Seattle Street 19xx

July 1st, 2011 @ 12:06 am by Cliffe | Sorted Photo Exposure |
Click Photograph of a Seattle street scene. Date and photographer unknown. Image courtesy Washington State Digital Archives.

16 Responses to “Seattle Street 19xx”

  1. Allen says:

    The license plates would indicate it is 1918. Not sure where it is though.

  2. Jen says:

    I think we’re looking at 4th & Marion, the site of the YMCA there on the left. I can also make out “Army Post, Bus Station” on the window.

  3. BrendanMcK says:

    Looks like Tacoma: 9th and Commerce, looking North. Building on the left appears to be the old Beutel Business College, between Commerce and Broadway (demolished 1925). Seattle Times in 1918 has adverts for a shuttle service Seattle, Tacoma and Camp Lewis: Tacoma stop is at “Army Post Bus Station at 9th and Commerce”

  4. BrendanMcK says:

    Pictures of the Beutel Building:

    - these are of the Broadway side, while in this photo, we’re looking at the back side of it.

  5. BrendanMcK says:

    Found another image of the building on the left, this time from almost the same vantage point as here:

  6. Thach Nguyen says:

    wow this is amazing to think what our streets looked like back in the day.

  7. Matt Mueller says:

    Note the YWCA sign in the background and then check this out:

    “In the early 1910s, the YWCA launched a whirlwind fundraising drive for its own building. Working women throughout the city made their own contributions and canvassed businesses for funds. The $400,000 was raised through the sale of bricks for $1 per brick and concessions at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Exposition. The eight-story brick building located at 5th Avenue and Seneca Streets in downtown Seattle opened in 1914. It remains our headquarters today.”

    A quick look at Street View on Google Maps reveals that the building has changed a bit in the last 97 years, but that shouldn’t be surprising. I’m almost certain this was taken on 5th Avenue looking southbound at Seneca Street (note that the incline of the hill on the left is much more consistent with that at 5th/Seneca than it is with 9th/Commerce in Tacoma).

  8. I gotta go with Tacoma on this one. In BrendanMcK’s linked photo, the number of window sets (as well as the lower two stone floors [as well as the sign over the left two sets on the second floor]) all match the photo above. The Seattle YWCA, on the other hand, has a wider facade with more window sets (8, I think), and the buildings next to (South of) it in about 1920 don’t look like the ones above. Here’s a link to a photo over on Mr. Dorpat’s site. If the photo above is about 1918, then I don’t think this is Fifth and Seneca. Also, I would think you’d see the original Sisters o’ Providence in the background.

  9. Okay, SEVEN window sets in the Seattle YWCA, but that’s my final offer. And it appears Providence was razed by the time of Paul’s 1920 or ’21 photo, so strike my “the turrets of Providence would be looming over the scene” requirement.

  10. Marty says:

    The shadows clinch it for me BrendanMcK is correct this is a picture of Tacoma regardless… the way Seattle is laid out it would be impossible for the sun to leave the shadows on the (Army Bus Depot) building the way it does UNLESS it was downtown Tacoma the sun would have to be situated in the north to cast the shadow on the building there, the way it does

  11. Brian says:

    Kinda late to the discussion, but I thought I’d weigh in, though I don’t even think it’s close to debatable; BrendanMcK is right, it’s Tacoma.

    The image he links to is identical in every visible detail (many already discussed by Matt the Journeyman above). On the other hand, here is a photo of the Seattle YWCA from 1915 (very near the date of this photo I should think) and it looks pretty much the same as it does today, which is to say not at all like the building in the photo above.

  12. I’m a 5th generation Seattleite. My family supplied timber to help rebuild Seattle after the 1889 fire (and we have the pix to prove it.)
    I can’t totally dismiss the Tacoma experts. But IMO, the slope of the Tacoma scene does not match up to the alleged Seattle photo.
    I can eliminate the YWCA, however. I was a maintenance worker there up to about a year ago. For sure the street angles and the slope of the land are not the same as in the photo.

    I nominate 1st and Marion, facing south. The sun angle would mean a morning shot. Marion is very steep, with fits with the photo. In addition, the two buildings on the left and right edges (SE & SW) of the photo strongly resemble structures still existant. Presently, the #12 bus turns the corner at !st and Marion, travelling up the hill. Directly opposite is the pedestrian walkway which crosses over Alaskan Way and leads to the ferry terminal at Colman dock.

  13. BrendanMcK says:

    @Rafi – re the slope – check out the links I’ve posted above – especially the postcard from the Tacoma Library – they all feature the same steep slope as in the photo.

    Also check out the current location on Google Maps Street View – – the rise is just over a story, consistent with the postcards. (Bonus – the location of the fire hydrant today matches that in both the photo and some of the postcards; hydrants tend not to move around much unless a city does some major plumbing reworking.)

    Another fact that ties this to Tacoma – the awning to the right in the photo reads “Wright”. Sure enough, Tacoma had a Wright building, which spanned the block between Commerce and Pacific south of 9th (1884-1969, address given as 902-904 Pacific); consistent with this being taken from just south of 9th and Commerce looking North. (Immediately south of the Wright building was the Liberty theater – which seems to match the first letter visible in the sign to the extreme top-right of the photo! – although the main entrance would have been on the other side of the block, facing Pacific.)

    The key match, though, is that postcard from the Tacoma library linked to above. It’s not just a strong match, it matches the building in the photo *perfectly*; from the street slope to the brickwork to the windows, even to the placement of the advertising boards over the window on the first story. (There’s little resemblance between this building and the one at the SW corner of 1st and Marion – that’s the Exchange building, and while it does sit on a slope, is about twice as wide as the building in the photo, with different window arrangement. It was built in 1930 as a new Art Deco building, so never had the stone or brickwork that the building in the photo has.)

  14. BrendanMcK says:

    Finally figured out the YWCA connection – zoom in, squint, and you might guess that the small print under the sign reads “cafeteria”. A bit of Googling then turned up this record from the Tacoma Public Library – – which is for the Chamber of Commerce building, and lists a Tacoma News Tribute article on 2/17/1918, about the opening of a new cafeteria in the building by none other than the YWCA.

  15. Marty Dawg says:

    It’s definitely the Tacoma building on the linked postcard image. While the street in the foreground could be First Ave., the slope up to the left is entirely too shallow for Marion Street, and for it to be Madison, the Rivoli Theatre would have been on the corner)
    BTW, check out the Vintage King County page on Facebook. They’ve got a great aerial shot today of Boeing Field from Feb of 1938. There’s so little large construction that it’s reminiscent of the camouflage covering over Plant Two during WWII.

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