Category Archives: Seattle Now and Then

Seattle Now & Then: In 1952, Terry Pettus

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THEN: Here the square jaw of labor activist Terry Pettus holds steady like a confident variation of Smith Tower rising behind him. Our best guess on the year the photo was taken is 1952. (Paul Dorpat Collection)
NOW: For his “repeat,” Jean reached what was once Seattle’s speakers’ corner before a recent Seahawks game, where a well-plumed bird offered assurance that it was not a demonstrator but rather a dedicated fan. Indeed. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Nov. 7, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Nov. 10, 2019)

Terry Pettus faces second Red Scare at Seattle’s speakers’ corner
By Paul Dorpat

Here — perhaps on a soapbox — stands Terry Pettus.

For a time, after moving to Seattle from Indiana in 1927, Pettus lived in the home of artist Kenneth Callahan. (A Callahan drawing hangs above my desk.)

Pettus was a reporter at newspapers around the state and was Washington’s first member of The Newspaper Guild. He was a member of the Washington Commonwealth Federation, a more “leftist” faction of the Democratic Party energized to end poverty. He joined the Communist Party, but after World War II, such idealism increasingly succumbed to the paranoid preaching of McCarthyism during the nation’s second Red Scare (the first followed World War I).

In our “Then” photo, Pettus and other party members promote a “six-hour day and 30-hour week” (a nice job, if you can get it). Another sign protests the “frame-up [of] Communist Party Leaders.”

This is one of a half-dozen photos snapped of this organized protest held in what for decades served as Seattle’s own speakers’ corner, at Occidental Avenue and Washington Street. I was given these small prints about 40 years ago. One has been dated, perhaps by me, “1952.” The year might be correct. But who took the photos, and who gave the gift?

This photo, and the rest of its cadre, might soon await identification in its new home at Seattle Public Library. The photos will be joined by a few hundred thousand other images I accumulated through a half-century of collecting and studying. (My original Callahan also will find a new home among the ephemera.)

Seattle Mayor Charles Royer declared March 7, 1982, Terry Pettus Day, and in 1985, a year after Pettus died, a small park was named for him on the east side of Lake Union. (There, in the late 1980s, I sometimes wrote outlines for this series of Sunday features.)

WEB EXTRAS

Below, in chronological order, are 13 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, relate to this column. Enjoy!

May 28, 1940, Seattle Times, page 17
Feb. 3, 1944, Seattle Times, page 23
March 5, 1946, Seattle Times, page 14
March 6, 1946, Seattle Times, page 15
Oct. 10, 1952, Seattle Times, page 11
Oct. 29, 1953, Seattle Times, page 4
Jan. 20, 1954, Seattle Times, p4
June 15, 1954, Seattle Times, page 11
Aug. 25, 1958, Seattle Times, page 4
Sept. 4, 1983, Emmett Watson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 22
Jan. 24, 1984, Emmett Watson, Seattle Times, page 9
Oct. 8, 1984, Seattle Times, page 2
Oct. 9, 1984, Emmett Watson, Seattle Times, page 13
Oct. 9, 1984, Emmett Watson, Seattle Times, page 18

Seattle Now & Then: the Maple Leaf water tower, shortly after 1949

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THEN: Our auto informant Bob Carney identifies a 1942 Nash awaiting a fill-up in this photo looking southeast from Northeast 88th Street and Roosevelt Way. Likely taken shortly after 1949, the image features the recently erected Maple Leaf water tank and, to its right, a sliver of the open-air reservoir. (Courtesy the Maple Pub and Seattle Municipal Archives)
NOW: Standing next to popular Cloud City Coffee and in front of the yellowing deciduous leaves of early fall is Donna Hartmann-Miller, who led input of the Maple Leaf Community Council for the design of Maple Leaf Reservoir Park. Pointing to the park’s icon – its illustrated and now-empty water tank – she says, “I like getting the community involved in things. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?” (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Oct. 31, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Nov. 3, 2019)

Empty tank holds a reservoir of affection in Maple Leaf
By Clay Eals

Who doesn’t love a maple tree?

One stood tall and lush in our front yard when I was a child. Its leaves grew to be enormous and green, then yellow and brilliant autumn orange, their sturdy stems becoming curled handles to pick up and twirl. Combing the woods across the street for trees to climb, we kids gravitated to maples. Big branches. No sticky pitch.

Such notably Northwest nuances underlie the fondness bred in residents of Seattle’s Maple Leaf neighborhood, especially for its sizeable symbol: the water tower and now-empty (!) tank at the southeast corner of Northeast 88th Street and Roosevelt Way.

Erected in 1949 to replace two smaller ones built in about 1915, the tank was painted by the city in 1986 with a pleasing pattern of interlocking white maple leaves on a sky-blue background. The adornment followed a national distinction secured by then-Mayor Charles Royer, the naming of Maple Leaf as Neighborhood of the Year over 2,000 other contestants by Nashville-based Neighborhoods USA.

The Seattle Times editorially saluted the honor, appropriating the melody of “Seattle,” the Perry Como hit, with substitute lyrics that included “full of houses, full of trees / full of homespun families / and an absence of yuppies …”

Certainly “yuppies,” a term emerging in the 1980s, were scarce when our “Then” photo was taken, not long after 1949 and looking southeast toward the tank as it presided over an enormous, open-air, ground-level reservoir completed in 1910. The image evinces a nearly rural air, with scattered structures and byway businesses offering garden supplies and gasoline, supplemented by a low billboard for General Tire downtown.

In fact, one could – and still can – stand near the foot of the tank and see downtown, for Maple Leaf, at 446 feet above sea level, is essentially tied with Queen Anne as the third highest hill in Seattle.

The neighborhood’s boundaries, distinct on the sides (Interstate 5 and Lake City Way), are fuzzier south to north (roughly from Northeast 80th to Northgate). But its soul is singular, says Donna Hartmann-Miller, who worked at legendarily friendly Maple Leaf Hardware and for 10 years led the local community council’s shaping of the modern, 16-acre Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, a $55 million project dedicated in 2013 that included covering the reservoir.

Meanwhile, worried that the tank – which held eight million pounds of water 100 feet aloft – would falter in an earthquake, Seattle drained it in 2009. Today, a nearby antenna tower generates city revenue.

Anything but empty is the tank’s imposing civic appeal. “It’s balanced and symmetrical – it’s Americana,” Hartmann-Miller says. “Everybody talks about it with affection.”

Just like, perhaps, a maple leaf.

WEB EXTRAS

The $55 million figure above is a correction. In the column printed in the Nov. 3, 2019, Seattle Times, the incorrect figure of $6 million was used. The park development itself cost $6 million, but the entire project, including covering of the reservoir, cost $55 million.

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 two photos of Maple Leaf Reservoir Park and two  clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column. Enjoy!

The sculpture at Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, symbolizing the use of water from both the Cedar River and Tolt River watersheds. (Clay Eals)
The title and credits for the sculpture at Maple Leaf Reservoir Park, symbolizing the use of water from both the Cedar River and Tolt River watersheds. (Clay Eals)
Jan. 11, 1949, Seattle Times, page 4
Nov. 6, 1964, Seattle Times, page 9

Seattle Now & Then: The Flight to Mars, 1962

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THEN: The Seattle World’s Fair’s Flight to Mars, in a photo taken from the Skyride terminal
ramp in 1962. After its deconstruction in 1996, versions of the ride could be found at the
Burning Man festival in Black Rock City, Nevada, in the early 2000s and, most recently,
in Dallas in 2009.
NOW: We return to “the scene of the crime” with Neal Kosaly-Meyer, who works in visitor services for the Museum of Pop Culture. As a 10-year old, he was an eager repeat rider of the
Flight to Mars. “It was absolutely terrifying,” he recalls with relish.

(Published in the Seattle Times online on Oct. 24, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Oct. 27, 2019)

At Fun Forest, we rode the chill-filled Flight to Mars

By Jean Sherrard

“From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!”

Inspired last summer by that traditional Scottish poem, I asked archivist Ron Edge to send me his scariest photo for a Halloween column. What he forwarded triggered a small avalanche of memories.

In the late 1960s, I and thousands of other student volunteer crossing guards were bused to Seattle Center’s Fun Forest, the then-flourishing amusement park, for a day of unlimited free rides as a reward for our service to local school districts. Arriving on a typically gray morning, my friends and I made a beeline for what we agreed was the best — and most chill-filled — ride: the Flight to Mars.

Leering, gaptoothed gargoyles from space covered the exterior walls, portending further spine tingles and terrors within. As 11-year olds, we were in the Goldilocks zone: too old for trauma, too young to scoff. The  beetle-shaped cars were two-seaters — my best friend Alan and I could scarcely conceive of their future romantic uses — and we clutched the restraining bar as the car lurched forward and clattered through swinging doors into darkness visible.

Lit by black light, sudden, lurid tableaux flared up. Enacted by jerkily primitive animatronics, scenes of murder and mayhem scattered retinal imprints ’round every twist and turn in the tracks. Echoing along the dark corridors, the delighted shouts and screams of otherwise-sober members of the junior safety patrol were punctuated with expletives that would have appalled our elders in broad daylight. Mere minutes later, we emerged, pulses still pounding with adrenal fizz.

The Flight to Mars that we experienced was a second installment of the ride in this week’s “Then” photo, from the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. When the fair ended, the ride was put into storage for several years, until it was rebuilt on the same spot, where it remained a Fun Forest staple for nearly three decades.

Today, the campus of Paul Allen’s Museum of Pop Culture (originally the EMP Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and completed in 2000) encompasses the entire footprint of the Flight to Mars.

In spooky synchronicity, the spirit of the ride might be said to haunt the lower levels of MoPOP. Its current dungeonesque exhibition, “Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film,” sports a labyrinth of scenes that echo and amplify the anxieties of the season.

Happy Halloween!

WEB EXTRAS

A few photos snapped in the dungeon. Neal Kosaly-Meyer kindly volunteered to pose amidst the horrifying tableaux. For our narrated 360-degree video of the occasion, click here.

 

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 Terry-Denny Building in Pioneer Square, 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 1992, 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

(click and click again to enlarge photos)

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