Seattle Now & Then: Inside Dexter Horton’s Bank, 1882

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The bank’s namesake president, Dexter Horton, somehow missed this 1882 portrait of bank employees and officers. Horton may have been enjoying a president’s leisure – perhaps duck-hunting. Surely he was not golfing, the sport that first reached Seattle in the mid 1890s on a converted Wallingford cow pasture. [CLICK to ENLARGE]
NOW: In the early twentieth century the bank’s rebuilt and enlarge Dexter Horton Building at First South and Washington Street was renamed the Maynard, after another pioneer, David (Doc) Maynard. Later the Dexter Horton Bank moved north to greater financial glories in Seattle’s first financial district. [CLICK TO ENLARGE GREG LANGE]

THEN AGAIN: The sturdy frame – but not the roof – of the Dexter Horton Bank at the northwest corner of Washington and Commercial Streets was one of the  few survivors following the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. Details of the bank’s vault, shown in tact in this week’s featured photograph, can be seen on the back wall through the bank’s missing but still guarded front door.
The back of Peiser’s print, beside celebrating his talents (those you must read upside-down), has pasted to the back three labels explaining who has the original, the name of the subject, its date, and the blue pen revelation of the five men in the photograph, and the name and date (1953) of the person who donated it to the Museum.

Theodore Peiser, one of pioneer Seattle’s most gifted photographers, is recorded as arriving here in “the early 1880s.”  The various accounts run from 1880 to 1883. Part of the problem of tracking his arrival is that much of his earliest work was destroyed in the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. But not this print.  For this 1882 recording, Peiser has pressed his back against the front wall of Seattle’s first bank, the Dexter Horton at the northwest corner of Commercial (First Avenue South) and Washington Streets.

Roland Denny was a baby in his mother Mary’s arms when the “Denny Party” landed at Alki Point in the fall of 1851. Roland survived into the late 1930s and his last years were by habit celebrated with news stories and photographs on Founders Day.

On the back of the photo, the names of the five suited men are listed, four within the counter and one without. Not surprisingly, the formally attired two on the left were members of Seattle’s advantaged ‘One-Percent.’  Norval Latimer, far left, ultimately became the director of the bank.  Arthur Denny, often referred to as “the city’s founder,” stands at the center, his graying hair contrasting with the dark interior of the bank’s vault, seen through its steel-framed open door.  Denny’s position as vice-president lent the bank some status and no doubt allowed him to stay busy managing the sale of the hundreds of parcels or lots carved from his and his wife Mary’s 1852 donation claim, which included most of what is now the city’s Central Business District.

With his family Norval Latimer poses in the family car in front of the family mansion on the southwest corner of Terry Avenue and Columbia Street. The south tower of St. James Cathedral tops the photo on the right. Latimer’s driver sits beside him in the front seat. Norval didn’t drive.  Motorcars first arrived – barely – on Seattle Streets in 1900, eighteen years after Peiser photographed Latimer posing like a banker in his bank.  (Click to Enlarge)

To the right of the attentive Arthur is his dark-haired son Rolland, who was the bank’s teller. He was a mere baby when his parents and their entourage of settlers, the Denny Party, first landed at Alki Point in 1851. Behind Rolland is B. J. Biggs, the bank’s clerk.  Busy with Biggs, and facing him from this side of the bank’s impressive counter is Captain Norman Penfield.  Although posed here as a customer, Penfield was a partner with Arthur Denny and Dexter Horton in the Seattle Gas Light Company, and served as its builder and superintendent.  In the “now” photo, King County Archives Reference Specialist Greg Lange sits at the Sovereign bar comfortably close to Penfield’s position at the bank’s counter.

Greg Lange, earlier on First Ave. S., behind the counter of what was the Taylor Bowie Book Store. [Click to ENLARGE GREG LANGE]
Archivist Lange is a popular lecturer on how to do house history. He is also an expert on Pioneer Square history.  While in the featured photo he sits at the bar facing bartender Nat Mooter, Lange explained that following the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, Commercial Street was both lifted – about eight-feet at this corner – and widened from sixty-six feet to eighty-four.  Therefore, Lange is sitting at a basement elevation that is about the same as the street’s pre-fire elevation, while because of the street’s widening, his chair should be more properly moved east, somewhere under the sidewalk.

Lawton Gowey kept good track of the changes around Pioneer Square. Here he records the grand entrance to the Maynard Building. It has been freshly clean during the building’s restoration. The small “buttons” attached to the bricks between the open windows on the second and third floors are part of the retrofitting for earthquakes. Lawton dates this slide, June 14, 1974.

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======When compared to most city scenes relatively little has changed in his view west on Main Street from First Avenue South in the century-plus between them. (Historical photo courtesy of Lawton Gowey)

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THEN: With the clue of the ornate Pergola on the right, we may readily figure that we are in Pioneer Square looking south across Yesler Way.

THEN: For the first twenty years of his more than 40 years selling tinware and other selected hardware, Zilba Mile's shop looked south across Yesler Way down First Ave. S, then known as Commercial Street.

Then: The Pacific House, behind the line-up of white-gloved soldiers, might have survived well into the 20th Century were it not destroyed during Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry

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: 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: The new sub H-3 takes her inaugural baptism at the Seattle Construction and Dry Dock Company’s ways on Independence Day, 1913. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: Frank Shaw’s pre-preservation visit to First Avenue South on February 26, 1961. He looks north from Main Street. (photo by Frank Shaw)

tHEN: An unidentified brass band poses at the intersection of Commercial Street (First Ave S.) and Main Street during the 1883 celebration for the completion of the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad.

THEN: Local candy-maker A.W. Piper was celebrated here for his crème cakes and wedding cakes and also his cartoons. This sketch is of the 1882 lynching from the Maple trees beside Henry and Sara Yesler’s home on James Street. Piper’s bakery was nearby (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: Seen here in 1887 through the intersection of Second Avenue and Yesler Way, the Occidental Hotel was then easily the most distinguished in Seattle. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: The original for this scene of a temporary upheaval on Mill Street (Yesler Way) was one of many historical prints given to the Museum of History and Industry many years ago by the Charles Thorndike estate. Thorndike was one of Seattle’s history buffs extraordinaire. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN:Ruins from the fire of July 26, 1879, looking west on Yesler’s dock from the waterfront. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: The Phoenix Hotel on Second Avenue, for the most part to the left of the darker power pole, and the Chin Gee Hee Building, behind it and facing Washington Street to the right, were both built quickly after Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. (Courtesy: Museum of History and Industry.)

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