Seattle Now & Then: Olympia Beer on the Waterfront

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Nearly new, the Holden Warehouse on the left, and the bottling plant for Olympia Beer each take half of the block on the east side of Railroad Avenue between Virginia and Pine Streets.
NOW: The fence here is meant to temporarily keep traffic and pedestrians out of the seawall reconstruction zone at the shared waterfront foot of both Pine and Stewart.

The ambiguity of this waterfront corner is revealed by its signage.  In Jean Sherrard’s “now” the city’s green Pine Street sign only seems to rest on the wire fence in the foreground above the cyclist peddling the red bicycle.  Rather, it stands at the northeast corner of Alaskan way and – what? This is the point where both Pine Street and the linked Stewart Street, Olive Way and E. Olive Street, begin their forty-plus block course or two-plus miles east from the central waterfront (soon interrupted by the Pike Place Public Market) through Seattle’s slim waistline to Lake Washington

Here are  parts of two Sanborn real estate maps showing the point where Stewart Street reaches the waterfront – or nearly. The larger detail on the left is from 1905. The smaller one to the right dates from 1893 when there were still a good selection of sheds and shacks between First (or Front Street) and the tides.  The 1905 detail shows the north portal of the Great Northern Railroad tunnel.   I names the footprint of the concrete plant that was used for the construction of the tunnel’s thick walls and curved ceiling.  The 1905 detail includes the footprint of Holden’s Warehouse that shows in the featured photograph and what it describes as a “platform, partially burned.,”  That is the half-block where soon the Olympia Brewery’s bottling plant would be built.  Below: three years later – a detail from the 1908 Baist Real Estate Map.
Detail from the 1908 Baist Real Estate Map.

Although hard to read in this printing, there is also a sign for Stewart Street fixed to the southwest corner façades of the Olympia Brewery Bottling Works in the featured “then” photograph at the top.  The sign is just above the last wagon on the right, which puts it at the northeast corner of Stewart Street and Railroad Avenue. Perhaps for excitement or distraction during the Great Depression the last street name was changed from Railroad Avenue to Alaskan Way.  Some contending choices were Cosmos Quay, Sea Portal Avenue, Commerce Way, and one that came close to winning the contest, Seatlaska Way.

The north portal then (about 1904) and now (about 1984), The concrete mixing plan is evident in the lower photo to the right of the tunnel.   The HOTEL YORK is still standing on the left horizon.  [The York is described and pictured in or with the 13th clip that follows the feature’s lead text.] Because of the shaking that accompanied the building of the tunnel and  later its use, the York was condemned and razed sometime soon after this photograph was snapped by some member of the Duffy family.    
Hidden behind the Bottling Works was the north portal to the Great Northern Railroad’s tunnel beneath the city. The carving of the hole and blasting of about a dozen squatter’s shacks that were in the way began on April Fools Day 1903.  [See the clip below for a photo and description of this opening.]  The about mile-long tunnel was completed on January 2, 1905. The building of the Holden Warehouse on the left of the feature photo at Virginia Street soon followed and in the spring of 1906 the Virginia Street Dock across Railroad Avenue was built as a near twin to the Gaffney Dock its neighbor to the south.  (They are out of frame to the left.) As piers 62 and 63, both were ultimately cleared of their warehouses for creation of the concert pier that is now being improved for the new Waterfront Park.

The Gaffney and Virginia Street Piers, side-by-side.

Olympia brewer Leopold Schmidt’s bottling plant for his Olympia Beer was also built soon after the clearing of the tunnel’s north portal site of its buildings for mixing concrete and the narrow-gauged railroad used for moving the glacial till and other diggings extracted during the construction of the tunnel.  Throughout the month of August 1908 Olympia Beer inserted display ads in the local papers offering added meaning to its slogan, “it’s the water.”  This water, however, was not from the brewery’s vaunted artesian wells but from Seattle’s Green River watershed.  The ads are headed, “About Bottles” and continue  “First we soak the bottle in a cleaning solution, then it is rinsed, next it is washed three times inside, twice outside and again rinsed.  Then it is examined before being filled and if not absolutely clean it is rejected.”

A small display adver. pulled from The Times for December 10, 1907.
Appeared in The Times for August 21, 1912.

The work of cleaning bottles for beer was short-lived here.  Prohibition began in Washington State on January 1, 1916.  The delivery horse teams were sold and their teamsters laid off. By the time Olympia Beer was again filling its bottles in 1934 with more spirited waters, the brewery’s building at the mouth of the tunnel had been home to other businesses, most notably Belknap Glass, one of the city’s larger manufacturers of plate glass.

A 1934 – 1936 comparison of this part of the waterfront looking south from the Lenora Street overpass before and after the construction of the seawell between Mansion and Borad Streets.  .
Looking north from the Pike Street viaduct that used to cross here. By consulting the parked cars you might judge the accuracy of the caption that dates this Ca. 1945.   Note the armory on Western Avenue between Virginia and Lenora, upper-right.  


Anything to add, lads?  Yes Jean, more of more from the waterfront side of the neighborhood.

THEN: The 1974 fire at the Municipal Market Building on the west side of Western Avenue did not hasten the demise of the by then half-century old addition of the Pike Place Market. It had already been scheduled for demolition. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN:In late 1855 the citizens of Seattle with help from the crew of the Navy sloop-of-war Decatur built a blockhouse on the knoll that was then still at the waterfront foot of Cherry Street. The sloop’s physician John Y. Taylor drew this earliest rendering of the log construction. (Courtesy, Yale University, Beinecke Library)

THEN: Steel beams clutter a freshly regraded Second Avenue during the 1907 construction of the Moore Theatre. The view looks north toward Virginia Street.

THEN: An early-20th-century scene during the Second Avenue Regrade looks east into its intersection with Virginia Avenue. A home is being moved from harm's way, but the hotel on the hill behind it would not survive the regrade's spoiling. Courtesy of Ron Edge.

THEN: In this April morning record of the 1975 “Rain or Shine Public Market Paint-in,” above the artists, restoration work has begun with the gutting of the Corner Market Building. (Photo by Frank Shaw)

THEN: A circa 1920 look north along the tiled roofline of the Pike Place Market’s North Arcade, which is fitted into the slender block between Pike Place, on the right, and Western Avenue, on the left. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: The Hotel York at the northwest corner of Pike Street and First Avenue supplied beds on the American Plan for travelers and rooms for traveling hucksters. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: The driver, lower left, leads his team towards First Avenue up a planked incline on Madison Street. (Courtesy MOHAI)

THEN: Frank Shaw’s late winter composition of waterfront landmarks at the foot of Madison Street in 1963. (Photo by Frank Shaw)

THEN: This post-1889 waterfront block of sheds and ships was replaced in 1911 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Dock, described at the time as “the largest wooden finger pier in North America.” The exception was Fire Station No. 5 on the left at the foot of Madison Street. A brick station replaced it in 1913. (Museum of History & Industry)

THEN: The ruins left by Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, included a large neighborhood of warehouses and factories built on timber quays over the tides. Following the fire the quays were soon restored with new capping and planking. A close look on the far-right will reveal some of this construction on the quays underway. (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)

THEN: Following the city’s Great Fire of 1889, a trestle was built on University Street, between Front Street (First Avenue) and Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way). By the time Lawton Gowey photographed what remained of the timber trestle in 1982, it had been shortened and would soon be razed for the Harbor Steps seen in Jean Sherrard’s repeat. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: From boxcars and rooftops to the planks of Railroad Avenue, excitement builds for the ceremonial re-enactment of the S.S.Portland’s 1897 landing with its “ton of gold” on the Seattle waterfront, the city’s first Golden Potlatch Celebration. [Courtesy, Michael Maslan]

THEN: F. Jay Haynes recorded this ca. 1891 look up the Seattle waterfront and it’s railroad trestles most likely for a report to his employer, the Northern Pacific Railroad. (Courtesy, Murray Morgan)

THEN: A circa 1912 look at the Wall Street finger pier from the foot, not of Wall, but Battery Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Pier 70 when it was still Pier 14, ca. 1901, brand new but not yet "polished." Courtesy, Lawton Gowey

THEN: Tied momentarily to the end of the Union Oil Co dock off Bay Street, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s ship Maud prepares to cast-off for the Arctic Ocean on June 3, 1922. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: Mark Tobey, almost certainly Seattle’s historically most celebrated artist, poses in the early 1960s with some Red Delicious apples beside the Sanitary Market in the Pike Place Market. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

















Listed from The Seattle Times, March 3, 1912.



Below we insert a copy of the original print from which this Sunday’s featured photo was cropped and retouched (i.e. polished).  [Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry, aka MOHAI]





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