Seattle Now & Then: Parking 15 Cents

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The two apartments houses rising on the east side of 8th Avenue and above the parking lot office are the Van Siclen Apartments (1911) on the left, and the Alfaretta Aparments (1918) beside it on the northeast corner with Seneca Street. (Courtesy, Stan Unger)
NOW: The Cielo, a residential tower, is a recent replacement for both the Van Siclen and Alfaretta Apartments. Their combined 120 apartments was less than half the 335 units built into the 31 story high rise.

Calculating the rate posted on the roof of this “office” shed at 725 University Street, any motorist leaving their car in this lot for longer than half a day would pay thirty cents, not fifteen. Seventy-nine years later this seems comical – and very fair.  The subject was recorded on January 24, 1938, not quite a decade after the 1929 economic crash that briefly shook the order of things before strapping it in the Great Depression.

Here on June 4, 1961 photographer Frank Shaw looks west on University Street from 9th Avenue and reveals the same parking lot office shed that appears in the featured photo at the top from 1938. Here is sits below the center of Shaw’s photo at the southwest corner of 8th Avenue and University Street. On the left the north facades of both the Exeter House and the Van Siclen apartments appear, the latter superimposed on the former. The first of the Edge Links below treats on this Shaw subject and the coming of the I-5 Freeway. (by Frank Shaw, 1961)
Looking east up the same block on University Street featured above it, this time looking east from 8th Avenue. This view is also featured with its own essay and “now.” It is the third down of the Edge Links below.

Like last week’s photo this one (at the top) was also rescued a half-century ago from a tax accessor’s waste basket. 1938 was an especially busy year for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) photographers.  While these researcher-recorders were busy making a photographic inventory of every taxable structure in King County, they discovered that many were not listed.  The result was two communities: the supportive one in daylight mixed with an untaxed black one. The shed?  We do not know on which side of that ragged line it sits.

A detail from a 1925 Seattle map that names the city’s more prominent structures.  The featured half-block appears here featureless below the center of detail.   There is as yet no Exeter Apartments at the northwest corner of Seneca Street and 8th Avenue.   Some other landmarks are noted including the 4th Church of Christ Scientist, the Van Siclen apartments and the Normandie Apartments.  These are featured with their own essays in the links below.
Detail from a 1946 mapping-aerial includes the Exeter (at the center) and the Forth Church of Christ Scientist below it. You can also count the cars through the parking lot that fills the remaining three-quarters of the Exeter’s block between 7th and 8th Avenues, Seneca and University Streets.

The earliest of the aerial surveys recorded for mapping Seattle dates from 1929.  Kept in the City Archive, it shows that this block, bordered by Seneca and University streets and Eighth (climbing First HIll behind the shed) and Seventh Avenues, was mostly crowded with small structures built to the north and west sides of one large one: the Exeter House, which still fills the quarter-block at the northwest corner of Seneca Street and Eighth Avenue. (In this week’s featured photo, the Exeter is just off frame to the right.)  The 1936, and 1946  aerials both show the block filled with cars, the Exeter and this shed.  Counting the cars we can figure that the three parked here are joined with about 250 others.  Together they – the parked cars, the shed and the Exeter – fill the block.

A detail from the 1952 mapping aerial includes much the same clutter of cars and apartment houses.

With its last residential listing in The Times, 725 University Street was still a boarding house and not this parking lot office.  The news, printed on October 13, 1936, tells how George L. Swanson, and A.T. Entwisle, a resident at 725, on hearing the screams of a “Miss Collins, walking at Eight Ave. and Seneca Street” responded by tackling a purse-snatcher named Bisbee. The heroes held him there for the Police.  The pathetic young Bisbee explained that he did it “because he was broke.”

The Ohaveth Sholem synagogue mid-block (somewhat closer to 8th than to 7th) on the north side of Seneca. Its footprint  and much more was later taken by the Exeter House Apartments. (You will find a clip on the sanctuary immediately below.)   Note half of the facade of the Denny Hotel (aka Washington Hotel) on Denny Hill peeking around the left side of the synagogue.  The prospect looks to the northwest from what is now Town Hall’s southwest corner of 8th Avenue and Seneca Street.  

At the time, depressed Seattle was also broke, or nearly. In the year of Bisbee’s felony, the Seattle City Council, accompanied over five years by three mayors and dozens of parking meter salesmen, began its earnest debate on parking meters.  With meters the council hoped to inhibit double-parking while counting the nickels and dimes pouring into the city’s general fund.  One meter machine salesman offered contributions to Councilman Hugh De Lacy to help erase the debt left by his most recent campaign.  An ardent clean government socialist, DeLacy reported the proposed perk,

A James A. Wood editorial concerning the enduring parking meter mystery or mess as of Jan. 15, 1941,

On November 8, 1941 The Times announced that the City had set December 15 as a deadline for completion of the parking meter installation. The writer waggishly added “Having heard much about parking meters in the abstract, we look forward to seeing them in concrete.”


Anything to add, les mecs?

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

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

THEN: The Ballard Public Library in 1903-4, and here the Swedish Baptist Church at 9th and Pine, 1904-5, were architect Henderson Ryan’s first large contracts after the 20 year old southerner first reached Seattle in 1898. Later he would also design both the Liberty and Neptune Theatres, the latter still projecting films in the University District. (Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)

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 north-northeast from a low knoll at the southwest corner of Seneca Street and Seventh Avenue, circa 1916. By 1925, a commercial automobile garage filled the vacant lot in the foreground. [Courtesy, Ron Edge]

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: 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: 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: An early view of Virginia Mason Hospital, which opened in the fall of 1920 at the northwest corner of Terry Avenue and Spring Street. In 1980 for its anniversary, the clinic-hospital could make the proud statement that it had “spanned sixty years and four city blocks.” Courtesy Lawton Gowey

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: 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: 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)

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: Chalk-written real estate notices to the sides of Seattle’s Aurora Speedway in 1937 prelude by several decades the profession’s book and computer listings and the expectation of some that an agent will now be driving a Mercedes. (Courtesy, Washington State Archives, Bellevue Community College branch.)




First appeared in The Times for November 29, 1992.



















The two apartments houses rising on the east side of 8th Avenue and above the parking lot office are the Van Siclen Apartments (1911) on the left, and the Alfaretta Aparments (1918) beside it on the northeast corner with Seneca Street. (Courtesy, Stan Unger)

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Parking 15 Cents”

  1. Long story, but my family owned the parking lot. The city took a section of it for the freeway ramp and then the rest of the parking lot in 1971 for surprise – a parking garage.

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