Seattle Now & Then: Dairy Men at Dreamland

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Thanks to Larry Lowry who long ago shared with me this grand photograph of Dreamland. He noted, “My grandfather, Waverly Mairs, was the ice cream maker at the old Seattle Dairy.” Perhaps, Waverly is also in the photograph.
NOW: The Eagles Auditorium replaced Dreamland in 1925. In 1983 the Auditorium was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It became the home of ACT Theatre in 1996

Once cameras could be used comfortably out-of-doors, one of the sustaining services promoted by commercial photographers was portraits for families posing on the porch or front yard and businesses that grouped owners with their employees in front of the shop or factory that supported them.   This week’s feature has both, with a variation.

Pulled from The Seattle Times for August 20, 1934

The man in the dark suit nearest the camera is probably Syvert Stray, proprietor of the Seattle Dairy. He is standing beside, we assume, his wife Lillian, while holding onto the high wagon chair where his daughter poses for the professional photographer.  Down the line are the horses and drivers for Stray’s five milk wagons. The twist in this group portrait is that the subjects here are not posing beside the

Shot from the roof of the Cambridge Apartment-Hotel, the Seattle Dairy is boldly signed – right-of-center – at the front of the dairy’s factory on the south side of 8th Avenue.  The dairy is one of the exceptions – it was built of bricks.  (The accompanying details from the 1908 and 1912 Baist maps show the dairy only  in the later one at 1415 Eighth Avenue.   Most of the Dreamland roof shows upper left and beside it, to the right, the Unitarian Church with its clipped tower. (By the time of the above photo the Unitarians had moved up to Capitol Hill.)  Surely one of the two gas stations are a McKales, and under the management of the milkman Stray and his son. 
Details of Baist Maps, 1908 on the left beside 1912.   {CLICK to ENLARGE]
For comparison with the two Baist maps above here is a detail from the ever-helpful 1925 Kroll map of the Seattle Business Section.  University Street is on the far right, followed by Union, Pike, Pine Streets leading to the split where Howell Street begins off of OLive Street (or Way).    Eagles Hall is marked at its corner of Union and Seventh one block to the left from the details’ east border  (far-(right) with University Street.   Seattle Dairy can also be bound on Eighth Ave. “behind” the Eagles. 

company’s office and/or livery on Eighth Avenue. Rather they are around the corner from it on Union Street.  The reason is obvious.  They are sharing the splendor of a new and magnificent neighbor.  This is the showy south façade of Dreamland, a hall that filled the northeast corner of Seventh Avenue and Union Street.

DREAMLAND at the northeast corner of 7th Avenue and Union Street.
The Dreamland interior on November 17, 1911..

This ornate landmark could have held a hundred horses but never did.  Rather, it was made for entertainments and engagements. From its arching roof to the hardwood floor this big room was made for dancing, skating, conventions, banquets and shows of many sorts.  It was often decorated with streamers hanging from the ceiling.  Dreamland was also the political platform of choice for progressives, labor unions, and political campaigning.  The dances thrown here were big ones. And the sweating populist spectator sports of boxing and wrestling could fill the place.

Dreamland’s adver. for its opening in 1906.

From its beginning, Dreamland was promoted primarily as a roller skating rink. The opening was “by invitation” on October 14, 1906, for the Monday Night Skating Club.  The following night it was promoted in The Times as “the ideal rink for discriminating skaters… with Prof. Chas L. Franks and his daughter Lillian “performing as Champion Fancy Skaters.”  Stray, Dreamland’s dairyman neighbor, was also into roller skating, sponsoring a competitive team in the Seattle Roller Hockey League.

“Give a little, Take a little,”  Stray gets a deal on a new Rothweiler

In 1915, after Stray bought a Rothweiler truck, an illustrated advertisement of the purchase appeared in The Times.  Like the milk wagons Stray was replacing, his new truck was partially covered with a sign naming his dairy. Stray’s spirit for internal combustion developed into his second entrepreneurial passion, as director of McKale’s Inc., a small chain of stylish service stations.  The number one McKale’s was on the northwest corner of Union Street and Eighth Avenue, two doors from Stray’s Seattle Dairy.

A McKales on Broadway, ca. 1937. This is the intersection with Roy Street where Broadway “splits” to either side of McKales. From here going north it is still Broadway on the west and 10th Avenue East on the east.

Born in Christiansun, Norway, in 1871, the seventeen-year-old Syvert reached the U.S. in 1888 and Seattle in 1902.  Prior to his death in 1934 Stray was a life member in The Fraternal Order of Eagles, whose elegant aerie replaced Dreamland at Seventh Avenue and Union Street in 1925.  Since 1997, it is a corner where the play has continued with ACT Theatre.

A flyer for the first Eagles light-show concert, a benefit for FUS, the Free University of Seattle on January 14,  1967.    We were  “busted” by the police department’s dance squad, a good-cop bad-cop combo, for violating a “shadow dancing” ordinance from 1929.  We convinced the team to let the show go on if we turned the lights up, which we did – sort of.


Anything to add, dreamers?  Yup Jean, Ron Edge is now laying upon us a few recent and relevant features and I’ll follow them with some older ones

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

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

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

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: The “then” photo looks southeast across Union Street to the old territorial university campus. It was recorded in the Fall of 1907, briefly before the old park-like campus was transformed into a grand commercial property, whose rents still support the running of the University of Washington. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: Swedish Lutheran (Gethsemane) Church’s second sanctuary at the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and Steward Street circa 1920, photo by Klaes Lindquist. (Courtesy, Swedish Club)

THEN: The now century-old Norway Hall at the corner of Boren Avenue and Virginia Street opened in 1915, on May 17, Norwegian Independence Day. (Courtesy, Nordic Heritage Museum)







A Seattle Times Clip from May 10, 1911.
Clip from The Seattle Times for June 11, 1929.



One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Dairy Men at Dreamland”

  1. Paul, I was delighted to see your column this week with the info about Syvert Stray and his dairy business. Our Fremont Historical Society recently did a house-history of 4132 2nd Avenue NW and found that the house was first lived in by the Stray family. The current occupants were thrilled with your column, too. Thanks! And don’t forget that Fremont Historical Society will have its annual exhibit at the Fremont Library all during the month of May. On Saturday, May 12th, we will have a reception beginning at 11 AM and program at 12 noon. The exhibit this year is about Fremont resident Capt. A.J. Goddard and his wife Clara who went to the Yukon.

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