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Seattle Now & Then: Clallam County Courthouse, 1914

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THEN: The nearly completed Clallam County Courthouse looms above the Lincoln Street ravine, whose elevated plank roadway provided temporary passage during the extensive regrading. Snow-topped Olympics suggest that this exposure is from late fall of 1914. The four-faced clock’s maker, E. Howard and Co., also supplied Seattle’s King Street Station Tower clock (1906). (Paul Dorpat collection)
NOW: Today’s courthouse at 319 Lincoln St. continues to house county administrative departments, the county prosecutor and county permitting office as well as courtrooms in use today. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. On this late summer day, the Olympics are largely smothered in smoke. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on Sept. 16, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Sept. 19, 2021)

Tower lets Port Angeles hear a regular ring of promise

By Jean Sherrard

On a warm evening in mid-August, smoke from hundreds of British Columbian fires had crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca, turning the sun an unsettling red over Port Angeles, where I’d paused for a photo and a bite to eat. Offering solace, the Clallam County courthouse bell tolled the hour as it had for over a century.

For Port Angeles, 1914 was a banner year, pregnant with promise. A gleaming hydroelectric dam had just been erected on the Elwha River, supplying the county seat’s electrical needs. The city’s first large sawmill was built on the waterfront and connected by rail to stands of virgin timber to the west. A vast regrade was well under way, raising the waterfront, filling gullies and lowering the steeper hills. And work on the new courthouse, featured in our “Then” photo, was largely complete.

Evidence of the area’s human habitation reaches back almost three millennia, with two Klallam villages sharing the harbor for at least 400 years. They called it I’e’nis (reportedly meaning “good beach”), which morphed into two names now in use: Ediz Hook (the city’s long and protective signature sand spit jutting east into the Strait) and snow-fed Ennis Creek, which empties into the bay.

Port Angeles’ natural, deep-water harbor was noted by Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza in 1791 and dubbed Puerto de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Port of Our Lady of the Angels). One year later, British Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver, a staunch Anglican, shortened the name to its current two words.

In the mid-1850s, the first permanent white settlers arrived, staking Donation Land Act claims near Native villages. Over succeeding decades, land speculators, shady political operators, a utopian colony and pulp and paper mill operations flourished while ejecting the Klallam from their ancestral homes.

Designed by early 20th century Seattle architect Francis W. Grant, the two-story neo-classical brick and terra cotta-trimmed courthouse was nothing if not aspirational. Built to replace a wooden structure destabilized by the regrade, its graceful, sturdy lines reflected bright boomtown hopes. Locals also appreciated its rock-bottom price of $64,000.

The four-faced clock/bell tower — today proudly featured on the Clallam County seal — was installed after a serendipitous discovery. Francis Grant unearthed an unclaimed, Boston-based E. Howard and Co. clock, manufactured in 1880 and shipped around Cape Horn to Seattle. It languished in storage for decades until the architect encouraged Clallam County to pick it up for a $5,115 song.

It continues to sing to this day, faithfully striking every half hour.

WEB EXTRAS

No 360 video this week due to the theft of my monopod on a beach near La Push. However, a few oceanside photos may help salve the loss.

Seattle Now & Then: University National Bank, 1925

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THEN: In 1925, streetcar tracks gracefully inscribe brick-lined curves in the paved intersection before the renamed University National Bank, which anchors the northeast corner of 45th and University Way. (courtesy MOHAI)
NOW: Michael Oaksmith, President of Development for Hunters Capital stands with the Beezer brothers’ creation across the street. The city-landmarked building has been lovingly remodeled, with a restoration of much of its early elegance. After 108 years as a bank, most recently a Wells Fargo branch, the structure is repurposed for shops and offices. (Jean Sherrard)

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

Twin architects banked on a legacy of faith plus finance

By Jean Sherrard

Keen to serve both God and Mammon, Louis and Michael Beezer defied scriptural maxims to the contrary. Twins whose architectural firm produced edifices for faith and finance, they skillfully negotiated the two worlds.

Born on July 6, 1869, in Bellefont, Pennsylvania, the Beezers arrived in Seattle in 1907. Different from competing firms, they were hands-on designers, overseeing every step of the construction process.

In 1908, their vision for a new “mosquito fleet” terminal at Colman Dock, with its Italianate clock tower and dome, drew acclaim, Thereafter, the industrious pair enjoyed commissions from Alaska to California.

The Beezers were devout Roman Catholics whose extensive work for the Archdiocese of Seattle included the Immaculate Conception School (1909), Dominican Priory of the Blessed Sacrament (1909–25) and Edward J. O’Dea High School (1923). After the St. James Cathedral dome collapsed beneath a 1916 record snow, a trusted Louis Beezer helped rebuild the destroyed sanctuary while improving its abysmal acoustics.

Financial institutions provided bread to match the ecclesiastical butter. The Beezers’ neo-classic banks throughout the West include the focus of this week’s column.

Having relocated from downtown digs in 1895, the University of Washington was booming — in both enrollment and revenue. Its beleaguered comptroller regularly ferried cash and checks to central-city repositories, spending a half-day or more in weary commute.

Providing a sober solution was the University District’s first financial institution, Washington State Bank, founded in 1906 by professors, administrators and business leaders — and we do mean sober. By state law, the sale of alcohol was banned within two miles of campus.

By 1913, the bank, expanding with the university, commissioned the Beezers to erect a stately, two-story structure at 45th and University Way. It was such a calm, rural intersection that neighbors described choruses of frogs serenading from nearby ponds and swamps.

The establishment’s ground floor and basement offered opulence and security, while a lofty, second-floor ballroom and concert hall welcomed fraternity and community dances.

Our “Then” photo depicts a livelier U-District, packed with shops and businesses catering to students. A banner stretched across 45th Street publicizing a “University Legion Frolic” accurately dates the photo to 1925. In late September that year, the new American Legion Hall on the southwest corner of 10th Avenue and 50th Street hosted the affair, which promised dancing, “free vaudeville” and a “Young Woman’s Popularity Contest.”

We offer a fiery footnote: In 1976, the legion sold its hall to Randy Finley, who converted it to the Seven Gables Theater. Shuttered in 2017, the charming moviehouse burned down last Christmas Eve.

WEB EXTRAS

We visit 45th and University Way for a 360 degree video featuring the column. To watch, click here.

Mike Oaksmith and Noah Macia admire the downstairs vault of the University National Bank.
The spacious second floor was once used as a ballroom.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Waterfront Fiction, 1936

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THEN 1: Vessels representing several classes populate this postcard: (from left) the steamer Iroquois, the ferry Kalakala, the tug Goliah, a pair of mystery craft that stumped even our experts, the Coast Guard cutter Tallapoosa and the Army Corps of Engineers dredger Michie. Also note the painted-on (and super-sized) Mount Baker. This historical postcard is still quite popular on eBay. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
THEN 2: Charles F. Laidlaw’s unretouched 1936 original bears a handful of docked ships: (from left) at Pier 6 (now Pier 57 with the Great Wheel), the British freighter M.S. Devon City; at Pier 3 (now Pier 54, home to Ivar’s), the Bureau of Indian Affairs cutter North Star; and at Pier 1 (now Ferry Piers 50-52), the freighter SS Susan V. Luckenbach. Mid-World War II, on May 1, 1944, the military renumbered all the piers. (Courtesy Ron Edge)
NOW: This aerial photo was taken on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. The Washington State ferry arriving at Colman Dock is the genuine article. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on Aug. 19, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Aug. 22, 2021)

An aerial depiction of Seattle’s too-busy bay feels right for its time
By Jean Sherrard

The camera never lies, so goes the maxim. Yet photographers have stretched the truth on occasion, long before Photoshop made fakery a breeze.

Last Feb. 27, Clay Eals and I chartered a helicopter, the left door removed for photography. This week’s “Now” photo, from 800 feet above the waterfront, illustrates the potential for spectacle and perspective.

Seeing this elevated view, photo historian Ron Edge responded by sending me our serendipitous first “Then” photo — a shot I’d never seen. “Pretty close!” Ron marveled.

It was a prevalent postcard of a vibrant Elliott Bay, taken Sept. 15, 1936, by pilot/aerial photographer Charles F. Laidlaw, who apparently captured a miracle of near-misses. In it, various crisscrossing vessels provide visual bon-bons for today’s maritime historians.

Most recognizable at lower left is the beloved, streamlined ferry Kalakala, placed into service in 1935 and departing Colman Dock on the Bremerton run that she would make for 30 years. Above left, the night steamer Iroquois arrives from Victoria via Port Angeles. Puffing from Pier 3 (now Pier 54) is the sturdy oceangoing tug Goliah, built in 1882 and later converted from steam to diesel. Barreling south is the Coast Guard cutter Tallapoosa, fresh from fleet duties with the Bering Sea Patrol. At lower right, the Army Corps of Engineers dredger Michie heads due west.

Whew! Such a spectacular view of Seattle’s busy port.

Trouble is, it’s mostly fiction. Skillfully inserted, complete with brushed-in wakes and waves, none of these vessels (identified by veteran ship historians Michael Mjelke and Paul Marlow) were present in Laidlaw’s original photo, our second “Then.”

One explanation for the empty bay lies in the widening ripples of the Great Depression. Imports and exports had plummeted since the 1929 crash, threatening maritime commerce with ruin.

By the mid-1930s, widespread labor unrest sporadically shuttered ports along the West Coast. Under sympathetic President Franklin Roosevelt, unions flourished. William Randolph Hearst’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer even paused publication for the first time since its 1863 founding due to striking writers and editors.

What’s more, Puget Sound’s Mosquito Fleet, dozens of lively craft ferrying passengers and cargo bowed to grander but fewer vessels. “Suddenly, in the mid-(19)30s, people found that their Fleet was gone,” wrote marine historian Gordon Newell. “(Seeing) the quiet reaches of the Sound, they began to feel that something fine and exciting was missing.”

In that context, Laidlaw’s marine manipulations feel right for the time, a quiescent harbor being no subject for a popular postcard. With no end in sight to the Depression, maybe Seattle was ready for a boost, even one fabricated with a photographer’s fib.

WEB EXTRAS

In place of Jean Sherrard‘s usual 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect, below we have aerial video of downtown by Clay Eals.

Here is a two-and-a-half-minute video tour of downtown Seattle from the air on Feb. 27, 2021. Jean Sherrard takes stills while Clay Eals takes video.

Seattle Now & Then: “We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration”

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The cover of “We Hereby Refuse”

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Aug. 5, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Aug. 8, 2021)

In wartime fear, ‘empathy is the only thing that can bind us’
By Jean Sherrard

This week we interview Frank Abe, author of the graphic novel ‘”We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration” (Chin Music Press and the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, 2021), illustrated by Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki, and co-authored by Tamiko Nimura.

This powerful account of courage and confrontation offers compelling lessons for us today.

THEN1: In Ishikawa’s illustration of departure from King Street Station, detained immigrant husbands and fathers clutch paper sacks they were given to replace their confiscated suitcases. At right are the outstretched arms of wives and children screaming their goodbyes in Japanese and English.
NOW1: Seattle writer Frank Abe (left), also a documentarian and ex-KIRO reporter, stands beside illustrator Ross Ishikawa, cartoonist and animator, on the King Street Station platform. (Jean Sherrard)

Jean: When and where does this story begin?

Frank: It begins with the FBI arresting 150 immigrant leaders in Seattle in the hysteria following the start of World War II. The men were marched in the pre-dawn hours from the U.S. Immigration Detention Building to King Street Station, where The Seattle Times captured a photo of them on the platform boarding a train for the Department of Justice alien internment camp at Fort Missoula, Montana. When I first saw this photo, I knew it would be central to the story of Jim Akutsu, one of our three main characters.

THEN2: The Seattle Times photo of March 19, 1942, that inspired Abe and Ishikawa.

Jean: Why a graphic novel?

Frank: It matches the epic sweep of a movie at a fraction of the production cost. I asked Ross to draw Jim’s mother as clawing through the bars and screaming to her husband after reading the description in the Times of “tear-stained eyes” and the din of “staccato chatter” in the morning air.

Jean: Your book takes an uncompromising view of systemic exclusion and racism.

Frank: Many fathers were separated from their families, who were themselves incarcerated at camps like Minidoka, Idaho. Jim and his brother Gene refused to be drafted until the government restored their citizenship rights, starting with their freedom. We emphasize that the government was responsible for targeting these families based solely on their race.

A full page from ‘We Hereby Refuse’

Jean: The storytelling has a documentary feel to it but also feels intensely personal.

Frank: Everything is drawn from the historical record. Readers can immerse themselves in the personal stories of our characters in a way that generates empathy. Empathy is the only thing that can bind us when the same elements of wartime fear and ignorance of the “other” survive to this day.

Jean: So the empathy signals a warning bell along with possible remedy?

Frank: Our book opens with the FBI knocking on the door to arrest Jim’s father. It ends with ICE breaking down the door to deport unwanted immigrants. In 1941, America feared a second attack from the Pacific. Just one year ago, we had a pandemic-era president dog-whistle “China virus” and “Kung flu,” received by some as permission to kick and punch Asian Americans on the street. Some things haven’t changed.

WEB EXTRAS

This week features a special 360 degree video of Jean’s 12-minute interview with Frank Abe at King Street Station. Includes select illustrations from “We Hereby Refuse” plus Frank’s reading from the John Okada’s classic “No-No Boy.” Not to be missed. (And if you’d prefer to hear just the audio of Frank’s chat with Jean, click right here!)

Illustrator Ross Ishikawa and writer Frank Abe pose in the courtyard of King Street Station.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Jimi Hendrix plays Sick’s Stadium, 1970

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THEN1: Little did 16-year-old Dave DePartee, standing near the front of the centerfield stage, know that he would be snapping one of the few surviving photos of Jimi Hendrix’s final Seattle concert on July 26, 1970. Over Hendrix’s shoulder, apartments with a view into Sicks Stadium stand atop Tightwad Hill. At upper right, a corner of the stadium scoreboard advertises Chevron gas. Jimi’s orange-red outfit provides the sole splash of color on a gray day. (Courtesy Dave DePartee)
THEN2: Erected in 1938 by Rainier Brewing Company owner Emil Sick for his Pacific Coast League baseball team the Seattle Rainiers, Sick’s (then Sicks’, then Sicks) Stadium stood between Rainier Avenue and today’s Martin Luther King Jr. Way. This view looks west from Tightwad Hill on June 15, 1938, when the Seattle Rainiers played their first home game in the new stadium. (Courtesy David Eskenazi)
NOW: In a southeast section of Lowe’s Home Improvement on Rainier Avenue, Dave DePartee, playing air guitar with an axe, and local sports historian David Eskenazi pose near the original location of Hendrix’s stage. Eskenazi is also an artist and Hendrix fan. In 1980, while attending the University of Washington, his original pencil drawing was made into a poster by Tower Records to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hendrix’s death. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on July 22, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on July 25, 2021)

Jimi Hendrix makes his final home run at Sick’s Stadium
By Jean Sherrard

On Sunday, July 26, 1970, it was a typical outdoor Seattle scenario, rainy but right.

In our early teens, my friends and I hunkered on Tightwad Hill, the steep and legendary bluff across Empire Way (today’s Martin Luther King Jr. Way) from Sicks Stadium. Generations of baseball fans had preceded us there, finding catbird seats for minor-league games in Rainier Valley.

Today, however, rock was the draw. Two groups, Cactus and Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys, opened the show. But we were there for the headliner — Seattle’s own Jimi Hendrix, playing his fourth-ever hometown concert.

Raised in the Central District, the throbbing heart of Seattle’s Black community, self-taught Hendrix had never learned to read music. Left-handed, he turned his guitar and the world upside-down. In just four years, he’d become a superstar, astounding audiences with revolutionary (sometimes incendiary) musicality. At 27, he was one of rock’s greatest instrumentalists, though the pressures of his meteoric rise were mounting.

Inside the post-Rainiers, Angels and Pilots ballpark, thousands of eager fans including today’s “Then” photographer, 16-year-old Dave DePartee, were watching from the muddy infield. This column’s founder, Paul Dorpat, then a concert promoter and underground newspaper publisher, stood backstage.

From Tightwad Hill, the stage was a postage stamp, but the loud rock pummeled us. Fans repeatedly tried to sneak over chain-link and wood-slat fences, painfully confronted by rent-a-cops spraying mace from catwalks. Barriers were breached only once, by a trio who lifted a fence and slid under to Tightwad huzzahs.

Just before Hendrix began, harder rains fell from a steel-wool sky. The mix of water and electric instruments was worrisome, but after rubber mats were installed, the show resumed.

And here’s where the narrative flips. Consider, if you will, an exhausted, moody Hendrix playing before a home audience, the backstage jammed with family, friends and obligations. What followed was a note of generosity echoing from Jimi’s youth.

On Sept. 1, 1957, Elvis Presley had played Sicks’ Stadium for an ecstatic crowd of 16,000. Short the buck-fifty admission, 14-year-old Hendrix watched the show perched atop — you guessed it — Tightwad Hill.

Thirteen years later, Hendrix instructed the stadium crew to throw gates open and let in hundreds of young cheapskates, including me, from the same bluff. Roaring approval, we scrambled down the incline and inside, thumbing our noses at the defanged rent-a-cops.

Tragically, this was Hendrix’s last concert in the continental United States. Less than two months later, on Sept. 18, he died in London of an accidental drug overdose. His sonic earthquake continues to shake and inspire to this day.

WEB EXTRAS

A handful of treats, including Jean’s 360-degree video accompanying this column, recorded on location at Lowe’s Home Improvement (not far from the stage in Sick’s centerfield). To see it, click right here.

Also, check out David Eskenazi’s artwork for the poster printed by Tower Records on the 10th anniversary of Hendrix’s death.

Tower Record sold many hundreds of these posters. Dave recounts that Jimi’s brother Leon and father Al Hendrix stopped by and added their own signatures at a signing event
A Seattle Times article about David’s poster scribed by rock critic Patrick MacDonald
More original art by David Eskenazi
There must be some kind of way outta here / Said the joker to the thief…

And if we ask nicely, Clay Eals may relate the story of his letter which appeared in Life magazine. (Happy birthday, Clay!)

= = = = =

Clay here on July 29: Thanks, Jean, and I apologize for posting this section a week later. My daughter’s six-day visit from Philly to celebrate my birth put a lot of stuff on hold, and I’m just catching up!

Indeed, as anyone who was around in fall 1970 can well remember, the overdose deaths of counterculture rock stars Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin hit hard and stirred a range of emotions. In particular, the essay below by Albert Goldman struck a chord, in part because it appeared in well-known and well-read Life magazine . (Click the image to enlarge it.)

Essay by Albert Goldman in the Oct. 16, 1970, edition of Life magazine.

On a whim, I decided to write a letter for Life to consider publishing. Imagine my delight to receive this hand-signed reply:

Oct. 26, 1970, letter from Life magazine’s A. Mate Scott to Clay Eals.

Imagine my further delight to receive this letter four days later:

Oct. 30, 1970, letter from “RFG” at Life magazine to Clay Eals.

Then came publication of the Nov. 6, 1970, edition of Life magazine itself. (The cover featured then-President Richard Nixon in youthful days, holding a violin.) My letter appeared at the top of page 21:

Letter by Clay Eals published in Nov. 6, 1970, edition of Life magazine.

Particularly in retrospect, my letter seems inartful. (Why did I use the word “thing”?) But I’m sure my 19-year-old self was trying to drill down to the emotions of the matter. I suspect the Life editors printed my missive because it had a more positive tone than a previous letter from someone else who slammed the Goldman essay.

Only two years later, Life magazine (which had started up in 1936) shut down. It rebounded in 1978 but shut down for good in 2000. This means that there are people in their mid-20s who have never seen a copy of Life magazine on a newsstand. In our short-attention-span society, surely many don’t even know what Life magazine was.

Much the pity. Large-format, photo-filled Life magazine was once a big deal, certainly a pace-setter. Where is today’s Life magazine? Probably in a zillion pieces spread out all over the internet.

Reminds me of a joke told from the stage by Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary. His arms spread wide, he said the most important magazine used to be Life. Narrowing his arms, he said the most important magazine became People. Narrowing his arms further, he said People had been supplanted by Us. And he predicted the future’s most important magazine would be — you guessed it — Me!

Seattle Now & Then: An A-Y-P Aerial, 1909

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THEN1: From his lofty perch in the A-Y-P’s “captive balloon” (at least as high as the Space Needle’s 605 feet), photographer Vern Grinnold captured the central hub of the fair. Geyser Basin dominates at lower center. The UW’s Parrington Hall, built in 1902, can be seen at top, partly cropped above the U.S. Government building’s imposing dome. (courtesy MOHAI)
THEN2: The “captive balloon” was tethered southeast of the main A-Y-P grounds. (courtesy Dan Kerlee)
THEN3: The balloon’s basket provided tight quarters and certainly was not for the faint of heart. (courtesy Dan Kerlee)
NOW: Squared off by dignified structures of academia, Drumheller Fountain today is a central feature of Rainier Vista, a long walkway of wide lawns and cherry trees. At top, just left of center, Parrington Hall still can be seen through greenery. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on May 27, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on May 30, 2021 )

Up, up and away in our AYP Balloon
By Jean Sherrard

To mark this week’s return to the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, held on the University of Washington campus, we must give credit where credit is due — to French ingenuity. From coq au vin to kitesurfing, movie cameras to motorcycles, France has perennially delighted the world with marriages of innovation.

The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne, had launched the first piloted aeronautical ascent in 1783 (to this day, hot air balloons in France are called montgolfières). Meanwhile, Louis Daguerre, creator of the daguerreotype photographic process, had captured the earliest cityscape portraits in 1838.

In 1858, an inspired Paris photographer, Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (known by the sobriquet “Nadar”), wedded the two technologies. Leveraging unwieldy equipment into a hot-air balloon basket, he singlehandedly invented aerial photography. Fifty-one years later, this came in handy at Seattle’s first world’s fair.

Our A-Y-P aerial, though not high-tech for its time, offered breathtaking spectacle, showing off the exposition’s Beaux Arts structures (merci again, France) that partially encircle Geyser Basin. Looking northwest, this view features the imposing, domed U.S. Government Building, while the ornate, curved structures on both sides of the basin focused on mining and agriculture.

The UW’s Drumheller Fountain (aka Frosh Pond, where first-year students once were dunked in ritual initiation) later was constructed on the watery footprint of the 1909 basin. But few other A-Y-P artifacts endured. Meant to be as ephemeral as a stage set or a wedding cake, the A-Y-P’s gleaming “white city” soon gave way to the more permanent and austere structures of Collegiate Gothic architecture.

A wider version of this panorama appeared Sept. 19, 1909, in The Seattle Times, filling the front page below a banner headline, “Remarkable View of Exposition Taken from Captive Balloon.” A subhead explained, “After Many Futile Attempts Camera Artists Succeed in Getting Fine Bird’s-Eye View of Exposition Grounds.”

At first, the weather had refused to cooperate, ruining hundreds of negatives. But finally, the Times reported, “the haze which has been hanging over the grounds for the last month lifted, and atmospheric conditions for aeronautical photographs were ideal.”

The balloon’s cramped basket accommodated no more than two photographers outfitted with bulky cameras (sans tripod) and must have supplied equal parts claustro- and acrophobia. Augmenting that anxious mix, “the great gas bag,” the Times said, “pulled heavily on the retaining wire and shifted about in the wind.”

A single exposure turned out “particularly fine.” Snapped just 30 minutes before rains resumed, the photo was “as distinct as if it had been taken from the ground.” Despite the difficulties, proclaimed one photographer, “we are more than satisfied with the result.”

WEB EXTRAS

To see our 360 degree video featuring Geyser Basin/Drumheller Fountain — and hear Jean narrate the column, click right here.

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: The Naval Reserve Armory (aka MOHAI), a 1949 Aerial

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THEN1: On March 2, 1949, the Naval Reserve Armory anchors Lake Union. The USS Puffer, a legendary submarine, peeks out from its slip. Further north, the Seattle Gas Company’s gas plant puffs out smoke. Interstate 5 is a mere gleam in a planner’s eye. (courtesy Ron Edge)
NOW1: On the morning of Feb. 27, MOHAI holds pride of place in B. Marcus Priteca’s reinforced concrete masterpiece. Next door, the Center for Wooden Boats stands where destroyers once berthed. On Lake Union’s north side, Gas Works has become one of Seattle’s favorite parks. (Jean Sherrard)
THEN2: On its Sept. 29, 2012, opening day in the remodeled Armory, MOHAI sparkles. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW2: Recently re-opened as pandemic prohibitions ease, the museum welcomes cautious but eager visitors. The Grand Atrium features Boeing’s original B-1 float plane, the Lincoln Toe Truck and the original neon Rainier Beer “R” that once shone at Exit 163 of Interstate 5. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW3: Jasper Stewart impatiently waits his turn at the MOHAI periscope while brother Tristan scans for enemy vessels. At right, sister Kathryn absorbs waterborne history in the McCurdy Family Maritime Gallery. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on May 13, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on May 16, 2021 )

To salute childhood memories of MOHAI, we go high
By Jean Sherrard

French novelist Marcel Proust famously described dunking madeleines — scallop-shaped cookies — in lime blossom tea, opening a sensory gateway to the lost world of childhood.

Our 69-year-old regional treasure, the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI, pronounced by locals as if inversely greeting one of the Three Stooges) also evokes such transport.

To jog my memory, I recently posted a question on social media: “What do you recall from school field trips to MOHAI?”

The result: hundreds of citations from adults once bused as students to MOHAI’s original Montlake building. The top 10:

  • The fully furnished Victorian dollhouse.
  • The 10-by-24-foot painted mural of the Great Seattle Fire.
  • The actual glue pot that sparked the fire.
  • The hydroplanes (specifically Slo-Mo-Shun IV).
  • The diorama depicting the Denny Party’s arrival and Duwamish welcome at Alki.
  • The stuffed gorilla Bobo, formerly of Woodland Park Zoo (and an Anacortes home).
  • The 43-foot-long working periscope.
  • Suspended by wires, Boeing’s unique B-1 wooden float plane, built in 1919.
  • The original Rainier Beer neon “R.”
  • Carved figureheads from wooden ships.

Honorable mentions included a 5-inch deck gun from the USS Colorado, a J.P. Patches exhibit and ex-President Warren G. Harding’s pajamas.

Pulling back from the intimacy of memory to vertiginous spectacle, our twin aerial photographs —separated by 72 years — afford us a north-facing, bird’s-eye view of present-day MOHAI and its surroundings.

Our 1949 “Then” image, from photo historian Ron Edge, features MOHAI’s current home, the Naval Reserve Armory on Lake Union’s south shore. Designed by Seattle architects William R. Grant and B. Marcus Priteca (best known for his majestic Art Deco movie palaces),* the Armory was dedicated on July 4, 1942, during the uncertain months following the U.S. entry into World War II.

Post-war, its campus aided recruiting, training and mustering. Sometimes it served as a community dance hall. Docked in its slips might be decommissioned minesweepers, destroyers and the occasional submarine — significantly the USS Puffer, survivor of a record 38 hours of depth-charging and a perennial tour magnet until 1960, when it was sold for scrap.

MOHAI moved to the former Armory in 2012 after its original Montlake building, which opened in 1952, was shuttered to accommodate the expanding State Route 520 floating bridge.

In our aerial repeat, snapped from 1,200 feet, the museum is blooming in morning light just north of booming South Lake Union. Amid MOHAI’s imaginative redesign and relocation, many of its beloved treasures remain in rotation, fostering continued recollections for Seattleites young and old.

To revisit (and maybe add) your own MOHAI memories, join us at PaulDorpat.com.

WEB EXTRAS

To see our spectacular 360 degree video of this week’s column, click here. It includes the now and then photos as well as video of our extraordinary aerial adventure (shot by Clay). Jean narrates.

*A gentle correction from friend of the column historian Larry Kreisman: “I have to correct your mention of Priteca’s movie palace architecture because, apart from the Hollywood Pantages, his theater designs are primarily Greco-Roman classical (Coliseum and most of his work for Pantages) or Renaissance Revival (Orpheum). The Admiral and others he did in the 30s and 40s we’re streamline moderne and we’re neighborhood movie houses, not palaces.”

We blush and offer thanks, Larry!

Seattle Now & Then: Vaccination, 1957 & 2021

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In May 1957, Henry “Scoop” Jackson, our state’s junior U.S. senator, receives a polio vaccine from Nurse Maria Schneider in Washington, D.C.. Observing is Dr. J. Morrison Brady, director of medical services for the National Polio Foundation. (Russ Holt, courtesy University of Washington Special Collections)
NOW: In March of this year, Ken Workman is inoculated against COVID-19 by volunteer pharmacist Dr. Dana Hurley at Katterman’s Sand Point Pharmacy. His face mask bears the portrait of his ancestor, Chief Seattle. A life-sized Dr. Anthony Fauci cutout seems to approve. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on April 29, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on May 2, 2021 )

Visualizing our victories over virus to ring out a new celebration
By Jean Sherrard

Born last summer at the height of the pandemic, my younger brother’s 9-month-old twins, Talia and Gavin, have not yet acquired what psychologist Jean Piaget termed “object permanence.” Bright toys supplied by distanced aunts and uncles are quickly forgotten — out of sight, out of mind.

Twins Gavin and Talia

Similarly, when the terrors of infectious disease recede in the rearview mirror, the collective memory may not serve. Even as countless lives have been saved, a sizeable plurality of humans worldwide remains vaccine-hesitant.

Lest we forget, it was on April 12, 1955, that church bells rang out across the nation, celebrating clinical trials proving that Jonas Salk’s poliomyelitis vaccine had defeated a scourge that had been deadly for decades.

In a front-page banner headline, The Seattle Times shouted, “Vaccine is effective, potent, safe.” Below, an article said vaccination would “smash polio’s terror and tragedies … [ending] the fear that has long gripped the hearts of parents.”

Only three years earlier, in 1952, U.S. polio had peaked. Nearly 58,000, mostly children, fell ill. Of those, polio had paralyzed 21,000 and killed 3,000. Most outbreaks took place in summer. Infections seemed random and unpredictable. A child playing with friends one afternoon might end up hospitalized by evening.

But vaccines ended polio in the Americas by 1992, largely eliminating it across the globe. It was not the only viral killer brought to heel. Smallpox, which killed more than 300 million in the 20th century, was eradicated. Inoculation vastly reduced measles, yellow fever and hepatitis.

Today, however, vaccines may fall victim to their historical success. Some who have not personally witnessed a viral catastrophe apparently deem it unreal.

Hilary Godwin, dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, faults social media for amplifying misinformation. “We in the sciences and in public health,” she says, “need to regain the trust of the general population, in a bipartisan way.”

Godwin also addresses an understandable mistrust of the medical establishment in Black and Native American communities: “We must not only recognize historical injustices and inequities but also elevate the conversation to talk about them openly.”

Joining the conversation is Ken Workman, fourth-generation great-grandson of Chief Seattle and a Duwamish tribal elder, who received his first COVID-19 inoculation in March.

“I’m alive today because my family survived the genocide of welcoming Europeans,” he says. “We survived gifts of smallpox blankets. We survived gentrification and displacement. The world may be all up in arms over COVID, yet for me this is just another day.”

Between tides of uncertainty and hope, will we someday be able to ring out a new celebration?

WEB EXTRAS

Just another photo of Ken Workman, snaring the traditional post-jab lollipop.

Workman gets his lolly

A few weeks ago, on March 14, 2021, I met Ken down at Golden Gardens and shot a few photos of his traditional farewell extended to a Tlingit crew and canoe. The rainy weather did not dampen spirits.

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: “Where’s the Beach” in Rainier Beach?

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This 1913 photo looks north to Pritchard Island. Three years later, Lake Washington was lowered nine feet, draining nearly 65 billion gallons of fresh water through the newly constructed Ship Canal to Puget Sound in a mere three months. Two men in a rowboat explore what is today dry land. (Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives)
NOW: Rainier Beach Action Coalition’s Clean Crew, (from left) Malcolm J Dunston, De’Shaun Valdry, Ryan Croone II, Jesiah Marks, King Nisby, and Tyree Abella, stands between the public restroom and untended blackberry brambles lining the shore. Signs designed by artist Mahogany Purpose Villars. After the lowering of the lake, Pritchard Island became a peninsula. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on April 22, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on April 25, 2021 )

Beach magic bathes Link2Lake quest in diverse Rainier Beach
By Jean Sherrard

Tucked between a boat launch, an adjacent parking lot and a beige restroom with all the charm of a quartered Quonset hut, the scruffy Lake Washington shoreline of Be’er Sheva Park might seem an unlikely place to find magic. Neither woo-woo nor hocus pocus, it offers an unexpected alchemy of earth, water and sky, arranged like lips pursed for a kiss.

On a recent visit, I happened upon what looked like an impromptu block party. In this cherished gathering spot, Rainier Beach neighbors were listening to music, picnicking and admiring the returning geese and waterfowl.

This story, however, begins much earlier, with melting ice. More than 16,000 years ago, receding glaciers shaped the Pacific Northwest — and Rainier Beach — into its current greenscape.

The first humans to settle the area were Duwamish. Members of one tribal branch calling themselves the Lake People had wintered along the lake’s shores for millennia. European settlers arrived in the 1860s, evicting the Lake People from their ancestral homes while appropriating the land for themselves.

Annexed by Seattle in 1907, Rainier Beach today is among the city’s most racially and culturally diverse neighborhoods. Eighty percent of its residents are people of color, while, in their homes, 57% speak a language other than English. These historically underserved communities reside in one of only two Seattle neighborhoods (the other is the Duwamish River valley) without an extended public shoreline or a signature waterfront park.

“Nevertheless, our neglected little beach has always been a focal point for community-building,” says Shannon Waits, who co-chairs the steering committee of a group called Rainier Beach Link2Lake. The nonprofit’s plans for lakefront improvements are shovel-ready, pending final funding. “The neighborhood,” Waits says, “is determined to make beauty in this place despite systemic oppression.”

Buoyed by the slogan “Where’s the Beach,” Rainier Beach residents have eagerly contributed design ideas, suggesting basic improvements to the parcel’s infrastructure that most other Seattle waterfront parks take for granted.

“The community envisions a green waterfront that celebrates the pedestrian experience,” says George Lee, project manager, who enthusiastically tallies the envisioned upgrades. “We’ll add basic amenities like picnic tables, barbecue grills and a covered stage that doubles as a shelter. Add to that a boardwalk and lighted walkways, not to mention a big natural beach for families to play on.”

The abracadabra begins this summer with a mural painting project, enlisting young community artists to enliven the exterior walls of the plain-Jane restroom. For more information on the capital campaign, visit rainierbeachlinktolake.org.

WEB EXTRAS

A few more shots from the park.

The Clean Crew on the east side of the restroom, soon to be repainted with a community mural.
Detail of sign designed by artist Mahogany Purpose Villars.
The lone bramble-strewn path to the water.

For our accompanying 360 degree video, click here.

Seattle Now & Then: Our first April Fool’s Quiz

(Published in the Seattle Times online on March 28, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on March 25, 2021 )

Then you see it, now you don’t — our first April Fool’s quiz
By Jean Sherrard

(For those visiting this blog following The Seattle Times link, we offer extra tomfoolery! Perhaps you’ve discovered the editing error in the print edition of the magazine. If so, add a fourth category to our grading rubric: consider yerself a Queen City Queen/King!)

We at “Now & Then” admit that we can be lured into April folly any old day of the year. While fishing the currents of popular history, we occasionally pull in old boots and dogfish. This year, we extend the opportunity to our dear readers to troll along.

Our “Then” photo, looking north at Seattle’s downtown business district, is a revelation. Fearless photographer Frank H. Nowell arranged for an early ride up to the unfinished (and unwalled) 35th-floor observation deck of the famed, pointed Smith Tower. In 1913, one year before the tower opened, Nowell captured this early panorama from the loftiest human-made structure on the West Coast.

Following in his footsteps 108 years later, I repeated the panorama (“Now 1”) and made several telling discoveries — of alteration, misinformation and exaggeration — ideal for an April Fool’s multiple-choice challenge in which we peel back a layer or two of the Smith Tower’s terra-cotta clad onion.

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: This 1913 view is from the Smith Tower’s unfinished 35th-floor observation deck. (Frank Nowell)
NOW 1: This “Goldilocks” view (not too high or too low — just right!) from the Smith Tower’s 35th-floor observation deck has lured generations of photographers. (Jean Sherrard)

Question 1
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

In our primary pair of photos, several decades of growth have obscured the northern prospect. Which of the following can still be seen?

A: The Central Building

B: Queen Anne High School

C: Lake Union

D: The Rainier Club

E: St. James Cathedral

NOW 2: These views looking north along the Second Avenue canyon were taken in 2018 and 2021. In the earlier photo (left), the Needle’s saucer is scaffolded for renovation. (Jean Sherrard)

Question 2
NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK

Our second pair of photos reveals a more recent switcheroo. In a view north along the Second Avenue canyon, the Space Needle has seemingly disappeared. Where has it gone?

A: Magician David Copperfield followed up his Statue of Liberty vanishing act.

B: The Space Needle was returned to the box it came in.

C: Yet another condominium joined the fray.

D: Amazon created a new pop-up Seattle headquarters.

E: Regraded Denny Hill re-emerged to assume its rightful place.

NOW3: Text of a plaque installed at the Smith Tower’s entrance in 1989 is not entirely accurate. It reads: “Seattle’s first skyscraper opened on July 4, 1914. The 42-story Smith Tower was the tallest building outside of New York City and Seattle’s tallest for nearly fifty years. It was built by Lyman Smith of Smith-Corona and Smith & Wesson fame, from Syracuse, New York. Sheathed entirely in terra cotta, the building was designed by the Syracuse firm of Gaggin & Gaggin. In a race to construct Seattle’s tallest building, Smith also hoped to anchor the “Second Avenue Canyon” area as the center of downtown. He died before the tower was completed.” (Jean Sherrard)

Question 3
FISH TALES

At the Smith Tower’s front entrance, a brass plaque has misinformed passersby since 1989. Which of the following statements are not true:

A: Lyman Cornelius Smith was from Syracuse, New York.

B: The Smith Tower is 42 stories tall.

C: Smith was a founding partner of Smith & Wesson.

D: L.C. accumulated much of his wealth manufacturing typewriters.

E: In 1914, Smith Tower was the tallest building outside of New York City.

(scroll down for the correct answers and a grading rubric)

 

 

(keep going)

 

 

(a bit further)

 

 

(Burma Shave!)

 

 

Answers

1: A, D and E

2: C

3: B (even a generous observer counts no more than 38 stories)
C (Horace Smith founded Smith & Wesson) and
E (at 495 feet, Cincinnati’s Union Central Tower was 30 feet taller).

The Rubric

One correct answer: You’re a Mercer Mess
Two correct answers: You’re a Pike Pundit
Three correct answers: You’ve attained Seattle Chill

WEB EXTRAS

For a spectacular 360 degree view from Smith Tower’s 35th floor Observation Deck (along with Jean’s dulcet narration), click on through.