Seattle Now & Then: Luna Park and Queen Anne Hill at night, 1907-1913

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Shining lower left in this 1907-1913 postcard is Luna Park. With more than two-dozen amusement rides and other “attractions,” as well as concerts and a natatorium (saltwater pool), it advertised itself in 1908 as “the Nation’s Greatest Playground on the Pacific Coast.” The park was outlined in Westinghouse “A” lamps, deemed the top bulbs of the day. “Brilliant Electrical Displays Every Evening,” ads promised. (Courtesy Aaron J. Naff, “Seattle’s Luna Park.“)
NOW: Perched above Hamilton Viewpoint Park at a similar prospect to the vintage postcard are Kerry Korsgaard, holding a framed version of the poem she requested, and typewriter poet Sean Petrie, with his “Listen to the Trees” book and his 1928 Remington Portable No. 2. A state ferry stands in for the postcard’s steamer Kennedy. Petrie returns from Texas to create poetry in West Seattle this weekend, including for the Junction Sidewalk Sale. For details, visit (Clay Eals)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on July 8, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on July 11, 2021)

Illustrated, impromptu poetry is just this author’s type
By Clay Eals

If I were Sean Petrie, I might be able to write this column in two minutes.

Petrie, 50, is a thaumaturge with a typewriter. And no, he won’t send you to the dictionary like I just did. He specializes in down-to-earth poetry, clacked out impromptu on his manual 1928 Remington Portable No. 2.

In West Seattle, home away from home for the University of Texas law lecturer, several times a year you’ll find him escaping legalities at a festival, on a street corner, basically anywhere people are walking by. His sign, “Free Poems: Any Topic,” lures them in. After a brief chat and a few moments of focused rat-a-tat-tat, they leave with a piece of personalized verbal art.

Petrie has collected 45 of his creations and, like a relative of this column, combined them with historical and present-day photos in a charming book: “Listen to the Trees: A Poetic Snapshot of West Seattle, Then & Now” (Documentary Media, 2020).

THEN2: Sean Petrie’s poem, “Nightowls,” created in 2018. Kerry Korsgaard, requester of the poem, is a longtime board member of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. Because of images and assistance lent him in the publishing process, Petrie credited the historical society as co-author of his book. (Sean Petrie)

Which brings us to our “Then” photo, used in the book to augment a poem he wrote for West Seattleite Kerry Korsgaard about her favorite local creatures, the nightowls. For her theme, he conjured a 15-line tribute in the voice of the critters “Who shine / When that sun dips down” in the “shimmering / Soft darkness.”

The illustrative image is a roughly 110-year-old, hand-colored postcard of “Seattle at Night, from West Seattle.” The peaceful scene is illuminated by the lights of twin-mounded Queen Anne Hill and the moon, shimmering indeed over dark Elliott Bay while the Mosquito Fleet steamer Kennedy slices the reflection.

In the West Seattle foreground are the lamps of a small yacht and the famed Luna Park, which operated at Duwamish Head from 1907 to 1913. In our repeat, taken at a slightly higher point, atop the Sunset Avenue stairclimb above Hamilton Viewpoint Park, trees obscure today’s teeming Harbor Avenue waterfront, including bike paths, Don Armeni Boat Ramp and (out of frame) the King County Water Taxi.

The poems and photos in “Listen to the Trees” encompass neighborhoods, businesses, parks and people peninsula-wide — an expansive result from a deceptively spare form.

For eight years, Petrie and others in a national writers group called Typewriter Rodeo have nurtured this approach, earning raves from the likes of cinematic thaumaturge Tom Hanks, a typewriter aficionado. “You QWERTY Cowboys,” Hanks wrote (typed). “Thank you … for keeping the sound and fury of typewriting available to all.”

In case you didn’t look it up, thaumaturge is defined as “a worker of wonders and performer of miracles; a magician.”

Almost a poem in itself.


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!

Below are three additional photos, a video link and, in chronological order, 15 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archives (available via Seattle Public Library) and other online newspaper sources that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Cover for “Listen to the Trees: A Poetic Snapshot of West Seattle, Then & Now” (Documentary Media, 2020). Sticker indicates the book won a silver medal from the Independent Publishers Association. (Courtesy Sean Petrie)
VIDEO: Click the image above to see a one-hour presentation on Luna Park by documentary filmmaker Paul Moyes, including a screening of his “Location, Layout and Attractions of Seattle’s Lost Luna Park.” The presentation took place June 30, 2021, and was sponsored by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.
The downtown skyline and the moon over Elliott Bay on March 28, 2021. (Clay Eals)
Endorsement letter from actor Tom Hanks, May 2, 2018. (Sean Petrie)
May 9, 1908, Seattle Times, page 5.
Jan. 31, 1911, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 5.
Oct. 29, 1911, Seattle Times, page 50.
April 29, 1912, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 8.
April 30, 1912, Seattle Times, page 19.
Feb. 27, 1913, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 20.
March 15, 1913, Seattle Times, page 2.
April 20, 1913, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 77.
June 4, 1913, Seattle Times, page 3.
June 8, 1913, Seattle Times, page 15.
June 18, 1913, Seattle Times, page 9.
June 23, 1913, Seattle Times, page 8.
June 27, 1913, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 19.
Aug. 9, 1913, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 18.
Aug. 12, 1913, Seattle Times, page 11.

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