Category Archives: Seattle Now and Then

Seattle Now & Then: Judkins panorama, 1880s

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Careful readers may spot clothes hanging on two backyard lines at lower center of this 1885 or 1886 cityscape. This could narrow the time of year Judkins made his recording, but I remember my mother hanging clothes in the backyard during the winter in Spokane. (Paul Dorpat collection)
This prospect looks south from above the entrance to the alley on the south side of Stewart Street between Second and Third Avenues. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on June 13, 2019,
and in print on June 16, 2019)

Stacking up evidence of Seattle’s growth in the 1880s
By Paul Dorpat

This week’s “then” photo looks south toward early downtown Seattle from halfway up the southern slope of then-Denny Hill. With his extension pole, Jean Sherrard lifted his “now” camera to approximate the prospect used by pioneer photographer David Judkins for his panorama – close but, Jean and I agree, still a few feet below Judkins’ roost.

After studying the crowd of clues showing in Judkins’ prospect, Ron Edge, our feature’s frequent sleuth, agrees that Judkins’ photo was recorded in 1885 or 1886. That was three or four years before the Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889, destroyed about 30 city blocks, including almost everything shrouded here behind the industrial smoke ascending from the right (west).

In early photographic cityscapes, stacks were frequently embraced as the most obvious signs of a community’s industrial success. They stood as booming pillars of pride, and a study of Seattle’s demographics from that time – city directories, tax records and such – confirms it.

In his typewritten “Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897,” Thomas Prosch, the owner/editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the city’s busiest booster, included a panegyric to the growth of his city, which since the 1880 national census was the largest town in Washington Territory, surpassing Walla Walla by a few hundred citizens.

“The boom that began in 1886 and grew in volume and force in 1887 continued with unabated activity and vigor in 1888,” Prosch wrote. “It was manifested in a thousand ways, but particularly with real estate speculation, in the platting of additions to the city, hundreds of new buildings, scores of graded streets, the new railways, banks, hotels, stores, factories, shops and people.

“The inhabitants of Seattle, who numbered 3,533 in 1880 and 9,786 in 1885, increased in number to 12,167 in 1887 and to 19,116 in 1888. Much as this great increase signified, it was dwarfed by that of the next two years, for the census of 1889 showed Seattle to have 26,740 inhabitants and that of 1890, 42,837.”

(Such rapid growth some 130 years ago should excite a “Wow!” from some of our readers. Want more? Our blog features a complete copy of Prosch’s thick chronology from the mid-1890s.)

The most striking aspect of this “then” photo may be the two hand-drawn Mount Rainiers, the result of merging the panorama’s two halves, each of which sported a peak. Did Judkins believe anyone would fall for his manufactured substitutes? In 1885, it was still difficult to photographically record bright, snow-covered icons such as “The Mountain That Was God” (title of a 1910 guidebook self-published by John H. Williams).

WEB EXTRAS

To see a 360-degree video of the “now” prospect and compare it with the “then,” and to hear this column read aloud by Paul Dorpat, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Anything to add, fellas?

This morning Jean it will be alas and good night, aka nighty-bears (copy write: Bill Burden).  That is we will soon  again climb the stairs to our small bed resting beside a full-wall reflection – a ballet practice mirror.  (The sometimes frightening effect some early mornings is to awaken with sunrise and face myself.  At eighty it is not a flattering confrontation.)  Now Jean reminds me that this week we promised something more about the Thomas Prosch’s sustained contribution to recording Seattle history.  That will need to wait for later this week.  Now, I’ll be climbing the stairs, again to nighty-bears.  At eighty I use two canes.  Below, as a consoling custom we will again attach some relevant clips.

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Seattle Now & Then: The Great Seattle Fire, Part II – Out of the Ashes

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THEN: Built in 1883, the luxurious Occidental Hotel covered the flatiron block bounded by Second, Yesler and James. In our “then,” its three-story stone monolith looms over a crew of weary firemen. Locals rated the Occidental “the largest and best equipped house north of San Francisco.” Destroyed in the Great Fire, it was succeeded by the Seattle Hotel, which held court for 70 years.
NOW: Erected in 1961, the “sinking ship” garage proves a dismal replacement. Dismay at the loss of the Seattle Hotel incited a passionate preservationist movement in Seattle. It might be said that it was the “sinking ship” that launched a thousand faces.

Thirty eight years after its founding, Seattle catapulted to worldwide attention via reports of catastrophic destruction.

The June 6, 1889, fire that incinerated more than 120 acres and nearly 30 blocks of downtown occurred on what might be called a slow news day. Only one week earlier, a burst dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, had swept away more than 2,200 lives, shocking the nation (in response, generous Seattleites pledged $576 for flood relief). The fire that leveled the wooden business district of our pioneer town – although it caused no fatalities aside from a Panglossian “million rats” – was also featured in newspapers across the country.

Within days, a New York Times headline read: ‘The Great Seattle Fire … It May Be a Blessing in Disguise.” Seattle land tycoon Henry Dearborn, visiting the East Coast, predicted: “The fire has cleaned out all these [tinder boxes] which were a constant menace to the city” but soon would be replaced “by fine, fire-proof structures.” Seattle residents enthusiastically agreed.

At first, however, hometown papers adopted a gloomier tone. The morning after the fire, the Seattle Daily Press succumbed to purple prose: “Besides the smoking, tomblike ruins of a few standing walls … people are left living to endure with sheer despair … blackness, gloom, bereavement, suffering, poverty, the hideous remains of a feast of fire.”

A spectacular Ron Edge find and stitch. The brick foundations on the right are the remains of the Frye Opera House, pictured in last week’s ‘Then’ photo just before it burned to the ground.

Yet the same morning, 600 citizens gathered at the surviving Armory on Union Street between Third and Fourth avenues in a display of civic gratitude and confidence. The crowd cheered the news that arch-rival Tacoma had offered aid and succor, as had San Francisco and other cities and towns. When some suggested that aid pledged to the Johnstown homeless be diverted for Seattle use, the crowd shouted, “To Johnstown! Let it go to Johnstown!”

Echoing through the Armory was a commitment to “pull all together” and “rise like a phoenix” while constructing a new city of brick and stone. Streets would be widened and leveled, while a fervent appeal was made to “Seattle Spirit.” On Saturday, June 8, Post-Intelligencer headlines affirmed: “A New Seattle Will Arise … Sweet are the Uses of Adversity.”

Another Ron Edge special. In this panoramic view, Front Street (1st Avenue) is being rebuilt. The Pioneer Building foundation is being lain on the left. The corner of the same building appears on the left in our ‘Now’ photo above.

Operating from tents, local businesses prepared to rebuild. Impresario John Cort, having reopened his burned-out Standard Theater under a canvas big top, featured a joke that brought down the house: “How’s business?” asked the straight man. The comic replied, “Intense!”

The pun proved prophetic. In less than two years, Seattle’s population nearly doubled to almost 45,000, and 3,500 new buildings arose, mostly in the devastated core. Voters authorized a more dependable city water system, and a municipal fire department formed. Thus, just in time for the 1897 Gold Rush, a small pioneer town reintroduced itself as an ambitious young city.

WEB EXTRAS

For a good time, click on through to our spoken word 360 video.

Anything to add, firebugs?   A few off fires.  We will be restrained.

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Seattle Now & Then: The Great Seattle Fire, 1889

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THEN: Only a handful of images exists of the actual fire — taken by professional photographer William Boyd, whose studio was lost to the flames. Shot from the corner of Spring and Front streets, our “Then” photo looks south to smoke billowing up from Madison Street, where the fire began. The grand pioneer landmark Frye’s Opera House looms large (upper left), just after catching fire. None of the visible structures survived. (courtesy, Wayne Pazina)
NOW: Every building in our current prospect manifests Seattle’s postfire (and oft-voiced) cri de coeur: “We want a city of brick and stone!”

Great cities often have burned to the ground, some over and over again until they got it right. New York, Boston, Chicago and London were reduced to cinders yet repeatedly rebuilt. The cruel lesson: Invest in incombustible masonry and stone, or pay the fiery piper.

One of the few shots of the fire in progress (courtesy, MOHAI)

Young, aspiring Seattle learned that lesson at 2:30 p.m. June 6, 1889, when Swedish immigrant John Back, 24, overheated a glue pot in a cabinet shop in the basement of the wooden Pontius building at Front Street (now First Avenue) and Madison Street.

From the Post-Intelligencer: “I was about 40 feet away,” said Mr. Kittermaster, a fellow employee, “and I saw Back seize a pail of water to throw upon it. I shouted for him not to do it, but [he] seemed excited and danced about with the pail before he dashed the water.” The hapless Back recounted, “I run and took the pot of water … and poured it over the pot of glue, which was blazing up high. When I throw the water on, the glue flew all over the shop into the shavings, and everything take fire.”

Firefighters battle on with rapidly diminishing resources! (courtesy, MOHAI)

In minutes, Seattle’s first steam fire engine arrived but had trouble finding the source of the flames through the billowing smoke. In a miscalculation of planning, downtown hydrants had been planted at two-block intervals, with hoses a block too short. Led by Mayor Robert Moran, crews fought a valiant but losing battle. Overburdened city water mains lost pressure. Streams from the abbreviated hoses eased to a trickle.

At First and Marion, in the basement of the Dietz and Mayer Liquor Store, whiskey barrels exploded, fueling the flames, which spread quickly to nearby saloons. By late afternoon on this hot, blustery day, the entire Denny block was a raging inferno.

Against a cacophony of steam whistles and pealing church and fire bells, homeowners and business owners raced frantically to save possessions, loading up wagons and retreating up to First Hill, south to the tidelands and even out onto the doomed docks.

Post-Intelligencer editor Thomas Prosch wrote, “For a couple of hours after the fire crossed Yesler, the spectacle was a magnificent one, the flames rising high in the air … while the noise of falling walls, the crackling, the occasional explosions, the shouts, added to the flare and heat in making the scene a memorable one.”

Seattleites watched that scene with horror and fascination as their firetrap of a city burned. In 12 hours, the downtown business district — 29 blocks and nearly a square mile — had gone up in smoke.
Amazingly, no one died, though it’s estimated the fire did $20 million worth of damage, in 1889 dollars.

Next week: the aftermath, and the phoenix arising from its ashes — a Seattle that rapidly learned the lessons of brick, sandstone and an abundant water supply.

WEB EXTRAS

Please click on through to our 360 video of the current location plus a spoken word version of the column.

Anything to add, les pompiers?

As usual dear captain – a jumble or a farrago of fire – a few more repeats from the time and/or the event.

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WE RETURN NEXT WEEL WITH MORE FIRES (scattered) & RUINS 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: DAR Rainier Chapter House, 1930

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Five years after the Rainier Chapter House was built, nearly 90 women pose on its portico, illustrating the age-old photographer’s challenge of getting everyone to face the same direction. In the middle, can you also spot a costumed George Washington? (Rainier Chapter House)
Beneath the cupola (unfortunately sliced from the top of our “then”), 34 chapter members attending their annual spring brunch emulate the pose of their ancestors. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on May 23, 2019,
and in print on May 26, 2019)

Registering a replica in honor of George and Martha
By Clay Eals

If you have flown to America’s Other Washington and taken the popular tourist trip 10 miles south to Mount Vernon, your mind’s eye can see the mansion of our first president and first lady, George and Martha Washington. Though its construction and expansion coincided with the beginnings of our egalitarian democracy, the manor overlooking the Potomac River was, and remains, majestic – 10 times the size of the average home in mid-1700s colonial Virginia.

We needn’t trek 2,800 miles to get an in-person approximation of the experience. Here we have what the Seattle Times once called “Seattle’s Own Mount Vernon,” embodied in the 94-year-old Rainier Chapter House of the Daughters of the American Revolution. A faithful reproduction of George and Martha’s famed residence, it simultaneously salutes its eastern counterpart and our state’s namesake.

When this replica was dedicated on April 11, 1925, in a ceremony attended by Gov. Roland Hartley, the Seattle Times favorably compared it to the original, “lacking only its water border and great expanse of grounds.” Today it retains a striking stature while surrounded by a city streetscape bearing three other treasures: the Loveless Building, the Cornish School and the Women’s Century Club (site of the former Harvard Exit moviehouse), all part of the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District atop Capitol Hill.

It also recently scored a coveted countrywide standing. On March 20, the Rainier Chapter House became listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is not merely a promotable honor. It also paves the way for valuable tax credits and grants. To celebrate, the 167 chapter members are inviting the public to a plaque unveiling on Sunday afternoon, June 2.

These women, all descendents of Revolutionary warriors who struggled for independence from Britain, embrace an inspiring legacy. Their ancestors formed the chapter in 1895 and raised money after World War I to build their elegant local headquarters. They even scoured attics to find items to sell at Pike Place Market. As a result, Seattle’s DAR chapter was the only one in the nation, at the time, to own the ground for its building.

Daniel Huntington, coming off nine years as Seattle’s municipal architect, infused a classical design, with wood siding grooved to resemble stonework. The edifice was erected in just four months, after which chapter members filled it with period furniture, dishes, art and historical objects. They also began an enduring tradition – renting the facility, including its second-floor ballroom, to groups that seek immersion in a sumptuous past.

If George and Martha themselves were to appear on its doorstep today, they might momentarily mistake Rainier Chapter House for their home. Their clue otherwise would be our urban milieu.

WEB EXTRAS

For even more great history, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Here, in chronological order, are a flier for the June 2, 2019, public celebration, plus three clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column. Click on any clipping to enlarge it. –Clay

Flier for June 2, 2019, public celebration of National Register of Historic Places recognition
April 5, 1925, Seattle Times, page 52
April 12, 1925, Seattle Times, page 19
April 12, 1925, Seattle Times, page 48

Anything else to add, gents?

 

Seattle Now & Then: Seattle Transfer, 1893

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In this 1893 image showcasing Seattle Transfer Company, a few steeds are blurry, oblivious to the need to stand still for the exposure. (Ron Edge collection)
South of the Chinatown International District, cars replace horses in this westerly view along South Charles Street from Seventh Avenue South. Rising from where tideflats used to wash are the tan Inscape building (formerly U.S. immigration) and, behind it, CenturyLink Field. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in Seattle Times online on May 16, 2019,
and in print on May 19, 2019)

How to haul goods in the 1800s? By horse, of course
By Clay Eals

Today, we think nothing of hauling boxes, baggage and all manner of business and household goods with motor vehicles. But 130 years ago, a mere blink of an eye in the world’s history, vehicle power was of the four-legged variety.

One firm providing equine infrastructure, founded in 1888, was the Seattle Transfer Company. Its barn and warehouse stood at the edge of southern tideflats that soon would be filled by the city’s massive regrades and dredging, a process that took decades.

To burnish its reputation, Seattle Transfer probably could have fared no better than to pose its fleet, staff and stock for the camera of Frank La Roche. In 1893, the year of our “then,” the city was four years on either side of arguably the two most momentous events of its early days – the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 and the 1897 onset of the northern Gold Rush, for which Seattle served as the jumping-off point. La Roche, arriving in Seattle after the fire, would earn fame by traveling more than 100 times to Alaska and the Yukon to capture 3,000 images of Klondike fever.

Here, in La Roche’s warm sepia, we look west to find 57 gents (and five tykes) with an equal number of top hats, bowlers and other chapeaux, even a straw skimmer. Most of the men sit on 27 lanterned rigs pulled by at least 33 horses.

By 1900 and fueled by the Gold Rush, Seattle Transfer employed 79 men and 85 horses. In Seattle and the Orient/Souvenir Edition, a 184-page book published by The Seattle Times and sold for 25 cents, the firm elicited praise: “The company has the right – in fact, are the only people in Seattle who have it – of boarding all incoming vessels and trains and soliciting baggage.” With no intended distaste, the book also noted how the firm dispatched the waste of its charges: “All the refuse is carried to the rear of the building and from there dumped into the Sound, the waters of which rise with each succeeding tide.”

Seattle Transfer did garner attention for more savory, constructive deeds. In 1898, when New York Evening Telegram readers balloted with nearly 300,000 coupons to proclaim firefighter F.A. Louis and rail conductor R.C. Dodge “the most popular men in the American metropolis,” their prize was a celebrated trip through Seattle to the Klondike. Seattle Transfer handled their 16 pieces of excess baggage.

One year later, in what The Seattle Times termed “a most peculiar accident,” two horses fell into and were imprisoned for nearly 10 hours inside a sewer excavation at Pike Street and Broadway. Who rode to the rescue with a block and tackle to extricate the steeds? Hi ho, Seattle Transfer!

WEB EXTRAS

For even more great history, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Here, in chronological order, are eight clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Seattle and the Orient/Souvenir Edition that were helpful in the preparation of this column. Click on any clipping to enlarge it. –Clay

Dec. 11, 1895, Seattle Times, page 11
April 27, 1897, Seattle Times, page 2
Feb. 23, 1898, Seattle Times, page 10
May 28, 1899, Seattle Times, page 23 (juxtaposed with “Manhood Restored” ad)
Sept. 17, 1899, Seattle Times, page 5
1900 “Seattle and the Orient” excerpt
April 7, 1904, Seattle Times, page 14
Jan. 30, 1905, Seattle Times, page 12

Anything else to add, gents?

Here’s a few more from the general neighborhood.  Oh have so many more to pull and share – after we complete our first vacation in 38 years.  It is a vacation we hope to survive.

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(ABOVE:  Pouch in Pompei – by Genevieve McCoy)

 

Seattle Now & Then: Tideflats Panorama, 1916

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THEN: What may appear to be a mast atop the foreground boat is actually a sort of crane, says Jim Wheat, president of Ballard-based Captain’s Nautical Supplies. Our thanks also go to Ron Edge for finding this panorama and pinpointing key buildings. (Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: In our rooftop repeat, the 1962 Space Needle, downtown skyline, Port of Seattle cranes and Spokane Street Viaduct add present-day context. Even CenturyLink Field and T-Mobile Park peek out beneath the Smith Tower. In the foreground, instead of bereft docks and scattered pools is the warehouse work of Compton Lumber and Rainier Cold Storage.

(Published in Seattle Times online on May 9, 2019,
and in print on May 12, 2019)

Bolstering a booming city by transforming its landscape
By Clay Eals

For those who may doubt the potential for documentary photography to enter the realm of art, we submit this stunning panorama, looking north toward downtown Seattle in 1916.

Elements of this are expressive, ephemeral, even ethereal. This is in part because two beloved and glowing touchstones of our past – the Smith Tower (far right, completed in 1914 and for decades fondly known as the tallest building west of the Mississippi) and Sears Roebuck Tower (second from right, completed in 1915, becoming the Starbucks Center in 1997) – take a backseat to Seattle’s rapidly evolving industrial backbone on the splayed flats of the lower Duwamish River. It’s a plain that we now call SoDo.

We see no people, but evidence of their existence abounds. The chief subject, barely afloat in the foreground, is a small, sturdy freight boat, which the Webster & Stevens photographer may have showcased to symbolize an even earlier time when seafaring was the primary mode of commerce and connection for a city defined by its water.

Today maritime remains a robust force, competing and collaborating with cars and trucks, trains and planes. But here the lonely vessel stands nearly marooned by the ebbing of the tides and the flow of profiteering that sought to bolster the booming city by transforming its landscape.

What was once a mass of muddy marsh from West Seattle to Beacon Hill was being relentlessly filled in, starting 20 years prior, with the remains of the downtown regrades as well as from the straightening, widening and deepening of Seattle’s only river (named for its native Duwamish tribe) and the creation of Harbor Island. Thus was the city’s typical cloud cover increasingly mixed with plumes of pollution.

Affirmation of this industrial bustle is embodied here by Northern Pacific tracks – one full of cars, the other full of weeds – entering from the southeast, with some tracks curving right (north) to the Stetson & Post lumber mill, marked by sprays of white smoke. The mill had its beginnings in 1874 and relocated from Dearborn Street in 1915 to its East Waterway site. Moving left (west), we also see two massive freight-storage terminals at Hanford and Lander streets.

Moving farther west in this spectacular vista, we see the busy Barton & Company, packer and distributor of “Circle W” mutton, lamb, ham, bacon and byproducts (slogan: “Eat Less, but Eat the Best”).

So why is this ex-swamp called SoDo? The contentious origin, hilariously detailed in Dan Raley’s fine 2010 history book “Tideflats to Tomorrow,” boiled down to geography. It means South of the Dome. What dome? The short-lived Kingdome (1976-2000), on the site of today’s CenturyLink Field. Did we say ephemeral?

WEB EXTRAS

For even more great history, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!

Anything to add, salty dogs?

Absolutely! Here, in chronological order, are seven clippings from the Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that were helpful in the preparation of this column. Click on any clipping to enlarge it. –Clay

Nov. 11, 1912, Seattle Times, page 43
May 11, 1913, Seattle Times, p5
June 30, 1914, Seattle Times, p16
Sept. 20, 1914, Seattle Times, p26
April 18, 1915, Seattle Times, p44
Aug. 15, 1916, Seattle Times, p61
Dec. 24, 1916, Seattle Times, p58

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seattle Now & Then: Fourth and Union, 1942

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Looking north on Fourth Avenue from its intersection with Union Street in 1942. Our thanks to Bob Carney, automobile historian, who indicates that the second car on the right is a 1942 Chrysler, and to Ron Edge, our resident photo maven, for confirming the year. (Paul Dorpat collection)
NOW: Remarkably, most of the generally elegant structures from 1940 survive on both sides of Fourth Avenue between Union and Pike streets in 2019.

In the year 2000, Kodak announced that consumers around the world had shot more than 80 billion photos, setting a record. Yet that record has been exponentially broken. Last year alone, nearly 1.5 trillion photos were taken (some 4 billion per day), mostly on smartphones to share on social media. Our yearly total comprises more than all of the photos taken in the 150 years before this millennium.

As a result, entire categories of photography are disappearing. Itinerant street photographers no longer offer portraits for pennies, wedding shoots are in steep decline, and postcard photographers are few and far between.

Among the photographers featured in this column over the years, J. Boyd Ellis looms large. A former high school principal in Marysville, he bought the Photo Art Studio in 1921 in Arlington, his hometown. For more than 50 years, he and his son Clifford traveled the state, capturing photos of stunning vistas and local curiosities (such as hollowed-out stumps large enough to squeeze through in a Model T) to sell as postcards to tourists and locals. Prolific collector John Cooper, with a stock of more than 5,000 Ellis cards, explains, “No one covered the state like Ellis, because he was no specialist. He went everywhere.”

This week’s “Then” photo, taken in 1942, soon after the United States entered World War II, boasts some of Seattle’s finest mid- to high-rise commercial structures from the city’s boom years of the 1920s. The four-story Great Northern Railway Building (right foreground) and its across-the-street neighbor, the 15-story 1411 Fourth Avenue Building, are Art Deco masterpieces, completed in 1929. Designed by brilliant, eclectic architect Robert Reamer (who also created Lake Quinault Lodge and Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful Inn), they gracefully anchor the Central Business District. The often-glazed terra-cotta-clad buildings include the 10-story Gothic Revival Fourth and Pike Building (1927) at the far end of the block, and the landmarked Joshua Green Building (1913), peeping out just opposite. Keen-eyed readers also will note the “US 99” sign affixed to the lamppost at lower right, evidence that before the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Highway 99 poked along Fourth Avenue.

Standing recently at this vantage, I happily rediscovered this Seattle treasure: a downtown block that had hardly changed over the past 80 years, increasingly rare in our rapidly morphing city. Emphasizing the point, just over my right shoulder (and out-of-frame), at the southeast corner of Fourth and Union, the uniquely “sloping” 58-story Rainier Square Tower is under construction. Upon completion in 2020, it will be the second-tallest building in Seattle. No doubt its visage will be shared many thousands of times in the coming months — and perhaps in a postcard!

WEB EXTRAS

To explore our 360 video view of the same location, click here!

Anything to add, compadres?

Jean, your’s is a splendid essay revealing this elegant block on Fourth Avenue, and Clays’ attentions to last Sunday’s Eastside landmark was sweet as well.  Add to these expository lessons  in fine journalism your arching optics  at the corners we feature and who can resist?  I confess that the Eals and Sherrard additions to these weekly explorations  are welcomed by this ancient mariner who is now more often  resting at the dock by the bay.  Thanks for this new vigor.   There is still so much to cover and uncover and our citizens are everadding to it.   Thank-goodness for the two of you.   May you continue your explorations for at least another 37 years.    Sincerely, Paul Lewis Charles Dorpat

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Seattle Now & Then: North Bend’s ‘Famous’ McGrath’s Cafe, 1948

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In the shadow of likely fire-damaged Rattlesnake Ridge stands the McGrath Café in 1948, in a postcard image likely taken by roving Canadian photographer Tom Johnston. Forty-one years later, Twede’s Café, at the far right (west) end of this block, became one of several local filming sites for the cult TV show “Twin Peaks.” (Paul Dorpat collection)
NOW: Sans neon sign but retaining its Spanish Eclectic design, the McGrath building underwent several ownership changes in recent years, including a notable stint as Boxley’s jazz club. It operates today as the Iron Duck Public House. The Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum has extensive files on the McGrath building and 16 others that make up the North Bend Historic Commercial District, registered by King County in 2000. (Clay Eals)

(Published in Seattle Times online on April 25, 2019,
and in print on April 28, 2019)

‘North Bend’s Famous McGrath’s Cafe’ stopped traffic — or maybe that was the stoplight
By Clay Eals

One way to make yourself famous is to declare yourself to be. That’s not merely a modern maxim. A case in point is this 1948 view looking west toward “North Bend’s Famous McGrath’s Café” along what used to be U.S. Highway 10 through downtown North Bend, 30 miles east of Seattle. This 20-foot-tall neon sign was so massive that it required a rooftop superstructure to keep it in place.

Jack McGrath, an entrepreneur from the Southwest, built his eponymous eatery in 1922, expanding it in 1926 to a second floor with a 45-room hotel that was conceived by the same architects, Bertram Stuart and Arthur Wheatley, who designed the Bergonian (later Mayflower Park) Hotel and Marlborough and Exeter House apartments in Seattle.

McGrath sought both to enthrall locals and captivate the curious who passed through the upper Snoqualmie Valley lumber berg on their way to and from the Cascades.

The canny promoter used ads in the North Bend Post to reassure parents: “Proud to say we have 16 feet of soda fountain with lots of hot water for glass washing … If your daughter or son is dancing at McGrath’s in the evening, we want to assure you that they are in as good environment as when at home.” To reach motorists reading the more regional Seattle Times, McGrath touted delights east of the mountains (“It’s apple blossom time in Wenatchee … Nature puts on its annual show!”) as well as his town (“The Gateway to the Winter Playgrounds”).

The lure of cross-state travel took off, of course, with the early-century advent of the motorcar and the development of an automotive route over Snoqualmie Pass, which had been graded and graveled by 1915, straightened and widened in the 1920s and 1930s and, by 1942, following the 1940 opening of the Mercer Island floating bridge, paved and opened as a four-lane highway.

At the behest of locals insisting on a safe way to cross what became Interstate 90 to get from one side of the town to the other, a traffic signal was installed on July 1, 1965, just to the right of our “then” image, one of only a handful of such vehicle-stoppers along the length of I-90 from Seattle to Boston. Cars regularly jammed up at the light (on one Memorial Day, they stretched 13 miles east of North Bend and endured a two-hour delay) until a bypass opened in 1978 one-half mile southwest of this scene.

The thought of such bottlenecks likely doesn’t occur to most of the tens of thousands of motorists and truck drivers zipping along Interstate 90 and bypassing North Bend today. But it might have put a smile on the face of Jack McGrath.

WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, boys?

Sure. Below are some of the source materials for this  column. It’s fun to see what newspaper ads looked like so long ago. –Clay

Ad from June 29, 1923, North Bend Post
Ad from Sept. 7, 1923, North Bend Post

 

Ad from Dec. 8, 1935, Seattle Times
Ad from April 17, 1941, Seattle Times

 

 

 

 

Ad from Dec. 22, 1943, Seattle Times

 

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The illustrations we looked for are among the thousands that as yet have not made it over from the old Mac to the NEW.   Instead, and with some confessed regrets, we will have to restrain our extras to a few clips that did make it over, ones that brush the sides of the east side on the old Yellowstone Highway that could lead you to Key West and Trinidad and even Moscow.  

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WE INTERUIPT to feature some of MOFA’S Forsaken Art. These are also samples from our Wallingford Carpets Collection.  All our looms are  home made.

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TACOMA WINDOW 1980

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WALLINGFORD GROUND COVER outside MOFA

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CERTIFICATE of MOFA MEMBERSHIP.  (Ron Edge design)

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EASTLAKE OBJECTIFICATION PROTEST, ca. 1976

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Book wins two awards! RSVP to attend AKCHO ceremony April 30 at Northwest African American Museum

Great news: Paul Dorpat’s and Jean Sherrard’s recently released coffee-table book Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred won two awards this month!

The first award is from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (the IPPYs), with a ceremony in Chicago. The second award is from the Association of King County Historical Organizations — and you can join us at the presentation early next week. For details, read on!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
AKCHO Virginia Marie Folkins Award

The Association of King County Historical Associations (AKCHO) has awarded Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred its Virginia Marie Folkins Award for 2019. The award is presented to authors and/or sponsoring organizations of an outstanding historical publication.

The award is to be presented from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, 2019, at the annual AKCHO awards ceremony at the Northwest African American Museum, 2300 S Massachusetts St, Seattle. Doors open at 5 p.m. and galleries will be open for viewing. Light refreshments will be served from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m.

Please RSVP to jromeo@cwb.org or call Judie at 206-465-1798 by Wednesday, April 24, 2019, to attend this free event. See event details, including driving instructions, at our Awards page. We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Independent Publisher Book Awards
Bronze for West-Pacific / Best Regional Non-Fiction

The Independent Publisher Book Awards (known as the IPPYs) has announced that Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred won a 2019 bronze award for the West-Pacific region in the category of Best Regional Non-Fiction. The award was announced at the annual awards ceremony in Chicago.

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Events

So far, as you can see from our Events page, we have completed 30 events since the book’s launch last October, including one on March 27, 2019, at the Washington Athletic Club:

Paul Dorpat chats with Washington Athletic Club members at March 27, 2019, presentation.

All but four of the presentations were videotaped, so if you want to see or re-live any of them, just go to the Events page and click away.

Please know that more events are forthcoming. Presentations are set for Tuesday, May 7, and Tuesday, May 14. For details, see the Events page!

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Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who has helped make Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred such a successful tribute to the public historian who has popularized Seattle history via more than 1,800 columns over 37 years, Paul Dorpat!

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

Seattle Now & Then: The Armory Ablaze, 1962

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Soon after this photo was taken in 1962, a section of the Seattle Armory’s western wall collapsed onto the Alaskan Way Viaduct, punching two holes in the northbound lanes and cracking a support beam. Repairs took several days.
NOW: Immediately north of the view in this photo, the viaduct has been completely demolished.

The Seattle Armory was built in 1908-09 at the north end of the then-nearly new Pike Place Public Market. It was designed to resemble a fort, but like most of America’s community armories after 1900, it battled nothing but the ghosts of the Spanish-American War and the costs of maintaining its many routine community services with meeting halls, public concerts, grand expositions (such as for new cars) and indoor marching drills.

THEN: The Seattle Armory, just after its completion in 1909.

Here, however, the Seattle Armory was in a war for its very survival, partnered with the Alaskan Way Viaduct where the arterial passed a few feet from the armory’s west wall. The faux-fort caught on fire during the early morning of Jan. 7, 1962, when the viaduct was just a child of nine years. The emergency was signaled with an alarm that likely was triggered by a concerned citizen or an excited firebug. (Two months earlier, in similar circumstances, another northwest Market building mysteriously caught fire. Predictably, the neighborhood’s truck farmers and merchants were thinking arson.)

For this week’s 1962 “Then” photo, brave Seattle Times staff photographer Larry Dion looks to the southeast from the then still-admired viaduct. Obviously shaken by the fire and its falling debris, the armory would not recover. It was eventually demolished in 1968, after attempts to preserve it failed. The bricks were sold for salvage to a company that fenced the ruins for their picking. After the fence was removed, an old friend, John Cooper, a local banker who also was a spare-time collector of abandoned or forsaken items such as salvaged bottles, discovered that several rows of dirt-covered bricks had been missed along the building’s south wall. Cooper rescued and employed them for a rustic facade on a home he owned in Shoreline.

Demolition of the Old Armory at Western Avenue and Lenora Street was begun yesterday. The structure has been one of the city’s eyesores since in was damaged heavily by fire January 7, 1962. The cit plans to purchase the site for $206,000 and later sell it for inclusion in the Pike Plaza project. (Courtesy, The Seattle Times)

Jean Sherrard reveals his tactful tactics for finding the prospect of the fire photographer in 1962: “In late March of this year, the Alaskan Way Viaduct was torn down almost to Lenora Street, and the crash and roar of demolition raged behind barriers and chain-link fences. Trying to repeat the ‘Then’ photo of the burning armory, taken from a now-disappearing section of the viaduct, sent me to the waterfront, looking for a comparable vantage point. A colorful lineup of five-story condos and hotels begins at Pine Street and continues north until Bell.

“Perhaps understandably, building managers are reluctant to allow access to their rooftops, but after some shimmy and jive and an appeal to history, I was allowed to clamber freely and snap away. The ‘Now’ photo approximates the same prospect as the ‘Then’ (back 100 feet), with a view of the soon-to-be demolished viaduct just below Market Place One and Two, the commercial structures that stand on the footprint of the old armory. The original steep hillside that confronted Seattle’s earliest settlers still looms above the waterfront.”

WEB EXTRAS

This week, we’re inaugurating a spanking new feature: Seattle Now & Then 360, which includes a 360 degree video of the ‘now’ location, along with a reading of the pertinent column. Enjoy!

Anything to add, lads?  Nahh just a little. You have already added so much JEAN.  I hope the readers are thrilled by your new – sort of – Deux Ex Machine.  I am.

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The Viaduct behind an Acres of Clams Clam Eating Bowl (contest)

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