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Seattle Now & Then: Denny Hill, 1903

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN1: The three bay windows of the Wayne Apartments at far left mark the start of Denny Hill’s incline prior to 1903. More than a hundred feet of its slopes were incrementally sluiced away through 1930, leaving behind flatland Belltown.
NOW1: Soon to be demolished, the Wayne Apartments’ bay windows (upper left) are partly concealed by foliage. Buster Simpson (left) and Steve Hall stand in the crosswalk at Second and Bell. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on May 12, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on May 15, 2022)

A surviving signpost to Belltown’s origins soon will fall
By Jean Sherrard

Some ancient parchment, as historians know, is scrubbed clean and rewritten upon while leaving behind faint traces of the original text. Such a page is known as a palimpsest.

When exploring the crosshatch of Seattle streets and architecture with this column’s founder Paul Dorpat two decades ago, I realized that his X-ray photographic vision of our ephemeral city included similar traces. The residues, like double exposures, appeared in unlikely places and cracked open historical clues and mysteries aplenty.

This week’s “Then” photo revisits an early discovery of Paul’s that cemented his vocation as historical detector and photographic repeater. He penned a lengthy account of his efforts in the Dec. 20, 1978, edition of the weekly Seattle Sun. The headline: “Digging Up the Past of the Late and Great Denny Hill.”

Perusing a photo collection, he came upon a portrait of the city unlike any he had seen. While “uncannily familiar,” this image did not seem to match Seattle’s existing topography. Paul concluded that it was a place “that had somehow lost its future, for it appeared to be in no way findable in our here and now.”

Then came a “Eureka!” moment.

With a magnifying glass, the name “Bell” emerged on a street sign. Familiar with Mama’s Mexican Restaurant at the corner of Second and Bell, Paul was thrilled to recognize the triple set of bay windows belonging to the Wayne Apartments, built in 1890.

The original clapboard had been covered with asbestos “war brick” siding, but the pictorial puzzle was solved. Denny Hill’s “back side,” 220 feet above sea level, was revealed in this rare, south-facing view of what today is called Belltown, captured just before an early regrade of 1903.

Among few remaining pre-regrade structures, the bay-windowed Wayne has shone prominently and repeatedly over four decades — in “Now & Then” in 1984 and in lectures and books, including our 2018 tome “Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred.” The edifice has born witness to change, loss and the thrill of discovery.

But not for long.

In early April, we received word from artist Buster Simpson and Steve Hall, a preservation advocate with Friends of Historic Belltown, that the Wayne and adjacent structures along Second Avenue soon will be destroyed. Though they achieved landmark status in 2015, exemptions to the ruling are allowing a prospective 9-floor retail-residential building to fill the space. Its height will more than match the original summit of Denny Hill.

In the rueful words of historian David B. Williams, modern developers seem to be “merely rebuilding the hill one banal building at a time.”

WEB EXTRAS
THEN2: This rare 1895 view looks northwest from the top of Denny Hill, on the bluff above Second Avenue. At right, the home at 216 Lenora Street belonged to Seattle ex-mayor Robert Moran, who also snapped the photo. (Courtesy Hal Will)

NOW2: Increasingly decrepit, the Wayne’s 132-year-old sagging roofline soon will be replaced by a 9-floor building, with retail on the bottom and apartments above. (Jean Sherrard)A few photos of the soon-to-vanish icon follow. Accompanied by Buster Simpson, I explored the back of the old Wayne apartments and crawled up a couple rotting staircases. A special prize for those who find the pigeon eggs.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Little White Church in Silvana, ca. 1905

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THEN: Like a Dutch Masters landscape painting, the Little White Church on the Hill anchors a pastoral scene. The Stillaguamish River curves just below, while the distant bluffs of Camano Island peep above the central horizon. The church’s steeple was added in 1904. Our best guess is that this photo was taken before 1910. (Paul Dorpat collection)
NOW 1: A remarkably similar landscape shows that little has changed in this rural landscape since our “Then” photo was snapped from atop the bluff. The Stillaguamish River, now screened by evergreens, still overflows its banks on occasion. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW 2: Captured on a clear day in mid-March, the Little White Church includes the grounds of Zion Lutheran Cemetery, where a number of pioneer families are buried. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW 3: In an east-facing photo, the pioneer church gleams in late afternoon light. The “Then” and “Now” portraits were taken from the bluff above the structure. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on April 21, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on April 24, 2022)

With a peaceful view, Silvana’s Little White Church endures
By Jean Sherrard

In an increasingly discordant world, we scan for hopeful signs and clues – some are lodged in the past. One symbol of reunion and healing might be found on a rural hillside an hour’s drive north of Seattle.

The tiny town of Silvana, founded in the 1880s by Scandinavian farmers, was both blessed and cursed by the fertile floodplain of the Stillaguamish River. To accommodate the river’s oft-overflowing banks, its houses and sidewalks were raised several feet above ground level.

Little surprise, then, that the vigorous young congregation of Zion Lutheran, led by itinerant pastor Christian Jorgensen, decided to build its church and adjacent graveyard on a hill above the river. The land had been donated by farmer S.A. Erickson in 1884 and on Dec. 3, 1888, the parishioners drew up formal plans for their parish.

As documented by Zion Lutheran’s historian Irene Vognild, the church’s 1890 construction proved no small task. Existing roads were “muddy, crooked trails along the riverbanks.” Without rail or paved highways to provide access, all finished lumber had to be towed east on scows from a sawmill in equally tiny Utsalady on Camano Island.

The materials were to be offloaded onto carts and drawn by oxen to the building site. But that year’s early winter, Vognild recounts, was one of the severest in the region’s history. Church members credited divine intervention when the Stillaguamish froze solid, ensuring much easier transport by sled across the snowy river and up the hill.

Having spent just $750 on materials, the closely-knit farm community donated all labor, plus extra timber and shingles. The new church was erected in mere weeks, with grounds cleared for a nearby graveyard. Zion Lutheran Church’s first services were held that Christmas.

It wasn’t long before a divide over religious practices split the young congregation. Should this new church observe the rites and traditions of the State Church of Norway or adopt revised forms of worship?

The unhappy result, Vognild notes: “a break with friends and neighbors [who had] worshiped and worked together for years.” A minority faction left and built its own church in town, Salem Lutheran.

After nearly 70 years of division, the two churches set aside their differences and reunited in 1963, adopting a name reflecting the harmony: Peace Lutheran.

Today, the church comprises two structures — a practical 1978 building in downtown Silvana and the original Little White Church on the Hill, which was listed on the Washington State Heritage Register as a historic site in 1972.

The hillside church is open for summer services and for special occasions, including weddings and funerals.

WEB EXTRAS

Just a couple extra photos this week.

Seattle Now & Then: The St. Paul Maritime Museum, ca. 1934

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THEN: Signs reading “MARINE MUSEUM” and “OPEN” beckon visitors to the St. Paul, berthed just east of the Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks in the mid-1930s. This image appears on an exceedingly rare postcard recently acquired by photo historian Ron Edge. When under sail, the vessel’s fully rigged acre of canvas was supported by nearly 15 miles of cordage. (Ron Edge collection)
NOW: Pictured in early March from the same rooftop vantage, atop a building now housing the Chittenden Locks’ administrative offices, the docks below are now home to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers debris recovery vessel, the MV Puget. Local institutions that showcase the subjects of the former St. Paul include the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, pugetmaritime.org, and HistoryLink.org. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on April 7, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on April 10, 2022)

A 1930s Seattle maritime museum was both fleeting and floating
By Jean Sherrard

For local maritime historians, there once was a Camelot. During a brief stretch in the mid-1930s, the sailing ship St. Paul served as Seattle’s first and only floating nautical museum, ideally situated on the freshwater side of the Ballard Locks.

Built in Bath, Maine, in 1874, the 228foot-long vessel with a soaring 150-foot main mast was reasonably swift for its size. The St. Paul crossed the Atlantic in just 16 days and sailed between San Francisco and New York, rounding Chile’s Cape Horn, in a brisk 103 days.

After hauling cargo between Britain, America and the Far East for nearly three decades, the elegant square-rigged craft (identified by Bremerton maritime historian Michael Mjelde as a “down easter”) was consigned to service between Alaskan canneries and Seattle until its banishment to Lake Union in 1924 with other relics and obsolete tall ships destined for the scrap heap.

Only the timely intervention of a local band of fervent maritime and marine enthusiasts saved the St. Paul from demolition.

Founded in 1928, the Puget Sound Academy of Science dedicated itself to “the diffusion of scientific knowledge by means of … publications, expeditions and exhibits.” The brainchild of Henry Landes, dean of the University of Washington College of Science and husband of Seattle’s first female mayor, Bertha K. Landes, the academy also was the beneficiary of Arthur Foss, co-owner of Foss Launch and Tugboat Company.

A collector and history buff, Foss had purchased the St. Paul and offered it to the academy for use as a floating exhibit. Enlisting naturalist (and future peace activist) Floyd Schmoe as president, the group proposed a “marine museum,” merging maritime history and marine biology.

Schmoe’s promotional booklet asserted that the restored St. Paul would serve as the museum’s “chief exhibit. … Nothing will be placed on her deck or in her cabins which was not there when she was still in service.” Below the main deck would be “ample room for … exhibits of primitive and historical boats … and the story of man’s development of the ship.” Another lower deck would include a “salt-water aquarium (with) marine life from the waters and shores of Puget Sound.”

The Marine Museum and Aquarium opened June 16, 1934, welcoming thousands of visitors to its Ballard berth (admission: one dime) for the next two years. But the museum’s shining moment faded all too soon.

The wooden-hulled St. Paul fell victim to Northwest rain and a dearth of regular maintenance. In 1942, at age 68, the deteriorating vessel was towed to Vancouver Island’s Oyster Bay to be scuttled as a breakwater.

WEB EXTRA

For our narrated, audio-visual 360-degree version of this column, please click on through.

Seattle Now & Then: Our 2nd annual April Fools quiz

(Published in The Seattle Times online on March 24, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on March 27, 2022)

Distortion, half-truths, outright lies – our second April Fools’ quiz
By Jean Sherrard

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Yoshino cherry trees on the Quad at the UW in full bloom (Jean Sherrard)

As cherry trees blossom, we at Now & Then extend the welcome mat for our second annual April Fools’ Day quiz. We trust this exercise in historical whimsy will entertain and challenge in equal measure.

Please note that each question has a single correct answer. All other choices are larded with distortion, half-truths and outright lies!

THEN1: The Blob, photographed in 1986, squatting on the northwest corner of First Avenue North and Roy Street, literally stopped traffic during its construction. (CARY TOLMAN, MUSEUM OF HISTORY & INDUSTRY, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER COLLECTION)

Question 1

A BLOB BY ANY OTHER NAME Originally Clyde’s Cleaners, built in 1946 to serve lower Queen Anne Hill, the building was refashioned in 1984 into the ferroconcrete mound popularly known as The Blob. Detested and beloved in equal measure, the structure was demolished in 1997. What was The Blob’s original purpose?

A: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s nascent first draft of MoPOP (his Museum of Popular Culture), also colloquially known as The Blob.

B: The bulbous Moorish fort/Spanish villa themes were the brainchild of developer Anthony Dadvar, who intended to house a Mediterranean/Mexican restaurant, the Isla del Sol.

C: The last Queen Anne communal dwelling of the Love Family, a New Age religious group founded in the late 1960s.

D: An early and failed attempt at architectural 3D printing, engineered by noted inventor John Williams.

E: A movie set constructed for Ridley Scott’s megahit “Aliens” (1986), never used in actual filming.

THEN2: Masked men and women pose in downtown Seattle on Third near Washington in late October 1918. (Paul Dorpat Collection)

Question 2

WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? In early fall 1918, the misnamed “Spanish” flu raged throughout the Northwest. On Oct. 6, city health commissioner Dr. J.S. McBride and Mayor Ole Hanson ordered the closure of schools, churches and theaters to combat infection (you know the drill). On Oct. 28, they added a mandatory mask order. Seattleites largely obeyed, until tearing off and twirling their masks to celebrate what notable event?

A: Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918.

B: Santa’s arrival by reindeer-drawn sled in Pioneer Square on Nov. 30, 1918.

C: The conclusion of the five-day Seattle General Strike on Feb. 11, 1919.

D: The return of the 63rd Coast Artillery from World War I on March 12, 1919.

E: The mask order was never suspended.

THEN3: The ferry Elwha prepares to blow its whistle departing from Colman Dock in about 1970. A newly built and still lonely SeaFirst Tower stands sentinel at center. (Frank Shaw, Paul Dorpat Collection)

Question 3:

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS WHISTLE Vessels of the Black Ball Line, from which today’s Washington State Ferries are directly descended, signaled arrivals and departures with whistle blasts. To this day, each captain and vessel employs signature toots. Which is the standard whistle sequence used by Seattle ferries?

A: A single melancholy blast.

B: Three medium-long honks, translating “S” for Seattle into Morse Code.

C: One long and two short toots, known by maritime afficionados as “a warp and two woofs.”

D: All signal patterns are at the captain’s discretion, reflecting the skipper’s mood.

E: Short, repeat blasts, used solely as small-craft warnings during a pea-soup fog.

NOW: Looking west across Second Avenue, the triangular “Sinking Ship” garage illustrates the 30-degree angle between Yesler and James streets that divides the grid of downtown streets. (Jean Sherrard)

Question 4 (see “Now” photo):

THIRTY DEGREES OF SEPARATION Many readers will be familiar with the popular mnemonic: “Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest,” muttered under locals’ breaths to recall the sequence of downtown streets. Yet all bets are off at Pioneer Square, where, north from Yesler, every street veers 30 degrees to the northwest, resulting in an odd tangle of angles. How did this come about?

A: The Seattle Fault runs directly under Yesler. In 1854, an earthquake caused massive seismic displacement, forever altering the shape of the young city.

B: South of Yesler, soggy tideland marshes made accurate mapping impossible.

C: Yesler was the clergy-mandated northern boundary of Seattle’s original red-light district. Its angled streets, pontificated Rev. David Blaine in 1855, supplied “ample warning of a turn to sin.”

D: Unresolved land-plat disputes between early white settlers David “Doc” Maynard, Arthur Denny and Carson Boren resulted in colliding street grids.

E: Fake news. Cartographers and geographers are complicit in promoting this fictional twist. Actual Seattle streets run straight as an arrow.

Answers

1:B

2:A

3:C

4: D

The rubric

One correct answer:
You’re a Mercer Mess.

Two correct answers:
You tore down the Viaduct!

Three correct answers:
You’re a Pike Pundit.

Four correct answers:
You’ve attained Seattle Chill.

Seattle Now & Then: Anders Wilse’s waterfront

THEN 1: Perched atop the roof of the Seattle Fish Company warehouse on then-Pier 8, Anders Wilse captures a southwest view of Seattle’s late 1890s waterfront. Schwabacher’s Wharf was eventually renamed Pier 58 in 1944, reconstructed as Waterfront Park in 1974, and collapsed into Elliott Bay in September 2020. A reimagined Waterfront Park is to open on new pilings in 2024. (courtesy MOHAI)
NOW: The same view from Pier 59, now home to the Seattle Aquarium. Diamond Ice’s wooden buildings were replaced in 1912 by a concrete structure, now a Public Storage facility. Keen eyes might spot a top slice of the remaining Hotel Vendome, directly above the facility’s fire escape. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on March 10, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on March 13, 2022)

Home was where photographer Anders Wilse’s heart ended up – after beating a successful path to Seattle
By Jean Sherrard

“You can’t go home again” was a sentiment my great-grandfather would have echoed. Ole Andreas Ringseth (“Daddy Andrew” to his extended family) was part of the Norwegian diaspora between 1860 and 1910, emigrating in 1902 from tiny Liabygda on Norway’s west coast to Tacoma, never to return.

One of his enterprising countrymen, 19-year-old Anders Beer Wilse had arrived in Minneapolis 18 years earlier. As a civil engineer with the ever-expanding railroads, he soon rolled  to the Pacific Northwest.

THEN 2: A studio portrait of Anders Beer Wilse, taken soon after his 1890 arrival in Seattle.

Uniquely, Wilse began documenting his surveying and cartography with photography, at which he became increasingly skilled. In 1897, he quit his day job and opened a photo studio in Seattle, fortuitously just as Gold Rush fever infected the city. Over the next three years, he captured the booming city and its environs.

Wilse’s portrait of Seattle’s Colman Dock during the Yukon Gold Rush.

In our evocative “Then” photo, snapped from a wharf at the foot of Pike Street on a sunny afternoon, a half-dozen pedestrians belie an increasingly active waterfront. At least five train tracks run along Railroad Avenue in front of Schwabacher’s Wharf, where the USS Portland, bearing a ton of Yukon gold, docked in July 1897.

Diamond Ice and Storage, founded in 1893, advertised its product as “The Best Ice — No Core in It,” available for home delivery.

The Hotel Diller, still standing today at the southeast corner of First and University, can be seen behind the crisply whitewashed ice-plant smokestack, across the street from its northern neighbor, the Hotel Vendome. On the skyline, past an oddly tall waterfront light standard, the King County Courthouse tower peeps out.

Wilse’s Seattle Photographic Company soon became profitable, hiring three assistants, including Ira Webster and Nelson Stevens, founders of the renowned Webster and Stevens photographic studio.

In spring 1900, Wilse sent his young family back to Norway for what was intended to be a short visit. By summer’s end, however, his wife, Helen, sent word that she had no interest in returning to Seattle. With no small regret, Wilse left his adopted country — and camera equipment — behind, opening a second photography studio in Oslo in 1901. But Helen’s instincts proved sound.

On the verge of regaining independence from Sweden in 1905, Norway provided an ideal subject for a talented photographer. Wilse dedicated himself to documenting its emerging cultural identity, recording more than 200,000 photographs until his death in 1949.

THEN 3: Norway’s 500 kroner banknote, featuring Wilse’s photograph of a 1901 rescue lifeboat, the RS 14 Stavanger.

Today, his iconic images adorn Norwegian postage stamps and currency. Late in life, he expressed what might be a photographer’s credo: “I sought to capture for eternity the beauty of Norway’s landscape … something I believe can be of meaning to our descendants.”

WEB EXTRAS

For our 360 video portrait of the waterfront, featuring Wilse’s original photo and Jean’s narration, go here.

For more on the remarkable life of Anders Wilse, click through to Carolyn Marr’s 1994 essay for Columbia Magazine. Scroll down for illuminating and fascinating details of this gifted photographer’s life.

And thanks to Michael Mjelde for pointing out the identity of the vessel in our late 1890s “then” photo – the steamship Rosalee:

 

Seattle Now & Then: The Troy Laundry, 1912

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THEN: This northeast-facing 1912 image features 11 horse-drawn and three motor vehicles arranged with their drivers along two sides of Troy Laundry at the northeast corner of Nob Hill and Republican Streets. Drivers, who collected cash receipts, were occasional victims of hold-ups, as reported in the daily papers. Their pay averaged twice that of the “mangle girls.” (Courtesy Ron Edge)
NOW: The 19-year-old Seattle Laundry company parks two of its trucks outside the gates of Memorial Stadium. From left, drivers Bonny Teran, Catalina Lopez, with founders Chris and his father Ed Tudor. Their pickup and delivery laundry customers, says Chris, are largely busy, two-income families with children. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on Feb. 24, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Feb. 27, 2022)

We can’t mangle women’s role in popular, early-day laundries
By Jean Sherrard

I’d never encountered mangles and yeggs until researching this week’s column, but both made an appearance at Troy Laundry, subject of our 1912 “Then” photo.

The mangle was a commercial version of my grandmother’s hand-cranked wringer, mounted in her Renton basement atop an antique washing machine, just below shelves of mason jars filled with applesauce and preserves. The wooden rollers, cracked and worn from decades of use, appeared in at least one child’s nightmares as instruments of torture.

At commercial laundries across the country, skilled mangle operators, mostly young women, were in demand. In 1912, they worked 48 hours a week for $9 pay (about $250 today).

In the first three decades of the 20th century, commercial laundries boomed. One of many, the Troy Laundry, on the northeast corner of Nob Hill and Republican — now within the footprint of Seattle Center’s Memorial Stadium bleachers — eased the drudgery of washing, drying and ironing clothes for Seattle families.

In her book, “Never Done: A History of American Housework,” historian Susan Strasser writes that doing laundry was women’s “most hated task” which they would “jettison … whenever they had any discretionary money at all.”

In 1909, laundries nationwide grossed more than $100 million, an average of $5.30 per American household. Notes Strasser, “Even the poorest people in urban slums sent out some of their wash.”

In coming decades, competition arrived with home washing machines and dryers. By the 1940s, these once-luxury appliances were standard in many households.

Troy Laundry moved from its lower Queen Anne digs (land originally platted by David and Louisa Denny) to Fairview Avenue in 1927, making room for a new Civic Field, Auditorium and Arena, planting seeds that eventually blossomed into today’s Seattle Center.

And, nope, I haven’t forgotten about the yeggs. Their name was most likely derived from John Yegg, alias of a late 19th-early 20th century bank robber. Stickup artists, dubbed Yegg-men, were tempted by easy targets, namely businesses with cash on hand.

On Oct. 9, 1926, as reported in The Seattle Times, one nefarious crew attempted to crack the Troy Laundry safe with nitroglycerin. Interrupted by a night watchman, the “thoughtless yeggs” aborted the effort, leaving an unstable “soup” behind. After consulting experts from the Diebold Safe and Lock Co., DuPont Chemicals, and the University of Washington chemistry department, police successfully defused the threat.

“Science triumphed,” the Times exulted. “Soon … (they) had the safe open, and the laundry girls, breathing sighs of relief, went to work with increased vigor.”

WEB EXTRAS

For our usual 360 degree exploration of the locale plus a reading of the column itself, mosey over in this direction.

Seattle Now & Then: The Alaskan Way Viaduct, 1953

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THEN1: Fifty feet above the intersection of South Jackson Street and Alaskan Way on the viaduct’s top deck, amateur photographer Horace Sykes turned his camera toward a growing city. Cerulean blue skies augured an optimistic future. (Horace Sykes)
THEN 2: A repeat of the same scene, featuring a serendipitously red car in place of the jacketed women. The Smith Tower is dwarfed by the 2017 skyline, featuring the nearly completed 660-foot F-5 Tower at center.
NOW: Looking north from South Jackson Street and Alaskan Way on a rare sunny day in mid-December 2021, a viaduct-free waterfront bustles with construction amid the long process of rebuilding a divided city. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on Jan. 27, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Jan. 30, 2022)

Points of view less towering without divisive Alaskan Way Viaduct
By Jean Sherrard

No one on the waterfront misses the clatter and roar of cars and trucks overhead. But nearing the third anniversary of the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle residents still confess to mixed emotions.

Kate Conger, state Department of Highways staffer, opined in 1953 that the elevated speedway offered “a breathtaking view of Elliott Bay, the Olympics … and of Seattle’s towering skyline.” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer joined with hosannahs, proclaiming it “a royal necklace across the bosom of the Queen City.”

Yet over the decades, equally antiphonal voices cried for demolition. Paul Dorpat, in his encyclopedic book “Building Washington,” mourned that the viaduct “stretched a permanent cataract over the eye of the city.”

Truth be told, the prized, if fleeting, million-dollar views, available to rich and poor commuters alike, came at a price: a permanent concrete edifice dividing the city from its waterfront.

The initial vision for the double-deck structure, opened to traffic on April 4, 1953, emerged in the cash-strapped 1930s, but not until after World War II — and an exponentially expanding car culture — were plans finalized for a capacious roadway skirting the increasingly busy downtown core.

In its time, the 7,600-foot-long viaduct was an engineering marvel. Its twin 40-foot-wide roadways, each with three traffic lanes, comprised the single largest use of reinforced concrete (58,847 cubic yards, bolstered by nearly 8,000 tons of steel) in Seattle public-works history.

More than a decade before Interstate 5 carved its wide swath through our hourglass-shaped city, the viaduct served as the main north-south corridor, providing relief for tens of thousands of daily commuters. Today’s State Route 99 toll tunnel, which replaced the viaduct, allows for no less traffic but deprives photographers of a favorite perch.

Case in point: on April 3, 1953, Horace Sykes, longtime Seattle Camera Club member, strolled the speedway, opened to pedestrians for a day of traffic-free exploration. From this perch, Sykes snapped two dozen Kodachrome photos, most notably of two unidentified women in vivid, red jackets below the majestic Smith Tower, then still the tallest building in the west.

Before the viaduct’s demolition, I returned to that location several times, attempting to replicate Sykes’ dramatic panorama from moon-roofed cars, most recently in 2017 for our book “Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred.”

I captured the post-viaduct “Now” photo with my 22-foot extension pole at the same spot but 30 feet lower — further evidence of picturesque loss. Looking north at a tangled waterfront under seemingly endless construction reveals the immense work ahead as our city once more reinvents itself.

WEB EXTRAS

In addition to our usual 360 degree video, we encourage you to take one more tour of the Viaduct on its last day. Jean and Clay made a final commute on Friday, Feb. 1st.

THEN 3: During the official dedication of the new State Route 99 tunnel on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee cuts a green ribbon to inaugurate the subterranean roadway. (Jean Sherrard)
THEN 4: Tunnel movers and shakers pose on Feb. 2, 2019, beneath Jackson Street to celebrate before traffic arrives. From left: Tayloe Washburn, Charles Knutson, Bob Donegan, Emily Mannetti, Kimberly Farley, Jared Smith and Sally Bagshaw. (Jean Sherrard)

For more photos from that last pedestrian weekend atop the Viaduct, please revisit a post we made shortly thereafter.

Seattle Now & Then: On Our Fortieth Annniversary – celebrating the dawn of photography

(Please click to enlarge photos)

THEN 1: Taken from an upper story in a building owned by Daguerre, the first daguerreotype photo looks roughly south along the Boulevard du Temple into the Marais district of Paris. Abundant leaves on trees lining the boulevard suggest a summertime exposure. (LOUIS DAGUERRE)
THEN 1: Taken from an upper story in a building owned by Daguerre, the first daguerreotype photo looks roughly south along the Boulevard du Temple into the Marais district of Paris. Abundant leaves on trees lining the boulevard suggest a summertime exposure. BÉRANGÈRE LOMONT)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on Jan. 13, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Jan. 16, 2022)

At 40, ‘Now & Then’ celebrates the dawn of photography
By Jean Sherrard

This Sunday, “Now & Then” blows out 40 candles, celebrating the nation’s (if not the world’s) longest-running column dedicated to repeat photography.

It began on Jan. 17, 1982, when founder Paul Dorpat published his first comparison, an exuberant parade along Fourth Avenue welcoming home World War I artillery soldiers in 1919.

After more than 2,000 columns and four decades, we think it’s apropos to express belated gratitude for a 184-year-old gift.

THEN 2: French photographer Bérangère Lomont aims her lens as “Now & Then” column founder Paul Dorpat looks on in central Paris in 2005. Together, they repeated photos of the City of Light snapped by Dorpat as a teenager in 1955. (JEAN SHERRARD)

The story begins in 1838, when artist and inventor Louis Daguerre positioned a boxy device in the window of his Paris studio to capture the dance of light and shadow on the busy street below. For at least four minutes, he exposed the plate and instantly achieved a fistful of firsts:

  • The first photo of a city.
  • The first portrayal of human beings in a cityscape.
  • The first shoeshine caught on camera.

At first glance, the Boulevard du Temple in central Paris seems curiously devoid of people, save for one gent standing relatively still and getting his shoes polished by a bootblack on the sidewalk. The many hundreds of passersby were assuredly moving too quickly to be snared by the long exposure.

The long row of four- and five-story buildings housed many well-attended theatres. Parisians nicknamed it the Boulevard du Crime after the immensely popular vice melodramas they presented.

Paris, however, was on the verge of one of the greatest transformations in its long history. In 1852, a nephew of Napoleon Buonaparte grandly proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon III and envisioned a capitol suitable for a French empire.

The narrow, medieval streets and alleys, beloved by many Parisians, were to be widened and straightened. Entire neighborhoods would be leveled while parks, grand avenues, plazas and vast public-works projects would be added. Beginning in 1853 and for decades to come, the City of Light became a construction zone.

The Boulevard du Crime, along with most of its theatres, was demolished in 1862, to the dismay of dramatic audiences, replaced by the expanded plaza now known as Place de la Republique.

Today’s square is a popular gathering spot for Parisians young and old. It has hosted events from concerts to mass demonstrations. A bronze statue of Marianne, symbol of the French Republic, stands at its center, surrounded by figures representing Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Rights to Daguerre’s revolutionary invention, the daguerreotype process, were acquired by the French government in 1839 and offered unconditionally as a gift to humanity. Within months, daguerreotype cameras had spread throughout the world, recording images that we treasure — and, yes, repeat.

WEB EXTRAS

First, we offer boundless thanks to Berangere Lomont, whose friendship, generosity, and breathtaking photography have always provided inspiration and joy.

We also congratulate Paul Dorpat on the column he created 40 years ago. His remarkable contributions to our region’s history are unparalleled and will stand as monuments to his boundless curiosity, passion and scholarship.

We include a few photos of Paul exploring his beloved Paris in 2005 with photographers Berangere and Jean in tow. Also making an appearance is Paul’s dear pal Bill Burden, who joined us in Paris.

Let’s begin with a hilarious photo and video of Paul, meeting his twin in Paris:

Paul and his Paris twin, 2005
Paul and Berangere on a bateau mouche
Man with a camera
Statuesque Paul at the Louvre
Berangere with husband Denis
Paul and Bill Burden greet with a kiss
Denis, Paul and Bill
Dinner chez Berangere
Alarming cheeses
Denis, Paul, Mike
In the Louvre
In dim Sainte Chapelle using Bill head as tripod
Berangere snaps two old friends
Near Place des Vosges
Berangere repeats photos…
Last morning in Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 1973-74 photo essay of Iran and Afghanistan by Scott Wyatt

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

Photographs of Iran and Afghanistan 1973-74

[This essay is courtesy of Scott Wyatt, whose work is also featured today in a “Now & Then” Postscript that showcases his July 26, 1970, photos of Jimi Hendrix in concert at Sicks Stadium, the rock guitarist’s last Seattle show. Hendrix died less than two months later, on Sept. 18.]

By Scott Wyatt

I got my first 35mm camera in 1967 and fell in love with Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” street photography. I took my Nikkormat with me everywhere, including the Hendrix concert at Sicks Stadium in 1970. Not much later, I was studying Edward Weston’s work and other larger format photographers and ended up buying a Hasselblad (a larger, medium format camera). When Jenny and I joined the Peace Corps in 1973 and went to Iran, I packed the Hasselblad too.

Scott and Jenny
Jenny and Scott Wyatt in Iran

Well, Iran is no Point Lobos, and photographing peppers was missing the incredible opportunity in front of me. Iran is a rugged country with beautiful people and some magnificent architecture. So, back to street photography for me …. with a slow, clumsy Hasselblad!

It turns out, I think, that the medium format was perfect for portraits of Iranians in their surroundings and their architecture.

The sidewalks of Iranian towns and cities (sometimes just a dirt extension of the roadway) were magical. So much life and interaction. The sidewalk community would have made Jane Jacobs smile ear to ear.

A typical street would have bread shops next to the shop making shoes and buckets from old rubber tires, next to a yogurt shop, next to a shop selling live turkeys, and on and on. Sidewalk sitters everywhere. Stop and have tea and chat.

Iranian bread shop

Hot from the oven, best bread I ever tasted. Many of our dinners (countless) were composed of one of these flat breads and a large bowl of yogurt. In the photo was our favorite, Nan-E Barbari.

Here is a different kind of “street” photographer. He would open and close the “lens” with his hands (shutter). The “film” was a positive paper. Developed with chemicals under a blanket while-you-wait. All for 7 cents. Jenny and I still have the photo of us he took.

We took our first New Year’s vacation (Iranian New Year is the first day of spring) and traveled to Afghanistan for three weeks. Farsi is also the language in Afghanistan. We each had a small backpack. My cameras and film pretty much took up the whole pack.

We traveled by train, bus, and hitchhike. Our Iranian friends told us that we should go to Afghanistan to see what Iran was like 40 years ago (now 90 years ago). It was the trip of a lifetime: spectacular sights and amazing people. We almost died from food poisoning and came back with some nasty parasites. Worth it, I think.

I took this photo of money changers in Kandahar, a tough town even in 1973. Happy to get out alive.

Shah's mosque

The religious architecture in Iran is second to none. You can get religion just by being in one of these great mosques. Isfahan has some of the best, still standing architecture thanks to being less prone to earthquakes.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Giant Westlake Santa, 1969

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This southwest-facing photo most likely was taken Dec. 20, 1969. A local radio station, KOL-AM, set up a small broadcast stage near Santa’s chimney to entertain Christmas shoppers. The banner above the stage reads, “KOL and Craig wish you” and a peace symbol. We haven’t been able to identify Craig, but in front of the stage, a sign possibly left over from an earlier protest reads, “The truth Hurts.”
NOW: The Joshua Green Building (1913) can be seen at upper left in both photos. Directly across the street, Century Square, an office/retail building, was erected in 1985, replacing the Bigelow Building (1905) and the Colonial Theater (1913). Our “Now” prospect is significantly higher than the “Then,” snapped from the fifth-floor balcony of the Fifth and Pine Building.

(Published in The Seattle Times online on Dec. 9, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Dec. 12, 2021)

In 1969 at Westlake, Santa sees when you’re protesting
By Jean Sherrard

On Santa’s watch, when you’re protesting, are you being “good for goodness’ sake”?

At four stories tall, the gargantuan Santa Claus sculpture that perched atop a brick chimney at Westlake Mall was oft proclaimed the largest in the world.

Commissioned in 1968 by John Gilmore of the Central Association of Seattle (now the Downtown Seattle Association), the jolly red giant waved an animated arm, puffed on a giant pipe and conversed with astonished children and their parents through hidden speakers. Young actors from Seattle’s Piccoli Theater, hidden behind one-way mirrors, provided Santa’s voice.

Jean and Wesley Stanley of Stanley Plastics Products Co. of Enumclaw designed and built the 30-foot-tall St. Nick, along with the 12-foot-high chimney. A steel armature covered with wire mesh. Fiberglass ensured structural stability.

Though divided into six pieces for transport, Santa’s journey from Enumclaw required wide-load permits along with a waiting crane to help hoist and assemble the 900-pound figure upon arrival.

But this version of Father Christmas was revised when he reappeared in 1969. A local PTA group lobbied the sponsoring Central Association to remove Santa’s jumbo pipe. Smoking was deemed inappropriate public behavior for the merry old elf, as per the U.S. surgeon general’s stance.

In addition, Earl Kelly, beloved Ballard High School drama teacher and founder of the Piccoli Theater, heard from church groups that actors who voiced Santa were “taking the Christ out of Christmas.” In response, Kelly advised his cast to moderate their expressions of pagan merriment (Ho ho ho?).

Childhood memories of Westlake Santa are a mixed bag. The massive, bearded, slightly bug-eyed face inspired delight and nightmares.

Westlake Mall has long served as Seattle’s unofficial town square, nestled between Pike and Pine Streets along Fourth Avenue. From the early 1960s to today, it has been a hub of protests, political events and community celebrations, often all at the same time.

The year of our “Then” photo, 1969, was marked by civil strife. More than half a million American troops were stationed in Vietnam. Although most Americans still approved of the war, huge demonstrations rocked the nation throughout the fall.

On Dec. 13, as reported in The Seattle Times, student protesters gathered beneath the colossal Kris Kringle to distribute leaflets to weekend Christmas shoppers while singing carols rewritten for the occasion. To the tune of “The First Noel,” anti-war carolers sang:

The Vietnam War
has lasted nine years
killing one million people
and brought many tears

The Westlake Santa was erected each December until 1976, after which he was decommissioned. An online researcher, however, traced the sculpture to North Pole, Alaska, 15 miles southeast of Fairbanks, which we trust is a place of peace.

WEB EXTRAS

To view the 360 degree video, narrated by Jean, please click right here.

Also, this coming Sunday at 2 P.M., join Jean for his 14th annual Rogue’s Christmas at Town Hall – with actors Kurt Beattie, Marianne Owen, and musical guests Pineola. Ken Workman, Duwamish elder and Chief Seattle descendant, will offer a Coast Salish welcome.