Hotel. If you use the Club and/or support it with a donation
or, perhaps, a bid at one of its auctions, you are a member. You can figure some of its services on the signage held above the well. Reading from the top “Free Supper here each Sunday 6;00 p.m. This Place Open From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Daily, 8 a.m. to 7p.m. on Sunday.” The Club’s basement also served as a performance space for speakers, readers, and performers. Nearby at 112 Main Street the Club also ran a restaurant with a nutritious menu that was both cheap and/or free to those with tickets gained from working. The Club’s first quarters were also fitted with beds.
By using the internet there are, as one might expect for two such well-known and respected services, many sources to learn more about the work of these zestful contributors to our local culture. With both you would do well to begin with their own web-pages, https://www.millionairclub.org for the Millionair Club and www.realchangenews.org/ for the magazine or tabloid with what it describes as a “compact format.” Real Change is admirably forthright with its statistics. Its weekly circulation is about 16,000. I know from experience, having edited hereabouts a weekly tabloid a half-century ago, that what is printed on the cover can make a surprising difference in how many copies are sold on the street.
Anything to add, lads? Certainly Jean, starting first with another offering of Real Change followed by a variety of past features pulled by Ron and I from our stock of scanned examples. (And now Jean we will ALSO plead – please – once again – for some dear reader to help us in this. We ask help in scanning the remaining weekly features. As you know well Jean we are disastrously non-profit and so must plead aka beg. But we have all the clips from The Times collected and in proper order, about 1800 of them since Seattle Now and Then started appearing in Pacific on a rainy mid-winter morning in 1982. We have the scanner too to deliver for use with the clips. One (or two) boxes will hold it all. So please have a little mercy for your dutiful history hacks and help us complete this opera. So far we have roughly 500 of the about 1800 features scanned. Please help fulfill this blog with the growing sum of its abiding features. The clips, scanner and grateful instructions are standing by.
BACK ON THE CORNER
THE ILLUSTRATED IVAR
IVAR AND JIM
1967 – 1977 – 2017 The Golden Anniversary for the founding of HELIX
ODD FELLOWS Hall on Capitol Hill, site of many benefit concerts in the 1970s including a 10th anniversary celebration of the 1967 founding of HELIX, the weekly tabloid hinted about near the end of this week’s feature.
10 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Two Founders on Main Street”
Re: the two photos, supposedly taken at 98 Main Street. I wonder why, in the historic photo, circa 1925, the steps to the below-ground entry begin at the rusticated block of granite, but in the modern photo, the steps begin opposite that block of granite. And too, the men standing at the end of the building, in the historic photo, appear to be so close to the top of the steps, yet in the more modern photo, the end of the building extends far beyond the “new” top of the steps. Almost seems like two different buildings. Was this building covered in brick after 1925, as the current photo shows? Can you determine when the brick façade was installed, along with the complete change in the direction of the stairway? Many inconsistencies between these two photos that could have/should have been explained in the text. Thanks! Gene
It seems from the tone of your comment, (“supposedly”? Really?) that your credulity is strained by the changes in architecture. We can’t help that, aside to assert that both photos WERE taken at 98 Main Street, and that the building IS the same in both photos. Sadly, as much as we would like to, neither Paul nor I can spend more than our combined 10+ hours of so per week to answer your questions about those changes. Not to put too fine a point on it, but The Times pays significantly less than minimum wage for our piece work. Nothing would please us more than spending 40 hours a week pouring through decaying city records and old newspapers in hopes of answering the questions you pose. But how would we then live? IF you are a wealthy and curious rich guy, please consider funding what the Times will not. Or you might volunteer to find those answers yourself (and good luck with that as many of the sources you might investigate will prove to be dead ends). Think of it as a puzzle to be solved, or not – we’re happy to provide the comparisons and the history, but you’ll have to look elsewhere for the precise architectural answers.
Alas, I am just a poor schmuck who tends to be skeptical about things and ask a lot of questions that I’m not prepared to answer. But I will certainly admit that I have enjoyed your feature in the Seattle Times for years and appreciate the effort that you two put into providing it to us laymen. I guess my questions will just have to die with me. Many thanks for taking the time to respond. Gene
I fear that “poor schmuck” is a category that many of us have come to inhabit living in New Seattle. Seriously, though, your earlier questions plagued us both, and examination of the brickwork in the former stairwell mystified us as well. And they may well be solvable, but not with our time limits. In the next few weeks, however, Ron Edge, a partner in the work of Seattle Now & Then will reveal his work on solving the long-time mystery of the location of “Princess Angeline’s” shack below today’s Pike Place market. It’s really quite a striking piece of detective work and we look forward to sharing it.
Many thanks, Jean, for your kind reply. I always enjoy the articles you and Paul provide us, and the photos in this article just seemed to cry out for more clarification. Gene
Thank you so much for writing about my grandfather “Pop” Johanson. I have very fond memories of him and the Millionair Club. Nice to see his face! I have copies of that pic!
Wonderful to hear from you! If you have memories you’d like to share – or more photos – we’d love to add them to the blog
i’ll see what i can find!
I can see the bricks in the “then” photo. I can’t tell if there is a thin veneer of plaster (or whatever) over them, but my guess is the morter was originally flush with the brick. Later on, when cleaned by sandblasting, the brick would have become more pronounced.
If I were to wager an armchair guess on the stairs, I’d guess that at one point two treacherously steep stairs were replaced by only one, at a more restrained grade.
I love the IOOF images! Here is a “now” (well, 2012) of one of them:
I wish I had time to help you scan everything, but perhaps I can take a few, in the spirit of “some progress is better than none”.
While doing family tree research for my nephew, I found in the City Directories that his great-great grandfather was a bartender for James Weir in 1907 — I assume at his New England Hotel. Also in 1905 for an establishment called Weir & McInnes at 200 2nd Avenue South (same James Weir?). So thrilled to find all your articles and images including the Hotel! Thank you!! — Shaun