Along with Jean Sherrard, photographer for these weekly “now-and-thens,” I would like to have another BIG SNOW. The kids would love it. In the 165 years since the pioneer Denny Party stepped ashore on Alki Beach, in the rain, our temperate city has been capped with only two snows big enough to print in upper-case. The first and deepest was the Big Snow of 1880, with four-foot drifts dumped
from above. The second was heaven’s dish-out, the Big Snow of 1916, sampled in the featured photo. Aside from their depths, the difference between the two Big Snows was cameras. There survive, perhaps, a dozen photos from the 1880 winter-tide. But there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of amateur snapshots and professional “real photo” postcards that in 1916 were witnesses to its eccentric Big Snow. By then cameras were commonplace, and the piling snow, in spite of the chill, was an enticing subject.
Certainly for the featured photograph’s look north on Second Avenue, it is the 1916 Big Snow’s alluring banking on the Hardy and Co. Jeweler’s big clock that attracted the photographer. A second sidewalk clock, for the Burnett Brothers’ Jewelry Store, stands behind it. According to Seattle historian Rob Ketcherside, both of them survive in communities south of Seattle: the Hardy Clock in
East Olympia and the Burnett Brothers in Lakewood. Ketcherside’s study of Seattle’s clock history began about five years ago, and the origin of his scholarship seems ordained with a revelation. Falling asleep on a bus while returning from the Eastside, he awoke wondering what time it was, while the bus was momentarily parked beside a street clock. The historian also woke up to a new passion for research: the history of Seattle’s sidewalk clocks. Ketcherside makes note that a jeweler’s unique opportunity to advertise with a sidewalk clock required that his clock ran on time. Three times in the 1920s the street clocks were checked by the City, inspired at least in part by complaints about incorrect times. Ketcherside notes that “at their peak around 1930, there were about fifty street clocks in Seattle. From the intersection of Pike and Fourth Avenue you could see sixteen of them.”
Leaving the clocks, on the far right we can catch a glimpse of the Stetson Post Building. This snow-capped Victorian at the northeast corner of Marion and Second was constructed in 1883. Through its thirty-five years of existence it was also known as the New York Kitchen Block, the French Row Dwellings, and the Rainier Block. Next to it, in the featured photo, stands one of Seattle’s first steel skyscrapers, the American Savings Bank (1904-6), also known as the Empire Building and the Olympic National Life Building. You may remember its sensational destruction on February 28, 1982, with Seattle’s first implosion. To its left and across Madison Street stands the Leary Building (1909), named for the last family to live in the pioneer Weed home, which was razed to make way for its construction. (Both John Leary and Gideon Weed served terms as Seattle’s mayor.)
Far left in the featured photo and in the photo directly above is a slice of the Romanesque Revival Burke Building, which was planned but not built before the city’s Great Fire of 1889 by Thomas Burke (of the avenue, monument and museum). Burke also developed the Empire Building noted above. Finally, we will point out, upper left, optician Charles Holcomb’s oversized spectacles attached outside the window to his second floor office. Like the sidewalk clocks and the five-globe street standards, the spectacles also make an exquisite ledge for the fallen Big Snow.
Greetings, lads! Before I ask my perennial question, let me add a shot of the same scene from the 6th of February – riddled with a few flakes; pathetic compared to any of our Big Snows, but rare enough to intrigue, I’m thinking… Darn sure Jean, and directly below the first of you snowflake additions we will insert a rear view of the Burke Building arch that appears as stand along artifact on the far left of you photo. The one we join with it was taken by Frank Shaw in November 1974 and therefore soon after the Federal Building was completed with the Burke’s keepsake gateway retained in memento.
And here’s a few more shot that same morning…
Anything to add, fellahs? Jean we will start again with a few Edge-Links that Ron has pulled from recent features. Tomorrow, following a late breakfast (it is 5a.m. now) of oatmeal and maple syrup we will search for a few more features of greater antiquity, scan ’em and put ’em up. We wonder now and out loud if there is any retired lover of local history who will help us to in scanning the bulk of the nearly 1800 features we have written and illustrated in the last 34 years, then please step forward and be embraced. We will supply the scanner and plenty of packets of instant oatmeal.
Just a little bonbon for naval gazers. This morning, Bremerton museum/ decommissioned destroyer USS Turner Joy passed through the Chittenden Locks after a few weeks of being spiffed up in Lake Union. According to museum director Frank Portello, she’s one of the largest ships to pass through the locks. Here’s a series of shots that show her progression:
Lawton Gowey, once the Director of Finance for the Seattle Water Department, recorded this week’s “then” subject. This old friend, now three decades deceased (1921-1983), was a public worker who studied and extensively photographed the built city. He carried a 35mm camera loaded with Kodachrome transparency (slide) film. Gowey’s subject is a relatively recent one, dated July 4, 1957. It is still easy to place. For this Independence Day Parade portrait, Lawton took his photographer’s crouch on the east side of Fourth Avenue, standing just off the curb and a little less than a half-block south of Pike Street.
Most of the structures, but not the businesses, in Gowey’s photo survive, including the Seaboard Building (1906-9) at the northeast corner of Fourth and Pike, to the right of the light standard. Behind the same standard, but two blocks north on Fourth, the Mayflower Hotel stands at its southeast corner with Olive way. Nearby, the Great Northern Railroad’s long popular symbol of a mountain goat looks from its monumental neon circle up the center of Fourth Avenue. Its rooftop perch was at the northeast corner with Stewart Street. Surely, many PacificNW readers remember it.
The block-sized Bon Marche, opened in 1929 and remodeled in 1955 as the “largest department store west of Chicago,” holds the center of the subject. To this side of The Bon, the two three-story-tall gaudy signs for Gasco (1932) and the Colonial Theatre (1913) rise side-by-side above the busy sidewalk where street photographers vended to pedestrians their candid portraits. Many
of these unwitting but generally willing subjects were on their way either to or from Manning’s Coffee at 1533 Fourth Avenue. Manning’s, a small chain, were the “Acknowledged Quality Coffee Stores of the Pacific Coast,” and so perhaps, the too-often forgotten fountainhead of Seattle’s rich coffee reputation.
Left of center at the northwest corner of Fourth and Pike stands the seven-story Bigelow Building. It was named for the pioneer couple Harry and Emma Bigelow, who after purchasing the water-logged corner from Arthur and Mary Denny in the 1870s left it to its croaking. It was soon named “Harry’s Frog Pond.” They replaced the wetland with their big home in 1883. The Bigelow Building in the “then” was built in 1923 and replaced in the 1980s by the grander Century Square retail and office complex.
When the Joshua Green Building, far-left in the featured photo at the top, opened in 1913, the men’s clothier Lundquist – Lilly occupied the second floor, a higher level but with a lower rent. The partners promised to share the savings with their customers. (See their sign.) Lundquist and Lilly hoped that their clientele would be impressed by “The big saving we make in side-stepping the tremendous operative expense which all street-level clothiers are up against . . . Our furniture and fixtures are very plain; you pay only for clothes. That’s why we give you a $25.00 suit for $15.00.”
The July 4, 1957 parade of mostly marching military units that celebrated the nation’s 181st anniversary of America’s assertion of independence from King George III was a modest display. By police estimates the parade attracted a crowd of about 25,000. This was pint-sized parading when compared, for instance, to the 150,000 who lined Fourth Avenue to greet President Harry Truman during his 1948 visit to Seattle.
Hi guys. Before inviting your contributions, I’ll post a few faces from the 2017 march as clickable thumbnails. YOUR parade shots are embraceable Jean. Give us more if you have them. By those that find them they will be often returned to – I expect.
Anything to add, gentles? We will search about for a few more parades, and similar sensations. Ron has put up – I’m counting – 23 Edge links to former features, and the last of those is a return to the 1883 celebrations connected with the completion of the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad. And the last part of the 23rd feature shows off the song writing and playing skills of the local band Pineola. We often return to Pineola and listen too. Enjoy.
BELOW: A FEW OLDER FEATURES and then tomorrow after a few hours slumber some more Seattle parades.
MORE ELEPHANTS on PARADE
SANTA CLAUS PARADES
The SANTA CLAUS PARADE tradition began in 1949. The first parade was held on November 12 and it brought out what The Seattle Times – one of its sponsors – reported that afternoon “The biggest parade crowd in Seattle’s history turned out this afternoon despite rainy weather to view the gigantic Santa Clause parade.” Seattle Police Chief George D. Eastman estimates the crowd surpassed the Seattle record then of 150,000, which greeted President Truman in 1948. (See the Truman Parade press photo above, the last illustration here before Jean’s question about “Web Extras.” )
The Santa Claus parades ran at least through the 1940s. We will include at the bottom of our Santa parade photos a colored record of the parade by Frank Shaw from Nov. 19, 1960. The rest are press shots from The Seattle Times. The Santa parades typically featured the region’s best high school marching bands and the parade’s stars, giants balloons representing classic cartoon characters and monsters – the shapes most likely to thrill the kids, many of whom were also dressed in costumes. (We imagine, only, that the balloons were recycled from one of the east coast department store parades, like Macy’s in New York City.)
(pause) Please compare the below photo from an AYP-related parade down Fifth Avenue in 1909, with the above photo. They were recorded from nearly the same prospect.
The mid-November PARADE was popular enough to sell out downtown lodgings for the night before. The Times reported that “one hotel on the parade route reportedly turned down at least 300 requests for reservations.” In 1949 the Santa Claus parade route went south of Second Avenue from Virginia Street to Yesler Way and returned north on Third Avenue with a reviewing stand at Third and Virginia. In 1950 the route changed to Third (going south) and Fifth Avenues. Two years more and the directions were switched, south on Fifth and north on Third. The 1956 parade features a dozen bands and forty balloons or “Novelty Units.” This year the route was again first heading south on Third Avenue from Virginia Street and then returning from Yesler Way by way of Fifth Avenue.
POTLATCH PARADES – A Few Examples from the first Golden Potlatch Parade in 1911, followed by a Dad’s Day promotion from the 1913 Potlatch Parade.
MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL PREPAREDNESS PARADES
FAT TUESDAY PARADE: During the 1970s it seemed like every February includes a few unseasonably warm days. Once of these natural lapses was used to stage a Fat Tuesday parade from the Pike Place Market to the drinking reservoirs of Pioneer Square. The size of the downhill entourage was huge. Here are two shots featuring the Friends of the Rag. Both were snapped by Frank Shaw.
WALLINGFORD KIDDIE PARADE from the early 1950s and its DISTINGUISHED QUINTET of Hoary Parade Marshalls from 2008, I believe.
The featured look east on Pike Street from Ninth Avenue is dated May 21, 1939. In about two decades more this neighborhood would be cut, crushed, and cleared for the construction of the Seattle Freeway. Through these two blocks between NinthAvenue and Boren Street, Pike’s mixed neighborhood of cafes, hotels, barbershops, and furniture upholsterers would be revamped into a concrete ramp over a concrete ditch. That this part of Pike was once an “upholstery row” surprised me. In 1938 (I have a city directory for 1938 but not 1939) there were five furniture upholsterers listed in the few blocks between Eighth and Melrose Avenues. It is at Melrose that Pike begins its turn east to conform to the more recently platted street grid on the ridge. The jog’s directional change is indicated with an adjustment in the name to East Pike Street, which in 1939 was one of Seattle’s principal “auto rows.” East Pike also marks the subjective – and by now traditional – border between the First and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.
Also with the help of the Polk City Directory for 1938 I have counted four hotels in these two blocks between Ninth Avenue and Boren that were lost to the Seattle Freeway (Interstate Five): the Stanley, here at Ninth Avenue, the William Penn and the Crest near Terry Avenue, and the five-floor Hotel Alvord, on the left. (Jean Sherrard’s repeat also reveals a survivor. The Villa Hotel at the northwest corner of Pike and Boren can stands out in the photo above. It cal also be glimpsed directly above the trolley in this Sunday’s “then.” It is more difficult but not impossible to find in the “now.”)
The Alvord’s publicity stream begins in 1924, the year of its construction, and reaches its most sensational height around midnight on March 1, 1933. Mildred Russell, the 24-year-old bride of violinist and orchestra leader Jan Russell, opened a window in search of fresh air and used all five of the hotel’s floors to fall to the ground below. The Times qualified the ground as “soft earth.” From her merciful bounce, Mildred received only a few bruises and a cracked skull. “I had just lit a cigarette,” she said. Only three years later, Margaret Thaanum fell from the Alvord’s third floor to her death. The trained nurse was trying to walk the three-inch ledge outside her window.
Returning now to the trolley heading east on Pike Street, on this spring day there was a growing sense that these often rattling common carriers were about to lose out to the busses and trackless trollies promoted by internal combustion and “big rubber.” Two years more and most trolley tracks in Seattle were pulled up and the disrupted brickwork patched with asphalt and/or concrete.
On this Sunday, May 21, 1939, we learn from The Times that while Hitler and Mussolini were preparing a military alliance with their Rome-Berlin pact, Seattleites were anticipating in the week the grand Potlatch Pageant and its big parade. (Hitler and Mussolinivented that “Germany and Italy have no intention of using any country as a tool for egotistical plans, which is happening only too clearly on the other side.”) Two days later Boeing’s Yankee Clipper inaugurated the first commercial airway service between the Unites States and Europe. Perhaps playing it safe at the start, other than the crew of fifteen, the clipper carried only mail, four tons of it.
Anything to add, blokes? Blokes but not bullies we will find some links and other decorations and put the UP.
The buildings on Ninth Avenue south of Pike Street, including the Seattle Taxi, are still standing in this aerial of the neighborhood photographed sometime before it was cut through by Interstate-5. Compare to the photo below.
Public historian Kurt E. Armbruster, one of our sensitive explorers of Seattle’s cityscapes, recently sent me his snapshot of the Chin Gee Hee Building at the northeast corner of Washington Street and the Second Avenue Extension. Kurt regards it as “a little gem” and, it seems, it is the last remaining piece of architecture to survive from Seattle’s First Chinatown, in the neighborhood of Washington Street and Second Avenue. It was a community of the mostly single men who help build the region’s earliest railroads, labored as domestics and on the pick and shovel gangs that helped dig, for example, the canal between Puget Sound and Lake Washington.
Chin Gee Hee arrived in Seattle in the mid-1870s and soon prospered as a labor contractor, a merchant and a builder. Partnering with Chin Chun Hock, another and even earlier Chinese contractor-merchant, Hee and Hock hired Seattle’s earliest resident architect, William E. Boone, to design two commercial buildings for them in Chinatown. Although both were consumed by the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, they were quickly replaced by the two
grander three-story hotels featured in the featured photo at the top. The greater part of Chin Chun Hock’s Phoenix Hotel is to the left of the darker power pole in the photo’s foreground, and the full front façade of the Chin Gee Hee Building, facing Washington Street, is to the right of the pole. Boone styled both as orthodox Victorians. It is claimed that Chin Gee Hee’s hotel was the first brick building completed following the ’89 fire, however, we may be permitted to show some reservation about this claim as we do many other “firsts” in local history. The thirty-plus blocks of the business district was a cacophony of construction following the fire with the builders’ general racing urge to open first.
Judging from news coverage, the Phoenix was the seedier of the two hotels. On August 11, 1905, the hotel’s manager W.A. Morris was charged with robbing one of its drunken guests of $45.00. While the manager confessed his innocence, the police told the Seattle Times that “Morris conducts one of the worst dives in the city.” Earlier that summer the police had made an opium raid on the Phoenix, noting that the hotel had “developed into a full-fledge opium den and in the last month a half-dozen smokers have been caught there.” Meanwhile, also in 1905, the Phoenix’s neighbor, Chin Gee Hee, left Seattle to build a railroad in China. He was subsequently awarded by the last emperor with the honor of a peacock feather and a retinue of servants and soldiers, presumably to help him guard the rails.
THE SECOND AVENUE EXTENSION as seen from the SMITH TOWER. Above before: March 14, 1928. Below after: June 11, 1929.The Phoenix Hotel at the former northeast corner of Second Avenue and Washington Street can still be seen (below the center) near the bottom of the 1928 photograph. The Chin Gee Hee Building is behind it, to the left. In the 1929 photo below, the Phoenix has been sliced away and the southwest corner of the Chin Gee Hee clipped.
The Phoenix’s transgressions were fixed forever in 1928 when it was razed with the “improvement” of the Second Avenue Extension, a 1,413-foot cut through the neighborhood between Yesler Way and Jackson Street. It was hoped that the extension would make Second Avenue a ceremonial promenade leading to and from the train depots. The Chin Gee Hee Building was saved with only its west end sliced away. This eccentric reduction, combined with the recessed gallery cut into the third floor above Washington Street, surely heightened the building’s gem-like charms. Martin Denny, the proprietor of the Assemblage, the Chin Gee Hee’s principal commercial tenant, shared the greater neighborhood’s underground mystery that the Phoenix Hotel’s basement may well survive under the intersection.
THREE OTHER GLIMPSES OF THE CHIN GEE HEE BUILDING
Here’s detail of the Chin Gee Hee Building, which Kurt adores:
Anything to add, les mecs? Certainly Jean, first a long list of features pulled by Ron Edge from the last eight years or so of Now-and-Then, and then a few more and earlier features.
I came upon this week’s revealing pair of historical photos in the mid-1970’s during my initial visit to the Seattle Engineering Department’s photo-lab at City Hall. Both were given curt captions at their bottom-left corners, identifying this public work as Denny Hill No.2 Regrade. The diptych reveals with “before” and “after” panoramas the final humbling of Denny Hill between 1928 and 1931. (Last week’s feature gave another point of view on that last regrade.) The digging for Denny Hill Regrade No. 1 began in 1903. In 1911 the cutting paused for seventeen years before resuming in 1928 with Denny Hill Regrade No. 2. By pulling a lever, Seattle Mayor Frank E. Edwards scooped the last electric shovelful in the forenoon of December 9, 1930. Both the 1928 and 1931 pans include the south facade of the Windham Apartments at the northwest corner of Fifth Ave. and Blanchard Street. With its 1925 brick facade intact, the Windham still serves but is now, from the Claremont’s roof, for the most part hidden behind the chisel-shaped glass curtain at the southwest corner of Fifth and Blanchard.
Thanks to Hotel Andra (nee Claremont) for hosting our trip to their rooftop. Also, big thanks to Brian Cunningham, Chief Engineer, for his assistance on high.
He related a Hotel Andra secret, which can only now be revealed! If you examine the photo below, note the twin architectural details high above the hotel’s Fourth Avenue entrance. The grenade-shaped protuberances at the top of each feature seem to be intact…but, no! The one on the right went missing at least a decade ago.
Brian discovered that a Nerf football, scribed to approximate the lines of the original, painted gray and glued into place would suffice, certainly from a distance. I think it looks pretty fine close up as well (click to enlarge to see for yourself).
Finally, a shot of the Space Needle from the rooftop:
Anything to add, lads?
Yes Jean, but first thanks for the roof architecture atop the old Claremont. I too love “Hulot’s Holiday” and saw it first at the Harvard Exit in the early 1970s. But you have me puzzled how that trip from Paris for a holiday on the Normandy Coast (I assume) with a stay in a waterfront hotel filled with eccentric guests relates to your textured reflection of the Needle off Garth Vader’s glass skin. Will you explicate, please?
Yes, Paul, my mistake – I meant to say ‘Playtime’ – the 1967 film which featured Monsieur Hulot wandering through glass and steel skyscrapers, unable to find the Eiffel Tower or the Arch de Triomphe, except in the glass reflections. A marvel of the cinema (which, was unappreciated at the time, and bankrupted Hulot creator Jacques Tati).
Second, we hope our dear readers will key word our blog for “Denny Regrade” or any other key. For instance, our Illustrated History of the Seattle Waterfront (found here under the “books bug”) has a thumbnail history of the Denny Regrade.
MY FIRST INTIMATE GLIMPSE OF THE PRE-REGRADE DENNY HILL NEIGHBORHOOD. The text here is copied from Seattle Now and ThenVolume One, the Fifty-Second story. An earlier version was first printed in The Seattle Sun. It was that tabloid exposure that, I believe, persuaded The Seattle Times to take me on as a suffering free-lance contributor in the winter of 1981-82. I discovered the historical photo, which looks south on Second Avenue from its intersection with Bell Street, in a stack of prints that John Hannawalt – still of the Seattle Paperworks in the Pike Place Market (lower level)- purchased from Loomis Miller, the last keeper of the Webster and Stevens Studio. It was an exciting moment for me. I had by then plenty of exposure to regrade pictures, and distant portraits of Denny Hill long before the lowering began, but none of the intimate neighborhood. They are still rare. One of the best was featured recently in “Too High and Too Steep”, David B. Williams historical study of the several natural upheavals that have come with making Seattle. Our review of David’s well-illustrated study of the “reshaping of Seattle topography” is included here below illustrated with the Anson Burwell House at Denny Hill’s high point the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Blanchard Street. You will find it below, second from the top with the Edge Clippings,
One of the Nevada Construction Company’s four “great electric power shovels” is at work on the right digging away to the north on what little is left of Denny Hill by March 15, 1930. Both the date and prospect are captioned bottom-left in the featured photo, most likely by James Lee, a photographer for the Seattle Engineering Department who by 1930 had been capturing our public works with both negatives and 16mm film for about two decades.
James Lee, it seems, was occasionally compass-challenged, as am I. (Jean is generally without flaw.) Both Lee and Jean are here looking west on Battery Street in the featured photographs at the top, and not east as is mistakenly hand-printed at the lower left corner of Lee’s print No. 8297. Seventh Avenue, however, is confident. It is a two-block walk – or ride on the regrade conveyor belts – to reach the low-rise business district that begins on the west side of Fifth Avenue. It was at Fifth that the Denny Regrade stalled
in 1911 for seventeen years. To the east of Fifth, a cliff was exposed – or created – that rose to a pie-shaped remnant of the hill, referred to as the “Old Quarter.” It was generally filled with homes – some of them large – that received few repairs and probably no restorations. The effect was that it got older, cozier and cheaper: a mix of rentals and family-owned homes, a neighborhood inclined to bohemian pastimes and street games. Regrading was expected to be completed eventually, but not so far-fetched as seventeen years later.
This was the last of the six regrades humbling Denny Hill. For the first two, in the mid-1880s and late 1890s, First Avenue was regraded initially for the horse cars, and later for the electric trolleys heading to and fro between Seattle and North Seattle, which was then Belltown and Lower Queen Anne. The remaining four regrades were all serious about eliminating Denny Hill as an obstruction to what the forces of regrade promoted as the “natural northern growth” of the city. Beginning in 1903, Second Avenue was brought to the grade we now know. In 1906 there followed the lowering of the south, or front, summit of the Hill between Pine and Virginia Streets and the razing of the grand Denny Hotel perched upon it. The lowering of the slightly higher north summit followed until 1911
when, as noted, all cutting stopped, leaving a cliff on the east side of Fifth Avenue. The cliff was just to this side of the white-faced one-story building at the center of the featured photo, at the southwest corner of Battery and Fifth Avenue. It is signed the “Klean-Rite Auto Laundry Co.” Spread out behind the laundry is the grand 1920-21 fire station No. 2 at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Battery Street. (See next clip below.) On the afternoon that Public Works recorded this scene, more than two-hundred-and-fifty fire chiefs and municipal fire officials from around the state were meeting in No. 2’s big auditorium (on the left) for a three-day “fire-prevention convention.”
Most of Denny Hill was eroded with water cannons, but not this last of the regrades. The “Old Quarter” was lowered with steam shovels that dumped their catches on to several moveable conveyor belts. The multiple belts led to a master conveyor that carried the last of Denny Hill west on Battery Street to be dumped into Elliott Bay. As it turned out, the deposits created an underwater Denny Hill, which for the safety of shipping ultimately required dredging.
Anything to add, boys? Of course we do Jean, although we will need a second day to completed the laying in of more clips. Again and again it will be more past features from the neighborhood and now as well la recommendation for how to use this blog to find more about the Denny Regrade. First in the Illustrated History of the Seattle Waterfront included in our books “file” we have illustrated a history of the regrade. Key word it. And under the same file there will be more features about the regrade shared out of Seattle Now and Then, Volumes One, Two and Three. You could spend the rest of this Sunday on it. We suggest, however, the the reader begin with the first link below, “The First Shovel.”
(Above: Looking south on the Wagon Road near Fifth and Virginia, ca. 1886. )