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Seattle Now & Then: Our Deepest Snow, 1880

(click to enlarge photos)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Seattle Now & Then: The Trianon Ballroom, 1927

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we must sound a particularly sour note.

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

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

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

WEB EXTRAS

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

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

And a few late-breaking photo additions from Paul:

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

Seattle Now & Then: Water from Lake Youngs, 1930

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEB EXTRAS

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

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

Our narrated 360-degree video can be found here.

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

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

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

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

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

By Jean Sherrard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEB EXTRAS

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

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

Seattle Now & Then: The Princess and the Chief, revisited

[A reminder from Paul, Jean and Clay: Signed and personally inscribed copies of our award-winning book, Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred, are available for immediate delivery. Order now to receive your copy in time for the holidays!]

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN 1: Of the dozens of photos of Chief Seattle’s daughter, few are as candid as this one. It was taken probably around 1890, by an unknown photographer, on the boardwalk beside Pike Street and a half block west of Front Street, now First Avenue. The Pike Place Market would not be established for another 17 years. (courtesy Paul Dorpat)
THEN 2: A studio portrait of an elderly Chief Seattle, taken in 1864 by pioneer photographer E.L. Sammis. Thirty years earlier, William Fraser Tolmie, a young Hudson’s Bay Company doctor, wrote in his journals that Seattle was “a brawny Soquamish with a roman countenance & black curley hair, the handsomest Indian I have seen.” (Paul Dorpat)
NOW: Chief Seattle descendants Mary Lou Slaughter and Ken Workman pose in today’s Post Alley at Pike Place Market, just west of First Avenue, sporting Mary Lou’s woven cedar garments. Her exquisite design work can also be found in the intricate, inlaid cedar floor of the Duwamish Longhouse in West Seattle. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 12, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Dec. 15, 2019)

From 12,000 years ago comes the nudge of native history
By Jean Sherrard

“For at least 12,000 years, the Duwamish people have been living here. They are buried under the streets and the sidewalks and houses of Seattle. Their DNA rises from the roots of the trees and when the wind blows through the leaves, those are the sounds of our ancestors.”
   – Ken Workman, descendant of Chief Seattle

For our recently published book, “Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred,” we chose 100 subjects from more than 1,800 columns that Paul Dorpat has contributed since he began in 1982. This week’s subject is one of our favorites. Originally appearing in March 2005, we present it afresh and updated with an amended cast of characters.

It features Kikisoblu (c. 1820-1896), eldest daughter of Chief Seattle, leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. Catherine Maynard, the second wife of Doc Maynard, renamed her Angeline, and in time she became known as Princess Angeline because of her father’s status and her inherent dignity.

Refusing to be transported across Puget Sound to the Suquamish reservation, she lived for many years in a shack on Seattle’s waterfront. To survive, she worked hard, taking in laundry and selling her handmade baskets to settlers who displaced her people.

She lived in destitution but had her protectors. Late in her life, the Board of King County Commissioners instructed a grocer to give her whatever she needed and to send bills to the county.

For our “Now” photo, we enlisted the aid of two direct descendants of Chief Seattle. Mary Lou Slaughter, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Kikisoblu, is a master cedar weaver whose baskets and traditional clothing are prized for their artistry. Ken Workman, whose great-great-great-great-grandmother was Seattle’s second wife, is a Duwamish tribal council member and eloquent spokesman for his people – in both English and Coast Salish Lushootseed.

Mary Lou brought along several of her creations, including a cape for herself and a vest for Ken. During the 10 minutes we spent shooting the photo, both Clay Eals (column partner and our book’s editor) and I noted that Ken seemed uncomfortable, glancing over his shoulder several times.

Ken recalls: “I felt a couple little pushes on my elbow, as if someone was urging me to get out of the way – I said to myself, ‘Jean, take the picture’ — but when I looked around there was no one there.”

Skeptics may be wary, but Ken regards this insistent prod on his arm as yet another reminder of ancestors present, even in the oxygen we breathe. The nudge of history, I would accede (after pursuing many hundreds of photo repetitions), is strong in these parts and now and then gently urges that we step aside and pause to remember what came before.

WEB EXTRAS

To see Jean Sherrard’s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photo, and to hear this column read aloud by Jean, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Below is a link to a video interview of Ken Workman.

VIDEO: Ken Workman is interviewed by Clay Eals on Aug. 21, 2016, for the SouthWest Stories series of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. 1:15:39.

Below is a link to a video interview of Mary Lou Slaughter.

VIDEO: Mary Lou Slaughter speaks of her life and work at her South Kitsap home in November 2019 to students of Hillside School Community. 14:17. (screen shot, Jean Sherrard)

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: King Street Coach Yards, 1929

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: More than 100 workers pose for an Oct. 2, 1929, company portrait on the tracks south of the King Street Station. Casey McNerthney’s great-grandfather, Matt McAlerney, stands just left of center, arms folded, directly above the “S” of “ST.” Emil Martin’s dad, Petar Martincevic, with mustache and suspenders, stands above the “2” in “Oct. 2.” Women posing in the observation cars were cleaners, says Emil, but their “most disagreeable” job was emptying the oft overflowing spittoons. (Courtesy, Casey McNerthney & Emil Martin)
NOW: Most of Matt and Lily’s descendants remain in Seattle, and more than two dozen assemble on the Edgar Martinez overpass looking south above the old coach yards. Casey stands center rear in a blue shirt surrounded by14 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren, as well as spouses and cousins. In an Irish family, he asserts, “You can always count on four things in no particular order: singing, dancing, crying and drinking.” Plus, he adds, “always great stories.” (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Nov. 21, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Nov. 24, 2019)

What are the odds? Descendants of 2 Seattle immigrants find family members in the same 1929 photo
By Jean Sherrard

More than 30 years ago, my wife and I disastrously hosted our first Thanksgiving feast meant to introduce Vietnamese neighbors to an American immigrant ritual and roasted our first turkey. Benjamin Franklin’s favored bird, bane of chefs and home cooks alike, often emerges from the oven raw or overdone, but our perfectly basted 14-pounder seemed to achieve a happy medium. As I transferred it from pan to platter, however, a previously unnoticed bag of giblets exploded from the neck cavity. We assured our slightly unnerved friends that this was not part of the traditional fare.

In this week’s “Then” portrait of King Street Station coach yard workers and trains, taken 22 days before the Oct. 24, 1929, stock-market crash that launched the Great Depression, we encounter another particularly American story of arrival, immigration and citizenship. Ninety years later and by coincidence, two Seattle descendants of men portrayed here separately presented us with this rare image.

It began when Casey McNerthney, visiting a postcard and photo exhibition in Portland in April, spotted a panoramic print in a dealer’s booth. Its inscription tallied with his great-grandfather Matt McAlerney’s time at the coach yard. Leaning in to examine the photo more closely, Casey delighted in finding Matt’s face in the crowd. “No way,” he thought. “What are the odds of that?” Casey purchased it on the spot.

Having immigrated to Seattle from County Down in Northern Ireland in 1911, Matt McAlerney soon found work with the Great Northern Railroad. In October 1916, he met Lily Kempson, a young fugitive who had fled Dublin after playing a significant role in the failed Easter Uprising. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple married and had seven children. Matt continued his rail work through two world wars, retiring in the mid-1950s.

Our second serendipitous contributor, 96-year old Emil Martin (originally Martincevic), at an October book event in West Seattle, presented us with the identical photo and pointed out his father, Petar Martincevic. Petar arrived in Seattle in 1910 from Yugoslavia and began work as an air-brake mechanic in the coach yards. He died in 1964 at age 86.

As a boy, Emil came to know his father’s co-workers well. He says they were of “many nationalities including Irish, Yugoslavian, Scandinavian, Italian, Belgian” along with “an unusually large number of White Russians” who fled across Siberia following the 1917 Russian Revolution.

In the proud faces of these immigrant men (and a handful of women), many who left behind strife, political oppression and poverty, this Thanksgiving we salute their hope for better lives in a new world.

WEB EXTRAS

For our 360-degree video of the “Now” photo shoot with Jean’s narration, click here!

Also, head over to Casey’s fascinating biography of his great-grandmother Lily Kempson (and a bit about Matt, as well).

Casey thoughtfully sent along photo ID’s of each and every participant:

1. Will Murray
2. Tim McAlerney, grandson
3. Mike McCullough, grandson
4. Connor Bronkema, great-great-grandson
5. Pat McCullough, grandson
6. Alicia Hartnett, great-granddaughter
7. Libby McCullough, grandaughter
8. Shawn Bennett, granddaughter
9. Martin McAlerney, grandson
10. Helen McCullough, granddaughter
11. Sheila Linggi, granddaughter
12. Al Linggi
13. Nicole Russeff
14. Shannon Russeff
15. Casey McNerthney, great-grandson
16. Wendy McNerthney
17. Laird Nelson
18. Pat McNerthney, grandson
19. Adam McAlerney, great-grandson
20. Jennie Bruner, great-granddaughter
21. Trish Edenfield, granddaughter
22. Jacob Bruner, great-great-grandson
23. Jim McAlerney Jr., grandson
24. Reiko McCullough
25. Jim McCullough, grandson
26. Margaret McCullough, granddaughter
27. Joe McNerthney, grandson
28. Vince Murray

Clay Eals visited Emil Martin, the serendipitous provider of the second copy of our “Then” photo, and snapped this portrait:

Emil Martin, holding his own copy of our panoramic photo. (Clay Eals)

To read Emil Martin’s short memoir of his own work at the King Street Station coach yards, click on the embedded page just below. For a much more detailed and fascinating handwritten account of Emil’s life and times, check out this remarkable document he provided. Thanks, Emil!

Emil adds on Nov. 25, 2019: “I would like to make one correction in my reminiscence article. I said the 5 and 10-cent stores were Kress and Rhodes. Rhodes had a department store at the SW corner of 2nd Ave and Pike St. It should have been Kress and Woolworth. Kress was on the SE corner of 3rd and Pike. Woolworth was on the SW corner of 3rd and Pike and was the one with the soda counter, piano music and live birds.”

 

Seattle Now & Then: The Flight to Mars, 1962

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The Seattle World’s Fair’s Flight to Mars, in a photo taken from the Skyride terminal
ramp in 1962. After its deconstruction in 1996, versions of the ride could be found at the
Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada, in the early 2000s and, most recently,
in Dallas in 2009.
NOW: We return to “the scene of the crime” with Neal Kosaly-Meyer, who works in visitor services for the Museum of Pop Culture. As a 10-year old, he was an eager repeat rider of the
Flight to Mars. “It was absolutely terrifying,” he recalls with relish.

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Oct. 24, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Oct. 27, 2019)

At Fun Forest, we rode the chill-filled Flight to Mars

By Jean Sherrard

“From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!”

Inspired last summer by that traditional Scottish poem, I asked archivist Ron Edge to send me his scariest photo for a Halloween column. What he forwarded triggered a small avalanche of memories.

In the late 1960s, I and thousands of other student volunteer crossing guards were bused to Seattle Center’s Fun Forest, the then-flourishing amusement park, for a day of unlimited free rides as a reward for our service to local school districts. Arriving on a typically gray morning, my friends and I made a beeline for what we agreed was the best — and most chill-filled — ride: the Flight to Mars.

Leering, gaptoothed gargoyles from space covered the exterior walls, portending further spine tingles and terrors within. As 11-year olds, we were in the Goldilocks zone: too old for trauma, too young to scoff. The  beetle-shaped cars were two-seaters — my best friend Alan and I could scarcely conceive of their future romantic uses — and we clutched the restraining bar as the car lurched forward and clattered through swinging doors into darkness visible.

Lit by black light, sudden, lurid tableaux flared up. Enacted by jerkily primitive animatronics, scenes of murder and mayhem scattered retinal imprints ’round every twist and turn in the tracks. Echoing along the dark corridors, the delighted shouts and screams of otherwise-sober members of the junior safety patrol were punctuated with expletives that would have appalled our elders in broad daylight. Mere minutes later, we emerged, pulses still pounding with adrenal fizz.

The Flight to Mars that we experienced was a second installment of the ride in this week’s “Then” photo, from the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. When the fair ended, the ride was put into storage for several years, until it was rebuilt on the same spot, where it remained a Fun Forest staple for nearly three decades.

Today, the campus of Paul Allen’s Museum of Pop Culture (originally the EMP Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and completed in 2000) encompasses the entire footprint of the Flight to Mars.

In spooky synchronicity, the spirit of the ride might be said to haunt the lower levels of MoPOP. Its current dungeonesque exhibition, “Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film,” sports a labyrinth of scenes that echo and amplify the anxieties of the season.

Happy Halloween!

WEB EXTRAS

A few photos snapped in the dungeon. Neal Kosaly-Meyer kindly volunteered to pose amidst the horrifying tableaux. For our narrated 360-degree video of the occasion, click here.

 

Seattle Now & Then: The Seattle Masonic Temple (now the Egyptian Theatre), 1916

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: This photo first appeared in The Seattle Times on Aug. 6, 1916. A workman perched outside the second-floor window adds finishing touches to the newly completely building. At sidewalk level, a makeshift sign importunes passersby with an offer of “Free Wood.” (Ron Edge collection)
NOW: Snapped on a balmy Saturday evening during the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival, our “Now” photo features an eager crowd lining up at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. This year, SIFF marked its 45th anniversary in a 44- year history. Triskaidekaphobic staffers banished year 13, skipping directly from the 12th to the 14th anniversary. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Oct. 3rd, 2019,
and in print on Oct. 6th, 2019)

A Monument to Masonry and the Movies
By Jean Sherrard

Inspiration has always bolstered the brickwork at the southeast corner of Harvard and Pine. From its construction in 1916 as a Masonic Temple, the brick-and-terra-cotta building was the collaborative effort of 18 Masonic lodges.  Designed by legendary Seattle architect Charles W. Saunders (whose many credits include the Alaska Building, the Terry-Denny Building in Pioneer Square, and the University of Washington’s Denny Hall), the 63,000- square-foot structure was built for $250,000.

“When the last touch is finished,” claimed lodge president Frederick Johnstone, in an August 1916 Seattle Times interview, “it will be one of the finest temples west of Chicago.”

Marking the occasion, a weeklong “housewarming and carnival” was planned for early October, during which the 8,000 members of Seattle Masonic lodges, their families and friends, and the general public would be invited to visit this “monument to Masonry.” Festivities would include “all sorts of ‘dignified stunts’ and dancing, accompanied by splendid music.” The addition of the celebrated “Captain, the horse with the human brain,” who could answer “with nods and hoof beats a great variety of questions,” would cap the week of celebration.

The crowds were, indeed, wowed by the Masonic masonry. The temple boasted a full stage with dressing rooms and the latest in “indirect lighting and … independent ventilation,” plus an 1,800-seat auditorium, not to mention “one of the finest dance floors on the Pacific Coast.”

Flash-forward several decades. Long after Captain’s hoof beats had faded away, the temple accommodated local Masonic lodges, besides serving as a venue for community ceremonies, celebrations and performances, ranging from cellist Pablo Casals to our own Paul Dorpat, who recalls attending a summer rock concert in 1967, “when this then-inhibited 30-year-old Lutheran first unzipped his knees with hours of free-form hippie-dancing.”

By the late 1970s, big changes loomed. “Capitol Hill was becoming a tough neighborhood,” says Jim Russell, current secretary of St. John’s Lodge in Greenwood. “It was hard just finding a safe place to park. The temple also needed extensive restoration, and our membership numbers were declining.” In 1992, nearby Seattle Central College purchased the building to expand its growing campus.

Down the hill, a young but burgeoning Seattle International Film Festival had lost its primary venue, the Moore Egyptian, and was seeking a suitable replacement. Visionary founders Dan Ireland and Darryl MacDonald leased the temple’s massive auditorium, remodeling and rechristening it the Egyptian Theatre.

Since those early days, SIFF has grown exponentially. With more than a dozen venues, this year’s festival showcased 400-plus films from nearly 90 countries for some 140,000 attendees. Known since 2014 as SIFF Cinema Egyptian, the theater also screens films year-round and is celebrated as Seattle’s premiere single-screen historic theater, even without an educated horse.

WEB EXTRAS

Check out Jean’s narrated 360-degree video, shot on the penultimate weekend of this year’s Seattle International Film Festival.

Seattle Now & Then: Coals from Newcastle – an 1874 Tramway

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking west from the top of the tramway under construction, an unknown photographer snapped our “Then” photo in the summer of 1874. In October of that year, trams loaded with coal began their round trips to the Seattle waterfront. An almost invisible ghost of Mercer Island hovers in the upper distance. (courtesy, Eastside Heritage Center)
THEN2: Shot on the same day as our primary “then,” this east-facing prospect looks up the tramway toward the mines of Newcastle. (courtesy, Eastside Heritage Center)
NOW: These historical detectives, mostly members of the Newcastle Historical Society, line up across the gully they discovered, just above the midpoint of the “then” photo. Mercer Island still hovers through the trees behind them while I-405 roars directly below. Before this “now” photo was taken, the group spent a day clearing out brush and bear scat. From left: Kent Sullivan; Matt McCauley; Russ Segner, NHS president; Cameron McCauley; Kathleen Voelbel, property owner; Gary Dutt; Harry Dursh; Ryan Kauzlarich; and Mike Intlekofer, NHS collections manager. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Sept. 19, 2019,
and in print on Sept. 22, 2019)

A suburban Eastside gully emerges as elusive 1874 coal tramway
By Jean Sherrard

Let’s begin with dispelling some myths. X rarely marks the spot. Most “Eureka!” moments occur after long and exacting endeavor. And there is no free lunch. Actually solving a mystery demands insight; hard work; and, occasionally, dumb luck. 

Our intrepid crew of historical treasure hunters did just that, combining resources to defy odds and, with two extraordinary images pointing the way (one is this week’s “Then” photo), rediscover a slice of a forgotten world.

In our July 21 column, we featured Kurt E. Armbruster’s book, “Pacific Coast: Seattle’s Own Railroad,” which relates a blockbuster story of trains and coal. Here’s the prequel.

Four years before the first steam engine rounded the southern bend of Lake Washington, the Seattle Coal and Transportation Company built a 1,200-foot tramway descending precipitously from a collection point in the Newcastle hills to docks on the lake.

For 39 months, between October 1874 and January 1878, the counterbalanced trams — each hauling three tons of coal — made more than 85,000 trips. In 1874, 9,027 tons of coal were delivered by Seattle Coal and Transportation to Seattle docks. In 1875, the first full year after the tramway’s completion, the company delivered 70,157 tons.

Muscling the trams onto barges docked at the tramway’s foot was only the first stage of a complicated, gargantuan journey. Towed 10 miles north, the trams were offloaded onto tracks crossing the quarter-mile-wide Montlake Portage and rolled onto barges traversing Lake Union. More tracks led to bunkers at the foot of Pike Street, whence waiting freighters delivered coal to energy-hungry San Francisco.

Although this history was thoroughly documented, one nagging question persisted: Exactly where was that first inclined tramway? The missing link emerged when a unique pair of 145-year-old photos arrived out of the blue at the Eastside Heritage Center. Tantalizing clues beckoned.

Rising to the occasion was a crack team of investigators, from railroad and maritime buffs to Newcastle coal-mine authorities — even a scuba diver. For several years, armed with metal detectors, diving equipment and hiking boots, they combed possible locations. Our “Then” photo supplied talismanic authority, but could its unique view ever be rediscovered amid a clutter of suburban roads and houses?

Their final answer: a resounding yes. Months of toil culminated in their discovery of an untouched, ivy-choked gully, originally carved out by the tramway, between Lake Washington Boulevard and Interstate 405. Celebrating this “Eureka” moment, they marked the spot with an enthusiastic (but figurative) X.

Eastside historian Kent Sullivan offers the following coda: “We’re just people who are willing to pick at threads. We pull on them without a clue as to whether they lead to an end. And what’s even more exciting,” he confesses, “is if there isn’t any end.”

Please join the Newcastle Historical Society at 7 p.m. Sept. 26, at Bellevue Library’s Room 1, for a presentation on this discovery and other rare images.

WEB EXTRAS

You can also check out our narrated 360-degree video, shot on location below Newcastle.

Seattle Now & Then: The Union 76 Skyride, 1962

(Click and click again on any image to enlarge it)

THEN: The spiny, orange, gazebo-like terminus of the Union 76 Sky Ride now can be found at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, where it was moved in 1980. Today’s Sky Ride trip runs $5, 10 times the 1962 fare. By comparison, a ride to the top of the Space Needle, $1 in 1962, today starts at $32.50. The Monorail offers the best deal of all, a mere $2.50 per ride, only five times the 1962 rate.
NOW: A scene from the crowded 2019 Northwest Folklife Festival features the graduated colors of the Rep’s mainstage 842-seat Bagley Wright Theatre (peeping through trees, right-center) and its 282-seat Leo Kreielsheimer Theatre (the “Leo K”, left-center, added in 1996). The unusual green and maroon facade is said to refer to Granny Smith apples and the bark of our indigenous madrona trees.

(Published in Seattle Times online on Aug. 22, 2019,
and in print on Aug. 25,, 2019)

A willing suspension – from sky-high to high drama
By Jean Sherrard

Since 1972, Seattle summers have opened and closed with multiday festivals: Northwest Folklife on Memorial Day weekend, and Bumbershoot on Labor Day weekend. Hosted at Seattle Center, both events signal a change of seasons. They also inherit the legacies of the Century 21 Exposition (aka the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair), whose revitalizing alterations “Now & Then” has oft explored.

Our “Then” photo, looking northwest during the fair, features one station of the Union 76 Skyride, located at the former corner of Second Avenue and Republican Street. Traversing 1,400 feet and reaching the height of a six-floor building, its bucket-shaped orange and blue cars provided a bird’s-eye view as their overhead wheels rolled above the grounds. When I experienced the still-operating ride two years later, the three-passenger limit meant my father stayed behind while my mom, little brother and I floated and gloated.

Built by Von Roll Iron Works of Switzerland, then the world’s largest producer of aerial tramways, the Skyride became one of the fair’s most popular and — for only 50 cents — affordable excursions. (Union 76 gas stations offered buy-two/get-one-free tickets with every fill-up, recalls historian Alan Stein.) The Skyride’s southern station also stood only steps from the Monorail.

THEN: A Kodachrome slide of the Skyride’s southern station, just steps from the Monorail. (Courtesy Tony Case)

Visible from the Skyride, the Seattle Playhouse — built for the fair in only 34 days — beckoned from Mercer Street. The venue showcased national and international acts, from the Julliard String Quartet and Japan’s Bunraku Theatre to the Pacific Ballet and Hal Holbrook’s one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight!” Reportedly, Holbrook suggested it as the perfect location for a repertory theater.

The newly formed Seattle Repertory Theatre took up Holbrook’s challenge in November 1963, fronting inaugural productions of “King Lear” and Max Frisch’s “The Firebugs.” Original troupe members included Marjorie Nelson and a young John Gilbert, later stalwarts of the local acting community. (Nelson married prominent architect and preservationist Victor Steinbrueck, neatly squaring the circle.)

In the early 1980s, the Skyride’s northern station bowed to what we might call a theatrical suspension of disbelief, when the Rep departed the aging Playhouse to create state-of-the-art digs on a nearby corner lot. As an aspiring actor, I witnessed this vision beginning to assume reality when I was fortunate to be cast in two plays in the inaugural season.

The result has, like the World’s Fair, become a gift to Seattle. Through the decades, by showcasing a steady diet of star-studded, groundbreaking and world-class theater, the Rep has, like the Skyride, become a high-wire act.

(To learn about Bumbershoot’s early years, check out our 2001 video history BumberChronicles. Also, my 1980s radio adaptation of Don Quixote for NPR features actors Nelson and Gilbert)

WEB EXTRAS

Check out further details in our Seattle Now & Then 360 video.

To hear a snippet of our Globe Radio Repertory adaptation of “Don Quixote”, featuring Marjorie Nelson and John Gilbert, click here. Marjorie delivers a lovely performance as Quixote’s concerned housekeeper Maria and John portrays Father Pero Perez, a long-time friend, with all the mastery you might expect. In this introductory scene, Maria approaches Father Perez to inform him that her master has returned from another delusional adventure and plead for his help. Both actors knock it out of the park.

The back story here might also be of some interest. In 1984, after being injured (a torn hamstring) at the Rep while playing Charles the Wrestler in “As You Like It”, I decided to move into radio production.

With partner John Siscoe (owner/operator of the Globe Bookstore in Pioneer Square), I wrote an adaptation of “Don Quixote” and together we pitched it to NPR Playhouse. Our subsequent productions appeared through the early 1990s, and were largely funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. We were fortunate to work with some of the finest actors in the country, most of whom were based in Seattle.