This week’s view north on Fourth Avenue from Pike Street shines with neon and those by now nostalgic flame-shape municipal light standards that once graced nearly all the streets in the business district and a few beyond it.
Written on the slide with a steady hand is its most important information – except the photographer’s name. “4th and Pike, Night, Kodak 35mm, Ansco Film, 8 f-stop, Dec 22, 1949.” The shutter was left open for 10 seconds, plenty of time for the passing cars to write illuminated lines along both 4th and Westlake with their headlights. With help from the Seattle Public Library’s Seattle Room I found the photographer: Robert D. Bradley.
I was given this slide and several thousand more in 1984 – a quarter century ago! – by my friend Jean Gowey, who was then recently widowed by her husband Lawton. With thanks Lawton’s name has often appeared here as responsible for providing many of the historical photographs I have used through the now 27 years of this feature. Beyond his professional life of keeping books for the Seattle Water Department, Lawton was very good at playing the organ for his Queen Anne neighborhood church and both studying and sharing his love for local history. Hoping that I would make good public use of Lawton’s own color photography tracking the changes in the business district, Jean included them in the gift.
Along with Gowey’s slides came Bradley’s, and like this night shot, most of them are examples of cityscape beginning in the late 1940s and ending with his death in 1973. The largest part of Jean’s gift, Horace Sykes’s thousands of Kodachrome landscapes of the west from the 1940s and early 1950s, have little to do with Seattle but much to do with the human heart. Until his death in 1956 at the age of 70, Sykes was a relentless explorer and a master of picturesque landscapes. Almost certainly, Sykes, Gowey and Bradley were also friends.
I have often used both Gowey and Bradley’s recordings to better understand the modern changes of Seattle. And now at last at 70 I am also exploring the west with the enchanted Horace. I include now directly below an example of a Horace Sykes Kodachrome landscape. Most of his slide are not identified, but that will make more the adventure of studying them – a Sykes Hide and Seek. (For instance I for now speculate that the blow “burning bush” photo is of a scene on the Yakima River.) We intend to eventually give Horace and his art is own picturesque “button” here at dorpatsherrardlomont.
To illustrate the point above about Jean’s street lights reiterating the radiant Christmas star that once the Bon and now Macy’s hangs from its corner at 4th and Pine here’s two snapshots of it by an old friend, Lawton Gowey. (As with the survival of Bon-Macy’s Christmas Star above, I was wrong in this as well, first identifying the two Kodachromes as by Robert Bradley, a friend of Lawton’s too. ) The second also shows the Colonial. The oldish car in the foreground in both belies the year. The original Gowey slides are dated, Dec. 22, 1965. Note that except for the Great Northern RR’s neon goat the transportation being promoted here is by air not rail. Below the two Gowey recordings is Jean standing in the street with his gear and either preparing to take or taking his long exposure photograph of the intersection that appears above with its fortuitous stars.
The almost unique – for Seattle – flatiron block bordered by 4th Ave., Pine St., and Westlake Ave., was formed in 1906 when Westlake was cut through the neighborhood from Pike and 4th to join Westlake at Denny Way. In the below photo the Plaza Hotel, which took that pie-shaped block first, is under construction, and on the left 4th Avenue still climbs the southeast corner of Denny Hill. The photo of the same intersection below this construction scene was recorded in 1908-9, when 4th still climbed the hill.
The area-wide mass transit proposed during the teens was only partially fulfilled here on Westlake with the building of the Century 21 Monorail.
We will conclude this “web extra” with two more postcards. The top one is from 1938 – at least that is how I have marked the date. Besides the fire engines it show both a trackless trolley heading south on 4th and a trolley heading west on its Pine Street tracks. The postcard below it dates from after WW2 and can be compared in detail with Bradley’s Kodachrome slide used at the top.
The whereabouts of Seattle’s first Auto Row is easily figured by counting the locations listed in the 1911 Polk City Directory under the simple heading “Automobiles.” Of the forty-one sellers named, thirty-one are either on Broadway Avenue or Pike Street, with 17 and 14 dealers respectively. “Auto Row,” then, was two rows intersecting.
In 1903 there was but one dealer listing for automobiles, and it was not on Capitol Hill, but on “Bike Row,” or on Second Avenue, near Madison Street. There Fred Harrell’s Cycle Company sold motorcars as an alternative to bikes and trolleys for a very few well heeled customers. Our first auto, a Wood’s Electric, arrived here in the summer of 1900. Another twenty years of improvements in machines and roads were needed for the motorcar to become commonplace following World War One.
The historical scene here is from 1909 when this garage and showroom at the northeast corner of Belmont and Pike was brand new, and owners Arthur Nute and J. Trafton Keena had set their joined initials, “N & K,” in tiles at the top of buildings supporting columns. We may imagine the urge to drive away with one of the luxury Packards twice on display: in the show room and on the street.
A century later luxury cars are still sold at this corner and the dapper and gregarious Phil Smart, standing near the front door, is celebrating both his golden anniversary here with Mercedes, and this September his own 90th birthday as well. “Senior,” Smart’s popular name, is the neighborhood’s good-humored stalwart.
Also this year the Seattle City Council under the leadership of councilman Tom Rasmussen, gave its unanimous decision to designate this now old “Auto Row” neighborhood as a conservation district with incentives to restore or incorporate old buildings, like this one, into future plans.
Phil Smart Senior, affectionately known around the dealership he founded as “Senior”, gamely posed for our repeat, even renting a bowler from Brocklind’s for the occasion. He welcomed me into his office with the genuine charm and affability of a great salesman – in the best sense and perhaps the rarest, that of a man who knows and perhaps fosters a simple truth: it’s not just about the car, it’s about you and me.
He told me about his hero Patton – a rare portrait of whom hangs on his office wall – in whose motorized unit he served during the war, thereby missing the birth of Phil Smart Junior. About his long marriage to his wife and sweetheart. About his forthcoming 9oth birthday, at which I expressed genuine amazement – really, some are blessed with damn fine genes.
Senior still comes into the office several times a week, and he hasn’t lost the touch. During our session for the repeat photo above, wearing the bowler, and leaning casually up against the brick wall, he bantered easily with every passerby, offering them a sweet deal. And as I left, even I felt the pull – and I write as someone who has a built-in resistance to a sales pitch – but I really wanted to buy a car from that man.
The Seattle Sunday Times for Nov. 10, 1918 was packed with wartime stories.This newspaper, like most others, had been preoccupied with the war since the U.S. declared it against “the Huns” (also known as Germans) 19 months earlier.But The Times was also beginning to introduce lighter touches in its war reporting, like quotes this Sunday from a Seattle soldier’s happy letter to his mother about “naughty Parisians” and another about Yankees not fancying the “Pink Teas” with which some Brits attempted to entertain them.
A much greater playfulness was announced early the next morning — not in print but by The Times whistle.Awakened sleepers knew the meaning.The war was over.
The “monster impromptu parade” began when the early shift in the shipyards was let go to celebrate.By ten a.m. thirty thousand shipyard workers, joined clerks, trolley conductors, teachers, doctors, bankers, and bakers in a parade that circled the business district accompanied by sirens, horns, the back-firing explosions of opened mufflers and a percussive orchestra of garbage cans “borrowed” from every alley.
It was an “ecstasy of joy,” an “orderly disorder,” “a spontaneous combustion of Seattle’s heart and soul.” And there were, The Times noted, “autos and trucks crowded with flag-waving pretty girls” like we see here crossing Madison Street southbound on Second Avenue.
This snapshot by grocer Max Loudon is but one of about two hundred captioned photographs included in the new illustrated version of Richard Berner’s local classic “Seattle 1900 – 1920 From Boomtown, Through Urban Turbulence, to Restoration.”The book appears now on dorpatsherrardlomont, the blog-webpage routinely noted at the end of this feature.Take a moment to examine this important part of the “Seattle Canon” and you may read it all.
We are pleased now to introduce Seattle 1900-1920: From Boomtown, Urban Turbulence to Restoration, the first of Richard C. Berner’s three books named together Seattle in the 20th Century.When the details, stories, and insights are explored with a close reading, Berner’s accomplishment is by far our widest opening into Seattle’s twentieth century, the first half of it, from the 1900 to 1950.
Those fifty years were also the second half of Seattle’s first hundred years, if we begin our counting with the footsteps of mid-western farmers settling here in the early 1850s.
Volume one was first published in 1991 by Charles Press, and the publisher – “Rich” Berner himself – made a modest list of its contents on the back cover. We will repeat it. “Politics of Seattle’s urbanization: dynamics of reform, public ownership movement, turbulent industrial relations, effects of wartime hysteria upon newfound civil liberties – all responding to the huge influx of aspiring recruits to the middle class & organized labor as they confronted the established elite. Includes outlines of the economy, cultural scene, public education, population characteristics & ethnic history.” …
The well-windowed Fremont factory surviving here is located on Bowdoin Place a few blocks west of “The Center of the Universe,” the other name for Fremont’s business district at the south end of its namesake bascule bridge.
Here Bulgarian immigrant Peter Ivanoff compared himself with Newton and Edison.(See Ivanoff’s obit at the bottom.) With floors polished smooth enough for ballet and potted plants decorating every lathe, Ivanoff built in his bright factory what he called his Co-Motional Motion Power Engine.His invention, he claimed, could run anything from a wristwatch to an ocean liner.After a minimal assisted start-up, his CMMPE would be forever on its own producing more power than it used.That is, it kept itself running and much more.
Here enters the Outlook, the long-lived newspaper the Stapp family ran out of their Wallingford home.Son Arthur, the paper’s reporter, learned from The Fremont Times, a rival weekly, about Ivanoff’s upcoming April 1, 1931 factory presentation of his machine.An enthusiast for both science and technology, Art attended the opening acting as a potential investor, and in the following day’s Outlook gave Ivanoff’s machine the name the inventor himself was, perhaps, careful not to use.The CMMPE was that impossibility, another “perpetual motion machine.” Stapp warned readers that investors were “april fools.”
But was Ivanoff also the “fake” that Art Stapp called his machine?The Seattle Times picked up the Stapp story; Ivanoff was investigated by the state and audited too.He lost investors and returned to unextraordinary machine work including making parts for Boeing during World War Two.When he died in1946 he left a trust for research into “co-motional power.”Peter Ivanoff, it would seem, was both industrious and a self-deceived true believer.
Darius Kinsey took the photographs used here of Ivanoff’s Fremont factory in 1940. The now-then factory interior repeat above is an “approximation.” You can see the beams in both and the camera’s are aimed in the same direction. That’s it.
Ivanoff died in 1946 and his Seattle Times obituary follows. It gently touches on the perpetual motion episode. It is followed by a short clip on the direction of his estate, in part, to continue his research. Although we have no idea what became of it, $200,000 to continue research in “co-motional power” could be given desk space for quite a long time, although not perpetually.
Probing “greater Seattle” became regular in the 1870s when it was first possible to walk directly through the woods to Lake Union along a narrow gauge railroad bed and also out to Lake Washington by worn and wide paths along Madison and Yesler Way.
Commercial sightseeing arrived in the 1890s with the development of a network of public transportation that reached scenic retreats on the same lakes. The Seattle Electric Company promoted its cable cars and trolleys for both getting places and seeing them.
While it often took a generation for working families to afford motorcars, by 1907, the year this “Seeing Seattle” carrier posed along the new Lake Washington Blvd, all the necessary materials were in place to invest capital in a sightseeing venture that required neither tracks nor propellers. Many streets were graded, some of them paved, tires were better, and powerful chain driven “auto cars” could manage Seattle’s hills.
Probably more than tourists the generally car-less but booming population paid the dollar to take the exhilarating ride. It was not cheap and a souvenir photo was extra. In 1907 a trolley worker made two dollars a day. Of course, during the year of AYPE, 1909, many exploring choices were available, by rail, rubber and rudder. And it has never – during peacetime – stopped.
In 1996 I “instructed” television producer Brian Tracy in the historical sites he hoped recycled amphibious “buses” would soon visit once he got his raucous “Ride the Ducks” tours clapping and singing through the core of this town. Brian is especially proud of the Coast Guard certified Sea Captains that drive his web-footed fleet of dripping ducks. A friend, and sympathetic spouse of one of these talented captains, enlightened me, “Drive a 26,000-pound machine that gets very, very hot and makes incredible noises while trying to avoid traffic and humans swarming all around and oh yes, be hilarious, tell jokes and sing and clap while you are at it! – It is harder than it looks!”
THINGS having to do with SEEING SEATTLE
Unidentified thespians play for a joke that is not explained, circa 1915.
In 1909, the year of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, owning one’s own motorcar was still a rarity. This booth at the Expo allowed persons to have their photographs taken at the wheel. Judging by the several examples that survive, it was an attractive Pay Streak offering.
An advertisement for the Gray Line tour of Seattle during the 1909 AYP. To distinguishes their service they coined the expression “See Seattle With Us.”
The AYP bug or logo is printed on the side of the open-bus above.
The competing Green Line promotes its service with a company history. The ornamental symmetrical design is a water stain. [Thanks to Ron Edge for introducing this piece of ephemera. and not attempting to clean it.]
A safe way to fly over Seattle and its waterfront. The Golden Potlatch, 1911-1913, was Seattle’s first summer festival.
Another way to fly – in Soper’s photo studio.
A photographer’s set designed to parody Seeing Seattle tours, including those run by the local trolley company.
The Seeing Seattle car run by the Seattle Electric Company circa 1908. The pergola does not seem to be yet in place. One of this specially-marked trolley’s destinations was the track that circled Green Lake. It began its return downtown by passing over and under the rustic bridges of Woodland Park. Here it waits for passengers in Pioneer Square.
Here follows a “now and then” from Pacific Northwest Mag. for Dec. 18, 1988. Until I find the negative for the “now” photo and/or until Jean returns to town to repeat the 1932 view, the scan from the Pacific clipping will have to do for a “now.” “Speedway” was then ordinarily used as a general name for the oval tracks with bleachers attached that were used for racing mostly open cockpit motorcars. We will conclude this selection with a piece of Aurora-appropriate ephemera sent by Ron Edge, our generous “Edge Clippings” provider. The use of the term here on Aurora north from Denny Way was, then, more by analogy to those commercial racing urges and tracks.
(Click to Enlarge)
This stretch of new highway was what the Dog House and the Igloo correctly expected would bring them a steady line of customers. Again, the now below is a crude clipping scan from the 1988 repeat I took for the Pacific printing.
Now we have got a up-to-date NOW for the look north on Aurora thru its intersection with Mercer and Broad – before their grades were seperated. David Jeffers send this today and notes, “My two cents are offered here for Paul’s benefit, with apologies to Jean for jumping in with an approximation of the “Now”. Looks like I’m back and down a bit in my angle, but this is a terrifying spot on a weekday afternoon.” This is most welcome and hopefully a sign of what’s to be too. We hope to have more friends like David risking limb to get shots like this one and shots of all sorts. Thanks much David. It is most wonderful how the landscape siding “old dirty” Aurora has grown so since I snapped that “now” in 1988. I am not yet familiar with Facebook but probably should be. David says that this blog is linked to his facebook page. Thanks again David. Here follows the 1988 “main story” on the historical view.
The historical view (top) north from Broad Street on Aurora Avenue was photographed in the first moments of the future strip’s transformation from a neighborhood byway into the city’s first speedway. One clue to the street’s widening is the double row of high poles. Old ones line the avenue’s original curb and new ones signal its new eastern border. Also look at the Sanitary Laundry Co. at the northeast corner of Aurora and Mercer Street (behind the Standard Station on the right). The business has cut away enough of its one-story brick plant to lop the “Sanit” from Sanitary on the laundry’s Mercer Street sign.
A photographer from the city’s Engineering Department recorded this view on the morning of June 10, 1932, nearly five months after the dedication of the Aurora Bridge. The widened Aurora speedway between the bridge and Broad Street was not opened until May 1933. Once opened, the speed limit on Aurora was set at a then-liberal 30 mph. Traffic lights were installed at both Mercer and Broad streets, and a visiting highway expert from Chicago declared the new Aurora “the best express highway in the U.S.” It also soon proved to be one of the most deadly.
By 1937, three years after safety islands were installed to help pedestrians scamper across the widened speedway, the city coroner counted 37deaths on Aurora since the bridge dedication in 1932. Twenty of these were pedestrians, and 11 more were motorists who crashed into these “concrete forts” or “islands of destruction.” For a decade, these well-intentioned but tragically clumsy devices dominated the news on Aurora. In 1944 the city removed those that motorists had not already destroyed.
On April 22, 1953, the city’s traffic engineer confirmed what commuters must have suspected, that this intersection was the busiest in the city. Traffic from the recently completed Alaskan Way Viaduct entered the intersection from both Aurora and Broad. (There was as yet no Battery Street tunnel.) Five years later this congestion was eliminated with the opening of the Broad and Mercer Street underpasses. The Standard gasoline station, on the right, was one of the many business eliminated in this public work.
Now pedestrians can safely pass under Aurora, although many still prefer living dangerously with an occasional scramble across the strip. Since 1973 they have had to also hurdle the “Jersey barrier” — the concrete divider (first developed in New Jersey) that has made the dangerous Aurora somewhat safer for motorists if not for pedestrians.
A more pleasant connotation – than safety island death and/or mutilation – for the speed and convenience of Aurora is registered on the billboard for this mid 1950s Aurora Avenue service station that clung to the eastern slope of Queen Anne Hill and served northbound traffic only. The image was photographed by Roger Dudley, a celebrated name in commercial photography hereabouts for many years. It comes from the collection of my by now old friend Dreamland and Lamar Harrington’s (the band Lamar not the person) own Dan Eskenazi. The clouds are so in line and spaced that they might be all plopped in theatre seats enjoying the presentation of the new Ford Edsel. Note the Edsel’s briefly familiar grill on the right. To aid inspection of the Edsel’s features we drop in her an Ivar’s advertisement from 1957. It seems with the failure of Ivar’s hopes that an atomic submarine would take the place of the ferries on Puget Sound, he turned his affections to the then new Edsel. It has been noted that the new Ford product was a disappointment for many because it was not as great a departure from regular Fords as was generally expected. Still the Edsel did have a curious front end that some remarked resembled a submarine or could be easily imagined diving.
And as promised, this feature is for now concluded with a photograph from Ron Edge carrying its own hand-written caption, “Aurora Speed Bowl, 1934.” [I confess to NOT finding the Aurora Bowl in any of my four city directories for the 1930s. Ron? This might make a good feature for Pacific. Jean?
THEN: The Dog House at 714 Denny Way was strategically placed at the southern terminus for the Aurora Speedway when it was new in the mid-1930s. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archive, Bellevue Community College Branch)
NOW: Near the southwest corner of what some refer to now as Allentown, a new business block has recently replaced what was for many years the site of a strip club. (Photo by Jean Sherrard)
When it became certain that Aurora Avenue would be chosen for the city’s principal speedway north from the business district, the neighborhood around its southern origin at Denny Way began to fill in with automotive enterprise: car parts, gas, beer and hamburgers.
Bob Murray sited his new highway Dog House on the best short block available, on the north side of Denny Way between Aurora, where a driver would soon be allowed to reach speeds of 30 mph, and Dexter Avenue, which was also wide and strait and almost as convenient as Aurora for reaching the new – in 1932 – George Washington AKA Aurora Bridge over the ship canal.
Throughout its length the Aurora speedway profoundly affected not only this neighborhood but also whatever it cut through, like Queen Anne Hill, or flew over and cut through, like Fremont. With the opening of the Aurora cantilever bridge in 1932, northbound traffic switched nearly en masse from the Fremont bascule bridge. Already floundering from the Great Depression Fremon then lost its traffic too.
But not the Dog House. It survived with comfort food, a comforting name and its convenient location. In 1940 it was joined, one block to the west by another eccentric, the Igloo. Together they flourished until their gateway to the Aurora speed way was bypassed in the mid-1950s with the opening of the Battery Street tunnel. “All roads (still) lead to the Dog House” but would you stop? Traffic heading north then through this tunnel-connector between the new – in 1953 – Alaska Way Viaduct on the waterfront and Aurora passed under Denny Way at a speed inconvenient for circling back to either the Dog House or the Igloo.
While the Igloo closed, the Dog House moved nearby to 7th and Bell and survived until the last whiskey was served to the sing-along organist on Jan. 31 1994. It was still a workingman’s and workingwomen’s bar filled with tough sentimentality even on that last night. The bartender’s closing hour instructions are quoted in Floyd Waterson’s historylink reminiscence, article #3472, “It’s time folks – get the X out of my bar. I wanna go home; they quite paying me.”
DOG HOUSE EXTRAS
Here, for your kind canine consideration, we include more dog (and one cat) photos.
Under whitewash and a new roof sign, the Dog House in 1945 with its legal address (Addition – Block – Lot) scrawled above what will be its street address for a few years yet.
Odman’s Fine Foods, 1953
Reuben and Richard Odman moved their namesake “fine food” restaurant into the Dog House once Bob Murray moved out to his new and nearby location on 7th Avenue. Murray made certain that former customers kept with him by lifting a billboard shouting – seen here on the right – “The Dog House has MOVED” with a big arrow pointing towards 7th avenue. From the east the sign blocked any easy view of Odman’s. It must have peeved the brothers. The Odman’s Westernaire Room was one of only thirty-three cocktail lounges listed in the City Director for 1955. This tax photo dates from 1953, and it is clear that the art of taking snapshots for the county assessors office has continued to slip significantly since the late 1930s WPA survey.
Paul’s 2001 repeat
I snapped this repeat of the old Dog House site in 2001, safely from my car, keeping well away from the lure of the posted banner that indicated I could “Make Big $$$, Earn $1,000 or More a Week” while the Déjà vu (which seems to have been there for decades but could not have been) was “contracting entertainers.” Most of the cash promised would have been in very loose change.
It was unseasonably hot during Folklife last Spring, and here are two tired dogs to prove it.
Here – from last fall – is a potential Wallingford instance of pet owner’s abuse by a neighbor’s dog. Copies of this sympathetic and yet anxious flier were posted on power poles requesting that the unnamed owner of an unnamed Wallingford dog living somewhere near 4th Avenue and 43rd Street do the right thing and share the mid-sized nipper’s health history.
Patsy the seal with dog and Ivar
In the late 1930s when Ivar Haglund first opened his waterfront aquarium (Then on pier 3, which was renamed pier 54 during WW2, and this might be a reminder to consult this DSB site’s generously illustrated history of the Seattle Waterfront.) his star baby seal Patsy went moody and refused to feed. As with almost every turn or happenstance in his professional life as a fish monger (both swimming and cooked) Ivar turned the problem into an opportunity for promotion. Here a generous dog owner has pulled his generous dog from her pups for Patsy’s nutrition. Did it work? The answer to that requires more research.
Dog with cat by Sykes
From Dog House to dog in house with a cat. This peaceable kingdom was photographed by Horace Sykes, long-time Magnolia resident and a “master of the picturesque” with his landscape Kodachromes, which we will soon feature on DSB. Horace took this snapshot sometime in the 1940s or early 50s. He rarely either dated or named his subjects. Horace passed in late 1956 at the age of 70. Too young for such an artist and Mutual Insurance Company Inspector – retired.
Another Sykes home view, this time with two dogs and a Christmas Tea – with eggnog or rum – and unidentified friends. Horace’s wife Elizabeth is on the right.
Okanogan parade with dog by Horace Sykes
Another and rare snapshot by Horace perhaps while on an insurance investigation. Typically, he neither named nor dated the scene. But from internal evidence we know that this is the town of Okanogan and that’s the local high school band coming on. To keep to our dog motif, the man in logger’s wear parading nearly alone in the foreground presents, with the help of a dog, his allusion to a real parade commonplace, posts: like marching veterans from local VFW posts and marching bands from posts too. Here his dog carries a sign that reads, “Any Old Post.” And that is brilliant parody on the sometimes smug military variety. The broad rope required to handle this “float” is a nice touch too.
I took an extended pause before choosing this snapshot over another of the once popular Igloo. (That last was written for the Pacific Magazine of March 27, 2005. Here we may show both views of the Igloo, and one of Irene, an Igloo employee, as well.) The view looks north across Aurora Avenue in 1942; a long and prosperous year after construction began on this roadside attraction in the fall of 1940. Unlike the second and sharper view, here the focus is a little soft, indicating perhaps the compromises a taxman must make rushing with his or her camera through the day’s list for needed snapshots of new taxable structures.
The Igloo (actually two igloos with the conventional ice tunnel door between them) was made of steel sheeting, and their texture and “knitting” are evident in the second photo. Also in the 1954 photo two oversized penguins on the roof seem to be running for the “good food” advertised also on the roof. An awning has been attached above the windows with a transforming effect. With the overhanging and circling shades the icehouse resembles two nesting eggs with eyelashes. It is more surreal than Eskimo.
Like its longer-lived neighbor the Dog House, the Igloo was set at the Denny Way gateway to the Aurora Speedway section of the Coast Highway expecting to lure motorists while becoming a Mecca for locals as well. Still the Igloo closed about the time that the Battery Street Tunnel opened in the mid-1950s connecting Aurora with the Alaska Way Viaduct and bypassing Denny Way and the penguins.
Readers interested in some of the humanity attached to this architectural fantasy will enjoy a visit to historylink.org. One delight is Heather MacIntosh’s interview with Irene Wilson who found work and a new family at the Igloo in 1941 after the petite teenager fled a difficult step mom in North Dakota. After this first appeared in 2005 I got a fine letter from Kim Douglas, Irene’s granddaughter.
Here follows most of that letter, and the snapshot of its shy – in some ways – subject, which Kim explains.
I’m writing this as a personal (and rather belated) thank-you to you for your March 27 “Now and Then” article on the Igloo Drive-In. I’ve enjoyed your photos and writings for years, but this one was personal, as you made mention of Irene Wilson and her historylink.org interview; Irene was my grandmother.
Irene passed away in October of 2001, and she’s sorely missed by many…but she was always the same fierce, funny (sometimes inadvertently so!) woman who emerged in her historylink interview profile. I was really delighted to have the opportunity to share her with Seattle again, for a moment.
I’m attaching a photograph we found after her death–Irene in full Igloo uniform! She is, unfortunately, hiding her face, as she continued to do for the next 60 years…
We have a multitude of pictures of Grandma’s hand, or the back of Grandma’s head, or Grandma holding up a hat or a baby to obscure herself. But this is the only one of her in her carhop days that survived…hair-bow, tassled boots, and all.
Thank you again, and best wishes,
The Igloo, the once popular provider of Husky Burgers and ice-cold Boeing Bombers, was a lure to both motorists on Aurora and locals. The older view of it looks north across Denny Way to the block between 6th and Aurora Avenues. It is used courtesy of the Washington State Archive, the Bellevue branch of it where the tax photos are kept. I took the repeat in color but divested it of it for the Times grayscale purposes. The newer view of the Igloo is from 1954, and was recorded from the parking lot. It is used courtesy of the Seattle Public Library. No “now” is included of this later recording.
At the northeast corner of 3rd Ave. and University Street, Alexander Pantages opened this terra-cotta landmark in 1915, a likely date for this view of it during late construction. The tall “Pantages” sign has not yet been attached to the corner. “Benny” Marcus Priteca was a mere 23 when he took on the assignment to design the theatre. He was so admired by Pantages that he created scores more of the “vaudeville king’s” theatres across the continent.
Like this Seattle Pantages, and the surviving Pantages in Tacoma, many of the bigger theatres were fronted with office blocks. Because this was also the anchor for Pantages’ chain of theatres the grand promoter himself took many of these offices facing Third Avenue. By 1926 there were 72 theatres in the Pantages circuit, which meant that traveling stage acts could be contracted for over a year of work and deals could be made.
The standard faire was a mix of vaudeville and film, and some more famous performers like Al Jolson, Buster Keaton, and Sophie Tucker appeared at the Pantages in both, although not at the same time. After the Pantages became the Palomar in 1936 and then owned and operated by John Danz and his Sterling Theatre Company, film continued in a mix with stage acts, and Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Peggy Lee, and a fresh Frank Sinatra climbed to this stage.
The “Singing MC” Jerry Ross managed the Palomar from 1937 to 45, and for more years than those ran a theatrical booking agency out of the 6th floor. By famed restaurateur John Franco’s recounting, four flights down on the second floor a different “bookie” was running “horse book” – or race gambling – during the late depression when pay offs reached as far as the mayor – through the police.
Jerry Ross was MC for the Pantages-Palomar’s “Last Curtain Party” on May 2 1965. The then locally popular Jackie Souders band played for the dancing. A year later the finishing touches were being bolted to the University Properties parking garage that took the place – sort of – of the then merely 50-year-old but lost classy landmark.
Plymouth Congregational Church Twice on University Street
Now follow two former now-then features that appeared first in Pacific Northwest magazine. The first shows Plymouth Congregational Church at the northeast corner of Third and University. It appeared in The Times on August 13, 2000 and gives a thumbnail history of the congregation – well, a clipping from that thumbnail. But it was written for a similar but different photograph of the sanctuary, one which I cannot for the moment uncover in my piles or files. But this later view will do, and it also reveals work progressing on the Federal Building, AKA the Post Office, behind it. So the date is early 20th century, say ca. 1906. We will skip any special “now” shot for this. We have Jean’s for the “lead” story (above) taken on the same corner.
A few other views of this corner follow this first story. Each is briefly captioned. When I can find them we will post two or three slides of the Palomar’s destruction for the building of the parking garage, which is still in place.
The second story is also about the influential downtown Congregationalists, and records a moment during the cornerstone laying of the church at its then new site on 6th Avenue between Seneca and University Streets, where it is still, although in a different “plant.” This feature originally appeared in The Times on May 22, 2005.
The boom in building that followed the city’s “Great Fire” of 1889 was not, of course, limited to the burned district. While the ruins cooled the local economy heated up as the march of immigration into Seattle during the late 1880s quickly broke into a stampede. Although the original sanctuary of the local Congregationalists escaped the fire it was much too small for a congregation multiplying like loaves and fishes. The northeast corner lot at 3rd Avenue and University Street was purchased for a price considerably smaller than the $32,000 got for the sale of the original church site on Second Avenue between Seneca and Spring streets. That pioneer property had been donated 18 years earlier by Seattle pioneers and Plymouth parishioners Arthur and Mary Denny. From the beginning the list of Plymouth’s members was filled with local leaders.
Following the 1889 fire Seattle was well stocked with architects – most of them new in town – searching the ruins for commissions. The Congregationalist’s, however, chose William E. Boone, an architect already responsible for many of the city’s pre-fire landmarks including Henry and Sara Yesler’s mansion also on Third Avenue. About the time he got the job in 1890 Boone formed a partnership with William H. Willcox, who brought with him considerable experience in building churches in the Midwest. Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, of the University of Washington’s School of Architecture, speculates that it may have been the experienced Wilcox who served as primary designer for this soaring brick pile done in the then still popular Gothic Revival style.
The cornerstone for the new church was laid on July 31, 1891. A half year later the The Plymouth Church Herald announced to a congregation, which for the past year had been worshiping nearby in the Armory on Union Street, that although their new church was completed the pews were late in arriving and “inasmuch as the floor of the auditorium slopes, it will not be comfortable to attempt seating it with chairs.” While not elegant the parishioners response to this set back was direct — they shortened the back legs of the church’s chairs so that services in the new sanctuary could begin almost at once.
In 1910 after briefly considering developing their Third Avenue corner with a new combination church, office and business building, the congregation decided to build a new church three blocks east at 6th Avenue. Vaudeville impresario Alexander Pantages purchased the old corner and replaced this church will his namesake theater. As a sign of those booming times, Pantages paid the church $325,000, or a little more than ten times what the Congregationalist’s received 20 years earlier for their original site on Second Avenue.
Here on the Sunday afternoon of July 30, 1911 at the southwest corner of University Street and Sixth Avenue the members of Plymouth Congregational Church are laying the cornerstone for their third sanctuary. A mere three blocks from their second home at the northeast corner of Third and University, Plymouth picked it after Alexander Pantages, the great theatre impresario, made the congregation an offer that was convincing.
In a passage from the 1937 parish history The Path We Came By this scene is described. “The shabby old frame tenements of the neighborhood, gray with dust from regrade steam shovels, must have looked down in amazement at the crowd gathered there that Sunday afternoon, women in silks and enormous beflowered hats, men in their sober best.” From the scene’s evidence, bottom-center, we may add one barefoot boy with his pants rolled up.
While the surrounding tenements were really not so old they were certainly dusty for the lots and streets of this Denny Knoll (not hill) neighborhood were still being scraped with regrades. Less than ten months following this ceremony the completed church was dedicated on Sunday May 12,1912. On Monday an open house featured “music, refreshments and athletics” and also “130 doors – all open.”
Fifty years later Plymouth’s interim senior minister, Dr. Vere Loper, described another dusty scene. “Wrecking equipment has leveled off buildings by the wholesale around us. The new freeway under construction is tearing up the earth in front of us, and the half bock behind us is being cleared for the beautiful IBM Building.” Plymouth’s answer was to stay put and rebuild. Opened in 1967, the new sanctuary was white and gleaming like its neighbor the IBM tower and seemed like a set with it, in part, because the same architectural firm, NBBJ, designed both.