(click to enlarge photos)
(Published in the Seattle Times online on March 11, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on March 14, 2021 )
Commercial visionaries meet for a towering talk in 1909
By Jean Sherrard
The place: inside Bartell’s Owl Drugstore on Second Avenue, just north of Yesler Way. The milieu: a lovely evening. This vignette is imagined, but the historical details are factual!
The proprietor arranges a display in his shop window. The entry bell jingles. In walks a well-dressed customer.
Smith: George Bartell, isn’t it?
Bartell: Lyman Cornelius Smith, as I live and breathe. Let me guess. You’re here for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition?
Smith: Indeed. All the way from Syracuse in upstate New York, and well worth the trip. Seattle has surely proven her mettle with this magnificent world’s fair.
Bartell: So what can I do you for, L.C.? Liver pills, trusses? Our new Syrup of Hypophosphates is a fine picker-upper.
Smith: I have news, George. I’ll be turning 60 next year. I’m no Carnegie, but I’ve done all right.
Bartell: Can’t hardly go wrong manufacturing shotguns and typewriters, L.C.
Smith: Truth is, I’m inclined to erect something special right here on this spot. Make my mark.
Bartell: Mighty kind of you to give me notice personally.
Smith: You’ve been here, what, 10 years?
Bartell: Eleven. After my year in the Yukon in ’98.
Smith: Didn’t “pan out,” eh? (He chuckles.) I was thinking 18 stories tall, but my son Burns wants to go higher.
Bartell: Just opened my fourth drug store, L.C. I say go big or go home.
Smith: Which is why I asked my architects — the Gaggins brothers — to up the ante. How’s 42 stories sound?
Bartell whistles appreciatively.
Smith: Tallest building west of the Mississippi. Steel-framed, white terra cotta, my initials carved on every floor.
The bell jingles again. In walks a man in a butcher’s apron. He offers a package.
Man: Two pounds of nice fresh cod for you, George. Just what the doctor ordered.
Bartell: L.C., this is Nessim Alhadeff. Runs the Palace Market next door.
Alhadeff: Sold Mr. Smith oysters a few years back when I first signed the lease. Are rumors true? You will tickle the sky?
Smith (with a laugh): Scrape the clouds, Nessim. And how’s family life?
Alhadeff: My brothers are here working for me now — all from the Isle of Rhodes. My English is still not so good, but getting better.
Yet again, the bell jingles. In walk a man and boy of 4 or 5.
Man: Got anything for an upset tummy? My boy ate too much cotton candy at the fair.
Bartell: Seltzer, maybe?
Man: Say “Thank you,” Ivar.
For our 360 degree video in living color (and dramatic black and white), narrated by Jean, please click on through here.
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Before Smith Tower, 1908”
Love the dialogue!