Seattle Now & Then: Third and Madison, 1916

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Sighting northwest through the intersection of Madison Street and Third Avenue, circa 1916. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: SeaFirst Bank began buying up the block in the late 1950s and opened its fifty-floor tower in 1968.

May we note first a happy coincidence –instructive too – between this week’s “then” and “now?” Jean Sherrard has lifted his Nikon to a prospect above the southwest corner of Third Avenue and Madison Street that seems to resemble the elevation reached about a century ago by the more historical, although unnamed, photographer.  Jean has extended his pole-mounted camera into a zone of overhead wires that may resemble – for you too? –  that surreal moment when the spacecraft Cassini passed through the Rings of Saturn.

The Third Avenue Theatre at the northeast corner of Madison Street and Third Avenue.

In fact, Jean’s camera has paused here for his “click” within a few inches of where the sidewalk sat 110 years ago. That was before the Third Avenue regrade cut seventeen feet from the intersection.  Before the cutting, cable cars on Madison Street climbed the third steepest grade in the cable car industry here between Second and Third Avenues.

The rough half-block displayed in the feature photo at the top, survives in this 1913 detail from a photo taken from the Smith Tower in the last months of its construction. Enlarge this illustration and you will better find the signs holding to the half-block in the “Then.”   The Lincoln Hotel is there as well, but not the Elks Lodge.  
Years later (less than six) the half block facing Third Avenue’s east side between Madison and Spring Streets is being fitted for “Real Estate Row”, the one-story brick addition that ran the length of the block.
An advertisement generated from “Real Estate Row” on Sept. 1, 1920. It appeared the The Times, which we can now sample from its digital archives shared by The Seattle Public Library.   If your have a SPL card you will enjoy exploring with it, this we promise.  If not get a card and call the library for instructions on how to link to it.

The intersection’s rough northeast kitty-korner still shows the scars left by the deep grading along both Third and Madison about ten years before the “then” was recorded ca. 1916.  From 1890 until its destruction in 1906 by regrades, this northeast corner was the home of “polite vaudeville,” with a “family formula” featuring acts “without booze, peanuts or catcalls.” Here the scarred corner has been terraced for and signed by the Hopkins Nursery, perhaps the British-born Thomas Hopkins who with his sons later ran an award-winning and long-lived nursery in Bothell.   To this side of the terraced nursery, sits a nifty two door shed at the corner.  It promotes itself as a “union shop” that from toe to top cleans, shines, and dyes “ladies and gents shoes,” and also sells, cleans, presses and reblocks men’s hats.


The largest sign stuck in the dirt above the corner shed reads, in part, “For Lease or Owners Will Build.”  Soon the east side of Third Avenue between Madison and Spring Streets was fitted with an array of single story brick storefronts, and was popularly called “Real Estate Row.”  All the sidewalk shops were fitted with skylights of the same sort and size – at least ten of them.  Behind the retail  “row” was another of cars, parked west of an alley running the block. East of the alley and up the hill were the two landmark buildings filling much of the frame.  On the right is the Lincoln Hotel built in 1899 and destroyed by fire in 1920. Left-of-center stands the Elks Club, dedicated in 1914 and sold to Jewish Group in 1958 that sold it to the bank in 1964 for the building of their dark glass-curtain tower, dedicated in 1968. (Greg Dziekonski, a helpful fact-checking reader, tells us that “The Seattle Youth Symphony rehearsed in this building from 1958 to 1961 when it was the Jewish Community Center.”)

The SeaFirst Tower was completed in 1968.
Lawton Gowey’s record of the nearly new SeaFirst Tower photographed from the Smith Tower in 1971.

Far left in the featured photo – printed at the top – and facing Fourth Avenue a half-block north, the Independent Telephone Co. completed the photo’s frame on the left.  It joined the hot early twentieth century competition to wire, mostly from competing poles, the city with telephone lines.  Erected in 1902, the building’s “most interesting part,” the Times reported, was its concrete floors and partitions.  It was “a feature never before employed in the construction of any other building in Seattle.”

A Times clip from August 24, 1902 revealing the redundant rush and opportunism of competing telephone companies early in the 20th Century..


Anything to add, mes braves?   Surely.   Ron may add some to what below when he arises from his late Spring-Sunday-Morning Sleep.

Meanwhile . . .

:Looking east from the roof of the hotel. The towers on the right belong to Central School facing ‘Marion and Madison streets  between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, and behind those the two towers of Saint James Cathedral can be glimpsed at the southeast corner of 9th Avenue and Marion Street.

Looking northwest over the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Monroe Street, and the poplars that once bordered the latter.
CLICK TO ENLARGE:  Lincoln Hotel before the poplars on Madison. The Seattle Public Library is on the right, and the harbor is exceptionally busy with the illustrator’s fleet. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan)
On of the many parades produced for the 1911 (or possible ’12) Potlatch Parade passed through the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Spring Street. Together the Lincoln, on the left, and the Elks Lodge, on the right, press against their neighbor, a frame house  larege enough to hold lodgers.













Larry Hamilton gave me a witness’s account of the 1920 fire that destroyed the Lincoln Hotel. Larry and I became friends through our common interest in local history and more, our study of it as well. Larry did the darkroom work for the Museum of History and Industry, although by the time I met him he had moved on from that charitable work to others, like accompanying me to lectures and shows and such. I drove. This photo of the ruins comes from Larry and it was accompanied with his story of the fire. If memory serves he arrived in Seattle on the day of the fire or the day before it. Whatever he could give it a sensational refiring. We kept it up – our explorations and friendship – until his death in his 90’s. Would that you (dear reader)  and I could bank that vitality. Perhaps his greatest virtue was his sense of humor. He was good a promotion for life everlasting. Hamilton would never run from or out of wit. See you later Hamilton. Just kidding Larry. “Nor can joy be long sustained.” George Santayana. (1863 – 1952). From this southeast prospect here is surely a building in trouble. It requires an inspection from the west to dampen – with the fire fighters’ shower – any thought of restoring the Lincoln.
Looking down we  find some of the Real Estate Row facing the sidewalk on the east side of Third Avenue.


THEN: With feet nearly touching the Madison Street Cable Railway’s cable slot, five “happy workers” squeeze on to the front bumper of an improvised Armistice Day float. (Photo courtesy Grace McAdams)

THEN: Looking west on Madison Street from Seventh Avenue circa 1909. (Courtesy, Washington State Museum, Tacoma)

THEN: Looking south on First Avenue from its northwest corner with Madison Street, circa 1905. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

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: A mix of workers, friends and guests pose together on the front porch of Sarah Frances Baker’s hotel at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Marion Street in 1895. Built ten years earlier by Martin and Elisabeth Stacy as their first mansion, the warring couple never lived in it. Used in the early 1890s by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, followed by Baker and her hotel, the Second Empire styled mansion’s last tenant was the Maison Blanc Restaurant, which was closed by fire in 1960. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: The Big Snow of 1916 trims two jewelers’ clocks on the west side of Second Avenue, north of Marion Street. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)


3 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Third and Madison, 1916”

  1. I very much enjoyed seeing another view of the Lincoln Hotel in your column this week, showing the hotel in the background of Third & Madison. I recently traced an amazing story about one of the fireman, Carl R. Dooley, who fought the hotel fire in 1920. Dooley later became owner of a tavern which was right across from the gate of the Sand Point Naval Air Station.

  2. Thank you to the inimitable team of Messrs. Dorpat and Sherrard for again nourishing us with the fruits of expert research and rare visuals from both now and then, depicting Seattle’s convoluted history, and always delivered with wit and artistry, but not at the expense of the verifiable. They make it seem effortless, but we know it is not. As far as I’m aware, no other US city includes this benefit to residents simply for the price of admission, and offered so generously on a weekly basis, no less. Newcomers to this column or to Seattle itself, take note! (I may post this comment every week.)

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