Seattle Now & Then: Our 2nd annual April Fools quiz

(Published in The Seattle Times online on March 24, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on March 27, 2022)

Distortion, half-truths, outright lies – our second April Fools’ quiz
By Jean Sherrard

(click to enlarge photos)

Yoshino cherry trees on the Quad at the UW in full bloom (Jean Sherrard)

As cherry trees blossom, we at Now & Then extend the welcome mat for our second annual April Fools’ Day quiz. We trust this exercise in historical whimsy will entertain and challenge in equal measure.

Please note that each question has a single correct answer. All other choices are larded with distortion, half-truths and outright lies!

THEN1: The Blob, photographed in 1986, squatting on the northwest corner of First Avenue North and Roy Street, literally stopped traffic during its construction. (CARY TOLMAN, MUSEUM OF HISTORY & INDUSTRY, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER COLLECTION)

Question 1

A BLOB BY ANY OTHER NAME Originally Clyde’s Cleaners, built in 1946 to serve lower Queen Anne Hill, the building was refashioned in 1984 into the ferroconcrete mound popularly known as The Blob. Detested and beloved in equal measure, the structure was demolished in 1997. What was The Blob’s original purpose?

A: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s nascent first draft of MoPOP (his Museum of Popular Culture), also colloquially known as The Blob.

B: The bulbous Moorish fort/Spanish villa themes were the brainchild of developer Anthony Dadvar, who intended to house a Mediterranean/Mexican restaurant, the Isla del Sol.

C: The last Queen Anne communal dwelling of the Love Family, a New Age religious group founded in the late 1960s.

D: An early and failed attempt at architectural 3D printing, engineered by noted inventor John Williams.

E: A movie set constructed for Ridley Scott’s megahit “Aliens” (1986), never used in actual filming.

THEN2: Masked men and women pose in downtown Seattle on Third near Washington in late October 1918. (Paul Dorpat Collection)

Question 2

WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? In early fall 1918, the misnamed “Spanish” flu raged throughout the Northwest. On Oct. 6, city health commissioner Dr. J.S. McBride and Mayor Ole Hanson ordered the closure of schools, churches and theaters to combat infection (you know the drill). On Oct. 28, they added a mandatory mask order. Seattleites largely obeyed, until tearing off and twirling their masks to celebrate what notable event?

A: Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918.

B: Santa’s arrival by reindeer-drawn sled in Pioneer Square on Nov. 30, 1918.

C: The conclusion of the five-day Seattle General Strike on Feb. 11, 1919.

D: The return of the 63rd Coast Artillery from World War I on March 12, 1919.

E: The mask order was never suspended.

THEN3: The ferry Elwha prepares to blow its whistle departing from Colman Dock in about 1970. A newly built and still lonely SeaFirst Tower stands sentinel at center. (Frank Shaw, Paul Dorpat Collection)

Question 3:

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS WHISTLE Vessels of the Black Ball Line, from which today’s Washington State Ferries are directly descended, signaled arrivals and departures with whistle blasts. To this day, each captain and vessel employs signature toots. Which is the standard whistle sequence used by Seattle ferries?

A: A single melancholy blast.

B: Three medium-long honks, translating “S” for Seattle into Morse Code.

C: One long and two short toots, known by maritime afficionados as “a warp and two woofs.”

D: All signal patterns are at the captain’s discretion, reflecting the skipper’s mood.

E: Short, repeat blasts, used solely as small-craft warnings during a pea-soup fog.

NOW: Looking west across Second Avenue, the triangular “Sinking Ship” garage illustrates the 30-degree angle between Yesler and James streets that divides the grid of downtown streets. (Jean Sherrard)

Question 4 (see “Now” photo):

THIRTY DEGREES OF SEPARATION Many readers will be familiar with the popular mnemonic: “Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest,” muttered under locals’ breaths to recall the sequence of downtown streets. Yet all bets are off at Pioneer Square, where, north from Yesler, every street veers 30 degrees to the northwest, resulting in an odd tangle of angles. How did this come about?

A: The Seattle Fault runs directly under Yesler. In 1854, an earthquake caused massive seismic displacement, forever altering the shape of the young city.

B: South of Yesler, soggy tideland marshes made accurate mapping impossible.

C: Yesler was the clergy-mandated northern boundary of Seattle’s original red-light district. Its angled streets, pontificated Rev. David Blaine in 1855, supplied “ample warning of a turn to sin.”

D: Unresolved land-plat disputes between early white settlers David “Doc” Maynard, Arthur Denny and Carson Boren resulted in colliding street grids.

E: Fake news. Cartographers and geographers are complicit in promoting this fictional twist. Actual Seattle streets run straight as an arrow.





4: D

The rubric

One correct answer:
You’re a Mercer Mess.

Two correct answers:
You tore down the Viaduct!

Three correct answers:
You’re a Pike Pundit.

Four correct answers:
You’ve attained Seattle Chill.

4 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Our 2nd annual April Fools quiz”

  1. I could not answer any of them and I was born in Seattle too. Just a note about the naming of the streets, I worked at 6th and Blanchard and 3rd and Vine so I made up a little ditty to remember the street names from Stewart to Denny, Still very little boys build boats while visiting cousins, well to Cedar anyway: Stewart, Virginia, Lenora, Blanchard, Bell, Battery, Wall, Vine, Cedar.

  2. I don’t think your answer to question 4 is necessarily correct. Seattle, like most cities grew up along a waterway – Elliott Bay. Most cities start with their street grid parallel to the waterway. Later streets are laid out to conform to the NSEW grid. Where the two grids meet is exciting mayhem. Some cities are lucky as their original waterway (or railroad) was on the NSEW grid. Many towns have the same issue as Seattle – look at Houston, Nashville, Green Bay, &c.

    1. Hi Mark, Every history of Seattle tells the same story. Maynard chose to plat his property south of Yesler using cardinal directions. Boren and Denny immediately to the north chose to follow the shoreline.
      Read this Historylink essay for a rather compelling version by Junius Rochester:

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