Seattle Now & Then: The Central Terminal, 1928

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN 1: The spire of Gethsemane Lutheran Church peeks out above the new Central Terminal’s tiled roof. On the far right of Asahel Curtis’s 1928 photo, a sliver of a Seattle-Everett Interurban train car can be seen. (Paul Dorpat collection)
THEN 2: Jean’s 2010 repeat featured a still-thriving transit hub, surrounded by new construction.
NOW: The 45-story Hyatt Regency looms over a nearly deserted Eighth Avenue. Around the corner but unseen, the Lutherans remain faithful. For more of Jean’s photos of the Greyhound station, including its 2015 demolition, see below. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Sept. 10, 2020
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Sept. 13, 2020)

Greetings, goodbyes, and the growl of Greyhounds no more

By Jean Sherrard

I left home for the first time in the mid-1970s, bound for college on a cross-state bus. My parents stood together at the gates of the bustling Greyhound depot at Eighth and Stewart, but only my mom waved goodbye as if wiping a fogged window.

Just another emotional departure – to be followed a few months later by a joyful reunion – enacted in the charmless station, witness to decades of greetings, farewells and brimming buckets of tears.

Known for the slender, mid-stride canine in its visual brand, Greyhound began with a single 7-seat bus in 1915. The ubiquitous fleet rolled across America’s heartland and into its hearts, mythologized in popular culture as the buzzing locus of accessible romance and adventure.

From the Oscar-bedecked Frank Capra comedy “It Happened One Night” to Paul Simon’s aural anthem “America,” boarding a bus suggested the promise of open roads, unknown vistas and cute meets. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Twenty years before Greyhound acquired it, Seattle’s Central Terminal was erected in 1927 by the Stone and Webster Management Company, a nationwide utilities cartel with fingers in many pies. (Its complex genealogy can be traced directly to today’s Puget Sound Energy.)

While anti-monopoly laws eventually divided the pies into smaller slices, its three-story, brick-clad Seattle structure was an innovation, accommodating motorized cross-country buses and intercity electric trains within a single station.

Its lively inauguration on Sept. 12, 1927, included a parade of progress along Stewart Street, led by a primitive, hand-drawn sled and concluding with “the most modern motor coach.” Bertha Landes, Seattle’s first female mayor and the honorary conductor, rang a trolley bell to herald the Seattle-Everett Interurban car’s virgin trip from the sparkling station.

This confident investment in the future of mixed-use travel had a shelf life of only 11 years. By 1939, buses shouldered out trains and tracks were torn up and smelted down, replaced by gasoline engines and rubber tires.

In 2015, the terminal was demolished, giving way to high-rise development. I have visited the site several times to capture a photographic whiff of those heartfelt arrivals and departures where Greyhounds once growled. That aroma, however, has been dispelled by the winds of change.

The newly completed Hyatt Regency monolith – at 45 stories and 1,260 rooms, Seattle’s largest hotel – surely boasts luxurious interiors and spectacular views of the city. But its glossy, street-level exterior seems uninviting.

A passing mail carrier offers a trenchant critique: “Five years ago, Eighth Avenue was filled with little shops and businesses. Now it’s all glass walls. Did you know that over there was once a bus depot?”

WEB EXTRAS

As promised, a few photos from 2010, when the depot was still operating at 8th and Stewart:

Signage along Stewart, looking west.
The shit-colored floors were a distinctive feature
Departures and arrivals…
A bus departs from beneath the steel canopy

Then a melancholy few from 2015, nearing the end of demolition:

6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Central Terminal, 1928”

  1. I took the Greyhound Bus from this Station on the morning of December 30, 1959 to Los Angeles (Pasadena, CA) to attend the Husky Rose Bowl Game on Jan 1st, 1960. The Husky’s won, then quickly back on the bus for the trip back to Seattle so I could go back to school on Jan 3rd, I missed a day of school. I have never forgotten that trip or that bus station, I was 15 years old.

    Then in 1967 after Graduating from PLU in Tacoma, I became a bus driver for Metropolitan Transit, driving busses from Seattle to Tacoma (round trip) and from Seattle to Everett (also round trip). I worked on the extra board for Metropolitan Transit doing charters, and all the bus runs all around the Seattle/Tacoma/Everett area. So that Greyhound Station has a special place in my memories and my life.

    When I stare at your photos, memories come flooding back, and tears roll down my cheeks. It was a different time, with protest marches in Seattle about the war in Vietnam. While I was working for Metropolitan Transit, I got drafted into the U.S. Army, and served in Vietnam, where I was wounded, healed up, and came home to more protests. I went back to Metropolitan Transit for a short time, got laid off, and worked various jobs until I went back on active duty in the Army, retiring in 1993. Todays “riots” bring back those memories, only they are a lot more violent.

    That station was special to me, and always will be, even though it no longer exists. It will always be apart of my life. Always!!!

  2. So sad. Haven’t been downtown for years. Didn’t know it was gone. Went through it from when I was a child during WW II to go see my Dad where he was stationed and up to the 1990’s off and on. Another treasured landmark gone.

  3. “Shit-colored floors”, Lol! When i visited it in the 1960’s and 70’s, 80’s the bus depot was already too small and depressing. The huge amount of money we have spent in this country for personal car travel and infrastructure, as compared to public transportation, is abominable. Thanks, as always, for the interesting photos and history!

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