Seattle Now & Then: The Hoge Building, 1911

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking north on Second Avenue thru its intersection with James Street in circa 1911, the year the Hoge Building’s steel frame at the northwest corner of James Street and Second Avenue was completed.
NOW: The Butler hotel, far left, at the southwest corner of James and Second Avenue was for several years in the 20th century treated at the city’s best hostelry. It is now a comely and large parking garage.  Jean’s look up Second Ave. looks north thru its intersection with James Street.

In 1909, Seattle’s first World’s Fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, attracted to the University of Washington campus (home to the exposition) many of the citizen types for which local pioneers had long yearned.

The eastern investor-developers – if they would just listen to the siren about ‘manifest destiny’ – were constantly coaxed to the far Northwest with deals such as cheap land and natural resources waiting to be dug. The selling worked. Increasingly, the eastern bankers — and their suburban officers in San Francisco — gained a developing appreciation of the proven Northwest advantages. If they could be persuaded, the well-heeled visitors would lay down big cash. With Seattle’s booming population, it was not merely lumber, fish and minerals that locals hoped to sell, but the land itself, and the human touches that adorn it — including, eventually and inevitably, skyscrapers.

Looking aourtheast from the top – or near it – of the Hoge Building. The The Smith Tower (1914) is on the right and the Alaska Building, (1904) Seattle’s first steel frame scraper, is on the left at the southeast corner of Cherry Street and Second Avenue.   The King County Court House stands on the First Hill horizon.   

This old story of high-rise vanity, often repeated, features armaments and typewriter manufacturer Lyman Cornelius Smith and banker-developer James Hoge. The two paused to chat and interrogate each other while visiting the fair. Both had acquired a good amount of Seattle real estate, and each was coyly itching to raise a namesake cap to his credit: Seattle’s tallest tower.

In preparation for their private excesses, the happy hucksters wondered what might be a proper height limit for such a building. Both agreed that Seattle’s first tower, the 1904 Alaska Building, was perhaps for something like eternity a passionate-enough expression of raw loft, an example set above its own corner at Second Avenue and James Street that did not need to be exceeded.

Looking north up Second from the Hoge Buildingv, with the Thomas Burke’s back pile, bottom-left, at the Northwest corner of Marion and Second, and one block north of the Burke at the southeast corner of Second and Madison stands he Empire Building, which many years later was distinguished by it destruction – the city’s first imploded high-rise.

Of course, we now know who won this trickster’s vanity game for fat wallets. Because the two landmarks ascended only two blocks apart, we still can count the sum of their floors from the corner of James Street and Second Avenue. It wasn’t the banker named Hoge who did the excessive reaching. Rather, it was Smith, with our gleaming terra-cotta-tiled Smith Tower, professed when it opened in 1914 to be 42 stories high. To this count, we prudently will add: “more or less.”

Hoge started the competitive lifting first, and he built fast. The Hoge building’s steel frame, shown in our “Then” photo, was completed to its top 18th story in 1911. It took a mere 30 days to raise the frame, which at the time was claimed a record. This speed gave Smith plenty of time to assemble his own frame, to “something like” 42 floors. (It has always been a local question: “How do you count the floors in the Smith Tower’s pyramid top?”)

Work on the Hoge’s steel frame appears here far right and far down Second Ave. in this pan from the New Washington Hotel’s roof at the northeast corner (still, as the Josephenum)  ot Stewart and Second. in this 1911 panorama of the city from an elevation that approximated that of the front (south) summit of the then recently razed Denny Hill..   Beacon Hill stretches across the distant horizon,
First Hill from the roof of the Hoge.  The Central Building,  bottom-left, is one of the survivors.
The look west on Cherry in 1932.
An earlier now-then treatment of the Hoge and also it’s competitive nativity.
Slunnyside, banker Hoge’s home in the Highlands Seattle’s early gated neighborhood for its “one percent”.


Anything to add, lads?  Not quite.  I’m going nighty-bears (copywrite Bill Burden) first.   Perhaps some clips later today.  Ron’s already long asleep. Or is he up and giving the bears a bath?

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