Seattle Now & Then: Lowman and Hanford

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: For more than half a century Lowman and Hanford was an active printing business in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. This view looks southeast through the intersection of First Avenue and Cherry Street, on the left, to the building row still standing along the eastern edge of Pioneer Place – or Square. (Courtesy Michael Cerelli)
NOW: The Lowman Building at the southeast corner of Cherry and First was completed in 1906. It was recently remodeled inside for low and middle-income housing offering, the ads say, “all the charm of years gone by, updated with amenities for today.”

Aside from the pyramid tower that originally topped the Pioneer Building (Far right, it was pioneer Henry Yesler’s last contribution to Pioneer Place or Square), everything has survived between this “then” and this “now.” (As a precaution the tower was removed following the city’s 1949 earthquake.)

The historical photo was recorded sometime between 1902 when the top three floors of the slender Lowman and Hanford Building – here covered with signs at the scene’s center – were added to it’s seventh story, and 1905 when the temporary wood structures at the southeast corner of First Ave. and Cherry Street were razed for the construction of the Lowman Building, the dominant structure in Jean’s Sherrard’s repeat.   (Here we will insert a front-on photograph also recorded sometime between 1902 and 1905.)

The sensational part of the first scene is surely that signage, all of it promoting the principal commercial interests of James Lowman and Clarence Hanford. The former arrived at his older cousin Henry Yesler’s invitation in 1877 and was directly made the assistance manager of Yesler’s Wharf. Within the a decade he was managing Yesler’s affairs while also in business with pioneer Clarence Hanford running a joined job printing shop and stationary store that also sold books, pianos and such.

Plastering or painting the side of a brick building with signs is, of course, easier when there are no – or few – windows. Clearly, when he added floors to his and his partner’s business address next door, James Lowman had his taller namesake building envisioned for the corner. The signs would be short-lived and windows not needed.


Anything to add, Paul?   Yes Jean, about five other features and their illustrations plus a coda concerning one of Lowman and Hanford’s enterprises.  (And please KEEP CLICKING to ENLARGE)

The Peterson and Bros studio needed only put its head out the front door of its studio at the waterfront foot of Cherry Street to record this view of drifts on Cherry Street during the waning (we presume) of what was the biggest snow in the city's history, the snow of 1880.
About thirty-two years separates the 1880 snow scene from this look east on what was at the time called the "Cherry Street Canyon." In those three decades Seattle had grown - boomed - from less than four thousand citizens to more than 225 thousand. The north facade of the Lowman Building is on the right. The Hoge building towers on the left and beyond it right of center is the city's first steel-framed skyscraper, the Alaska Building at the southeast corner of Cherry and Second Avenue.


In eight days of falling, the 64-inch total of the Big snow of 1880 was and still is a local record.  Typically the horizon line of our Puget Sound landscape separates a moody gray above a contemplative green.  The Big Snow of 1880 covered this commonplace with a white excitement that had parents pelting their children with snowballs, boys and girls sharing the same sleds, and seagulls walking – not floating – on the snow-fattened waters of Elliott Bay.  Schools were closed, telegraph wires downed, railroads stopped, shipping stalled and a few photographs taken – including the four shown here.  All of these recorded by the Peterson and Bros studio.

The Peterson studio was at the foot of Cherry Street. Two of the snow scenes shown here look west to Yesler Wharf from the back of their studio.  In whatever time passed between these two views, the big ships beyond the pier have kept their places but not one injured shed on the wharf.  Having already lost its roof under the weight of the wet snow, its front façade is also bent backwards in the newer of the two views.

This "now" was photograph about a quarter-century ago from an upper floor of the big and enclosed parking garage that took the west side of First Ave. south of Columbia Street.

In 1879 Yesler’s wharf, and the many businesses including the sawmill that were on it, were consumed by fire.  The scorched wharf was still rebuilding when the snow did its own damage.  The windjammers parked between it and the King Street coal wharf beyond are a few of what the Puget Sound Dispatch described in its coverage of the big snow as “fourteen ships, barkentines, and schooners in our harbor awaiting cargoes.”

The King Street coal wharf was the lucrative terminus for the Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad, which was also temporarily stopped by the snow.  The SWWRR carried the coal from Newcastle and Renton to the wharf off King Street.  It supplied San Francisco and the Central Pacific Railroad with Seattle’s largest export. By 1882 this scene was regularly filled not with sail riggings but with the steam colliers of the Oregon Improvement company, which bought the railroad, coal mines, coal wharf, and ships.

The snow began to fall on the 5th of January, a Monday.  The Royal Illusionists arrived two days early for their Wednesday night performance at Yesler’s Hall.  Since the mid-1860s, the pavilion was the Seattle center for touring performers, lectures, local meetings and celebrations that required a few hundred seats and a roof.  It was built at the southeast corner of Front St. (First Ave.) and Cherry Street – the future location of the extant Lowman Building.

On Tuesday night, “150 ladies and gentlemen” braved the snowstorm to enjoy the operetta “No Song and No Supper” performed by the all-amateur cast of Mrs. Snyder’s music class.  The Intelligencer review of the performance kindly noted that “despite the fact that none of the singers and actors had ever appeared on stage before . . . its was a decided success.”   The next night, however, the Royal Illusionists’ professional tricks were not sufficiently artful to levitate them and an audience through the growing drifts to their scheduled Wednesday night performance in Yesler’s Hall.  Instead, they took their illusions off to Victoria where the snow was only one foot deep.

On Monday Jan. 12 it began to rain.  On Wednesday afternoon the Intelligencer weather reporter would walk to work not through snow but mud.  That evening he wrote for the Thursday edition: “The snow is about gone in town.  It disappeared as fast as it came.”

The fourth photo of the 1880 snow looks north on Front Street (First Ave.) from the front of the Peterson & Bros studio near the foot of Cherry Street.

Not the snow but still a Peterson. Here Peterson has moved onto Front Street and looks north thru nearly the same street scene as revealed with the snow shot, but also with the earlier Huntington Bros photograph included directly below this one with a story attached.


The Huntington Bros. Studio of Olympia would not allow hometown bluster to get in the way of marketing and flattery.   On the flip side of this view up Front Street (First Avenue) from Cherry Street the Huntington copy writer has written a rather long paragraph on the virtues of Seattle.

It reads, in part, “Seattle is the  . . . leading town of Washington Territory . . . Its principal exports are agriculture produce, lumber and coal . . . It also exports much fish, furniture, doors and windows, flour, etc.  The town is conveniently, beautifully and healthfully situated, and gives promise of becoming a place of considerable importance.  . .  Its own people are very proud of Seattle, and think it inside of ten years destined to be second on the Pacific Slope to San Francisco only.”

The added claim that Seattle’s population “numbers 3,500” suggests that the Huntington caption was written in 1881 when Seattle first overcame Walla Walla to become the largest town in Washington.   The photograph, however, was most likely recorded before June 20, 1879.   On that day, J. Willis Sayer notes in his book “This City of Ours”, “the last forest tree on the central waterfront, standing just north of Pike Street, was cut down.”  That tree, I’m claiming, stands nearly alone on the horizon, left of center.  The ‘finger print’ of its branches appears just “ north of Pike Street” in a second photograph (not printed here) taken by Seattle’s own Peterson Bros’ studio at about the same time.

A few of the identifiable businesses here are F. W. Wald’s hardware store, far right, next door to Hendrick’s plumbing.  Across the street in the shade of the sidewalk porch is the Fountain Beer Hall.

To Huntington and his potential customers like Wald and Hendrick, the noteworthy quality about this street is not that it is so vacant, but that it is so smooth.    In 1876 the bumps of Front Street (First Avenue) north of Yesler Way were cut away to fill its valleys, like the ravine at Seneca Street.

The historical scene was copied from an original Huntington Stereoview.


Although parades of many sorts were commonplace in the pioneer city this one, with all the bunting and flags, is surely an Independence Day Parade.  Just to this side of the only open sidewalk awning is the Lace House, a woman’s apparel shop with fancy work that opened in February of 1888.  So this can only be July 4, 1888 for in another 11 months and two days everything here was consumed by the “Great Fire” of June 6, 1889.

The photographer looks north from the southeast corner of Cherry Street and Front Street (First Avenue).  Front Street was named for a setting that is now long lost.  When platted in 1853 First Avenue was the most westerly of the avenues and on a windy day at high tide a pedestrian on the its west side might be splattered.  Now the waterfront has moved far to the west.

The fancy structures on the left are part of Seattle’s two unbroken blocks of pioneer splendor between Yesler Way and Columbia Street — its touch of San Francisco elegance.   The corner structure at Columbia Street, right of center, with the grandest decorations  was the Toklas and Singerman Department Store.  Built in 1887 its was hoped that the Great Fire might be stopped by its sturdy brick façade or perhaps out of respect for its Victorian charm.  But the flames were barely stalled before they burst the windows, chewed the mortar and razed all but the sturdiest of walls beyond it – like the bank façade on the far left which was left standing although the building was gutted like all the others.

1889 fire ruins looking west over Second Avenue. Columbia Street is on the right. Toklas and Singerman were on the southwest corner of Front (First) and Columbia. The store's ruins are left of center. The frame structures with the peaked roof at the bottom is a "stretcher" for canvas temporary quarters. We cannot name the business at the moment. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

Had the Seattle Rifles marching in the street earlier lingered there on January 26, 1856 the Indians firing from the woods nearby would have easily picked them off.  The real target was the North Blockhouse that stood on a knoll here on the west side of Front Street at the foot of Cherry.  Protected inside were about 60 residents and a few farmers who had escaped to Seattle before the Battle of Seattle erupted.

For most of the years that separate the historical view from now an entirely different linked chain of structures filled the west side of First Avenue between Columbia and Cherry Streets.  Most were razed for the tree-shrouded parking garage shown with the next feature.   (Historical view courtesy Museum of History and Industry.)

A portion of the 1889 ruins again looking west over Second Ave. This time Cherry Street runs diagonally thru the photograph. The Toklas and Singerman ruins are, again, at the center of the subject.
The startling two year conversion of Second Avenue following the 1889 fire is illustrated with a real photo postcard by a pioneer photographer named LaRoche. The tent frame noted above is under one of those canvases seen on the west side of Second, top-center, in the top view.
Another '89 ruins subject, this one looks east over Cherry Street towards the survivors on the east side of Second. At least one of these is included in the two-year then-and-then just printed above. The four-story white hotel far left at the southeast corner of Third Avenue and Cherry Street is the Russel House. A feature for it follows eventually below.


Somehow the historical photographer managed to carry his or her camera to a temporary perch and look north on First Avenue and above the Kenneth Hotel sign at the foot of Cherry Street. With a bustling sidewalk and street scene – including seven trolleys – this elevated portrait of First was favored with its own colorized post card. (Which we have lost – temporarily.)

In the 1850s this was still the site of a knoll on which the locals built the North Block House that protected them during the one-day “Battle of Seattle’ of Jan 26. 1856.  The Indians small arms fire from the woods beyond Third Avenue barely penetrated the logs of the fort although one local was hit and killed while peeking out the temporarily open door.  That casualty stood close to our photographer’s mysterious prospect.

James Clemmer, a young theatre man from Spokane, first managed the Kenneth Hotel in 1907, and lived there too.  Within a year he converted the hotel lobby into the Dream Theatre, the first Seattle theatre to treat films “seriously” by regularly mixing “one-reelers” with vaudeville acts.  The theatre was deep but narrow, for although seven stories high the Kenneth was built on one lot.  As such it was Seattle’s best reminder of Amsterdam.  From this prospect we cannot tell if the theatre is as yet below the hotel sign.

I raised my camera with a pole (or monopod).  Directly behind me is Pioneer Square and its official historic district most of which was built soon after the city’s “Great Fire” of 1889.   Of course, most of the buildings showing north of Cherry Street in the older view were also built in the first decade following the fire but with few exceptions that they have been razed and replaced – in a few instances (like across First at its southeast corner with Columbia Street) with stock parking lots, as we now seem to keep repeating.

Real Postcard purveyor Frasch's look north on First Avenue with Cherry Street just out of the frame to the right. (Courtesy John Cooper)


There are, no doubt, many Seattle residents who will still remember, however so faintly, the old hotel at the southeast corner of Third Avenue and Cherry Street.   It was last known as the Hub Hotel, but in its 49 years it had other names as well, including Paxton, St. Elmo (its name in this recording), and the Russell House.  Constructed in 1888 by Sara J. Russell, her “house” was a survivor, first of the 1889 fire and second as one of the few built downtown before the fire that lasted well into the 20th Century.   Without the hardships connected with the 1930s it might even have even avoided its 1937 destruction for a parking lot with the unlikely name of Bentley Willard.

While the Seattle Times reported that the “crash of workmen’s hammers” were sounding its “death knell” the newspaper’s representative discovered that Charles Cawsey, the person in charge of the hotel’s conversion to a parking lot, had helped build it.  Most likely it was from Sara Russell’s daughter Mary that the reporter learned the touching story of how during the Great Fire the “1889 pioneers found a haven” in the Russell House where they could “bath their smoke-seared eyes.”   And also how after the fire “grim-faced men rested as they planned to restore their buildings.”  Sarah Russell “comforted them and softly sang hymns as she tended their injuries.”

A capable keyboardist, she arrived in Seattle in 1865 packing a pump organ.  Soon hired to give lessons to the children of pioneers Charles and Mary Jane Terry — then the largest landlords in Seattle – Sarah, the Times reported, was paid with this corner lot.  She also married Thomas Russell, Mary Terry’s brother.  Sarah’s brother-in-law Charles soon died of consumption in 1867, tragically at the age of 37, and her husband Thomas, once the town’s sheriff, fifteen years later.  So Sarah was familiar with loss when she came forward to care for the victims of the 1889 fire in her hotel.  Also that year – more hopefully – her daughter Mary met a guest at the Russell House, a manufacturer’s agent, J.H. Sutthoff, and married him.  Their son John was born in the hotel.

Sarah Russell’s reputation as a musician was substantial.  She both played the organ for many years at Father Prefontaine’s Our Lady of Good Help Catholic church and was also the first music teacher at the University of Washington when it was still downtown and only a few years old.   She was by any description a remarkable person who gave much to her community before her death in 1898.

With the above subject we return to Pioneer Place (or Square) and look through the post-fire block to Second Avenue.  It is easy to find the Russel Hotel.  It marks the horizon to the left of the First Baptist Church, which is just left-of-center, and on Fourth Avenue, where now stands City Hall.   Foundation work on the Butler Hotel (at the northwest corner of Second and James and so behind the Pioneer Building)  is underway in the pit on the right.  I have not figured from what elevated prospect the photographer recorded this look, but will include a “now” view (from about a dozen years ago this time)  that looks from Pioneer Square in the same general direction although from a start that is further west and closer to James Street.

Above we have returned to the original photo – at the very top – to read the sign.  The services Lowman & Hanford do not stray far from ephemera: the printing and selling of books, stationary, and loose leaf ledgers. But they also carry cameras and offer both developing and printing.   They might have also included lithography on their external wall.

I was reminded of this while searching for the features printed above, for I came upon something I wrote in the early 1990s.   The little essay refers some illustrations that accompanied it, but I no longer know which of the 2000 plus examples of lithography I then used.   For this printing of the same essay I’ll gather a new crop of examples from the stock of Tucker and Hanford lithographs, which are sometimes credited in very small type to Lowman and Hanford.

The few litho letterheads that are printed here come from a collection of roughly 2000 examples — stationary, checks, envelopes, and printer’s proofs.  This dog-eared mess of paper artifacts was discovered in two deteriorating scrapbooks by Marsha Rosellini while searching through a vacant Belltown office building purchased by her husband, restaurateur, Victor Rosellini in 1976 for use in conjunction with his neighborhood restaurant, Rosellini’s Four-Ten.  Thankfully, Marsha Rosellini saved these lithographers samples and fifteen years later — after uncovering them again while spring-cleaning — she passed them on to me.  This past summer I disassembled the scrapbooks and methodically immersed the acidic pages, cleaning and separating the lithographer’s samples from their decidedly non-archival carriers before slow drying and flattening them.

This Savoy Hotel example was pasted into the rougher of the two scrapbooks and shows it's wear.

Their history is still sketchy. Sometime about 1900 the lithographer, Eldred Tucker, abandoned his position as manager of The Blatchley Company Lithographers in Tacoma and joined in Seattle with Clarence Hanford, a member of the pioneer family of the partnership Lowman and Hanford Printers — a name familiar to any Northwest book collector — to form the Tucker, Hanford Company, Lithographers. The partnership stayed together until about 1920.  Thereafter neither Tucker nor his company appears in the Seattle (Polk) city directory.

This sample fo the Western Mill's letterhead (or check) was neatly attached in the neater of the two stuffed scrapbooks. The Western Mill was a long resident at the south end of Lake Union.

But the company’s two samples books somehow survived filled with art dating from the mid-1890s — some of this early material Tucker must have brought with him from Tacoma — to the mid-teens.  It was a most baroque period of letterhead design.  The eight examples printed here are samples of what Kendall Banning described in Business Stationery, his contribution to the 1907 Business Man’s Library, as eccentric displays designed to more than represent their businesses but also advertise them with idealized pretensions.  Banning, of course, detects the insecurity that hides behind this “showy mass of detail.”  I prefer to see in these lavish designs a playful relief from business-as-usual.  They are also exquisite examples of the Lithographer’s art in the Northwest.

The University State Bank at the northeast corner of 45th street and University Way (the Ave.) is still around although it landmark corner has long been defaced with a sign of a very ill sort. This soiled example came in the book of cut-out examples rather than the scrapbook of stationary and check samples.

As our samples reveal (or in this blind reprinting do not reveal), Tucker, Hanford Co. did work for businesses as far afield as Butte Montana.  A good part of their service was the design itself, and they were not above reusing and recombining some of their stock art for a variety of different customers.  The increasingly sophisticated techniques of photolithography in the last decades of the 19th Century allowed professionals like Tucker to manipulate new and existing art in almost any combination and size, to speedily print thousands of copies and still have it look convincingly like limited-edition work from an intaglio press.

The ascendency of dignified and restrained sentiments like Kendall Banning’s and the increasing use of screened photography eventually — and speedily in the 1920s — made work like this seem old fashioned and out-of-style.  Tucker’s two scrapbooks might also have been destroyed.  But they were only abandoned  — for a time.  Perhaps I will do another “daily” contribution like those from Our Daily Sykes: a Print Us Our Daily Litho.

This unique birdseye of Seattle and Lake Union as seen from the north looking across Green Lake did not make it on to any stationary or checks included in the two books, only as this soiled fragment.
Another fragment, this one even mutilated at a corner. There is something very odd about to salesmen from a title insurance company - we assume - walking railroad tracks in West Seattle. Studying the condition of the landmarks across Elliot Bay this drawing dates from between 1907 and 1916.
And what shall we make of this? Readers are encouraged to write a caption for this sketch, much like New Yorker readers are invited to caption cartoons. Please do. We will print them all. Multiple entries allowed. That's all folks!





9 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Lowman and Hanford”

  1. Hello,
    I just recently purchased an early metal keychain charge tag from the Portland department store of Toklas, Singerman & Co. with the address of 713-715 1st Ave. Portland. I have done some research and found a little difference in this companies history. One book on clothiers states that the company became Singerman and Son(s)in 1904. Then another page about the history of this company states that was purchased by another company and was in business in Portland until 1964? To your knowledge about this company, who is correct? This address of 713-715 1st Ave. is for Toklas, Singerman & Co. bldg. #2, correct? Any additional information about this compnay would be great appreciated. I know the first building was destroyed by the great fire of 1889. I live in New Jersey. How this early charge tag ended up in NJ is beyond me!
    Kent Theurich
    Old Bridge, NJ

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