Category Archives: Seattle Now and Then

The Gainsborough

Most often we choose to retrieve these older now-then features when they dove tale by theme or location with a story that appears now – on a contemporary Sunday – in Pacific Northwest Magazine.  In the past two weeks – or so – we have included three features that relate to the main intersection of First Hill, which is where Boren Avenue and Madison Avenue cross.  We have given touchstone descriptions of the Perry Hotel, the Carkeek Mansion, the Seattle Tennis Club and we also included with the last a second glimpse of the Stacy Mansion and the University Club.  We will visit those again, but later.  Nearby is a high-rise neighbor to these big First Hill homes, the elegant Gainsborough.


Built for class the high-rise apartment at 1017 Minor Avenue on First Hill was named after the English King George III’s favorite painter, Thomas Gainsborough.  As a witness to the place’s status, Colin Radford, president of the Gainsborough Investment Co. that built it, was also the new apartments’ first live-in manager.  And the apartments were large, four to a floor, fifty in all including Radford’s (if I have counted correctly).  What the developer-manager could not see coming when his distinguished apartment house was being built and taking applications was the “Great Depression.”

The Gainsborough was completed in 1930 a few months after the economic crash of late 1929.   This timing was almost commonplace for the building boom of the late 1920s continued well into the early 1930s.   The quality of these apartments meant that the Gainsborough’s affluent residents were not going to wind up in any 1930s  “alternative housing” like the shacks of “Hooverville” although the “up and in” residents in the new apartment’s highest floors could probably see some of those improvised homes “down and out” on the tideflats south of King Street. (We intend to soon post some of our features on Hooverville, in celebration of these apparently, by comparison for most, more mildly deprived times.)

Through its first 78 years the Gainsborough has been home to members of Seattle families whom might well have lived earlier in one of the many mansions on First Hill. Two examples: Ethel Hoge moved from Sunnycrest, her home in the Highlands, to the Gainsborough after her husband, the banker James Doster Hoge, died in 1929.  Before their marriage in 1894 Ethel lived with her parents on the hill near Terry and Marion.  Eleven years ago (in 1998 if memory serves) the philanthropist-activist Patsy Collins summoned Walt Crowley and I to the Gainsborough.  After explaining to her our hopes for she gave us the seed money to launch the site that year.  Earlier Patsy was instrumental in preserving the Stimson-Green mansion, also on Minor Avenue, a home that her grandparents, the C.D. Stimsons, built in 1900. (Most likely – according to our nurtured habit – we will soon post our feature from a few years past on the Stimson-Green mansion.)


Then Caption:  The Gainsborough at 1017 Minor Avenue was one of large   handful of distinguished apartment buildings built or planned in the late 1920s.  The picture was given courtesy of Michael Maslan.  Well preserved, the elegant Gainsborough continues to distinguish the First Hill neighborhood. (The now photo was taken by Jean of this blog-webpage.)

Perry Hotel Postcards from John Cooper

John Cooper, our friend and often source for historical imagery for one project or another, on reading the recent posting here on the Perry Hotel sent along a few hand-colored postcards, mostly of its sumptuous interior.  (click twice – not once – to enlarge.)


The next three postcards from John are concluded with a general  exterior view that was most likely rendered before the building was completed and available to be photographed.   Note the caption at the top of the last postcard.  It reads, in part, “Only families and children admitted.”   Well beyond childhood, the then barely nascent airplane manufacturer, William Boeing, was one of the Perry’s early residents.  We learned this from historian Paul Spitzer, one of whose keen interests is Boeing History having been years past the company’s historian-archivist.


Finally – for now – John Cooper also brought by a snapshot he took perhaps ten years ago of a sign promoting the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart’s first plans for developing their razed Perry Hotel/Columbia Hospital plant.  I remember this well.  The promotional company hired to market these “Luxury Apartment Homes” enlisted me to help them do some neighborhood selling by scheduling me to give a lecture on First Hill history to prospective luxury buyers and thereby also to help me pay the mortgage on my non-luxury but comfortable Forsaken Art House in Wallingford.  It never happened, for the project fell through for want, it would seem, of luxury buyers.  The sisters second plans – now in place – involved a much greater component of non-luxury living.


John Cooper has sent along yet another view of the Perry Hotel, this time as the Columbus Hospital.  John is almost certainly the greatest collector hereabouts of the thousands of postcards produced by Ellis, an Arlington based photographer who criss-crossed the state many times over several decades recording landmarks of every sort.   This view – judging from the motorcars in it – dates from about 1950.  I was then 12 years old and knew every model and how they differed from the year before, but by the time I was sixteen I lost interest in car designs and bodies by Fisher or whomever and  I have long since forgotten these distinctions.  So perhaps some reader who has retained a senstivity for all this will come up with a date.  John Cooper has learned the Ellis is not reliable, using the same number more than once and in different years.


First Hill Tennis & Cracked Crab


[As ever, CLICK to ENLARGE – and then click again.]

Every summer the Olympic Tennis Club on First Hill would stage a grand tennis tournament between its men members. But on the contest’s opening day in July 1895, the net crowd was able for the first time to watch women in a skilled volley.

An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer predicted, “What is likely to prove the most successful, as it certainly is the largest, tennis tournament ever held in the Northwest began yesterday noon on the grounds of the Olympic Tennis Club at the corner of 12th Avenue (now Minor Avenue) and Madison Street . . . The crowd was of the right sort and the number of pretty girls in summer costume did much to stimulate the spirit with which the matches were played.” [Does any reader have any clear understanding of what is meant by this “stimulate the spirit with which the matches were played?”] This was the club’s fifth year of tournament play on its clay courts behind the Martin and Elizabeth Van Buren Stacy Mansion on Madison. But 1895 was the first time “pretty girls” took to the courts themselves in singles and doubles matches.


The historical photo of a women’s doubles play is one of two 1895 tournament scenes recently uncovered by the local collector Michael Maslan in a First Hill family album.  (Well not so recently.  This was first printed in the Times nearly a quarter-century ago on August 18, 1985.)  We include them both here: the women’s doubles above and the men’s singles below.  (That’s the Carkeek mansion on the left with the tower at the southeast corner of Madison and Boren.)


If this is the women’s doubles championship match, then the winners, Miss Anderson and Miss Known of Tacoma, will defeat Miss Riley and Miss Gazzam of Seattle and win a pair of silver scissors with a thimble in a case as well as a cut-glass silver-mounted ink stand.  (Are they now more likely to get something crass, like cash?)

The clubs courts were located behind the Stacy mansion and on what has more recently been developed for super-sizing and French frying.  This is the parking lot for First Hill food that is never cracked crab.  I have taken slides of this McDonalds lot three times, I think, but I have failed to mark the date on this one.  I believe that Jean has also visited this place and not to eat, and if I am correct in this he’ll soon date his recording and post it beside this undated shot.  Perhaps some reader with a special sensitivity to motorcar models will by studying the several examples in this lot be able to determine the year. Unfortunately, the photograph is not sharp enough to read the date on a license plate.  [Remember, click to enlarge.]


The following year, 1896, the Olympic Tennis Cub changed its name to the Seattle Tennis Club. In 1903 the crowded club built additional courts up Madison Street at Summit Avenue, and in 1919 it migrated far up Madison to its new and present home on the shores of Lake Washington.


The Stacy Mansion – seen here looking kitty-corner across Madison and Boren and to the northeast – is preserved at the northeast corner of Madison and Boren. It is one of the few remaining remnants of the old and often elegant wealth that was once First Hill society. For more than a century it has been the home of the University Club for men. The members all have some association to the University of Washington or its several boards or extra-academic enterprises.  Many years ago I was invited into this sanctum as the evening’s speaker for an annual membership banquet.  Every table was crowded for a crab feast and the members and their wives were all fitted with billowing bibs of such size that a stranger entering that dining room and not knowing what was being served might have wondered for a moment if they had stumbled by mistake into a maternity ward. This was not likely to happen for it would be hard for a stranger to get into that club. At the “speakers table” and directly across from me sat Charles E. Odegaard – someone certainly related to the University.  Odegaard crack crab with the rest of us. After the comforting and filling dinner the lights were lowered, I began my slide-illustrated talk on First Hill history and the former president of the University of Washington promptly went to sleep.  I have had this effect on other occasions; still I take strength in the confidence that most stay awake, and a few even ask questions.   (Of course my “now” view of the University Club was a “while” ago.  It is also unmarked, and for the moment I cannot date it.)


Seattle Now & Then: Pier 56 Visitor, 1911

(Please click to enlarge)

THEN: The S. S. Suveric makes a rare visit to Seattle in 1911.  (Historical photo courtesy of Jim Westall)
THEN: The S. S. Suveric makes a rare visit to Seattle in 1911. (Historical photo courtesy of Jim Westall)
NOW: When most maritime work moved south of King Street to the reclaimed tidelands Seattle’s Central Waterfront turned to play and tourism.  At the foot of Seneca Street this features at one time or another Bob Campbell’s Harbor Tours, the Seattle Marine Aquarium briefly with NAMU, Trident Imports and now the flotilla of Good Time Waterfront Tour boats.
NOW: When most maritime work moved south of King Street to the reclaimed tidelands Seattle’s Central Waterfront turned to play and tourism. At the foot of Seneca Street this featured at one time or another Bob Campbell’s Harbor Tours, the Seattle Marine Aquarium briefly with NAMU, Trident Imports and now the flotilla of Good Time Waterfront Tour boats.

Judging from the posters tacked to the railing, the S. S. Suveric visited the Seattle waterfront sometime in the late spring of 1911. The broadsides for several popular Seattle venues: the Pantages Theatre, Dreamland, the Majestic Theatre, the Grand Opera House, the Orpheum, Luna Park (at Duwamish Head), and the Lois Theatre all promote programs that date sometime between June 10 and July 1 of that year.

Its unique “fingerprint” also easily identifies the place.  The windows atop the pier peeking around the bow of the Suveric are five panes wide and three high.  It is Pier 56, also long known as the Arlington Dock.  From the time of the Alaska gold rush in the 1890s to the First World War, Frank Waterhouse, an English stenographer turned shipping magnate, ran steamships in every direction from this slip for himself and also for the United Sates Shipping Board.

The seemingly aimless “waterfront watchers” standing near the rail – especially on the far right – may wish to “go down to the sea again.”  They are held above the tides on a wooden trestle.  The concrete and steel seawall was not constructed here for another 24 years.

Probably the S.S. Suveric’s most famous journey came soon after it was launched at Glasgow in 1906.  For 52 days the 460-foot steamship carried 1328 Portuguese immigrants – 459 men, 283 women and 582 children – from Madeira to Honolulu.  Thirteen children died at sea and eight more were born.  F.P. Sargent, the U.S. Immigration Inspector at Honolulu, noted, “They are a good, strong, clean and fine looking lot of people. I have seen many, many shiploads of immigrants, but must say these are the brightest and best appearing lot I have every helped inspect.”  And many of the immigrants carried violins.

Pier 56 Aquarium in the 1960s – Very Big Sharks and NAMU

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June 1962

The five photographs included here were taken from several sides of Pier 56 (excepting the north side) and on the sidewalk there, between 1962 when Ted Griffin opened his aquarium at the end of the pier and 1970 when he was getting regularly advised at the sidewalk to free his mammals.   The copy that follows is part of a considerably longer piece I have written on the history of Seattle aquariums.  It is still rough and so not yet published.  Actually it never will be “normally” published.  Instead it will be part of the longer Ivar biography I’m writing – the one that will be both read and heard on DVD to avoid the cost of pulp and waste of paper while sharing the longer story of Seattle greatest self-promoter with those who enjoy having someone read to them on and on about tricksters.

Ted Griffin must be counted among the handful of exalted characters to have worked Seattle’s waterfront.  His stage was at the end of Pier 56, and he was candid about its shortcomings. That is, Griffin’s visionary interest in his aquarium came with modesty.  ‘Someday Seattle is going to have its own Marineland.  This we hope is just a prelude.” At the start “this” was 6,000 square feet of covered space, an impressive cadre of skin-diver friends and other volunteers.  But most saliently “this” was, in the figure of Griffin, then still in his twenties, a kind of energized ego whose want of subtlety was made up for with physical courage combined with a heroic sentimentality that the ironic Ivar, who closed his aquarium nearby on Pier 54 in 1956, could only wonder at – and did.

Griffin’s Seattle Marine Aquarium opened on June 22, 1962 or in the ninth week of Century 21 and adjacent to the fair’s waterfront helicopter pad at the end of Pier 56.  The chopper noise had to have irritated the dolphins.  At 20,000 gallons Griffin’s main tank alone was much larger than all of Ivar’s combined, but most of his specimens and claims for them were the same.  Griffin noted, “Puget Sound has more beautiful marine life than anywhere else in the world – even Key West, Florida.”  But, as most locals old enough to remember the city’s Namu enthusiasm will know, what Griffin really wanted was a whale – a killer whale. In 1962 Ted Griffin was not yet publicly association with whales, although privately he pursued them both in his dreams and in speedboats.  At the opening of his aquarium the Times columnist and nostalgic humorist John Reddin noted, “Thus far the only whale is the figure on their outdoor sign.”  But Griffin and his curator Eric Friese would harvest other excitements like Homer, an octopus captured on Puget Sound, which at 88 pounds was a record-breaker for captured octopi.


July 19, 1962 (Courtesy, Seattle Public Library)

Early in 1964 when things were getting desperate his publicist learned that that there were big sharks prowling the bottom of Puget Sound.  He asked if they had teeth, and when assured that they did the press agent convinced Griffin that he should go after them.  This was a deep pursuit or not a superficial one.  The six-gill sharks were hooked with a very sturdy line that was longer than Queen Anne Hill is high.  The line was tied to a buoy and dressed with ham, raw beef, and lingcod.  For the aquarium the sharks were cash cows.  The lines were long.  (The revelation of what lurks in the basement of Elliott Bay was made, unfortunately, ten years too soon to further benefit from the release of Steven Spielberg’s film Jaws, otherwise – to use an example — even those seasoned and burly members of the West Seattle Polar Bear Club might have reconsidered their annual New Years Day plunge at Alki Beach and visited the aquarium instead.  Such fears, however, would have been highly irrational for to be in any danger of these sharks – and they still patrol the Sound – the Polar Bears, or any swimmers for that matter, would have to dive to at least 500 feet — the level at which Griffin caught his.  The beach at Alki is thankfully shallow.

Keeping the sharks alive was measurably more difficult than catching them, that is, it was impossible.  In captivity – and in daylight – the Elliot Bay leviathans lost their appetite and most importantly their motivation.  Entering the pool and the unknown armed only with his wet suit Griffith would prod and push at them to move.  He also force-fed them with mackerel.  In spite of it the sharks all soon expired and hopes of maintaining the impressive draw their exhibition engendered were lost.  Still during this brief but sensational excitement the aquarium prospered and was able to stay open after the sharks’ last roundup.


July 7, 1964  Courtesy, Seattle Public Library

But at noted it is killer whales not six-gill mud sharks with which Ted Griffin will be linked as long as men like to chase and capture things.  Rodeo style, Griffin first tried to lasso a whale by jumping on its back and throwing a net around it.  In the summer of 1965 Griffin’s whale mania was no longer a private matter.  A fisherman in whose nets a young male killer whale became entangled somehow learned of the aquarist’s quest.  Griffin rushed north to Namu, British Columbia to negotiate.  All the bidders except Griffin retreated when they reflected on what it might take to move the whale.  When, as Griffin retells it, “I was the only one left.  They cut me a deal.  They quoted me $50,000.  I agreed to pay them $8,000, which was approximately the price of the nets.”  He flew back to Seattle and collected the eight thousand from friends and businesses on the waterfront.  When he returned to Namu he carried a gunnysack filled with small donated bills amounting to the eight Gs.  Griffin named the whale for the place, and the fame of Namu began the moment it set off on its 19-day and 450-mile odyssey to Seattle accompanied by a strange flotilla of advertising subsidized Argonauts, featuring celebrities and representatives of the competing media like Robert Hardwick of KVI-AM radio and Emmett Watson then of the Post-Intelligencer.  The floating pen that Griffin and his new partner Don Goldsberry fashioned from oil drums and steel lines became a kind of bandwagon as Griffin’s list of volunteers – including, in absentia, Ivar — swelled.  Griffin asked Ivar to pay for bringing the whale back.  Ivar countered with an offer to feed the often soaked swashbucklers and their hounds as well as send Claude Sedenquist, his head chef, along to do the cooking.  The reluctant chef’s recollections of the trip are worth introducing.


Namu in his tank was the water end of Pier 56.

“Ivar told me ‘Pack up a bag, you’ve got to go pick up a whale.  You’re going north with Watson to bring back Namu.’ I objected.  ‘Ivar we have got the Captain’s Table to open.’  Ivar answered, ‘No you have got to go.  After all when you return you can learn from someone else’s mistakes at the Table.’  So I obeyed and Ivar paid for all the food and fuel.”  But not the nets.

We will probably continue this story here later on.  As noted it is part of a work-long-in-progress on an Ivar biography called “Keep Clam.”  Other roughs from that work have been give rough premiers here and can be found in our earliest archives -whenever we manage to rescue them from what we are told is a temporary digital disappearance.


Whale sidewalk protest in front of Pier 56 on June 33, 1970.  Photo by Frank Shaw.

Seattle Now & Then: The Perry Apartments

(click photos to enlarge)

THEN: The Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper)
THEN: The Perry Apartments is nearly new in “postcard artist” M. L. Oakes look at them south on Boren to where it intersects with Madison Street. (Courtesy John Cooper)
NOW: In a humble irony, the southeast corner of Madison Street and Boren Avenue which was first developed as a lordly home site for Federal Judge Cornelius Hanford, his wife Clara and their eight children is since 2006 home for 50 units of affordable senior housing developed by the Cabrini Sisters.  The Perry/Cabini structure was torn down in 1996.
NOW: In a humble irony, the southeast corner of Madison Street and Boren Avenue which was first developed as a lordly home site for Federal Judge Cornelius Hanford, his wife Clara and their eight children is since 2006 home for 50 units of affordable senior housing developed by the Cabrini Sisters. The Perry/Cabini structure was torn down in 1996.

While supervising the construction of the prestigious St. James Cathedral, architects Marbury Somervell and Joseph S. Cote, both new to Seattle, became inevitably known to new clients.  Their two largest “spin-off” commissions were for Providence Hospital and these Perry Apartments.  The Perry was built on the old Judge Hanford family home site while the Cathedral was still a work-in-progress two blocks away.  St. James was dedicated in 1907 and the ornate seven-story apartment was also completed that year for its “first life” at the southwest corner of Madison and Boren.

What the partners could not have known was that they were actually building two hospitals. The Perry was purchased in 1916/17 by Sister Frances Xavier Cabrini – not then yet a saint – and converted into the Columbus Sanatorium and later the Cabrini Hospital, and thereby became the Catholic contributor to the make-over of First Hill – or much of it – into Seattle’s preferred “Pill Hill.”

In this view the new Perry is still eight floors of distinguished flats for high-end renters who expect to be part of the more-or-less exclusive neighborhood. Neighbors close enough to ask for a cup of sugar include many second generation Dennys, the Lowmans, Hallers, Minors, Dearborns, Burkes, Stimsons, Rankes, and many more of Seattle’s nabobs.

Most importantly class-wise were the Carkeeks.  In the mid 1880s the English couple, Morgan and Emily Carkeek, built their mansion directly across Boren Avenue from the future Perry when the neighborhood was still fresh stumps and a few paths winding between them.   The Carkeek home became the clubhouse for First Hill culture and no doubt a few Perry residents were welcomed to its card and masquerade parties.


Aside from the trolleys that ran between a waterfront turntable on Western Avenue and Madison Park, Madison Street was ordinarily quiet.  Most citizens either walked or used the trolley.  The motorcar, far right, is a rarity in this ca. 1909 scene.  The view looks west towards the Perry Hotel on the far side of  Boren Avenue.

Looking west on Boren, 1909

The next postcard scene looks in the opposite direction from the hotel’s corner, east on Madison Street.  The Stacy Mansion – later the University Club – is on the far left.  The wrought iron fence on the right closes the grounds of Morgan and Emily Carkeek’s Mansion from the sidewalk.


The Stacy mansion today from Boren
The Stacy mansion today from Boren
Perry Hotel, ca. 1912.  View looks west on Madison Street across Boren Avenue.
Perry Hotel, ca. 1912. View looks west on Madison Street across Boren Avenue.

With the Perry’s sale to the Catholic order the hotel became first the Columbus Sanatorium and later the Cabrini Hospital.  Below are six posing Cabrini nurses and below them is a late 1930’s tax photo of the hospital, used compliments of the Washington State Archive.

Merciful Sisters
Merciful Sisters
Cabrini Hospital tax photo from the 30s
Cabrini Hospital tax photo from the 30s
Work-in-progress on razing the nearly 90 year-old hotel-hospital.  The original slide is date May, 1995.
Work-in-progress on razing the nearly 90 year-old hotel-hospital. The original slide is dated May, 1995.

Seattle Now & Then: Entering the A-Y-P

(Please click to enlarge photos)

THEN: For the four-plus months of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the center of commerce and pedestrian energy on University Way moved two blocks south from University Station on Northeast 42nd Street to here, Northeast 40th Street, at left.
THEN: For the four-plus months of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the center of commerce and pedestrian energy on University Way moved two blocks south from University Station on Northeast 42nd Street to here, Northeast 40th Street, at left.
NOW: The College Inn, on the far left, opened in time for the 1909 A-Y-P and so this year celebrates its own centennial.

To make our historical photo, Frank Harwood took a position on Northeast 40th Street and looked across 14th Avenue (University Way) to the grand entrance of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition (A-Y-P), on the University of Washington campus. The photograph was taken sometime during the world’s fair’s long run from June 1 to Oct. 16, 1909.

On the evening of the first day of the A-Y-P, June 1, a rain squall immersed the fairgrounds, shorted off the lights and sent opening-day crowds stampeding for the trolleys on University Way, knocking over several refreshment stands here on 40th in the rush. The Post-Intelligencer reported that “women fainted, children cried and some passengers paid several fares in an attempt to get on board the cars.”

Since the newspapers and other sources were filled with descriptions of every event, exhibit and feature of the fair, it can be wonderfully replayed in this, its centennial year. And that is what historian-authors Paula Becker and Alan Stein have done, with a lot of help from the staff, in producing The “Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington’s First World’s Fair,” a book packed with photographs and engaging trivia of all sorts: anecdotes, ironies, pithy quotes, sensational and joyful turns, and tragic ones, too. The authors visit the expo day-after-day like “kids at a fair” — bright kids.

This, you may know, is the “launch week” for the city’s centennial celebrations. The book, which is a most impressive expression of our community’s interest in that elaborate spectacular of 100 years ago, is now available in stores.


As indicated a few days past, we intend to plant a few Alaska Yukon and Pacific stories in this site through the coming weeks.  We know of more than thirty direct AYP features, or related stories, that I have written for Pacific Northwest Magazine over that past 27 years and we intend to include them all.  We will also pull a few more AYP strings attached to parts of our collections, including some of Ron Edge’s clippings from local 1909 newspapers.  Through the years I have made copies of photographs in many odd collections and it will be a pleasure reviewing and sharing many of them.

We start with this most recent feature – the one that appears in Pacific on May 24, 2009.  Appropriately, this views looks from outside AYP towards the main gate and so beyond it to what we will be visiting in the weeks ahead.

The story to follow that look-in will be the feature on the AYP’s official “lookers,” the fair’s photographers: the one’s allowed to use professional gear and to market the results with a percentage going to the Expo’s management.  There were, of course, also scores of unofficial photographers for by 1909 cameras were almost commonplace.  Many of these also managed to sell some of their unofficial impressions.

Finally we will repeat the story that first appeared in Pacific on March, 26, 2006 of Dan Kerlee, our representative master collector of AYP stuff and student of what it all meant.  We show Dan standing with an AYP pennant near where Otto Frasch, the unofficial but prolific postcard photographer, stood to take his exhilarating recording of a crowd outside the Expos’ loudest gesture to military history, the Battle of Gettysburg.  You had to pay extra to see it.  We refer you there to Dan’s webpage on the AYP, which he has forthrightly named AYPE.COM.  Again, there will be much more to come through the spring and summer – for as long as the AYP lasts, only a century later.

The A-Y-P's Official Photographers

As the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition’s “official photographer” Frank Nowell and his sizeable crew got their own headquarters at the 1909 world’s fair. Behind the University of Washington’s Guthrie Hall, the site – or at least part of it – is now taken by Guthrie Annex 1, seen below on the right. Built in 1934 by the Washington Emergency Relief Association, the frame annex is now home of the Psychology Department’s clinic.


[What follows appeared first in Pacific Magazine on February 12, 2006.]

Sometime after the 30-year-old Frank Nowell married Elizabeth Davis in 1894 the couple moved to California where Frank became an agent for his father Thomas Nowell’s Alaskan mining interests.  More fatefully Frank then took a hobbyist’s interest in photography.   When he joined his father in 1900, Elizabeth soon followed, bringing Frank’s camera with her.  In the next few years Nowell created a photographic record of Alaska that he is still famous for.

In the Northwest Nowell’s admirable record gets a second boost when after being named the “Official Photographer” of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition he began his meticulous work of recording first the AYP’s construction and then in 1909 the six month world’s fair itself as it was sumptuously outfitted on a University of Washington campus picturesquely re-shaped for it.   The size of Nowell’s official endeavor can be grasped from the accompanying photograph of his AYP headquarters and the crew of sixteen photographers fronting it with their tripods and by any standard – especially digital — oversized cameras.

About 660 of Nowell’s AYP images “returned” to campus about forty years ago and most of them can now be enjoyed on the University Libraries webpage.   But Nowell and his crew made many thousand of images at AYP and so the nosey mystery recurs: what became of them and the negatives?  With mild complaint, AYP collector and student Dan Kerlee notes, “The complexity of the AYP is stunning, and we get just glimpses of it.”

Increasingly, in the next three years Seattle citizens will be getting many more glimpses, and not just Nowell’s.  Walt Crowley, director of and Leonard Garfield, director of the Museum of History and Industry, as co-chairs of the Mayor’s AYP task force hope by next year to have conceived and scheduled, as Garfield explains it,  “the events and activities that commemorate Seattle’s first grand civic celebration, distinguished by its spirit of innovation and internationalism.”

Besides the library link noted above is already a fine introduction to the AYP.   Dan Kerlee’s now nascent site already delivers a unique visit to the 1909 expo as shared by an enthused collector.  For instance, Kerlee includes a copy of the permit that visitors with cameras were required to purchase and hang on their gear.  Howell’s commercial exclusivity was protected by the rule displayed on the permit that visitor’s were restricted to cameras “not exceeding in size 4×5 inches.”

The A-Y-P's 'Battle of Gettysburg'



AYP collector-interpreter Dan Kerlee holds an AYP flannel pennant on the University of Washington location where 97 years earlier a crowd awaits the unveiling of the James Hill statue in front of the Battle of Gettysburg attraction. On Stevens Way part of the Chemistry Library – once the Communications Building – shows on the far left of the “now” scene.

[What follows appeared first in Pacific Magazine on March 26, 2006.]

As noted a few weeks past in these pages we are entering a time of exploration into a lavish event that happened now 97 years ago – the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition or AYP for short.

In the contemporary photo Dan Kerlee holds a typical memento pennant from the 1909 exposition: “Seattle’s First Worlds Fair.”   These were sold at least by the hundreds along what was then called the Pay Streak.  It was the carnival strip of amusements and concessions that ran along what is now Stevens Way and beyond it to Portage Bay.

Consulting an AYP map that Kerlee has superimposed with a contemporary map of the UW campus he stands beside Stevens Way and within a few feet of where in the historical photograph the man in the “boater” straw hat looks south towards the Pay Streak.   With its own caption the historical photo by Otto Frasch reveals what this impressive crowd awaits — the unveiling of the James Hill monument. (Hill, the Empire Builder behind the Great Northern Railroad, also visited the AYP in the flesh.).

Much more than the draped Hill bust the Frasch photo shows the Battle of Gettysburg, a cyclorama where inside one could watch the “reenactment” of the turning point in the Civil War – for a fee.  As it’s exterior sign promises, “War War War Replete With the Rush, Roar and Rumble of Battle.”

For more AYP insights from Dan Kerlee, readers are advised to visit his AYPE.COM where this Frasch “wonder” and many more photographs and examples of expo ephemera and artifacts can be found pithily described by Dan.   Generally, as he puts it, “The complexity of the AYP is stunning, and we get just glimpses of it.”  And now as we approach the fair’s centennial he and other Expo enthusiasts will be revealing old glimpses and certainly finding many new ones.

Meanwhile the James Hill bust is still on campus, although it has been moved.  The reader is also invited to go look for it.


The AYP is upon us – its Centennial.  “As time allows” Jean and I will use moments early in its next 100 years to fill its very own “button” on this site with images and stories collected and written over the past 30 years – many of them from Pacific Northwest Magazine, but not all.   Perhaps Berangere may also contributed something  – architecturally or ceremonially similar – from Paris, the “City of Fairs.”  Here we begin with the Expo’s charming litho-birdseye, which because it was painted and published while the AYP was still under construction is not always faithful to what was actually fabricated (although it usually is) for what is rightfully called “Seattle’s First Worlds Fair.”    Much more to come.  Note the artist’s creative rendering of Capitol Hill below the expo’s popular airship, and the Latona Bridge, far right, that carried most visitors from the city to the expo.  And that is the surviving Denny Hall bottom right.  Except for a very few other structures everything else in this “white city” was temporary – like an oversized model train set made from enchanted wood and plaster.

[As nearly always CLICK to ENLARGE]


[much thanks, again, to RON EDGE, for sharing the AYP BIRDSEYE]