(click to enlarge photos)
The first Unitarian Church of Seattle was built in 1889, only two years after Samuel Eliot, the 25-year-old son of Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University and perhaps then the most famous educator in the Western Hemisphere, arrived in Seattle to help its Unitarians get organized and build this sanctuary.
Local architect Hermann Steinman presented the drawings as a gift to the new congregation. Soon after the construction commenced mid-May 1889, the church’s rising belfry was easily visible around the city. The construction, here on the east side of Seventh Avenue between Union and Pike streets, was not affected when most of Seattle’s business district was consumed by the Great Fire of June 6, 1889.
The photograph by Asahel Curtis was recorded about 20 years later — most likely 1909, by which time the Unitarians had moved on and turned the building over to other users. In the Curtis photo, the church building is squeezed on the right (south) by the popular Dreamland, a large hall built as a roller rink in 1908, but then soon given to dancing and a great variety of assemblies, many of them labor-related and politically liberal. These politics also fit the activism of the AOUW (Ancient Order of United Workmen), which used the old church for its Columbia Lodge soon after the popular Unitarians had moved to Capitol Hill. The Columbia name is signed on the steeple.
The First Unitarians dedicated their new, larger church on Boylston Avenue in 1906. It had 800 seats, the better to stage the church’s productions, which included concerts of many sorts, adult Sunday schools led by University of Washington profs, classes in psychology and comparative religion, and plays by the Unitarian Dramatic Club.
Dramatic presentations continue on the original church site with ACT Theatre. Jean Sherrard used his recent benefit appearance on an ACT stage as an opportunity to pose the theater’s support staff at its Seventh Avenue side entrance for this week’s “Now.” To quote Sherrard, “I don’t know if any are Unitarians or not, but they are surely united in their vision for a transcendent theatrical experience.”
Anything to add, Paul? Certainly Jean and we will begin again with a few relevant LINKS that Ron has pulled from past features. After all that I’ll put up some more mostly from the neighborhood.
CAPITOL HILL UNITARIANS
UNION Street From FIRST HILL
EAGLES at SEVENTH & UNION
The Eagles Lodge took its name from a stuffed eagle displayed in the hallway of an early meeting hall. The founders, a handful of mostly good old theater boys, got their inspiration while sitting around Robert Moran’s Seattle shipyard in 1898.
When new in 1925, their grand lodge at Seventh Avenue and Union Street was described as “a modification of Italian Renaissance, sufficiently ornamented to add to its beauty without being ostentatious.” The architect, Henry Bittman, was a primary contributor to the inventory of terra-cotta landmarks Seattle was blessed with in the teens and ’20s.
Although not dated, this view [the top view of this subject] of the auditorium/clubhouse was probably taken when the founding “Mother Aerie” hosted the 1926 convention of the by-then-sizable national lodge.
Much of the Eagles Auditorium modern history has been given to rock-n-roll, first in the 1950s with Little Richard and Fats Domino. A five-year run of light-show concerts began with a disruption in 1967. Police “busted” a concert featuring the Emergency Exit and the Union Light Company, suspecting that the film loops and liquid projections of the Union Light Company simulated psychedelic consciousness, which the visiting police Dance Detail figure was somehow in violation of a 1929 code prohibiting something called “shadow dancing.” Perhaps the reasoning was that is the lights are turned down there will be more shadows.
Now with daylight savings upon us so is nighty bears surprisingly and we must limb that stairs to a long winter’s night, but we will we return in the afternoon to finish this off with something about the Dreamland, which held the corner before the Eagles.
The northeast corner of Seattle’s Seventh Avenue and Union Street includes a history of one landmark replacing two. In the older view the Dreamland Dance Pavilion and, partially hidden behind it to the left, the First Unitarian Church of Seattle were razed for construction of the Eagles Auditorium
The Dreamland is last listed in the 1922 city directory. The following ear the Seattle Eagles’ new aerie is recorded at its corner – a place it still fills, although not so much for Eagles.
Constructed in 1908 as a roller rink, the Dreamland was soon converted into a dance hall capable of accommodating crowds of more than 3,000, it was also a popular venue for mass meetings.
Perennial Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs spoke to an overflow crowd there in January 1915, and two years later Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, another celebrated socialist, packed the place. Flynn appeared to raise money for the Wobblies – Industrial Workers of the World members – wrongfully accused of instigating the Everett massacres when Wobblies and members of Everett’s Commercial Club exchanged gunfire on the Everett waterfront.
The church as built in 1889 when the corner was still in the sticks. At the sanctuary’s September dedication, Dr. Thomas l. Eliot from the Portland congregation made a spiritual point of the new church’s building materials. “Long ago the stones of its foundation were a part of an ancient glacial drift, the trees sprang up perhaps before we signed the Declaration of Independence. The iron, maybe, was from Norway. Behold them brought together for shelter that man may look to something greater than the forest, rock and iron.”
A LETTER from LARRY LOWRY
Larry Lowry kindly sent me this photograph of the Dreamland with the wagons of The Seattle Bakery posing before it on Union Street. Below the photograph is its own caption and Larry’s letter introducing his grandmother Waverly Mairs who for many years operated the bakery’s ice cream machine.