Seattle Now & Then: The Hamilton in Georgetown

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: A stately side of Georgetown’s business district, ca. 1920. (Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Only the brick Hamilton Building survives, centered on the west side of 12th Avenue South between S. Vale (on the right) and S. Harney Streets

This week PacificNW readers are asked to figure on their own the date of this Georgetown street scene, perhaps from the motorcars that are parked on it.  Whatever the year, and I’m speculating ca. 1920, the spread of businesses in the three contiguous business blocks snugly grouped here on the west side of 12th Avenue South, south of Vale Street (on the far right) is downright inviting.

We have (as yet) not a date search for this Frasch real photo postcard, but he was very active between (about) 1907 and 1914. Somewhere on the Web a descendant has followed his career. Perhaps you can find it. (For me, it is now 4am.)

Starting at the sidewalk on the left, at the corner with S. Harney Street, are “Roma Imported,” mostly hiding behind the open delivery van, and a market of fresh produce sharing the first floor of the smallest of the three two-story buildings grouped here.  One can imagine vegetables in the boxes shining through the plate glass window. Most likely there are a few rented apartments upstairs.

Here on Jan 3, 1926 Georgetown got its coverage from The Times series on local neighborhood in the 1920s.   CLICK TO ENLARGE

The bigger building at the center is “The Hamilton.”  It is prominently and appropriately signed in relief with more bricks carefully set on its all-brick façade.  We have learned from John Bennett, one of Georgetown’s contemporary freeholders, that it is actually a concrete box covered on the street side with a layer of decorative brick.  More than a century of rains have seeped between the box and its covering, staining some of the latter. The construction date, 1907, has been artfully split to either side of the hotel’s name.

A Times clip from July 12, 1908.   (click to enlarge)

The structure’s three sidewalk shops are, left-to-right, first a shoe repair, neighbor next to the Working Man’s Store, which features both clothes and shoes.  (Perhaps one could purchase both new and used shoes here, although we will note that this glass negative was recorded by the Webster and Stevens Photography Studio years before the Great Depression when used shoes were in greater demand.)  The third of the merchants busy at the sidewalk is the White Front Restaurant.  It is neatly signed on the window.

The Seattle Times for January 3, 1908, reports that “The Georgetown post office and the Georgetown pharmacy have been moved into new quarters in The Hamilton Building, a brick structure.” These are nearly the building’s first tenants for the Hamilton was then barely a year old.  Also in 1908, The Hamilton welcomed as a tenant John Mueller, the manager of Georgetown’s new and huge Rainier Brewery.  Mueller opened an office in The Hamilton for his mayoral campaign, which he easily won.  The Times explained that George Brown, his opponent, “is not making an active fight.”

Marcus and Martha Hamilton and their family lived behind their namesake hotel and hall. They owned the block.  Marcus served many mostly uncontroversial years as a King County Commissioner.  When the first five floors of the City-County Building at 4th and Jefferson were dedicated on May 4, 1916, Marcus was the keynote speaker along with Hi Gill, Seattle’s exceedingly controversial mayor.

With its big room and high ceiling on the second floor, Hamilton Hall served a wealth of patrons for campaign rallies, dances, secret society meetings and such and such.  Its rooftop sign radiates like the sunrises it faced over Beacon Hill between 1903, the year of its construction, and 1972, the year of its tear-down.


Anything to add, lads?  Sure Jean, sometimes we aim to please.   Other times we need to sneeze.  It is one still step after another.  Keep on trucking.  Tragedy/Comedy.   Here’s more from the neighborhood widely conceived





Tim O’Brian, Georgetown historian, on his stairway.


King County Hospital in Georgetown




Looking southwest from Walker Street to the burning ruins.

THEN: The Oregon and Washington Railroad Georgetown Depot was built in 1910 about two blocks north of the Seattle Lighting Company’s Gas Works, far-right. (Courtesy, Frank and Margaret Fickheisen)

THEN: As the caption at the bottom allows, the Juneau Street footbridge opened for pedestrians on March 26,1915. It crossed the main track lines – not spurs – of three railroads and reached east from the Georgetown business district to a sprawling neighborhood of workers’ homes on the gentle slope of the Beacon Hill ridge. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives.)

THEN: Sometime before her first move from this brewery courtyard in 1912, Lady Rainier was moved by a freeze to these sensational effects. She did not turn her fountain off.  (Courtesy of Frank & Margaret Fickeisen)

THEN: Extended thanks to Ron Edge and his maps and aerials for properly siting Braun’s Brewery, to collector Dan Kerlee for letting us use this company portrait, and to Gary Flynn, the Bellingham-based breweriana collector and brewery historian.

THEN: The work of filling the tidelands south of King Street began in 1853 with the chips from Yesler’s sawmill.   Here in the neighborhood of 9th Ave. S. (Airport Way) and Holgate Street, the tideland reclaiming and street regrading continue 70 years later in 1923.  (Courtesy, Municipal Archive)

THEN: Part of the pond that here in 1946 filled much of the long block between Massachusetts and Holgate Streets and 8th Avenue S. and Airport Way. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: The Seattle Times in its lengthy coverage of the then new Seattle Steel in the paper’s Magazine Section for Sept. 10, 1905 – the year this photograph was recorded – noted that “the plant itself is a series of strong, substantial, cavernous sheds, built for use, not for beauty.”  (Courtesy, MOHAI, the Museum of History and Industry)


THEN: Auburn’s Main Street decorated for its Aug. 14, 1909,  “Good Old Days” celebration.  Photo courtesy of the White River Valley Museum.

Then Caption:  Amateur photographer George Brown most likely took this view of Portland’s 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition from the north porch of the Washington State Building.  Brown also played clarinet in Wagner’s popular concert and marching band, which was probably performing at the Expo.   (pic courtesy of Bill Greer)


2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Hamilton in Georgetown”

  1. I have a 1910 calendar plate from the Bee Hive Grocery – Georgetown. My father was born in 1910 at 8209 9th Ave S in Georgetown. I’m assuming that is why the plate was saved. I imagine my grandparents shopping at The Bee Hive Store often. Thank you for all the great historical photos. I was hoping something like this would show up in the Pacific NW Magazine as I review it faithfully.

  2. In the mid 1990s I was in a band which rented a practice space on the second floor of the Hamilton building; one among several other rooms. The facility name was Clear Audio. An ancient, very wide central staircase led up from the foyer, which made me think it had perhaps once been a hotel. Reading here that the upstairs originally had been a large hall, I now understand that all the practice rooms had been framed in and crudely sheet rocked within the large space. When jet planes flew over on their approach to Boeing Field, the building would seem to sway in their turbulence. The place was a rickety, unrennovated fire trap, and the owner used to warn us not to allow the fire inspector to enter the building for fear of being cited or condemned. The surrounding neighborhood was just as sketchy at the time. It’s really turned around now.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.