Published in The Seattle Times online on May 19, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 22, 2022
A lovingly preserved house can help us find our way home
By Clay Eals
Can we go back home again? An oft-quoted aphorism says we can’t. But we all yearn to click our figurative ruby slippers.
In March, I learned that the home my grandparents had built 97 years ago on Walnut Avenue in West Seattle was up for sale. At its open house, I languished for two hours.
I imagined my young mom and her three older sisters running up and down its stairs and singing by an upright Ludwig piano in the first-floor sunroom. I pictured their pranks, one mischievously flushing a toilet while another talked with a boy on the nearby phone. I envisioned my parents’ wedding in front of the golden-brown tiled living-room fireplace, where in 2000 I posed them for a matching “Now” photo on their 50th anniversary.
Preschool-age recollections also surfaced as I sat on front-porch benches that opened into ostensibly secret storage pods. And I lingered in the remodeled kitchen where, in its former breakfast nook, I learned to sip from a straw.
In one sense, this house isn’t distinctive. Just a two-story, four-bedroom prairie Craftsman.
Yet its context, a stone’s throw from Seattle’s first indoor-outdoor community center at Hiawatha Park, has, for nearly a century, conveyed unspoiled neighborhood warmth. Seemingly everything one could want — schools, stores, even a library, ravine, wading pool and movie theater — was mere steps away.
Mainly, however, I marvel at a dwelling that has been owned by only three families, each one stewarding it with loving care.
The soon-to-be fourth family, Brandon and Alisa Allgood, hail from California’s Silicon Valley. Brandon, 47, is an artificial-intelligence executive, and his wife, Alisa, 53, is an architectural and interior designer.
Because Brandon grew up in Marysville and on Capitol Hill and has family near Arlington and Darrington, the two have long eyed a move to Seattle. They got serious in February, gravitating to the Walnut house because of its streetside stature, open floor plan, plentiful light, proximity to Alki Beach and what today is called walkability. “We didn’t want run of the mill,” Brandon says. “We like aesthetics and uniqueness.”
The pair anticipates electrical and plumbing upgrades but will retain the house’s integrity. “We realize,” Alisa says, “we have a responsibility to keep it up.”
In Seattle’s dizzying real-estate spiral, preservation comes with a price — in this case, a purchase in excess of $1.4 million. As the cliché goes, for many the so-called American Dream remains just that: a dream.
But I also know that my early time at the Walnut house eventually led me to claim West Seattle as my own Emerald City base. May similar homes survive everywhere to inspire us all.
Special thanks to Bill Reid, Whitney Mason, Midori Okazaki, Ann Ferguson, Mahina Oshie, Joe Bopp and especially Deb & Bill Bigelow for their help with this installment.
To see Clay Eals‘ 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.
Below are a video interview of Deb Bigelow, 7 additional photos, a property record card from the Puget Sound Regional Branch of Washington State Archives and 12 historical clippings from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column.
(Published in The Seattle Times online on May 12, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on May 15, 2022)
A surviving signpost to Belltown’s origins soon will fall
By Jean Sherrard
Some ancient parchment, as historians know, is scrubbed clean and rewritten upon while leaving behind faint traces of the original text. Such a page is known as a palimpsest.
When exploring the crosshatch of Seattle streets and architecture with this column’s founder Paul Dorpat two decades ago, I realized that his X-ray photographic vision of our ephemeral city included similar traces. The residues, like double exposures, appeared in unlikely places and cracked open historical clues and mysteries aplenty.
This week’s “Then” photo revisits an early discovery of Paul’s that cemented his vocation as historical detector and photographic repeater. He penned a lengthy account of his efforts in the Dec. 20, 1978, edition of the weekly Seattle Sun. The headline: “Digging Up the Past of the Late and Great Denny Hill.”
Perusing a photo collection, he came upon a portrait of the city unlike any he had seen. While “uncannily familiar,” this image did not seem to match Seattle’s existing topography. Paul concluded that it was a place “that had somehow lost its future, for it appeared to be in no way findable in our here and now.”
Then came a “Eureka!” moment.
With a magnifying glass, the name “Bell” emerged on a street sign. Familiar with Mama’s Mexican Restaurant at the corner of Second and Bell, Paul was thrilled to recognize the triple set of bay windows belonging to the Wayne Apartments, built in 1890.
The original clapboard had been covered with asbestos “war brick” siding, but the pictorial puzzle was solved. Denny Hill’s “back side,” 220 feet above sea level, was revealed in this rare, south-facing view of what today is called Belltown, captured just before an early regrade of 1903.
Among few remaining pre-regrade structures, the bay-windowed Wayne has shone prominently and repeatedly over four decades — in “Now & Then” in 1984 and in lectures and books, including our 2018 tome “Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred.” The edifice has born witness to change, loss and the thrill of discovery.
But not for long.
In early April, we received word from artist Buster Simpson and Steve Hall, a preservation advocate with Friends of Historic Belltown, that the Wayne and adjacent structures along Second Avenue soon will be destroyed. Though they achieved landmark status in 2015, exemptions to the ruling are allowing a prospective 9-floor retail-residential building to fill the space. Its height will more than match the original summit of Denny Hill.
In the rueful words of historian David B. Williams, modern developers seem to be “merely rebuilding the hill one banal building at a time.”
NOW2: Increasingly decrepit, the Wayne’s 132-year-old sagging roofline soon will be replaced by a 9-floor building, with retail on the bottom and apartments above. (Jean Sherrard)A few photos of the soon-to-vanish icon follow. Accompanied by Buster Simpson, I explored the back of the old Wayne apartments and crawled up a couple rotting staircases. A special prize for those who find the pigeon eggs.
Published in The Seattle Times online on May 5, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 8, 2022
Seward Park’s torii was a welcome gateway, especially for a child
By Clay Eals
Unaware of her parents’ painful memories of World War II incarceration at Camp Tule Lake in northern California, preschooler Diane Taniguchi found that weekends in the early 1950s promised a family frolic.
“We used to take joy rides on Sunday afternoon after church,” Diane said in a 2015 video, citing drives from their home in the Publix Hotel in what is now called the Chinatown-International District to a South Seattle peninsular paradise — Seward Park.
“Dad called it ‘Suwado Pock’ because he couldn’t say r’s, and his pronunciation was still very Japanese right after the war. But those were great times. It was carefree. I was 4 or 5 years old. Not a worry in the world.”
Welcoming the Taniguchis and myriad other park visitors was a cultural symbol that Diane “really loved” — an imposing, reddish span modeled on entrance structures at Shinto shrines in Japan, called a torii. Pronounced “torr-ee,” the word means “bird perch,” but such structures have become known more broadly as gateways to extraordinary spaces.
The wooden Seward Park torii had a 50-year life, starting on University Street downtown at the 1934 International Potlatch and bearing a pro-trade sign: “Seattle — America’s Gateway to the Orient.”
The following spring, the torii (sans sign) found a verdant site at Seward Park’s entry isthmus, joining other Japanese elements, including cherry trees and an 8-ton stone lantern. It oversaw festivals and countless informal meadow gatherings through mid-1984, when Seattle Parks removed it due to decades of decay.
In 2011, the park’s centennial organizers vowed to build a new version. Fueled by $360,000 in grants and donations, a 20-foot-tall basalt-and-cedar replacement stands today in a plaza 20 feet north of the original’s tree-confined concrete foundations. At an April 2 ceremony, a crowd of 200 enjoyed musicians, dancers and speakers exulting beneath the edifice.
Officiants included Don Taniguchi, 76, honoring his younger sister, Diane, a preservationist who helped raise money for the new torii but died of cancer in 2016. Don’s thoughts also drifted to their dad, originally from Hawaii, and mom, of Tacoma, who both stayed silent about their camp challenges and the complexity of their new life while working “all the time” managing the Publix.
“They didn’t talk about the hardships,” Don says. “I guess it hurt them too much.”
From youthful eyes, he says, Seward Park and its torii bespoke “family time,” a cheerful refuge. “You felt a little prejudice, like somebody getting in line ahead of you, but you didn’t really understand why,” he says. “You didn’t think about those things. You just played. … You cherish those days now.”
Special thanks to Paul Talbert of Friends of Seward Park and Karen O’Brien of the Rainier Valley Historical Society, as well as automotive expert Bob Carney and former Seattle Parks staffer Bob Baines for their help with this installment. For more info, visit their Seward Park torii page.
To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.
Longtime Seattle historian Paul Dorpat, founder of the “Now & Then” column that appears Sundays in The Seattle Times (and with “web extras” on this blog), will receive the 2022 Board Legacy Award of the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO).
The honor will be presented during AKCHO’s annual awards event, online, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, 2022. To view the event, visit this link.
The award to Paul is triggered by his recent donation of a vast collection of historical photos, videos and printed materials to the Seattle Public Library so that they eventually can be accessed by anyone free of charge.
The donation reflects “your legendary loyalty to identifying and celebrating Seattle history,” says Pat Filer, award chair.
Paul, the author of many local history books, originated “Now & Then” in the Sunday magazine of The Seattle Times in January 1982. He prepared more than 1,800 columns over 37 years before retiring in 2019.
Published in The Seattle Times online on April 28, 2022
(visit that link for many extra photos!)
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 1, 2022
The Beatles found good fishing for young fans in 1964 Seattle
By Clay Eals
A long-ago best friend sometimes offered a question at social gatherings as an icebreaker: “What was your first concert?” One by one, all would mention fond memories of musicians and venues. Taking the final turn, my friend would stun everyone with three words:
“Beatles, 1964, Coliseum.”
The show was an instant Seattle legend. The third in 23 cities of the Beatles’ first North American tour, the Aug. 21 stop at what today is called Climate Pledge Arena drew a sellout throng of 14,045. Mostly young teens, reportedly “20 to 1” girls to boys, each paid just $3, $4 or $5 to contribute and/or endure waves of nearly continuous ear-splitting screams that all but drowned out the foursome’s half-hour, 12-song set.
This “Beatlemania” and attendant controversies typified the entire tour, reporters summoning the swoons historically incited by the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and even silent-film’s Rudolph Valentino.
What gave the Beatles’ visit a distinctly Seattle touch was their overnight at the waterfront Edgewater Inn, then 2 years old. From room 272, the “moptops” leaned out a window and famously posed with fishing poles over Elliott Bay.
Did they catch anything? No, they agreed at a press conference. Drummer Ringo Starr deadpanned, “Someone on the other side of the bay kept shouting, ‘There’s no fishing here.’ ”
Endearingly, one floor above them, 11-year-old Sandy Fliesbach, attending a wedding at the Edgewater, cast her own line. On hotel stationery she wrote a note seeking the Fab Four’s autographs, lowering it out her window with ribbon from opened gifts. She whistled, and someone below pulled in the note. A minute later, it came back out the window, and Sandy reeled it in. All four had signed it. Hundreds of girls chanting outside the inn’s temporary plywood and barbed-wire barricade were not so fortunate.
Two years later, the Beatles returned for two shows at the Coliseum. After the group’s 1970 break-up, John Lennon never had another Seattle gig (he was shot and killed in 1980). George Harrison played the Coliseum in 1974 (he died in 2001). Starr and Paul McCartney have performed here in several separate incarnations, the latter’s Wings group notching the first concert at the old Kingdome in 1976.
Astoundingly, the still-boyish McCartney, just six weeks shy of age 80, will play Climate Pledge on May 2-3. Perhaps he would twist and shout over a 58-year-old crack by parodist Allan Sherman (“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”), who played the Opera House and bunked at the Edgewater during the Beatles’ 1964 Seattle stay:
“The Beatles are really quite unpopular, but nobody knows it yet.”
Beatles, 1964, Coliseum — just the facts
Set list: “Twist and Shout,” “You Can’t Do That,” “All My Lovin’,” “She Loves You,” “Things We Said Today,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “If I Fell,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Boys,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Long Tall Sally.” To hear audio of their show, click here.
Sound: The Beatles’ set, measured by acoustic expert Robin Towne, was 95+ decibels for 60% of the show and 100+ decibels for 30%. (Maximum exposure without earplugs, such as an industrial plant, was recommended as 85 decibels.)
Bucks: The show grossed $64,000. The Beatles were to earn $25,000 or 60% of the gross, whichever was greater, so after $7,000 in taxes, they were paid $34,200. Minus fees for warm-up acts, their take-home was $32,000 ($278,000 today).
Warm-up acts: the Bill Black Combo, the Exciters, the Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon. (Smash hits for the latter two came later.)
Security: At the Coliseum were 50 Seattle police, 4 King County deputies, 14 firefighters, 6 Armed Forces police and 100 Navy volunteers from Pier 91.
Health: Hospitalized were 2 teens; 35 others received first aid. On hand were 5 ambulances, one of which carried the Beatles back to the Edgewater.
Souvenirs: After the Beatles left Seattle, their room 272 rug at the Edgewater was cut into 2-inch squares that sold for $1 apiece at MacDougall’s department store, to benefit Children’s Orthopedic Hospital.
Airwaves: The Beatles had five songs on KJR-AM’s Fabulous 50 the week of their Seattle show.
Silver screen: Playing the Paramount Theatre during the show was the Beatles’ first film, “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Special thanks to Kelsey Beniasch and Claudia Lew of Wagstaff Marketing, to staff of The Edgewater Hotel, to Joe Wren and Gavin MacDougall and especially to Teresa Anderson, Garnis Armbruster Adkins, Carol Griff Reynolds, Joey Richesson and Kate “Bobbey” Blessing, for their help with this installment.
Click here to see a previous “Now & Then” column on the Edgewater.
We offer no 360-degree video for this installment, but instead we feature a video with interviews of all the participants in our “Now” photo (plus a backup), in which they reflect on the Beatles’ 1964 show at the Coliseum. To see it, click here or on the image below.
To start off the extras, we have an essay by Clay examining the orientation of our “Then” photo:
‘All I’ve got is a photograph ‘ : Flipping over the Beatles
By Clay Eals
The topic du jour is the orientation of our color “Then” photo, the well-known image of the Beatles fishing out the window of their room 272 suite at the Edgewater Inn on the afternoon of their evening show Aug. 21, 1964, at the Coliseum.
On the internet, it’s easy to find our “Then” in two versions, one in which the Beatles face right, and one in which the Beatles face left. But which version is correct? I was determined to solve the puzzle prior to our “Now” shoot.
Details of the Beatles’ hair parts and shirt collars in the photo, compared to the same details in several other photos from Getty Images of the Beatles inside their Edgewater suite seemed to indicate that that the facing-right version was correct. I also was skeptical of a facing-left orientation because the low-level, indistinct masses in the background appeared to me to likely depict Harbor Island and its ships and shipyards. However, the Edgewater’s website, as well as a blown-up display inside room 272 and a framed photo in the hotel lobby all use the facing-left version.
With these conflicting notions in mind, before our “Now” shoot I made a separate trip to the Beatles Suite (still room 272) of The Edgewater Hotel (formerly Inn) in the hope of figuring out the correct orientation. The Edgewater staff asserted that room 272 is in the same west/southwest-facing corner spot today as it was in 1964. When I examined the room’s windows and leaned out them, taking sample photos, it seemed clear to me that the facing-left version had to be correct.
I had two reasons for this conclusion: (1) The positioning of the fishing window immediately adjacent to the building’s corner in the facing-left version is consistent with the present-day position of a similar window along present-day room 272’s exterior wall that runs northwest/southeast. (2) Given this, if the facing-right version were correct, from the window of today’s room 272 the photographer would have looked southeast and captured in the distance the Smith Tower and the rest of Seattle’s 1964 waterfront and downtown scene, but instead we see the low-level, indistinct mass. This argued for the photographer shooting in a northwestern direction — the direction shown in the version with the Beatles facing left.
As I looked northwest from outside the room 272 window, I noted that the end of Pier 69 that jutted out in the background was not present in the 1964 “Then.” But this could be explained by separate newspaper research indicating that Pier 69 had been redeveloped in the early 1980s.
Thus, the facing-left orientation seemed the better bet when Jean Sherrard and I shot our “Now” photo on March 24, 2022. Jean looked northwest, and our four “Now” posers matched the Beatles, facing left. That’s how they appear in this post and in the Seattle Times online and in print.
But on April 29, 2022, after this column had been posted for a day, the plot thickened. New evidence and insight emerged from one of our column’s stalwart volunteers, Gavin MacDougall.
Though I had searched Google Images and Getty Images for relevant Beatles fishing photos I could find, Gavin’s own search turned up two Getty black-and-white versions of out-the-window Beatles fishing photos that I hadn’t seen — and that obviously were taken slightly before or after our “Then.” These photos, which you can see at this link, and at this link, provide definitive evidence that the correct orientation of the photo has the Beatles facing right, not left.
Here’s why: The background of these black-and-white photos is much more distinct than in the color photo of the same situation. Clearly in the background are not only Harbor Island and silhouetted ships in for repair but also a ribbon of white further in the distance reflecting construction underway on the Fauntleroy Expressway snaking diagonally up the east bluff of West Seattle.
But how could this be, if this view is not possible from the windows of present-day room 272? The answer, as the Edgewater had told me, is that in 1964 when the Beatles stayed in room 272, the room was larger and/or likely connected to adjacent rooms, whereas today’s room 272, marketed as the Beatles Suite, is smaller and designed for a couple, not a Far Foursome. So in 1964, the larger version of room 272 had to extend around the corner along part of the adjacent exterior wall that ran due north and south and included windows that faced due west. Thus, when the Beatles fished out the southernmost window along that wall, the photographer leaning out the window to its north would have been facing due south and would have shown Harbor Island and West Seattle in the background of the resulting photos.
That room 272 was larger and provided windows straddling the Edgewater’s west/southwest facing corner is apparent from the Getty photo at this link. There, the fishing window is shown at right, and drapes cover another window at left on a wall that is at an irregular angle to the fishing-window wall, indicating the corner.
Bottom line: Though I tried hard to suss out this question before the “Now” shoot, I should have been able to dig up the Getty Images that served as the “smoking gun.” Had I done so, we would have flopped our 1964 “Then” photo so that the Beatles were facing right. We also would have sought access from the Edgewater to the room next door to — and around the irregular corner of — today’s Beatles Suite in room 272 to shoot our “Now.”
Why take pains to explain this how this error occurred? The answer may lie in the chorus of a 1973 Ringo Starr song, “Photograph”:
“All I’ve got is a photograph And I realize you’re not coming back anymore …”
Incidentally, while versions of the out-the-window fishing photo have been widely circulated in both orientations, its photographer is rarely mentioned. KOMO-TV archivist Joe Wren notes that in a 1995 interview that Beatles companion and confidant Derek Taylor did with the station, the photographer for the exterior fishing shot was identified as the Beatles’ official photographer, the late Curt Gunther. But such attribution is made difficult by the assertion on the Getty Images website that several photos of the Beatles inside their Edgewater suite were taken by a William Lovelace. The mystery continues, but here’s the KOMO-TV story, aired April 28, 2022:
More photos, a ticket stub, a letter, another video, an essay,
an array of news clippings and the Beatles’ 1964 tour booklet
Here are additional photos taken March 24, 2022, the day of our “Now” shoot, of the Edgewater’s Beatles Suite and of our “Now” posers therein. At the end of this gallery you will find a brief video of our posers standing before a Fab Four portrait in the suite’s bathroom gamely making their way through a minute or so of one of the songs the Beatles sang at their 1964 show: “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
These 57 newspaper clippings document the Beatles’ 1964 show in Seattle:
These photos depict the Beatles’ 1964 tour booklet “Beatles (U.S.A.) Ltd.,” available for purchase at their shows. The images are courtesy of Teresa Anderson. Click once or twice on each one to enlarge it.
(Published in The Seattle Times online on April 21, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on April 24, 2022)
With a peaceful view, Silvana’s Little White Church endures
By Jean Sherrard
In an increasingly discordant world, we scan for hopeful signs and clues – some are lodged in the past. One symbol of reunion and healing might be found on a rural hillside an hour’s drive north of Seattle.
The tiny town of Silvana, founded in the 1880s by Scandinavian farmers, was both blessed and cursed by the fertile floodplain of the Stillaguamish River. To accommodate the river’s oft-overflowing banks, its houses and sidewalks were raised several feet above ground level.
Little surprise, then, that the vigorous young congregation of Zion Lutheran, led by itinerant pastor Christian Jorgensen, decided to build its church and adjacent graveyard on a hill above the river. The land had been donated by farmer S.A. Erickson in 1884 and on Dec. 3, 1888, the parishioners drew up formal plans for their parish.
As documented by Zion Lutheran’s historian Irene Vognild, the church’s 1890 construction proved no small task. Existing roads were “muddy, crooked trails along the riverbanks.” Without rail or paved highways to provide access, all finished lumber had to be towed east on scows from a sawmill in equally tiny Utsalady on Camano Island.
The materials were to be offloaded onto carts and drawn by oxen to the building site. But that year’s early winter, Vognild recounts, was one of the severest in the region’s history. Church members credited divine intervention when the Stillaguamish froze solid, ensuring much easier transport by sled across the snowy river and up the hill.
Having spent just $750 on materials, the closely-knit farm community donated all labor, plus extra timber and shingles. The new church was erected in mere weeks, with grounds cleared for a nearby graveyard. Zion Lutheran Church’s first services were held that Christmas.
It wasn’t long before a divide over religious practices split the young congregation. Should this new church observe the rites and traditions of the State Church of Norway or adopt revised forms of worship?
The unhappy result, Vognild notes: “a break with friends and neighbors [who had] worshiped and worked together for years.” A minority faction left and built its own church in town, Salem Lutheran.
After nearly 70 years of division, the two churches set aside their differences and reunited in 1963, adopting a name reflecting the harmony: Peace Lutheran.
Today, the church comprises two structures — a practical 1978 building in downtown Silvana and the original Little White Church on the Hill, which was listed on the Washington State Heritage Register as a historic site in 1972.
The hillside church is open for summer services and for special occasions, including weddings and funerals.
Published in the Seattle Times online on April 14, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on April 17, 2022
A trio from a century ago bids a
warm welcome to ‘Preserving Ballard’
By Clay Eals
From about 100 years ago, three young women cheerfully invite us into Seattle’s northwesterly neighborhood of Ballard.
Their sanguine salutation seems germane, given the area’s geographic separation; the formidable length of its namesake 1917 bridge; and its storied, early concentration of work-seeking northern European immigrants who arrived by train.
As the late longtime Ballard resident Maxine Shallow Tuck genially noted in an oral-history interview, “Bus drivers used to say, ‘You got your passports ready? We’re going into Ballard.’ … Because it was a foreign country. It was Scandinavian.”
In fact, when the Ballard News-Tribune produced a 304-page, large-format history book in 1988, the title reinforced that theme: “Passport to Ballard.”
The latest “passport” will be published this month by the all-volunteer Ballard Historical Society. “Preserving Ballard” is trimmer and slimmer at 128 pages, and, as an Arcadia book, it favors visuals over text.
But its narrative and nearly 200 images cover a wide swath, including the life of the Shilshole branch of the Duwamish people and Ballard’s 27-year stretch as an incorporated city before its 1907 annexation to Seattle, along with ample views of industries, businesses, residences and churches.
The book’s cover features our “Then” photo. Clad in bloomers (less restrictive than heavy dresses and promoted by women’s rights activists), the jolly trio looks south while cavorting on Ballard’s west-flank railroad tracks, symbolizing the area’s rapid initial growth.
“For non-Native settlers, this part of the world was about resource extraction from the get-go,” says Laura K. Cooper, who led production of the book. “This was a great place for timber. That’s what really built Ballard, and the fishing industry came along after that. So from the beginning there was the need to move things around.”
The rail line, opening in 1891 and featuring a Ballard depot from 1914 to 1948, runs roughly perpendicular to the Ship Canal locks, built from 1912 to 1917, and borders the bridge-hugging Fisherman’s Terminal, established in 1914. This formative infrastructure helps define Ballard to this day.
The book complements an online innovation of the historical society, funded by 4Culture, that lets visitors click a map to see photos and data linked to 60 Ballard residences and listen to complete, decades-old audio interviews of those who lived therein, some from Polish and other underrepresented nationalities. This parallels another project that tracked more than 2,200 Ballard buildings over 100 years old as of 2016.
The overall aim, Cooper says, is as straightforward as a welcoming wave: “There are a lot of cool things that have happened here over time, and we want people to know about them.”
Special thanks to Laura Cooper, Peggy Sturdivant and Mike Bergman for their help with this installment.
To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay Eals, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.
(Published in The Seattle Times online on April 7, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on April 10, 2022)
A 1930s Seattle maritime museum was both fleeting and floating
By Jean Sherrard
For local maritime historians, there once was a Camelot. During a brief stretch in the mid-1930s, the sailing ship St. Paul served as Seattle’s first and only floating nautical museum, ideally situated on the freshwater side of the Ballard Locks.
Built in Bath, Maine, in 1874, the 228–foot-long vessel with a soaring 150-foot main mast was reasonably swift for its size. The St. Paul crossed the Atlantic in just 16 days and sailed between San Francisco and New York, rounding Chile’s Cape Horn, in a brisk 103 days.
After hauling cargo between Britain, America and the Far East for nearly three decades, the elegant square-rigged craft (identified by Bremerton maritime historian Michael Mjelde as a “down easter”) was consigned to service between Alaskan canneries and Seattle until its banishment to Lake Union in 1924 with other relics and obsolete tall ships destined for the scrap heap.
Only the timely intervention of a local band of fervent maritime and marine enthusiasts saved the St. Paul from demolition.
Founded in 1928, the Puget Sound Academy of Science dedicated itself to “the diffusion of scientific knowledge by means of … publications, expeditions and exhibits.” The brainchild of Henry Landes, dean of the University of Washington College of Science and husband of Seattle’s first female mayor, Bertha K. Landes, the academy also was the beneficiary of Arthur Foss, co-owner of Foss Launch and Tugboat Company.
A collector and history buff, Foss had purchased the St. Paul and offered it to the academy for use as a floating exhibit. Enlisting naturalist (and future peace activist) Floyd Schmoe as president, the group proposed a “marine museum,” merging maritime history and marine biology.
Schmoe’s promotional booklet asserted that the restored St. Paul would serve as the museum’s “chief exhibit. … Nothing will be placed on her deck or in her cabins which was not there when she was still in service.” Below the main deck would be “ample room for … exhibits of primitive and historical boats … and the story of man’s development of the ship.” Another lower deck would include a “salt-water aquarium (with) marine life from the waters and shores of Puget Sound.”
The Marine Museum and Aquarium opened June 16, 1934, welcoming thousands of visitors to its Ballard berth (admission: one dime) for the next two years. But the museum’s shining moment faded all too soon.
The wooden-hulled St. Paul fell victim to Northwest rain and a dearth of regular maintenance. In 1942, at age 68, the deteriorating vessel was towed to Vancouver Island’s Oyster Bay to be scuttled as a breakwater.
For our narrated, audio-visual 360-degree version of this column, please click on through.
Published in the Seattle Times online on March 31, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on April 3, 2022
Smile! Here’s where you can find a DNA test for your home
By Clay Eals
Whether we’ve been here 40 years or 40 days, we all yearn to embrace the place we call home. One way to do so is to see what came before.
The Puget Sound Regional Branch of Washington State Archives — a godsend to some, unknown to others — provides just such a peek, drawing 5,000 research requests annually. Among its wide-ranging governmental records is a showcase collection that can touch nearly every King County resident.
The collection, starting in the late 1930s, assembled a Property Record Card for each of 146,000 buildings, revealing year of construction, structural materials and myriad other specifics, often with crisp black-and-white photos of same.
Taken with large-format view cameras, the photos bear dates and addresses hand-scratched into their negatives, appearing in white in corresponding prints. Today they might be called a DNA test for your home. But that wasn’t their original purpose.
In 1935, King County Assessor Roy Misener sought to jettison poor data and subjective appraisals that had produced incomplete property-tax valuations. With federal Works Progress Administration dollars, over five years he hired 700 workers to create maps, interview residents and create photos to equalize assessments.
After initial work ended in 1940, if a building was upgraded, staff updated its data and took a new photo. In 1972, high-grade imaging ended. Seven years later, the collection transferred to the state archives. Ever since, copies and reprints (digital scans today) have been available to the public for nominal fees. The reasons for such requests range from nostalgic to legal.
Photos for a few sites, such as areas beneath Interstate 5, are missing. But the collection, which often provides a historic building’s only visual evidence of existence, has remained largely intact— from 1979 to 1998 inside the jet-noisy former Sunset Junior High in the north clear zone of Sea-Tac Airport and since 1998 at a facility built for the archives at Bellevue College.
That the collection survives and thrives owes to a tenacious staff led by a regional archivist who retired in March after 46 years, Michael Saunders. He is quick to credit the “innate stubbornness” of his team and support from the Secretary of State’s office, partner agencies and scores of volunteers.
Of course, digitizing, gatekeeping and otherwise managing the records is an endless task fit for the mythical Sisyphus. It requires, Saunders says, “the ability to see how a bunch of mundane and even sometimes tedious work gets you to a better outcome.” Which is, he says, to serve “a legacy of societal memory.”
In other words, for our collective psyche, there’s no place like home.
Special thanks to Michael Saunders for his invaluable help with this installment.
(Published in The Seattle Times online on March 24, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on March 27, 2022)
Distortion, half-truths, outright lies – our second April Fools’ quiz
By Jean Sherrard
(click to enlarge photos)
As cherry trees blossom, we at Now & Then extend the welcome mat for our second annual April Fools’ Day quiz. We trust this exercise in historical whimsy will entertain and challenge in equal measure.
Please note that each question has a single correct answer. All other choices are larded with distortion, half-truths and outright lies!
A BLOB BY ANY OTHER NAME Originally Clyde’s Cleaners, built in 1946 to serve lower Queen Anne Hill, the building was refashioned in 1984 into the ferroconcrete mound popularly known as The Blob. Detested and beloved in equal measure, the structure was demolished in 1997. What was The Blob’s original purpose?
A: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s nascent first draft of MoPOP (his Museum of Popular Culture), also colloquially known as The Blob.
B: The bulbous Moorish fort/Spanish villa themes were the brainchild of developer Anthony Dadvar, who intended to house a Mediterranean/Mexican restaurant, the Isla del Sol.
C: The last Queen Anne communal dwelling of the Love Family, a New Age religious group founded in the late 1960s.
D: An early and failed attempt at architectural 3D printing, engineered by noted inventor John Williams.
E: A movie set constructed for Ridley Scott’s megahit “Aliens” (1986), never used in actual filming.
WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? In early fall 1918, the misnamed “Spanish” flu raged throughout the Northwest. On Oct. 6, city health commissioner Dr. J.S. McBride and Mayor Ole Hanson ordered the closure of schools, churches and theaters to combat infection (you know the drill). On Oct. 28, they added a mandatory mask order. Seattleites largely obeyed, until tearing off and twirling their masks to celebrate what notable event?
A: Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918.
B: Santa’s arrival by reindeer-drawn sled in Pioneer Square on Nov. 30, 1918.
C: The conclusion of the five-day Seattle General Strike on Feb. 11, 1919.
D: The return of the 63rd Coast Artillery from World War I on March 12, 1919.
E: The mask order was never suspended.
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS WHISTLE Vessels of the Black Ball Line, from which today’s Washington State Ferries are directly descended, signaled arrivals and departures with whistle blasts. To this day, each captain and vessel employs signature toots. Which is the standard whistle sequence used by Seattle ferries?
A: A single melancholy blast.
B: Three medium-long honks, translating “S” for Seattle into Morse Code.
C: One long and two short toots, known by maritime afficionados as “a warp and two woofs.”
D: All signal patterns are at the captain’s discretion, reflecting the skipper’s mood.
E: Short, repeat blasts, used solely as small-craft warnings during a pea-soup fog.
Question 4 (see “Now” photo):
THIRTY DEGREES OF SEPARATION Many readers will be familiar with the popular mnemonic: “Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest,” muttered under locals’ breaths to recall the sequence of downtown streets. Yet all bets are off at Pioneer Square, where, north from Yesler, every street veers 30 degrees to the northwest, resulting in an odd tangle of angles. How did this come about?
A: The Seattle Fault runs directly under Yesler. In 1854, an earthquake caused massive seismic displacement, forever altering the shape of the young city.
B: South of Yesler, soggy tideland marshes made accurate mapping impossible.
C: Yesler was the clergy-mandated northern boundary of Seattle’s original red-light district. Its angled streets, pontificated Rev. David Blaine in 1855, supplied “ample warning of a turn to sin.”
D: Unresolved land-plat disputes between early white settlers David “Doc” Maynard, Arthur Denny and Carson Boren resulted in colliding street grids.
E: Fake news. Cartographers and geographers are complicit in promoting this fictional twist. Actual Seattle streets run straight as an arrow.
One correct answer:
You’re a Mercer Mess.
Two correct answers:
You tore down the Viaduct!
Three correct answers:
You’re a Pike Pundit.
Four correct answers:
You’ve attained Seattle Chill.