All posts by jrsherrard

Just a guy, ya know...

Seattle Now & Then: Civil Rights Protests at 11th and Pike, 1963 & 2020

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: An estimated 1,000 silent protesters head west on East Pine Street near 11th Avenue on June 15, 1963, bound for what is now Westlake Park. Photographer John Vallentyne captured the mid-march moment. The Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the NAACP sponsored the protest. (Courtesy MOHAI)
NOW: Framed by bouquets of lilies at the same intersection, a lone Black Lives Matter protester, hands up, walks toward police lines on Thursday, June 4. The soon-to-be-abandoned East Precinct Station peeks out at top right. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on July 30, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on August 2, 2020)

In civil rights, what has – and hasn’t – changed in 57 years?
By Jean Sherrard

1963, the year of our “Then,” and today, arguably much has changed:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • The Fair Housing Act of 1968.
  • School desegregation.

So why do we often feel stuck in quicksand? Protest signs spaced 57 years apart could have been written by the same hand.

Nationally, amid a vision of hope, the summer of 1963 produced profound turmoil:

  • On June 11, Gov. George Wallace stood on the University of Alabama steps, blocking entry to two Black students until the National Guard cleared their path.
  • On June 12, NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated outside his Jackson, Miss., home.
  • On Aug 28, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place at the Lincoln Memorial, culminating with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s indelible “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • On Sept. 15, four young Black girls were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Ala.

In Seattle, 1,000 marchers gathered on the hot morning of Saturday, June 15, at Mount Zion Baptist Church at 19th Avenue and East Madison Street and were inspired by the words of Rev. Mance Jackson, pastor of Bethel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (today’s Curry Temple CME Church at 172 23rd Ave.).

Jackson called for “a plan of action,” demanding fair housing and employment practices for Black citizens, whose 10% jobless rate tripled that of the city overall.

“The time is now or never,” he said. “We declare war on … America’s greatest enemies: discrimination, segregation and racial bigotry. … We will have to sacrifice and suffer. Somebody may even have to go to jail.”

Our “Now” is from Thursday, June 4, 2020, 10 days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody convulsed the nation. After days of angry protest, police erected a temporary barricade at 11th Avenue and East Pine Street, separating them from Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

Late in the afternoon, a small group carrying bouquets of lilies and helium balloons pushed to the front of the crowd. A Black protester shouted an obscenity, stripped to his shorts and hopped the barricade, hands aloft. Alone, he advanced toward a line of squad cars.

Behind him, the crowd seemed to catch its breath. Some pleaded for him to turn back and avoid arrest. Others took up a chant: “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Shortly, the protester was arrested and taken into police custody.

In 1963, King challenged us to envision a world in which we can “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Then and now, accomplishing that arduous task is our civic duty.

WEB EXTRAS

THEN 2: The original caption of this P-I photo, also shot by John Vallentyne, read, “Police Sgt. C.R. Connery chats with Rev. Mance Jackson, urging marchers to tighten ranks to avoid traffic problems.” (courtesy MOHAI)

Also, check out our 360 degree video, narrated by Jean, shot on location at 11th and East Pine.

Plywood Art

(Published in the PacificNW Magazine of the Seattle Times on July 19, 2020)

THE BACKSTORY: Chronicling the bright art of a dark, coronaviral time

By Jean Sherrard

(click to enlarge photos)

In the last week of March, witnessing the suddenly quiescent streets of Seattle, I assigned myself the task of documenting the changes that were sure to follow. All but “essential” businesses and services had been closed, and my near-deserted hometown carried more than a whiff of post-apocalyptic sulfur.

A boarded-up, unpainted First Avenue block between Main and Washington Streets days after Gov. Jay Inslee’s March 23 stay-at-home proclamation.

In the Pike Place Market, owners of restaurants and many dozens of shops had closed until further notice, leaving behind lonely, “essential” islands of grocers, produce and fish shops. Usually chockablock with artisanal crafts and flowers, the market’s long tables were abandoned. A place that for me represents the beating heart of Seattle had suffered near-cardiac arrest.

On March 17, a deserted Pike Place Market.
The empty crafts market

Yet this was not my first pandemic rodeo. In August 1976, I took a gap year from college and volunteered halfway around the world as an aid worker in South Sudan during the world’s first recorded encounter with the Ebola virus. After months of quarantine, the outbreak abated, and I could travel home to immensely relieved parents.

Jean in South Sudan just outside Wau in 1976

By comparison, while it bears a lower mortality rate, COVID-19 nevertheless has proven significantly more infectious, casting a planet-wide shadow for the foreseeable future.

The same block of First Avenue was festooned with murals by the end of April.

In these uniquely dark times, however, my daily contact with works of art-in-progress provided me a palpable sense of hope, and I wasn’t alone. Many artists noted the warm reception from passersby as they worked. “So much gratitude,” marveled Katlyn Hubner, whose “Pup Pack” can be found just below. What’s more, the murals, interactive by nature, encouraged the recording of thousands of selfies.

“The Pup Pack” Katlyn Hubner
Doghouse Leathers, 715 E. Pike St.
Choosing “caution-cone orange” as her primary color, Hubner also meant to express welcome “for people who have been so depressed in their houses and are just trying to make the lonely walk to the grocery store. Going from blank plywood to full color,” she says, “gives a sense of hope to a neighborhood.”

No sooner had pandemic restrictions begun to ease than Black Lives Matter protests began, resulting in a vibrant new crop of political art, wielding its own set of fiery messages that demanded change. While this magazine’s deadlines limited me to chronicling art of the pandemic, the bare plywood installed more recently on the streets of downtown and Capitol Hill has opened up new vistas.

For those who seek an encyclopedic overview of the murals, local press Chatwin Books plans to publish a full-color book featuring more than 140 artworks from all over town, for which artists supplied their own photos. For more info, visit www.chatwinbooks.com.

THE MAIN STORY: Artists fill the bleak streets of our locked-down city with color and life

In many ways, it looked to be a spartan spring.

Throughout Seattle’s now-deserted commercial districts – including Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, Belltown and Ballard – shop and restaurant owners shuttered their plate-glass windows and doors with protective plywood panels following Gov. Jay Inslee’s March 23 “Stay Home Stay Healthy” order to slow the coronavirus.

There was no telling how long the panels would remain during the pandemic, but once colorful and vibrant streets were left hollowed out and drained of purpose. Raw wood surfaces offered tempting targets for graffiti and taggers. Yet where some saw bleakness, others saw opportunity.

Muralist and sign painter VK recalls the shock of seeing First Avenue south of Yesler after the governor’s order. Within hours, graffiti had materialized haphazardly on the raw wood surfaces. “My first thought,” he says, “was we’ve got to get down there and paint some murals.”

“Wish You Were Here” VK and Leo Shallat
Central Saloon, 207 First Ave S.
Sign painter and muralist VK watched the first plywood panels going up in Pioneer Square and immediately felt the urge to paint. “Guy Curtis, who owns the Central Saloon, is my godfather, and I’ve done art and signage for him for years. He asked us to put up a hopeful sign, and we did it out of love.” VK’s mural was among the earliest to appear in Pioneer Square.

All across Seattle, great minds were thinking alike. Kathleen Warren, artist and director of Overall Creative, working alongside the Alliance for Pioneer Square, the Ballard Alliance, the Broadway Business Improvement Area and the Downtown Seattle Association, put out a call for artists to submit proposals for mural art. The response was huge.

Belltown Pizza owner Doug Lee made a similar plea on Facebook and almost overnight was inundated with offers from more than 200 artists.

Adding to the mix, several business owners independently contracted with muralists to cover plywood with color.

In the weeks to come, murals reimagined and reinvigorated the empty streets. Some works were by established artists, others by street artists who cut their teeth on graffiti.

The response proved as myriad as might be expected from random humans facing times of turmoil. “Art is not about providing answers,” says Wakuda, another muralist, “but asking the right questions.”

“Regeneration” Wakuda
200 First Ave. S.
The mural wrapping the southeast corner of First Avenue and Washington Street oddly complements its historic, somewhat decrepit surroundings. These are not flowers or coral but fungi writ large. “I have this weird thing about mushrooms,” Wakuda says. “They re-colonize the dead and the disused, bringing beauty and meaning to a lifeless place, which is exactly what art does.” While painting on the street, Wakuda wears a jumpsuit and aerosol can holster of his own design. “It signals that I’m someone at work with reason to be there.”

Anne Siems, a prominent Northwest artist whose gallery show had just ended in February, had never painted a mural. The large format both intrigued and unnerved her. “Covering an entire wall with art is kind of like a cave painting,” she says. “It has an inherent power that can draw us in with beauty.”

“Beauty & Terror” Anne Siems
Harvard Avenue East, north of Pike Street
Soon after her gallery show closed, Siems negotiated an emotional tightrope. For her first mural and largest painting ever, she explored her rising tensions. “In my art, I try to find incredible beauty, and yet there’s a sort of splinter under the skin. It tells us everything is ephemeral. … Yet this sense of beauty is something our souls really need.”

From comfort and comedy to biting commentary and remonstration, the new murals recalled the past, reflected the present and affirmed the future.

As Inslee’s restrictions lift, the murals’ fate is up for grabs. Entering the next phase of pandemic response, many businesses have removed the painted plywood and put the art into storage. Some have postponed removal or incorporated the panels into their businesses. Other murals already have been sold to private collectors.

But the muralists continue to paint the town.

A new wave of political art is on the rise, embracing and illustrating this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. As our city confronts the canvas of an uncertain future, both art and artists will be on hand to help us ask the right questions.

“Charleena Lyles” Mari Shibuya & VK
Sephora, 415 Pine St.
While pandemic art is taken down, political art is rising. Near Westlake Park, site of many protests, Shibuya’s mural features Charleena Lyles, a Seattle woman shot and killed by police in 2017.

THE ART

“Waiting with Paco” Jay Mason
240 Second Ave. S.
For his first mural in 20 years, Mason portrayed one of his favorite views of Seattle. “As a dog owner, I spend a lot of time at the Jose P. Rizal dog park. I wanted to illustrate my own experience with quarantine, so I included my wife, Brandy, and our dog, Paco, looking out the window, waiting to return to a deserted city.”
Jay Mason joins his wife Brandy King-Mason and dog Paco at the painted window.
“Take Your Time” Casey Weldon, assisted by Alexander Halliday and Ego Shoreclay
Bon Voyage Vintage, 110 S. Washington St.
His typical canvases are 18-by-24 inches, but Weldon eagerly scaled up to murals without a hitch. “Why sloths?” he asked. “We were all sitting around feeling down on ourselves – isolated and feeling guilty for not being more productive. But during a pandemic, slothfulness is kind of all right.” And sloths are pretty in pink.
Casey Weldon painting ‘Take Your Time’ in mid-April.
“Hello” Casey Weldon, assisted by Crystal Barbre and Zach Takasawa
Life on Mars, 722 E. Pike St.
“When everyone’s confused and unsure of what’s going to happen,” Weldon says, “an artist’s role is to provide visual comfort or at least something that eases the general depression. It’s about envisioning the future we want to see.”
“Untitled” by Zaeos
across from Neumos outside CES Studio, 1428 10th Ave.
A 6-foot-tall crow keenly watches over a vibrant neighborhood. Now a graphic designer, Zaeos began doing street art and graffiti in Portland. “The purpose of these murals,” he says, “is to cover a dystopian or desolate façade with a thing of beauty.”
“Be Sure to Wash Your Flippers!” Sydney M. Pertl, assisted by SeaPertl Productions, Miles Pertl, Leah Terada
Agate Design, 120 First Ave. S.
“This is art that speaks to a very specific time and place,” Pertl says, “and shows a community uniting in the face of so many uncertainties.”
“Writers at Play” Sam Day
The Globe Bookstore, 218 First Ave. S.
Globe owner John Siscoe stands before plywood panels populated with writers. On the front door’s interior surface, Tin Tin cavorts with his dog Snowy, while the right panel is shared by (clockwise from upper left) Sherman Alexie, Maya Angelou, Samuel Beckett and Jamie Ford. Yorick’s skull, from “Hamlet,” peeks out at left.
“Untitled” Dozfy
Amber Lounge, 2214 First Ave.
A giant squid wrestles a whale, etched in this artist’s unmistakable style. Having carved out a niche in the restaurant and hospitality industry, Dozfy has “put everything on pause due to the coronavirus” and during the hiatus is dedicated to “creating a positive effect in which everyone is involved in the story.”
“Untitled” Dozfy
Ballard Annex Oyster House, 5410 Ballard Ave. N.W.
A sea serpent swims along five windows on a side wall.
“Until Next Time” Glynn Rosenberg
5136 Ballard Ave. N.W.
“Street art pops up during times of economic and social unrest,” Rosenberg says. After completing her mural, the building’s bemused owner informed her that her painted doorway and steps recreated lost elements of the original interior. “Somehow,” she says, “I was visited by the ghosts of architecture.”
“Traffic Cone” Dom Nieri
103 Yesler Way
A creative producer in the visual arts, Nieri works to facilitate mural projects around the world but usually doesn’t participate in what he calls “solo acts of creation.” Returning to Seattle in the midst of the pandemic, however, he was inspired to paint a subject he finds compelling. The crumpled traffic cone represents a failure of avoidance. “It has a human quality,” Nieri says, “but whether of defeat or resilience I’ll leave open to interpretation.” The former Subway shop was closed months before COVID-19 after it was damaged by a runaway dump truck.
“Come on Home” Zachary Rockstad
Harvard Avenue East, just north of Pike Street
Commissioned to commemorate musician John Prine, a casualty of COVID-19, Rockstad found himself deeply moved by Prine’s songs. “When everything is just chaos and going to hell, it’s an artist’s job to express how we’re feeling,” he says. Whether out of grief or joy, “art can provide a visual garden.”
“Puppies” Ariel Parrow
The Hart & The Hunter restaurant, 111 Pine St.
“I love painting dogs,” Parrow says, “and puppies are a universal love language.” To relieve tension during finals week at the University of Montana, she says, “The faculty would bring in therapy dogs, and stressed-out students would wait in line for a chance to pet a golden retriever. … I can’t give everybody an actual puppy, but I can share a painting of a puppy, and that’s pretty close.”
“Puppies” Ariel Parrow
The Hart & The Hunter restaurant, 111 Pine St.
Ariel Parrow spent a day painting each golden retriever puppy in this mural.
“Safety is Sexy” Kreau
1631 E. Olive Way
Several years of a booming economy convinced Kreau that gentrification and displacement had diminished the local arts scene. Recently, however, he has seen “art appearing everywhere, helping people cope with turmoil. It was waiting in the wings all along.”
“House Party of One” Sean David Williams
Comet Tavern, 922 E Pike St.
For years, Williams has been a regular customer of the Comet, one of Seattle’s great dive bars. When offered the plywood panel on front, he jumped at the chance. “I showed my love for this place with a kind of dreamy surrealism – a sort of celebration of the selfless act of staying inside during a pandemic.”
“Down the Rabbit Hole” Debora Spencer
2222 Second Ave.
Having recently returned to Seattle from New York, Spencer felt beset by anxiety and sadness as the pandemic loomed. Painting plywood panels in her Belltown neighborhood provided purpose. “Alice’s predicament really spoke to how I felt,” she says. “I’m a social person, but I’m also high-risk, so I worry how to talk to people again without fear of physically getting too close to them. Everything was changing and it was so scary.” Spencer, dressed as Alice, peeks warily out of the doorway of ‘The Rabbit Hole’, a Belltown bar.
Detail from ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’
“Assemblage” Joey Nix
Good Bar, 240 Second Ave S.
This mural illustrates “different elements of the inner workings of certain machines and devices collaged together as a whole,” Nix says. “This suggests that even if you are trained your whole life to be a certain way, you do not necessarily have to fit that mold to be beautiful.”
“Stay Home” Carlos Giovanni and KSRA
southeast corner of Broadway and Pike Street
Creating one of Seattle’s earliest post-shutdown murals, completed April 4, Giovanni and his wife KSRA (pronounced Que Sera) labored on near-deserted streets. “It seems insane to me that it took a pandemic to bring all that beauty to Seattle,” Giovanni says, “but you walk around now, and it’s like a street art gallery.”
“Creativity Regenerates” Mari Shibuya
220 First Ave. S.
Creativity, Shibuya contends, is what makes us human, and especially during turmoil, artists anchor human culture. “Our role is to encourage lateral thinking,” she says, “to uplift the spirits, and to envision a future that we can actually live in.”
“Confined Momentum/Established Parameters” Japhy Witte
Good Bar, 240 Second Ave. S.
Within these vibrant double murals, Witte illustrates a darker vision. With undulations of shape and color, “titans are crammed into a tight space,” he says, “so that you really feel the confinement of it. The momentum of everything is being stripped down, liberties taken away. … Who knows what storm is coming?”
Muralist Japhy Witte at work.
“Quarantine Cutie” Cady Bogart
corner of 10th Avenue and Pike Street
This is the first of two murals painted by Bogart. Her gentle admonition here has been widely shared and admired since it appeared in early April. These days, for Bogart, these words of novelist Toni Morrison ring especially true: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.”
“Enjoy the Flowers” Josephine Rice
Venue, 5408 22nd Ave. NW
After losing her day job designing wedding floral arrangements due to the coronavirus, Rice quickly found work painting murals. Venue owner Diane Macrae offered her a commission in early April and since then Rice has never looked back. She now works full time as a muralist.
WEB EXTRAS

So much remarkable art, so little space. First, heartfelt apologies to those artists whose stunning murals did not appear in the print version of the column. I include a portion of the remarkable artwork spread across town below, divided roughly by location.

First, Ballard:

Belltown:

Capitol Hill:

DOWNTOWN (including Chinatown/ID):

PIONEER SQUARE:

Seattle Now & Then: Seattle’s Post Office, ca 1886

(click to enlarge photos — Clay and Paul advise, ‘Click again’)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on June 24, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on June 28, 2020)

In challenging times, the Post Office delivers human connection
By Jean Sherrard
THEN: On the northeast corner of Yesler Way and Post Avenue, Seattle’s main post office was erected in 1880. Historian Greg Lange suggests that it may have been Seattle’s first federal government building. The stately Post Building (right) housed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, after which Post Avenue was named. The boxy post office seems drab by comparison. The Seattle fire consumed both in 1889. (courtesy Tim Boardman)
NOW1: Mail carrier Azuma Ohta looks west as she stands at Yesler and Post in front of post-fire buildings constructed of less-flammable brick and mortar. (Jean Sherrard)

When it opened in October 1852, Seattle’s first postal station was little more than a mahogany desk in Arthur Denny’s log cabin at what is now First and Marion.

It had been 11 months since the Denny Party landed at Alki Beach. The urge to connect with the outside world was strong. Even a pocket-sized post office offered settlers a sense of stability.

For The Seattle Times, Arthur’s daughter, Louisa, wryly recalled perching on her dad’s desk as he sorted mail when a boat came in: “It was not a monumental task, as there was very little mail coming and going.”

Decades later, however, our “Then” displays a hive of activity at Seattle’s downtown post office at the northeast corner of what is now Yesler Way and Post Avenue. The scrawled inscription, “Waiting for mail at Seattle’s Post Office,” explains the long lines, adding cryptically, “Mostly strangers.”

The note may offer a calendar clue. By late 1886, with an economy recovering from three years of recession, hundreds of “strangers” arrived seeking jobs. The newly employed no doubt eagerly queued for mail from families they had left behind. By fall 1887, crowds abated when the post office hired four mail carriers and began the tradition of free delivery.

To document today’s version of this practice, with permission from Seattle’s postmaster I recently joined 12-year postal veteran Azuma Ohta on her appointed rounds, starting at the Seattle Carrier Annex at Fourth and Lander, where days begin with sorting letters and packages.

Beyond snow, rain, heat and gloom of night, every carrier bears scars from being chomped by dogs, clawed by cats and stung by bees and wasps. Azuma is no exception. Twice-bitten, with one attack by a canine whose owner left a door ajar, she still identifies as a “dog person.”

During the pandemic, postal workers older than 60 and otherwise at high risk have been allowed to take several months off. Younger carriers have filled in, so Azuma has been working 75 hours a week, more than during the hectic holiday season.

Another unexpected effect of the coronavirus has been to boost the contents of carriers’ mailbags. “People are hungry for physical connection beyond Zoom and email,” she says. “They’re sending more cards and letters than I’ve ever seen before.”

Tagging along on her Capitol Hill route, I can see that Azuma is a beloved fixture. Passersby sing out cheerful greetings. She has watched babies become adolescents and witnessed love and loss, marriage and divorce.

Tim King often meets her at his door for a chat. “We adore Azuma,” he says. “She brightens our days, and these days can use some brightening.” By any measure, that’s a monumental task.

WEB EXTRAS

Be sure to visit our Seattle Now & Then 360 channel, where you can listen to and view this column in glorious 360 degree color! Jean narrates.

Every day starting at 7 AM, Ohta sorts mail for delivery at the Seattle Carrier Annex at Fourth and Lander.
Postal vehicles all in a row at Fourth and Lander
Azuma in the driver’s seat. She covers five routes per day.
Delivering mail upstairs and down
Azuma greets Capitol Hill resident Tim King.
Azuma, next to her mail truck on Capitol Hill, pauses for a chat with King.
In an average day, Ohta estimates she walks 5 to 10 miles
A Seattle postal van from 100 years ago, parked in front of King Street Station

 

Seattle Now & Then: Plymouth Church marks its 150th anniversary

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: With its distinctive pillars, Plymouth’s third church building, completed in 1912, stood facing east on Sixth Avenue between Seneca and University Streets (ca. 1939). After structural damage from the 1965 Puget Sound earthquake, it was demolished and replaced by the current building. (Museum of History and Industry)
NOW1: The Rev. Dr. Kelle Brown, lead pastor since 2017, stands in Plymouth Pillars Park overlooking downtown to the west. The columns, original to Plymouth’s third church building, were purchased by John and Anne Gould Hauberg and donated to the city. They were installed in October 1967 on the tiny, triangular parcel at the corner of Boren Avenue and Pike Street. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW2: Today’s Plymouth is one of the last of what Brown calls “big steeple churches” in downtown Seattle. On a recent Sunday morning, the building was empty as she delivered her sermon online. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on June 4, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on June 7, 2020)

Historic downtown church confronts Seattle’s ‘original sin’
By Jean Sherrard

This past Jan. 25, during an evening lecture at Plymouth Congregational Church, historian David Buerge spoke of the city’s “original sin”: 54,000 acres taken from the Duwamish Tribe without recompense, leaving Chief Seattle’s people, who had so warmly welcomed early settlers, landless and homeless.

In response, the Rev. Dr. Kelle Brown, Plymouth’s lead pastor, had a forward-looking suggestion. “We have been squatting on First People’s land for nearly 170 years,” she said. “We’ve been blessed with the beautiful asset of this property. It’s time for the church to begin paying down our debt.”

Only a week past the 150th anniversary of the church’s first Sunday service, her audience voiced strong support for initiating discussions with the tribe. Those familiar with Plymouth and its long history of civic engagement were not surprised. From women’s suffrage and civil rights to immigration and homelessness, the church has wrestled with thorny issues of every era.

Before the church’s founding in 1870, Mayflower descendants John and Carolyn Sanderson determined that Seattle, with a population of nearly 1,000 mostly single men, lacked ecclesiastical choice. Methodists and Episcopalians had established solid toeholds here, but Congregationalism (with direct links to the Pilgrims) might add the tempting solidity of Plymouth Rock.

Their choice of pastor, charismatic John F. Damon – also a prominent Mason – was propitious. Church historian Mildred Andrews notes that Damon was “skilled at playing upon the emotions of his hearers” and in high demand for both weddings and funerals (at which there was “never a dry eye”).

Becoming known throughout the region as the “marrying parson,” Damon soon drew crowds of 100 for both morning and evening Sunday services, a staggering 20% of the town’s population. Pioneer Arthur Denny, lured from the Methodists, was inspired to donate a lot at Second Avenue and Spring Street for Plymouth’s first church.

Church membership soared. Besides the Denny family, notable congregants included James Colman (builder of the original Colman Dock), engineer Hiram M. Chittenden, developer James Moore (whose Moore Theater still stands at Fourth and Stewart) and Seattle’s first female mayor, Bertha Landes.

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the church’s most ambitious offshoot. In 1980, after witnessing men sleeping rough on the church’s doorstep, the Rev. David Colwell braced his congregation: “One homeless person is one too many.” Today, Plymouth Housing provides supportive dwellings for more than 1,200 people in 14 buildings across the city.

For her part, Brown envisions a vital role for the church in years to come: “We must never lose sight of the most vulnerable, the most disenfranchised, and make sure that as a church, the lens we use is one of justice.” Plymouth’s proposal to enfranchise the Duwamish people will take a pioneering step toward atonement.

WEB EXTRAS

And here’s our accompanying narrated 360-degree video of this column, as promised.

Corona-diaries…

Jean here. As many of you know, I’ve spent the last few weeks wandering the city, attempting to portray Seattle’s response to this pandemic. And it’s been nothing short of inspiring, particularly on the artistic front. Artists and muralists from across the region have gathered in Ballard, on Capitol Hill, in Pioneer Square, and Belltown, to bring color and form to otherwise dormant, plywood-covered streets. Here’s a selection of my faves (double-click to enlarge):

Seattle Now & Then: Mark Twain on the Waterfront, 1895

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In a photo likely snapped by manager James B. Pond, Mark Twain pauses in August 1895 on the deck of the Flyer, a 170-foot steamboat making daily trips between Seattle and Tacoma. It sported a full restaurant that served, among other delicacies, mock turtle soup — a pottage of calf brains and organ meat with onions. With a cruising speed of 16 knots, the trim steamer could outrun almost anything else on the Sound. In service between 1891 and 1929, she finally was displaced by car ferries. (Ron Edge collection)
NOW: Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist David Horsey approximates Twain’s waterfront location in a visit to a Colman Dock construction site. “I dressed to catch echoes of that not-so-distant age of horse-drawn wagons, steamships and Klondike gold,” Horsey says. “My great-grandparents already lived in Seattle then. Who knows? They might have been in the audience when Mark Twain took the stage to share his wit.” (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on March 19, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on March 22, 2020)

Roughing It on the waterfront with Mark Twain, 1895
By Jean Sherrard

In the hot, dry summer of 1895, virgin timber burned throughout the Pacific Northwest. For locals who only seven years before had witnessed the Great Seattle Fire that reduced 30 downtown blocks into piles of ash, the suffocating, brown pall must have evoked unpleasant memories.

On Aug. 13, when a 59-year old Mark Twain (given name: Samuel Clemens) stepped onto Colman Dock, his eyes and throat were irritated by not only the smoke but also the ill effects of a rare cold.

Earlier, the chair of a reception committee had tendered profuse apologies: “I’m sorry the smoke is so dense that you cannot see our mountains and our forests.”

“I regret that your magnificent forests are being destroyed by fire,” replied Twain. “As for the smoke … I am accustomed to that. I am a perpetual smoker myself.”

Nevertheless, he may have considered delaying or canceling his sold-out performance that evening at the Seattle Theater, Third and Cherry — a 90-minute comedic lecture with an unlikely subject: “Morals” — were it not for his recent bankruptcy and pressing need for cash.

Internationally celebrated for “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and its sequel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (widely considered the greatest American novel) as well as humorous short stories and travelogues such as “Roughing It,” Twain was less fortunate when it came to money. An ill-advised publishing venture, compounded by the crash of 1893, had left him more than $80,000 in debt, which he felt honor-bound to repay.

“I do not enjoy the hard travel and broken rest inseparable from lecturing,” he said, “but writing is too slow for the demands that I have to meet. Therefore I have begun to lecture my way around the world.”

Entreated by Australian promoter Carlyle Smythe, who long had sought his participation in a tour abroad, Twain committed to a packed set of performances across the northern United States, then to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India.

His friend and manager, Major James B. Pond, who accompanied him on the U.S. portion of the tour, described Twain’s reception here: “A great audience in Seattle … The sign ‘Standing Room Only’ was out again. He was hoarse, but the hoarseness seemed to augment the volume of his voice.”

Critics concurred. “A great literary improvisation,” gushed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “To tell the story of such a lecture is like trying to narrate a laugh.”

In Victoria 10 days later, accompanied by beloved wife Olivia and daughter Clara, Twain boarded the Warimoo, bound for Australia. Before departure, Pond recalled, the perpetual smoker bought 3,000 “Manila cheroots” (cigars) and four pounds of Durham tobacco, calculated to be just enough for the month-long voyage.

WEB EXTRAS

A special thanks to David Horsey and Colleen Chartier for the assist. For Jean’s narrated 360 degree video, click here.

The helpful line up. Washington State Dept. of Transportation helped us with access to the dock construction site. From left, Alan Johnson, Sharon Gavin (Communications Manager), David Horsey, and Colleen Chartier.

Seattle Now & Then: Our Deepest Snow, 1880

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This 1880 scene, recorded by the Peterson Brothers from their photography studio at the foot of Cherry Street, looks east across Front Street (now First Avenue). Henry Yesler’s Hall, having narrowly avoided collapse, stands at right. Up the hill, on Fourth Avenue, stands First Baptist Church. The 64 inches of snow that fell is still a local record. (Paul Dorpat collection)
NOW: In a view up Cherry Street through swirling snow on recent January afternoon, Jean’s red umbrella caps the scene, protecting his camera. As typical for modern times, the snow did not stick around. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Feb. 20, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Feb. 23, 2020)

Seattle’s Deepest Snow, at First & Cherry, 1880
By Jean Sherrard

Since 2005, when I began contributing photos to this column, whenever flakes of snow begin to fall, I pack a camera bag and hit the slippery Seattle streets, clutching a sheaf of old photos to repeat. However, in those 15 years I’ve repeatedly failed to capture snow blanketing First and Cherry, as shown in this week’s classic “Then” photo from 1880. The Captain Ahab in me calls it my “white whale.”

Longtime Seattleites may recall wistfully the rare blizzards of 2018, 1996, 1969 and 1950 (whose 20-inch blitz set the latter-day record for greatest one-day snowfall).

Their effects were dwarfed by Seattle’s second biggest snow, beginning Feb. 1, 1916, when 21.5 inches nearly KO’d the young city. On Groundhog Day afternoon at 3:13, the dome of St. James Cathedral collapsed under the extra load, only hours after a morning Mass attended by a group of schoolgirls from Holy Names Academy.

The dome of St. James Cathedral litters the sanctuary floor on Feb. 2, 1916

My grandmother Dorothy later recalled that as a girl of 10 she joined thousands of skaters on frozen Green Lake in the cold snap preceding the snow.

The immensely popular Green Lake Ice Rink of late January, 1916

But the king of snows in the Queen City was crowned the same year that Seattle, its population having grown to 3,500, overtook Walla Walla as the region’s largest town.

In a “state of the territory” address published Sunday, Jan. 4, 1880, in the Seattle Intelligencer, territorial Gov. Elisha P. Ferry warmly promoted our region’s temperate, near-Mediterranean climate. “Ice and snow,” he wrote, “are of rare occurrence and almost unknown in Western Washington.”

That same evening, the weather gods replied with a vengeance. Bitterly cold winds invaded homes “through cracks not before known to exist,” the paper reported. The next day, snow began to fall and continued through the week, collapsing awnings and threatening buildings across town.

Yesler’s Hall, used for dances, concerts and theatricals, was “in danger of wrecking; the walls cracking and opening from the enormous weight upon [its] roof.” Only the quick action of men paid an exorbitant $1 an hour to shovel off the snow averted disaster.

At week’s end, the Intelligencer projected the snow “would average a depth of six feet on the townsite of Seattle.” In a petulant potshot (take cover, Elisha), it continued, “If any one has anything to say of our Italian skies and climate, shoot him on the spot.”

On Jan. 12, the Seattle Fin-Back, a free weekly rag, polled elderly natives on “the snow question.” Chief Seattle’s daughter Kikisoblu, known as Princess Angeline, said she “had never seen so much snow at any one time.” Old Ned, however, who lived at the foot of Battery Street, was less impressed. He boasted that he had “seen snow 50 years ago over seven feet deep” when Angeline was a mere child.

A studio portrait of Kikisoblu, Chief Seattle’s daughter
WEB EXTRAS

Check out Jean’s visit to First and Cherry in our delightful 360 video.

 

Seattle Now & Then: The Trianon Ballroom, 1927

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This 1927 vantage looks northwest along Third Avenue toward the full block between Wall and Fir streets, where, the just-completed Trianon Ballroom would prove an anchor in the emerging Denny Regrade business district, attracting thousands of dancers each night. (Museum of History and Industry)
THEN 2: The Trianon’s opening night booklet, recently tracked down by collector Ron Edge. For a link to the pdf, please see below.
NOW: The Trianon interior was entirely remodeled in 1985, with stores on the ground floor and offices on the second floor. Preserved was the original, Moorish-style brick façade with arched windows. Lining a Third Avenue crosswalk, a group of accommodating couples celebrates this upcoming Valentine’s Day with waltzes and Lindy Hop. The dancers are (from left): Monique and Charlie Catino, Jamie with daughter Frances Alls, Maria Mackay and Joe Breskin, Casey Engstrom, Leslie Howells, Liz Wentzien, Ethan Sherrard, Gary Sandberg (hidden), Anne Kiemle, Kael Sherrard, Lynn McGlocklin (face hidden, with raised arm), Solika O’Neill and Riley Miller

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Feb. 6, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Feb. 9, 2020)

Tripping the light fantastic at Seattle’s Trianon Ballroom, ‘Cupid’s Headquarters’
By Jean Sherrard

Advertising that patrons would “trip the light fantastic,” the legendary Trianon Ballroom, designed by architect Warren H. Milner, opened its doors on May 20th, 1927, at Third Avenue and Wall Street. With its springy, white-maple floors, overseen by a giant, silver, clam-shaped bandshell, the Trianon quickly became Seattle’s premier dance palace.

Held the same day Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic, the Trianon’s inaugural drew the city council, chamber of commerce and Bertha Landes, Seattle’s first female mayor. Four-thousand dancers foxtrotted to the sounds of Herb Wiedoft and his Brunswick Recording Orchestra. Between sets, dancers were entertained by vaudeville acts and a dancing exhibition by Priscilla Pharis and George Blanford, a couple who had triumphed at a recent dance marathon in Los Angeles.

The Mediterranean-style dance palace showcased the nation’s biggest of big bands, including Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Guy Lombardo and Louis Armstrong, along with the local Max Pilar and Vic Meyers bands. (In 1932, Meyers, swapping bandstand for grandstand, would be elected Washington state’s lieutenant governor, serving 20 years.)

The Trianon became “Cupid’s headquarters,” contended Ted Harris, its longtime manager, in a 1975 Seattle Times interview, “because so many guys and gals met their future mates there.” Couples, he said, gathered on the long, open balcony, with its 17 arched windows facing Third Avenue, for “a little romantic action.” For late-night swing shifts and visiting servicemen during World War II, the Trianon remained open till 5 a.m.

Despite condemnation from some Seattle pulpits, couples continued dancing cheek to cheek at the Trianon until its closing in 1956. By then, ballroom dancing was declining in popularity as youths of America fell under the spell of the less formal dance moves of rock ’n’ roll.

Here we must sound a particularly sour note.

Through much of its tenure, the Trianon’s owner, John E. Savage, insisted upon a segregated dance floor, claiming repeatedly (and falsely) that a city ordinance prohibited “mixed [race] dancing.” The result: hugely popular African American musicians were welcome to perform, while African American dancers were turned away. For Seattle’s growing black community, this irony was painfully bitter, scarcely remedied by management’s “compromise” of selected Monday night shows set aside for “Colored Folks.”

After the ballroom’s closure, the building was converted for use as a Gov-Mart department store, then into an exhibition warehouse for a business selling pool tables, shuffleboards and jukeboxes.

Before partitioned office spaces took over the vast Trianon interior, the maple floor was cleared one last time. On May 18, 1985, two days shy of the 58th anniversary of its original opening, the Trianon held its last dance in the ballroom. All were welcome.

WEB EXTRAS

As promised, here’s another of column regular Ron Edge’s found treasures: a pdf of the opening night booklet for the Trianon (18 Mb).

For more Now & Then fun, click through to this week’s 360 degree video, narrated by Jean.

And a few late-breaking photo additions from Paul:

A Trianon Ballroom interior – hundreds of dancers pose
Another interior with tables and chairs
A colored postcard

Seattle Now & Then: Water from Lake Youngs, 1930

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: Between Maple Valley and Renton, the Seattle Water Department’s Lake Youngs Supply Lines No. 4 and No. 5 gleam on May 27, 1930. The parallel, wooden stave pipes carrying Cedar River water reach their intersection with steel-riveted bypasses and connectors. A system-control works had just been built next to the 500-acre lake to screen debris and chlorinate water before delivery. The lake is directly behind the photographer, who points his camera east toward Robertson’s Pond, which, for a time, was connected to the lake. Since drained, it has been returned to its original wetland status.
NOW: The last of the 78-inch wooden stave pipes were replaced with rerouted steel pipes in the early 1990s, says Dave Muto, manager of water system operations, standing atop an obsolete connector (“I don’t know why they never removed that last little stub,” he says). The Cedar River continues to supply most Seattle water, traveling as far north as the Maple Leaf reservoir. For more photos of the Lake Youngs facilities, check out our Web Extras below.

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Jan. 23, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Jan. 26, 2020)

Connecting thirsty Seattleites with the life blood of water
By Jean Sherrard

Begin with a taste test. Fill a glass with water straight from the tap. Take a sip. Before swallowing, swish it between your teeth and over your tongue. If you’re in or around Seattle, the water you’re savoring likely flows directly from the Cascades, filtered from snowpack down through mountain streams and rivers that have supplied the city and environs for more than a century.

This week’s photos reveal obscure vestiges of the infrastructure that has made it all possible.

Arguably, our earliest water-supply system began with Henry Yesler, who in 1854 ran a suspended V-flume from a spring near Eighth Avenue and Madison Street just past his original homestead (near the heart of today’s Pioneer Square) to his waterfront sawmill.

Other settlers followed suit, tapping the abundant streams and springs of First Hill, then still crowded with virgin timber, improvising a creaky patchwork of wooden pipes and flumes.

As the young city grew, need for a less Balkanized water supply became apparent. The privately owned Spring Hill Water Company, incorporated in 1881, initially fit the bill, integrating sources and expanding to meet the needs of a thirsty population. In a substantial upgrade, the company studded First Hill with large wooden tanks, and a newly built, steam-powered pumping station on Lake Washington kept a 4-million-gallon reservoir on Beacon Hill brim full.

But on June 6, 1889, nearly 30 blocks of downtown Seattle burned to the ground, largely due to the failure of the Spring Hill water supply system. Tanks and reservoirs alike ran dry before the fire could be doused. Out of those flames a public utility was born.

Within months of the fire, the City of Seattle purchased Spring Hill Water Company and planned for expansion. All eyes

turned to the Cedar River, long recognized as a potential source of abundant, pure water, flowing from Cedar (now Chester Morse) Lake, some 35 miles southeast. The proposed gravity-fed water-supply system would be the one of the largest engineering projects yet undertaken by the rapidly rebuilding city.

Politics and economics might have shelved the project were it not for the vision and leadership of a newly appointed city engineer, Reginald H. Thomson, known for a formidable drive and intelligence.

Throughout the 1890s, Thomson lobbied tirelessly for Cedar River water, identifying the liquid as “the life blood of a city.” At last, on Jan. 10, 1900, from the Landsburg timber-crib dam (elevation: 536.4 feet), water coursed through 28 miles of wooden stave pipes around the south end of Lake Washington and north to two city reservoirs on Capitol Hill.

The expansion was just in the nick of time. Over the next decade, Seattle’s population exploded to nearly 240,000 from 80,000, tripling its thirst for pure mountain water.

WEB EXTRAS

First, a huge thanks to Dave Muto of the Seattle Public Utilities, a veritable fount of information and my generous tour guide at Lake Youngs.

I’ll add in a few photos of the water works at Lake Youngs. Dave kindly provided several of the captions.

Our narrated 360-degree video can be found here.

The water department’s Dave Muto examines a section of the old 78″ wooden pipe.
Pipes like this one remained in service until the early 1990s.
From Dave Muto: “The pipes out of the ground are known as the doglegs.  They are the inlet pipes to Lake Youngs. The building in the background is called the Cascade Valve House, and it allows us to bypass the lake.”
Another shot of the doglegs emerging from Lake Youngs
“The interior of the Cascade Valve House.”
“The raw water pump station and discharge pipes.  Water is pumped out of the lake here and into the start of the treatment process.”

Seattle Now & Then: A Fallen Seastack at Rialto Beach, 2009

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In 2009, this 50-foot tall sea stack stood just south of Hole-in-the-Wall at the northern end of Rialto Beach – originally, and accurately, called “Cold Water” by the Quileute people. The aptly named Cake Rock crests the waves at far right. (JEAN SHERRARD)
NOW: During a hike to monitor the outer coastline, physical scientist Bill Baccus snapped this photo. James Island peeks out just left of the fallen sea stack, sheltering the tribal town of La Push. For those who wish to witness the Pacific spectacle for themselves, the Quileute tribe-owned Oceanside Resort offers dramatic ocean views in every season. (BILL BACCUS)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Jan. 9, 2020
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Jan. 12, 2020)

Just as Seattle’s viaduct tumbled, so did a coastal sea stack

By Jean Sherrard

In our rapidly changing cityscape – where viaducts may crumble, buildings may tumble and residents surely grumble – we depend on increasingly fewer fixed points to ground us (the Pike Place Market is here to stay). Out on the coast, however, even the points of reference that we perceive as immutable can give way in our lifetimes.

Today’s example is one of the tough rock spires whittled from coastal bluffs and headlands, surely noted by sea captains Cook, Bodega y Quadra, Gray and Vancouver and other meticulous 18th century mapmakers who sought an elusive Northwest passage and maritime shortcut between Europe and China.

The spires are known as sea stacks. In a landscape slashed and walloped by wind and tide, they generally stand as unyielding sentinels of things past.

Our “Then” photo is one of many I’ve taken at Rialto Beach north of the mouth of the Quillayute River near La Push. It features an intact sea stack, one of many that my extended family have appreciated as we combed the coasts of the Olympic Peninsula for more than 50 years.

Late last summer, however, we initially were oblivious as we passed the jumbled slabs of rock captured in our “Now” photo. Negative space, we discovered, can be hard to comprehend – in particular, the loss of structures of such seeming permanence.

But after a momentary loss of bearings and a literal double take, we noted that one of our reference points – a singular pillar emerging from eroded, softer soils over hundreds of years – had toppled into rubble. Just when did this happen? And was it a rare event?

For answers, I turned to Bill Baccus, the Olympic National Park’s physical scientist. After nearly 35 years, he works in the “vital signs” program, which monitors the parks’ ecosystems over time. His patrols range from remote mountain lakes and glaciers (nearly half of which were lost to global warming during his tenure) to the outer coast’s intertidal zones.

“The coast is a constantly changing landscape, especially in terms of morphology,” he said. “One month, the beach will be totally scoured. You’ll see exposed rocks you haven’t seen for months or years. The next thing you know, the sand or gravel has returned. In contrast, the sea stacks are some of the few static features that don’t really change over time. This is the first time I’ve ever seen one entirely collapse.”

Baccus first noted this stack’s demise in June 2016. He surmises that it must have occurred during an especially violent series of storms the previous winter. The precise date, however, is unknown. We invite readers who regularly visit Rialto Beach to submit an earlier photo of our tumbled spire.

WEB EXTRAS

As promised, here are a few photos snapped over the years, summer and winter, at LaPush.

Another perspective of the fallen stack, with humans. My nephew Kalan is in the foreground, taking a cell phone photo.
Looking north towards Hole-in-the-Wall, seen here peeking through sea stacks.
On First Beach, looking north to James Island on a bright winter day
The mouth of the Quillayute River
Second Beach in February, 2019
Second Beach looking north – First Beach (and LaPush) are beyond the headland
A northerly view at low tide from an temporarily-accessible island off of 2nd Beach. James Island rides the waves top-center.
A detail of a crowded rock at low tide
Driftwood on First Beach just after a storm
Same storm, a few minutes later
Winter calm on First Beach
First Beach wave action
The Sherrards on First Beach, 2013
Sunset on First Beach
Our sea stack in black and white