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(Published in the Seattle Times online on Jan. 14, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Jan. 17, 2021)
Builder Matthew Zindorf once installed a prudent President
By Clay Eals
On the cusp of Wednesday’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., we at “Now & Then” unequivocally commit ourselves to a peaceful transition — to a pertinent Seattle subject.
We reference, faithful readers might have guessed, the President Apartment Hotel. This seven-story brick building served a 34-year term from 1927 to 1961 while perched northeast of downtown on Olive Way atop what today is Interstate 5.
Though an elegant edifice, this was no overnight abode for the likes of Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower or Kennedy, as its name could imply. With 36 single rooms and 58 two-room suites, each with pull-down wall beds, the President hosted longer stays starting at $30 a month.
Upon its opening, newspapers rallied public support. They touted electric refrigeration, radio outlets and hardwood floors and lauded “automatic elevator service to all floors,” including a basement garage, “doing away with the sometimes unpleasant necessity of going out of the building to reach the car.”
Headstrong entrepreneur Matthew P. Zindorf both designed and owned the President. Known as an engineer who constructed Seattle’s first reinforced concrete structure (the 1910 Zindorf Apartments, still standing at 714 Seventh Ave.), he had developed major projects here and in Canada since 1890.
He also dabbled in public policy. In three 1934 letters to The Seattle Times, he proposed how to cast off the Depression: “I would keep every honest, willing worker at work. No children nor women would be needed. I would begin to reduce the hours of the employed to give work to the unemployed. I would keep them employed all the time.”
Politics on the home front earned him tabloid-style coverage in 1929. “Wealthy Realtor Sued for Divorce On Cruelty Charge,” bellowed The Seattle Times, as Zindorf conceded custody of a daughter, a house and alimony. A Seattle Post-Intelligencer subhead said his wife, Daisy, complained that “She Did Own Housework To Save Money.” Daisy reportedly testified that Zindorf had canceled her charge accounts, limiting her to spending $80 a month to run their household with no help. Zindorf’s side went unreported.
Zindorf died in 1952 at age 93, stepping down from work just three years earlier. While residing at the Elks Club, he often walked downtown with grandson Leon Brauner, now of Ocean Shores, who recalls, “Every time we passed a particular Fourth Avenue bank, he whacked his cane against the plate-glass window.” His granddad’s rationale is a fuzzy memory, but surely “it was his way of making a point.”
Power-cranes clawed away the President’s walls in March 1961, declaring another victory in the inevitable campaign to build I-5. Pardon the expression: All in favor?
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!
Our automotive informant Bob Carney discloses that our “Then” photo depicts (from right) a 1928-29 Ford Model A panel truck, a 1929-30 Chevrolet coupe and a 1935 Ford Tudor. The car at far left is unidentifiable.
Below are an additional photo, a map and, in chronological order, 38 historical clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.
As a bonus, at the bottom, we include 27 additional clippings that convey the creativity of the anonymous advertising copy writer for New Richmond Laundry, who certainly wasn’t depressed during the Great Depression!
Special thanks to Leon Brauner and Diana James for their assistance with this column!
New Richmond Laundry ads
Here is a selection of 27 creative classified ads for New Richmond Laundry, whose truck appears at bottom right in our “Then” photo. At the very bottom are an article and ad for Zoric, the fluid touted by New Richmond Laundry.