The featured look east on Pike Street from Ninth Avenue is dated May 21, 1939. In about two decades more this neighborhood would be cut, crushed, and cleared for the construction of the Seattle Freeway. Through these two blocks between NinthAvenue and Boren Street, Pike’s mixed neighborhood of cafes, hotels, barbershops, and furniture upholsterers would be revamped into a concrete ramp over a concrete ditch. That this part of Pike was once an “upholstery row” surprised me. In 1938 (I have a city directory for 1938 but not 1939) there were five furniture upholsterers listed in the few blocks between Eighth and Melrose Avenues. It is at Melrose that Pike begins its turn east to conform to the more recently platted street grid on the ridge. The jog’s directional change is indicated with an adjustment in the name to East Pike Street, which in 1939 was one of Seattle’s principal “auto rows.” East Pike also marks the subjective – and by now traditional – border between the First and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.
Also with the help of the Polk City Directory for 1938 I have counted four hotels in these two blocks between Ninth Avenue and Boren that were lost to the Seattle Freeway (Interstate Five): the Stanley, here at Ninth Avenue, the William Penn and the Crest near Terry Avenue, and the five-floor Hotel Alvord, on the left. (Jean Sherrard’s repeat also reveals a survivor. The Villa Hotel at the northwest corner of Pike and Boren can stands out in the photo above. It cal also be glimpsed directly above the trolley in this Sunday’s “then.” It is more difficult but not impossible to find in the “now.”)
The Alvord’s publicity stream begins in 1924, the year of its construction, and reaches its most sensational height around midnight on March 1, 1933. Mildred Russell, the 24-year-old bride of violinist and orchestra leader Jan Russell, opened a window in search of fresh air and used all five of the hotel’s floors to fall to the ground below. The Times qualified the ground as “soft earth.” From her merciful bounce, Mildred received only a few bruises and a cracked skull. “I had just lit a cigarette,” she said. Only three years later, Margaret Thaanum fell from the Alvord’s third floor to her death. The trained nurse was trying to walk the three-inch ledge outside her window.
Returning now to the trolley heading east on Pike Street, on this spring day there was a growing sense that these often rattling common carriers were about to lose out to the busses and trackless trollies promoted by internal combustion and “big rubber.” Two years more and most trolley tracks in Seattle were pulled up and the disrupted brickwork patched with asphalt and/or concrete.
On this Sunday, May 21, 1939, we learn from The Times that while Hitler and Mussolini were preparing a military alliance with their Rome-Berlin pact, Seattleites were anticipating in the week the grand Potlatch Pageant and its big parade. (Hitler and Mussolinivented that “Germany and Italy have no intention of using any country as a tool for egotistical plans, which is happening only too clearly on the other side.”) Two days later Boeing’s Yankee Clipper inaugurated the first commercial airway service between the Unites States and Europe. Perhaps playing it safe at the start, other than the crew of fifteen, the clipper carried only mail, four tons of it.
Anything to add, blokes? Blokes but not bullies we will find some links and other decorations and put the UP.
The buildings on Ninth Avenue south of Pike Street, including the Seattle Taxi, are still standing in this aerial of the neighborhood photographed sometime before it was cut through by Interstate-5. Compare to the photo below.
Public historian Kurt E. Armbruster, one of our sensitive explorers of Seattle’s cityscapes, recently sent me his snapshot of the Chin Gee Hee Building at the northeast corner of Washington Street and the Second Avenue Extension. Kurt regards it as “a little gem” and, it seems, it is the last remaining piece of architecture to survive from Seattle’s First Chinatown, in the neighborhood of Washington Street and Second Avenue. It was a community of the mostly single men who help build the region’s earliest railroads, labored as domestics and on the pick and shovel gangs that helped dig, for example, the canal between Puget Sound and Lake Washington.
Chin Gee Hee arrived in Seattle in the mid-1870s and soon prospered as a labor contractor, a merchant and a builder. Partnering with Chin Chun Hock, another and even earlier Chinese contractor-merchant, Hee and Hock hired Seattle’s earliest resident architect, William E. Boone, to design two commercial buildings for them in Chinatown. Although both were consumed by the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, they were quickly replaced by the two
grander three-story hotels featured in the featured photo at the top. The greater part of Chin Chun Hock’s Phoenix Hotel is to the left of the darker power pole in the photo’s foreground, and the full front façade of the Chin Gee Hee Building, facing Washington Street, is to the right of the pole. Boone styled both as orthodox Victorians. It is claimed that Chin Gee Hee’s hotel was the first brick building completed following the ’89 fire, however, we may be permitted to show some reservation about this claim as we do many other “firsts” in local history. The thirty-plus blocks of the business district was a cacophony of construction following the fire with the builders’ general racing urge to open first.
Judging from news coverage, the Phoenix was the seedier of the two hotels. On August 11, 1905, the hotel’s manager W.A. Morris was charged with robbing one of its drunken guests of $45.00. While the manager confessed his innocence, the police told the Seattle Times that “Morris conducts one of the worst dives in the city.” Earlier that summer the police had made an opium raid on the Phoenix, noting that the hotel had “developed into a full-fledge opium den and in the last month a half-dozen smokers have been caught there.” Meanwhile, also in 1905, the Phoenix’s neighbor, Chin Gee Hee, left Seattle to build a railroad in China. He was subsequently awarded by the last emperor with the honor of a peacock feather and a retinue of servants and soldiers, presumably to help him guard the rails.
THE SECOND AVENUE EXTENSION as seen from the SMITH TOWER. Above before: March 14, 1928. Below after: June 11, 1929.The Phoenix Hotel at the former northeast corner of Second Avenue and Washington Street can still be seen (below the center) near the bottom of the 1928 photograph. The Chin Gee Hee Building is behind it, to the left. In the 1929 photo below, the Phoenix has been sliced away and the southwest corner of the Chin Gee Hee clipped.
The Phoenix’s transgressions were fixed forever in 1928 when it was razed with the “improvement” of the Second Avenue Extension, a 1,413-foot cut through the neighborhood between Yesler Way and Jackson Street. It was hoped that the extension would make Second Avenue a ceremonial promenade leading to and from the train depots. The Chin Gee Hee Building was saved with only its west end sliced away. This eccentric reduction, combined with the recessed gallery cut into the third floor above Washington Street, surely heightened the building’s gem-like charms. Martin Denny, the proprietor of the Assemblage, the Chin Gee Hee’s principal commercial tenant, shared the greater neighborhood’s underground mystery that the Phoenix Hotel’s basement may well survive under the intersection.
THREE OTHER GLIMPSES OF THE CHIN GEE HEE BUILDING
Here’s detail of the Chin Gee Hee Building, which Kurt adores:
Anything to add, les mecs? Certainly Jean, first a long list of features pulled by Ron Edge from the last eight years or so of Now-and-Then, and then a few more and earlier features.
Greetings. We discovered that this weekend’s contribution to The Times PacificNW mag has been dropped, or rather postponed, for this January One, 2017 the annual “Pictures of the Year” (last year) takes every page, except, of course, those with the ads. In its place we will assemble a miscellany: a pile of oddities.
The INTERLAKEN BIKE TRAIL – Perhaps An Early Pause to Tweet
WORLD WAR ONE SURGERY BASE HOSPITAL NO. 50 ( IN FRANCE) SUPPLIED WITH DOCTORS AND NURSES FROM WASHINGTON STATE
CAPITOL HILL BUS STOP at the Southwest Corner of BROADWAY and REPUBLICAN –
In 1976-77 during my residency above Peters on Broadway I snapped two thousand or more photographs – both bw and color – of those waiting for a bus and/or boarding it. It was part of an art in public places program, which, I think or bet, Anne Folke at the And/Or Gallery (and performance space, also on Capitol Hill) was behind. Some of the photographs wound up on the busses – beside the interior ads. (Or they might have had busses that were dedicated to the public arts project sans commerce.)
POLITICALLY CORRECT GRAFFITI – CA. 1975 on Eastlake
MERIDIAN PLAYFIELD – From WALLINGFORD WALKS, 2006-2010 [click to enlarge]
REST IN PEACE
PROVERBS FROM 1889 AND A PROHIBITION-SYMPATHETIC CARTOON FROM A SEATTLE TIMES CLIP FOR MARCH 18, 1913. [CLICK TWICE to Read]
HELIX – The Return of the REDUX From Paul Dorpat and Bill White
The five issues of Helix freshly posted below are a continuation of what was posted previously – where we let off many months ago. With this return we embrace again our intention to post them all, although most likely with less rigor. It may be a month or more before we post another one. In this we also depend upon Ron Edge who has done the scanning, and so well. Bill and I hope that you will also respond and reflect on what you read – any or all parts of it. Record your comments on anything you read in these Helixes, and send the MP3 to Bill at BWhi61@hotmail.com by the end of April, at which time Bill will edit audio histories from the MP3’s he receives and post them here with the Helix issues. If you prefer to post a written commentary or response, please join our Helix Redux Facebook site, home of lively conversations on all things Helix and related. https://www.facebook.com/groups/217636941681376/
POSTSCRIPT: MP3’s received after the end of April may be included in the next issue to be posted.
Below is a photograph of the concert advertised at the bottom of the back cover of Vol. 4 No.8
Before this coming Sunday’s feature is published we want to insert an addition to last week’s feature about the Galbraith and Bacon Wall Street Wharf and the Bark Montcalm that was tied to her south side most likely in early November, 1910 and not “circa 1912” as we speculated last Sunday. Here’s the feature photo, again.
We received three letters responding to our uncertainties about which Montcalm this was and, as noted, the date it visited Seattle. Reader Kyle Stubbs was first to respond, and noted that “I am only aware of one Montcalm that was a barque-rigged sailing vessel. That is the Montcalm of 1902, 2,415 tons built at Nantes, France, which was used in around Cape Horn service by La Societe des Voiliers Nantais. The vessel was broken up in the Netherlands in 1924.”
The next letter came from Douglas Stewart, a seasoned cardiologist with the University Medical School and hospital, whom I first met last winter after I fell to the kitchen floor, tripped by my oxygen gasping heart’s tricks with consciousness, or loss of it. The good doctor is also an enthusiast for most things maritime, and even rows to work from his home, which like the hospital sits beside Portage Bay. He found that the original nitrate negative for this photograph is in the keep of the University Libraries Special Collections. In their terse cataloging of it a librarian concludes that this was the “decommissioned sailing ship Montcalm at dock, probably in Seattle ca. 1912.” The date is almost certainly wrong, and the “decommissioned” attribute is unclear or uncertain. Decommissioned when? The library’s data also describes this Montcalm as an “armored sailing corvette . . . originally built for the French Navy in 1865.” While a Google search for everything that is a Montcalm and floats will surface a French corvette with that heroic name dating from the 1860s, it is, again, almost certainly not this Montcalm. The first French corvettes of the 17th century were much smaller than this bark or barque and were built to carry cannons. They got bigger, surely, but not this big. and continued to be built for cannons not concrete and wheat like our Montcalm.
The third and last contributor to this quest for a proper caption is our old friend Stephen Lundgren, who for this sort of investigation into maritime history prefers the sobriquet Capt. Stefan Eddie. I confess to having used the Captain at times as a capable “World Authority on Everything,” resembling the Professor played by Sid Caesar on his TV show in the 50’s – the best part of that decade. Capt. Eddie also did what I should have done, which is consult the Seattle Public Libraries assess to the key-word search opening into The Seattle Times on-line archive between 1900 and 1984. Stephen found, for instance, the clipping above, which was almost certainly photographed by the same camera or camera person as the featured photo on top. From reading the Times reporting during the Montcalm’s few days stay in Seattle, the Captain concludes, “Took about an hour trolling the Times database and verifying the ship history facts. That it is rigged as a bark, with a steel hull, narrows the search. It’s at the Galbraith Dock probably between discharging the cement cargo in West Seattle and before loading outbound wheat at Smith Cove. The Galbraith Co. dealt in Cement. Question is what buildings were constructed with this Belgium-shipped concrete?” Capt. Stefan Eddie’s last question really goes too far. How could anyone be expected to follow the concrete from ship to foundations?
Finally, Captain Stephan Eddit added to his missive something more of his charming familiarity with the Montcalm subject. He explains, “Lars Myrlie Sr. tells me (in Norwegian) ‘I gots off that damm frenchie ship as soon as it gots to Seattle, it was a hell ship and I damm near gots my head stove in off the coast when the load shifted and knocked the other cargo loose cement in bulk, which meant our sure deaths if we gots a leak. Sure it was a steel ship but them damm rivets popped when a hard one hit, like a bullet they was and then came the squirt. My brother gots me off the Galbreath dock and over to Port Blakely and no more damn frenchies for me, Tusende Tak Gotts!”
It took the Montcalm 195 days to carry its 3,000 tons of concrete from Antwerp to Seattle. The ship was registered at 1,744 tons, so the concrete gave it lots of steadying ballast for the storms. However, there were no storms except the expected ones around Cape Stiff, the sailors’ name for Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. Otherwise her crossing of the Atlantic was one of constant calms and so not of great speed.
About two hours ago our friend and expat in Lima, Bill White, was honored on a stage at the Seattle Public Library. Or rather his e-book CINEMA PENITENTIARY was honored, he could not make it from Lima. CINEMA PENITENTIARY is one of three books selected by the Seattle Public Library to be included this year in its lending collection. We hope that some blog’s will remember that now a few years back we included an excerpt from CINEMA PENITENTIARY. Now, below, Ron Edge will return it to the front of this blog (before the week’s now and then comes forward this evening) that posting. It will be linked to five reports that Bill made while on his long journey to his New World by ship in the fall of 2012. We miss you still Bill and CONGRATULATION, of course. As agreed we should try to resume the posting of Helix issues later this fall. (Once we figure out our Skype tangles.) A WARNING: Bill is fond of re-writing so the chapter from CINEMA PENITENTIARY that we printed here two years ago, may have been polished or something since then. If so now you can compare them. Contact the library. It is a treat.
Click the festive photo from Bill to review all his post for his “Journey to a New World”