Category Archives: Seattle Now and Then

2009-03-15 Union Station on Gas Cove

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THEN: 1910 construction of the Union Pacific Railroad’s grand depot. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Jean Sherrard has moved a few feet north of the historical photographer’s prospect on 5th Avenue South in order to see the landmark station around the corner an International District Station artifact, on the left.
NOW: Jean Sherrard has moved a few feet north of the historical photographer’s prospect on 5th Avenue South in order to see the landmark station around the corner an International District Station artifact, on the left.

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.

A closer view from the plaza
A closer view from the plaza
Inside Union Station
Union Station's "Great Hall"

For more on Seattle’s Union Station, please see the following related Seattle Now & Thens: “The King Street Gas Yard” (originally from 1993) and “High on Labor” (from 2002)

Seattle Now & Then: Seattle AKA Paramount Theatre Opening Night

(click on photos to enlarge)

THEN: As explained in the accompanying story the cut corner in this search-lighted photo of the “first-nighters” lined up for the March 1, 1928 opening of the Seattle Theatre at 9th and Pine was intended. Courtesy Ron Phillips
THEN: As explained in the accompanying story, the cut corner in this search-lighted photo of the “first-nighters” lined up for the March 1, 1928 opening of the Seattle Theatre at 9th and Pine was intended. Courtesy Ron Phillips
THEN: Again, Jean Sherrard used whatever was available – a ladder and an extension pole - to approach the prospect taken by the Seattle Times photographer in 1928. The theatre’s name was changed to Paramount in 1930.
NOW: Again, Jean Sherrard used whatever was available – a ladder and an extension pole - to approach the prospect taken by the Seattle Times photographer in 1928. The theatre’s name was changed to Paramount in 1930.

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.

An alternate view of that night's Garrison Keillor concert.
Another view from around the corner.

Now & Then Tidbit: When the Paramount was the Seattle Theatre, Wallingford’s Guild 45th was the Paramount.

An early incarnation: The Paramount on 45th
An early incarnation: The Paramount on 45th

For the story behind that name change, please visit this Seattle Now & Then column from January 31, 1993.

Welcome to Lake Union St. Vinnie’s

By Paul Dorpat. Edited by Sally Anderson.

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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.)

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Roman busts on pedestals

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)

2009-03-01 Seattle Now & Then: A View from the Water Tower

THEN: The Volunteer Park water tower was completed in 1907 on Capitol Hill’s highest point in aid the water pressure of its service to the often grand homes of its many nearly new neighbors.  The jogging corner of E. Prospect Street and 15th Avenue E. is near the bottom of the Oakes postcard.  (Historical Photo courtesy Mike Fairley)
THEN: The Volunteer Park water tower was completed in 1907 on Capitol Hill’s highest point in aid of the water pressure of its service to the often grand homes of its many nearly new neighbors. The jogging corner of E. Prospect Street and 15th Avenue E. is near the bottom of the Oakes postcard. (Historical Photo courtesy Mike Fairley)
NOW: In the century since Oakes looked east toward Lake Washington most of the elaborate neighborhood pattern of rooftops has been hidden behind the park’s landscape.
NOW: In the century since Oakes looked east toward Lake Washington most of the elaborate neighborhood pattern of rooftops has been hidden behind the park’s landscape. The slight shadow on the left side is from a portion of the protective iron grill set into the window.

            (click on photos and thumbnails for full size)

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.  wt-itself-lrThe 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,

Through the mesh
Through the grill

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.

South to Rainier
South to Rainier

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.

West to Needle
West to Needle

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)

Holy Names THEN
Holy Names THEN
Holy Names NOW
Holy Names NOW

Please visit our Now & Then archives for the full story on Holy Names

2009-02-22 Seattle Now & Then: Occidental's Tourist Hotel

THEN: The Lebanon aka Jesse George building at Occidental and Main opened with the Occidental Hotel in 1891.  Subsequently the hotel’s name was changed first to the Touraine and then to the Tourist.  The tower could be seen easily from the railroad stations.   It kept the name Tourist until replaced in 1960 with a parking lot.  (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
THEN: The Lebanon aka Jesse George building at Occidental and Main opened with the Occidental Hotel in 1891. Subsequently the hotel’s name was changed first to the Touraine and then to the Tourist. The tower could be seen easily from the railroad stations. It kept the name Tourist until replaced in 1960 with a parking lot. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)
NOW: Jean Sherrard moved in a few feet closer to the northeast corner of Main and Occidental to better show the cars parked where once the landmark hotel sat and also the stylish posts that have closed Occidental between Main and Washington since neighborhood architects Jones and Jones developed Occidental Park for the city in the early 1970s.
NOW: Jean Sherrard moved in a few feet closer to the northeast corner of Main and Occidental to better show the cars parked where once the landmark hotel sat and also the stylish posts that have closed Occidental between Main and Washington since neighborhood architects Jones and Jones developed Occidental Park for the city in the early 1970s.

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.

Now and Then Challenge winner: Alan Stein!

Remember this photo from a couple of weeks ago?

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14th and E Roy!

Well, for those paying attention, historylink’s Alan Stein found the exact spot using GoogleEarth. As promised, we joined Alan for a photo session on site. Here’s a shot of Alan taking his own repeat:

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The house in the upper center left is the same as in the old photo.

Watch this space for more Now and Then Challenges – soon to be a regular feature at DorpatSherrardLomont.

Today's Seattle Now & Then: 'Militia at Main Street'

When these soldiers were photographed, the distinguished Pacific House behind them was nearly new.  Listed as a “commercial block,” it appears in the city’s 1884 birds-eye drawing, although those artist’s renderings were smart to include structures that were only in the planning stage.

The scene looks southwest through the intersection of Main Street and what then was still named Second Avenue (Occidental). The guard may be one of the several militia groups formed in 1884-85 by locals anxious about their boom town filling up with strangers, especially after the transcontinental Northern Pacific was completed late in 1883 and made it much easier to reach Puget Sound.

Or these may be regular soldiers from Fort Vancouver sent here twice: first briefly in November 1885 to prevent action against the about 400 Chinese living for the most part in this neighborhood, and then again in February 1886 to secure the town under martial law.  In between these visits an organized mob – variously rowdy, racist, and resentful – with the help of the city’s chief of police, rounded up the “Celestials” and pushed 197 of them on board one steamship while waiting for another to take away the remainder.

When the courts and local militias intervened, a riot followed one block west of this intersection at First and Main.  One of the mob’s leaders was shot to death. The Governor who again packed the regulars and their rifles north from Vancouver quickly locked the town down.  Some part of them was kept here into August.

A brief reminder: this revelatory story is told beautifully in Murray Morgan’s classic Skid Road, the Seattle history he left with us.

(click to enlarge)

Then: The Pacific House, behind the line-up of white-gloved soldiers, might have survived well into the 20th Century were it not destroyed during Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry
THEN: The Pacific House, behind the line-up of white-gloved soldiers, might have survived well into the 20th Century were it not destroyed during Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Courtesy, MOHAI.
NOW: Completed in 1893, the extremely robust Union Trust Building was one of the first buildings in our most historic neighborhood to be restored by the architect-preservationist Ralph Anderson.  Photo by Jean Sherrard
NOW: Completed in 1893, the extremely robust Union Trust Building was one of the first buildings in our most historic neighborhood to be restored by the architect-preservationist Ralph Anderson. Photo by Jean Sherrard

For a complementary story, looking east on Main from 1st Avenue, please visit this Now & Then from early 2005.

TODAY'S Seattle Now & Then: 'FOODLAND' (2009-02-08)

Scrambling to the classical roof of Interlake School (now the Wallingford Center), a photographer from the old North Central Outlook recorded the intersection where Wallingford Ave. crosses 45th Street with a jog.  Besides a fine depiction of the game circles painted onto the blacktop of the school’s playfield, bottom-right, the photo shows above that across 45th the brand new grocery with a mighty ambitious name: Foodland.

Foodland’s grand opening – a sign is in the window – began on Nov. 17th 1950, with a spotlight and a great orchid give-away: 500 of them. However, not everything was ready including the neon sign on the roof – seen here – and Van de Kamps bakery, which took a few days to move in.   Although still medium-sized, Foodland acted like a super store.  The shelves gleamed with products.  There were 14 feet of self-defrosting food cases and 34 feet of self-service clear-wrapped meat.  You could pick it up, squeeze it, and examine it.   And most fascinating, the doors opened to electric eyes.

By the end of its first prosperous decade the shining new grocery was razed for a parking lot to service a truly “super market” directly behind it with the wonderfully silly name Food Giant.  For 40 years the big red neon block letters spelling FOOD GIANT extended nearly the length of the roof.  It and the Grandma’s Cookies sign on Wallingford’s part of 34th Street were the neighborhood’s principal pop symbols.

When QFC bought the store in the late 1990s and tried to ditch the symbol for its own, a protest from the store’s neighbors brought the compromise we see in Jean Sherrard’s “now.”  By recycling seven of the old signs big letters, a new and blue sign of equal grandeur and iconic appeal took its place.  It named the neighborhood.

(as always, click on the photos to see full size)

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THEN: A look down on Wallingford’s principal business corner in the fall of 1950 (Courtesy Stan Stapp)
NOW: Using his pole Jean reaches lifts his camera higher than Ron Petty’s 18’foot bronze “Animal Storm”, the dark “totem” right-of-center.  It is the sculptor’s celebration of the 28 varieties of animals that can be found in Wallingford.  Across 45th Street is QFC’s landmark Wallingford sign.
NOW: Using his pole, Jean lifts his camera higher than Ron Petty’s 18-foot bronze “Animal Storm”, the dark “totem” just right-of-center. It is the sculptor’s celebration of the 28 varieties of animals that can be found in Wallingford. Across 45th Street is QFC’s landmark Wallingford sign.

More from Jean:
Whenever I use the extension pole to attempt a repeat, I start with a wide angle lens. This allows for a bit more leeway in framing the shot – later, I can adjust and crop to match the ‘Then’ photo in Photoshop. Below is an example of the wider angle image I start with.

Jean's uncropped wide angle of the same scene
Jean's uncropped wide angle view of the same scene. It includes the red walls of the Wallingford Center, far right, now filled with shops & restaurants. The upper floor is now divided into apartments.

Paul goes into great detail:

‘FIRST THERE WAS WALD’S MARKET’

It is now – at this writing early in February 2009 – a decade and a few months (for those doing the calculations, that is a little more than ten years) since Wallingford’s commercial landmark, the supermarket named FOOD GIANT, was sold to QFC not only for a name change but also a polished make over. FOOD GIANT was more “funk and getting on” than polish. For a few – myself not included – it remains hard to imagine Wallingford without its ambitious FOOD GIANT.

Even now it would not be proper to print FOOD GIANT without using all caps. This is in lingering respect for the independent supermarket’s oversized neon sign, with letters that hollered “cornucopia.” Indeed the letters were so large that they are exactly the same size as those in the “Wallingford” sign put up by QFC in its place. As the reader already knows from the story at the top, QFC recycled many of the old letters while, without missing a patriotic step, changing the color of the neon gas from red to blue. To do so was something of a citizen-pressured compromise by the food corporation – surrendering its principal blandishment, the roof top sign, to the neighborhood rather than to itself. But then it is best to get along with even the most willful of those who will buy your meat.

As you also know, before there was the FOOD GIANT there was, briefly, a Foodland. But first there was Wald’s Market.

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Wald's Market, ca 1949

Frank Wald learned to cut his meat in North Dakota. A nasty fall there with a side of beef kept him out of World War II and landed him in Seattle, where he hauled stove oil to gun-emplacement camps at South Park, Sandpoint and Fort Lewis.  It was important to keep the guns warm. But after the war Wald returned to meat and in 1948 opened his market here at the northeast corner of 45th Street and Wallingford Avenue. His sign was about as big as his market, which he stuffed inside a converted residence. In merely two years, he moved the house off the lot and built Foodland.

In this expansion Wald partnered with a Safeway dropout named Leo Haskins and together they quickly opened three more Foodlands, which they soon divided between them. Haskin’s got Wald’s old home site here at the center of Wallingford and in the Jan 26, 1956 issue of the North Central Outlook announced his name change to Food Giant. The rest is pop-art history.

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A neighborhood classic. FOOD GIANT!

Soon Haskins was knocking on the doors of his neighbors. He offered them prices they declined to refuse. The grocer purchased more than half the block in order to expand yet again, and this time into a plant that at least approached the sized of its name. But really the stock inside the beloved GIANT was not nearly so extended as that which would later be shelved by the “invaders” from Quality Foods. Since its take over, QFC has also been sold and perhaps even resold. We stopped counting.

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QFC now with 'WALLINGFORD' sign

The accompanying photos are approximately dated. The view of Wald’s Market must be from the two years, 1948 to 1950, when it was open. The grainy snapshot of the Food Giant I took sometime in the 1980s with Tri-X film. For some reasons we liked the grain.

The first reader who knows car models and can convincingly date this photograph within 16 months wins a free portrait of themselves with the Wallingford Signs behind them, which we see in the third photograph. We will publish it in this blog – with permission, of course.

The one with the Wallingford sign I snapped this afternoon of Feb. 7, 2009.

We will also attach the free portrait prize to anyone – we mean the first dozen persons – who can identify any of those posing in the free groceries promotion near the Food Giant checking stands. We cannot date this one either, although it comes originally from Stan Stapp, the long-time editor of the North Central Outlook. If any of those in the picture step forward we will publish here in our blog a now-then of them standing at the QFC checkout stand and being handed from us a free copy of the weekly tabloid The Wallingford Journal, which we must disclose is free anyway – more the reason to enjoy the ceremony.

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Supermarket sweepstakes: shopper wins free bag of groceries

Finally, we include a portrait of someone who may well be Frank Wald. It accompanied the picture of the market when Stan first loaned them to us. The practice of enclosing the face in a white field was once commonplace for newspapers. Of course, the rest of the photograph was then normally clipped away. Keeping the total photo intact makes the one enclosed in the mask resemble a sinful peasant or puritan being punished in the stocks. We print this to share another side of newspaper production, which all of us know is experiencing its own restrictions.

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Possibly Frank Wald, cropped for the newspaper

A Now & Then Challenge!

Yes, YOU can help us solve a mystery, and be featured in Paul’s column as a Now & Then Maven!

The photo below was taken, Paul guesses, of a Capitol Hill street probably to the east and south of Volunteer Park. He suggests any search begin on 16th & 17th Avenues.

capitol-hill-st-romans-mr If you think you know the spot, drop Jean a line and he’ll come out and snap the repeat with you in the picture.

Visit our SEATTLE NOW & THEN Archive

paul-dorpat
Paul Dorpat, Historian Without Portfolio

Since 1982, Paul has written his popular column for the Seattle Times Sunday magazine.

We will be archiving them here, starting with a handful of more recent contributions and continuing to add more as time and effort permit.  Several elements ensure this will be an intriguing feature of our blog.

First, clicking on the photos will provide viewers with a much larger size than the Times can accommodate.  Delight can be found in the details. Second, we will post our ‘Now’ photos in living color.  Lastly, it allows us to swing the camera around and show wider and alternative shots from different perspectives.

So click onward and enjoy!