Of the roughly 150 thousand citizens living in Seattle in 1907, nine answered to Olds – their last name – and six of these lived in the Hotel Leland. And surely all of them knew by heart the 1904 pop hit “In my Merry Oldsmobile“. (My dad taught it to me in the 1940s. He drove one.)
Here, in the featured photo at the top, stands the Hotel Leland at the northwest corner of Pike Street and the Post Alley, circa 1904. There was then, as yet, neither a Pike Place nor a Public Market, nor any intimation of either. The alley-wide arterial on the right is not a Place but an alley, Post Alley. The building of Pike Place, between this intersection and the foot of Virginia Street at Western Avenue, came suddenly, as did the founding of its namesake public market.
Pike Place was cut thru in 1906-7 on the incentive of activist engineers and not by budget-conscious homemakers conspiring with truck-gardeners to exchange cash for produce in a public place like Pike Place. ( With the coming of the Market the farmers could get around the wholesale grocers’ gouging on Western Avenue.) It was the transportation planners at city hall who successfully connived to cut through the neighborhood. In this public work of creating the eccentric Pike Place, they completed City Engineer Reginald Thomson’s Route No. 15, an arterial from northwest Seattle directed into the city’s new retail center to the sides of Pike Street.
Perhaps we would be right to imagine that the suited man with the watch chain standing above, and perhaps posing, at the Leland’s front door is its owner Gamaliel T. Olds. The helpful Kate Krafft, one of Seattle’s most effective activists for historic preservation, dates the construction of the Hotel Leland in 1902-3. In the Aug. 11, 1907 classifieds for The Seattle Times – a mere week before the Pike Place Market’s grand opening – the Olds hotel was offered for sale and described as a “Lodging House, eighteen rooms; good furniture, good location.”
It was the Goodwin brothers, the market neighborhood’s first spirited developers, who purchased the hotel while keeping one of the Olds on as its manager. Surprisingly, the democratically stressful part of the Market’s popularity soon upset M. Olds. The Times for Nov. 10, 1907 reported that he had complained that the police should “do something to prevent Socialists from attempting to hold street meetings on Pike Place . . . He complains particularly about the crowds, which he says congregate in front of his hotel much to his annoyance.” Now after the Pike Place Public Market’s first 111 years of clamoring activism, M. Olds complaining comes across as partially prescient and partially pathetic.
Anything to add, mates? Surely captain. More from the neighborhood.