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