Seattle Now & Then: The Spring Street Regrade, 1906-07

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The 1906-7 regrades on Seattle’s Second and Third Avenues required grade changes on the streets that crossed them as well. Here Spring Street is being lowered to fit the new grades at its intersections with the avenues. (Courtesy: Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: The northwest corner of the Seattle Public Library’s post-modern block is partially hidden here behind the One-Way sign at the intersection of Second Avenue and Spring Street.

Penned across the bottom-right corner of this week’s featured photo, is its location: Second and Spring Streets.  The caption is easily confirmed by both landmarks and signs. For instance, the street name, ”Second,” is nailed to the power pole on the left.  This view looks east up Spring Street from Second Avenue.   (We have also posted below Jean’s “now” the flip-side of the featured subject,) which is kept in the Museum of History and Industry’s collection of historical photographs.)

Spring Street regrade looking west from the alley between Third and Fourth Avenues. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
Looking north on Third Avenue from Spring Street, following the regrade of both Third Avenue and the front hump or summit of Denny Hill. It cannot be found here.   Circa 1909.
Lawton Gowey’s look south on Second Avenue and over its intersection with Spring Street, on April 16, 1967, and so not quite the “summer of love.”

Most historical photographs taken in the central business district record the relatively long avenues that run north and south along the western slope of First Hill.  The streets climbing the hill are wonderfully revealed from Elliott Bay but not up close.  With Seattle streets, pioneer photographers gave some interest to Mill Street (Yesler Way), Madison Street, and Pike Street.  The others were given less regard.

Detail from the 1912 Baist Real Estate map with Seneca on the top, Madison at the bottom and Spring between them. The detail extends  west to east from Second Avenue on the left to Sixth Avenue on the right. You will find here the Seattle Public Library, Providence Hospital, Lincoln Hotel, the Elks Club Bldg, and upper-left all the structures facing Spring Street – most of them brick (red) – between Second and Third Avenues.
The Lincoln Hotel as seen looking northwest over the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Madison Street. The latter is bordered (still) by its poplars. (Courtesy, MOHAI)

The featured photograph’s  look up and through the regrade upheaval on Spring Street includes small parts of structures that in their time were proudly considered landmarks.  Also unsparingly revealed here, upper-right, is one big landmark: the Lincoln Hotel,  Covered with white bricks and stone, it stood for twenty years at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Madison Street. Opened in 1900, its inaugural name, the Knickenbacher, was later dropped for

reasons not explained in the boasting advertisements and press releases that described it as “Seattle’s first apartment hotel.”  For the generally upscale tenants it came with a lavish pleasure garden on the roof.  For its last tenants the Lincoln left with tragedy: a sudden fire that killed four including a father and daughter who jumped together from their sixth floor apartment to the alley.

The west facade of the Lincoln Hotel ruins with the Elks Club on the left and the Carnegie Library’s south side facing Madison Street beyond the right side of the ruins.

We will use the hotel to find parts to three more landmarks.  First Seattle’s central library, the largest of the Seattle libraries built with a Andrew Carnegie endowment.  We can find most of its roofline, but not much else, to the left of the Lincoln. Like today’s library it faces west from the east side of Fourth Avenue, between Madison and Spring Street. The Carnegie library was dedicated on December 19, 1906, where that public guardian of the vox populi still stands two plants later.  Its northwest corner shines near the center of Jean’s repeat.

The Carnegie Library during its late construction and so without the elaborate stairway that came with the Fourth Avenue Regrades. The view looks east from the southwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Spring Street. (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)
The Seattle Public Library fronting Fourth Avenue with its grand stairway.

After a half-century of wear the beau-arts structure was razed in the last 1950s for a modern one of mostly glass.
Providence Hospital on the east side of Fifthi Avenue as seen from (apparently from the roof or upper window of the new library. Madison Street, lined with its poplars, is on the far right.

The cross rising here (in the featured photo) seemingly from the roof of the library, topped Providence Hospital, another pioneer landmark. The construction began in 1882 on the east side of Fifth Avenue. Fifty-seven years later the site was fitted with the surviving Federal Court House.

The Federal Court-house on the east side of Fifth Avenue, between Spring and Madison Streets.

With some help from the what remains of the Third Avenue Theatre at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Madison Street, we have pulled circa dates of late 1906 or early 1907 for the featured photograph. The barn-like rear of the theatre partially hides the west façade of the Lincoln Hotel.  The regrade’s deep cuts at Third and Madison left the theatre’s front door stranded high above the new grade.  Russel and Drew, the theatre’s managers explained in a caption to another photo of the threatened theatre that “The work (of razing the theatre) will be started at once, and in a few days a vacant lot will greet the eye where once stood one of the most popular and successful playhouses in all the West.”

THE THIRD AVENUE THEATER looking northeast thru the intersection of Third Avenue (on the left) and Madison Street, with the Lincoln HIotel still standing upper-right.
First published in The Times on December 12, 2004.


Anything to add, goslings?

THEN: Looking north from Seneca Street on Third Avenue during its regrade in 1906. (Photo by Lewis Whittelsey, Courtesy of Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Looking north from Columbia Street over the construction pit for the Central Building. On the left is a rough section of the Third Avenue Regrade in the spring of 1907. (Courtesy, MOHAI)

THEN: Seattle’s new – in 1910-11 – cluster-ball street lighting standards stand tall in this ca. 191l look north on Third Avenue from Seneca Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN: Looking south from the Schwabacher Wharf to the Baker Dock and along the Seattle waterfront rebuilt following the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)


First appeared in The Times long ago – on December 12, 1984 with Ronald Regan in the high chair and the promise of an Orwellian Christmas for all faiths.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE)



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