Seattle Now & Then: Skyline from Magnolia, 1962 or shortly after

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: Taken during — or not long after — the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, this postcard view depicts a calmer waterfront and a downtown skyline of mostly midrise buildings. (Union Pacific Railroad, Clay Eals Collection)
NOW: Afternoon “magic light” illuminates the Seattle skyline, shown from Ursula Judkins Viewpoint Park near the top of the Magnolia Bridge. Dominating the foreground are the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 86 Grain Facility, completed in 1970, and the northern waterfront greenery of Centennial and Myrtle Edwards parks. The new Expedia headquarters peeks out at left, below the Space Needle. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Jan. 2, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Jan. 5, 2020)

What shines and what’s hidden? It’s all in the game
By Clay Eals

It’s a game I play with others while on a Bainbridge or Bremerton ferry or at West Seattle’s Hamilton Viewpoint Park down the street from my home: “Do you have a favorite building in the downtown skyline?”

I have my own answer at the ready. “It’s easy,” I say with a smile. “It’s the building without which I would not be possible.”

And it figures near the center of our “Then,” a pastel-tinged postcard image that looks southeast from Magnolia on a bright afternoon during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair or shortly thereafter.

It’s the Terminal Sales Building, the stately, large-windowed, 11-floor Seattle landmark at First and Virginia, seen here mostly from its north side, left of the shaded Seattle Tower.

Designed by Henry Bittman and built in 1923, the Terminal Sales Building is where my dad, Henry Eals, arrived in 1947, from Kentucky by way of Los Angeles, to work as a clothing salesman. His office was on the 10th floor. Soon he met Virginia Slate, a West Seattle lass who worked in a dishware shop on the first floor. The two married in 1950, and a year later I was … made possible.

Also possible is a different game essential to “Now & Then” that Paul Dorpat, originator of this column, likens to “hide and seek.” It’s to discern what in the “Then” appears in the “Now” and what is hidden.

Still in full salute are both skylines’ famous bookends – the Space Needle, in original colors, and the Smith Tower, the pointed sentinel that stood as the tallest building on the West Coast from its completion in 1914 until erection of the Needle in 1962.

Among many hidden edifices in our “Now” are the Terminal Sales Building and Seattle Tower, plus most of the snow-bare Cascade Range. Scores of skyscrapers take their place.

Of course, the angle of a photo and the lens with which it is taken can affect what is visible. For example, in our “Now,” with a slightly different vantage and focal length from our “Then,” the brown Pacific Medical Center (Amazon’s early home) at the northern tip of Beacon Hill at far right is tucked closer to the Smith Tower. Yet it’s also a tad south in relation to its Cascade backdrop.

The top edge of our “Now” is a little higher to accommodate – what else, these days? – a crane atop the under-construction Rainier Square Tower, now Seattle’s second tallest building, fewer than 100 feet shy of the crowning, 937-foot Columbia Center to its right.

Providing solace for our game is a “Then” seaplane cruising north for an eventual landing at Lake Union – a charming reminder that a few things never seem to change.


P.S. We are grateful that Seattle Times reader Charles Gundersen identifies the ship in the foreground of this “Then” image, thus providing a clue that the photo was taken in 1965 or shortly thereafter:

“The ship looks like a C4-S-1sa Mariner Class cargo ship. It could be either SS Canada Mail or SS Oregon Mail. These ships were laid down in 1963 and delivered to the American Mail Line in 1965. So the ‘Then’ picture was probably taken in or shortly after 1965. You can clearly see the American Mail Line stack insignia. My father shipped out on SS Canada Mail as Second Mate (the ship’s navigator) in 1965 and 1966. I have several photos (taken off the
internet) of SS Canada Mail that show the superstructure, stack and upper mast works that look very similar to those features shown in your ‘Now & Then’ picture.”

Below are four recent photos related to the Terminal Sales Building and the Seattle Tower.

The majestic entry of the Terminal Sales Building, Sept. 16, 2018. (Clay Eals)
Clay Eals poses below the Terminal Sales Building (upper left) on Feb. 2, 2019, when the public was allowed to walk on the closed (and later demolished) Alaskan Way Viaduct. (Jean Sherrard)

An added note from Clay on the Terminal Sales Building:

“As a child, I accompanied my dad on weekends to the Terminal Sales Building when he had moved his office to the sixth floor, then to a larger one on the fourth floor. I had the run of the building (racing him downstairs, he riding the elevator and I running the stairs) and of downtown (favorite spots included the Security Market, the basement bookstore next to the Town movie theater and the Trick & Puzzle shop on First Avenue).”

Clay Eals and daughter Karey Bacon, visiting from Philadelphia, in front of Terminal Sales Building at First and Virginia, Nov. 22, 2019. (Meg Eals)
The majestic entry of the Seattle Tower, Sept. 13, 2018. (Clay Eals)
BONUS: Inspired by the panorama above, Harold Musolf Jr. of Bothell contacted us to share a colorized panorama postcard created by famed Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition photographer Frank Nowell shortly after the 1914 completion of construction of the Smith Tower. (Harold Musolf Jr.)


One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Skyline from Magnolia, 1962 or shortly after”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.