(Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 12, 2019 and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Dec. 15, 2019)
From 12,000 years ago comes the nudge of native history
By Jean Sherrard
“For at least 12,000 years, the Duwamish people have been living here. They are buried under the streets and the sidewalks and houses of Seattle. Their DNA rises from the roots of the trees and when the wind blows through the leaves, those are the sounds of our ancestors.” – Ken Workman, descendant of Chief Seattle
For our recently published book, “Seattle Now & Then: The Historic Hundred,” we chose 100 subjects from more than 1,800 columns that Paul Dorpat has contributed since he began in 1982. This week’s subject is one of our favorites. Originally appearing in March 2005, we present it afresh and updated with an amended cast of characters.
It features Kikisoblu (c. 1820-1896), eldest daughter of Chief Seattle, leader of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. Catherine Maynard, the second wife of Doc Maynard, renamed her Angeline, and in time she became known as Princess Angeline because of her father’s status and her inherent dignity.
Refusing to be transported across Puget Sound to the Suquamish reservation, she lived for many years in a shack on Seattle’s waterfront. To survive, she worked hard, taking in laundry and selling her handmade baskets to settlers who displaced her people.
She lived in destitution but had her protectors. Late in her life, the Board of King County Commissioners instructed a grocer to give her whatever she needed and to send bills to the county.
For our “Now” photo, we enlisted the aid of two direct descendants of Chief Seattle. Mary Lou Slaughter, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Kikisoblu, is a master cedar weaver whose baskets and traditional clothing are prized for their artistry. Ken Workman, whose great-great-great-great-grandmother was Seattle’s second wife, is a Duwamish tribal council member and eloquent spokesman for his people – in both English and Coast Salish Lushootseed.
Mary Lou brought along several of her creations, including a cape for herself and a vest for Ken. During the 10 minutes we spent shooting the photo, both Clay Eals (column partner and our book’s editor) and I noted that Ken seemed uncomfortable, glancing over his shoulder several times.
Ken recalls: “I felt a couple little pushes on my elbow, as if someone was urging me to get out of the way – I said to myself, ‘Jean, take the picture’ — but when I looked around there was no one there.”
Skeptics may be wary, but Ken regards this insistent prod on his arm as yet another reminder of ancestors present, even in the oxygen we breathe. The nudge of history, I would accede (after pursuing many hundreds of photo repetitions), is strong in these parts and now and then gently urges that we step aside and pause to remember what came before.
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 Jean, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column!
(Published in the Seattle Times online on Dec. 5, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Dec. 8, 2019)
From parties to puns to pies, a Capitol Hill home’s story emerges
By Clay Eals
When I broke into professional newspapering in 1973, the time had long passed when dailies printed details of every party, dance and wedding submitted by high society. Such notices were deemed a frivolous use of precious space needed to cover serious issues.
However, digging today into The Seattle Times’ online archive, I find that social squibs often help reveal the story of a vintage edifice. Case in point: the three-story 1902 Queen Anne that stands at 1421 E. Valley St., one of hundreds of houses anchoring what many consider residential nirvana on the north end of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
It’s clear the abode of Harding and Emma Allan hosted grand gatherings for family and friends. “Miss Mabel Allen entertained at bridge yesterday afternoon,” intoned one item on July 6, 1911. “Six tables were arranged in rooms decorated with a profusion of summer flowers.” The affair was “complimentary to” Mrs. Joseph Hamilton Hillsman, visiting from Atlanta. Eight years later, 40 attended a dance there to honor Miss Ruth Dovell of Berkeley.
From the same address, the Allans made news for other reasons, consequential and otherwise. They lost a son, age 10, in 1909. Helen Allan won 25 cents in 1911 by sending the Times a “Daffydill” pun: “If Lem-on Friday beet tomato’s head lettuce squash his cocoanut.” Five years later, Robert Allan joined 59 others on a grand jury, “the first sitting of an inquisitorial body” since Seattle’s passage of liquor prohibition.
Harding Allan, a contractor for 26 years, died at age 70 in 1928 while erecting the Exeter Apartments at Eighth and Seneca. His widow, Emma, who won third prize in the Times’ 1931 one-crust pie contest, died in 1948 at age 87.
Meanwhile, grandson John Fenton, a naval aviation cadet, merited six blurbs during World War II, including taking “a course in England designed to bridge the gap between training in the States and soldiering in an active theatre of war.” Later residents of the house were involved in a motorcycle wreck in 1952 and a car-bicycle crash in 1956.
These pieces depict a puzzle that is far from complete, but they summon a time when physical addresses were part of public identity. Many such episodes surface in the present day only on Facebook, sans addresses.
“Capitol Hill has not torn down these lovely old houses and built new, modern buildings,” she says. “It’s retained the integrity. It looks just like it would have looked 50 years ago.”
Besides the Dec. 8, 2019, (re)launch party for Jackie Williams’ book (see “Now” caption above), the Capitol Hill Historical Society also invites the public to its third annual Holiday Party at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, at Monique Lofts, 1505 11th Ave. The event is free with $10 suggested donation. To RSVP and learn more details, visit here.
At this event, Tom Heuser and Rob Ketcherside, the organization’s president and vice-president, respectively, will present “Wind of Change: A Photo at the Edge and Beginning of Capitol Hill,” featuring the history of the Allan house at 1421 E. Valley St. with a focus on the structures in the background, particularly the windmill and water tower.
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 three photos of the Allan family from the Capitol Hill Historical Society, two videos and 43 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column. Enjoy!
(Published in the Seattle Times online on Nov. 28, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Dec. 1, 2019)
Keeping their (National) Guard up in downtown Tacoma
By Clay Eals
Those who, like me, are charmed by the hillsides of downtown Tacoma may easily place the setting of our “Then” photo. But the activity bespeaks chaos, not charm.
The image looks west up 11th Street across Pacific Avenue in the late afternoon of Friday, July 12, 1935. Non-union men, desperate for Depression-era work and returning from tideflat lumber mills across the 11th Street Bridge, were confronted by angry hundreds who fueled the famed, summer-long Great Lumber Strike of 1935, a fractious, voluminously documented chapter in state labor history.
To preserve order, Gov. Clarence Martin called in part-time citizen soldiers of the Washington National Guard, who traveled 13 miles north from their Camp Murray headquarters, outfitted with rifles and bayonets and wearing World War I uniforms. Strikers jeered them as “tin hats.”
The photo captures guardsmen deploying tear gas. As thousands watched, a few from behind upper windows, some strikers hurled smoking canisters back at the guardsmen, who wore no masks and faced a stiff easterly wind that blew the acrid chemicals into their eyes. Despite the turmoil, the four-hour uproar produced only a few injuries. No shots were fired. No one died.
The 1935 scene evokes memories of my own – and, I suspect, many others – of a vastly different time and circumstance, when an ill-trained and ill-led Ohio National Guard used tear gas and opened fire during a 1970 anti-war protest at Kent State University, killing four students.
Such infamy, however, does not reside in the track record of this state’s guard, one of 54 such organizations in U.S. states and territories, say authors of a new book. The three – Andy Leneweaver, Rick Patterson and Bill Woodward — embody a combined 96 years of local guard service.
In their plain-titled Washington National Guard, the trio uses 200 photos to spin stories spanning a century and a half. They cover a wide swath of guard service, from protecting Chinese citizens during Seattle’s anti-Chinese riots in 1886 to providing police backup – without using tear gas – during the 1999 World Trade Organization protests, again in Seattle. The photos also depict deeply appreciated disaster relief, such when the fabled 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption enfolded guard soldiers in air and road patrols, search-and-rescue and ash cleanup.
The book does not overlook the guard’s many international military missions, and the authors and their 8,000 peers around the state remain fighters. Their slogan – “always ready, always there” – fits.
“We’re trained to go to war and support the national emergencies,” Patterson says, “but we’re also Washingtonians who care real deeply about our communities. When there’s floods and fires and quakes and volcanoes, we’re ready to jump on board, and we really feel proud about that.”
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!
For hundreds of Seattle, Tacoma and labor newspaper stories about the Great Lumber Strike of 1935, including the incident described above, visit this page of the University of Washington site: “Strikes! Labor History Encyclopedia for the Pacific Northwest.”
Also, below are a 1976 column about the incident, a promotional postcard for the Washington National Guard book and a link to a 27-minute video interview of the book’s authors.
(Published in the Seattle Times online on Nov. 21, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Nov. 24, 2019)
What are the odds? Descendants of 2 Seattle immigrants find family members in the same 1929 photo
By Jean Sherrard
More than 30 years ago, my wife and I disastrously hosted our first Thanksgiving feast meant to introduce Vietnamese neighbors to an American immigrant ritual and roasted our first turkey. Benjamin Franklin’s favored bird, bane of chefs and home cooks alike, often emerges from the oven raw or overdone, but our perfectly basted 14-pounder seemed to achieve a happy medium. As I transferred it from pan to platter, however, a previously unnoticed bag of giblets exploded from the neck cavity. We assured our slightly unnerved friends that this was not part of the traditional fare.
In this week’s “Then” portrait of King Street Station coach yard workers and trains, taken 22 days before the Oct. 24, 1929, stock-market crash that launched the Great Depression, we encounter another particularly American story of arrival, immigration and citizenship. Ninety years later and by coincidence, two Seattle descendants of men portrayed here separately presented us with this rare image.
It began when Casey McNerthney, visiting a postcard and photo exhibition in Portland in April, spotted a panoramic print in a dealer’s booth. Its inscription tallied with his great-grandfather Matt McAlerney’s time at the coach yard. Leaning in to examine the photo more closely, Casey delighted in finding Matt’s face in the crowd. “No way,” he thought. “What are the odds of that?” Casey purchased it on the spot.
Having immigrated to Seattle from County Down in Northern Ireland in 1911, Matt McAlerney soon found work with the Great Northern Railroad. In October 1916, he met Lily Kempson, a young fugitive who had fled Dublin after playing a significant role in the failed Easter Uprising. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple married and had seven children. Matt continued his rail work through two world wars, retiring in the mid-1950s.
Our second serendipitous contributor, 96-year old Emil Martin (originally Martincevic), at an October book event in West Seattle, presented us with the identical photo and pointed out his father, Petar Martincevic. Petar arrived in Seattle in 1910 from Yugoslavia and began work as an air-brake mechanic in the coach yards. He died in 1964 at age 86.
As a boy, Emil came to know his father’s co-workers well. He says they were of “many nationalities including Irish, Yugoslavian, Scandinavian, Italian, Belgian” along with “an unusually large number of White Russians” who fled across Siberia following the 1917 Russian Revolution.
In the proud faces of these immigrant men (and a handful of women), many who left behind strife, political oppression and poverty, this Thanksgiving we salute their hope for better lives in a new world.
For our 360-degree video of the “Now” photo shoot with Jean’s narration, click here!
Casey thoughtfully sent along photo ID’s of each and every participant:
Clay Eals visited Emil Martin, the serendipitous provider of the second copy of our “Then” photo, and snapped this portrait:
To read Emil Martin’s short memoir of his own work at the King Street Station coach yards, click on the embedded page just below. For a much more detailed and fascinating handwritten account of Emil’s life and times, check out this remarkable document he provided. Thanks, Emil!
Emil adds on Nov. 25, 2019: “I would like to make one correction in my reminiscence article. I said the 5 and 10-cent stores were Kress and Rhodes. Rhodes had a department store at the SW corner of 2nd Ave and Pike St. It should have been Kress and Woolworth. Kress was on the SE corner of 3rd and Pike. Woolworth was on the SW corner of 3rd and Pike and was the one with the soda counter, piano music and live birds.”
(Published in the Seattle Times online on Nov. 14, 2019
and in the PacificNW Magazine print edition on Nov. 17, 2019)
A ferry tale with a happy ending for Alki
By Clay Eals
To the dogged and detailed volunteer researcher Phil Hoffman, the idyllic calm of our sunset scene, which looks west from Alki Beach, may be deceptive. Waves ready to roil in the foreground could be a more potent symbol. This, he says, is because while history usually records what happened, “Sometimes what didn’t happen is more important.”
Our “Then” depicts a ferry dock extending into Puget Sound from Alki Avenue north of 64th Avenue Southwest in West Seattle. From there, entrepreneur Harry Crosby’s Direct Line Ferries opened 65-car service to tiny Manchester, east of Port Orchard in south Kitsap County, on April 20, 1925. Thirteen months later, Crosby sold it to Puget Sound Navigation Company, parent of the famed Black Ball Line, whose network represented the last vestiges of the Sound’s fabled “Mosquito Fleet” before it gave way in 1951 to our state ferry system.
Alki to Manchester was the shortest distance between Seattle and the Kitsap mainland, so the new terminal in 1925 exploited the soaring popularity of automobiles by launching countless excursions (85 cents one way for cars) to the tantalizing Olympic Peninsula.
Ads featured exotic illustrations and cartoon maps that likened the waterborne route to a suspension bridge. One even invoked an irresistible pun. “There’s a fairy-land across the blue waters of Puget Sound,” it proclaimed in the May 23, 1930, Seattle Times. “A vacation land unrivaled anywhere in the world. Unspoiled – primitive yet livable and very accessible.”
It was no accident that the Alki-Manchester route, inaugurated in the Roaring Twenties, died amid the Great Depression, on Jan. 13, 1936. The cause was not just a national economic collapse. The line also fell victim to ongoing disputes with marine unions, as well as initiation by the consolidation-minded Black Ball of a new ferry between downtown Seattle and Manchester the previous July.
The West Seattle Commercial Club scurried to promulgate a scheme to convert to a state highway the arterial that circumnavigated Duwamish Head to the closed ferry dock, to no avail. The dock operated as a boathouse for several years and briefly hosted an eatery, Sea Foods First Mate Grill, in 1941. But by 1946, all that remained was its pilings.
Which is fine with Hoffman, who lives 500 feet from the dock site. Though flooded with partyers in the summer, present-day Alki is sleepy, even bucolic most of the year.
“It would be a very different place if that ferry had continued through today,” Hoffman says. “It would be a parking lot. The car would have consumed the land, the natural resources of the beach and the desirable residential aspects of the area.”
Today’s waves of Alki might be murmuring a sigh of relief.
To see Jean Sherrard’s (waterborne) 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!
Also we provide news clippings (scroll down) and present four photos courtesy of Phil Hoffman, who provides this addendum to go with the next three photos:
“Elta and Ernest Weiss operated the First Mate Seafood Grill on the Alki-Manchester ferry dock beginning in 1941. They married in 1940. Elta frequently purchased seafood, at Alki dockside, from local fishers. It is unknown when the restaurant closed, but it is suspected to have closed before 1943.
“Ernest was originally from Michigan and was a machinist. He retired from the machinist position he held at Ederer Engineering Company. Ernest had a reputation as an avid hunter and fisherman.
“Elta was the daughter of a Baptist minister and originally hailed from Gas City, Kansas. She was a member of her high-school championship basketball team. In the years following the Seafood Grill venture, she was a cook for the Seattle School District at Magnolia’s Briarcliff Elementary School. Following her retirement from the School District she took employment, in a similar capacity, with Seattle’s Ballard Hospital.
“The couple was childless and lived in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood. Ernest died in 1981, at age 76, followed by Elta, a year later, at age 73.
“After the above column was published, I was contacted by David Rubbelke with information about Elta and Ernest Weiss. David Rubbelke is the Weisses’ nephew. I deeply appreciate David providing the information and photos that appear here.”
Phil also provides this photo of Harry Crosby:
Below, in chronological order, are 56 clippings from The Seattle Times online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and West Seattle Herald that, among others, were helpful in the preparation of this column.
(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.)
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!
(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.
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!
(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.
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.
(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.”
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!
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!
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.
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.