For Jean Sherrard to record his repeat of George Moore’s historical portrait of Mercy and William Boone’s big home required both prudence and pluck. The latter took Jean to the edge of the concrete retaining wall that rises at least forty feet above the north-bound lanes of the Interstate Five Freeway. But it was prudence that kept him from leaning over the edge to reach closer to the prospect that George Moore took in the early 1890s. Both the home site and Moore’s position on Alder are now up in the air.
The Boone home was constructed at the northwest corner of 7th Avenue and Alder Street in 1885. Boone was almost certainly the architect. During the summer of 1886, The Post-Intelligencer reports in its popular “Brevities” section that the fifty-four year old architect, “while working on his residence yesterday, fell from a ladder and sustained severe bruises about the legs. His injuries are not considered serious.”
Without committing itself to “First Hill,” the name with which we are accustomed, the January 29, 1886, issue of The Post-Intelligencer referred to the Boone residence as one of the “new buildings on the hill top.” Well into the 1890s the more popular name for this most forward edge of the first hill behind the waterfront was Yesler Hill. A name used in honor of Seattle’s pioneer industrialist – and employer – Henry Yesler. From the time he built his first steam saw mill in 1852-3, it was assumed that he would eventually clear the hill of its timber.
Sometime after the 1890-91 construction of the King County Courthouse, across 7th Avenue from the Boone home, a more playful place name, Profanity Hill, was inspired by the language used by lawyers and litigants who climbed the hill to deny and confess in the halls and chambers of the Courthouse.
Married in California in 1871, William, a Pennsylvanian, and Mercie, originally from New York, came to Seattle for good in 1882. That year he designed the landmark Yesler-Leary Building in Pioneer Square. Like the Toklas and Singerman Department Store (Boone’s design from 1887), it did not survive the city’s Great Fire of 1889. The mansion by Boone and partner then, the Californian George C. Meeker, was designed for Henry and Sara Yesler in the mid-80s just survived the greater fire ’89, but not its own on the morning of New Year’s Day, 1901. A few of Boone’s landmarks that are still remembered, but lost, are Central School, Broadway High School, and the New York Block.
William died in 1921 one year before his New York Block was razed for another and greater of the terra-cotta buildings that were then favored for the business district. Mercie died in 1923. They were both ninety-one years old. Although without children, Mercie was a leader in local charities, including the Seattle Children’s Home, whose first quarters her husband designed.
[We’ll add pictures of the first and second quarters for the Children’s Home. Most likely it it the first of these that Boone designed – and yet perhaps both. The first was built on property at the southwest corner of Harrison and 4th Ave. N., that was given and chosen by David and Louisa Denny from their donation claim. It is now part of Seattle Center. The second and grander home is on Queen Anne Hill property that is still home for the charity, although now in a newer plant. I worked there in 1966 as a house parent – the most demanding job I ever had. It soon turned me to painting canvases – and houses. ]
Just paused for a bite in the I.D. and looked down King Street at our very own not-so-leaning tower with the Olympics looming behind.
I had to include a detail from the clock tower – note the support struts in the windows below (for an interior, flip down through this post from the past).
Anything to add, lads? Sure Jean but first such a luxurious recording or our tower. It takes more than the right gear, light, atmosphere and mobility to record such a shot, it also requires meditation on that golden bar that mysteriously (we agreed) cuts through the tower and illuminates it’s golden clockworks, and so reminds us – some of us – that time is precious and we had better leave this scene and get with it. Here at my desk I have a bowl of Narcissus Daffodils for sniffing the early Spring – while writing.
Again, here are a few relevant Edge-links (named for Ron Edge who pulled and grouped them). Open these links and you will surely find other features with their own lists of relevant links and those links with theirs. The lead photo for the top link looks from the west side of 7th Avenue (like Boone’s home) north across Jefferson Street, or almost two blocks north of the Boones. The next link of the Sprague Hotel at Yesler and Spruce is about two blocks south of the Boones. And, again, so on.
OTHER BOONE DESIGNS
BEFORE THE BOONES and AFTER
Now up the stairs to Nighty-bears – leaving proof-reading until tomorrow. It’s nearly 3am.
This quintet of front doors, beneath a central tower shaped like a bell and a mansard roof that billows like a skirt in a breeze, was long claimed to be Seattle’s first apartment house. (It might, however, be better to call these row houses, each with its own front door.) The group was built at the northeast corner of Second Avenue and Marion Street in 1883*, a busy year in which Seattle also acquired street numbers and fifty-nine new neighborhood additions. It was also easily the largest city in the territory, with a census count that year of 6645 over Tacoma’s 3108, Port Townsend’s 1300 and the 1169 living in Spokane.
* We have learned in the first hour of posting this blog that it also slogs. The date of construction is off. First Dennis Andersen, the regional authority on architectural history, sends from Portland this letter to me here in my Wallingford basement. Dennis writes “Great image of the Stetson-Post townhouse row! But perhaps a small edit for the date, from the Seattle PI. ‘July 30, 1881, p.3 col 1: ‘Moving in. The resident block of Stetson and Post, on Second Street, is now ready for occupancy. Mr. Post’s family have moved into the building on the south. Governor Ferry’s family have got the carpets down and are preparing to move into the one selected by them. The finishing touches are being put on the other three, and they will be occupied soon’.” Thanks again, Dennis. Next, Ron Edge (who also put up the links below, most of them on row housing ) found another PI citation in the National Archives, this one from September 29, 1880, and we attach it directly below. Thanks again, Ron.
Both “Stetson & Post Block” and “French Row Dwellings” are hand-written across the structure’s footprint in the 1884 Sanborn real estate map. It is named for its builders, George W. Stetson and John J. Post. Renting a shed on Henry Yesler’s wharf in 1875, and using Yesler’s hand-me-down boiler, the partners first constructed a gristmill for grinding grain into feed and flour, but soon switched to
making doors and window sashes. By 1883 they had the largest lumber mill over the tideflats then still south of King Street. The Stetson & Post mill was equipped for shaping wood into the well-ornamented landmark that was their then new terrace here at Third and Marion.
The Seattle city directory for 1884 has the partners living in their stately building, along with Thomas Burke, perhaps the most outstanding among the city’s “second wave” of pioneers. Other tenants were the dry goods and clothing merchants Jacob and Joseph Frauenthal, who had their own business block near Pioneer Square. The lawyer and future Judge Thomas Burke had his office in the Frauenthal Block.
Following the city’s Great Fire of 1889, which the wooden row houses escaped, the city rapidly rebuilt in brick and stone, expanding in every direction, including up. The Stetson & Post Block, which started as an elegant landmark visible from Elliott Bay, was soon hiding in the shadow of a seven-story business block, which was directly across Second Avenue, and named for Thomas Burke. The
row houses then added commerce. In place of the five grand stairways to the five apartments, five uniformly designed storefronts were built facing the sidewalk on Second. And the city’s first row house or apartments (you choose) also changed it’s name to the New York Kitchen Block, after the restaurant that was its principal tenant.
As noted by now far above, the 1884 Sanborn real estate map calls these attached homes “French Row Dwellings.” The Brits called them terraced housing. The many brownstones of New York are similarly arranged, and both San Francisco and Baltimore have rows of their architectural cousins – attached or semi-detached houses that are variations on a theme or several themes. Perhaps the most distinguished of the French rows is in Paris, the Place des Vosges, a 17th century creation.
In 1919 the seventy-five-year-old George Stetson succumbed, as did his and John Post’s wooden block. A dozen years earlier, the critic F. M. Foulser, writing a nearly full-page essay on “How Apartment Houses are Absorbing Seattle’s Increasing Population,” in The Seattle Times for December 8, 1907, imagined the Rainier Block (the last of Stetson & Post Block’s three names) as “some aristocratic little lady of by-gone days, who has been compelled to remain among the influx of vulgarly new associates . . . and drawing her skirts about her, remains in solitary retrospection.” Some day, the essayist mused, “when the owner of the land on which ‘The Terrace of Past Memories’ stands, decides to accept the fabulous sum which is bound to be offered him, the old building will give way to a modern skyscraper.” It took some time. While the first replacement of 1919 gleamed behind terracotta tiles, it was, even when discounting the lost tower, still shorter than the row house. The forty-seven floors of the First Interstate Center followed in 1983.
A survivor, the Stetson and Post Mill Company began promoting a “new plan” of delivering a “home from the forest to you.” It was a success. The company explained, because of its “ability to furnish the materials at prices well within reach” This, they explained, was possible because “the company owns its own timber, windows, doors, frames etc., employs no solicitors and sells for cash direct from the forest.” In 1926 Stetson and Post published a pattern book to encourage locals to build a variety of homes that were named, for the most part, after Seattle’s neighborhoods. Below are two examples. None of the forty-five or more “carefully devised plans” featured row-houses.
Anything to add, Paul? Yes Jean Ron and I though it most appropriate to feature a few past contributions that include some row houses. The last feature picked is the first we did on subjects included in Diana James recent history of Seattle’s apartment houses. It is titled, you will remember, SHARED WALLS.
And now we are going to climb the stairs to join the bears, so we will proof this after a good – we hope – night’s sleep.
If you are inclined to write a history of Seattle then you must include the three bodies hanging here between two of Henry and Sara Yesler’s maples on the early afternoon of January 18, 1882. The trees were planted in 1859; and they appear first as saplings in the earliest extant photo of Seattle, which was recorded that year. By 1882, the shade trees were stout enough to lynch James Sullivan and William Howard from a stanchion prepared for them between two of the Maples.
As ordered by the judge, the accused couple expected to be returned to jail when their preliminary trail in Yesler’s Hall at First Ave. and Cherry Street was completed. Instead the vigilantes in attendance covered Territorial Supreme Court Judge Roger Sherman Green with a hood, bound the guards, and dragged like the devil the doomed couple up the alley to James Street. There the leafless maples suddenly exposed their terrifying landscape to Sullivan and Howard. Soon after being violently pulled from court – in a few pounding heart beats – these two prime suspects of the daylight killing the day before of a young clerk named George B. Reynolds, were lifeless and their swinging corpses played with.
In a few minutes more, the by now hungry mob pulled from jail a third suspect, a “loafer” named Benjamin Paynes, who was accused of shooting a popular policeman named David Sires weeks before. For a while the hanging bodies of the three were raised and lowered over and over and in time to the mob’s chanting, “Heave Ho! Heave Ho!” Children who had climbed the trees to cut pieces of rope from the cooling bodies tied them to their suspenders or, for the girls, to the pigtails of their braided hair. It was, we are told, for “show and tell” in school.
Although there were several photographers in town, none of them took the opportunity to record – or expose – a lynching. Who would want such a photograph? Judging from the local popularity of these killings of accused killers, probably plenty. A few weeks following the stringing, Henry Yesler was quoted in Harpers Weekly, “That was the first fruit them trees ever bore, but it was the finest.” It was Seattle’s first really bad nation-wide publicity.
In Andrew William Piper’s cartoon of the event, the easily identified Henry stands in the foreground busy with his favorite pastime: whittling wood. The cartoonist Piper was a popular confectioner who loved dancing and singing with his wife and eleven children. He was also a practical joker and the first socialist elected to the Seattle City Council. We don’t know if Piper also joined the local chorus of acclaim for the hangings. Judge Green more than objected. Once free of his hood, he rushed to the lynching and tried to cut the ropes, but failed.
On the far right of his cartoon, the cartoonist-confectionaire Piper has included the sign of the Chronicle, a newspaper located in the alley behind the Yesler back yard. It was up this alley that the victims were rushed to their lynching. Printed next is a transcript from an 1883 issue of the Chronicle, which describes a resplendent new saloon in the basement of the new Yesler-Leary Building at the northwest corner of Front (First Ave.) and Yesler Way and so also at the foot of James Street.
Anything to add, Paul? Yes Jean, and most of it, again, links to past features related to the place and/or the subject. Most of extras – if one takes the opportunity to click and read – will be the several links that Ron Edge will be soon putting up directly below this exposition. Then, after the links, we will probably continue on with a few more features – if we can find them tomorrow (Saturday) night when we get to them. We should add that we do not encourage lynching of any sort, or for that matter capital punishment. It is all cruel, pathetic and even useless. Yes – or No! – we do not agree with the wood whittler Henry Yeslers. We have imprisoned within quote marks our title “finest fruit” borrowed from him.