Seattle Now & Then: Fremont postcard, 1908

(Click and click again on any image to enlarge it.)

THEN: This 1908 postcard, a gift to the Fremont Historical Society from Susan Connole of Friends of the Ballard Locks, shows logs of the Bryant Lumber and Shingle Mill beneath the card’s printed inscription. The all-volunteer Fremont organization recently launched its improved website, fremonthistory.org, in part to better display its photo collection. (Judie Clarridge)
NOW: Through the security cords of the Aurora Bridge, glimpses of the 1908 landscape can be found, along with high-rises of the downtown skyline. This vantage is at least three blocks south of – and higher than – M.L. Oakes’ photographic position. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Sept. 12, 2019,
and in print on Sept. 15, 2019)

Postcard news: landing in a ‘great city’ poised for change
By Clay Eals

In leading local history tours, I often say that all of us, akin to the Alki settlers in 1851, have a “landing story” to tell. More than a century ago, in the days of penny postage, clues to such stories often emerged in handwritten news on the backs of postcards.

A gent with the initials F.T.S. mailed such a story to Chas. R. Fitch of San Francisco. On the back of a round-cornered card postmarked Aug. 20, 1908, the buoyant F.T.S. voiced a voyage of destiny:

“Dear Cousin: This is a great city, my home from now on. Best opportunity for young man. Am assured of position and will go to work Monday. Very warm here. Rough and foggy coming up, was not in the least seasick, and never missed a meal at mess.”

F.T.S. also noted how to reach him: “Address me #700 Oriental Block, Seattle, Wash.” This was the 1903 Corona building, still standing today in Pioneer Square.

But the impressive M.L. Oakes postcard view that F.T.S. shared with his relative was far from downtown. Its label proclaimed “Seattle and Mt. Rainier from Fremont Hill.” While the cityscape was photographic, the faint but enormous image of the peak amounted to overblown fantasy, a skillful cut-and-paste trick common long before Photoshop.

Below the mythic mountain lies a tidy mix of touchstones from three Seattle neighborhoods. We look southeast from Fremont, across the Lake Washington Canal (not yet built through to Puget Sound) to northeast Queen Anne, Lake Union and, in the distance, a swath of Capitol Hill. So many landmarks of later years are missing as to boggle the mind.

To orient ourselves, we can survey the upper left, below faux Rainier, to find massive Seattle High School, built in 1902 and in short order renamed Broadway High, as rapid growth soon prompted construction of two new high schools, Franklin and Lincoln. Today, most of Broadway High is gone, replaced by the slick brick of Seattle Central College, but its auditorium remains at the corner of Broadway and Pine.

To the far right, we can peek at months-old St. James Cathedral, with one spire barely visible along the edge. In the middle ground are Seattle Electric Railway streetcar tracks along what today is Westlake Avenue North.

In the foreground, with no hint of the Aurora Bridge (1932), and with a low trestle precursor to the Fremont Bridge (1917) out of frame at right, we can locate, at lower left, part of the 1901 wooden version of what became the brick Fremont Baptist Church (1924).

To F.T.S., Seattle already may have seemed a “great city” in 1908, but assuming he remained a few decades, just imagine the changes he witnessed. Shades of today.

WEB EXTRAS

Big thanks to Judie Clarridge of the Fremont Historical Society, Rob Ketcherside of the Capitol Hill Historical Society and Michael Herschensohn of the Queen Anne Historical Society, and their colleagues, for their help with this column!

To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the NOW prospect and compare it with the THEN photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Below are (1) the back of the “Then” postcard, (2) an alternate “Now” view, (3) in chronological order, nine clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column, and (4) eight links to previous columns related to the Fremont neighborhood. Enjoy!

The back of the 1908 postcard shows the handwritten message of F.T.S. (Judie Clarridge)
Finding a location today to accurately repeat our “Then” photo is a challenge, owing to the natural growth of trees and rampant construction. This “Now” image, atop the Data1 Building in downtown Fremont, is at least three blocks south of the original vantage and dominated by the 1932 Aurora Bridge. (Jean Sherrard)
Sept. 7, 1903, Seattle Times, page 7
Dec. 23, 1903, Seattle Times, page 12
March 31, 1907, Seattle Times, p42
Sept. 1, 1907, Seattle Times, page 11
May 11, 1908, Seattle Times, page 7
April 6, 1909, Seattle Times, page 3
April 9, 1909, Seattle Times, page 1
Dec. 2, 1924, Seattle Times, page 13
Dec. 6, 1924, Seattle Times, page 8

RELATED COLUMNS

Here are links to “Now & Then” columns focusing on Fremont (dates are publication dates in the Seattle Times):

May 13, 2017, North end of Fremont Bridge

July 23, 2016: Digging the Fremont canal

Aug. 2, 2014: The Fremont trolley barn

June 7, 2013: A Fremont trolley derailed

May 10, 2009: The musical Baptists of Fremont

July 22, 2007: Making tracks to town

Feb. 13, 2000: Fremont, spring 1940

Aug. 11, 1985: Fremont: It’s always been a community at the center of things

 

 

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Fremont postcard, 1908”

  1. Not sure why the Now and Then posted last week Dow’s attending a rock concert. Might suggest some things I know. Given I lived in the Interbay areas in the 1940s when there was a garbage dump separating Queen Anne from Magnolia, it would be interesting to find contrasting pics of that. Or what about fact that when I lived on Highland Park hill overlooking Boeing, there were anti-aircraft tunnels and foxholes on 13th at the end of the road just before the gravel pit that is now South Seattle Community College.Interesting contrast with the homes there now.

    1. Richard, thanks for the ideas. If you come across great “then” photos to illustrate any of them, please let us know. You can email me at ceals@comcast.net. As for the Dow column, Dow and the Stones were an unusual and user-friendly vehicle to visually elucidate differences between the Kingdome and today’s CenturyLink Field. At least that was the idea! –Clay Eals

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