Thinking about history and growth of modern architecture on Queen Anne Hill and vicinity, I get to look back at all that with which I grew up, from the mid-1940s onward. My sister and I stood on a glacial boulder at the foot of the steps at Third Avenue North in front of our house (910 3rd Ave. N.). The boulder had been unearthed by the steam shovels which were quickly removing the hillside across the street to make way for an apartment complex, brick fronts, and comfortable units. About the same time, I watched the razing of the old Mercer School, which made way for the Seattle Public Schools Administration Building, a beautiful and eye-catching structure with many windows and a flagstone entrance.This was the summer and fall of 1946 and into 1947. As a three-year-old, I could walk down the hill to the corner and turn east on Aloha Street to watch the construction. They had two pile- drivers working together to fill in the piles on which that building would stand. I liked the sounds and shapes of both pile drivers and steam shovels – I was an urban child without understanding what that concept meant.
Eventually both school offices and the apartment complex were finished. The apartments filled rapidly, and we had new friends—Barbara Hanel, Nancy Opliger, and Bonnie Cooper, the latter who went on through Warren Avenue Grade School and Queen Anne High School. The great white apartment complex which towers over Aurora about Crockett (north of Trolley Hill Park) was completed about 1950. These were some of the first “modern” housing units of which I saw under construction. Had I been another 10 years older, I would have had the pleasure of taking candid photos of the construction work and the eventual finished buildings. I can still remember the vacant lot on Third North where the apartments went up. Blackberry bushes grew right out to the street. Much of our shopping in that era was done at the Fifth Avenue and Aloha stores. The Aloha Pharmacy, run by the Harrigers, was on the east side of the street on the corner, across from the shoemaker and to the north, from the Green Garden Pickle Factory.
Next to the pharmacy, which had a small soda fountain and the latest comic books, was Bigelow’s Fine Foods, and a few doors down from that was a beauty salon. Across the street on the west side of Fifth was the shoe manufacturer and the Aloha Meat Market (1923-1973) run by the Swanson brothers and their families. Then access to the old house which had been lifted up and moved back from the street, then walled in by the meat market, the barber shop, and the Busy Bee grocery. On special occasions we would walk over to the Uptown district.