Auburn was platted in 1886 and incorporated five years later, but not as Auburn. Rather, the town was named in honor of a Lt. W.A. Slaughter, who in 1855 was slain near here in a battle with Indians during the war then between the settlers and some of the Puget Sound indigene. For obvious reasons the name would be hard to keep. For instance, local wits might meet visitors arriving by train with the greeting “This way to the Slaughter House.” The proprietors of the city’s hotel, the Ohio House, turned queasy imagining the uncomfortable and unprofitable future they seemed guaranteed as Slaughterians.
The community’s arbiters of taste soon proposed a new name taken from the opening line of Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “The Deserted Village.” It goes, “Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain.” When a few old-timers objected to the change, the contraction “Slauburn” was suggested. It was a failure in the art of compromise. So in 1893, Auburn it was and remains. (It may be noted that Kitsap County was also originally named for Lt. Slaughter.)
Here is Auburn’s Main Street looking east from the Northern Pacific Railroad tracks in 1909. Patricia Cosgrove, director of The White River Valley Museum, explains that the historical photo was probably taken from a boxcar. For the centennial repeat Jean Sherrard used both a stepladder and his trusty ten-foot extension pole. [Below this extended caption for the 1909 view we have attached another look down Main Street from some time later. How much later, you can estimate by the cars and other clues – like the signs. Consider it a research challenge. A third photo from this intersection will also be included – once we can find it. Although temporarily misplaced it was, we are confident, photographed on May 22, 1901.]
Cosgrove explains that the date on the banner – “Welcome Aug. 14” – refers to that year’s Auburn Good Old Days. The director of “the best local history museum in the state” (at least as ranked in 2007 by the Washington State Visitor Guide) adds, “Isn’t it nice that it is an even 100 years ago. Note how the flags still have only 46 stars. They don’t show the addition of Arizona and New Mexico to the union in 1912. The photograph also shows Main Street with a packed earth surface. It was paved in 1912.”
This photograph and many others are part of a community canon of images taken by Auburn pioneer Arthur Ballard – a collection that has recently come into the hands of White River Valley Museum, which is now showing them. The exhibit title lists the three historic names for Auburn: “Ilalko, then Slaughter, now Auburn: Historic Photographs of Place by Pioneer Arthur Ballard.” Be aware or, if you prefer, concerned. This exhibit runs only through this coming Sunday April 12, 2009.
Jean Sherrard took his photograph recently while on a museum tour with his family that stopped at Auburn but wound up in Tacoma at the Washington State Historic Museum. There he saw for the first time that museum’s standing exhibit of his own work with “Washington Then and Now.” It was drawn from the book of the same name that Jean and I completed in 2007.
Of all the farming towns in the White/Green River Valley, Auburn was chosen by the Northern Pacific in 1913 to be its “boxcar terminus” where freight trains were “broken down” and rejoined over the 50 miles of track laid there for that purpose. With the 24-stall Roundhouse, or locomotive repair shop, the previously quiet farm town became an often-boisterous division point for the Northern Pacific. Stockyards were added in 1942 and one year later the Army installed a Depot in Auburn as well. Boeing arrived in 1965.
There is really no danger that the dog crossing Belmont Avenue here will be hit by anything. When Major John Millis recorded this photograph one could have put all the motorcars in Seattle on the front lawns of these homes with room to spare. Cars were very rare and carriages only a little less so. One walked or took the trolley.
Another photo from Major John Millis’ album shows the same pile of construction timbers (on the left) resting on the same freshly graded but as yet unpaved Belmont Avenue. It is dated May 1901. This view looks south from Mercer Street. The concrete street curb on the far left is still being built. Although all these stately homes are new, they are also already threatened by a neighborhood trend. In less than twenty years much of this part of Capitol Hill will be rebuilt with apartment houses.
Millis, an engineer officer with the Army Corps, lived in Seattle about five years while he directed construction on Puget Sound’s military fortifications. But forts are not given the loving attention in his album that his home neighborhood receives. This is most fortunate for the hill, for this work of his folding Kodak is early. For instance, in one view looking northwest from the back of his home, probably during its construction, one block away the intersection of Summit Avenue and Mercer Street is still only a crossing of narrow paths. (Jean and I have included that example and several more from Major Millis’ album below.)
By his grandson Walter Millis’ account, the Major graduated from West Point in 1880 at the “top of his class.” By the time he reached Seattle mid-career, he had electrified the Statue of Liberty and “devised a plan that saved New Orleans from a hurricane disaster.”
Here’s looking at the Millis home directly west across Belmont and over the same timbers – we suspect – that show in the primary photo used in the now-then repeat. Most likely the two photographs were taken on the same outing. And note the bonus of all the army corps officer’s notes in the margins. The scribbled “Hotel” in the sky on the far left is pointing in the direction of the grand Denny Hotel (aka Washington Hotel) that then still stood on top of Denny Hill, which would have still been on the southwest horizon in the “fall of 1901.”
It is rare indeed to find photographs of working Carriages on Capitol Hill or any hill. Almost certainly this view was snapped by Major John Millis from his front porch or near it. Walter Millis, of Long Island – the very eastern end of it – gives a caption:
The trio at the carriage are almost certainly my grandmother, Mary Raoul Millis in the center, my Uncle Ralph at the right and the darling little tyke with the long blond ringlets is almost certainly my father, Walter Millis.”
Earlier, the family’s “informant” explained,
Major John Millis (as he then was) was a distinguished officer in the United States Army Corps of Engineers (what some of us around the water on the East Coast shorten to “the Army Corps”). He graduated from West Point in 1880 at the top of his class and was commissioned into the Engineers. (Apparently it was the custom at that time for cadets who did well academically to go into the Engineers.) The Engineers are, of course, responsible for military fortifications and the like but they are also responsible for lakes, rivers, harbors and ports. An early task, when he was still only a Lieutenant was to electrify the Statue of Liberty, which, oddly enough, was quite a big deal. He commanded levees and port facilities; and was responsible for devising a plan that saved New Orleans from a hurricane disaster. At about the midpoint of his career, he was assigned to Seattle to work on military fortifications in the Puget Sound area. For some of the five years he was there, he was accompanied by his wife and two sons, one of them my father. I assume that’s why he wanted the house.”
A MOST UNIQUE STUDY
It would be difficult to overestimate the uniqueness of this panorama snapped into two parts by Major John Millis either from the back of his Capitol Hill home at 523 Belmont or from the back of his homesite before the residence was ready for his family (I’m inclined to think it is the former). The paths that lead out of the bottom of the image have “something to do” with Mercer Street. Mercer between Belmont and Summit has at this point not yet been graded. A good circa date for this is 1900, however, a thorough study of its parts – later – will make a confident date – to the year – almost certainly possible. And, again, it may well be 1900.
That is a Queen Anne Hill horizon, and along its shoreline with Lake Union the timber architecture of the old Westlake Trestle for trolleys, wagons, and pedestrians is evident. Some of the Fremont neighborhood shows far right on the distant north shore of Lake Union. Some of the details in this panorama may be detected in another photograph by Millis that he took later, also from the back of his property or home. We shall include that view next. (On some distant weekend I will try to convince the Pacific Northwest Editors – bless them – to let us run this comparison in the Times Sunday magazine, and with a “now” photo by Jean. One of those will do.)
As promised, on the left, part of the Millis panorama shown directly above, and on the right, the neighborhood grown some and Queen Anne Hill too. In the foreground several more homes are evident. Summit Avenue is graded, although not yet paved, and graced with its own sidewalks.
The house that shows in part on the far left of the older view (also on the left) was – we can now see by consulting the later view on the right – at the northwest corner of Mercer and Summit. You won’t find it there now, however. A few of the structures that show up in the about a dozen Capitol Hill snapshots in the Major Millis picture album do survive. (We will include at the bottom a challenge for one of these we have not yet identified.)
Note how Taylor Avenue has been recently graded up the east side of Queen Anne Hill in the later view on the right. Between 1900 and 1910 the population of Seattle grew from about 90 thousand to about 230 thousand, and the differences here are evidence for that growth. Millis, of course, had to record both these views during his about five years in Seattle at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Finally, thanks again to Rob Millis and his father Walter Millis for sharing these scenes, which we copied from a family album.
ANOTHER MYSTERY PHOTO CHALLENGE
But we haven’t tried. So your turn first. This is one of the dozen or so Capitol Hill (almost certainly) views that are included in Major John Millis’ photo album – a subject from his about five years in Seattle at the very beginning of the 20th Century. But this one is dated by Millis himself. At the bottom he has penciled, “May 1901.” But where is it? Tell us and Jean will shoot a “now” and repeat it here compliments of you. This may be easier than we think.
Here’s another mystery shot from the Major.
Reader Ken comments:
Spectacular rare photos of old Capitol Hill. What a find. I have lived in this block for several years. There used to be 6 houses total on the west side of Belmont. This scene only shows 4 (the large white house 2nd from the left is actually on the south side of Republican. Two more are to be built at each end of the block. Note in the second photo of the Millis house, the north house (corner of Mercer and Belmont) has been built. I don’t think the timbers in the street are the same ones, as these two photos must have been taken months apart.
A couple more observations: In the first photo the dark house on the far left I believe is still standing. Could the small trees newly planted in the west parking strip be the same giant sycamores that are still there? Also, note how back in those days paving the sidewalk was a priority over paving the street. Now it is just the opposite. The curbs are still original I am sure.
I’m holding onto my timbers. I have another photo by Millis that looks north on Belmont towards the Millis family home site but for that moment sans his home. However, the two homes to either side of the future Millis home are in the picture. This includes to the south that handsome structure with the steep roof and to the north – whopee! – the home on the corner. So although that home does not show up in the primary then-now photos we put down, it is there and so, no doubt, just off the frame/format to the right. Odd thing is – and here my perception agrees with yours – that in the photo that looks west across the timbers in the street and to the Millis home and that also shows the home on the corner, it does not seem possible that given the relatively little space between the two homes – the Millis and the corner home – that it should not also show up in the principal photo. And hence you may have concluded that those timbers could not be the same otherwise they would have rested there through the entire construction of the corner home. This was also my conclusion when I was fumbling through the album – until – until I came upon the other photo that I have just described above (and it now printed just below this ramble.) Pity I cannot [but now I can] show it to you but I do not feel confident in trying to insert it, and Jean who is away producing a play at Hillside School will need to do it this evening when he returns to his Green Lake home. So for this moment please trust me [Or better now look for yourself], but not for longer than one day [or rather only as long as it takes to dip your head.] Jean should get that evidence up tonight. [And he has.] I’ll also send him a semi-crude snapshot I took of a detail of that block from a 1912 real estate map. In that detail I have saturated (made more dense and brilliant too) the color (yellow) of the six houses on the block as well as the one across Republican on the southwest corner of Republican and Belmont so that they will stand out. In the footprints of those homes the one on the southwest corner of Belmont and Mercer – again the neighbor of the Millis home to the north – does not reach as close to the sidewalk on Belmont, and there is another reason why it has a chance of escaping direct inclusion in the photo we primarily wrote about. By the way we will want to repeat that ca.1900 pan from the Millis site west to the Queen Anne horizon and will need to get into an apartment in the northerly most of those two big ones. I don’t think it is the Lamplighter. That is the southerly one. Do you know the manager? Or the name? … of the apartment house.
In 1931 the city decided to put things straight – sort of – on Capitol Hill by not only “broadening Broadway” but by pivoting it too. Broadway Ave. got narrow north of Thomas Street and for most of the four blocks between Thomas and Roy Street it also turned a degree or two to the east.
The four-block straightening was a fussy bow to neatness. You can still study it in the irregular widths of the sidewalks that face those buildings on the west side of Broadway that were not pivoted with the avenue. However, the widening of the neighborhood’s principal commercial street made some sense, although many buildings on the east side of Broadway, like the brick store fronts shown here, had to be moved several feet east. But not Pilgrim Congregational Church.
The sanctuary, shown here at the northeast corner of Broadway and Republican, was built in 1906 on a narrow swamp long appreciated for its vocal ensemble of frogs before its chorus of Christians. The front yard was called the church’s “sunken garden.” It still sinks although since the avenue’s 1931 widening the garden is smaller. (Later the top of the church’s tower was removed after it was twisted by the 1949 earthquake.)
In 1906 the neighborhood around the church was filling at first with mostly single-family residences. Pilgrim got started in the 1880s as a Sunday school. By 1931 the broadening Broadway was faced by shops and the neighborhood was known for its apartment buildings, homes for couples that were often childless and/or secular.
A Rev. Dr. Edward Lincoln Smith was hired to help develop Pilgrim into the 20th Century as a place of worship. Perhaps it was not fair for a doctor of theology to then also enter a contest meant to extol the sublime qualities of the neighborhood where he was building a congregation. But that is was Smith did, and he won. Mixing church and real state his victory was announced in an Oct, 1901 advertisement by super-developer and contest originator James Moore who was rapidly opening his Capitol Hill additions south and east of Volunteer Park and thereby naming the entire neighborhood.
Smith wrote in part, “The charms of no other district are so abundant with riches. From this eminence, what is left in view to be desired?” The clergyman was more likely writing from the tower than from the garden.
(For more on the broadening of Broadway, see one of Paul’s earliest columns from March 11, 1984. Just click here)
For the historical construction scene a staff photographer from Webster and Stevens (the studio that the Seattle Times contracted early in the 20th Century to do much of the paper’s photography) stands on a then Fifth Avenue S. trestle a few feet south of King Street to record this work-in-progress on the Union Station, the second of the big “palace stations” built facing Jackson Street and the business district.
The steel supports for the vaulted roof are being set. The waiting lobby below it – what is now called the “Great Hall” – gave Union Pacific and Milwaukee road riders a sublime welcome and/or good bye. At its peak, the Washington-Oregon Station (its other name) employed more than 100 men in the baggage room providing for the almost 40 daily train arrivals and departures.
The station was built in 1910-11 at the corner of the reclaimed tideflats close to what would become the International District, or Chinatown. Because of this location the site was a tidal collector and one of the most polluted parts of the waterfront. Had the photographer stood here three years earlier she or he would have look into the sprawling gas manufacturing plant that then still filled this pit, which was sometimes called Gas Cove. (In 1907 the gas makers moved to Wallingford – Gas Works Park – and lower Queen Anne – the “Blue Flame Building” – to open the cove for the coming railroad.)
Standing on the same spot 29 years earlier anyone would have felt the commotion of the trains loaded with coal charging directly through this scene over a trestle and under full steam to carry them up and on to the oversized King Street wharf where California colliers lined up waiting for the coals of Newcastle and Renton.
Now much of the old cleaned-up cove between 5th Avenue and Union Station is covered with a patio, which itself only partly covers the open-air International District Station. This is the southern terminus for the Downtown Transit Tunnel, and soon Sound Transit Central Link light rail trains will be stopping here as well. A century ago the Union Pacific Railroad still had plans to continue north from here with their own tunnel beneath the city.
Some of the changes here – by no means all – in the 27 years I have now scribbled this weekly feature have made me nostalgic for lost places and – well – pleasures. But much is also the better for it – much better. Ida Coles restoration of the Paramount Theatre is a fine example.
Another improvement is the community of scholars that has grown up in the interval to often write about heritage. The creative – but not closed – circle at the by now familiar web encyclopedia called historylink is the most obvious example. But there are many others, and I’ll use the apparent mutilation of this photograph of the Seattle Theatre on its opening night in 1928 as a way to introduce one of them: David Jeffers. Jeffers is an impassioned and by now very knowledgeable student of local theatre history. His interest in the era of silent films is such that he helps in the exhibition of them, sometimes here at what has long since been renamed the Paramount Theatre.
Ron Phillips, Seattle Symphony’s now deceased legend of the clarinet, first shared with me this fragment of a photograph. He had both played and lived at the Paramount. (David Jeffers also once lived there.) With a lamentation about its torn condition attached, I sent a copy of the photograph to Jeffers.
Jeffers soon answered that the “tear” was really a “designer cut.” The photo was used in The Seattle Times’ review of the joyful grand opening. There the “black hole,” upper-left, is artfully filled with a news photograph of uncomfortable mayoral contestants Mayor Bertha Landes and her challenger Frank B. Edwards purchasing the first tickets to the grand opening. Almost certainly they did not sit together.
For a delightful description of the Seattle/Paramount Theatre history – including details on this opening night – you might start by reading theatre historian Eric L. Flom’s historylink essay. Postscript: Edwards beat Landes out of a second term. Three years later he was impeached.
Now & Then Tidbit: When the Paramount was the Seattle Theatre, Wallingford’s Guild 45th was the Paramount.
While certainly welcoming, perhaps broader meanings for this sign come from within. It reads: “DOORS Take a Look! Prices to Please!” and hangs beside a ceramic grouping of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. I was of a habit to silently continue: “Please remember, I am the way, the truth, and the light.” Or: “Please knock and it shall be open unto you.” Or both.
The friendly if surreal tableau was a fixture at St. Vincent De Paul on Fairview Avenue along the southeast shore of Lake Union. It was propped overhead on beams and set about halfway down the “Grand Boulevard” on the left side. If you ignored the arrow and took a sharp left instead, eventually, if you watched your head and kept going, you might reach a curtained inner sanctum in which were kept the damaged statues. (The pictured group of busts on pedestals printed here is a simulation only.)
I have recently recovered – stumbled upon – Kodachrome slides of the sign with John and Jesus, as well as four other St. Vinnie’s details from a 1967 visit. I’ll use them now to reflect on the pleasures and past uses of one fondly remembered thrift store.
It may also be well-timed. Some of us – but not all – are now more likely to need a discount and ready to also “use the used,” which is to recycle other people’s stuff. Sadly, this fountain of surplus value – Our St. Vinnie’s by the Lake, which was one of the best – is long gone, replaced by yet another bistro…..(click to continue)
In 1908, some weeks before Holy Names Academy was completed on Capitol Hill, M. L. Oakes, then one of Seattle’s more prolific “real photo” postcard photographers took this distant view of the school from the water department’s nearly new Volunteer Park tower or standpipe. The Academy’s dome tower is still without its topping cross, and scaffolding for the stone work on part of the front (west) façade is also in place, although difficult to make out at this size.
Practically all these architecturally diverse homes between the park and the school are new or nearly new. Most of them also survive as landmarks homes of English Cottage, Bungalow, Tudor Revival, Classic Box and other styles. Parts of three of the six Capitol Hill Additions that Seattle’s then super-builder James Moore first developed in 1901 – when he also named the hill – are included in Oakes’ postcard,
Oakes scaled the standpipe to its observatory by the protected stairway that winds between the tower’s steel tank and its clinker brick skin, as did Jean Sherrard for his repeat 101 years later.
Jean notes, “It had been several years since I’d climbed the water tower. After completing its 106 clanging steel steps one is rewarded with enchanting views through the sixteen windows that encircle the observatory. They attract locals and visitors alike.
On a chilly sunny Sunday, I competed for prime spots in front of the arched iron-grills, which both interrupt suicides and make wide-angle photography a challenge. The lush trees that surround the tower, I imagine, have been sensitively pruned to reveal the horizon.”
Another reward for following Oakes and Sherrard is the Olmsted Interpretive Exhibit that adorns the red brick interior walls of the tower’s observatory.
It provides an illustrated “overview” of Seattle parks’ Olmstead Bros legacy.
(Below, a close-up of Holy Names Academy then and now)
With six red brick stories and a corner tower to lend it some picturesque power, architect Elmer Fisher’s creation at the northeast corner of Occidental Avenue and Main Street was but one of the some fifty buildings he designed and built in 1889 and 1890. More than any other architect, Fisher determined what Seattle would look like after its “Great Fire” of 1889, in part because he was already in Seattle getting work before the business district was destroyed. And that – any honest professional will whisper – was great “architect’s luck.”
Now I ask readers to think or look back to last week’s presentation of one of the best examples of the old pre-fire Seattle: the Pacific Block ca. 1886. It was kitty-corner to this Occidental Hotel – at the southwest corner here at Main and Occidental. A likely date for this Frank LaRoche study of the Occidental Hotel, AKA Lebanon Building, is only five years later. The hotel was built on the fire’s ashes and completed in 1891. Here its namesake bar at the corner is as not yet marked with its own sign. It also seems that windows are still being installed on the Main Street façade, far right.
When new, the Lebanon Building was also named for Jesse George, a German-American investment banker who was one of its owners. Much earlier Jesse met his wife Cassandra at Santiam Academy in Lebanon, Oregon, and hence the name. The couple had five children and a home at 4th and Cherry on a lot that is now part of city hall. With Jesse’s death in 1895, Cassandra moved temporarily back to Oregon where she became superintendent of the Portland Women’s Union. Then in 1902 she returned to Seattle and opened a rooming house for working girls in her old home at 411 Cherry.
The 13-year-old Cassandra came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and arrived in the Willamette Valley with one sister, one horse, one cow and two teenage boys. The sisters’ mother died before they left and their father along the way.