Category Archives: Seattle Now and Then

Seattle Now & Then: Rosario Resort, 1921

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: Dominating the Rosario music room, circa 1921, is its 1,972-pipe Aeolian organ, hidden behind nonfunctional, decorative mahogany pipes. Here, visitors enjoyed daily organ concerts directed by Moran. At center above is a stained-glass depiction of Belgium’s Antwerp harbor that Moran commissioned. (Asahel Curtis, courtesy Rosario Resort & Spa)
NOW1: For the first time after a 15-month pandemic shutdown, Christopher Peacock, general manager of Rosario Resort & Spa, performs for guests several piano pieces, accompanied by island images, in the mansion’s music room on Jan. 21. Peacock, who also plays the room’s Aeolian organ from a balcony, has provided regular concerts for visitors for an astounding 42 years. In 1985, the historian published a 72-page, 123-photo book, “Rosario Yesterdays,” that is still on sale. More info: (Clay Eals)

Published in The Seattle Times online on March 23, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on March 26, 2023

The ‘happy airs’ of Orcas waft from Robert Moran’s Rosario Resort
By Clay Eals

Early on a Sunday 102 years ago, “strains of wonderful music” awoke newspaper writer Dolly Madison as she stayed at the Orcas Island mansion of retired Seattle mayor, shipbuilder and philanthropist Robert Moran.

“Hazy visions of heaven, with its choirs of sweet singers and golden harps, arose,” she wrote. “Near and nearer the sound traveled. The faint notes of a pipe organ became discernible. The music grew louder; then louder. Phrases were recognized. Suddenly an avalanche of sound pealed forth; low, deep notes; the warbling of birds; then the snatches of happy airs.”

THEN2: In this southwest-facing view from the 1920s, Moran’s Rosario five-floor mansion, situated on the east leg of Orcas Island, overlooks Cascade Bay. The island’s west leg is in the background. (Asahel Curtis, courtesy Rosario Resort & Spa)

Her senses didn’t deceive her. Routinely, Moran manipulated player rolls to create sunrise sounds on his 1,972-pipe German organ — an Aeolian (after the god of wind). The 1913 instrument still weaves magic in the five-floor, 117-year-old “Shangri-La” that Moran named Rosario, for the nearby strait.

NOW2: The same vantage today shows Robert Moran’s mansion and grounds at Rosario Resort & Spa. The complex includes a marina, dining, lodging and next-door proximity to Moran State Park. (Clay Eals)

Expanded and run as a resort under several owners since 1960, it’s again for sale. The Barto family of Anacortes seeks an entity to implement a 10-year, Seabrook/Suncadia-like redevelopment while retaining Moran’s vision and integrity.

Moran (1857-1943) forged an impressive if improbable existence. Born in New York slums, he arrived at Yesler’s wharf in Seattle at age 17 with only a dime. Seven years hence, the entrepreneurial machinist founded Moran Brothers drydock, which over two decades built steamers, barges and the USS Nebraska, a battleship active from 1904 to 1923.

THEN3: Robert Moran in 1889, while serving as Seattle mayor in the year of the Great Fire. (Seattle Municipal Archives)

Along the way, Moran won two one-year terms as Seattle mayor, straddling the city’s devastating Great Fire in 1889. Though lauded for swift recovery measures, Moran later deflected such praise:

“The fire simply cleared the ground and made it possible to build what is today one of the most beautiful cities in the United States,” he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1909. “It did more than that, however. As the electrical engineer would say, it put the ‘peak’ load on its citizens, morally and physically.”

Moran was facing his own challenge of destiny. Told by doctors at age 47 that he had six months to live, he left his Seattle empire and in 1906 decamped to peaceful Orcas, “the gem of the San Juans.” There, he bought thousands of acres and carefully built his waterfront Rosario estate in the new landscape amid family and frequent guests, living to age 86.

Guiding him were the hand-hewn Arts & Crafts movement, his long-held shipbuilding sensibilities and a deep respect for nature, which inspired his donation of what became next-door Moran State Park, including the breathtaking 2,400-foot Mount Constitution.

Who will carry on Moran’s life-enhancing showpiece? Perhaps they only will need to experience its music.

VIDEO (33:06): Click the image above to see Christopher Peacock perform part of his Jan. 21, 2023, concert on the Rosario Resort & Spa’s 1,972-pipe Aeolian organ. (Clay Eals)


Special thanks to Patty Johnson, Scott Cameron, Meg Eals and especially Christopher Peacock for their invaluable 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 5 additional photos and, in chronological order, 63 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

THEN4: Visitors in the 1920s enjoy the southern veranda of Robert Moran’s Rosario while others play croquet nearer to Cascade Bay below. Today the veranda is enclosed as a dining area. (Asahel Curtis, courtesy Rosario Resort & Spa)
NOW3: Robert Moran’s mansion at twilight. (Clay Eals)
NOW4: The resort’s bowtie pond, which Moran built in 1915 for his wife Melissa’s canoeing. (Clay Eals)
NOW5: A Visitor Center placard at Mount Constitution in Moran State Park salutes Robert Moran’s contribution of the park land to Washington state. (Clay Eals)
NOW6: A Visitor Center placard at Mount Constitution in Moran State Park quotes Robert Moran’s desire to respect the natural aspects of thousands of Orcas Island acres that he purchased, many of which he donated to the state. (Clay Eals)
Oct. 15, 1904, San Juan Islander.
March 24, 1906, San Juan Islander.
Feb. 2, 1907, San Juan Islander.
May 12, 1908, Seattle Times, p12.
June 6, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p95.
Aug. 22, 1909, Seattle Times, p50.
Aug. 22, 1909, Seattle Times, p55.
July 14, 1910, Seattle Times, p18.
Nov. 20, 1910, Seattle Times, p23.
Aug. 2, 1912, San Juan Islander.
Aug. 2, 1912, San Juan Islander.
July 29, 1917, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p47.
June 27, 1921, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11.
June 27, 1921, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p11A.
July 17, 1921, Seattle Times, p9.
July 18, 1921, Seattle Times, p15.
Aug. 23, 1925, Seattle Times, p82.
July 20, 1928, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p8.
May 25, 1927, Seattle Times, p1-3.
April 30, 1933, Seattle Times, p28.
July 30, 1933, Seattle Times, p27.
Sept. 12, 1935, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p6.
Sept. 30, 1938, Seattle Times, p13.
Oct. 7, 1938, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p1-4.
Oct. 9, 1938, Seattle Times, p11.
Oct. 8, 1938, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p6.
April 1, 1943, Anacortes American.
Feb. 21, 1949, Seattle Times, p24.
Sept. 11, 1955, Seattle Times, p140.
Feb. 22, 1958, Seattle Times, p10.
Dec. 14, 1958, Seattle Times, p120.
April 10, 1960, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p4.
July 15, 1961, Seattle Times, p9.
March 4, 1963, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p9.
March 1, 1964, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p35.
March 1, 1964, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p36.
April 20, 1968, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p23.
July 29, 1979, Seattle Times, p26.
April 22, 1980, Seattle Times, p28.
April 23, 1980, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p18.
Feb. 15, 1981, Seattle Times, p254.
Feb. 15, 1981, Seattle Times, p264.
Feb. 15, 1981, Seattle Times, p265.
Feb. 15, 1981, Seattle Times, p266.
Feb. 15, 1981, Seattle Times, p269.
Feb. 15, 1981, Seattle Times, p267.
Nov. 1, 1981, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p24.
Jan. 26, 1984, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p21.
Feb. 24, 1984, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p25.
Aug. 24, 1984, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p21.
Aug. 25, 1984, Seattle Times, p1.
Aug. 25, 1984, Seattle Times, p11.
Sept. 9, 1984, Seattle Times, p56.
Sept. 1, 1985, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p162.
Jan. 12, 1986, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p156.
Sept. 27, 1987, Seattle Times, p118.
Sept. 27, 1987, Seattle Times, p121.
Sept. 16, 1990, Seattle Times, p179.
Sept. 16, 1990, Seattle Times, p183.
Sept. 16, 1990, Seattle Times, p181.
Sept. 16, 1990, Seattle Times, p185.
July 18, 1993, Seattle Times, p107.
July 18, 1993, Seattle Times, p108.
Oct. 26, 1995, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p62.
June 5, 1996, Anacortes American.
June 5, 1996, Anacortes American.
June 5, 1996, Anacortes American.
April 30, 1998, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p10.
Oct. 30, 1998, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p20.
Oct. 9, 1999, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p30.
Dec. 31, 1999, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p40.
April 8, 2001, Seattle Times, p173, “Now & Then.”
Sept. 11, 2002, Islands Sounder, p1.
Jan. 15, 2004, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p54.
Jan. 15, 2004, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p55.
May 19, 2004, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p104.
Aug. 13, 2008, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p21-24.
Aug. 13, 2008, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, pC1.
Aug. 23, 2008, Seattle Times, pC1.
June 24, 2021, Islands Sounder, p1.
Aug. 25, 2008, Islands Sounder, p1.

Seattle Now & Then: West Montlake Park, ca 1925

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THEN: In this mid-1920s photo, facing north and taken from the Seattle Yacht Club tower, West Montlake Park fronts Lake Union’s Portage Bay. At upper right is the University Bridge. At lower right, a single lamppost peeks through birch leaves. (Courtesy Seattle Yacht Club)
NOW 1: On a mid-February afternoon, Colleen Chartier and Rob Wilkinson stand on the lawn of West Montlake Park. The newly installed colonnade stands sentinel along the lakeside path.

Published in The Seattle Times online on March 16, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on March 19, 2023

Colonnade of continuity lights up Portage Bay in Montlake
By Jean Sherrard

In 2019, photographer Colleen Chartier and urban planner Rob Wilkinson, neighbors in an elongated oval that divides the Montlake Cut from the SR-520 corridor, learned that their street’s beloved but decrepit 100-year-old lampposts were soon to be removed and replaced with modern counterparts.

For the two, the pending loss was personal. With their spouses, both had raised children in the neighborhood, and each of the 14 columns — though dinged, rusty and layered in peeling paint — was a repository of community memory.

What’s more, the gently tapered, cast-iron lampposts, installed circa 1920, were identical to those still lighting the Olmsted Brothers-designed Volunteer Park on nearby Capitol Hill. Destined for the scrap heap, these historic artifacts just had to be saved.

Former partners in Art-on-File, a small photography business, Chartier and Wilkinson had traveled the world for decades, documenting public art and architecture and changing cityscapes. From their explorations, the two understood that the colonnades (literally, rows of columns) of ancient Greece potently symbolize strength, endurance and importance.

Brainstorming a rescue plan, they recalled the colonnades in the disparate cities of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Moline, Illinois. “These,” Chartier says, “are urban spaces where land and water meet, enhanced by necklaces of lampposts.”

Erecting a similar colonnade in nearby West Montlake Park, fronting Portage Bay, appealed to them both. “The idea was beautiful and simple,” Wilkinson says. “Elegantly laid out, we thought it would be irresistible.”

Wilkinson and Chartier stand on either side of a 12-foot-high lamppost. Topped with Greek design feature called an Ionic capital, most columns bear the stamp of their fabricator, Olympic Foundry Co. of Seattle.

Seattle City Light, however, was hesitant, citing legal liability. But Wilkinson persisted, eventually tracking down Dan Peters, the contractor tasked with disposing of the old fixtures. After hearing the pitch, Peters responded, “No problem, dude. Where do you want them?”

But where to temporarily cache 14 lampposts, 600 pounds each? Nearby Seattle Yacht Club offered storage for six months, which became an even more generous three years. The rest of the neighborhood was equally supportive, many enthusiastically underwriting restoration of the columns and erection of the colonnade.

Battered, peeling lampposts before restoration were stacked near a side wall of the Seattle Yacht Club for three years. (Colleen Chartier)

More hurdles followed, some bureaucratic, others pandemic-related. Progress slowed. Wilkinson and Chartier prepared an exactingly illustrated 40-page proposal that kept inspiration alive while shepherding the project from permitting through bidding and construction.

The colonnade at dusk (Rob Wilkinson)

Today, after 3-1/2 years and hundreds of hours of donated labor, the colonnade stands. Was it worth the trouble? Without a doubt, asserts the pair.

“It’s about presenting these commonplace artifacts in a way that honors their inherent beauty,” Chartier says.

“We’re battle-scarred,” Wilkinson adds with a rueful grin. “It turns out that building something so simple and lovely is really, really hard.”


Fascinating extras, this time round. First, check out our 360 on-site video of the column, read by Jean.

Then scroll down for some remarkable documentation of this amazing project. To begin with, the PDF of their 40-page proposal, beautifully crafted to ensure greatest impact.

The top of a restored lamppost, featuring a plexiglass globe, “lighthouse” base and orange marine solar beacon with a Fresnel lens.
Wilkinson, an experienced craftsman, also fabricated the painted wooden lighthouse-style bases upon which marine solar beacons are mounted.

More photos from Chartier and Wilkinson taken over 3 1/2 years.


Seattle Now & Then: Birdland, 1961

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THEN1: In this view looking southwest as pedestrians with umbrellas cross East Madison Street, the Birdland neon sign oversees the arterial’s intersection with 22nd Avenue, circa 1961. When the city rezoned the Birdland property in 1963, the landowner’s attorney, John Ehrlichman, later the infamous counsel to President Richard Nixon, said the neighborhood needed a supermarket, noting that Birdland would “definitely go.” In 1965, Birdland was razed, and an Albertsons rose in its place. (F. Herrick, University of Washington Special Collections)
NOW1: Standing in East Madison Street next to the Summit at Madison Park complex to match the “Then” view are (from left) award-winning Seattle percussionist D’Vonne Lewis, displaying a cymbal, and Seattle’s Dave Lewis Jr., holding an umbrella —grandson and son, respectively, of the late pianist and organist Dave Lewis (1938-1998), whose Dave Lewis Combo played Birdland throughout the club’s 10-year run. At right, holding tenor sax, is Barney Hilliard, who played in the combo from 1953 through 1959. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on March 9, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on March 12, 2023

Seattle’s midcentury rhythm-and-blues crowd flocked to Birdland
By Clay Eals
NOW2: Barney Hilliard displays his tenor sax, which dates to 1965. He retired from performing 10 years ago. (Jean Sherrard)

Barney Hilliard stands beside the imposing, six-floor Summit at Madison Park, a self-described boutique retail-residential complex. Signs for Safeway and Starbucks hover above while cars whiz by on the adjacent arterial, freshly paved for the pending installation of a new RapidRide G bus line.

Any visible residue of history at 22nd and East Madison seems to have vanished.

But to Hilliard, 85, a lifelong tenor-saxophonist from Renton, it still feels like home. His school buildings — Horace Mann Elementary, Edmond Meany Junior High and Garfield High — are mere blocks away, as are YMCA and YWCA branches and churches. Likewise is true for the sites of long-gone restaurants, a pharmacy and a shop that sold rhythm-and-blues records that were banned from radio airplay.

And on this very corner stood the hub. “This was the place to be,” Hilliard says. The place was Birdland, also known as Club Birdland.

The cover of Peter Blecha’s new book “Stomp and Shout” (University of Washington Press)

Named after legendary saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker and New York’s Birdland club, the Central District incarnation drew national acts from Cal Tjader to Big Jay McNeely for 10 years. The hot spot, razed in 1965, is a focus of Peter Blecha’s new Northwest music-history book “Stomp and Shout.”

THEN2: Facing east, with streetcar tracks in the foreground, this 1937 view is of Birdland’s early predecessor, the Gala Theatre moviehouse, with blank marquee, one year after it closed. (Courtesy Peter Blecha)

Formerly the Gala Theatre moviehouse in the silent 1920s and into the early sound era (it screened “Frankenstein” in 1932), the two-floor building later hosted Democratic and Republican rallies and other gatherings. In 1942, soon after the U.S. entry to World War II, it also was a “civil control station” to register Japanese residents for forcible evacuation from Seattle.

THEN3: Facing east, this 1951 view shows the building’s conversion to Eastside Hall, formerly the Savoy Ballroom. A barely visible “Aframerican” sign hangs in the shade beneath the overhang. (Courtesy Museum of History & Industry)

It became the Savoy Ballroom, then Eastside Hall, when the city council, seeking to better serve Seattle’s Black community in 1946, relaxed its “unwritten but rigid policy” forbidding cabarets east of Eighth Avenue.

The Dave Lewis Combo, May 1957, at Birdland. Second from left is Barney Hilliard. (Courtesy

By the time the $1,000 Birdland neon sign went up in 1955, Barney Hilliard and friends had formed what became the influential Dave Lewis Combo, playing teen dances “from West Seattle to Ballard and all the high schools in-between.” Because the integrated Birdland stayed open until 3:30 a.m., the versatile “covers” band could finish a gig elsewhere and return to the club to enjoy late shows. In late 1956, the Lewis troupe landed a prime perch: opening act for the house.

THEN4: In this view looking northeast along East Madison Street, the Birdland neon sign (right) anchors a busy East Madison Street, circa 1958. (University of Washington Special Collections)

Hilliard left the combo in 1959. For decades, with a law degree he assumed noteworthy, Seattle-based business, nonprofit and governmental roles. But he kept soaring with his sax, retiring only 10 years ago. He traces everything back to Birdland. With a hearty smile and laugh, his emotion for the era is right in tune:

“It was labor of love, but it was mainly love. We just loved what we were doing.”

NOW3: Chatting in front of the Summit at Madison Park complex, former site of Birdland, are (from left) D’Vonne Lewis, Barney Hilliard and Dave Lewis Jr. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW4: A portrait of percussionist Donovon D’Vonne Kranzler-Lewis, 10-year-old great-grandson of the late Dave Lewis. He regularly performs with his father, bolstering the family tradition. (Courtesy D’Vonne Lewis)


Special thanks to Barney Hilliard, D’Vonne Lewis, Dave Lewis Jr., Molly Woolbright, Kait Heacock and Peter Blecha for their invaluable help with this installment!

Events for “Stomp and Shout” are scheduled April 19, 2023, at Town Hall Seattle, with music by the D’Vonne Lewis Combo, and May 23, 2023, at McMenamins Elks Temple in Tacoma, with music by Girl Trouble. For more info, click here.

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, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are an essay, a video interview and, in chronological order, 40 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Click the image above to read a reflective Feb. 9, 2023, essay on Birdland by Barney Hilliard.
VIDEO (15:29): Click the image above to see a video interview conducted Feb. 4, 2023, of tenor saxophonist Barney Hilliard at the former site of Seattle’s Birdland club at 22nd and East Madison. (Clay Eals)
June 19, 1926, Seattle Times, p13.
Oct. 8, 1926, Enterprise.
Feb. 25, 1927, Enterprise.
May 10, 1928, Enterprise.
Dec. 20, 1928, Enterprise.
Dec. 8, 1932, Enterprise.
Feb. 3, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
July 20, 1933, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p4.
March 6, 1936, Enterprise.
Feb. 28, 1941, Enterprise.
Sept. 15, 1945, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p16.
May 10, 1942, Seattle Times, p11.
March 1, 1946, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p4.
Feb. 19, 1946, Seattle Times, p24.
March 1, 1946, Seattle Times, p21.
Oct. 29, 1952, Seattle Times, p2.
July 6, 1951, Seattle Times, p14.
May 24, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p32.
June 19, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p66.
July 7, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p5.
July 30, 1955, Seattle Times, p20.
Aug. 25, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
April 19, 1956, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p8.
June 21, 1956, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p13.
Aug. 8, 1956, Seattle Times, p2.
Aug. 9, 1956, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p38.
Dec. 28, 1962, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p44.
Aug. 16, 1963, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p34.
Aug. 16, 1963, Seattle Times, p21.
Oct. 6, 1963, Seattle Times, p31.
Nov. 13, 1963, Seattle Times, p65.
April 14, 1964, Seattle Times, p4.
Feb. 26, 1965, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p22.
Sept. 1, 1965, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p31.
Sept. 1, 1965, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p34.
Dec. 7, 1969, Seattle Times, p71.
March 23, 1967, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p7.
Dec. 6, 1970, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p82.
Nov. 18, 2007, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p109.
Nov. 18, 2007, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p114.

Seattle Now & Then: The Emancipator, 1958

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THEN1: The Emancipator in late summer, 1958, prior to its record-breaking catch. Aided by a suspended power block, crew members haul in the last fathoms of seine net. (Ray Faddish)
NOW1: The 65-foot Emancipator, now restored, berthed at Ballard’s Fisherman’s Terminal. It continues life as a tender, transporting over a million pounds of fish last year. Owner/operator Brad Buske stands at the prow. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on March 2, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on March 5, 2023

Fish stories come true on Ballard’s legendary Emancipator
By Jean Sherrard

Brad Buske’s earliest memories are of old salts playing pinochle, smoking cheroots and telling fish tales on the Everett waterfront, where his family runs a seafood processing company. One story consistently stood out, burnished in the retelling, and Buske knows it by heart.

It happened in the late summer of 1958 after a robust season for sockeye in Puget Sound. Of 400 local purse-seiners vying for salmon, the Emancipator, a sleek 65-foot wooden boat built in 1918 by the Skansi Bros. of Gig Harbor, had finished among the top 10 boats for gross stock. In 28 consecutive days, its nets had hauled in a respectable 25,000 fish.

When the state fish commission offered a last-minute extension, declaring a one-day open season on Fraser River sockeyes, Emancipator owner and skipper Nick Barhanovich jumped at the chance. “And if we happened to catch a few fish,” recalls crew member Ray Fadich in his 2020 book “The Big Run,” that would be “icing on our cake.”

The cover of “The Big Run” (2020) by former crew member Ray Fadich. The book details the dramatic story of the Emancipator’s 1958 bonanza along with colorful portraits of its crew.

Joining a flotilla of competing boats near Point Roberts, the Emancipator initiated a set and then began pulling in its seines. What happened next was mind-boggling.

Within the enclosed circle of nets, Fadich describes a “frenzy” of teeming fish, “water boiling as if in a huge cooking pot.” The delighted crew filled the hold to the brim, then loaded the deck gunnel-deep till the stern was almost awash. Fadich worked the bilge pumps till he was “blue in the face” just to keep the vessel above water.

THEN2: Filling every available deck surface during the big 1958 catch, 80,000 pounds of sockeye salmon threaten to swamp the boat, while crew members attempt to adjust the load. (Ray Faddich)

That single set comprised 15,000 fish — nearly 80,000 pounds. It was one of the largest single catches in Puget Sound history.

Today, Brad Buske, 36, is the proud owner of the Emancipator, which he bought for a dollar in 2013. “By that time, the boat was basically floating dirt,” he says. “We removed the old fish hold with a shovel.”

The Emancipator was transferred to Port Townsend, where Buske says master shipwrights rebuilt it beam by beam: “We did our best to keep all the lines as original as possible, trying to preserve its history — not to create a dead replica but a working boat with a purpose.”

Buske views himself a caretaker of that history. “To me,” he says, “this boat is a living thing. There’s oil and sweat and fish juice soaked into its timbers.”

NOW2: In the 105-year-old wheelhouse, simplicity reigns. The original wheel remains in place, as does the chain connecting it to the flying bridge above and rudder below. In busy Puget Sound, Buske eschews any autopilot mechanisms, preferring to steer the boat manually. (Jean Sherrard)

Several months a year, with Buske at the helm, the Emancipator continues to ply Puget Sound as a tender, transporting fish between the today’s salmon fleet and his family’s cannery, adding salty chapters to its ongoing story.


For our 360 video of this column, narrated by Jean, please join us at  Fisherman’s Terminal.

More photos of the Emancipator included below:

The boat Buske bought for a buck, before reconstruction, in dry dock in Port Townsend.
After months of skilled labor by shipwrights, the Emancipator is much restored and ready to get back to work.

Passing through the Ballard Locks:

Seattle Now & Then: James J. Hill, Empire Builder, 1909

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: In this west-facing image, James J. Hill (lower left, near flag) addresses 20,000 on June 1, 1909, the opening day of Seattle’s first world’s fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, in an amphitheater approximately where the Padelford Hall parking garage stands today at the University of Washington. (Romans Photo Co., courtesy Stephen Sadis)
NOW: Stephen Sadis (right) and Kyle Kegley of Sadis Filmworks,, stand next to the James J. Hill bust and engraved railroad panel outside More Hall at the University of Washington. No plaque exists nearby to explain the stature of the Canadian-born, Minnesota-based Hill. The bust’s base originally was taller when it was unveiled Aug. 2, 1909, during the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition at a nearby site, west of today’s Drumheller Fountain on the UW campus. (Jean Sherrard)



Published in The Seattle Times online on Feb. 23, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 26, 2023

Documentary launches up-Hill quest to honor the ‘Empire Builder’
By Clay Eals
THEN2: This northbound view on Fourth Avenue on Nov. 2, 1953, shows the Great Northern Railway sign, with its mountain goat and “EMPIRE BUILDER’ slogan, at the juncture of Olive Way and Stewart Street. In South Seattle, the former name of today’s Martin Luther King Jr. Way was Empire Way, in Hill’s honor. (Seattle Municipal Archives)

When I routinely rode with my dad to his downtown office in the late 1950s, he drove north along Fourth Avenue. Looming as we approached the nexus of Olive and Stewart, Seattle’s version of Times Square, was an enormous, elevated sign featuring a scaffolded Great Northern mountain goat atop a showy slogan: “EMPIRE BUILDER.” Through the windshield, I and countless others were absorbing a layered message.

“Empire Builder” referenced the passenger train from St. Paul that had crucially connected our city to the rest of the country in 1893, post-Great Fire. The catchphrase also echoed the sobriquet for the railway’s indefatigable founder, who helped turn Seattle into a metropolis — yet whose name is little seen or celebrated today.

The cover of the new documentary. Click it to rent or purchase it at

Seasoned West Seattle documentarian Stephen Sadis seeks to change that, in a manner as audacious as his subject. His new “The Empire Builder: James J. Hill and the Great Northern Railway,” is a four-hour tour de force, the result of on-and-off research for 20-plus years, summoning 5,000-plus images, maps and film clips and dozens of interviews to tell its larger-than-life story.

Hill (1838-1916) was a town speculator, agriculturalist, shipping magnate, banker, collector, philanthropist, longtime husband and the father of 10, but his legacy rides with the “Iron Horse” and its inescapable impact, which inspired Sadis’ fascination.

“If I told you,” he says, “that tomorrow when you wake up you could travel from Seattle to New York in 10 minutes, that’s the kind of change that occurred in the mid-19th century, from a six-month wagon trek across the country to a four-day train ride. That transformation is the key.”

THEN3: A portrait of Hill from 1902. Quoted in the documentary, Hill says of the Great Northern line, “Most men who have really lived have had in some shape their great adventure. This railway is mine.” (Courtesy Stephen Sadis)

Through Hill’s saga, Sadis and producing partner Kyle Kegley weave the personal (Hill’s right-eye blindness from a bow-and-arrow accident as a child) with the enterprising (Hill’s insistence on fashioning efficient and enduring rail lines) while repeatedly giving voice to the trains’ displacement of Native Americans.

The tale hits a peak with Hill’s opening-day speech for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition at the University of Washington. For an industrialist, the bent is surprising, as bold and prescient as its source — and certainly relevant today:

“Will you realize what this country will become when stripped of its forests — the washing away of the soil, the inevitable changes in climate when the forests have gone? …

“You have but to raise your eyes and be in the presence of some of the grandest works of God. Soil, climate, resources, all favor you. You will never again know isolation. The spaces once separating you from the rest of the country have been conquered. Remain as you have been, the architects of your own fortunes.”


Special thanks to Stephen Sadis and Kyle Kegley for their invaluable 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, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are an additional photo, a video interview and, in chronological order, 12 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

From roughly the same vantage as the “THEN2” image above is this color view of Fourth Avenue at dusk in the late 1960s, possibly from a postcard. The lighted Great Northern mountain goat (deep center) is backed by a red circle. Some letters are burned out in the “EMPIRE BUILDER” sign below.
VIDEO (4:00): Click this image to view a 4-minute interview with Kyle Kegley (left) and Stephen Sadis about their new James J. Hill documentary. (Clay Eals)
Oct. 5, 1896, Seattle Times, p5.
June 1, 1909, Seattle Star, p1.
June 2, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p13, featuring the complete text of his speech on opening day of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition at the University of Washington. The text continues and concludes in the next clip.
June 2, 1909, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p16.
Aug. 1, 1909 Seattle Times, p3.
May 14, 1916, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p19.
May 29, 1916, Seattle Times, p1.
May 29, 1916, Seattle Times, p4.
May 29, 1916, Seattle Times, p8.
May 29, 1916, Seattle Times, p9.
May 30, 1916, Seattle Times, p6.
March 26, 2006, Seattle Times, p169, “Now & Then.”

Seattle Now & Then: Dick’s Drive In, 1963

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The first Dick’s Drive-in opened in Wallingford in January 1954. Our automotive informant Bob Carney dates this color photo to “1963 or later,” noting the “pretty fine assortment of wheels” in the parking lot. (Courtesy, Dick’s Drive In)
NOW: The Broadway Dick’s today. Its menu, largely unchanged over 69 years, boasts fresh (“never frozen”) hamburger meat, hand-cut fries (with a whisper of grease) and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Feb. 16, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 19, 2023

Coming to our late-night rescue for 69 years: Dick’s Drive-In
By Jean Sherrard

“You don’t know where I’ve been!” the angry guy repeated.

“You don’t know where he’s been!” chimed in his sidekick.

The muzzle of a gun he pointed at me seemed as enormous as a Kalakala ferry porthole on a night crossing.

“I, I don’t know where you’ve been,” I agreed, quaking, my hands raised. What to do? Should I meet his eyes or not? I was fixated on the deadly weapon.

It was the early 1980s. I had just finished performing in an Empty Space Theatre play on Capitol Hill. After a convivial beer or two at the Comet Tavern, I stopped off at Dick’s Drive-In on Broadway. Just as I joined the line to order, a parking-lot scene was coming to a climax.

A young mixed-race couple (black guy, white gal) in a convertible sipped on milkshakes while two white guys in fatigue jackets circled them in a lather, hurling racial epithets.

“C’mon, cut it out,” I called, fortified by Redhook and youth.

That’s when the gun appeared.

The line parted around me like the Red Sea, but someone shouted, “Leave him alone!” Moments later, customers and servers behind the windows took up the refrain: “Leave him alone!”

The gun barrel wavered indecisively, then lowered. The guy and his sidekick hopped in their car and peeled out of the lot. The Dick’s crowd had come to my rescue.

My Deluxe and Fries were particularly tasty that night. In the immortal words of the Bard, all’s well that ends well.

THEN: The Dick’s on Broadway shown, Carney says, in “1963 or later. (Courtesy, Dick’s Drive In)
NOW: Dick’s in Wallingford, mid-winter, just before sunset. Then and now, Dick’s has paid wages and benefits above the industry standard, offering college scholarships to interested staff. (Jean Sherrard)

Richard Spady (1923-2016), eponymous co-founder of Dick’s, whose family still owns the small chain of drive-ins, opened his first restaurant in 1954 in Wallingford. He and his partners adopted simple principles: quality ingredients and quick service. They found almost instant success and stuck with the formula.

Sixty-nine years later, long lines continue well past midnight. The oldest fast-food joint in town is still one of its most popular, repeatedly topping polls for the region’s favorite eatery. Afficionados include songsters Sir Mix-a-Lot and Macklemore. Both immortalized Dick’s in rap.

The late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen also was a customer. So, still, is his partner Bill Gates, who, legend has it, once flamboyantly tried to pay for a cheeseburger with a $1,000 bill. But times have moderated the local billionaire, who now seems to prefer anonymity.

THEN 3: A repeat visitor to the Wallingford Dick’s, Bill Gates orders his usual in 2019: a Deluxe, Fries and a Coke, recalls Paul Rich, who commemorated the moment with a cell-phone photo. (photo: Paul Rich)

Ten years ago, late one weekday evening, Gates and I approached separate windows at the Wallingford Dick’s and coincidentally called out the same order: a Deluxe, Fries and a Coke. He was alone and unassuming, wearing the same sweater he’d worn on “The Daily Show” the night before.


For our narrated 360 degree video featuring this column, please head over in this direction.

Seattle Now & Then: Jefferson car barn, 1924

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: This elevated, hand-tinted image, circa 1924, overlooks the Jefferson streetcar barn and yard, opened between late 1909 and early 1910. Among the vehicles are smaller Birney-brand streetcars whose open backs were being enclosed by Seattle Municipal Railway. The twin towers of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 18th & Columbia, built in 1904, peek out hazily at upper right. (Courtesy Danny Eskenazi)
NOW: To replicate the lofty “Then” vantage, streetcar historian Mike Bergman stands atop the four-floor Craft Apartments building at 1316 E. Jefferson St. In the background is Seattle University’s soccer stadium, Championship Field, site of the former Jefferson streetcar barn and yard, with the towers of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at upper right. (Clay Eals)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Feb. 9, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 12, 2023

The legacy of Seattle’s streetcar mindset isn’t black-and-white
By Clay Eals
Calvin & Hobbes, Sunday, Oct. 29, 1989.

In the beloved “Calvin & Hobbes” comic strip, Calvin asks his dad on Oct. 29, 1989, “How come old photographs are always black and white?” His dad’s classic response: “The world was black and white then.”

The jest underscores how hand-tinted images — like this week’s “Then” photo, circa 1924 — can let the color-habituated among us better envision city life a century ago.

Looking north and slightly east, we hover above East Jefferson Street in an impressive “bird’s eye view” of the Seattle Electric Company’s centrally located, all-wood streetcar barn and yard between 13th and 14th avenues on First Hill.

The Seattle Electrics baseball team, likely photogrphed at the Jefferson site. (David Eskenazi collection)

Erected on former pro-baseball grounds and replacing a barn at Sixth & Olive downtown, the storage and maintenance complex was to have been opened for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, but its launch came shortly afterward. At its north side, a tower stored water for potential fires while the city completed its fire-hydrant network.

THEN2: Twenty-nine streetcar staff pose on April 24, 1924, at the Jefferson Street barn and yard. For a time, the “trainmen” (motormen and conductors) mounted an amateur baseball team called the Jefferson Car Barn boys. At right is a 1923 or 1924 Ford Model T touring car. (Courtesy Danny Eskenazi)

With electrified streetcars continually rolling in and out, the unfenced facility became a busy community landmark, referenced for decades as a locator in classified ads for nearby apartment and room rentals and cafes. It hosted various meetings and even served as a draft-registration site in 1940.

The last Seattle streetcar ran in 1941, but the Jefferson hub operated for 44 years past the city’s rail-to-rubber conversion to trolley coaches. In 1984, the city sold the property to Seattle University, which 10 years later converted it to a soccer stadium, dubbed Championship Field in 1998.

Cover of “Seattle’s Streetcar Era.”

Despite today’s focus on light-rail expansion and getting people out of cars, Seattle’s matrix of now-vanished streetcars produced a higher per-capita use of public transit, notes Mike Bergman, retired Sound Transit and King County Metro planner and author of “Seattle’s Streetcar Era: An Illustrated History, 1884-1941.”

“I think there was more appreciation of the system then,” he says. “The highest levels of ridership occurred during the first and second World Wars, when population densities were far less. Part of it was lower car ownership. Fewer people could afford a car. Fewer still could afford two cars.”

Gradually and relentlessly, he says, automobile and petroleum interests converted the public mindset to individualized travel. “They certainly made it easy to fill up your tank, and it was really cheap,” he says. “It also became a status symbol.”

Bergman optimistically projects another mass-transit heyday, fueled by increased urbanization: “I just don’t think all of those people will be able to get around solely in cars.”

Here we can return to the comic Calvin. In the 1989 strip’s closing panel, he tells his tiger friend Hobbes, “The world is a complicated place.”


Special thanks to collector Danny Eskenazi , Zachary Tartabull of the Craft Apartments and historians Dave Eskenazi, Bob Carney and Mike Bergman for their invaluable 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, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are 4 additional photos and, in chronological order, 21 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

YMCA baseball field at 14th & Jefferson, 1902. (Asahel Curtis, courtesy of Museum of History & Industry)
Jefferson car barn, 1910. (Seattle Municipal Archives)
Jefferson streetcar barn, February 1916. (Courtesy Bob Carney)
Jefferson car barn, Dec. 11, 1936.
Oct. 3, 1909 Seattle Times, p40.
Dec. 25, 1908, Seattle Times, p7.
Feb. 20, 1910, Seattle Times, p48.
March 6, 1910, Seattle Times, p54.
March 20, 1910, Seattle Times, p54.
June 28, 1919, Seattle Times, p2.
June 29, 1919, Seattle Times, p24.
July 1, 1919, Seattle Times, p14.
Feb. 13, 1920, Seattle Times, p28.
Feb. 8, 1920, Seattle Times, p76.
March 6, 1922, Seattle Times, p1.
March 6, 1922, Seattle Times, p5.
Jan. 19, 1927, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p9.
Feb. 25, 1927, Seattle Times, p33.
Feb. 25, 1927, Seattle Times, p34.
Feb. 22, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p1-2.
March 9, 1940, Seattle Times p3.
March 16, 1940, Seattle Times p2.
Aug. 7, 1940, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p4.
Oct. 10, 1940, Seattle Times p9.
April 13, 1958, Seattle Times p127.
July 22, 1962, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p74.
Oct. 2, 2005, Seattle Times p245 “Now & Then.”

Seattle Now & Then: Magnolia Bluffs, 1913

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking northwest in 1913, the lighthouse compound stands sentinel on a sand spit, named West Point by U.S. Naval Lieutenant Charles T. Wilkes in 1841. The photographer in the photo is a rare addition to the scene.
NOW: The same view today from an approximated location. Ian Miller estimates that the bluffs have receded 25-50 feet over the past 110 years.

Published in The Seattle Times online on Feb. 2, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Feb. 5, 2023

Magnolia Beach offers proverbial wave of the future
By Jean Sherrard

In 1913, below Magnolia Bluff and today’s Discovery Park, a Webster & Stevens photographer captured this revealing pair of images of South Beach. In the northwesterly view, gleaming West Point Lighthouse anchors a sand spit, known to the Duwamish as Per-co-dus-chule or “thrusts far out.”

Early mariners knew the peninsula as Sandy Point and welcomed installation of the lighthouse in 1881, the first on Puget Sound, to warn of the hazardous shoal at the north end of Elliott Bay, site of many shipwrecks.

The lighthouse compound was accessible only by water until the arrival of the Army at nearby Fort Lawton in 1900, when a steep dirt road was cut from the top of the bluff down to the shoreline. Even then, lighthouse keepers and their assistants led an envied if isolated existence.

In 1984, West Point Lighthouse was one of the last stations on the West Coast to be automated. Owned and operated by Seattle Parks since 2004, its beacon continues to guide sailors safely home.

But what of nearby 300-foot Magnolia Bluff, lined with native madrona trees? Theories abound as to its misnaming. Most likely Navy Captain George Davidson erred during his 1856 survey of Puget Sound, confusing one broadleaved evergreen for another.

THEN: Looking southeast along South Beach, much of the bluff remains undeveloped. Huge logs adorn the shoreline, likely products of a booming timber industry. (MOHAI)

The beach itself also invites puzzlement. Aside from the absence of color, little seems to distinguish then from now. But Port Townsend oceanographer and coastal hazards specialist Ian Miller begs to differ.

“It’s hard to express how excited I [am] by these 110-year old photos,” he says. “We have so few historical images of these bluffs and shorelines, and I’ve never seen anything like them.”

For Miller, two elements warrant particularly close study: the size and quantity of logs on the beach and the coarsening of its sand and gravel, both of which provide vital environmental clues. Today, with much of Puget Sound “armored” by seawalls, riprap and hard surfaces, natural beach formation has been significantly disrupted.

NOW: The sand and gravel beach offers a popular hike on a bright winter’s day.

South Beach, however, nourished by the gradual erosion of its towering bluffs, has maintained equilibrium, rebuilding itself through sedimentation over time. Its sands provide vital spawning grounds for smelt and other forage fish, prey for salmon. “From an ecological standpoint,” Miller says, “these are very important elements of the marine food web.”

What will the next 100 years bring? “As sea levels continue to rise,” Miller says, “this section of beach may provide a microcosm for Puget Sound restoration.”

In other words, reducing coastal “armor” and allowing resilient shorelines to erode and rebuild naturally may be the wave of the future.


For our 360 video version of the column, click here.

NOW3: West Point Lighthouse, encircled by riprap, stands 23 feet tall above the beach. Built of brick and concrete with a stucco exterior, its original Fresnel lens was replaced by a modern Vega Rotating Beacon.

Seattle Now & Then: Dr. Jacob Benshoof, 1905

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: His buggy pulled by former racehorse Mabel Payne, Dr. Jacob Benshoof pauses in 1905 on hilly Madison Street at Fifth Avenue, backed by Providence Hospital, which operated there in various incarnations from 1877 to 1911. “There were few hospitals then,” Benshoof reflected circa 1976, “and it took forever to get to a real hospital such as Providence.” (Museum of History & Industry)
NOW: At the former Providence Hospital site, a dozen relatives of Dr. Jacob Benshoof stand next to the 2004 downtown Seattle Public Library and before the 1940 William Kenzo Nakamura U.S. Courthouse for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals at the northwest corner of Fifth and Madison. They are (from left): Eric Sprunk, Blair Sprunk, Jill Ashley, Jeff Ashley, Joel Rosas, Blyth Claeys, Bill Benshoof, Dina Skeels, Dylan Skeels, Chris Foster, Bob Benshoof and Bob Foster. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Jan. 26, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Jan. 29, 2023

Busy physician Jacob Benshoof relied on four-hoofed transit
By Clay Eals
Aug. 15, 1907, Seattle Times, p19.

Not yet 2 was tiny Rene Alarie. The evening of Aug. 13, 1907, she played in her South Park backyard as her mother focused on her 4-month-old sister. The tot opened a gate and toddled into the road, where returning to Seattle was a Route 5 streetcar.

The conductor and motorman, not yet aboard, ran to catch the car, but its fender knocked Rene down, and she was seriously injured. Fortunately, she regained consciousness while resting at a neighbor’s home, where she recognized her mom.

“Dr. J.A. Benshoof, the attending physician, believes she has a good chance to recover,” reported The Seattle Times.

THEN2: A portrait of Jacob Benshoof, likely in 1905, when he graduated from Barnes University in St. Louis. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)

With automobiles a blossoming curiosity, the phrase “attending physician” painted a rustic picture 115 years ago. The doctor, Jacob Andrew Benshoof (1882-1979), who began work in South Park two years earlier, reached a wide swath of patients — including uphill in forested White Center, where he was the district’s first doctor — via horse.

“I would start out for some cabin in the woods in the morning, and by the time I got there a neighbor might have sent for me to come on another two or three miles farther to their home,” Benshoof told The Times in 1955 on his 50th anniversary of practice. “I’d go out to some tent or cabin in the timber to care for a woman in childbirth or a man who had been hit by a timber or caught in a saw or shot. Things happened in the timber country in those days.”

THEN3: Dr. Jacob Benshoof is shown circa 1915 with family: (from left) son Allen, daughters Helen and Thelma, wife Neoma and daughters Geraldine and Genevieve. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)

Born and raised in Iowa and trained in St. Louis, the busy Benshoof served as surgeon for the long-gone Meadows Race Track south of Georgetown and as Seattle medical examiner. He also joined the early staff of Providence Hospital and established offices downtown.

And he acquired a car. (He placed a 1910 Times ad to sell his “buggy horse and saddle, sound and gentle; new buggy and harness.”) But while building a family and becoming known as a prolific deliverer of babies, he never lost his early reputation for four-hoofed service, carrying a medical kit and rifle while riding or driving an ex-racehorse named Mabel Payne.

Aug. 16, 1907, Seattle Times, p3.

Two days after Rene Alarie’s streetcar accident, the Times reported that another South Park girl, Helen Taylor, 7, visited a neighbor’s home to get milk.

The neighbor’s chained bulldog startled the girl and bit her as she fell into a hole. A key part of the report:

“Dr. J.A. Benshoof dressed the wounds, and the little girl was removed to her home, where she is now resting easily.”


Special thanks to Dina Skeels of the Benshoof family and to Wendy Malloy of the Museum of History & Industry and streetcar historian Mike Bergman for their invaluable 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, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are 4 additional photos and, in chronological order, 24 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Young Jacob Benshoof. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)
The Benshoof family (clockwise from Jacob): Jacob, Thelma, Clara Neoma (Jacob’s wife), Allen, Helen and Genevieve. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)
The Benshoof family (from left) Genevieve, Thelma, Jacob, Clara Neoma (wife of Jacob), Allen, Helen and, in front, Geraldine. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)
Jacob Benshoof in later years. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)
May 27, 1906, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p13.
June 17, 1906, Seattle Times, p20.
June 4, 1906, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p7.
Aug. 16, 1907, Seattle Times, p1.
May 18, 1908, Seattle Times, p2.
April 29, 1910, Seattle Times, p29.
May 15, 1915, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p1-10.
May 15, 1915, Seattle Times, p1-2.
June 22, 1917, Catholic Progress.
Nov. 12, 1920, Catholic Progress.
July 22, 1917 Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p7.
Nov. 19, 1920, Catholic Progress.
Aug. 11, 1922, Catholic Progress.
Aug. 7, 1922, Seattle Times, p5.
Aug. 11, 1922, Catholic Progress.
Nov. 2, 1923, Catholic Progress.
March 18, 1925, Seattle Times, p16.
June 6, 1930, Seattle Times, p1-4.
June 7, 1930, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p13.
March 13, 1931, Catholic Progress.
May 18, 1955, Seattle Times, p33.
April 3, 1979, Seattle Times, p66.
1979 White Center News.
April 14, 1979, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p37.

Seattle Now & Then: Monorail dreams, 1918

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN1: A Webster & Stevens photograph, looking north from the third floor of the 1913 Joshua Green Building includes futuristic features added by an unknown designer. Imagined monorails snugly hug both sides of 90-foot-wide Westlake Avenue. The track veering left past the Hotel Plaza heads up Fourth Avenue toward today’s Seattle Center. (MOHAI, Webster & Stevens)
NOW1: Today’s Westlake Park, popularly known as Seattle’s town square, replaced Westlake Avenue in 1960. Surviving structures include the 10-floor Seaboard Building (1909) at far right. The former American Hotel (1907), now Westlake Place, is to its immediate north. (Jean Sherrard)
THEN2: A second proposed route of the Universal Elevated Railway Co. runs south along Second Avenue from Stewart. The new logo on the foreground train’s side panel suggests a rechristened “Safety Railway.” (MOHAI)
NOW2: While much of Second Avenue is now composed of glass and steel towers, original structures remain. The remodeled Standard Furniture Company Building (1907) still looms at right. On the southwest corner of Second and Pine, the Doyle Building (1919) is a terra cotta-faced marvel. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Jan. 19, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Jan. 22, 2023

Single-track minds imagine a Seattle monorail a century ago
By Jean Sherrard

In February 1962, a week after John Glenn orbited the earth and two months before the opening of the Century 21 Exposition (aka the Seattle World’s Fair), the Seattle-Post Intelligencer featured a mysterious photo in its Sunday magazine. Discovered in the archives of a “pioneer” photo studio, it depicted a familiar if antiquated Seattle cityscape but with futuristic alterations.

The article had it wrong. The adjusted photo was not from 1915 but 1918.

Skillfully added to the original photo, painted ribbons of monorail track snaked down Fourth Avenue and through Westlake, while cars atop the tracks bore a logo: “Universal Elevated Railway.”

Even keen-witted 93-year-old Joshua Green, from whose eponymous building the portrait had been taken, had no recollection of its provenance.

Challenged to solve the enigma, however, older readers soon supplied answers. A retired patent attorney recalled filing the original designs in 1918, and several early investors trotted out their now-worthless stock certificates.

Turns out the city’s nearly completed Alweg monorail, set to glide between Westlake and the World’s Fair, had been largely envisioned more than 40 years earlier by prescient inventors and entrepreneurs. Uncannily, one of their proposed routes even mirrored that of the Alweg.

This early monorail design was the brainchild of an unlikely crew, including noted physician Dr. Royal McClure, wealthy Sedro Wooley druggist Albert Holland, Capitol Hill garage manager David McClay and Seattle engineering professor Robert Rockwell. In May 1917, they incorporated as the Universal Elevated Railway Co. and declared their intension to make Seattle the world’s monorail capital.

By late 1918, after filing more than a dozen patents, the partners offered stock in the company, intending to fund a demonstration monorail downtown. Surely, the world would soon beat a single-track path to their door.

A bold-faced promotional flyer touted the advantages of elevated transit system: “SURFACE OBSTRUCTION such as floods, snow, railroad crossings, congestion … derailing and THIRD RAIL DANGER” largely would be eliminated by their innovative designs, intended to replace nearly 200 miles of perilous existing railway on Seattle streets.

Yet it was not to be. In the final year of World War I, the federal government imposed austerity measures across the nation, discouraging unnecessary capital investments. To boot, Seattle Mayor Ole Hanson was a decided skeptic. The gung-ho backers of the Universal Elevated Railway, though rich in imagination and ambition, could not raise enough out-of-pocket cash. In 1923, the struggling company closed its doors.

It would be another 40 years before a monorail car finally pulled into a station at Westlake.


For 360 degree narrated video version of this column, click here!