Jean Sherrard’s and my plans to photographically repeat the inside of Seattle Center’s Mercer Arts Arena (originally the Ice Arena) were interrupted by the recent decision to tear it down. The arena would seat about 5000 – when not flooded for skating. It was dedicated in 1928, and so by antiquarian standards did not qualify as “antique.” And yet in its mere 89 years, the Arena did manage to live within two skins.
The birthday suit of concrete dated from 1927 and showed some “Minimal Romanesque” ornaments like arched windows, decorative trim, and four gargoyles that faced Mercer Street above the Arena’s entrance. These adornments were subdued with Century 21’s architect Paul Thiry’s 1961-2 wrapping (also minimal) with bricks. They were laid for a modern polish thought more fitting for the “forward thrusting” Fair. The changes of course were not necessary for the Fair’s performers using the arena like Lawrence Welk, the Century 21 Horse Show, the Mormon Pageant, the Ringling Bros and Shrine Circuses, and the Ice Follies, to name a few.
The immigrant history for the future Seattle Center began in the 1850s with pioneers David & Louisa Denny. By the 1870s the young couple had nurtured a garden to feed their growing family and also much of Seattle. Beginning in the late 1920s Seattle’s Civic Center grew atop this garden. Its three largest structures, a sports field with covered bleachers, the Arena and the Auditorium – all of them labeled as civic – were bunched south of Mercer Street in what were formerly the Denny’s garden acres.
The Center’s larger parts had all been nurtured from a modest grant bequeathed in the early 1880s when the Denny’s were still tending their gardens. The gift to the city was made by a gregarious bar owner named James Osborne. Over nearly a half-century this spirits’-borne endowment gathered a cash pile high enough to raise what the public house owner had wished for, a public hall owned by the public. The bonus legacy of the Arena was fitted with a floor for the center’s many “Ice Events.” These included amateur and professional hockey, gala ice shows, and extended hours of public skating like that recorded in this week’s featured photograph. Of course, there were skates to rent, instruction to be had, and organ music to accompany nearly a half-year of public gliding. At the start the floor was frozen five months a year.
The recent razing of the Arena did not raise much commotion. In his KIRO radio commentary, Feliks Banel, the station’s zestful historian, quote’s Seattle historian David Rash characterization of the Arena as something of an “orphan.” Rash points out what many others have sensed since Century 21, that the mix of the Arena’s uses – for the most part pop concerts and for the Seattle Opera convenient practice space – with storage – the Arena has had “no built-in constituency of regular users or devoted fans to speak up for it.” Banel notes, “It’s been offline for so many years.”
Let me provide a close-up detail from the ‘Now’ photo – above the arm of the yellow tractor, a last glimpse of the original seating:
Anything to add, lads? Coitenly and silly too, Jean.
Intermittently, Kodachrome slides by Lawton Gowey may be expected with this weekly feature. Lawton was a good friend with whom I often compared and shared photographs. He began his clicking with his father before the second World War and continued exploring Seattle with his camera until his death in the mid-1980s. Lawton was both a creator and a collector, and Jean’s and my illustrated lectures – what we used to call “slide shows” – are elaborately enriched due to Lawton’s many interests, including this one of Seattle’s waterfront and its diverse navy.
Lawton worked as an auditor for Seattle City Light, at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Madison Street, about five blocks east up First Hill from this Elliott Bay slip between Piers 55 and 56 at the foot of Seneca Street. His office was an excellent prospect from which to keep an eye on the waterfront. It was Lawton’s helpful practice to consistently and clearly name and date his subjects on the borders of his slides; for the featured photo at the top the caption reads “The Nippon Maru, Pier 56, June 29, 1965.” It was the last full day of the Japanese training barque’s visit to Puget Sound before it returned to Tokyo by way of Honolulu. Capt. Isao Kieda, the ship’s master, thanked the 29,849 persons (by his count) who had boarded his ship during its stay. “My young cadets have been deeply impressed by your good will and kindness.”
Parked to the reader’s side of the Nippon Maru in the featured photo at the top are two vessels belonging to Lynn Campbell’s Harbor Tours, long since renamed Argosy. Campbell was stocked with zest, and long-lived. Self-taught, he lectured his passengers on waterfront history or anything else that came up. Following WWII, he started a tugboat business hauling logs across Puget Sound that soon developed into the popular showman’s affordable and interpreted floating tours, most of them around Elliott Bay and/or between it and Lake Washington. Campbell’s daughter Charlotte, a wharf rat, was often aboard. She recalled that in the early 1950s, “This was a working waterfront. Train cars backed into docks. The bows of great ships loomed over our heads.” That soon changed.
By 1965, the year of the Nippon Maru’s visit, Seattle’s waterfront was well into its metamorphosis from traditional maritime work into a midway of cafes like the Cove and import curio shops like Trident – both seen here on the south side of Pier 56. Ted Griffin’s Waterfront Aquarium had opened on the bay-end of Pier 56 for the 1962 Century 21 World’s Fair. The general scramble hereabouts to fill the entertainment holes left by the Fair when it closed in the fall of 1962, included the ambitious Griffin’s aquarium followed in 1965 by his Namu. Griffin’s well-reported convoy pulled Namu, a net-caged killer whale captured in Alaska, down the inside passage to a new pen at the water end of Pier 56. Griffin paid for the prized critter out of a gunnysack filled with $8,000 in loose change he had gathered from friends and businesses on the Seattle waterfront. Along the way, news of Namu spread rapidly (and professionally), and an excited flotilla of naturalists, reporters, and happy hour celebrities formed, with nothing more pressing on their schedules than to follow a killer whale to Seattle.
Anything to add, guys? Dearest Jean Randal Sherrard, and hoping I have got the spelling for you middle name correct. Ron Edge, I, and our readers – I’m confident – wish you a happy 60th Birthday – so Young! And so fit. Here we will insert a late photo of Elvis Presley that dates surely from before his death at the age of 42 in 1977. We will also hang from (or below) Elvis a photo of you about seven years ago (so around age 54) we’ve pulled from a promotional card for one of the many Rogue’s Christmases you have produced at Town Hall. And let the reader know that you look even better now, having lost many pounds at the hands of no one or nothing but your own diet that includes some nearly magic low-cal jello. And now you exersize as well – exploring the city for …
… pictures at an exuberant and often enough joyful pace as you repeat – and re-repeat – 100 locations for the “Seattle Now and Then, Best Of” book that we hope to have completed and delivered to its readers sometime this coming October. And yet Dear Jean feel confident that should some other concern press upon you at school or somewhere else off the Cougar Mountain Campus of Hillside (dear reader, the school is described in a bug near the top) we can always postpone for a season or even a year. For now, though, we pause at the waterfront. Stay happy , healthy and salty – enough.
Here’s the topper – another happy mass of Edge Clippings of apt and old features.
In line and alert, members of the Fremont Historical Society stand for Jean Sherrard’s “repeat” on the southbound lanes of the Fremont Bascule Bridge. The FHS members have just adjourned from their April meeting (the second Saturday) in the nearby conference room of the Fremont Public Library. The historians met in part to consider where to stand for the “repeat” of this week’s featured “then” and together study the inviting jumble of meanings included in the older photograph. The leading goals are, of course, to discover or uncover the “where” and “when” of the photograph, which, judging from the shadows, was recorded around noon. Although it came with no caption, the members easily knew, and in unison, that his was Fremont Avenue. They were less secure regarding its uncertain elevation. That will take more time.
Early during the members joint research someone noticed the sign exhibited, upper-left, in the second floor corner window of the clapboard business block. It reads “Mabel Canney, Piano”. Searches of city directories revealed that Mabel, and probably her piano, were located here in 1908 and 1909 but were then followed in 1910 by her younger sister Ella Mae. This, of course, strongly suggests that the Canneys were a musical family, but also that this subject looking north on Fremont Avenue was photographed sometime when one, or both, of the sisters was in residence there.
With the help and confirmation of other photographs, plus city maps – especially the real estate maps of 1908 and 1912 (as seen for inspection eleven photographs above) – and directories, the deliberating FHS membership could eventually calm the uncanny feeling that something was a kilter here. Through the years of building the Lake Washington Ship Canal, 1911-1917, there were big grade changes here.
In the featured photograph at the top in this first block south of the intersection of Fremont Avenue and Ewing Street, now 34th Street, Fremont Avenue was cut off and dropped below a retaining wall. In the process, both the mercantile building with the Canney piano on the left, and the mill warehouse on the far right, were settled to rest below the deck of the new but short-lived Fremont Bridge constructed in 1911-12. That was not the bascule bridge, which opened in 1917, but its penultimate span that reached N. 34th Street and the Fremont Business district at the new and still holding elevation. The investigating Society also discovered that the railroad track, which curves across the bottom of the subject, was kept to pass below the new Fremont Bridge. It was the Seattle and International Railroad spur that reached Fremont’s main employer, the Bryant Lumber Mill, to the right and behind the unnamed photographer.
Anything to add, lads? Yes Jean, those directly below that Ron Edge put up earlier this evening, and eventually a few more relevant features that I’ll pull from the archive after breakfast. It is 5:19 AM Saturday morning now, and I’m going to bed. Remembering now and in honor of Bill Burden its parent the kind good night “Nighty-Bears.” I climb the stairs.
From his climb to the cornice of the eighteen-story Medical Dental Building, Jean Sherrard has thoughtfully returned with some frosting, one of the building’s crowning terra-cotta ornaments. Peeking at the bottom-right corner of Jean’s repeat, resembling a lampshade, it is one small part of the building’s elegant skin.
First imagined by its mix of professional (physicians and dentists) developers as a “real medical center in Seattle,” the polished and ornate Medical Dental Building was dedicated in 1925. With its ceramic tile cladding and more, the tower would be interpreted as an example of the late Gothic Revival, which, as it turned out, was a style about to lose its popularity.
Looking north, from its tower, Westlake Avenue can be followed to Denny Way, where it elbows slightly to the northeast to complete its arterial duty to both Westlake and eventually Eastlake at the south shore of Lake Union. Westlake was sided by the triangular blocks and buildings fashioned in 1906-7 when it was cut through from Pike Street to Denny Way. Its landlords briefly named this new and direct approach to the north “The Big Funnel”.
Jean’s thoughtful inclusion of the decorative ornament encourages us to extend our short review of the architectural history of this retail neighborhood at the north end of Seattle’s central business district. It began in earnest in the early 1880s with a few retailers scattered about the slopes of the by then clear-cut Denny Hill. The businesses were mixed with modest residences – some in rows – and tenements, all made from lumber milled on the shores of Elliott Bay and Lake Union. Aside from the built-for-show blocks around Pioneer Square and on Front Street (First Avenue N.) the fancier construction of this metropolis began only after its cinder-scrubbing by the Great Fire of 1889. Seattle began then to earnestly boom and build, often with bricks and the encouragement of better insurance rates for those who embraced both the new ordnances and bricks.
As for grace and style, terra-cotta tiles became nearly a necessity for any proud developer in the new twentieth century, until the expense of it became forbidding in the thirties with the Great Depression and/or too fussy for the more functional modernist tastes. One sizeable resister to modernity, “the Old Quarter,” appears here in the featured photo on left of Westlake and to this side of Denny Park’s greenbelt, also on the left. This is the last of the Denny Hill neighborhood. In 1911 it was left to molder when the Denny Hill Regrade reached Fifth Avenue and stopped. It remained dormant until 1929 when everything in this triangle was razed, including the low rents, just in time for the Great Depression.
Anything to add, boyos? Sure Jean and by now we know the march. Ron Edge and I put up a sturdy parade of part features that relate to the week’s primary subject or concern or thereabouts. (Here I had hoped to include the original latin for “Repetition if the Mother of All Learning” but my computer has lost my “Google Translate” capacities. For the moment.)
Lower Roosevelt Way is an arterial that aside from the bascule bridge it is attached to, was, it seems, developed without distinguished landmarks. For the fetured photograph above, it was recorded on the afternoon of March 14, 1940, a year remembered, perhaps, by many of us, myself included. I was born in 1938 – late ’38.
The featured view at the top looks north on Roosevelt Way (10th Avenue N.E.) from its northeast corner with NE 41st Street. Seventy-seven years later, hardly anything survives for Jean Sherrard to repeat except the nearby utility pole and the fire hydrant at the bottom-right corner. They are, at least, nearly the same. A temporary seven feet-or-so of whitewash has been applied below the street sign on the 1940 pole. The sign reads “E. 41st St.” but not yet “Northeast.” Actually, transcending our prejudice, we notice a string of landmarks here in 1940: the syncopated clutter of the long line of tall power poles competing and/or cooperating for our attention above the narrow parking strip on the east side of Roosevelt Way.
When the bascule bridge that crossed the narrow passage between Lake Union and Portage Bay was first opened in 1919, it briefly held to its forebear’s name, The Latona Birdge, but was also called the Eastlake Bridge after its south end tie, and other times the Brooklyn Bridge for the name of its north end Brooklyn Addition, but most often, and perhaps inevitably, the University Bridge for its nearby and dominant campus landmark. By the time its north feed, Tenth Avenue Northeast, was renamed in 1933 for two popular presidents, one passed and one brand new, Roosevelt Way was well along with its development into one of Seattle’s auto rows, with several dealerships, garages, used car lots and full-service filling stations.
Here follows a few more Roosevelts.
Checking The Seattle Times archive for March 14, 1940, (the day for the featured photo at the top) we find that while celebrating his 61st birthday in Princeton with the press, Albert Einstein was asked if he had any plans in the “immediate future” to go public with any new discoveries for his “unified theory.” The cosmologist answered “No, no. I’m having difficulty there.” Meanwhile that afternoon with a
less cosmic attitude, the deliberating Seattle City Council voted to revoke the license of the Rialto Theatre after sampling the theatre’s rum-flavored toffee and peeking into its “view-boxes.” For the politicians’ edification and distraction, the Rialto’s manager projected into its ordinarily bawdy boxes lush transparencies of Far
East pagodas and exotic stone monuments, and not “nudes in a variety of poses,” or other First Amendment-testing titillations that the theater’s late night customers – mostly older men – paid tens cents to watch and/or sleep the night through from the comforts of the heated theatre’s cushioned seats.
Upon reflection, I must correct the introductory point about a lack of landmarks on lower Roosevelt Way. There is, at least, one grand exception. At the northeast corner of NE 42nd Street and Roosevelt Way, which is one long block north of the historical photographer’s prospect, spreads the creative clutter of Hardwick’s Swapshot, “Seattle’s coolest emporium since 1932.” It is hidden here behind the clutter of the parking strip. This helpful stockpile of long aisles is packed with both new and used hardware that can be enjoyed, studied and procured. On top of it all, original framed art is arranged salon-style in the spaces that climb the walls above the tools. Much of it is “forsaken art” found in estate sales and the rummage market. Forsaken, and yet precious, it is NOT for sale.
ON THE SAME DAY – MILDRED DODGE – MARCH 15, 1940
Anything to add, fellahs?
THREE MORE BILLBOARD SHOTS FROM THE FEATURED CORNER – ALL LOOKING NORTH
WE INTERRUPT THIS FEATURE WITH A LOOK AROUND THE CORNER & NORTHEAST TO THE INTERSECTION OF JEFFERSON STREET & THIRD AVENUE. THE CITY HALL – AKA KATTZENJAMMBER CASTLE – IS ON THE RIGHT, AND THE YESLER HOME – (a domestic castle with 27 rooms) – ON THE LEFT.
The reader will easily note that with few exceptions the featured photo’s line-up of Seattle Police on the north side (left) of Yesler Way, between Second and Third Avenues, are looking east at the long parade float that is either crossing Yesler Way or standing in its intersection with Third Avenue. The rooftop banner that runs the length of the float names the sponsor, the “National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.” The flip side for at least one of the four MOHAI prints covering this Independence Day scene, holds a type-written sticker that reads “taken July 4, 1898, before the Spanish American War veterans returned. Picture made in front of police headquarters.” A hand-written addition to the sticker reads “3rd and Yesler,” and the gray-blue back of the print itself concludes the captioning with “Called ‘Electric Float’ Taken by W.T. Milholland.”
The inscribed date, 1898, is very inviting. The Independence Day weekend that year included the sensational news that America’s revenge for the February 15th unexplained sinking of the USS Battleship Main – “Remember the Maine!!!” – in the Havana harbor was at hand. On the third of July, with the American navy in pursuit, the Spanish Caribbean fleet fled the Santiago, Cuba harbor. In the days that followed the Spanish dreadnaughts that were not destroyed, surrendered. Certainly this waxing war news was on the minds of nearly every one among the estimated 75,000 citizens and visitors that crowded downtown Seattle on the 4th for 1898. One year later this patriotic party was remembered by The Times reporter covering the 1899 Independence Day festivities as “the biggest celebration that the city ever had.” However, and almost certainly, this Yesler Way scene was not part of that record-setting event. The caption was incorrect by one year. The float named “Electric” won second place in the 1899 – not 1898 – parade competition.
In The Times 3 O’clock Edition for July 5, 1899, [SEE ABOVE] the float is described as a “dynamo in full operation.” The electricity was generated by steam from a boiler flaunted on the float. It powered a “call system of the Postal Telegraph Company, a phonograph and a telephone” and was also wired to a printing press carried on the Metropolitan Printing and Binding Company float was next in line. On the far-right end of the float a tower of steam shoots from its roof. Most likely the hissing noise of escaping steam also attracted the attentive white-gloved police.
Independence Day for 1899 was a wet one, and many outdoor events were either canceled or avoided. The fireworks, however, were not expunged but rather admired for their reflections off the low clouds. In the featured historical photo, the gray sky offers little contrast with the scene’s two famous towers, both of them serving for part of their careers, as King County Court Houses. In 1890, the top-heady tower on the First Hill horizon, replaced the frame one rising far left on Third Avenue. With King County moved up the hill, its abandoned home at Third Avenue and Jefferson Street served as Seattle’s City Hall from 1890 to 1909, and was famously nicknamed the Katzenjammer Kastle for its Rube Goldberg collection of additions, which included the police department.
Below: ANOTHER TIMELY INTERRUPTION with PALMISTRY from in-with-and-under the Late-19th Century (the clip is from July 5, 1898) and its claim to have broken or penetrated the barriers between the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE and so ALSO of or between NOW and THEN, or if your prefer THEN and NOW. (Note that scheduled sittings with a “reader” are required.)
Anything to add, boyos? Yes Jean the kids on the block have a few past features to adjoin. Some of these will be like growing chestnuts to some of the reders. (Note: a careful or curious eye will find blog contributor Ron Edge posing in one of them, but only after clicking) May we ask that the mother of all learning is what? May our mothers answer, “REPETITION.”)
Here’s looking south and a little east to the Queen City Florist Co.’s verdant nursery at the southwest corner of Union Street and 13th Avenue. The Florist’s names were John and Sophia Holze. Most likely they are standing at the gate, bottom-center, posing for the unnamed photographer. (We speculate on whom the photographer might be in the “then” caption.)
The couple – John, 36 and Sophia, 21 – had a June 22 wedding in Seattle 1898. John was thirty-six and Sophia twenty, which was John’s age when he first immigrated to the U.S.A. in 1883. It is, I think, probable that the German couple’s nuptials were conducted in German. Sophia’s parents emigrated from Germany, although she was born and raised in Wilson, Kansas, a railroad town with its own enclave of Pennsylvania Dutch, and so also a German-speaking community. The mid-west was then well stocked with them. (Leaning on the analogy and evidence of the Dorpats and my mother’s family, the Christiansens, all my mid-western grandparents spoke German and/or Danish more comfortably than English.)
In 1909, about seven years after they opened their nursery, the Holze’s ran a classified in The Times seeking “Girl for General Housework; two in family; German preferred, 1223 E. Union.” In the 1910 federal census, Emily L. Taylor is listed as living with the Holze’s, but at age 57, the “cook and servant” Emily was hardly a girl. Herman Andrews, the 63-year-od “laborer, gardener,” also living with them, was also born in Germany. Keeping track of the Germans on Union Street, the “wage worker” Ernestine Mohr, age 62, and listed in the 1920 federal census, was born in Germany and naturalized here. Like the widower Andrews, Mohr was a widow.
In 1912 the Holze’s added a store to their nursery: a “nicely fitted glass structure.” The Florist’s Review for Nov. 14, 1912 reported, “The company has the satisfaction of knowing that the place is now thoroughly up-to-date. The stock is all looking first-class … and everything is in condition for a large business.” And as it grew the couple and their flora did well. In 1905, soon after they moved into their Union Street quarters, John served as assistant secretary for the Seattle Florist Association’s flower show, which, the Times reported, was not only an artistic success, but paid for itself.” It was Seattle’s first big flower show, and The Times concluded that it went a long ways towards proving something “not to be so … the flippant saying that the men and women of Seattle are so busy making money that they have no time for the finer things.” Meanwhile Sophia did the accounting.
For their first adventure after retiring the Union Street enterprise in 1927, the German-American couple vacationed in Germany. Sophia was 49 and John an appropriate 65. They stayed involved. From the 1929 Northwest Florist Association Show they won first prize for Maroon Carnations.
ACROSS THIRTEENTH AVENUE
WEB EXTRAS – Anything to add, lads? Yup Jean. Thirty-four featured links from the neighborhood loosely conceived, and whatever they hold of other links. Surely many of these will be familiar to our most dedicated readers, who I imagine accept my mother’s wisdom – which we repeat again and again – that “Repetition is the Mother of All Learning.”