Seattle Now & Then: 15th Ave NW

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In 1936 the brickwork on 15th Ave. NW still looked intact from curb to curb, both to the side of its two trolley tracks and between them. (Courtesy of Paula Zanter-Stout)
NOW: The newest Ballard High School is evident here on the center-horizon. Since its construction from 1997 to 1999 and return to the neighborhood, the enlarged school has filled the northeast corner of NW 65th Street and 15th Avenue Northwest.

We hope that it obvious to readers familiar with this weekly feature that this Sunday we offer another scene pulled from a collection of billboard subjects recorded between the late 1920s and the early 1940s.  The snapping by Foster and Kleiser of its Seattle-based billboards began near the start of the Great Depression and ended when everyone’s preoccupation with World War II was both fresh and alarming.

Another FK billboard shot of the same corner but years later. It is dated at the bottom with its own caption: September 1, 1942. By then the U.S.A> is frantically involved in fighting WW2 on two fronts. Here looking north from from the west side of 15h Avenue near 64th Street we can see some changes and revelations. The largest of the latter if Ballard High School on the right.  The northeast corner of 15th and 65th is still plastered with billboards standing next to a Safeway Store. 

In the featured photo at the top, the company’s photographer has included three billboards in her or his negative taken from the east curb of 15th Avenue NW and about twenty yards south of NW 64th Street. The billboard at the center on the north side of the arterial NW 65th Street tempts every motorist heading north on 15th Ave. NW with a dream of conspicuous consumption.   In spite of the

A detail from the featured photo at the top.   Tire War anyone?

Depression, the billboard flaunts a luxurious Lincoln Zephyr V-12.  That 1937 Lincoln reminds me how as a youngster, I was puzzled that car companies were permitted to sell automobiles, which were newer than new.  (The cars they sold were often dated for the coming year.)  Now I also wonder if it is possible that Seattle’s Lincoln dealers did some “spot advertising” and paid extra for this head-on location since a good fraction of Seattle’s most wealthy one percent commuted via 15th Avenue NW to their homes in the gated Highlands.

The Hoge garden, part of the family’s Highlands estate. We now keep the name with the Hoge Building at the northwest corner of Second Avenue and Cherry Street. For about two years it was the tallest structure in Seattle. In 1913 its neighbor the Smith Tower surmounted it.

The featured (at the top) billboard negative was exposed on November 1, 1936.  The Seattle Times noted, “Thousands of hunters are swarming into Eastern Washington for the opening of the deer season.”  Even more affecting, it was two days before the country would extend Franklin Delano Roosevelt into his second term as president.  He won 60.8 percent of the popular vote and 98.49 percent of the electoral votes, the highest percentage of any candidate since 1820 when James Monroe, the last candidate of the Revolutionary generation, had no major opponent.

The Roosevelt Family gathered together by the fireplace of their Hyde Park retreat. We will assume that this is fireplace next to which FDR gave his regular fireside radio broadcasts – but we could be wrong.

During the 1936 campaign Roosevelt sometimes exuded the populist economics embraced by Bernie Sanders.  At Madison Square Garden, on this first of November night, Roosevelt gave his last broadcasted speech before the votes were cast.   Responding to the oft-repeated theme of his Republican opponent, he “welcomed the hatred of ‘organized money’.”  Roosevelt promised that in his second administration “those forces would meet their master.”

With the “kink” at the center, this 1936 aerial shows the intersection of 65 Ave. N.E. and N.E. 15th Street. Ballard High School is upper-right from the odd furn in the arterial.  (Click to Enlarge)

Returning to the pavement – the odd kink in the grid at 15th Ave. NW and NW 65th street was the gift of Ballard’s early development with different additions.  I remember while visiting friends in Ballard during the early 1980s, that the city’s Department of Transportation, after tabulating the crashes, promoted this intersection as Seattle’s “most dangerous intersection.”  Slow down and take care.

Days before the market crash of 1929 the Seattle City Council agreed with the Whittier Heights Improvement Club that NE 15th Avenue was destined to developed into a major arterial, and decided to change “the new paving project on 15th Avenue Northwest between West 65lkth and West 85th Streets and holds that the present offers the best opportunity for building the pavement to the full width [106 feet] which will ultimately be needed.”

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, pardners?  Jean I think it likely that Ron went to bed early his evening but when he does that he also gets up early in the morning, and so we expect that he will add several more old and relevant features below.   However, he will do it after feeding the wild pets that are well accustomed to his nutritious gifts offered on his deck.

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THEN: Looking east from the roof of the still standing testing lab, the Lock’s Administration Building (from which this photograph was borrowed) appears on the left, and the district engineer’s home, the Cavanaugh House (still standing) on the center horizon. (Photo courtesy Army Corps of Engineers at Chittenden Locks)

THEN: Far-left, Playland’s Acroplane, a carni’ flight-simulator, stands admired by future pilots in 1932. Behind them sprawls the amusement park’s fated Fun House. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: Julia and Richard Ballinger owned a “gas-powered” rowboat to reach their summer home on their namesake Lake Ballinger. This 1911 view looks east from near the tracks of the Seattle-Everett Interurban. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: With his or her back to the original Ballard business district, an unnamed photographer looks southeast on Leary Way, most likely in 1936.

THEN: James Lee, for many years an official photographer for Seattle’s public works department, looks south over Ballard’s Salmon Bay a century ago. Queen Anne Hill marks the horizon, with a glimpse of Magnolia on the far right. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: Ballard photographer Fred Peterson looks south-southeast on Ballard Avenue on February 3rd or 4th, 1916. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

 

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One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: 15th Ave NW”

  1. Just reading about Frederick and Nelson.
    Do you know if by chance they were a gay couple?
    Looking forward to your new book!

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