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Published in The Seattle Times online on Nov. 3, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Nov. 6, 2022
Like fine wine, this Ravenna Avenue anchor has aged well
By Clay Eals
Do you yearn to travel in time — say, to a century ago? For the trip, you might hail this jaunty, four-cylinder touring car, a 1917 Studebaker Series 18 Model SF.
The gent standing by is likely the taxi’s driver. His territory, indicated on the windshield, was Cowen Park, west of Ravenna Ravine in northeast Seattle. If we assume the city license (left of the driver’s right shoulder) is current, you likely would be stepping into the year 1921.
We look almost due east across Ravenna Avenue at its intersection with 65th Street, just out of frame at right, which was Seattle’s northern boundary at this crossroads until the mid-1940s.
Beyond the taxi stands a charming, two-floor brick façade built in 1920. Topped by an apartment, its street-level retail space over the years supplied a range of what broadly could be called apothecary assistance, medicinal and non-.
In its earliest days, the building housed Ravenna Pharmacy, assuredly a center for prescriptions, but also general-store dalliances such as locally made Stokes Ice Cream (“supremely good”) and wind-driven whirligigs, both promoted in the front window.
The pharmacy signed on to newspaper ads offering free enticements, from Kotex sanitary pads (“each sample wrapped in plain paper”) to Gillette safety razors (“complete with blade”). Shoppers also could find Sunset dye (“58 fashionable shades, 22 standard colors”), Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral (a fix for coughs or colds “in a day or so” or money back) and Calport wine grape tonic (“brings to a tired world tingling, vibrant force”).
It also served as a polling place for elections, a meeting site for the Masonic-based Social Club of the Seattle Court (Order of Amaranth) and a hub for free tickets to see Independence Day fireworks at nearby University of Washington Stadium.
In 1937, the pharmacy became Monsen Cleaners and Self Service Laundry, which in the early 1960s gave way to Car-Tel TV Radio (featuring the Philco Cool Chassis TV “with 82-channel VHR-UHF tuning”), then Monsen’s Ivory Jade Collectors.
In the mid-1970s, Puget Mercantile, an adjunct of today’s PCC Community Markets, moved in. Also hosting speakers and gatherings there were King County NOW (National Organization for Women, promoting the Equal Rights Amendment, still unratified today) and the North End Housing Cooperative.
The edifice assumed its most enduring identity in 1980, as an award-winning wine shop that adopted the name of owners McCarthy & Schiering and continues today under new owners who kept the appellation.
In a city bursting with redeveloped business corners, such a mainstay anchor earns esteem. You might say it’s part of the cure for what ails you.
Did any of you wonder about the little vehicle at the left side of our main “Then” photo? Reader Bob Bernstein did. And we have an answer from our automotive expert, Bob Carney:
“It’s probably a home-built version of a ‘speedster,’ which was an early version of a hot rod in the 1910s and 1920s. You remove the body and fenders and add a big gas tank and bucket seats, and you then have your personal version of a Mercer Raceabout or Stutz Bearcat at a fraction of the cost. Most were based on the Ford Model T, but any car could be the basis for a speedster. The one in the photo looks too big to be a Ford, and also has right-hand steering, which the Model T did not have. I think the wheels shown toward the front of the little car are not part of it, but rather leaning against it. Not sure why.”
Thanks, Bob (both of you)!
Special thanks to Peter Blecha for his help with this installment!
To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.
Below are 43 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.