Seattle Now & Then: St. Francis Hall

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: From 1891 to 1909, the St. Francis Hall faced Spring Street on the second lot west of Sixth Avenue. The Hall was photographed by the Norwegian immigrant Anders Wilse in 1900 only weeks before he returned to Norway for photographic work that made him a Norwegian national treasure. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: The Women’s University Club was built in 1922 with arched windows and its own ornamented side entrance on Spring Street.

When portraits of classes or entire student bodies became increasingly commonplace in the 1880s, a variation arose that required more work in the darkroom.  Some professionals offered a montage presentation in which the group portrait included, most often in a corner of the photograph or at other times stretched across the sky, a portrait of the school as well. (An example of such a montage with a pan is attached at the bottom of the blog.)  Our corner example in the week’s featured photo was recorded by one of the best photographers to have ever worked in Seattle, Anders Beer Wilse.

An Anders Wilse  portrait of the city council accompanying City Engineer Regi Thomson (secdon from the left) on a tour of the Cedar River gravity system water facilities in Seattle, this one in Kinnear Park. (Photo by Wilse, courtesy MOHAI.)

The nineteen-year-old Norwegian emigrated to the U.S. in 1884, first working with the United States Geological Survey, much of it in the mountains of the Northwest.  In 1897, the first year of the Yukon Gold Rush, Wilse did not ship north but instead opened his studio in Seattle. He was soon garnering prestigious jobs, such as photographing the construction of Seattle’s community water system that delivered fresh water to the city from the Cedar River.

The 1908 BAIST MAP detail above shows St. Francis Hall in purple-red, upper-right, with its last name “Woodman Hall.”   Across Spring Street from Providence Hospital it was also one block east of the then new Seattle Public Library.   In the 1912 BAIST MAP detail below the hall is gone, a victim of upheaval connected with street regrades on Spring Street and 6th Avenue.  

Francis Hall appears here across Spring Street to the left of Providence Hospital. The photograph was shot most likely from the then new Seattle Public Library and looks east across its back yard to Fifth Avenue. Note the verdant row of poplars bordering Madison Street on the right.  CLILCK TO ENLARGE

For this week’s feature, Wilse’s Seattle contacts took him to Rev. F.X. Prefontaine’s St. Francis Hall.  For the group shot, the photographer stood on the unpaved Spring Street a half-block west of Sixth Avenue.  That the students are generally divided by gender may be by Wilse’s or the teacher’s direction, or by the students’ own proclivity for herding.  The portrait is inscribed “class St. Francis School Seattle, Jan. 11, 1900.” The adult on the porch may be Elsie, which the 1901 Polk City Directory names the school’s teacher.

Regrading Spring Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. St. Francis Hall is far-right. We wrote a feature on this and it  may be found below at the top of WEB EXTRAS waiting as one of the ‘Ron Clips’ of recent blog features.

Francis Prefontaine was Seattle’s first Roman Catholic priest.  With aid of both parishioners and protestants, in 1870 he built Our Lady of Good Help, the city’s first Catholic Church. (In 2017 we featured Our Lady twice in PacificNW, on March 12 and 19.) The gregarious priest built St. Francis Hall in 1890-91 and named it for the Italian saint known for his loving sermons to ‘all creatures great and small.’  That the original Seattle priest’s first name was also Francis may be considered a cheerful coincidence.

For Eleventh  hour uses of St. Francis aka Woodman Hall a long wood stairway was built up from the new Spring Street grade to the Hall’s porch.

As a secular priest, Prefontaine was not required to make a vow of poverty.  His uses of St. Francis Hall were diverse, and for a time in the late 1890s he lived there with his niece Maria Rose Pauze, who both edified and entertained her uncle with her piano playing.  She described him as “one to acquire property, clean it up and make a go of it.”  Other groups who rented the Hall from the priest were the Knights of Columbus, Professor Ourat (from Florence) with his dancing academy, dancing parties sponsored by the Adante Non Troppo Club, and late in the Hall’s life a fraternity, Woodmen of the World, who arranged to attach their name to the brick landmark.  One of the Hall’s last engagements is reviewed in The Times for March 10, 1908: “Knights of Columbus Make Merry at Woodmen of the World Hall . . . The crowd that attended taxed the capacity of the place.”  St. Francis Hall did not survive the nearly twenty-foot cuts that came with the 1909 Spring Street Regrade.

The penultimate-new Seattle Public Library, on the right, is under construction in this October 16, 1957 look east on Spring Street from Fourth Avenue. Two blocks up Spring on the left side beyond the Emel Motor Hotel (formerly the Spring Apartment Hotel) the Women’s University Club (site formerly for St. Francis Hall) rises in noon-hour shadows.  The Emel was renamed the Kennedy Hotel during the summer of 1969.  

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, mortals?  We welcome Jean back from his adventures in South California so near the variously scorned, beloved and broken border.

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: The Metropolitan Tract's Hippodrome was nearly new when it hosted the A.F. of L. annual convention in 1913.

tsutakawa-1967-then

THEN: The city's regrading forces reached Sixth Avenue and Marion Street in 1914. A municipal photographer recorded this view on June 24. Soon after, the two structures left high here were lowered to the street. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)

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DENNY SCHOOL CLASS (one of them) POSING IN PORTRAIT ON SCHOOL STEPS IN MONTAGE WITH SCHOOLS FRONT NORTH FACADE on the northeast corner of BATTERY and FIFTH AVENUE. 

Notice printed in The Seattle Times for January 7, 1929

 

 

 

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