This Week in Queen Anne History

Tragedy struck the Queen Anne community on Sunday, January 12, 1930, when four young people were killed and six more badly injured in a horrific sledding accident.  It was the culmination of a deadly weekend for winter recreation seekers throughout the city and around Puget Sound.  The days leading up to the tragedy had been unusually cold, with temperatures falling into the teens and intermittent snowfall.

The sled, carrying 12 riders ranging in age from 14 to 22, collided with an automobile at the northeast corner of 1st Avenue West and West Garfield Street.   Everett Jensen, the 19-year-old driver of the car and son of wealthy Walla Walla department store founder A.M. Jensen, ignored the police barricade put in place on the designated “coasting” hill.  The 16-year-old pilot of the sled, Ray Whitteman, managed to steer the loaded coaster to his right after they saw the car’s headlights enter their path.  Inexplicably, Jensen steered the car to his left, leaving no time or room to redirect the sled. Whitteman died instantly.  Three others — Helen Haw, 15; Margaret Chadburne, 16; and Clyde Tucker, 22 — all died in hospital.

Jensen admitted to taking several drinks before he and his passenger, Henry Farish, headed to Queen Anne to visit Jensen’s girlfriend.  Farish confirmed that Jensen had been drinking and had ignored him when he told him he had passed a police barrier.  The coroner who attempted to question Jensen at the scene described him as so drunk that he couldn’t talk sense.  Despite this, a jury found Jensen not guilty in his criminal trial four months later.

Fatal Sled Ride

This image of the scene featured in The Seattle Times the following day includes an artist’s rendering of the accident and an inset image of Alice Logan, who witnessed the tragedy from her home at 105 1st Avenue West.

The days leading up to the accident on Queen Anne saw widespread sledding and skating accidents.  The Friday Times reported that eleven people had been injured, two critically, in separate incidents around the city.  On Saturday, 21-year-old Earl Vance, son of Seattle lumber and real estate magnate Joseph Vance, drowned after falling through thin ice while skating with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Dolores Totten, on Steel Lake, south of Seattle.  Ms. Totten was able to scramble to the shore.

After the tragedy on Queen Anne, Seattle Police Chief Louis Forbes and Mayor Frank Edwards issued a formal order to the police department to stop all coasting in Seattle.  The streets throughout the city that had been designated for the activity were immediately sanded, and people caught sledding on any city street were subject to arrest.

Queen Anne Yesterday & Today

Looking North from Mercer St. in 1902

The historical image of Queen Anne Avenue was taken in 1902, the same year that the Seattle Electric Railway streetcar system began service on the route, replacing the cable car system that had been in place since 1891.  Previously called Temperance Street, the name was changed to Queen Anne Avenue in 1895 after the city passed an ordinance to rename several streets and avenues around town.  As indicated by the handwritten note on the historic photograph, the steep incline became known as the Counterbalance for the underground tunnel-and-counterweight system, installed between Roy and Comstock streets, that assisted the streetcars as they climbed the hill and acted as brakes to slow their descent.  The system was used until 1940, when the city replaced the streetcars with “trackless trolleys,” buses that run on overhead powerlines.

Looking North from Mercer St. in December 2020

The east side of the block between Mercer and Roy streets is now occupied by the MarQueen Hotel, which was built in 1918 as the Seattle Engineering School and converted into apartments by the Vance Lumber Co. in 1926.  It was known as the Vance Apartments until 1930, when the name was changed to the MarQueen Apartments.  It was converted to a hotel in 1998.

In 1902, the block was occupied by at least three separate buildings, including the grocery store in the foreground.  Many small grocers set up shop along the various streetcar routes on the hill.  In the distance, on the west side of the street, the Queen Anne-style George Kinnear mansion is visible with its distinctive onion dome-topped turret.  The mansion graced the hill from 1888 until 1958 when it was torn down for construction of Bayview Manor.

The only things familiar in today’s image are the steep incline of the street itself and the location of utility poles on the west side of the street.  The single-strand overhead wires that powered the streetcar system were not yet in place in the 1902 image.  They would have looked similar to the double-strand cables in today’s image.

This Week in Queen Anne History

On December 6, 1918 The Seattle Daily Times announced that the upcoming Queen Anne High School and Franklin High School football games scheduled for that day were called off as a precautionary measure to fight the spread of the Spanish Flu.  The final two championship playoff games scheduled for the weekend, Lincoln vs. Broadway and West Seattle vs. Ballard, were cancelled as well.

The order was issued by the Board of Education at the request of Dr. Ira Brown, Medical Inspector of Seattle Public Schools.  Brown said of the decision to effectively end the 1918-1919 high school football season,

 The schools are free from influenza and we want to keep them that way.  If the games were attended by only school boys and girls, there would be no danger, but under present conditions we deem the action a necessary precaution.

The influenza pandemic was first detected in Washington state during the first week of October, 1918 and closure of all Seattle schools, theaters and restaurants was announced on the front page of the October 5th edition of The Seattle Daily Times.  On November 3, statewide orders required surgical masks “entirely covering the nose and mouth” be worn in all public places where people came into close contact.  Seattle’s bans were lifted by mid-November as cases ebbed, but intermittent school closures continued with fluctuations in case numbers for the six months that the city battled the virus.  By the time it was over, the pandemic had claimed the lives of approximately 1,500 Seattleites.

1918 Queen Anne High School Grizzlies Football team.

Queen Anne High School Grizzlies football players pose for the 1918-1919 yearbook.  The football season was cut short by the influenza pandemic.