We will concentrate first on Jean Sherrard’s ‘repeat’ that looks into the face of Songbird, by sculptor John Henry. The Chattanooga artist visited Seattle twice to study this northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Yesler Way. He determined what we, perhaps, have not considered. “The work would have to interact with the sight lines available, yield to the physical demands of the Yesler overpass and still compliment the architectural design of the building. It would be an exercise of creating a piece with enough strength to command the site yet subtle enough not to overpower its surroundings.”
The historical photo featured at the top, one of several taken by a public works photographer in the summer of 1911, documents the troubles the regraders were having here at Fifth Avenue and Yesler Way. The clipping directly below form the Times for February 28, 1899 reveals that the slipping here was an old worry.
The featured subject looks north over the regrade mess on Fifth from the work-in-progress on the Yesler Way overpass. Beginning with the Frances Hotel, seen here at the northeast corner, there are two more structures between Yesler and Terrace, the next street north. All three are in trouble. When the responsibilities were at last resolved in the courts, twenty-four structures on Yesler, Terrace, Fifth, and Sixth, were counted as damaged by slides triggered by the Fifth Avenue regrade.
Real estate speculator, C.P.Dose, the owner of The Frances, described himself and his neighbors as victims of City Engineer R.H. Thomson’s “cutting off the toe off First Hill,” similar to the little Dutch boy pulling his finger from the hole in the dike. Like others, Dose understood the hill’s abundant fluid dynamics. Those dynamics were high on the list of reasons that most of the original pioneers on Alki Point soon left that dry prominence to build a city on and beside this wet hill. After the cutting off of its toe, Dose concluded that most of the “so-called First Hill” should be carefully removed; otherwise, he advised, “It will all come sliding down.”
If I have read the clues correctly, Dose built his Fifth Avenue Hotel, its first name, for $6,000 in the summer of 1900, soon after relocating his prospering real estate business from Chicago to Seattle. With his son, C.C. Dose, he opened his real estate office in the clapboard hotel and soon became a leader among his neighbors in plotting what to do about their slippery situation. A solution arrived on the 23rd of August, 1911, when all the windows in The Frances cracked as, The Seattle Times reported, it moved “one foot closer to the brink.” The three hotels on Fifth Avenue were abruptly abandoned and soon razed. Dose was comforted in the Mt. Baker Neighborhood. He had been holding onto ten acres there since 1870, when he purchased the lakeside land sight unseen while still in Chicago. In 1904 and 1907 he platted his “Dose’s Lake Washington Addition to the City of Seattle” and in 1912 built his home there, a colonial-style mansion with grand Corinthian columns at the front. It still stands tall at 3211 S. Dose Terrace.
Anything to add, lads? A few more Edge Clips from the neighborhood and then some more old features from the same. We will get as far as we can, but then surrender at 2am for the latest climb to nighty bears. (How should we spell it? Bill.)
RETURNING to OUR LADY OF GOOD HELP – Looking Southeast across the intersection of 5th and Jefferson.
Standing alone on a Denny Regrade lot, a reinforced concrete shoebox with a 30×109 footprint and a red brick veneer, stands at 1921 Fifth Avenue. In the 1880s a pioneer wagon road leading to Queen Anne Hill passed by here. That was long before the regrade, but with half-closed eyes we may imagine the wagon crossing this sloping northeastern corner of Denny Hill very near the roofline of this sturdy box, or a few feet above the Monorail seen in Jean’s “now.”
All the signs in the second floor windows are for political publications, including the Washington Democrat, whose name is also on the front door. But by 1918 all had moved away, including the Democrats. The likely date here is 1917, or two years after 1915, the year tax records say this box was built. Peeking over the roof is a clue. It is a late construction scene for the terracotta tile-adorned Securities Building, described on line by its owner Clise Properties as completed in 1917. The Clise Investment Company was one of the building’s first occupants.
Besides the publishers, the early user history of the building included a furniture dealer handy with hardwood billiard tables and fumed-oak davenports. In 1928 the place was remodeled for the auto-renter Aero-U-Drive-Inc, with a wide door cut at the sidewalk to move cars in and out of the long garage inside. Upstairs on the second floor was the Colony Club, one of the many speak-easies that the State Liquor Control Board announced in the spring of 1934 that it would soon padlock. John Dore, Seattle’s brilliant and sometimes bellicose mayor, gave the prohibition police no help, announcing to the press, “We have matters of greater importance and dearer consequence to consider than closing up speakeasies.” Hizzoner was thinking of that year’s waterfront strike.
The surviving 1949 remodel with glass bricks was for a new business, Singer Sewing Machine. After the sewing, Uptown Music sold guitars and rented school band instruments in the 1970s. In 1980 the glass-adorned box was rented for the Reagan-Bush Washington State Headquarters. The Republican Party was replaced with partying. Two music clubs paid the rent, the Weather Wall and Ispy. In 2008 the latter was promoted as an “Urban Comedy Jazz Café.” And so it figures that next year the little – for the neighborhood – shoebox may, if it likes, trumpet its centennial.
Anything to add, Paul? Yup Jean, Ron is going to post a few past features that relate to this neighborhood with relevant subjects – many of them on 5th Ave. – and a few irrelevant subjects mixed in.