(click and click again to enlarge photos)
(Published in the Seattle Times online on April 23, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on April 26, 2020)
Yacht club’s 1926 Montlake reception had a crowning touch
By Clay Eals
Royalty fueled the roar of the 1920s in Seattle on Nov. 4, 1926. That day, the city welcomed a woman whom The Seattle Times called the “most beautiful and gracious of all Europe’s feminine monarchs,” Queen Marie.
For the 51-year-old regal representative of Romania (then spelled Rumania), Seattle was but one destination on a cross-country tour. Accompanied in an open touring car by our first female mayor, Bertha Landes, the queen zipped through an afternoon of stops initially intended for a full day.
She drew record crowds, and the city delighted her: “In all the towns I have visited, I have found none so beautiful as your Seattle. In each corner today, I have found a place where I should like to live.”
The fitting finale was the home of the Seattle Yacht Club. Its clubhouse, perched on Portage Bay, south of the University of Washington and north of today’s Highway 520, had opened six years earlier, on May 1, 1920. For a reception put on by “club women of the city” to honor the queen, the building burst with autumn blooms, its veranda rails draped in dahlias.
Only 200 of the 1,500 assembled women could greet Marie, however, because what was to be a one-hour stay lasted “scarcely more than 15 minutes.” This did not prevent 60 women – bonneted, like the queen – from posing outside with three youngsters, as our “Then” photo shows.
It’s no accident that a lighthouse-shaped cupola topped the clubhouse, which The Times called “the finest on the Coast and one of the finest in the United States.” Famed architect John Graham, Sr., certainly intended for the Colonial Revival/Shingle Style structure to complement the recently opened Lake Washington Ship Canal, including nearby Montlake Cut, which connected Portage Bay to the lake.
The parcel, formerly marshland and a landfill for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition at the UW campus, became available for the club’s purchase after a casino proposed for the site fizzled. The club deemed the calm, freshwater setting a buoyant change from the rough weather, railroad noise, oil dumping and swells of passing steamboats that its boaters and craft had endured at saltwater bases on Elliott Bay and along the West Seattle shore since its founding in 1892.
Today, with 2,800 member families and myriad programs for all ages, Seattle Yacht Club is the oldest and largest such local organization.
The coronavirus scuttled its traditionally sponsored early-May merriment for Opening Day, but the club optimistically has rescheduled an elaborate celebration of its clubhouse centennial for Sept. 26. Sailing and motor vessels from the 1920s are to be on display, including one that participated on Opening Day in 1920.
One might envision the pending party as fit for a queen.
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, when it is posted!
Below are a “Now” identifier photo and two other photos as well as 11 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column.
And at the bottom, see a book excerpt relating to Queen Marie’s visit to the Seattle Yacht Club clubhouse on Nov. 4, 1926!