All posts by Clay Eals

Seattle Now & Then: The USS Constitution, 1933

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: The three-masted USS Constitution (far center) sails in Elliott Bay in mid-1933 as part of a three-year tour of 76 ports. This west-facing view looks down Yesler Way from the Smith Tower. Skylights are visible on the Pioneer Building, as is (bottom center) the “Seattle” top of the sign for the old Seattle Hotel, site of today’s sinking-ship parking garage. Flaws at right could indicate the photo was taken inside a window. (University of Washington Special Collections)
NOW1: This view, from midway up the Smith Tower, matches the vantage of the 1933 photo. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Dec. 1, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Dec. 4, 2022

Treasure and mystery set sail in yard-sale images from 1933
By Clay Eals

When unexpected photographic treasures arise, sometimes they bear more than a modicum of mystery.

John Gerhard, a retired Boeing intellectual-property manager who lives in West Seattle, went on one of his usual prowls last summer, combing yard sales for finds. On a table at a house bordering Admiral Way, spilling out of an envelope was a set of 12 thin items, tiny and shiny.

They were medium-format photo negatives from long ago. Squinting while holding each one skyward, he discovered a negative with an airborne perspective of downtown and boat-packed Elliott Bay, backed by the West Seattle peninsula.

Gerhard grinned.

The seller, Caty Burt, had purchased the negs at a Georgetown sale years earlier but knew nothing about them. Gerhard asked her if he could donate them to University of Washington Special Collections, where he has volunteered for six years and which has a ships collection. Sure, she said.

The images centered on the 1797 warship USS Constitution, better known as Old Ironsides because, while it sank a British vessel during the War of 1812, its thick, oak hull survived a barrage of cannonballs. Restored, it toured 76 ports for three years starting in 1931. Its Seattle visit from May 31 to June 14, 1933, drew an astounding 201,422 visitors. Today, it’s on permanent exhibition at the Boston Naval Shipyard.

Of the 12 negatives, only one had the helicopter view, having been taken from the West Coast’s then-tallest building, the Smith Tower. Seen looking east down Yesler Way, the 2,200-ton, 175-foot, three-masted USS Constitution stands out among fishing boats, tugs, small craft and even a ferry.

THEN2: This image of the stern was John Gerhard’s first clue that the 12 negatives he acquired at a yard sale depicted the U.S. Constitution, aka Old Ironsides, while in Seattle in 1933. (University of Washington Special Collections)

Gerhard had no prior knowledge of the famous frigate. But he got up to speed after spotting, in another of the negatives, the ship’s name on its stern.

NOW2: With an archivist’s white gloves, John Gerhard examines one of the 12 negatives he acquired last summer at a West Seattle yard sale. This one shows the stern of the USS Constitution, which bears its name. (Clay Eals)

Six of the images depict Old Ironsides hosting tours while anchored at Pier 41 (now 91) at Magnolia’s Smith Cove, where cruise ships dock today.

One even reveals, in the distance, the remains of West Seattle’s Luna Park Natatorium, destroyed by fire in 1931.

THEN3: Docked at Pier 41 (now 91) at Magnolia’s Smith Cove, the USS Constitution takes on a lineup of visitors. A total of 201,422 toured the frigate during its two-week stay in Seattle. (University of Washington Special Collections)

But riddles remain: Who took the photos?

The negatives are unmarked. They include four images of a model sailboat. One of them shows a man examining a camera, seemingly about to photograph the model. Did he take the other 11 photos? He’s standing in front of a Spanish-style, stucco home near a bluff. Where was this house?

THEN4: Who is this man, shown with a medium-format camera, possibly about to photograph a model sailboat, and where are the house and front lawn where he is standing? The set of 12 negatives is unlabeled. (University of Washington Special Collections)

Gerhard speculates the guy was an engineer, interested in the mechanics of vessels. Perhaps, like Gerhard, he worked at Boeing?

“There’s a story here,” says Gerhard, a determined sleuth.

Can any of you come aboard with more details?

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to Lisa Oberg and John Gerhard for their help with this installment!

No 360-degree video for this week’s installment.

Below are four additional photos, an online scrapbook, further links and eight historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

With an archivist’s white gloves, John Gerhard examines one of the 12 negatives he acquired last summer at a West Seattle yard sale. This one (see THEN3 above) shows the USS Constitution docked at Smith Cove while visitors queue to climb aboard. (Clay Eals)
Another view of the mysterious model sailboat, with a peek at further clues to the neighborhood. (University of Washington Special Collections)
Another view of visitors lined up to board the USS Constitution at Pier 91 at Magnolia’s Smith Cove  in June 1933. In the background can be seen the remains of the Luna Park Natatorium, destroyed by fire in 1931. (University of Washington Special Collections)
Another image from one of the 12 negatives, this one a total mystery. Where was it taken, by whom and of what relevance is it to the others? (University of Washington Special Collections)
The cover of a USS Constitution scrapbook. Click it to see the full 126-page pdf, available from the USS Constitution Museum website.

Here are links to other websites relating to the USS Constitution:

May 28, 1933, Seattle Times, p2.
May 30, 1933, Seattle Times, p14.
May 30, 1933, Seattle Times, p15.
May 31, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p12.
June 1, 1933, Seattle Times, p1.
June 1, 1933, Seattle Times p11.
June 4, 1933, Seattle Times, p4.
June 15, 1933, Seattle Times, p16.

Seattle Now & Then: nursery site for seven decades, 1958

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Looking southeast, this 1958 view of 2939 Madison St. shows Clifton’s Nursery and Garden Store. State records indicate that no building stood here before that year, but two mid-1970 newspaper articles reported that owner Hubert Clifton had operated his business there since 1951. (Puget Sound Branch, Washington State Archives)
NOW1: (From right) owner Alison Greene, former owner Steve Magley and Save Madison Valley board member Tony Hacker join longtime staff and supporters of City People’s Garden Store re-create the 1958 view of this nursery site. The rest of those pictured (from right): Kate Allen, Rolland Hiebert, Vivian Ares, Ann Wyman, Anne Janisse, Beth Farrow, Jeff Hedgepeth, Sarah Trethewey, Maija Zageris, Heather Cullen Knapp, Kyra Butzel, Susan Denning, Rose Palmer Miess, Mairead Galloway, Bob Horan, Doug McDonnal, Tristen Sallande, Elizabeth Donahue, Jodi Jaecks, John Victor, Lisa Crabtree, Kathleen Glasman, Deb Woodland, Jordan Colvard, Dee Wyman, Virginia Wyman and Eva Jensen. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Nov. 17, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Nov. 20, 2022

Longtime ‘sanctuary’ nursery to be uprooted by six-floor complex
By Clay Eals

On Thanksgiving, many of us will gather with family and friends to share a cornucopia of cuisine, including garden greens and other symbols of nature’s bounty.

Now instead of the food, envision a mammoth building dropped onto the table. With this unwieldy centerpiece, you couldn’t see or talk with many of your fellow guests. You might even be shocked enough to wonder why you pulled up a chair in the first place.

That’s how some locals feel about a retail-residential project slated at 2939 E. Madison St. in the Madison Valley. The new structure — six floors, 87 market-rate apartments and 140 parking stalls with a ground-level supermarket — would end the site’s seven-decade run as a single-floor hub that plant fans deem an oasis crucial to Seattle’s psyche.

THEN2: This snapshot captures the 1988 transition between Lynn’s Garden Center and City People’s Garden Store. (Courtesy City People’s Garden Store)

The lowland setting is near Washington Park Arboretum and Broadmoor Golf Club and its gated community. Clifton’s Nursery and Garden Store (owner Hubert Clifton) operated at the site starting in 1951, succeeded by Lynn’s Garden Center (owner Lynn Meyer) in 1981. City People’s Garden Center took over in 1988.

Alison Greene, City People’s owner, says garden lovers converge there from all over Seattle and out of town. “It’s like a park, it’s filled with beauty, and it’s inspiring,” she says. “One customer told me, ‘This is my church, my safe place.’ In this crazy world we live in, it’s a sanctuary.”

NOW2: Jodi Jaecks peruses the City People’s Garden Store nursery. (Jean Sherrard)

“Gardening brings people a lot of joy. It’s not like buying a washing machine,” adds Steve Magley, City People’s owner from 1990 to 2016. “Plants bring people satisfaction on a different level.”

Velmeir Companies, the developer, hasn’t responded to requests for comment on the project. But directly across the busy arterial, City People’s already faces the four-floor Madison Lofts, built in 2008, which only furthers fears of a concrete canyon.

NOW3: Through the entry of the City People’s nursery and across Madison Street stands four-floor Madison Lofts, built in 2008. (Jean Sherrard)

The symbolism of losing a growing, nurturing, life-giving enterprise is not lost on Save Madison Valley, a nonprofit that opposed the project for years and is dismayed that Seattle approved a master-use permit for it in June. Tony Hacker, on the group’s board, laments the pending demise of a neighborhood cornerstone.

Greene has searched in vain for a new site within the city. She anticipates having to shut down at year’s end, with her annual Christmas-tree sale a bittersweet finale, but she hopes for an extension.

“Where is the soul of Seattle going?” she asks. “Current zoning doesn’t take into account a business like ours that creates community, and we seem to be forgotten in the name of maximizing profit. It would be really tragic if this had to close forever.”

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to Alison Greene for her help with this installment!

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are 10 additional photos and 24 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Lynn’s Garden Center, 1988. (Courtesy City People’s Garden Store)
Lynn’s Garden Center, in transition to City People’s Garden Store, 1988. (Courtesy City People’s Garden Store)
Under construction: City People’s Garden Store, 1988. (Courtesy City People’s Garden Store)
City People’s Garden Store opens, 1988. (Courtesy City People’s Garden Store)
New owner Steve Magley with Bess Bronstein at City People’s Garden Store, 1990. (Courtesy City People’s Garden Store)
The entrance today to City People’s Garden Store’s outdoor nursery. (Jean Sherrard)
A glass red rose presides in the City People’s Garden Store nursery. (Jean Sherrard)
Artwork enhances a shrubbery display at the City People’s Garden Store nursery. (Jean Sherrard)
Former owner Steve Magley peruses the City People’s Garden Store nursery. (Jean Sherrard)
Kathleen Glasman, City People’s Garden Store nursery manager, arranges plants. (Jean Sherrard)
Dec. 13, 1958, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p20.
Dec. 18, 1960, Seattle Times, p21.
Feb. 11, 1962, Seattle Times, p35.
Dec. 20, 1962, Seattle Times, p49.
Sept. 27, 1963, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p7.
Oct. 24, 1964, Seattle Times, p20.
Sept. 10, 1965, Seattle Times, p13.
Sept. 26, 1974, Seattle Times, p44.
Nov. 2, 1975, Seattle Times, p55.
Sept. 26, 1976, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p20.
Jan. 13, 1977, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p7.
Jan. 13, 1977, Seattle Times, p14.
Jan. 14, 1977, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p42.
Jan. 26, 1979, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p3.
Jan. 26, 1979, Seattle Times, p23.
Oct. 7, 1979, Seattle Times, p163.
March 12, 1981, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p15, Emmett Watson column.
Oct. 14, 1981, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p9.
Oct. 13, 1981, Seattle Times, p50.
Jan. 8, 1982, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p51.
Aug. 14, 1983, Seattle Times, p201.
Aug. 16, 1989, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p32.
Sept. 4, 1982, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p91.
Oct. 20, 1996, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p68.

Seattle Now & Then: Original Red Robin, 1969

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: This north-facing view from 1969 by Paul Gillingham, today a retired trial lawyer and Ravenna resident, shows Sam’s Red Robin Tavern at 3272 Fuhrman Ave. E. near the south end of University Bridge. Heidelberg and Budweiser boxes and a beer keg lie next to a now-rare telephone booth. Seattle Times restaurant columnist John Hinterberger cracked, “In the old Robin, if they’d passed a pool cue around, someone would have smoked it.” (Paul Gillingham, courtesy Ron Edge)
THEN2: In a 1937 view looking northeast, the building that became the Red Robin Tavern five years later operates as all-night Bee’s Corner Cafe, advertising Pabst Blue Ribbon and (painted out) Heidelberg beer. (Puget Sound Branch, Washington State Archives)
THEN3: In this northeast-facing view, the Red Robin Tavern stands in April 1970 after Gerry Kingen purchased and expanded it, posting a cartoon logo near the door. Kingen converted it to what he termed an “emporium” for dozens of hamburger styles. “I basically created a grownup’s McDonalds,” he recalled in a 2010 Seattle Times interview. (Puget Sound Branch, Washington State Archives)
NOW: Two men carry away a food order from the three-floor Robin’s Nest retail-residential complex on the initial Red Robin site, in a wider north-facing view that takes in part of the mid-1960s Interstate 5 Ship Canal Bridge to the west (left). The building houses 61 apartments and a ground-floor pizzeria. A protruding, decorative bird signals the site’s history. (Clay Eals)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Nov. 10, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Nov. 13, 2022

Legendary Red Robin chain arose from a tiny site near a bridge

By Clay Eals

It’s a behemoth restaurant chain with 546 outlets in 44 states and British Columbia, known for lighthearted TV commercials that end with a resonant voiceover chorus of “Yummm!”

However, the enterprise reportedly took root in 1916 as a tiny grocery perched above Portage Bay just a stone’s toss from the south end of University Bridge. By 1926, it was an eatery. Seattle Times classified ads reflect a tenuous tenure:

  • July 1, 1926: “HAMBURGER, waffles: busy corner; rent $30.”
  • March 31, 1929: “FOR SALE — Cheap, lunchroom; rent $30 per month. Owner leaving town. Come to see it Monday if you want a bargain.”
  • Jan. 7, 1930: “PARTNER — Established café; small investment; new taxi stand; must stay open nights. Too long hours for one.”

Ads and Polk directory listings reference a succession of 12 proprietors and a bevy of business names for the property at 3272 Furhman Ave. E. It was the Zimmerman Cafe, the Bridge Cafe, Bee’s Corner Cafe, Ann’s Corner Cafe and, starting in 1942, the Red Robin Tavern. That name stuck.

Legend has it that in the 1940s the watering hole’s avian appellation originated from tavern-keeper Samuel Caston, whose barbershop quartet warbled the 1926 hit “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)” and who added “Sam’s” to the name for good measure. But Polk listings indicate that Caston assumed ownership later, in 1953. No matter. Legends can befit a storied sudshouse.

Seattle Freeway postcard, mid-1960s, with Red Robin indicated by red circle.

By the late 1960s, the Robin, as it was known, was a Bohemian hangout, says Paul Gillingham, then a University of Washington philosophy and history student, folksinger and motorcyclist. “Strictly a tavern,” offering popcorn and “horrible” Polish sausages as the only food, the 1,500-square-foot pub bulged with students, Gillingham says. Some “would take bets on who would jump off the bridge.”

One morning in 1969, Gillingham vroomed by and photographed the dilapidated saloon, its awning ragged and sagging. That year, Caston sold the Robin to fledgling Seattle restaurateur Gerry Kingen, triggering a final-night, legendarily rowdy free-for-all.

Kingen expanded the Robin, adding a huge deck, and dropped “Sam’s” from its name. Later, he transformed it into a hamburger “emporium” and opened namesakes citywide. Starting in 1985, the chain went to outside interests that eventually grew Red Robin into a national presence. The initial eatery closed in 2010 and was razed in 2014, yielding to a three-floor retail-residential complex dubbed the Robin’s Nest.

Today you can find a Red Robin in 31 Washington cities. Perhaps fittingly, if sadly, only one remains in Seattle, at Northgate, five miles from the original site.

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to Ron Edge and Joe Bopp for their help with this installment!

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below is a collage of 8 images of the Red Robin site from 2007 to 2019, plus 30 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

A collage of eight Google Maps images of the Red Robin site from 2007 to 2019.
July 1, 1926, Seattle Times, p34.
March 31, 1929, Seattle Times, p51.
Jan. 7, 1930, Seattle Times, p24.
Sept. 1, 1934, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p22.
Oct. 31, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p4.
July 21, 1942, Seattle Times, p21.
June 3, 1942, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p23.
Feb. 18, 1943, Seattle Times, p34.
Dec. 7, 1962, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p1.
Feb. 28, 1965, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p23.
March 25, 1967, Seattle Times, p2.
March 27, 1970, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
April 12, 1970, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p40.
May 23, 1970, Seattle Times, p1, John Hinterberger.
May 25, 1970, Seattle Times, p24.
June 12, 1974, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p4.
Aug. 19, 1977, Seattle Times, p18.
Jan. 5, 1978, Seattle Times, p19.
Sept. 10, 1978, Seattle Times, p166.
Dec. 27, 1978, Seattle Times, p84.
Oct. 5, 1979, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p60.
Dec. 15, 1979, Seattle Times, p11.
Feb. 3, 1980, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p33.
June 22, 1980, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p28.
Feb. 1, 1981, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p75.
June 23, 1985, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p130.
May 11, 1986, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p89.
Aug. 8, 1991, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p25.
Jan. 10, 1982, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p64.
March 3, 2010, Seattle Times blog.

Seattle Now & Then: Ravenna corner, 1921

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: A taxi and likely its driver dominate this depiction of the northeast corner of Ravenna Avenue Northeast and Northeast 65th Street, likely in 1921. The four-cylinder touring car is a 1917 Studebaker Series 18 Model SF. The building behind it has, since 1920, housed a pharmacy, a cleaners, cooperatives and the King County branch of the National Organization for Women (NOW). (Courtesy Peter Blecha)
NOW: Positioned in front of McCarthy & Schiering Wine Merchants are (left) Jay Schiering, former co-owner, and Gene Yeldon, current managing central partner. Historian Peter Blecha, former employee of the wine shop, is behind his 2013 Honda Fit, which stands in for the 1917 Studebaker. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Nov. 3, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Nov. 6, 2022

Like fine wine, this Ravenna Avenue anchor has aged well
By Clay Eals

Do you yearn to travel in time — say, to a century ago? For the trip, you might hail this jaunty, four-cylinder touring car, a 1917 Studebaker Series 18 Model SF.

The gent standing by is likely the taxi’s driver. His territory, indicated on the windshield, was Cowen Park, west of Ravenna Ravine in northeast Seattle. If we assume the city license (left of the driver’s right shoulder) is current, you likely would be stepping into the year 1921.

We look almost due east across Ravenna Avenue at its intersection with 65th Street, just out of frame at right, which was Seattle’s northern boundary at this crossroads until the mid-1940s.

Beyond the taxi stands a charming, two-floor brick façade built in 1920. Topped by an apartment, its street-level retail space over the years supplied a range of what broadly could be called apothecary assistance, medicinal and non-.

In its earliest days, the building housed Ravenna Pharmacy, assuredly a center for prescriptions, but also general-store dalliances such as locally made Stokes Ice Cream (“supremely good”) and wind-driven whirligigs, both promoted in the front window.

THEN2: A June 2, 1927, ad in the Seattle Times promotes Calport wine grape tonic. Ravenna Pharmacy was one of more than 200 businesses named below the ad as carrying the product. (Seattle Times online archive)

The pharmacy signed on to newspaper ads offering free enticements, from Kotex sanitary pads (“each sample wrapped in plain paper”) to Gillette safety razors (“complete with blade”). Shoppers also could find Sunset dye (“58 fashionable shades, 22 standard colors”), Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral (a fix for coughs or colds “in a day or so” or money back) and Calport wine grape tonic (“brings to a tired world tingling, vibrant force”).

It also served as a polling place for elections, a meeting site for the Masonic-based Social Club of the Seattle Court (Order of Amaranth) and a hub for free tickets to see Independence Day fireworks at nearby University of Washington Stadium.

In 1937, the pharmacy became Monsen Cleaners and Self Service Laundry, which in the early 1960s gave way to Car-Tel TV Radio (featuring the Philco Cool Chassis TV “with 82-channel VHR-UHF tuning”), then Monsen’s Ivory Jade Collectors.

In the mid-1970s, Puget Mercantile, an adjunct of today’s PCC Community Markets, moved in. Also hosting speakers and gatherings there were King County NOW (National Organization for Women, promoting the Equal Rights Amendment, still unratified today) and the North End Housing Cooperative.

The edifice assumed its most enduring identity in 1980, as an award-winning wine shop that adopted the name of owners McCarthy & Schiering and continues today under new owners who kept the appellation.

In a city bursting with redeveloped business corners, such a mainstay anchor earns esteem. You might say it’s part of the cure for what ails you.

SIDE NOTE

Did any of you wonder about the little vehicle at the left side of our main “Then” photo? Reader Bob Bernstein did. And we have an answer from our automotive expert, Bob Carney:

Detail from the left side of our main “Then” photo.

“It’s probably a home-built version of a ‘speedster,’ which was an early version of a hot rod in the 1910s and 1920s. You remove the body and fenders and add a big gas tank and bucket seats, and you then have your personal version of a Mercer Raceabout or Stutz Bearcat at a fraction of the cost. Most were based on the Ford Model T, but any car could be the basis for a speedster. The one in the photo looks too big to be a Ford, and also has right-hand steering, which the Model T did not have. I think the wheels shown toward the front of the little car are not part of it, but rather leaning against it. Not sure why.”

Thanks, Bob (both of you)!

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to Peter Blecha for his help with this installment!

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are 43 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Oct. 22, 1903, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p6.
Feb. 7, 1904, Seattle Times, p68.
July 29, 1920, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11.
Dec. 3, 1920, Seattle Times, p8.
Sept. 12, 1920, Seattle Times p9.
June 9, 1922, Seattle Times, p12.
Dec. 15, 1922, Seattle Times, p26.
June 16, 1922, Seattle Times, p12.
June 23, 1924, Seattle Times, p22.
Sept. 7, 1924, Seattle Times, p28.
Dec. 7, 1924, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p74.
June 19, 1926, Seattle Times, p17.
March 11, 1928, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p87.
April 24, 1928, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11.
March 14, 1928, Seattle Times, p15.
June 24, 1928, Seattle Times, p1.
June 24, 1928, Seattle Times, p8.
Jan. 21, 1929, Seattle Times, p30.
Nov. 7, 1937, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p58.
Nov. 7, 1937, Seattle Times, p30.
Feb. 22, 1942, Seattle Times, p34.
Aug. 4, 1960, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p7.
Aug. 5, 1960, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11.
Aug. 4, 1960, Seattle Times, p23.
Jan. 15, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p24.
April 3, 1966, Seattle Times, p70.
Feb. 5, 1974, Seattle Times, p27.
July 27, 1974, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p24.
Aug. 9, 1974, Seattle Times, p42.
Nov. 20, 1975, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p32.
May 2, 1976, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p28.
Sept. 3, 1976, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p37.
May 12, 1976, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p45.
Oct. 1, 1976, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p44.
March 18, 1977, Seattle Times, p16.
Feb. 10, 1977, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p3.
April 22, 1977, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p42.
Sept. 18, 1977, Seattle Times, p82.
March 18, 1979, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p56.
March 19, 1980, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p47.
Oct. 14, 1979, Seattle Times, p154.
March 29, 1980, Seattle Times, p18.
Jan. 5, 1982, Seattle Times, p43.
Aug. 8, 1984, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p33.
Dec. 6, 1987, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p33.

Seattle Now & Then: Italian villa, 1930s

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: In 1952, then-17-year-old Virginia Cettolin perches in what she and her five siblings called the “wonder tree” (a Magnolia) in front of her childhood home at 4022 32nd Ave. S.W. that took her father 13 years to finish, starting in 1926. “How many hours we spent in our wonderful tree,” Virginia says. “It was an airplane, a stagecoach. Even the dog went up in the tree.” (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
NOW1: Virginia Cettolin, visiting from her present home in Blaine, stands before the same tree today. Her mom and dad lived in the house until their deaths in 1966 and 1969, respectively. (Clay Eals)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Oct.20, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Oct. 23, 2022

‘A dream to do good’ inspired steelworker to build Italian villa
By Clay Eals

The phrase “hidden in plain sight” could have originated with the Cettolin house in West Seattle.

Nestled along the unpretentious, extended block of 32nd Avenue between the Fauntleroy Expressway (opened in 1965) and Nucor Steel (opened in 1905 as Seattle Steel), the dwelling, upon further examination, looks to be a villa straight from Italy.

Which was the intention. It was created by Fausto Urbano Cettolin (sett-oh-LEEN), who came to the United States in 1913 from the northern Italian town of Pianzano. In 1921, he married Erma Dina Monti, also a 1913 newcomer, arriving from Italy’s coastal city of Livorno.

THEN2: The Cettolin house in progress, without a finished front porch, in a battered late 1930s print. (Puget Sound Brnach, Washington State Archives, courtesy Marilyn Kennell)

In 1926, the industrious Fausto, who worked in the steel mill’s open hearth, began giving shape to a vision. “My father had a great love for my mother. That’s why he built the house,” says Virginia Cettolin, youngest of their six children. (Her sister Emma Dina Wislocker is the only other living sibling.) The project took 13 years.

THEN3: Fausto Cettolin works on his house’s brick foundation, a project that began in 1926. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)

“It was all in his head. He never had a plan as far as we knew,” says Virginia, an 87-year-old retired teacher and Dominican nun, visiting the three-story house from the Washington border town of Blaine. “I think it was just in him to create a family memory.”

Fausto’s pride materialized in the house’s slender stature, terrazzo floors, leaded windows and the arches and columns of its front porch, which also bears a colorful, if weathered, inlay circled by the words “Cettolin Autore” (Italian for “author”).

NOW2: Backed by the porch of her childhood home, Virginia Cettolin is flanked by owners Alan McMurray and Marilyn Kennell. (Clay Eals)

Stewarding the house are Marilyn Kennell, a former yoga teacher, and Alan McMurray, a cabinetry engineer, owners since 2014. The charm of the light-filled home brings tears to Kennell’s eyes: “It’s got such a good feeling to it.” Adds McMurray, “There’s nothing like it around.”

Welcoming Virginia Cettolin to their home is part of the couple’s dogged effort to gather data to support a Seattle landmark nomination they have commissioned.

NOW3: The Cettolin house (shaded, far right) stands on 32nd Avenue Southwest, possibly due for demolition in Sound Transit’s plan for the West Seattle light-rail extension. (Clay Eals)

While they would vouch for preserving the home in any event, the two hope landmark status would help persuade Sound Transit not to threaten their neighborhood by constructing its West Seattle light-rail extension through their street. The light-rail decision could come in 2023.

THEN4: The Cettolin house, 1944. (Puget Sound Branch, Washington State Archives, courtesy Marilyn Kennell)

In early years, the Cettolin house stood alone on three lots, with the Pigeon Point bluff, south Seattle and downtown as a stunning backdrop. Today, with subdivisions by later owners, the home is hemmed in, and the growth of greenery makes it nearly hidden and easy to miss.

NOW4: In this east-facing view, the Cettolin house stands at far right, with West Seattle’s Pigeon Point in the distance. (Clay Eals)

But not for Virginia Cettolin: “It’s the fulfillment of an immigrant, and to me, that’s why it’s very important. It truly shows from nothing to something in America. You come with a dream to do good in America.”

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to Deb Barker and especially Virginia Cettolin, Marilyn Kennell and Alan McMurray for their help with this installment!

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are 35 additional photos and 26 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Fausto and Erma Cettolin. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma and Fausto Cettolin in younger years. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma and Fausto Cettolin. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Fausto Cettolin. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma Cettolin in back garden, 1950. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma Cettolin in garden, 1950. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
June 5, 1953, Erma Cettolin in garden. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Virginia (Sister Cabrini) between parents Erma and Fausto Cettolin with nun, August 1960.
Monkey tree in Cettolin yard. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
August 1961 (from left): Marian (Fausto Jr.’s ex-wife), Erma and Sister Olive. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Steps at side of Cettolin house. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
(From left) Erma Cettolin with dog Blackie and friends Eugene and Kathy Gallanetti. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Cettolin children on front porch (clockwise from top left) Fausto Jr., Gloria, Norma and Ricardo. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma Cettolin. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Norma Cettolin next to the family home. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Fausto Cettolin at work. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Fausto Cettolin with daughters Norma (left) and Gloria. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
(From left) Gloria, Norma and Ricardo Cettolin and their house. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
The rear of the house under construction. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma and Fausto Cettolin. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Cettolin children (from left): Gloria, Fausto Jr., Norma and Ricardo. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Cettolin children (from left): Ricardo, Gloria and Norma.. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma Cettolin (third from left) and six children (from left): Norma, Erma, Virginia, Gloria, Ricardo (with violin) and Fausto Jr. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
The Cettolin lily garden. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
The rear of the Cettolin house. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Virginia Cettolin in the garden. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
The Cettolin garden. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Two girls hide in the garden at the side of the Cettolin house. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Side of Cettolin house. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
(From left) Erma and Virginia Cettolin sit in a carved shrub next to the family house. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma Cettolin in the back of the family home. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Cettolin lily garden. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
Erma and Fausto Cettolin with nun, August 1960.
In later years, a gathering of the Cettolin siblings (from left): Erma, Norma, Gloria, Ricardo, Virgini and Fausto Jr. (Courtesy Virginia Cettolin)
A map of the Cettolin house and property. (Virginia Cettolin)
The wooden form Fausto Cettolin used to create the house’s columns. (Courtesy Marilyn Kennell)
Fausto Cettolin’s name, with “Autore” (author) embedded in the porch. (Clay Eals)
Dec. 2, 1926, Seattle Times, p24.
Aug. 17, 1929, Seattle Times, p13.
Jan. 13, 1935, Seattle Times, p34.
Nov. 30, 1933, Seattle Times, p25.
Sept. 27, 1935, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p3.
Sept. 27, 1935, Seattle Times, p3.
July 11, 1949, Seattle Times, p13.
Feb. 1, 1951, Seattle Times, p23.
Dec. 5, 1950, Seattle Times, p6.
Oct. 29, 1951, Seattle Times, p29.
Feb. 2, 1952, Seattle Times, p32.
Sept. 11, 1952, Seattle Times, p22.
July 3, 1954, Seattle Times, p4.
March 29, 1959, Seattle Times, p47.
March 9, 1961, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p27.
April 5, 1963, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p29.
April 4, 1963, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p36.
July 12, 1966, Seattle Times, p8.
Aug. 1, 1966, Seattle Times, p26.
Aug. 1, 1966, Seattle Times, p26.
Aug. 2, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11.
April 1, 1969, Seattle Times, p32.
April 20, 1969, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p68.
April 17, 1991, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p45.
March 29, 1992, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p87.
May 1, 1994, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p70.

 

Seattle Now & Then: 1966 Seattle Angels win Coast League championship

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Edo Vanni, former Seattle Rainiers outfielder and, in 1966, general manager of the Pacific Coast League-topping Seattle Angels, stands on the ledge of the team’s sky-high promotional sign at Sicks’ Stadium along Rainier Avenue South north of South McClellan Street. (David Eskenazi Collection)
NOW: Former 1966 SeAngels batboy George Bianchi (left) and part-time catcher John Olerud (with wife Lynda) mimic Edo Vanni’s “Then” pose next to a weathered sign at Rainier and McClellan that memorializes Sick’s Stadium (later Sicks’ Stadium). The SeAngels caps and jerseys they are wearing were provided by Seattle baseball historian extraordinaire David Eskenazi. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Oct. 6, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Oct. 9, 2022

Aided by a Rodriguez, baseball flag last flew over Seattle in 1966
By Clay Eals

Once upon a time, a Seattle baseball team thrived on playoff hope. News stories brimmed with “pennant,” “flag” and “magic numbers” to success.

Sound familiar? Except we’re not talking about the 2022 Mariners. Instead, we salute the last Seattle pro-baseball team to win a championship — the Seattle Angels, who, one step below the majors, topped the Pacific Coast League in 1966.

Based at venerated Sicks’ Stadium (razed in 1979, now the site of a Lowe’s home-improvement store ) and managed by former pitching stalwart Bob Lemon (Hall of Fame, 1976), the team was dubbed the SeAngels by sportswriters to distinguish it from its Los Angeles-based parent club.

THEN3: The 1966 Seattle Angels team photo. Aurelio Rodriguez joined the team later. (David Eskenazi Collection)

Dotting the roster were former and future big-leaguers, including pitchers Jim McGlothlin, Roger Craig and Andy Messersmith and outfielders Jay Johnstone, Al Spangler and Bubba Morton. Veteran third-baseman Felix Torres led the team with 20 home runs and 90 runs batted in. Young first-baseman Charlie Vinson hit 19 homers, with 84 RBI.

THEN2: Official Seattle Angels portrait of Aurelio Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Mexican League in August 1966 and helped spark the Halos to the Pacific Coast League pennant. Note the “Leo” first name. (David Eskenazi Collection)

But firing up the SeAngels in their final weeks was a sensation from the Mexican League, an 18-year-old infielder whose last name matched that of Julio, today’s megawatt M’s star — Aurelio Rodriguez.

In his first game Aug. 18, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound shortstop went three-for-four. The Seattle Times’ headline: “SeAngels Pick Up Three Hits at Airport.” The future longtime major-leaguer played 17 games down the stretch for the ’66 SeAngels, hitting 254 and adding vim to the lineup. He made his first appearance in the majors the next year.

Unlike latter-day M’s luminary Alex Rodriguez, he was not nicknamed A-Rod. In fact, his first name often was shortened to Leo. He didn’t speak English, writers said, so he used sign language and was assisted in conversations by roomie Hector Torres, an infielder. After the SeAngels’ Western Division clincher, the Times’ Gil Lyons noted Rodriguez’ “ear-splitting smile.”

Rodriguez played 17 seasons for seven big-league teams, most notably the Detroit Tigers from 1971 to 1979. He was a strong-armed third-baseman in the majors, winning a Gold Glove in 1976. Rodriguez appeared in 2,017 major-league games and hit 124 homers. Tragically, he died in 2000 at age 52  while walking in Detroit when a car jumped a sidewalk and ran over him.

The 1966 season  became a jolly run for a team that synonym-seeking journalists called the Halos, Cherubs and Seraphs. The nailbiter playoff victory against Tulsa (head-scratchingly far from the Pacific Coast) stretched to all seven games. The SeAngels won the final contest 3-1.

Masterminding 44 player transactions that year was SeAngels general manager Edo Vanni, no stranger to pennants, having starred for the PCL-leading Seattle Rainiers in 1939-1941. “It’s a thrill, I’ll tell you,” Vanni said as the Halos entered their playoff. “If that’s what it takes to get major-league ball here, Seattle is in.”

His words were prescient. The Pilots arrived at Sicks’ for their solitary year in 1969, and one year after the old Kingdome opened in 1976, the M’s sailed into Seattle for good.

The rest is history — to be made.

THEN4: A 1966 Seattle Angels scorebook, which showcases Sicks’ Stadium beneath the superimposed SeAngels’ cartoon mascot Homer. (David Eskenazi Collection)

WEB EXTRAS

Special thanks to the incomparable  Dave Eskenazi for his help with this installment!

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

For a comprehensive look at the SeAngels’ 1966 season, click here.

Below are 23 additional photos and 43 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Workers hoist and assemble the Seattle Angels’ “Homer” emblem at Sicks’ Stadium in April 1967 after the team’s championship year. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Billy Murphy Seattle Angels. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Jay Johnstone, Seattle Angels. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Jim Englehart, 1968 Seattle Angels. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Coach Jimmie Reese, Chuck Vinson, Seattle Angels 1966. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Coach Jimmie Reese, Seattle Angels 1967. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels figure by cartoonist Bob Hale. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels Bob Lemon, Sporting News 1966 Minor Manager of the Year award. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels Bubba Morton, 1966 Seattle Angels Silver Glove award. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels bus sign. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels’ new manager Chuck Tanner, club president Bert West and general manager Edo Vanni with championship banner and trophy, December 1966. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Andy Messersmith, Seattle Angels 1966. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Bubba Morton, Seattle Angels 1966. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Al Spangler of Los Angeles Angels at exhibition game vs. SeAngels. August 1965. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels coach Jimmie Reese, 1966. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels’ Jim Campanis scores, Sept. 10, 1966, Sicks’ Stadium. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels Jim Campanis, Bill Kelso and Tom Summers celebrate pennant-winning victory Sept. 13, 1966. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels souvenir “Homer” decal, 1966. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels Bill Kelso, manager Bob Lemon, Jim Campanis and Don Wallace, 1966. (David Eskanazi Collection)
Seattle Angels’ Don Wallace holds ball he caught, initiating a double play to end the seventh game of the playoff vs Tulsa, Sept. 14. 1966, resulting in the PCL pennant. (David Eskenazi Collection)
(From left) Seattle Angels Marty Pattin, Bill Kelso, Jackie Warner, John Olerud, Jorge Rubio, trainer Curt Rayer, Mike White, Bill Spanswick, 1966. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Seattle Angels (from left) Al Spangler, Mike White, Bubba Morton. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Original Stu Moldrem newspaper art, 1965. (David Eskenazi Collection)
Aug. 13, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p9.
Aug. 13, 1966, Seattle Times, p6.
Aug. 19, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p23.
Aug. 19, 1966, Seattle Times, p1.
Aug. 19, 1966, Seattle Times, p55.
Aug. 20, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p13.
Aug. 21, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p35.
Aug. 21, 1966, Seattle Times, p67.
Aug. 22, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p23.
Aug. 22, 1966, Seattle Times, p19.
Aug. 23, 1966, Seattle Times, p33.
Aug. 24, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p28.
Aug. 24, 1966, Seattle Times, p15.
Aug. 25, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p18.
Aug. 25, 1966, Seattle Times, p74.
Sept. 1, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p32.
Sept. 2, 1966, Seattle Times, p17.
Sept. 4, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p17.
Sept. 4, 1966, Seattle Times, p25.
Sept. 5, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p21.
Sept. 6, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p31.
Sept. 6, 1966, Seattle Times, p19.
Sept. 9, 1966, Seattle Times, p57.
Sept. 10, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p10.
Sept. 15, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p26.
Sept. 16, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p43.
Oct. 20, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p21.
Jan. 5, 1967, Seattle Times, p30.
March 29, 1967, Seattle Times, p31.
July 10, 1967, Seattle Times, p14.
July 12, 1967, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p26.
July 13, 1967, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p26.
July 21, 1967, Seattle Times, p21.
July 24, 1967, Seattle Times, p18.
July 27, 1967, Seattle Times, p61.
Aug. 24, 1967, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p22.
July 30, 1967, Seattle Times, p43.
Aug. 31, 1967, Seattle Times, p36.
Sept. 2, 1967, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11.
Sept. 24, 1967, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p59.
March 31, 1984, Seattle Times, p28.
Sept. 24, 2000, Seattle Times, p44.

Seattle Now & Then: Roosevelt High, 1969

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Positive and reversed negative images from the title page of the 1969 Roosevelt High School yearbook show students on the school’s front walkways. (Courtesy Lea Vaughn)
NOW: In white logo T-shirts, Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE) leaders, along with other alums and supporters, gather Aug. 20 during the school’s centennial celebration. They are (front row, from left): Tami Brewer, new principal; Lea Vaughn, video lead, RARE co-chairs Tony Allison and Joe Hunter, Les Young, Allan Bergano, Robin Balee Ogburn, Kristi Blake, Leyla Salmassi, Robin Lange, Bruce Johnson, Jane Harris Nellams, Michelle Osborne, Gregg Blodgett, Tim Hennings, Hillary Moore, Jude Fisher, Steve Fisher and Bruce Williams; (back row, from left) Nejaa Brown, Catherine Bailey, Doug Seto, David Kersten, Duane Covey, John Richards, Cynthia Mejia-Giudici, Carol Haffar, John Vallot, Brooks Kolb, Doug Whalley, Janet Sage Whalley, Leslie Fikso Newell, Delos Ransom, Kris Day, Michael Bogan and Kim Peterson. RARE is open to Roosevelt alumni, students and supporters. For more info and to see the documentary film, visit RHS4RacialEquity.org. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Sept. 22, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Sept. 25, 2022

Roosevelt alums create film to prompt ‘difficult’ talks about race
By Clay Eals

It probably was intended purely as creative expression, but today it holds potent symbolism.

When Roosevelt High School students designed their 1968-69 yearbook, on the title page and on each of six section-introduction layouts they paired two versions of a large photo — the first appearing conventionally and the second in a reversed, negative format, as in this week’s “Then.”

Thus, in the first version, the faces of students at the largely white north-end school appeared as just that, largely white. In the reversed version, the faces became dark.

It was the first year in which Seattle Public Schools implemented its Voluntary Racial Transfer Program, an effort to avoid litigation over a perceived failure to integrate schools as mandated by the famous 1954 Supreme Court decision that struck down “separate but equal” education.

As shown in Roosevelt’s 1969 yearbook, the program had a relatively small but visible impact there. Of 1,865 students, about 75 (or 4%) were people of color, many bused from southern neighborhoods. One of those was Lea Vaughn, a biracial sophomore whose parents (father Black, mother white) chose for her to bus from the Central District, near Washington Park, to highly regarded Roosevelt and back.

Vaughn, a retired attorney and emerita University of Washington law professor, is at the core of a grassroots nonprofit, Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE), formed via Zoom during the national upheaval over the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

With a 21-member multi-ethnic board, RARE provides scholarships for students of color and has produced an engaging half-hour documentary, “Roosevelt High School: Beyond Black & White,” which aired twice this year on KCTS-TV and is available online.

With historical data and footage, along with provocative observations from 20 alums, educators and present-day students, the film seeks to “stimulate difficult discussions about race and education.” Interviewees conclude that despite Seattle’s efforts at voluntary, then mandatory busing, racial equity in city schools remains elusive.

THEN2: This is a portion of a 1936 Kroll map that color-coded areas of Seattle as green (“best”), blue (“still desirable”), yellow (“definitely declining”) and pink (“hazardous”). (Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity video)

They also characterize a perceived “Seattle nice” as “performative, not reformative” and address the “baked-in” effects of racist covenants and redlining in real-estate sales and rentals that the city finally upended in 1968. Startling is a 1936 Kroll map that codes areas of Seattle as green (“best”), blue (“still desirable”), yellow (“definitely declining”) and pink (“hazardous”).

Today, Vaughn lives in a Ballard neighborhood that her family would have been disallowed to inhabit when she was young. But she asserts, “I think because we used busing as the Band-Aid to not face redlining, we never really dealt with it.”

Clearly, the complexities of race bolster the longtime name of Roosevelt’s yearbook: “Strenuous Life.”

WEB EXTRAS

Thanks to Lea Vaughn, Peggy Sturdivant and the members of RARE for their help with this installment!

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are two PowerPoint presentations prepared for RARE by Vaughn and a list of discussion questions from the RARE video.

Click the image above to see a PowerPoint prepared for RARE by Lea Vaughn, “Schools, Property, Wealth and Inequality.”
Click the image above to see a PowerPoint prepared for RARE by Lea Vaughn, “What ARE You?”
Click the image above to read the pdf of discussion questions prepared by RARE.

Seattle Now & Then: Priteca and the Coliseum, 1916, 1925, 1950, 1987

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Designed exclusively as a movie house, the Coliseum at 500 Pike St. in August 1925 promotes actress Colleen Moore in the silent film “The Desert Flower.” For more Coliseum details and many more photos from the 1920s, visit PaulDorpat.com. (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
THEN2: In June 1950, the Coliseum’s altered half-dome marquee advertises “Kill the Umpire,” a baseball comedy with Seattle diamond clown Bill Schuster in a bit part as a shortstop. (David Eskenazi collection)
THEN3: In May 1987, nearly three years before the Coliseum closed, its rotating circular marquee with neon pillar, sans Oscar statue, advertises “Evil Dead II.” (Courtesy Colin Campbell Design)
NOW: Boarded up and backed by the 520 Pike Building, the 1916 terra-cotta Coliseum Theatre (until 2020 a Banana Republic store) shines in the late July sun. (Clay Eals)

 

Published in The Seattle Times online on Sept. 11, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Sept. 8, 2022

Priteca’s captivating Coliseum still shines brightly downtown
By Clay Eals

Back in 1989 when I was helping to save West Seattle’s Admiral Theatre, word came out that downtown’s Coliseum Theatre, which opened in 1916, also was endangered. So I did what came naturally — went there to see a film. In it, Morgan Freeman portrayed the notoriously tough New Jersey high-school principal Joe Clark. Based on a song, its title was “Lean on Me.”

To appreciate the grandeur of what was considered the nation’s first movie palace, I climbed to the top of its balcony. The view was startling. I sat mere feet from the Italian Renaissance-style ceiling beams. The rake was so steep that only by splaying my knees could I glimpse the screen far below.

Today, as a theater, the Coliseum is largely a memory, its closing night coming 32 years ago, on March 11, 1990, with the sci-fi thriller “Tremors.”

When a plan emerged in 1992 to restore and convert the Coliseum to a Banana Republic outlet, then-Seattle Mayor Norm Rice declared, “There won’t be a more stunning building this side of the Taj Mahal” in India. The clothier operated inside the city-landmarked structure from 1994 until the pandemic sank the store in 2020.

THEN4: In 1916, young architect “Benny” Priteca works inside the Coliseum building he designed. (Museum of History & Industry 2011.49.29)

The trendsetting, terra-cotta Coliseum was one of 60 major West Coast theaters (including the Pantages chain and, yes, the still-operating Admiral) designed by architect Bernard “Benny” Marcus Priteca (1886-1971). With 2,400 seats and hailed by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as “the last word in picture playhouse construction,” the Coliseum opened when Priteca was just 26.

Scotland-born into an eastern European Jewish family, Priteca had been lured to Seattle by the city’s first world’s fair, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. His affection blossomed. As he told The Seattle Times’ Don Duncan while puffing on a cigar eight months before his death, “Washington and Oregon are the world!”

His designs — the lifelong bachelor never retired — extended to Seattle’s Bikur Cholim synagogue (now Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute), Renton’s now-gone Longacres racetrack and even a Paige auto grille and windshield. But the stage was his steadfast siren.

Arguably his most captivating creation was the Coliseum, whose showcase signage changed with the times. Notably, its concave corner half-dome, topped by a massive glass cupola, gave way in late 1950 to a rotating circular marquee and neon pillar featuring filmdom’s golden Oscar. The weather-damaged statue was removed in 1966.

Priteca told Duncan he wished that “Seattle would just stop growing, period.” Perhaps he also would have liked his Coliseum to screen movies forever. It still shines at Fifth & Pike. As the “Lean on Me” lyrics proclaim, “… there’s always tomorrow.”

WEB EXTRAS

Thanks to Lawrence Kreisman , Wendy Malloy, Dave Eskenazi, Colin Campbell and Gavin MacDougall for their help with this installment!

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are an additional video, 28 additional photos (including a gallery of 22 early 1920s Coliseum images from Historic Seattle) and 49 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column. These include five previous “Now & Then” columns related to Priteca and the Coliseum by column founder Paul Dorpat!

(VIDEO: 6:51) Click the image above to see video of Seattle theater historian Lawrence Kreisman discussing archiect B. Marcus Priteca and the Coliseum Theatre. (Clay Eals)
An alternate view of the magnificent exterior of the Coliseum. (Clay Eals)
An alternate view of the magnificent exterior of the Coliseum. (Clay Eals)
An alternate view of the magnificent exterior of the Coliseum. (Clay Eals)
An alternate view of the magnificent exterior of the Coliseum. (Clay Eals)
An alternate view of the magnificent exterior of the Coliseum. (Clay Eals)
1923 Coliseum, “The Fighting Blade.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1924 Coliseum, “A Self-Made Failure.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1924 Coliseum, “A Son of the Sahara.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1924 Coliseum, “Cytherea.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1924 Coliseum, “Her Night of Romance.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1924 Coliseum, “Inex from Hollywood.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1924 Coliseum, “Sandra.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1924 Coliseum, “Sundown.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1924 Coliseum, “Those Who Dance.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “Graustark.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “Her Sister from Paris.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “If I Marry Again.” (Courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “Infatuation.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “New Toys.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “Shore Leave.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “The Half Way Girl.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “The Marriage Whirl.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “The New Commandment.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “The Talker.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1925 Coliseum, “Why Women Love.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
1926 Coliseum, “Mlle. Modiste.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)

 

1925 Coliseum, “Soul Fire.” (Frank Jacobs, courtesy Historic Seattle)
Jan. 9, 1916, Seattle Times, p5.
Jan. 9, 1916, Seattle Times, p13.
Aug. 13, 1918, Seattle Times, p7.
Feb. 23, 1930, Seattle Times, p28.
Jan. 6, 1935, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p81.
Nov. 26, 1950, Seattle Times, p29.
Dec. 25, 1950, Seattle Times, p21.
Dec. 26, 1950, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
Dec. 27, 1950, Seattle Times, p15.
Dec. 28, 1950, Seattle Times, p9.
Dec. 29, 1950, Seattle Post-Intelligener, p4.
Feb. 5, 1961, Seattle Times, p39.
April 17, 1966, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p104.
July 14, 1968, Seattle Times, p139.
Jan. 24, 1971, Seattle Times, p152.
April 25, 1971, Seattle Times, p46.
Oct. 3, 1971, Seattle Times, p82.
Oct. 3, 1971, Seattle Times, p82.
Oct. 5, 1971, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p34.
Oct. 7, 1971, Seattle Times, p49.