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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

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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.

Seattle Now & Then: Willowmoor (later Marymoor) Farm, 1921

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THEN: Taken from the hillside overlooking the estate in September 1921, this east-facing photo features 28-room Clise mansion at its center. Inspired by Dutch landscape, James Clise constructed a functional windmill along the winding Sammamish Slough. (Webster & Stevens, Courtesy Ron Edge)
NOW1: An aerial view captured 100 years later displays colorful fall foliage. The windmill, partly hidden by leaves, stands above a deviated slough, glimpsed in the lower left corner. The city of Redmond peeks out below the Cascade mountains. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW 2: The windmill remains a beloved Eastside landmark. The distant rear of Clise mansion can be seen to its left. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW 3: The back of Clise mansion, with its Tudor-style gables, is framed by fir trees. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW 4: The Sammamish Slough, connecting Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington, was lowered by nine feet in 1916 with the completion of the Ballard locks and ship canal. (Jean Sherrard)

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

Model Willowmoor (later Marymoor) farm sparkled from the start
By Jean Sherrard

A crown jewel among King County parks, Marymoor Park has sparkled through several incarnations.

At the north end of Lake Sammamish, Marymoor’s 640 acres attract an estimated 3 million visitors a year, boasting sports facilities, performance venues and a 40-acre, off-leash dog park.

Our “Then” photo, taken a century ago, features a landscape carved from a verdant river valley first inhabited by the Duwamish Tribe for at least 6,000 years.

Wealthy banker and investor James W. Clise, who had arrived in Seattle one day after the great fire of June 6, 1889, was lured to the property by its abundant fish and game. In 1904, he built a hunting lodge on 78 acres along the Sammamish Slough and named the estate Willowmoor, after the trees flourishing near the water.

What began as summer retreat from city life, however, soon evolved into something more substantial. Within three years, Clise had embraced the role of a gentleman farmer. He added 350 acres, converted the lodge into a 28-room, Tudor-style mansion and proposed moving there with his family from their Queen Anne home.

In a 1961 Seattle Times interview, daughter Ruth Clise Colwell remembered her horror at the prospect: “It seemed to me that it would be like living at the end of the earth and that I would never see my friends again.”

Her fears soon eased when the estate became a bustling hive of activity. Her ambitious father imported “tough and wiry” Morgan horses from New England and filled the farm with hardy Ayrshire cattle imported from Scotland. Clise deemed the stock ideal for the Pacific Northwest’s similar climate. “Father’s great interest,” Colwell said, “was to improve the condition of the farm and better the life of the farmer.”

Willowmoor’s model dairy was considered years ahead of its time, and milk from the free-ranging cattle was roundly prized for a rich flavor and high cream content. Convinced of its health benefits, carmaker Henry Ford insisted on serving milk only from Clise cows at his hospital in Dearborn, Michigan. Visitors from around the world studied Clise’s innovative methods.

The showcase eventually expanded to 28 buildings and 40 employees. Clise traveled widely, particularly to agricultural countries, continually seeking to improve and expand upon his bold experiment.

In 1921, in failing health, Clise sold the farm. A later lessee, Walter Nettleton, changed its name to Marymoor to memorialize a daughter killed in a childhood accident. In 1963, King County voters funded Marymoor as a park. Ten years later, Clise mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

WEB EXTRAS

To view our 360 degree video, please click here.

 

Seattle Now & Then: Pike Place Market Buskers (featuring Artis the Spoonman), 1975

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THEN: In 1975, white-faced Artis the Spoonman spoon-feeds a crowd with his percussive legerdemain. He remembers several faces in the crowd, including the scowling woman at right, as regulars in “the commons.” The decrepit Corner Market Building in the background soon was restored. In the early 1990s, Artis was famously featured in Seattle-based Soundgarden’s breakout hit “Spoonman.” (Frank Shaw)
NOW1: Accordion Cat, a performer in the Market for 13 years, treats passersby to a plaintive rendition of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” where the Artis the Spoonman once played. Accordion Cat’s cat-head mask is worn not just for Halloween but all year round. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW2: Jonny Hahn, a familiar Market presence who has played his piano on a Pike Place corner for 35 years, has a plea: Lower cell phones and hear the music. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on Oct. 28, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Oct. 31, 2021)

Buskers bolster the Market soundtrack, but for how long?
By Jean Sherrard

Some sights peel back your eyelids and jet right into the brain, never to be forgotten.

In my mid-teens, I acted in a 1973 production of “Hamlet” at the tiny Stage One Theater in Post Alley, just north of today’s Gum Wall. Post-rehearsal, as I climbed narrow concrete steps up to Pike Place Market, a busker dressed all in white and sporting a mime’s makeup danced and lunged through a cheering crowd.

Armed with a set of spoons, he battered them against every available surface — from his knees, teeth and cheeks to pillars, sidewalks and banisters — scooping rhythmic staccatos out of thin air. He was Artis the Spoonman, and I was spellbound.

“I’d been playing spoons since I was 10,” recalls Artis, now living in Port Townsend, “and always wanted to be a performer.” Moving to Seattle from Santa Cruz, he frequented Fremont taverns, playing jukebox duets for tips, and soon established a fanbase.

Next stop: Pike Place Market, not yet a tourist haven but a place where locals gathered to shop and stroll.

“Aside from street fairs, the Market was one of the only venues for buskers in the early 1970s,” Artis says. “We had a busking community, share and share alike, performing in the commons for the people.”

Pianist Jonny Hahn, originally from Champaign/Urbana, Illinois, still shares that sensibility. Busking since 1986, he embodies the Market’s soundtrack.

“I play a combination of lengthy improvisational instrumental pieces and songs with lefty political lyrics,” he says. “The Market has been my home because of the artistic freedom quotient.”

Wrestling his 64-key acoustic piano onto a Pike Place corner every day, he bears bittersweet witness to a particular strain of social evolution.

“It started with smartphones,” he says. “People’s attention spans were diminished by orders of magnitude. Constant texting and Googling and taking photos completely altered public space.”

Dealing a further blow was Covid. In March 2020, Market busking was prohibited. Hahn relocated, playing his piano beneath the old Green Lake Aqua Theater until the Market reopened to performers last June 25.

Public response to his return moved Hahn deeply: “It was just heart energy spilling over. People just kept saying how glad they were to have me back. The music was something they really, really missed.”

However, few other performers have returned to a place once considered a busker’s paradise. Will they come back? Hahn is wary of predictions.

“I don’t have any idea what will happen next month or next year,” he says, “but I am committed to the Pike Place Market.”

WEB EXTRAS

Click through to our 360 degree video, featuring Accordion Cat playing a soulful cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Plus a couple more photos of Artis the Spoonman in an earlier Market, along with 1983 video footage of Artis at the Winnipeg Folk Festival:

Another photo of Artis the Spoonman, taken on the same day in 1975. (Frank Shaw)
Artis playing with longtime partner Jim Page in 1992.
VIDEO (0:25): Click the photo to see Artis shredding the stage while Steve Goodman (right) looks on at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. This link is to the entire 57-minute “Festival of Friends” video from Twin Cities PBS, and you can find the Artis footage at time code 47:03-47:28.

Seattle Now & Then: Eagle Falls on the Skykomish, 1916 & 1926

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THEN 1: Eagle Falls’ lower basin, to the right of our posing gent, provides a popular picnicking spot and local swimming hole. (University of Washington LIbraries, Special Collections)
NOW 1: An aspiring student filmmaker captured in mid-air vaults across “Hell’s Gate,” avoiding a plunge into the glacier fed Skykomish River. Today’s gap has widened by several feet due to railroad blasting. (Jean Sherrard)
THEN 2: Al Faussett tried to shoot Eagle Falls, but his cigar-shaped craft overturned halfway down. A single spectator can be seen at upper right, perched on a cliff across the river. (University of Washington LIbraries, Special Collections)
NOW 2: Young videographers find their footing across a much-reduced Eagle Falls. Today’s falls might not challenge Evel Knievel, but its dangers are still significant. Icy currents and a treacherous undertow have produced many injuries and several fatalities over the years. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on Oct. 14, 2021
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on Oct. 17, 2021)

Eagle Falls near Index: ‘An easy jump, but hell if you don’t make it’

By Jean Sherrard

Lee Pickett was surely the most prolific photographer to grace Snohomish County. His 1910 move from Seattle to the tiny mountain town of Index provided Pickett with opportunities aplenty to document the burgeoning highways and railroads and the booming logging and mining industries.

In the 1920s, he was appointed official photographer of the Great Northern Railroad. His stunning images recorded construction of eight-mile Cascade Tunnel (1929) — then the longest in the western hemisphere — and quickly cemented his reputation.

His more whimsical portraits reveal Pickett’s playful side. This pair of “then” photos, snapped a decade apart, feature Eagle Falls along the Skykomish River, three miles east of Index.

The first, from 1916, features boulders at the falls’ base, a perennial picnic spot and swimming hole for locals. The gent in jacket and fedora poses stiffly while, across the bottom of the negative, Pickett has written, in the reverse script mastered by period photographers: “Hell’s Gate at Eagle Falls. An easy jump — but — hell if you don’t make it.”

In our “now” photo at the same location, the boulders have shifted position, their top halves seemingly lopped away. These changes are due not to erosion or earthquakes but to explosives intended to reduce steep grades for adjacent Great Northern track beds.

During a recent visit, a members of a videography class from Hillside Student Community watch as 15-year old Will Maltz, trained in the urban gymnastic sport of parkour, leaps the gap between boulders.

Our second “then” photo features the upturned canoe of local lumberjack (and Pickett regular) Al Faussett. In 1926, Fox Pictures offered $1,500 to anyone who would row through nearby Sunset Falls. Faussett built a sturdy craft to survive the ordeal, but Fox reneged on its offer.

Undaunted, the newly minted daredevil persisted, reveling in his growing celebrity, but cashing in proved elusive. On Sept. 6, 1926, hundreds of onlookers crowded the Eagle Falls banks to watch Faussett risk life and limb. Most declined to pay for the privilege, and the drama of his descent fizzled when his canoe stuck partway down the run. A friend soon dislodged it with a long pole.

Faussett spent the next three years shooting Northwest waterfalls, breaking bones and suffering repeated concussions until retiring on his waterlogged laurels.

The photographer Pickett (1882-1959) ended his career in the late 1940s, health ravaged by decades of exposure to developing chemicals. Today, his Index home houses the Index Historical Society’s Pickett Museum.

WEB EXTRAS
More videographer from Hillside pose near the ‘easy jump’
Debris left behind by the railroad

And for a 360 degree video view of Eagle Falls, along with Jean’s narration, head in this direction.

In a late breaking addition, photo historian Ron Edge sends along the following Pickett portraits.

Al Faussett, with his original craft, the Skykomish Queen

Click twice on the following panoramas to zoom in and explore. To create these spectacular images, Pickett used the Cirkut camera manufactured by the Rochester Panoramic Camera Company. Thanks, Ron, for these remarkable photos of a vanished landscape.

A panoramic view of Scenic, Washington, just west of Stevens Pass – now the starting point for a hike to some spectacular alpine lakes.
Pickett’s panoramic view of Tye (initially Wellington), Washington. After the completion of the tunnel in 1929, Tye was abandoned and now must be listed among our state’s ghost towns.

 

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

(click to enlarge photos)

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”

(click to enlarge photos)

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.