Seattle Now & Then: Second Hill from First Hill

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Eight blocks up Second Hill the twin towers of Immaculate Conception Parish at 18th Avenue and E. Marion Street own the horizon in 1905 and still do. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
NOW: To avoid trees on the Seattle University’s Campus Walk that was once 10th Avenue east, Jean went forward (east) with his ten-foot pole into the campus Green to a position that is about ten yards beyond the young tree that decorates the center of the “then” photograph.

This look east to Second Hill from the eastern slope of First Hill is both rare and puzzling.  The original was shared with us by Ron Edge, a frequent help to this feature, who acquired it as part of a small collection of early 20th Century Seattle subjects originally recorded or collected by a company that produced Magic Lantern shows.        We reckon, however, that the status of Second Hill development in 1905 – our speculated year for this cityscape – is an unlikely lantern subject, except, perhaps, by special order from either the Immaculate Conception parish, or Seattle College (Seattle University since 1948), for this view looks east from the campus of the latter to the new sanctuary of the former on the horizon at the southeast corner of E. Marion St. and 18th Avenue.

Forgetting for the moment the leaves on the trees, we may imagine here the Dec. 4, 1904 procession of parishioners and priests that climbed from First Hill up Second for the dedication of those two cross-topped towers and the nearly 1000 seats beneath them.  That’s enough pews for everyone that followed Wagner’s marching band.

For ten years previous to their joyful procession these Catholics had been teaching and worshiping in what still survives as the original building on the Seattle University Campus, the Garrant Building, named for the school’s founder.  It was built in 1894 by the Jesuit order for its ministry at Immaculate Conception.

If, like our study of the cleared but scarcely developed foreground, yours counts two blocks between the boardwalk near the bottom and the first street developed with houses, then this is 10th Avenue East at our toes.  We know that those homes face 12th Avenue.  We figured that out with help from eight houses on Second Hill, easily tracing them from Ron’s “then.” In Jean’s repeat they are hidden behind the imaginative mass of the campus’ somewhat new Chapel of St. Ignatius.  For our survivors we only looked on 13th and 14th Avenues between Spring Street on the far left and Marion, but there are, no doubt, many others on the hill.


Anything to add, Paul?

Certainly Jean, and it our custom by now, we will insert a few features – six of them – that come from the neighborhood.  Some are so close they may repeat.  Mid-week I’ll put up an addendum to this page with one or two more.   We will begin with another panorama of Second Hill, this one photographed a very few years earlier by Asahel Curtis.  The caption will give a brief description of it.  Then we will return for a closer look at the Immaculate Conception on the ridge of Second Hill, aka Renton Hill aka – for this part of it –  the Squire Park Neighborhood.

(Best to CLICK the BELOW – TWICE!!)

Briefly described, this look east at Second Hill was taken from about one long block north of the pan used at the top. Here the photographer - Asahel Curtis - has his back close to Broadway Avenue and looks down at the end of Seneca Street where it comes to Madison, the diagonal arterial with a tracks for its cable car, which runs through much of the pan. Just to the right of the scene's center, Madison crosses Union Street, which climbs the hill to its crest at 17th Ave. and so also to Minor Primary (with the small cupola) on its north (left) side. Spring Street shows itself, upper right, but it is not yet graded or paved. The homes on its south side near 17th Ave. may be compared with those in the pan at the top.



(First appeared in Pacific, April 18, 2004)

The twin Italianate towers of the Immaculate Conception Church have distinguished Seattle’s skyline from their pedestal on Seattle’s Second Hill (aka Renton Hill) for nearly 100 years. The ground was broken for Seattle’s oldest surviving Roman Catholic sanctuary (used continuously for services) in April 1904, and the first ceremonial opportunity that followed was the traditional laying of the cornerstone.

The May 15 procession up the hill from the interim parish (in what has since been renamed the Garrand Building on the campus of Seattle University) to the foundation work for the new parish at 18th Avenue and Marion Street was given historical perspective on the spot by Bishop Edward O’Dea. “Twenty years ago one small church sufficed for the needs or our limited membership, and now we have four churches and 14 priests.”

In less than seven months, Seattle’s Catholics were ready to march up the hill again for the dedication on Dec. 4. The eight-block procession was led by a platoon of local police and Wagner’s Band, the traditional accompanists for Seattle celebrations. Behind the band marched the Hibernian Knights, the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Foresters of Seattle, Tacoma and Ballard.  Ballard was then still its own town. Bishop O’Dea and ranked clergy were fit in carriages to elegantly cap but not conclude the procession. “Following them and lining the route” to quote from an early history of the parish, “was a motley but magnificent parade of priests, sisters and local gentry all in a jovial spirit.”

Father Prefontaine, Seattle’s pioneer priest who arrived here in 1867, assisted Bishop O’Dea at the Mass of Dedication.


(Courtesy, Seattle University Archive)
I - dorpat - photographed this most likely in the mid-1990s while helping Walt (Crowley) prepare his National Trust book on local landmarks.


(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 13, 1991)

With this year’s centennial (1991), Seattle University celebrates its heritage knowing that it has also preserved it in the Garrand Building. The oldest structure on campus was recently renamed for its architect and the Jesuit school’s founder, the ·Rev. Victor Garrand.

In “Seattle University, A Century of Jesuit Education,” author Walter Crowley describes the architectural amateur Garrand as having designed a building whose “elemental proportions and sturdy pilasters projected the same Romanesque dignity found in the early churches and monasteries of his native France.” The daylight basement housed the Jesuit community’s offices and living quarters, the second story the school’s classrooms, and the upper two bricked stories what Crowley describes as the “operatic grandeur” of the Jesuits’ Immaculate Conception Church.

In “Distant Corner,” Jeffrey Karl Ochsner and Dennis Alan Andersen’s history of Seattle architecture influenced by H.H. Richardson, the authors (page 235 and following) detail the somewhat ambiguous role that Seattle architect John Parkinson had in the fashioning of the Garrand for the priest and educator that would later be its namesake.

Since its 1894 dedication, the Garrand Building has suffered a few reversals and revisions. The effects of the 1907 fire, which gutted the structure’s peaked roof and its chapel, may finally be reversed with the planned restoration of the building, including its roof and belfry. It is hoped that this work will be completed in time for the Garrand Building’s own centennial in 1994.

A depression-time WPA record of the Garrant with its legal description written on the negative. (Courtesy, Washington State Archive, Bellevue Branch.)


The Haller mansion, Castlemount, looking northwest across Broadway and James.
A repeat from less then ten years ago.
Castlemount, looking north across James and Minor from the side lawn of the Campbell home.


(First appeared in Pacific, June 1, 1996)

In 1883, the “old Indian fighter” Col. Granville O. Haller retired from the service and built himself a mansion. It was the first on Seattle’s First Hill – a neighborhood that would soon after become the city’s first high-class community. The Hallers called their home Castlemount. But its towering bulk did not so much grace the ridge behind Seattle as dominate it.

Seattle historian Clarence Bagley’s description of Haller could also be applied to the colonel’s house: “His broad brow indicated a strong intellect, his eyes shone clear and bright and he was never afraid to look any man in the face.” We can imagine the wide-eyed military man alert in his tower atop the ”’broad brow” of his castle and looking at most of Seattle in the face.

A portrait of Col. Haller for comparison with his big home.

A military man by trade, Haller eventually raised a sizable fortune while living on Puget Sound. Haller worked it all – real estate, lumbering, farming and general merchandising out of a Coupeville storefront before moving to Seattle. The well-off Haller and his wife, Henrietta, lived together in Castlemount for 14 years, until the colonel’s death in 1897. By then they were surrounded by mansions, but none reached the height of Castlemount.

The Haller Mansion appears far left with the Union Trunk Line's powerhouse mostly hidden behind it on the far side of Broadway. The company's tall stack is apparent and also contributing to the atmosphere on First Hill, and often beyond it to Second Hill. The photo was taken from the Coppins water tower which was built above its well a few yards east of 9th Avenue on Columbia Street. Some of the homes have been identified by Lucy Campbell Coe who grew up in the Campbell (a local hardware man) home on the south side of James Street between Boren and Minor - now the site of the Minor and James Clinic. Below this pan is a snap of Lucy, the girl on the right, playing with her dog, sister (at the center) and a visiting friend on the Campbell front yard. I visited often with Lucy in her home in Washington Park and wrote about this subject now long ago, but will wait for another occasion to post and show it again.
Courtesy of Lucy Campbell Coe, here on the far right.

When Henrietta died in 1910, the HaIlers’ son Theodore was left to watch over what became known as the “Ghost House.” Perhaps the haunting presence was Theodore’s wife, Constance. When they were married in 1917, Theodore was a 53-year-old businessman obsessed with frugality and managing his inheritance. Constance was 30 years his junior, and after 11 years in the mansion, Constance took Ted to divorce court. She complained that she had to wear clothes inferior to her station, drive a second-hand auto and live in that house.

The judge agreed. Granting the divorce, he sympathetically concluded that “It was not pleasant for a young woman to be alone in that old house day after day with nothing to look forward to but a game of dominoes in the evening. The mansion was once the finest in Seattle, its gingerbread scroll work highly regarded and its furnishings considered the last word in luxury. But its windows did rattle, its floors were warped and cold. Naturally, Haller didn’t notice it – he was used to the house. Mrs. Haller was not.”

Constance was awarded a $30,000 settlement, and within two years Theodore was dead. The mansion was eventually razed, the property leveled, and during World War II the government leased the ground and put up a temporary and decidedly not luxurious project of five houses with eight apartments each for 40 families where once there was one in the odd-shaped First Hill block bordered by James, Broadway, Cherry and Minor.

A James Street Cable Car heading west (or pausing to pose) to the power house in its last block between Minor and Broadway Avenues. Part of the Haller Mansion, aka Castlemount, appears on the left.


Perhaps the earliest recording of the Union Trunk car barn and powerhouse at the northeast corner of James and Broadway. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
Another early look at the station. A kind of car pergola has been mounted in the middle of Broadway, and a James Street Cable Car, for which this is the eastern end of the line, poses between two Union Trunk cars on the Broadway line that ran along the ridge between Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill. Note the cable slot configured at the center of the cable railway tracks, bottom left. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
In the end days for both the James Street Cable Railway and the Union Trunk trolleys. The subject looks north on Broadway, across James Street. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
Perhaps the motorcars will lead us to a date for this "repeat." I took it, but no longer remember the occasion.
Earlier. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
Nearly the end. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey)
James Street Cable Car No. 73, in the company of cable fans prepares to make the last trip to Pioneer Square for a James Street cable car. (Courtesy, Lawton Gowey and Warren Wing)
The Union Trunk's power house sans cables and cars. The panorama shown just below this photo was most likely taken from the back of the - this - power house. The Pacific feature of long ago below it explains this figuring.


Second Hill, aka Renton Hill, seen from First Hill. The view looks northeast and reveals part of Madison Street cutting across it as Madison, and its own cable railway, climbs Second Hill between 12th and 17th Avenues. A comparison of this pan with the A. Curtis look at the same section of Madison Street - about ten years later - is a fine indication of what a booming town this was following its "Great Fire" of 1889. We'll print the Curtis again, immediately below. (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)
Repeat from far above for easier comparison to the pan direclty above this one, the 1890s look from First and Second Hill descirbed in the feature that follows.


(First appear in Pacific, April 7, 1985)

The original print for this scene claims that it was photographed from James St. and Broadway Ave. Although captions for historical photographs should be read skeptically, the evidence within this photo (and “behind” it, as well) makes its caption seem, at least, confident.

What is behind the photographer is Broadway Ave. Until the turn of the century, (19th to 20th) Broadway was the eastern limit of “improved” Seattle, the higher-class First Hill neighborhood. What is in front of the photographer is the relatively unimproved plateau that gently descends from First Hill and then rises to Second Hill.

Broadway and James is also a good guess, even without the caption.  For 70 years it was the site of a Seattle landmark, the Union Trunk Line’s brick power house and terminal station. We speculate that the photographer was shooting from one of its rear windows. Beginning in 1891 the James St. cable cars completed their climb up First Hill here at the Broadway station, where passengers transferred either to or from the company’s electric trolleys that ran up and down Broadway and east to Lake Washington.

Although the photo does not show any of the Trunk Line’s service, in the distance we can see the throughway of another, the Madison Street Cable Railway. Beginning in 1890, the Madison St. cars encouraged and carried settlement all the way to Lake Washington. The part shown here runs from about 12th Ave. on the left, to the street’s Second Hill summit at 17th Ave., 422 feet above Elliott Bay, and at the top center of the photograph.

This ridge that runs across the top of our photograph was as often called Renton Hill as Second Hill. Its namesake was a lumber baron named Captain William Renton. The captain and his hill were remembered by pioneer Sophie Frye Bass in her little book, When Seattle Was a Village. She wrote: “When Captain Kenton acquired the hill it was thickly timbered. When it was logged it presented the sickening sight of all logged off lands, stumps, raw and splintered; saplings, stripped and bent; earth, scarred and torn.”

Our photograph, which dates from the mid-1890s, shows some of all that.

Lawton Gowey - ever a rail fan - returned to the corner of Broadway and James to record this repeat of the Union Trunk corner, sans its power house, on May 30, 1968.


What is now the southeast corner of Seattle University – it’s Championship Field – was for many years a transportation center for the south end where first the Seattle Electric Company’s street trolleys were sheltered and later the Seattle Transit System’s trackless trolleys.  Both views look northwest from 14th Avenue and E. Jefferson Street.  (Historical photos courtesy Warren Wing, Lawton Gowey and the Seattle Municipal Archive)


(First appeared in Pacific, Oct. 2, 2005)

Around noon on the 15th of December 1940 when the winter sun cast long shadows over the Seattle Transit System’s new fleet of trackless trolleys the by then veteran commercial photographer Frank Jacobs took this and a second view of the Jefferson Street car barn and its new residents.   Here Jacobs looks northwest from the corner of 14th Avenue and Jefferson Street.  (The second view looks northeast over the fleet from 13th Avenue.)

Jacob's second look at the new trackless trollies

By a rough count – using the second photograph to look around the far corner of the barn – there are 114 carriers parked here outside for this fleet portrait.  That is about half of the 235 Westinghouse trackless trolleys that were purchased by the city with a loan from the federal government.  The first of them were delivered earlier in March of 1940, and only three years after Seattle voters by a large majority rejected them in favor of keeping the municipal railway’s old orange streetcars.   But the transportation milieu of the late 1930s was even more volatile than it is now and the forces of both rubber and internal combustion  – for the city also purchased a fleet of buses – won over rails and even sacrificed the cherished but impoverished cable cars.

And early record of the Jefferson barn. (Courtesy, Lance Loomis)

When the Jefferson Car Barn was constructed in 1910 it was the last of the sprawling new garages built for the trolleys in the first and booming years of the 20th Century.  The Seattle Electric Company also built barns in Fremont, lower Queen Anne, and Georgetown to augment its crowded central facility at 6th and Pine.  The Georgetown plant was also the company’s garage for repairing trolleys and, when it came time in 1940-41, also for scrapping them.

The finality of that conversion from tracks to rubber is written here (up a ways) in the yard of the car barn with black on black.  Fresh asphalt has erased the once intricate tracery of the yard’s many shining rails.

Dancing rails. Note on the horizon both Providence Hospital, far right, and Immaculate Conception, at the center.


When it was new in 1891 Rainier School would have seem grandiose for its neighborhood except that it was filled from the beginning. Primary students were moved from the building in 1940, but the building survived until 1957 as a home through most of those late years as a branch for Edison Technical School. (Historical photo courtesy of Larry Hoffman)

(First appeared in Pacific, Feb/March 2004)

Rainier School at 24th and King Street was one of the first and largest of the sixteen Seattle school buildings constructed during the 1890s. That its twelve classrooms were buzzing with more than 400 scholars when it opened in January 1891 was a sign of how explosively the city was growing following its “Great Fire” of 1889. It was also precise evidence of how effectively the Yesler Way Cable Railway was in guiding much of the city’s booming population to build homes and raise families to either side of its tracks that climbed all the ridges between Pioneer Square and Lake Washington at Leschi Park.

The Rainier School illustrated here includes the north wing (on the right) that was added in 1900. Although the extension obscured the school’s Cupola the added rooms were needed. For instance, each morning through the 1902-03 term twenty-one teachers welcomed nearly 1100 students. One of them was Edwina Robinson who the year before had “Passed with Honor” from the 4th grade with an averaged of 86.9 (out of 100) in Deportment, Reading, Spelling, Writing, Arithmetic, Language, Geography, Music and Drawing. Edwina got her best marks in Deportment. If she stayed in Seattle Edwina would later have most likely attended one or more of Bruno J. Benedetti’s reunions.

Benedetti, class of 1933, was Rainier’s super-alum. Weeks before the 67-year-old structure was razed in 1957, Benedetti staged the last of the Rainier reunions to be held in the school’s auditorium. There he consoled the 500 former students and teachers attending by reminding them that “Memories are not encased in a building; friendships don’t wither outside the schoolroom . . . These rooms have given so much. We shall never forget.” Benedetti continued to remember, organizing Rainier reunions into the 1990s.

[The new – in 2003 – Seattle School district history is now available. Titled “Building for Learning Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000” it is a 342 page encyclopedia treating all the city’s public schools from Adams Elementary to Woodrow Wilson Junior High. This new history is not merely an update of old school chronicles but an original treatment and it is elegantly illustrated as well. Of course, the authors, Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr, also have a lot more to tell about Pacific School that can fit here.


As noted above, we hope to return mid-week with an addendum to the above.

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Second Hill from First Hill”

  1. Paul, I love your story on Castlemount, and just wondering if you know of any existing photographs of the interior before the building was razed? Thank you!

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