This week we visit the University of Washington’s South Campus. The “then” photo looks north from Portage Bay to the south façade of what was built as the Tokio Café for Seattle’s first world’s fair, the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYP). The Tokio was the most southerly of the attractions that opened on the Exposition’s carnival named the Pay Streak, which reached as far as the bay. Practically all the Streak’s approximately fifty attractions were either exotic, like the Tokio, or eccentric, like the Upside Down House.
[above: Looking west over the Pay Streak landing with Portage Bay on the left and the Cafe Tokio at the middle-distance center. The Pay Streak extends out-of-frame to the right. This was photographed on the expos’ New England Day. ] (Courtesy, U.W. Libraries, Northwest Collection)
With the conclusion of the AYP the Pay Streak attractions were either razed or recycled. The result was the barren corner of the campus shown here in the featured photo at the top to either side of the seemingly stranded café. The Tokio, however, was saved. The University’s athletics department was in need of a new crew house, for what was decreed
in the press as “now the leading sport at state university.” Actually, rowing took football’s place at the top only after the latter’s playing season was over in November. In any season, rowing coach Hiram Conibear and football coach Gil Dobie contended for the athletic department’s resources and the presses’ attentions. To the delight of Conibear and his crews, the Japanese eatery was remodeled for both storing the shells and building the spartan, we imagine, living quarters for the elite students who were selected to train and repeat the smooth and powerful paddling that would ultimately propel them to victory on the waters of the world.
Before the opening of the Montlake Cut in 1916, the crew’s stroking was for the most part restricted to the smaller Lake Union. On January 28, 1917, The Seattle Times reported, “The Washington crew will row on Lake Union until March 1, when it will row through the canal each afternoon and practice on Lake Washington. Coach Conibear has issued a standing invitation to all who are interested in watching the boys work to go out in the coaching launch…” The Times report concludes with the last evidence that I could find of Conibear’s oaring kingdom abiding here in the converted cafe: “The boathouse is at the foot of the Pay Streak of the Exposition.”
Conibear and his crews soon abandoned the Tokio for another useful oddity. This time a larger shell house was made from a seaplane hangar built by the navy to help with waterways surveillance during World War I. Set at the eastern end of the Montlake Cut, it never accommodated planes, only shells. In 1931 the Tokio’s footprint was covered by the University’s first
oceanographic laboratories built in the then popular Collegiate Gothic style with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Until 1947 the oceanographers shared the future south campus with grass and sand traps. The 1947 ground-breaking for the University’s new School of Medicine began the ‘cultivation’ of the University Golf Club’s nine-hole course into a South Campus overflowing with doctors, nurses, oceanographers and other scientists.
Another heartfelt thanks to the good doctor, Doug Stewart! He rowed me around Portage Bay and we visited some faves…
Anything to add, boys? Surely more from the neighborhood Jean, and one analogy from Portland, Oregon. Also, the bottom two links, those on the north end of the University Bridge and at Gasworks Park, include two of the video’s we managed to produce early last year (2016).