(click to enlarge photos)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Dairy Men at Dreamland”
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.