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Seattle Now & Then: The Jules Maes Saloon, 1936

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN1: The brick building at 5919 Airport Way S. was erected in 1898 and operated as a restaurant, grocery and hardware store until 1936, when this King County tax photo was taken. (Courtesy Puget Sound Regional Branch, Wash. State Archives)
NOW1: Kevin Finney (green T-shirt), artistic director of Drunken Owl Theatre, surrounds himself with cast members after a recent summer production. Plays submitted for the Sept. 16-17 Jules Maes-themed performances must include three prompts: Jules Maes as central character, the words “the oldest bar in Seattle” and the saloon’s original serving tray. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Sept. 7, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Sept. 10, 2023

Sudsy stories flow from a rowdy Georgetown saloon
By Jean Sherrard

Belgian-born Jules Maes (1867-1939), whose namesake saloon we feature this week, arrived in rambunctious Georgetown in the early 1900s and felt right at home.

Then unincorporated, Georgetown could claim a slightly longer history than Seattle, its northern neighbor. Homesteaders Henry Van Asselt, Jacob Maple and Luther Collins and their families had settled along the next-door banks of the winding Duwamish River on Sept. 16, 1851, almost two months before the Denny Party arrived at Alki Point.

Within 50 years, the settlers’ farmland transformed into a one-company town, housing the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company, largest brewery west of the Mississippi, whose famed Rainier Beer was wildly popular throughout the country.

Hundreds of brewery workers, including many recent immigrants, lived in nearby company-owned houses. In contrast to strait-laced Seattle, where suds stopped flowing at 2 a.m. and never on Sundays, Georgetown’s unregulated taverns, eateries and roadhouses were open round-the-clock, serving laborers the hoppy product of their labors. Visiting rowdies looking for trouble often found it here.

THEN2: A turn-of-the-20th-century portrait of handlebar-mustachioed Jules Maes in his prime. (Courtesy Rache Purcell)

Confident, shrewd and tenacious, Maes (pronounced MAZE) thrived in the lawless town, first as a scrappy bartender. Soon he took over the notorious Maple Leaf Saloon (one of several he managed) described in the Seattle Times as “one of the toughest dives in King County.” Gunplay and knife fights were common.

While reputedly generous to a fault, Maes was no saint, repeatedly facing arrest and fines for running illegal gambling operations and slot machines. Following Washington state’s early adoption of Prohibition in 1916, he often was charged with selling spiked “soft drinks” and ciders from his former taverns.

After repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Maes promptly resumed selling beer to loyal customers who christened him Georgetown’s unofficial mayor. Noted for his largess, he helped relieve Depression hard times with rarely repaid loans. In 1936, he opened the Jules Maes Saloon at 5919 Airport Way S., slyly backdating its founding to 1888.

The enigmatic chameleon begs a question: Was he a community pillar or lovable rogue? Modern-day Robin Hood or scheming Soapy Smith?

NOW2: Drunken Owl Theatre’s house band members (from left) Kevin Finney, Phil Kelley, Brett Sindelar, Jerry Stein and David Sorey offer a musical segue during a show in July. (Jean Sherrard)

Enter West Seattle impresario Kevin Finney, who will probe this mystery in a program of drama and song. His Drunken Owl Theatre operates on a shoestring while mounting exuberant variety shows in the Jules Maes Saloon’s tiny performance space, where earlier patrons once played backroom poker.

NOW3: Actors Peter Murray and Kirsten McCory perform a one-act comedy in July. (Jean Sherrard)

The troupe’s Sept. 16-17, 2023, performances will feature original plays, poetry and musical interludes playfully examining the life and times of Jules Maes, who reportedly never let truth get in the way of a good story. For more info and reservations, visit


For our on-site video 360, recorded in July, click here.

To see Clay Eals’ video of T.J. O’Brien, grand-nephew of Jules Maes, recalling family stories about his great uncle before the June 24, 2023, Drunken Owl audience, along with other videotaped segments from that show, visit the YouTube links below.

And scroll down further for more photos by Jean of the Drunken Owl Theatre in performance in July.


Here are more photos by Jean of the Drunken Owl Theater in performance in July:


Seattle Now & Then: The Glory of the Seas, 1908

THEN: Taken for the Seattle Times on Sept. 30, 1908, this portrait of “the Boneyard” at Eagle Harbor features a line of classic sailing ships. Glory of the Seas is second from the left. On it, Capt. Henry Gillespie made several long voyages, including one to Callao, Peru, before the ship’s owners converted the classic windjammer into a barge. It was eventually burned off West Seattle at Fauntleroy in 1923. (Courtesy Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society)
NOW; On the beach below Rose Loop Northeast at Bainbridge Island’s Eagle Harbor, Michael Jay Mjelde holds a copy of his book “From Whaler to Clipper Ship.” Over his shoulder can be seen “the boneyard,” still used by Washington State Ferries to anchor mothballed ferries. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on August 31, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Sept. 3, 2023

A rehabilitated ‘brute’ finds respect via a celebrated windjammer
By Jean Sherrard

The city of Troy. King Tut’s tomb. Sunken Spanish Armada gold.

The efforts of historians and explorers compelled to discover lost treasures are the stuff of legend — as well as popular film and fiction.

For Bremerton-born Michael Jay Mjelde, a passionate maritime quest began at age 17. That’s when he stumbled upon a yellowing periodical recounting the intentional burning of Glory of the Seas, a legendary windjammer just off the shore of West Seattle at Fauntleroy one century ago. The story of that immolation fueled his lifetime of research and writing.

The majestic 1869 clipper ship, constructed by renowned Boston shipbuilder Donald McKay, spanned an impressive 300 feet. Celebrated for its size, speed and beauty, it served faithfully for 40 years, hauling cargo across the world’s oceans under multiple masters.

One figure stood out in its eventful history: Henry Gillespie, the last captain to helm the ship during its final voyage as an American flag vessel.

The only known portrait of Henry Gillespie, from his US passport. (Courtesy Michael Mjelde)

In 1874, Gillespie (also at age 17) ran away to sea, bluffing his way aboard a New Bedford, Mass., whaler with false claims of experience. When the truth emerged, he faced relentless bullying and beatings from the crew, leading him to desert the ship the first time it reached port.

The big, burly youth had learned a rough-and-tumble lesson aboard the whaler. “A product of brutal times,” Mjelde says, “he became a brute.” But what most intrigued the longtime writer, editorial board member and former editor of The Sea Chest, journal of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, was the story of Gillespie’s gradual evolution to civility.

Mjelde’s meticulously researched, 456-page biography, “From Whaler to Clipper Ship” (Texas A&M University Press) details the seafarer’s career straddling decades of technological change, from wooden sailing ships to propeller-driven, steel-hulled schooners.

With wide-ranging primary sources, Mjelde charts Gillespie’s transformation “from a profane, brutal and sadistic chief mate [who used] belaying pins to enforce discipline … to a highly respected shipmaster fully suited to command.”

Mjelde credits much of Gillespie’s rehabilitation to his wife, Catherine, a Liverpool-born milliner “who helped him change his violent ways.” Within three years of their marriage, the reformed sailor was appointed to his first captaincy in 1895.

His three-year tenure (1906-09) with Glory of the Seas, then consigned to “the boneyard” of Bainbridge Island’s Eagle Harbor, proved bittersweet. Despite the ship’s continued seaworthiness, it was converted to a barge then burned for scrap metal.

A painting by artist Mark Myers of Glory of the Seas in its prime under full sail. (Courtesy Michael Mjelde)

Undaunted, Gillespie became captain of a U.S. Navy tanker during World War I. The helmsman made repeated trips across the Atlantic through submarine-infested waters. Eat your heart out, Indiana Jones.


To see our 360 degree video of the Eagle Harbor boneyard site, please click here.

Seattle Now & Then: London’s oldest photo, 1839

THEN: An 1839 daguerreotype featuring the bronze equestrian statue of Charles I, the only English king charged with and executed for treason. Furthest in the line of buildings stands the Banqueting House, completed by Inigo Jones in 1621.
NOW1: Derry-Anne Hammond, expert London Blue Badge guide, stands below the king’s statue, holding a copy of one of London’s first photos. Many Whitehall buildings were replaced or restored after World War II, but the Banqueting House remains. The Elizabeth Tower, aka Big Ben, completed in 1859, can be seen in the distance. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on August 20, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on August 17, 2023

Civil war and a king’s execution come alive in early London photo
By Jean Sherrard

Intrigued by an extraordinary portrait of 19th century London, I joined this summer’s post-pandemic hordes and ventured to the historic spot to attempt a repeat.

Within a year of Louis Daguerre’s groundbreaking first photo of a cityscape (in Paris, 1838), the French government acquired the rights to his daguerreotype process and magnanimously offered it “free to the world” on Aug. 17, 1839. Just days later, this week’s “Then” photo was captured. It’s the earliest extant image of London, within the first two years of Queen Victoria’s reign.

A French photographer identified only as M. De St-Croix offered Londoners a public demonstration of the new technology. Positioning his bulky box camera at Charing Cross, a conjunction of six thoroughfares just south of today’s Trafalgar Square, he exposed a silver-coated copper plate for several minutes.

A view looking north to Trafalgar Square from Charing Cross, the geographical heart of London. Lord Nelson atop his column looks down on the mounted King Charles I.

The resulting daguerreotype captured an equestrian statue of Charles I (1600-1649) framed by buildings lining Whitehall, several of which fell victim to the London Blitz of 1940-41.

Nearly 184 years later, Derry-Anne Hammond, a London Blue Badge Tourist Guide, met me beneath the king’s statue — the oldest bronze in London — to provide historical context.

Cast in 1633 by French sculptor Hubert Le Sueur, the bronze was designed to massage Charles’ ego, elevating his short stature atop an imposing war horse. But his reign soon was overshadowed by civil war between supportive royalists and Oliver Cromwell’s “roundheads,” also known as puritans.

“Charles I very much believed in the divine right of kings, and when Parliament disagreed, he shut them down,” Hammond said. “Then things went a bit awry.”

After years of confrontation, a frustrated Parliament accused the obstinate king of treason and sentenced him to death. He is the only English king ever so charged. On Jan. 30, 1649, at Whitehall’s Banqueting House, the king mounted a scaffold below a second-floor balcony.

A commemorative plaque of King Charles I is affixed to an exterior wall of the Banqueting House, site of his 1649 execution.

“Thousands of spectators waited on the street below,” Hammond said, “hoping his blood would spatter onto their handkerchiefs to keep as a macabre memento.” However, the anonymous executioner removed Charles’ head with a single, spatter-free blow.

For the next nine years, Oliver Cromwell ruled Britain as “lord protector,” replacing the monarchy with the Commonwealth of England until his death in 1658. By 1660, the royal line was restored with the accession of Charles II, who installed his father’s equestrian statue at its Charing Cross location. The statue faces in the direction of the still-standing Banqueting House, site of Charles I’s execution.

Banqueting House, created by Inigo Jones for James I, father of Charles I. It opened in 1622,.

In the shadow of De St-Croix, attempting to repeat his time-ravaged daguerreotype, I could just make out these echoes of history, muddled by light and shadow, lingering right beneath the surface.

Looking across a nearly empty Trafalgar Square towards the equestrian statue of Charles I.


Seattle Now & Then: Gas Works Park, 1910

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THEN1: Taken from northeast Queen Anne Hill, this 1910 view shows the coal gasification plant fully operational. Just behind it, across Portage Bay, stands the University of Washington, site of the previous year’s Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Virgin timber on the horizon lines what are known today as the View Ridge and Hawthorne Hills neighborhoods.
NOW: On a balmy June evening, park visitors dot Kite Hill. The preserved cracking towers, sometimes called Seattle’s iron Stonehenge, are the sole survivors among what were more than 1,400 U.S. gasification plants.

Published in The Seattle Times online on July 20, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on July 23, 2023

Gas Works: a belching hellscape turns post-industrial paradise
By Jean Sherrard

There was a time when gas lighting had no ulterior motives. The steady golden flame was an assurance of illumination on demand and a promise of innovations to come.

When the Seattle Gas Lighting Company lit up 5 city streets and 42 private homes on New Year’s Eve 1873, the sound of corks popping must have been accompanied by sighs of envy from denizens of darker Seattle.

For the fortunate few early adopters, the first gas, converted from Eastside coal, was delivered through hollowed-out cedar logs.

The nascent utility of settlers Arthur Denny and Dexter Horton grew rapidly to match increased demand, supplying more than 1,200 customers by 1892. By then, gas increasingly provided both light and heat for home appliances.

Eastern investors further expanded the utility, moving its production facilities to Brown’s Point on north Lake Union in 1906. Coal gasification was an immensely filthy process, requiring vast quantities of water that the then-undeveloped 20-acre lakeside tract could accommodate.

Over the next 50 years, belching out smoke, flames and fumes while contaminating soil, groundwater and sediment, the plant was an unwelcome neighbor, even after converting to marginally cleaner oil gasification in 1937. Many Wallingford houses were built to avoid the hellish view of tower effluvia. Complaints about the facility poured in throughout its half-century tenure.

: Spewing smoke and flames is the Seattle Gas Lighting Company’s facility, in a dramatic nighttime photo from 1947. For gasping, soot-covered Wallingford, it was a nightmare.

Relief greeted the plant’s closure in 1956 when the Trans Mountain Gas Pipeline opened, bringing natural gas from Canada to Washington state. The utility, renamed Washington Natural Gas, left 20 noxious acres behind. Given the view location, however, calls soon mounted to convert it into a city park.

Enter noted landscape architect and University of Washington professor Richard Haag (1923-2018). His 1962 proposal for adaptive reuse was revolutionary — and initially controversial. Following cleanup of the polluted site, Haag advocated preserving the 5-story cracking towers while converting the plant’s boiler house to a picnic shelter and its exhauster-compressor building into a brightly painted children’s play barn.

Richard Haag visits Gas Works Park in 2015 with colleague Thaisa Way, University of Washington professor of landscape architecture and author of “The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag.” The concrete pillars once supported tracks for coal trains supplying the gasification plant.

A 45-foot high Great Mound (aka Kite Hill), made of construction fill, would cover polluted soil while providing breathtaking vistas from what had been a choking hellscape.

In October 1973, Gas Works Park began opening in stages, and was immediately acclaimed as one of Seattle’s favorite parks. Designated a Seattle landmark in 1999, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

Today, park cleanup is ongoing. Reducing toxic lake sediment is next in a series of environmental remediations. But this rough diamond in the crown of Seattle parks is worth the effort — no gas lighting required.


For Paul Dorpat’s original 2015 column featuring an interview with landscape architect Richard Haag, click here!

Seattle Now & Then: The Seattle Public Library’s Green Lake Branch, 1910

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THEN1: The Green Lake Branch of the Seattle Public Library, just before opening its doors in July 1910. Most likely librarian Mayme Batterson and children’s librarian Loretta Cole are posed among the threesome on the front steps. (Courtesy Museum of History & Industry)
NOW1: Today’s Green Lake Branch perches above the shores of one of Seattle’s most popular parks. In 2019, voters approved a levy to earthquake-proof the building, which will re-open in 2024. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on July 6, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on July 9, 2023

Renovations will bolster Green Lake’s ‘heart of the community’
By Jean Sherrard

While today’s billionaires are blowing up rockets in Earth’s lower atmosphere and dreaming of colonizing Mars, one of the richest men in the world at the dawn of the 20th century devoted himself to building an enduring legacy of brick and mortar.

Industrialist, bibliophile and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) emigrated from Scotland to the United States with his working-class parents in 1847. At 13, he worked in an Allegheny cotton mill, changing bobbins 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. From these unlikely beginnings, Carnegie’s industrial innovations and political machinations resulted in a vast steel empire.

A notorious strikebreaker noted for paying his workers abysmally low wages, the complicated robber baron also publicly supported progressive tax laws, including estate taxes. Famously he insisted, “The man who dies rich, dies in disgrace.”

Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1913, age 78. His sale of Carnegie Steel to US Steel in 1901 made him one of the richest men of his era.

Indeed, by the time of his death, Carnegie had donated 90% of his wealth, largely in funding construction of 2,509 libraries throughout the English-speaking world — 1,689 in the United States alone.

Moreover, committed to wide accessibility of literature and reading, Carnegie promoted unrestricted “open stack” policies, encouraging library patrons to browse freely among shelves of books.

One of 7 extant Carnegie library buildings in Seattle, the Green Lake Branch was built on land purchased chiefly by neighborhood contributions. Carnegie’s foundation fronted $35,000 (around $1.2 million in today’s dollars) for construction of the two-story edifice.

Designed by Seattle architects Woodruff Somerville and Joseph Cote in French Renaissance Revival style while hewing to Carnegie’s prescriptions, the elegant structure has more than held its own, nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and designated a Seattle landmark in 2001.

Dawn Rutherford, the Seattle Public Library’s interim northwest regional manager, and Elisa Murray, digital communications specialist, provide reflections at the branch, the first of three unreinforced masonry Carnegie library structures to be shuttered for seismic retrofitting, ADA accessibility upgrades, conversion to an electric heat pump system and significant interior renovations.

Library staffers Elisa Murray (left) and Dawn Rutherford look up from a freshly dug pit where seismically reinforced foundations are to be poured. Project engineer Jordan B. and superintendent Danny Werven (right) examine exposed glacial till. “Almost as hard as concrete,” Werven says. (Jean Sherrard)

Will Carnegie’s investment in libraries continue to yield dividends in today’s digital era? “The more we’re online,” Rutherford says, “the more we need a physical place that we can come together.” For young and old, she says, seeking to understand and adapt to changing technologies, libraries remain “the beating heart of the community.”

Besides, Murray adds, “People still love their books, and at the library, books are our baseline.”

Not having died with the most toys, Carnegie, a man of seemingly irreconcilable contradictions, left behind gifts that will enrich and enlighten terrestrial communities for generations to come.


More interior photos of seismic and facility improvements:

The original commemorative plaque
Preparing the library’s foundation for new footings to support the retrofit.
The former children’s section
Construction seen from the main floor
From left, Elisa Murray, Dawn Rutherford, Jordan B. and Danny Werven stand above the abyss.


Seattle Now & Then: The Fisher Flouring Mill on Harbor Island, 1917

(As ever, click to enlarge photos)

THEN: A 1917 view of the Fisher Flouring Mill looking northeast across the Duwamish River’s west channel. Harbor Island, completed in 1909, was built of fill from the Yesler and Jackson Street regrades and dredge spoils from the river’s bed. Until the late-1930s, it was the largest artificial island in the world. (courtesy Phelps Fisher)
NOW1: Standing atop the shuttered mill’s vast warehouse are (from left) author and scone-maker Jim Erickson, Phelps Fisher and Kate Becker, King County creative economy director. Becker heads efforts to repurpose the warehouse as a film and TV production studio. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on June 22, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on June 25, 2023

The flouring Fisher family legacy–from scones to silver screen
By Jean Sherrard

A Now & Then pop quiz: What do the once-mighty Fisher Communications Company, the Puyallup Fair and recently crowned King Charles III have in common? A hint: It’s dense, fragrant and dolloped with butter, clotted cream and fresh jam.

Kudos to all who came up with (drum roll) … the scone.

Jim Erickson will sign copies of his book at the Invitation Bookshop in Gig Harbor on June 27, the Lakewood Barnes & Noble on June 30, the Puyallup Library on July 8, and King’s Books in Tacoma on July 11.

James Erickson, author of the lavishly illustrated “Washington’s Fisher Scones: An Iconic Northwest Treat since 1911,” records the pastry’s Scottish origins. He guesses that the medieval town of Scone (also noted for the Stone of Scone, atop which all British monarchs have been crowned for 800 years) may have baked an eponymous prototype in the early 1500s.

In his new book, Erickson documents the entrepreneurial, non-royal Fishers, who, seeking opportunities in a booming port city, relocated in 1911 from Montana to Seattle.

Just-completed 350-acre Harbor Island at the mouth of the Duwamish River, constructed of fill from dredging and recent Seattle regrades, with ready access to shipping and room to grow, proved the ideal location for their flour mill.

Largest in the western United States, the Fisher plant was “equipped to grind about 10,000 bushels of wheat … [and] create 2,000 barrels of flour a day.” But in the fiercely competitive flour business, Erickson writes, effective ads were key. Reaching into its Scotch ancestry, the family decided “to make scones and give them away or sell them for a nickel.”

In 1915, the “sweet treats” were debuted to acclaim at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, followed that year with the first annual appearance of a Fisher Scone booth at the Puyallup State Fair.

A decade later, another promotional brainchild beckoned. Fans of the then-new medium of radio, the Fishers purchased a broadcast frequency — available following the arrest of its previous owner, notorious Seattle bootlegger Roy Olmsted. The station, KOMO, went on the air Dec. 31, 1926, promoting Fisher Blend Flour.

In years to come, the family built a local media empire comprising dozens of radio and TV stations. Phelps Fisher, today a vigorous 90-year-old, worked his way up from the flour mill to chair the board of Fisher Communications.

For Fisher, it’s always been about family. “We worked together, supported each other and managed to get along,” he says. The result: “a wonderful, honest, productive business for the better part of the 20th century.”

Kate Becker welcomes Phelps Fisher (left) and Jim Erickson to a vast soundstage inside the 117,000-foot former Fisher Flour warehouse, now Harbor Island Studios. During the pandemic, several TV series were produced here, including an Amy Poehler production, “Three Busy Debras.”

The flour mill was sold to Pendleton Flour Mills in 2001 and recently was transformed to a film studio. Meanwhile, Fisher Communications was acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group in 2016. The Fisher Scone, notes Jim Erickson, “has outlived the very brand it served to promote.”


No 360 this week. However, we offer this illuminating interview with the delightful Phelps Fisher.

Phelps Fisher on the steps of the former Fisher Flour office building..

Plus a few more photos from the former Fisher Flour/now Harbor Island Studios site:

A huge “green screen” in place at Harbor Island Studios.
The last time Phelps Fisher visited, the warehouse was filled with sacks of flour.
A southeast view from the warehouse roof along a branch of the Duwamish river.
A trapdoor in the warehouse reveals the waters of the Duwamish below.
A northerly view of the huge flour mill.


Seattle Now & Then: Marvin Oliver poles, 1984

THEN1: In March 1984, artist Marvin Oliver is interviewed by a local TV news crew near the traditional pole he designed. To view a 2018 interview with Oliver discussing his life and art, please visit (Victor Steinbrueck)
NOW1: Minutes before construction workers detached it from a support structure, Marylin Oliver poses in front of her brother’s traditionally designed pole.

Published in The Seattle Times online on June 8, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on June 11, 2023

Downed totem poles in Market’s Steinbrueck Park will rise again
By Jean Sherrard

There’s a temporary gap in Seattle’s smile. If you’ve visited the Pike Place Market recently and strolled its northern limits, you may know that something’s missing.

On a blustery Sunday in April, two 50-foot-tall totem poles that stood in Victor Steinbrueck Park for nearly 40 years were painstakingly detached from their steel and concrete supports. The weather-battered sentinels were lowered by crane to waiting truck beds on the new Elliott Way and hauled into city storage for the duration of the now-shuttered park’s reconstruction.

The history of these colorful and beloved works of art begins with one man’s passion.

Architect, designer and preservationist Victor Steinbrueck (1911-1985), credited with saving Pike Place Market from the wrecking ball, sought a work of art to crown a small park just north of the Market, co-designed with Gasworks Park creator Richard Haag. The goal “was to honor the people who have come before,” says daughter Lisa Steinbrueck, “on land formerly occupied by Coast Salish people.”

Hoisted by a crane, the Farmer’s Market pole features male and female figures intended to memorialize the Pike Place Market’s farmer/producers.

In 1982, Steinbrueck commissioned Quinault artist Marvin Oliver (1946-2019) to produce two contrasting totem poles. Then in his mid-30s, Oliver was a University of Washington professor, acclaimed for his innovative application of traditional forms.

In two years, Oliver and carver James Bender completed both poles. The first, topped by back-to-back male and female figures, honored founders of the Market’s Farmer’s Market. The second, of traditional design, arranged figures, from bottom upward, of bear, orca, human and a raven clutching a Coast Salish spindle.

Mayor Charles Royer dedicates the installed poles in then-Market Park in 1984. (Victor Steinbrueck)
The same view just before the poles were removed. Elliott Way opened for traffic days later.

Their installation in 1984 was marked by the entire city. Mayor Charles Royer spoke to an appreciative crowd in then-Market Park, covered widely on TV and radio and by both daily newspapers. Following Steinbrueck’s death in 1985, the park was renamed for him.

By contrast, the poles’ recent removal was unheralded, leaving onlookers perplexed. “I grew up with them,” said one Market regular. “Aren’t they city landmarks?” (They aren’t.)

Steinbrueck family members kept vigil, with Oliver’s sister Marylin. She monitored progress throughout the day, ensuring that the poles never touched dirt (if they had, by tradition, destruction must follow). She has embraced a mission —  that her brother’s faded artwork “be restored by other Native artists and carvers.”

Side by side, the poles fill a 50-foot-long truck bed. A 40-year perch above the waterfront have left them needing restoration.

Shannon Glass, Seattle Parks senior project manager, says the poles likely will be reinstalled with fanfare when Victor Steinbrueck Park reopens.

For Marylin Oliver, this cannot come too soon. “History cannot be taken away,” she says. “It can be renewed.” A return of the poles, she says, will “bring healing to the city.”


Lots of extra photos with details of the poles’ removal. And for those interested in hearing more from artist Marvin Oliver, click through to the following video, recorded by Jean Sherrard at the Pike Place Market in 2018.

Seattle Now & Then: Montlake Bridge construction, 1925

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THEN1: Just months before it opened, the double-leaf bascule Montlake Bridge is seen here under construction on Feb. 6, 1925. Designed by the Seattle City Engineering Department, it measured 182 feet between trunnions, with a 68-foot-long reinforced concrete approach at either end. (Courtesy MOHAI)
NOW: On a calm day in April, a single sailboat passes beneath the bridge. The Montlake Cut today is lined with stately trees, several of which obscure the bascule bridge’s south tower. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on May 25, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 28, 2023

The oft-rejected Montlake Bridge finally connected Seattle to a field of dreams
By Jean Sherrard

In the stirring 1989 blockbuster “Field of Dreams,” a 30-something farmer is driven to build a seemingly chimerical baseball venue in his cornfield.

Darwin “Dar” Meisnest, shown here in his 20s. A graduate of Lincoln High School and the University of Washington, he served as the university’s athletic manager in 1919-28. (courtesy David Eskenazi)

A similar drive might have inspired Darwin Meisnest, the University of Washington’s youthful graduate manager (athletic director in today’s parlance) as he lobbied for a permanent crossing of the Montlake Cut, which divided the UW’s new stadium from points directly south.

The final — and easternmost — bascule (French for teeter-totter) intended to traverse the Lake Washington Ship Canal (1916) was, for Seattle voters, a bridge too far. They already had funded completion of the Ballard, Fremont and University bridges but repeatedly balked at $500,000 to span the Montlake Cut.

Meisnest (1896-1952, popularly known as “Dar”) already was instrumental in the 1920 erection of the UW’s majestic new outdoor bowl, today known as Husky Stadium. He opted to bend his shoulder to the Sisyphean task of bridge-building.

The UW’s new stadium, completed in 1920

For the stadium’s inaugural football contest on Nov. 27, 1920, between Dartmouth and the UW, Meisnest installed a footbridge atop a row of barges that straddled the canal. Thousands of grateful south-side gridiron fans crossed over, packing just-christened Washington Field. (Dartmouth’s “Hanover horde” won, 28-7.)

Though teased by the temporary span, voters in 1921 continued to point thumbs down for the bascule.

An undaunted Meisnest then pulled out all stops, invoking school spirit. UW alums were encouraged to twist the arms of tight-fisted friends and neighbors. Throughout the city were posted dozens of printed signs bearing the slogan, “You have your bridge, let us have one, too!”

A twist of fate — unforeseen, or was it? — turned the tide.

Less than a week before a 1924 election in which a Montlake bond issue appeared on the ballot for the sixth time, the University Bridge malfunctioned, stranding thousands of unhappy motorists in a 20-block long traffic jam. Opined The Seattle Times, “Seattle should build the Montlake bridge now. Already it has been delayed too long.”

On May 8, voters finally and overwhelmingly agreed.

The completed Montlake Bridge, soon after its opening

In little more than a year, the Montlake Bridge was completed, opening June 27, 1925. Its graceful Gothic design mirrored the architecture of the university, as well as the nearby stadium.

: On a windy day circa 1929, boaters holding onto their hats fill the Montlake Cut in this exuberant Seattle Post-Intelligencer photo.

A hyperbolic Seattle Post-Intelligencer heralded its opening as an “epochal event” and a “milestone in the city’s forward march.” It singled out Meisnest (“not long out of his teens”) for his “mighty and untiring efforts,” even calling for a statue to be raised in his honor.

Not bad for the young booster who dreamt up a field and a bridge to reach it.


To see our narrated 360 degree video of the Montlake Cut, CLICK HERE.

Also, here is a one-minute video taken from the air on Feb. 27, 2021, focusing on the ASUW Shell House and Husky Stadium but that features the Montlake Bridge and Cut as part of the context:

Seattle Now & Then: The King County Courthouse, circa 1900

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN1: The King County Courthouse and attached jail loomed above Seattle atop First Hill for nearly 40 years. In 1916, the courthouse moved to its current digs on Third Avenue between James Street and Yesler Way, leaving behind only prisoners and jailers. (Webster & Stevens, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: This view looks southeast at Harborview Medical Center’s south parking structure, whose roof also serves as a medical heliport. An Airlift Northwest helicopter takes flight on a recent spring afternoon. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on May 11, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 14, 2023

Fireproof ‘Cruel Castle’ rises on Profanity Hill after big blaze
By Jean Sherrard

In a popular Middle Eastern folktale, the magic words “Open Sesame” provide poor woodcutter Ali Baba entrée to a treasure-bedecked robber’s den.

After Seattle’s devastating June 6, 1889, fire, which burned nearly 30 downtown blocks, the incantation “fireproof” conjured access to a hopeful future. As smoke rose from the ashes, residents assembled in a surviving Armory unanimously voicing their intention to rebuild “in brick and stone.”

Willis A. Ritchie, circa 1890, at the height of his career. By the time he reached his mid-30s, demand for his designs waned. (Public Domain)

When precocious, if prickly, architect Willis Ritchie (1864-1931) arrived in the scorched city a month later, a few days shy of his 25th birthday, he shrewdly adopted “fireproof” as his watchword, opening doors to rich opportunities.

After taking an architectural correspondence course and apprenticeship in his teens, the cocksure Ritchie had designed banks, opera houses and courthouses throughout Kansas by his early 20s. Overseeing construction of the Wichita Federal Building supplied on-the-job training in the latest fire-resistant techniques.

It wasn’t long before the newly arrived fire-proofing architectural prodigy won over Seattle — and King County — planners.

By late summer, his designs for a new, flammable King County Courthouse were adopted, and construction soon commenced atop First Hill. Proclaimed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Nov. 3: “It will undoubtedly be the finest building of the kind on the coast.”

Local competitors were less enthusiastic. Decades later, noted architect John Parkinson disdainfully recalled Ritchie: “With his hard, slick looking face… [he was] someone we all despised, but he managed to get the public buildings.”

When the courthouse opened on June 6, 1891, precisely two years after the Great Fire, lawyers and clerks dismissed the structure as “The Gray Pile,” the “Tower of Despair” and the “Cruel Castle,” reached only by climbing “Profanity Hill.” Opined The Seattle Times, “[It] deserves its bad name… Struggling up a steep hill with armfuls of law books [is] not conducive to judicial dignity.”

The new courthouse, despite its graceless tower, became Ritchie’s calling card. Commissions for “fireproof” public buildings poured in, and his mostly Romanesque revival designs soon dotted the state. Port Townsend’s Jefferson County Courthouse (1891), Olympia’s Thurston County Courthouse (1892) and the Spokane County Courthouse (1895), modeled after France’s Loire Valley chateaux, all survive.

The Spokane County Courthouse, modeled after French chateaux

The King County Courthouse’s ungainly profile photobombed countless Seattle cityscape portraits for four decades. But on Jan. 8, 1931, the flammable pile was dynamited, making room for King County Hospital, now Harborview.

In mid-1930, several months before the courthouse (right) was demolished, the new campus of King County Hospital, now Harborview, neared completion. (Seattle Municipal Archives)

To quote column founder Paul Dorpat, “In the moment it might take an exhausted barrister to mouth a monosyllabic indecency, the old embarrassment was leveled.”

Nine days later, Willis Ritchie died without so much as a “Close Sesame” to mark his passing.


First, a link to our 360 video of this column.

Next, an edifying contribution from the inimitable Stephen Edwin Lundgren, longtime friend of the column:

The pile of standing rubble that was the old courthouse  had a magnificent 360 view which I once saw captured in a series of Frank Nowell photographs taken from the bell tower level (found in an estate sale salvage,  whereabouts now unknown but believed to be in good hands)

The former King County Courthouse wasn’t quite levelled in an eyeblink (it took a while to disassemble) when the structure was demolished in the early 1930s, and thefoundations remained, visible in aerial views of the site and causing nearly $100,000 in additional expenses to remove when the current South Viewpark Garage you have pictured, (apparently forgotten by the planners) when the garage and helipad were constructed in the late 1990s as the project architect once told me.  

The site was vacant during the Yesler Terrace housing era (surrounded by those buildings 1941-1964) until the west side of Yesler hill was regraded (yes, that’s the word) for the freeway cut), and used for a MASH chopper landing site at the beginning of the trauma hospital era in the 1970s, the ER entrance then still being on the back (west) side. 

You might not know that Yesler (southwest First Hill) was proposed to be more fully regraded in a secret 1929 Seattle City Council ordinance, which obviously didn’t happen. David Williams missed that one. 

Also, the King County supervisors, after a poll of Seattle Times readers, accepted their vote to name the new hospital HARBORVIEW, in a 1929 resolution. At its 1931 dedication it was referred to as “Harborview Hospital” (photograph is of the envisioned campus, rather than the center tower and nursing dorm, the rest not built until decades later). There was a brief consideration by trustees (still County appointed) to rename it simply “County Hospital” in late 1931 but that didn’t happen. 

Its current name is Harborview Medical Center, after the council suggested last decade that their ownership rights be more fully recognized, and the operator UW Medicine and owner King County, and MLK’s image were added to our logo.

The former late 20th century  version of our logo, after the UW Medicine inception, with the center tower and cloud swoosh

or this reverse version: 

Also, if you ever do a column on the former 1910 public safety building (Yesler), note that the City Hospital there was merged into Harborview in 1931.  Per advise from the Municipal Archivist (Scott Cline) email of March 25 2015: 

According to records in the City Clerk’s Office, arrangements were made for Harborview to take over the City Hospital once the former was constructed. The transfer of operation must have taken place in March or April of 1931, as we have correspondence from the County in early April indicating the Harborview construction was finished and the transfer of operations complete. In addition, in June, the City transferred physical therapy equipment that had belonged to the City Hospital to Harborview for the consideration of one dollar.

Thanks, Stephen!


Seattle Now & Then: Smithers Farm in Renton, 1891

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THEN1: In 1891, the Smithers farm was contracted to supply hay for mules that hauled coal from local mines. Several of the posers have been identified as members of the Thorne family, who were Smithers in-laws. Just behind the foreground horse is Diana Smithers, Erasmus Smithers’ wife. (Ron Edge collection)
Prize-winning twins Lydia (left) and Linda Della Rossa stand at the entrance of McLendon Hardware near Rainier Avenue South and South Fourth Place, former site of Smithson’s farm and Renton Hospital. The sisters still live in the area. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on April 27, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on April 30, 2023

Harvesting history, trivia – and a whole stable of animal phrases – from a pastoral photo of 1891 Renton
By Jean Sherrard

When historian Ron Edge forwarded this week’s picturesque portrait of the farm of Renton founder Erasmus Smithers (1830-1905), I melted into a sentimental puddle.

Like many Americans long removed from pastoral life, I still use its idioms, from “Hold your horses” and “stubborn as a mule” to “till the cows come home.” Also, I began life near this spot. So to complement our 1891 “Then” photo, I’m all in on making hay while the sun shines.

The young Smithers was lured from Virginia to the Northwest by the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850. Upon arriving in 1852, he secured 160 acres near the confluence of the Black and Cedar rivers. Following the death of neighbor Henry Tobin, Smithers expeditiously married Tobin’s widow Diana in 1857. Their combined holdings totaled 480 acres, displacing the Duwamish village that had straddled the rivers for millennia.

Reputedly guided by Duwamish chief Jimmy Moses, Smithers discovered a seam of coal on a nearby hillside. Soliciting investment from a wealthy Port Blakely lumberman, Capt. William Renton, he founded the Renton Coal Mine, soon providing right-of-way for the nascent Seattle-Walla Walla Railroad. The site became a thriving rail hub, its huge bunker serving mines throughout the eastern foothills. A grateful Smithers deeded Moses a single acre on the Black River (dried-up today).

Erasmus Smithers, circa 1885.

With mining partners, Smithers platted the town of Renton in 1875. His original grid of streets and avenues remains largely intact south of the Cedar River.

This spring, I met fraternal twins Lydia Della Rossa Delmore and Linda Della Rossa outside vast McLendon’s Hardware, near the farm site, on which, in 1945, Renton Hospital opened. It was where the three of us were born.

In an undated aerial, the Renton Hospital, designed by Seattle architect George W. Stoddard and opened in 1945 as a temporary post-World War II facility, was nicknamed the “wagon wheel” due to its formation. The renamed Valley General Hospital moved south and opened in 1969. (Dorpat Collection)

Aptly nicknamed the “wagon wheel” for its hub-and-spoke formation, the hospital was designed by Seattle architect George W. Stoddard (1896-1967), also noted for Seattle’s Memorial Stadium (1947) and Aqua Theater on Green Lake (1950).

While layers of concrete and box stores offer few links to the past, the Della Rossa sisters, peering over a seemingly endless parking lot, had a story to tell.

At 4 a.m. New Year’s Day 1953, the two were born to Eddie and Angelina Della Rossa. Aiding the family’s fortune, the Toni hair-products company — whose popular “Which twin has the Toni?” ad campaign had swept the country — awarded them $500 for producing the year’s first set of twins born in the United States.

Born Jan. 1, 1953, Lydia (left) and Linda (first of the twins to emerge) demonstrate Gerber baby-level pulchritude. (Courtesy Lydia and Linda Della Rossa)

In one shake of a lamb’s tail, the Della Rossas were living like pigs in clover. On that, you can bet the farm.


For our narrated 360 video of this column, mosey on over here.

For a video interview with twins Lydia and Linda Della Rossa click here.