This subject is, almost certainly, the formal opening of the Golden Potlatch on the afternoon of Wednesday July 19, 1911. To find the ceremony itself we would need to go out-of-frame, far-right, following the attentions of those packed atop the long line of boxcars on the left. This rolling stock was often used as convenient bleachers through the many years that the waterfront, where “rail meets sail,” was stage (or platform) for local celebrations. With his or
her back to Madison Street, the photographer looks south on Railroad Ave (Alaskan Way) to the also packed Marion Street overpass. It was built by the railroads to permit safe passage for the hordes of locals and visitors here in 1909 for the city’s Alaska Yukon and Pacific Exhibition (AYP). The Golden Potlatch was, in part, an attempt by local boomers to recapture some of the civic splendor and hoopla that had accompanied the summer-long AYP. And the Potlatch had its own reverberations. As the first citywide, multi-day, summer festival, the several Potlatches were precursors for the now retirement-age annual Sea Fair celebration.
Another prospect for watching the opening day ceremonies, from both the windows and the roof of the Maritime Building, on the left, fills the block between Madison and Marion Streets and Railroad and Western Avenues and rises five stories above the boxcars. It was filled with the offices and warehouse spaces for distributing the daily needs for foodstuffs and such brought here from distant lands (like California and Mexico). Built of reinforced concrete with lots of windows for light, the big building’s architect, contractor and builder was Stone and Webster, one of the nation’s great commercial octopi, with its tentacles already active in Seattle’s trolleys, interurbans, and power plants.
A gust from a mid-summer breeze flaps the American flag, top-center on the featured photo, posted above the southwest corner of the Maritime Building. Every corner had one. More evidence of the wind is the woman in the dazzling white blouse heading toward the photographer and holding tight with both hands her oversized hat. However, none of the men here seem worried for their own crowns.
What are they watching? The ceremonial mish-mash of Kings and Queens, and performers acting as Alaskans landing aboard the “ton of gold” ship, the S.S. Portland, followed by a double line of navy ships, tooting Puget Sound “mosquito-fleet” steamers, and northwest yachts. Meanwhile overhead Curtiss aviators Ely and Winter flew back and forth. At two o’clock, the Gold Rush flotilla was scheduled to reach the Grand Trunk Pacific Dock, the largest wooden pier on the coast and in 1911 brand new. With fireworks, fireboat displays, and band concerts from the pier, the rubbernecked folks on the boxcar roofs were entertained until midnight.
Anything to add, lads? MOSTLY waterfront features Jean. More to come tomorrow, perhaps. Proofreading too.
The Galbraith Bacon dock, like most others built on the Seattle waterfront after 1900, was positioned at a slant off Railroad Avenue (Alaskan Way) for two sensible reasons. First, such a dock allowed railroad spurs an easier angle for reaching the aprons to the sides of the wharves. Second, at such a slant the end of a long dock was closer to shore and so did not require unnecessarily long piles to support it.
Having dealt feed on the waterfront since 1891, James Galbraith was the ‘old timer’ in this partnership. Cecil Bacon, a chemical engineer with some extra capital, arrived in Seattle in 1899. Deep pockets helped Bacon persuade Galbraith to make a bigger business with him by adding building materials, like lime and concrete, to the established partner’s hay and feed. In 1900, they were the first signature tenants in the Northern Pacific Railroad’s newly constructed finger pier No. 3 (now 54) at the foot of Madison Street. The partners prospered and soon added to their enterprise this pier at the foot of Wall Street.
Although I like the featured photograph at the top for how it upsets our prepossession with the picturesque – I mean, of course, the askew yards on the sailing ship and its splotched starboard side – I neither know why the square-rigged Montcalm was tied to the Wall Street pier, nor which Montcalm it was. Many ships bear the name, and probably all were named for Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, who until he was hit with an English musket ball in the Battle of Quebec, was New France’s Commander-in-Chief during its French and Indian War with the British in the 1750s.
For some clue on the Montcalm’s condition I turned to Scott Rohrer, an old friend who is also celebrated hereabouts for his sailing and understanding of maritime history. Scott tersely answered, “She’s steel and her crew is scaling and chipping her hull for primer and repainting after a long, apparently rough voyage.”
The Wall Street pier, about the size of a football field, was replaced in the early 1960s with what the waterfront long wanted: a big hotel. First sketches of the Edgewater show it as the Camelot Inn. The Edgewater is perhaps best known for the visiting Beatles, of whom the now common fish tale is told that they followed the instructions written on the waterfront side of the hotel and fished from their window. We suspect that a trolling of the bottom might still catch some paint chips fallen a century ago from the worn sides of the Montcalm.
Anything to add, Paul? Certainly, and beginning again with Ron Edge’s selection of links to other features we have had swimming in the Pacific in the past. Ron has also put up the cover to our illustrated history of the waterfront. I suspect that if it is clicked then several chapter choices will appear. We remind the reader that this Waterfront History is always available in toto on this blog. And was also propose again that when in doubt or squinting that readers should click twice and sometimes thrice.
THE WATERFRONT FIRE OF 1910 – at the FOOT OF WALL STREET
RAILROAD AVENUE LOOKING NORTH FROM WALL STREET
QUIZ – SELF-CONFIDENCE WILL BE REWARDED TO THE READER WHO CAN REVEAL FROM WHAT THE HISTORICAL PHOTO BELOW WAS RECORDED.
Charles Morford, who migrated with his parents from Iowa in the spring of 1887, was 20 years old when he recorded this unique Seattle cityscape a few months later. Morford’s subject looks east up Columbia Street from the Seattle waterfront as far as the Coppin water works at Ninth Avenue. The four-story tower’s open First Hill observatory stood 300 feet above Morford’s prospect. The well below it supplied most of the neighborhood, and its bored-log pipes reached down the hill at least as far as James Colman’s mansion. Its Italianate tower also breaks the horizon, here at the southeast corner of Columbia and Fourth Avenue.
We may be confident that the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railway baggage/express car, at the bottom, is new. By historian Thomas Prosch’s reckoning in his “Chronological History of Seattle” (1901), the car was delivered in September 1887. This timing is in fine coincidence with the construction scaffolding attached to the Toklas and Singerman Department Store, on the right. The rough lumber is soon to come down. The store was completed on Sept. 28, although the formal opening waited until Nov. 9.
A few days after the opening of the department store, which was then the highest building in Seattle, the railway was also celebrating. On Thanksgiving Day it gave 108 locals a free round-trip ride to its then new end-of-the-line in Bothell.
Included among Morford’s surviving glass-plate negatives are several more of the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern. At what point Morford also became an employee of this railway is unclear. But in the fall of 1887 he would not yet have known that most of his gainful employment here would be with the retail business behind the scaffolding. Morford became a clerk, first, with MacDougal Southwick, the partnership that bought out Toklas and Singerman in 1892. Morford soon became the store’s general manager and one of its stockholders.
Anything to add, Paul? The solo feature that Ron Edge pulled and placed directly below includes several subjects that relate to this week’s feature. The “lead” feature, printed here below, shows the Toklas and Singerman department store completed, and so without the scaffolding that hides its north facade in the prime feature at the top. The reader may wish to search the several other features that can be found by clicking on the link. Please give special attention to one about the 1884 snow as seen looking east up the waterfront from close to the same prospect that Morford used for his shot at the top. Much has changed in these three short years that felt both the lingering effects of the 1883 recession and the general excitement of the completion of the Norther Pacific to the northwest, also in 1883. Seattle’s boom years were at the front door, which is to say, both on the waterfront and heading this way from Chicago, Portland and, resentfully from Tacoma too, across the tideflats south of King Street on rails.
FOLLOWS NOW (soon) A FEW MORE PHOTOS OF THE WATERFRONT AT or NEAR COLUMBIA STREET
COLMAN DOCK AND THE WATERFRONT ca. 1886 (text to come)
Here we stand – about a century ago – with an unidentified photographer recording five U.S. Postal Service teams and their drivers. The year is about 1905, six years after the Post Office moved from its previous headquarters on Columbia Street here to the Arlington Hotel. Larger quarters were needed, in part for sorting mail.
On the left (of the top photo) is the hotel’s north façade extending west from the corner of University Street and First Avenue. Above the sidewalk on First, the hotel reached four ornate brick stories high with a distinguished conical tower at the corner, not seen here. To the rear there were three more stories reaching about forty feet down to Post Alley. First named the Gilmore Block, after its owner David Gilmore, for most of its eighty-four years this sturdy red brick pile was called the Arlington, but wound up as the Bay Building, and it was as the Bay that it was razed in 1974.
By beginning the construction of his hotel before the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, Gilman performed a considerable, if unwitting, service. The south foundation of the structure was formidable enough to stop the fire from reaching University Street. Off shore, a chain of volunteer fire fighters, passing buckets of water pulled from Elliot Bay, stopped the fire’s northerly advance as well along the off-shore quays and trestles built of pilings for warehouses and railroad tracks.
Free mail delivery started in Seattle on September 11, 1887, with four carriers. Remembering that booming Seattle’s population increased in a mere thirty years from 3,533 in 1880 to the 237,194 counted by the federal census in 1910, we may imagine that this quintet of carriers and their teams were a very small minority of what was needed to deliver the mail in 1905. Behind the posing carriers, University Street descends on a timber trestle above both Post Alley and Western Avenue to Railroad Avenue (Alaska Way). Most likely some of the mail was rolled along the trestle both to and from “Mosquito Fleet” steamers for waterways distribution.
After the post office moved three blocks to the new Federal Building at Third Avenue and Union Street in 1908, First Avenue between University and Seneca Streets continued as a block of hospitality with seven hotels.
Anything to add, Paul? A few variations from the neighborhood, Jean, beginning with a look south on First Avenue through University Street.
FIRST AVENUE SOUTH THRU UNIVERSITY STREET
WHERE THE UNIVERSITY STREET RAMP REACHED RAILROAD AVENUE
[NOTE: The NOW describe directly above has not been found, or rather a good print or the negative for it stays hidden.]
WESTERN AVENUE LOOKING SOUTH FROM THE UNIVERSITY STREET VIADUCT
[ANOTHER NOTE: The “Contemporary photo noted in the paragraph directly above may have joined the other “now” subject missing above it. ]
Here – if Ron Edge reads his mail on awakening Sunday Morning – we may find a link for the story feature we published here on the Buzby’s Waterfront Mill, which was nearby at the foot of Seneca Street. After the story of Buzby and his pioneer flour, we follow Jean and his students off to Snoqualmie Falls for another now-then. After a few more digressions, the linked feature returns to the “hole,” above, for more of Frank Shaw’s photos of it. This may all transpire soon for Ron arises about the time I join the other bears here for another long winter’s sleep.