Category Archives: Seattle Now and Then

Seattle Now & Then: Norton Building, 1959

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THEN: Roger Dudley Jr. photographed the Norton Building in 1959 looking northwest from the Dexter Horton Building roof. Built in 1924 at Second Avenue and Cherry Street, the Dexter Horton’s 15 stories were not so alluring to panoramists as the Smith Tower, dedicated in 1914, a block-and-a-half south on Second Avenue at Jefferson Street and about 40 spectacular stories high. (Photo by Roger Dudley, courtesy Dan Eskenazi)
NOW: The Norton Building peeks out today from the same vantage. (Photo by Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Oct. 17, 2019,
and in print in PacificNW magazine
of the Seattle Times on Oct. 20, 2019)

Seattle’s first tall curtain wall conveys egalitarian modernity
By Paul Dorpat

Seattle’s first “glass box” of size, the Norton Building, opened on Oct. 30, 1959, at Second Avenue and Columbia Street, with its principal tenant, Canadian Bank of Commerce, holding the ground floor. Named for pioneer lumberman Matthew G. Norton, the edifice was then easily Seattle’s grandest display of modernity.

I was there – nearly. Living and studying in Spokane, I made yearly trips to visit Ted, my psychiatrist oldest brother in Seattle, not for therapy but for brotherly love, lunch on the waterfront and, in 1959, an inspection of the Norton and its glass curtains.

Not counting the four-story stone base, the Norton’s unadorned sides climb 17 stories wrapped in tempered grey glass and anodized aluminum. Ballard-based Fentron Industries proudly pointed out in the opening hoopla that Fentron “had been given Total Responsibility for detailing, extruding, fabricating, alumiliting and erecting the curtain walls of the Norton Building.”

The skin’s aluminum bound the Norton so tightly that its floors were mostly free of interrupting posts. This interior decorating freedom is anticipated and exposed in photographer Roger A. Dudley Jr.’s portrait of construction in 1959. The west end of the building, on the left, is aglow in the afternoon sun.

I knew Dudley, a past president of the Photographers Association of Washington, and benefited from his generous sharing of historical photographs – not, however, this one. Another friend and vintage collector, Dan Eskenazi, introduced me to a collection of Dudley’s 1950s work that Dan acquired long after Dudley’s death in 2003. Included is his Norton coverage, 4-by-5-inch negatives of the building’s attended parking off First Avenue, its cornerstone dedication with members of the Norton family, the building’s long escalators, examples of its big open floors and the sculpture plaza at its Second Avenue entrance.

Seattle architect Susan Boyle, with her encyclopedic sensitivity to modern architecture, provides more insight. Another old friend, she belongs to Docomomo WEWA, short for the International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement. (WEWA is for Western Washington). The organization provides tours of the Norton.

“The Norton Building,” Boyle writes, “embodies all that was progressive in mid-century post-war architectural design: functionality combined with beauty, a faith in technology and new materials, use of efficient construction systems and an optimism about the future of Seattle as an urbane urban place.

“The escalator from the First Avenue-level parking garage was a modern way to arrive to work. The original building provided a publicly accessible sculpture garden on a west terrace off the main lobby, and open-plan upper floors that allowed office tenants maximum flexibility. The resulting space was consistent throughout, with ample daylight from perimeter windows, and it offered an egalitarian work environment.”

WEB EXTRAS

Below are seven clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column. Enjoy!

Jan. 11, Seattle Times, page 109
Jan. 19, 1959, Seattle Times, page 6
March 26, 1959, Seattle Times, page 17
May 17, 1959 Seattle Times, page 13
July 13, 1959, Seattle Times, page 33
Oct. 25, 1959, Seattle Times, page 77
Oct. 29, 1959, Seattle Times, page 18

Join us on Saturday afternoon for ‘Seattle Now & Then’ event at new West Seattle bookstore

The events

Jean Sherrard and Paul Dorpat hold forth at Oct. 7, 2019, event for “Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred” at Redmond Library, sponsored by the Redmond Historical Society.

Earlier this month, on Oct. 7, 2019, we had a bang-up book event for Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred at Redmond Library, sponsored by the Redmond Historical Society. You can see the resulting video at our events page (scroll down). It was our 33rd event on behalf of the book, which was published just one year ago on Paul Dorpat‘s 80th birthday.

The next event is 3:30 PM this Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, at a brand new bookstore, Paper Boat Booksellers, 6040 California Ave SW in West Seattle. The presentation will showcase a slide show of “then” and “now” images from the book.

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up a personally inscribed copy of the book ($49.95 plus $5 sales tax), or just want to see authors Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard in action again, this is your chance!

Books on display. (Photo by Gavin MacDougall)

You can re-live an event or experience it anew! Videos of 29 of the book’s 33 events are posted on the events page of our website.

The media

Clay Eals

Clay Eals, the editor of Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred, who also wrote the book’s introduction, will be the guest of former Seattle City Council members Jean Godden and Sue Donaldson on “The Bridge” radio show at 3-4 p.m. this Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, on SPACE 101.1 FM.

Jean Godden
Sue Donaldson

 

How to order

Want to place an order for Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred? It’s easy. Just visit our “How to order” page. You can specify how you want Paul and Jean to personalize your copy. Mailed orders will reach mailboxes in about a week.

As Jean looks on, Paul signs a book for Nancy Guppy of The Seattle Channel’s “Art Zone.”

Thanks!

Big thanks to everyone who has helped make this book a successful tribute to the public historian who has popularized Seattle history via more than 1,800 columns for more than 37 years, Paul Dorpat!

— Clay Eals, editor, Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred

Seattle Now & Then: Bothell’s Main Street, 1913

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THEN: This May 29, 1913, print, looking west along Main Street and damaged as if run over by one of the parading flivvers, comes from the scrapbook of Bothell pioneer Carlton Ericksen. The three most prominent cars are likely (from left) a 1908 or 1909 International Harvester Auto Buggy, a 1911 Stoddard-Dayton and a 1912 Studebaker Everitt-Metzger-Flanders, as identified by West Seattle’s Robert Carney. The 1908 Hannan Building, Bothell’s first brick structure, to the left of the white banner, is the only depicted edifice that still survives. The closest building later became the site of Meredith’s 5 & 10, managed by Dave Johns, father of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. For more on Bothell’s Main Street, see the photo-filled book “Bothell Washington Then & Now” (2008, Bothell Landmark Preservation Board). BOTHELL HISTORICAL MUSEUM
NOW: Redeveloped after a massive 2016 fire, Bothell’s Main Street features an expansive crosswalk and recessed parking. With Alexa’s Café (red umbrellas, formerly Meredith’s 5 & 10) behind them and a booming Bothell in the distance, (from left) passersby Alistair and Hopi Shull of Kettle Falls and Renewal Israel of Bothell join Pat Pierce and Jim and Margaret Turcott of the Bothell Historical Museum and King County librarian Kirstie Cameron to echo the 1913 scene. In its 50th year, the museum will host a free, illustrated talk on local roads and cars at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Bothell Library. JEAN SHERRARD

(Published in Seattle Times online on Oct. 10, 2019,
and in print in PacificNW magazine
of the Seattle Times on Oct. 13, 2019)

The Good Roads cause cruises through Bothell’s Main Street
By Clay Eals

We all imagine Main Street as a hospitable hub for shopping and schmoozing. But sometimes it is a thoroughfare as much as a destination.

This applies to a burg like Bothell, which – perched along the Sammamish River near the northern tip of Lake Washington – served for most of a century not as somewhere to go but mostly as “on the way to.”

In the late 1880s, a railroad carried coal circuitously from Issaquah north around the lake and through Bothell to Seattle. Likewise, the nearby Sammamish River (before its water level plummeted with the 1917 opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal) carried logs and passenger steamers along a similar route. In little time, newfangled automobiles followed suit.

Thus, in concert with the statewide Good Roads movement, led by Seattle’s Sam Hill (later known for building the U.S./Canada Peace Arch and Stonehenge replica at Maryhill), this coterie of cars bustles east on Bothell’s Main Street on May 29, 1913.

Gov. Ernest Lister joined locals to salute the completion of a four-mile highway between Bothell and Lake Forest Park to the west, which helped connect Bothell with Seattle (today’s Highway 522) and Everett (Highway 527).

The celebrated segment, left in the dust by our “Then” motorists, was made of red brick, an upgrade from muddy, rutted terrain. The brick soon proved slippery, so eventually it was repaved – all but a 1,000-foot stretch that survives in a landmark park southwest of downtown Bothell.

Bothell Mayor Sidney F. Woody, from Dec. 5, 1915, Seattle Times

Boosting Bothell’s roads in that decade was a colorful land agent-turned-mayor, Sidney F. Woody, who pushed for a 10-mph speed limit through town and in 1912 became the first to be cited for breaking it. The Bothell Sentinel said Woody, a “high-class, single-minded talker,” prevailed in court by challenging four eyewitnesses, including one who insisted the errant speed was at least 12 mph “but had no instrument by which he could prove it beyond a peradventure of a doubt.”

Perhaps Woody’s constituents acquitted him two years later when he created the Chuckhole Club. His scheme, which the Seattle Times termed “clever,” asked motorists to carry spades and interrupt their automotive errands to fill in one rut every month, aiming to eradicate 12,000 craters a year.

Participants were to swear to a Woody-written pledge, vowing that non-compliance would mean “no less a penalty than that of having my axles broken in twain, my springs smashed to smithereens, my wheels torn off at the hubs, my tires blown out, my carburetor filled with water and my gasoline tank emptied 10 miles from a station, so help me Sam Hill and keep me busy.”

Spoken like a politician on – where else? – Main Street.

WEB EXTRAS

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

Besides the extras below, please visit the web page for “On the Road: Bothell Auto History,” a free public event set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, at Bothell Library, sponsored by the Bothell Historical Museum.

Below are (1) 13 photos of Bothell’s Red Brick Road Park and in chronological order, (2) two additional photos from the Bothell Historical Museum, (3) two additional photos from the Museum of History & Industry, (4) a four-minute video about the park and (5) eight clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and two from the Bothell Sentinel that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column. Enjoy!

Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Red Brick Road Park. CLAY EALS
Bothell Mayor Sidney F. Woody (center left) presents Gov. Ernest Lister a key to the city during May 29, 1913, ceremony feting completion of Bothell’s red brick highway. BOTHELL HISTORICAL MUSEUM
This northbound view of Bothell’s Second Street Bridge indicates the 10 mph speed limit, which Mayor Sidney F. Woody, who promulgated it, was the first to break in 1912. BOTHELL HISTORICAL MUSEUM
A car traveling eastbound, “Seattle to Bothell” on Feb. 9, 1915. MUSEUM OF HISTORY & INDUSTRY
A car stuck in the mud on the way to Bothell, Feb. 9, 1915. MUSEUM OF HISTORY & INDUSTRY
VIDEO: “Bothell History … The Red Brick Road.” (3:47) CITY OF BOTHELL
May 12, 1912, Bothell Sentinel, page 9, BOTHELL HISTORICAL MUSEUM
May 13, 1913, Seattle Times, page 2
May 15, 1913, Seattle Times editorial, page 6
May 24, 1913, Seattle Times, page 8
Dec. 28, 1913, Seattle Times, page 16
June 21, 1914, Seattle Times, page 4
Oct. 18, 1914, Seattle Times, page 45
Oct. 29, 1912, Seattle Times editorial, page 6
Dec. 5, 1915, Seattle Times, page 24
Sept. 12, 1931, Bothell Sentinel, page 8, BOTHELL HISTORICAL MUSEUM

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

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

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

A Monument to Masonry and the Movies
By Jean Sherrard

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

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

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

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

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

By the late 1970s, big changes loomed. “Capitol Hill was becoming a tough neighborhood,” says Jim Russell, current secretary of St. John’s Lodge in Greenwood. “It was hard just finding a safe place to park. The temple also needed extensive restoration, and our membership numbers were declining.” In 1980, nearby Seattle Central College purchased the building to expand its growing campus.

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

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

WEB EXTRAS

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

Seattle Now & Then: Bikur Cholim synagogue, now the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute

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THEN: This rare historical exterior image of Bikur Cholim synagogue, undated but likely from the mid-20th century, conveys its commanding, theatrical presence, evident since the building’s dedication in 1915. Details can be found in the 2013 book “Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State” and the digital Washington Jewish Museum at wsjhs.org. (University of Washington Special Collections, negative #40180, Sam Prottas photograph collection, PH Coll 883.7, courtesy Washington State Jewish Historical Society)
NOW: The Jewish Star of David no longer tops today’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. Here it showcases 60 teenage stars (and staff) during a rehearsal for August productions of “Uncle Willy’s Chocolate Factory.” They are joined on the sidewalk by two-dozen Jewish family members, including several whose bar mitzvahs were held inside when the building was Bikur Cholim synagogue. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Sept. 26, 2019,
and in print on Sept. 29, 2019)

A Central District landmark with a legacy of cultivating community
By Clay Eals

Given the theatrical aspect of religious rituals, I was not surprised to learn that the primary architect of one of Seattle’s more stately spiritual edifices – originally the home for the Bikur Cholim orthodox Jewish congregation – was America’s foremost theater designer, Benjamin Marcus Priteca.

The architect of the famed West Coast playhouses built for Alexander Pantages, along with Seattle’s long-gone Coliseum and Orpheum theaters and still-surviving Admiral Theatre, Priteca was Scotland-born into a family of eastern European Jewish heritage. He arrived in Seattle in 1909, and his architectural contributions to the Bikur Cholim synagogue came, astonishingly, when he was not yet 24. Most of his theater work lay soon ahead.

Bikur Cholim (bee-KURR hole-EEM, with a rough “h”) means to visit and aid the sick, with a focus on providing burial care. Organizing in the 1890s, Seattle’s Bikur Cholim congregation alighted at several sites before purchasing land at the southeast corner of 17th Avenue South and Yesler Way, the location of our “Then” image. After a lower floor took shape in 1910, Priteca designed the rest, and the structure was dedicated in 1915. The Seattle Times termed it “the largest and most magnificent temple of worship of the Jewish faith in the West.”

Steeped in Byzantine architectural style, with tan brick and white terra-cotta details, this commanding visual landmark still looks westward from Seattle’s Central District, illustrating the power of community and how it can change.

In its initial incarnation, it hosted Bikur Cholim for some 55 years until congregants migrated south to Seward Park. For decades, it was a key destination along Seattle’s “kosher canyon” during the “Shabbat stroll” undertaken Saturdays by Jewish families, says Lisa Kranseler, director of the Washington State Jewish Historical Society.

“Everything stemmed from here,” adds Mel Genauer, who recalls first walking to the synagogue as an 8-year-old in 1950. “It was great unity here. We always stuck by each other.” (See video below.)

For the past nearly 50 years, however, the building has been under city ownership, providing a largely African American constituency with a variety of programs, including theater. Known briefly as Yesler-Atlantic Community Center, it took on a succession of names (most recently Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute), all of which have saluted the prolific New York writer and activist Langston Hughes (1902-1967).

The print date for this “Now & Then” installment coincides with the onset of Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year. The hope and introspection of the holiday may be reinforced by lyrics from an opera by Hughes that he shared during a 1946 lecture in Seattle:

I dream a world where men
No other man will scorn.
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn.

WEB EXTRAS

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

Besides the extras below, please see a complementary online exhibit of the Washington State Jewish Historical Society, as well as the Aug. 20, 1980, report on the successful Seattle landmark designation of the building.

Below are (1) two photos of a wedding inside Bikur Cholim synagogue (2) a video reflection by Mel Genauer and (3) in chronological order, 13 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column. Enjoy!

A mid-20th century wedding at Bikur Cholim synagogue (Courtesy Washington State Jewish Historical Society)
A mid-20th century wedding at Bikur Cholim synagogue (Courtesy Washington State Jewish Historical Society)
VIDEO: Mel Genauer, longtime member of Bikur Cholim synagogue in Seattle, reflects Aug. 15, 2019, on the role of the building in his lifetime. It is now Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. (Clay Eals)
April 19, 1905, Seattle Times, page 7
Sept. 20, 1906, Seattle Times, page 4
Jan. 18, 1914, Seattle Times, page 15
June 7, 1916, Seattle Times, page 16
Sept. 7, 1919, Seattle Times, page 15
Sept. 28, 1924, Seattle Times, page 5
Oct. 17, 1945, Seattle Times, page 15
Feb. 11, 1969, Seattle Times, page 29
July 15, 1970, Seattle Times, page 19
March 23, 1972, Seattle Times, page 59
June 18, 1972, Seattle Times, page 14
July 9, 1972, Seattle Times, page 184
July 14, 1972, Seattle Times, page 16

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEB EXTRAS

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

Seattle Now & Then: Fremont postcard, 1908

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

THEN: This 1908 postcard, a gift to the Fremont Historical Society from Susan Connole of Friends of the Ballard Locks, shows logs of the Bryant Lumber and Shingle Mill beneath the card’s printed inscription. The all-volunteer Fremont organization recently launched its improved website, fremonthistory.org, in part to better display its photo collection. (Judie Clarridge)
NOW: Through the security cords of the Aurora Bridge, glimpses of the 1908 landscape can be found, along with high-rises of the downtown skyline. This vantage is at least three blocks south of – and higher than – M.L. Oakes’ photographic position. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Sept. 12, 2019,
and in print on Sept. 15, 2019)

Postcard news: landing in a ‘great city’ poised for change
By Clay Eals

In leading local history tours, I often say that all of us, akin to the Alki settlers in 1851, have a “landing story” to tell. More than a century ago, in the days of penny postage, clues to such stories often emerged in handwritten news on the backs of postcards.

A gent with the initials F.T.S. mailed such a story to Chas. R. Fitch of San Francisco. On the back of a round-cornered card postmarked Aug. 20, 1908, the buoyant F.T.S. voiced a voyage of destiny:

“Dear Cousin: This is a great city, my home from now on. Best opportunity for young man. Am assured of position and will go to work Monday. Very warm here. Rough and foggy coming up, was not in the least seasick, and never missed a meal at mess.”

F.T.S. also noted how to reach him: “Address me #700 Oriental Block, Seattle, Wash.” This was the 1903 Corona building, still standing today in Pioneer Square.

But the impressive M.L. Oakes postcard view that F.T.S. shared with his relative was far from downtown. Its label proclaimed “Seattle and Mt. Rainier from Fremont Hill.” While the cityscape was photographic, the faint but enormous image of the peak amounted to overblown fantasy, a skillful cut-and-paste trick common long before Photoshop.

Below the mythic mountain lies a tidy mix of touchstones from three Seattle neighborhoods. We look southeast from Fremont, across the Lake Washington Canal (not yet built through to Puget Sound) to northeast Queen Anne, Lake Union and, in the distance, a swath of Capitol Hill. So many landmarks of later years are missing as to boggle the mind.

To orient ourselves, we can survey the upper left, below faux Rainier, to find massive Seattle High School, built in 1902 and in short order renamed Broadway High, as rapid growth soon prompted construction of two new high schools, Franklin and Lincoln. Today, most of Broadway High is gone, replaced by the slick brick of Seattle Central College, but its auditorium remains at the corner of Broadway and Pine.

To the far right, we can peek at months-old St. James Cathedral, with one spire barely visible along the edge. In the middle ground are Seattle Electric Railway streetcar tracks along what today is Westlake Avenue North.

In the foreground, with no hint of the Aurora Bridge (1932), and with a low trestle precursor to the Fremont Bridge (1917) out of frame at right, we can locate, at lower left, part of the 1901 wooden version of what became the brick Fremont Baptist Church (1924).

To F.T.S., Seattle already may have seemed a “great city” in 1908, but assuming he remained a few decades, just imagine the changes he witnessed. Shades of today.

WEB EXTRAS

Big thanks to Judie Clarridge of the Fremont Historical Society, Rob Ketcherside of the Capitol Hill Historical Society and Michael Herschensohn of the Queen Anne Historical Society, and their colleagues, for their help with this column!

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

Below are (1) the back of the “Then” postcard, (2) an alternate “Now” view, (3) in chronological order, nine clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column, and (4) eight links to previous columns related to the Fremont neighborhood. Enjoy!

The back of the 1908 postcard shows the handwritten message of F.T.S. (Judie Clarridge)
Finding a location today to accurately repeat our “Then” photo is a challenge, owing to the natural growth of trees and rampant construction. This “Now” image, atop the Data1 Building in downtown Fremont, is at least three blocks south of the original vantage and dominated by the 1932 Aurora Bridge. (Jean Sherrard)
Sept. 7, 1903, Seattle Times, page 7
Dec. 23, 1903, Seattle Times, page 12
March 31, 1907, Seattle Times, p42
Sept. 1, 1907, Seattle Times, page 11
May 11, 1908, Seattle Times, page 7
April 6, 1909, Seattle Times, page 3
April 9, 1909, Seattle Times, page 1
Dec. 2, 1924, Seattle Times, page 13
Dec. 6, 1924, Seattle Times, page 8

RELATED COLUMNS

Here are links to “Now & Then” columns focusing on Fremont (dates are publication dates in the Seattle Times):

May 13, 2017, North end of Fremont Bridge

July 23, 2016: Digging the Fremont canal

Aug. 2, 2014: The Fremont trolley barn

June 7, 2013: A Fremont trolley derailed

May 10, 2009: The musical Baptists of Fremont

July 22, 2007: Making tracks to town

Feb. 13, 2000: Fremont, spring 1940

Aug. 11, 1985: Fremont: It’s always been a community at the center of things

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: Welcome to West Seattle sign, 1986

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

THEN: Flanking the then-new wooden West Seattle Chamber of Commerce welcome sign in September 1986 are officers (from left) Don Olson, Aurlo Bonney (executive vice president), Earl Cruzen, Carl Hossman Jr., King County Council member R.R. “Bob” Greive, Victor Lebel and Dr. Stuart Stevenson. The sign was designed by Elizabeth Kincaid. (Brad Garrison, West Seattle Herald, courtesy Robinson Newspapers)
NOW: Enjoying the unveiling of the new steel sign on May 8 is Adah Cruzen, whose major gifts to several nonprofits on behalf of her late husband, Earl Cruzen, earned her the 2019 Orville Rummel Community Service Award. Behind her are chamber officers (from left) Lauren Burgon, Hamilton Gardiner, Pete Spalding, Lynn Dennis (orange jacket, former CEO), Julia Jordan (CEO), Paul Prentice (sign designer) and Gary Potter. (Clay Eals)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Aug. 29, 2019,
and in print on Sept. 1, 2019)

A West Seattle sign that won’t wear out its welcome
By Clay Eals

Long ago I learned a simple yet profound way to help newcomers grasp the mystique of West Seattle, where I live. You can practice it as you read this text.

Raise your right hand, palm out, as if waving to a friend. The bulk of your hand is the rest of Seattle. Your partly extended thumb is the West Seattle peninsula. (Some call this the “reverse Michigan.”) Arguably, the story of West Seattle is about getting from the thumb to the hand, and vice versa.

This maxim ran deep in the hearts of local business leaders who in 1986 celebrated, in our “then” photo, the installation of a wooden welcome sign to be seen by westbound traffic on the Fauntleroy Expressway where it curves toward the peninsula’s business hub, the Junction.

The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce worked with the city for three years on the sign project before its fruition, and the context was potent. The high-level West Seattle Bridge had just opened — eastbound in November 1983 and westbound in July 1984 — and even appeared on the sign.

For decades, motorists had suffered delays caused by frequent openings of two low bridges (similar to the Ballard, Fremont, University and Montlake spans) built in 1924 and 1930 over the busy industrial Duwamish Waterway. Relief followed the fabled 1978 ramming of the northern span by the freighter Chavez, which rendered the span inoperable, triggered a flow of federal funds to build an elevated bridge and snuffed a bridge-related secession campaign. During construction, drivers braved four years of dizzying detours. All of this reinforced a citywide sense that West Seattle was a hassle to visit.

Of course, the new high bridge made it easier to get to West Seattle, but the reverse also was true. The bridge aided locals’ trips to suburban malls.

For the Junction core, 1986 generated other rumblings:

  • The pullout of JCPenney after 60 years as an anchor.
  • Declining public-school enrollment, due in part to desegregation busing, which led to the razing of a nearby elementary school to make way for a competing retail center.
  • An impending tax on merchants to support a Business Improvement Area.
  • A prolonged zoning debate over maximum building height (85 feet bested 65 feet, in a 5-4 city council vote).

In this milieu, the welcome sign was more than … welcome.

It stood sentinel for nearly 33 years, but the elements took their toll. In 2018, Adah Cruzen, widow of local business pioneer Earl Cruzen, contributed to the chamber some of the “extra zeroes” he’d bequeathed her for a steel replacement, installed last spring.

To some, West Seattle still may seem remote, but the new sign’s greeting promises to endure.

WEB EXTRAS

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

Below are a video of the May 8, 2019, unveiling of the new sign, an extra image from 1948, plus, in chronological order, two clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and one from the West Seattle Herald that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Link to video of May 8, 2019, unveiling of new “Welcome to West Seattle” sign (Clay Eals)
An intriguing “Welcome to West Seattle” sign from 1948, depicting where the sign stood on the peninsula! (West Side Story)
July 8, 1984, Seattle Times, page B1
July 22, 1984, Seattle Times, page D1
Sept. 10, 1986, West Seattle Herald front page, announcing installation of the sign

 

Seattle Now & Then: The Union 76 Skyride, 1962

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEB EXTRAS

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

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

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

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

Seattle Now & Then: Dow and the Stones, 1981

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

THEN: The Kingdome crown tops a crowd of 71,000, including Dow Constantine (near left, in close-cropped hair, mustache, striped shirt, looking to his left) during the Oct. 14, 1981, Rolling Stones show at the Kingdome. (Mike Siegel, The Seattle Times)
NOW: Dow Constantine stands in roughly the same position among 50,000 people at the Stones show Aug. 14, 2019, at CenturyLink Field. Partly obscured at his left is his wife, Shirley Carlson, whom he first met when she was music director at KCMU. Constantine had no qualms asking a nearby fan to snap the photo. The photo credit he supplied reflects his drollery. (“Some guy”)

(Published in Seattle Times online on Aug. 16, 2019,
and in print on Sept. 8, 2019)

Stones roll from the covered Kingdome to the open air
By Clay Eals

So much was it a city symbol and massive gathering place for sports and spectacle that it is difficult to believe we are going on 20 years since the Kingdome departed — in a planned implosion, no less. Even harder to fathom may be that relative newcomers are unaware of the shortcomings (and, yes, charms) of what resembled, from afar, a giant, concrete hamburger.

Long before retractable roofs came into fashion, the Kingdome satisfied our drenched desire for a commoners’ cathedral we could swarm to and revel in, comforted that our “Seattle sunshine” could not cancel or interfere with our fun. In other words, there were no rainouts.

Dow Constantine remembers it well. Our King County executive was a 19-year-old University of Washington sophomore when he saw the Rolling Stones’ sixth show in Seattle, on Oct. 14, 1981, the first night of back-to-back concerts. Among 71,000 packing the Kingdome, he was down front in what was crudely called “the pit.” The Greg Kihn Band opened, followed by the J. Geils Band. The Stones took the stage at 10:55 p.m. and finished about 1 a.m.

This milieu radiates from our atmospheric “Then” image, captured by Mike Siegel, in one of his first photos for The Seattle Times. Constantine stands near left, eying the wilder youths to his side. His subdued expression speaks volumes.

“Near the stage, the crowd was pretty aggressive,” he recalls. “You had to stand your ground against the force of thousands pushing to get closer.” He adds, with no little irony, “We thought it was the last time we would get a chance to see the Stones because they were so old.”

The Oct. 14 and 15, 1981, shows also hosted scores of overdose cases, along with a deeper tragedy. A 16-year-old girl died when she lost her balance and fell backward 50 feet from the outside 200-level ramp onto a landing. Most fans, and probably the Stones, didn’t learn of the death until after the Oct. 15 show. It was the first fatality in the Kingdome’s then-five-year history.

While no one inside felt moisture from the sky, as always there was — beyond the haze and the substitution of rumbling echo for sound — the disquieting feeling, in spite of the stadium’s enormity, of being trapped by the absence of sky.

That was no deterrent for Constantine, a lifelong music fanatic who graduated from grade-school trombonist to arts and music champion as an adult. He nurtured his obsession by volunteering in 1981 at the campus radio station, KCMU (now KEXP), eventually snagging plum DJ shifts.

Fast-forward nearly 38 years, and we find Constantine once more in the front row at a Stones show, their 12th in Seattle, this time on the Kingdome’s footprint at open-air CenturyLink Field. “No pushing and shoving,” he says. “Very much an all-ages, good-vibe, bring-the-grandkids crowd.”

The Kingdome may have lasted only 24 years, but the Stones — and Constantine —roll on.

WEB EXTRAS

Here is a bonus, extended interview with Dow Constantine, conducted Aug. 15, 2019, one day after the Stones’ Aug. 14, 2019, show he attended at CenturyLink Field.

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You seemed to be in the front row last night. Were you on the left (west) side of the center runway or the right (east) side?

If I’m going to take the time to go to a show, I’m going to do my best to be in the front. Yesterday I was down front, on the left (so, stage right). In 1981, I was down front, on the right (so, stage left.)

What were the similarities and differences between the 1981 show and last night’s show?

The 1981 tour was in support of the album “Tattoo You,” and the singles “Start Me Up,” “Waiting on a Friend” and, I think, “Hang Fire” were receiving heavy airplay on MTV. They ran through those and a lot of the all-time hits, but also a bunch of less familiar songs from that new album.

The crowd near the stage was tightly packed and pretty aggressive, and you had to set your feet and stand your ground against the force of thousands on the floor pushing to get closer to the band. And we thought it was the last time we would get a chance to see them, because they were so old.

Last night, there was no new album to promote. They just played the hits, plus a couple of deeper cuts from the early 1970s albums, and the crowd loved it. And no pushing and shoving. Very much an all-ages, good vibe, bring-the-grandkids crowd.

How many times have you seen the Stones in Seattle, and which shows?

Not many. I really respect the remarkable accomplishments of the Stones, including their longevity, influence and astonishing number of hit songs they’ve recorded. But my first love among the behemoths of old-time arena rock is The Who.

In music, all of us have our church. And often it just comes down to which band you fell for first. Compared to all those hardcore fans I heard talking about traveling the world with the Stones, seeing them in the 1960s and 1970s, seeing them dozens or hundreds of times, I’m just a tourist, a guest in their sanctuary.

In your King County Council days, you displayed a guitar in your office. Do you still? Was it yours? If not, whose was it?

That was an autographed Cat Power guitar! And I never played it, at least not well enough for public consumption. It came from a Vera Project auction, and after many years I donated it to charity.

Do you play guitar? If so, how long have you done so? Do you play any Rolling Stones songs?

Nope. Hacked my way through the chords (and vocals) of a few songs (Kinks, Clash, Neil Young, etc.) over the years, but there is no earthly way I could be called a guitarist. I’m a fan.

What Rolling Stones song or songs are your favorite, and why?

I love the melancholy charts like “Angie,” “Wild Horses” or “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” But it is hard to argue with “soundtrack of a generation” rockers like “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Satisfaction.” If you wrote any one of those, you’d do best to set down your pen for good and declare victory.

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Below is an alternate “Now” image, plus a fanciful one from the summer of 2018, plus links to a one-hour Dow podcast and a Dow summer playlist, plus, in chronological order, five clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Showered by reddish light from the stage, a more dour Dow Constantine stands among 50,000 people at the Stones show Aug. 15, 2019, at CenturyLink Field. This the alternate photo to our official “Now” image, taken at Constantine’s request by the same anonymous fan. (“Some guy”)
In a reflection of his music mania, on Aug. 11, 2018 (almost exactly one year before the Aug. 15, 2019 Stones show), Dow Constantine kiddingly prepares to thrash a custom SupPop guitar in the grass of Alki Playfield during the one-day, free SPF30 festival celebrating the 30th anniversary of the record company. The guitar was auctioned by the Southwest Seattle Historical Society for a winning bid of $2,225. (Clay Eals)
Click the above image to hear a one-hour “My Ten Songs” podcast, hosted by Megan Hanna, in which Dow Constantine provides the backstory for his top-10 favorite songs.
Click on the above image to see and hear Dow Constantine’s 2019 summer playlist.
Oct. 15, 1981, Seattle Times, full-page coverage of the Oct. 14, 1981, Stones show, including a cropped version of our “Then” image.
Oct. 16, 1981, Seattle Times editorial
Oct. 16, 1981, Seattle Times, page one
Oct. 16, 1981, Seattle Times, page C5
Oct. 16, 1981, Seattle Times, page C1