Isn’t It Time to Landmark the Coliseum?

Supporters at the Seattle Center Coliseum
Supporters celebrating a “HeartBomb” at Seattle Center’s Coliseum last Valentine’s Day
(courtesy of the author)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Four years ago Michael Herschensohn was published on Crosscut.com asking the same question I am asking today.

A landmark designation for the Coliseum, or KeyArena as newcomers might call it, is a certainty. But as a relative Seattle newcomer myself, I beg the question, why wasn’t it landmarked before? My guess is the recession, plus a dash of politics, had something to do with it.

Let’s hypothesize for a minute, that the Coliseum is landmarked this year – now what? Seattle Center is motivated to keep the Coliseum as an entertainment venue and ideally attract a professional basketball team and unrealistically attract a professional hockey team. Seattle Center is inclined to keep their revenue stream alive and well for themselves. I understand Seattle Center’s intentions, but I view them as solely self-serving.

Are Seattle Center’s self-serving intentions justified? As a subset of the City of Seattle shouldn’t they do what is best for the city as a whole? For those that are hell-bent on attracting professional sports teams and building an arena, one that is supposedly paid for with private funds, SODO is an obvious option. Although at a recent QAHS board meeting my fellow QAHS board member Leanne Olson also reminded Seattle Center that no action is also an option. Leanne’s “no action is an option” also holds true for the City of Seattle.

Continuing to hypothesize, if an arena is built in SODO, then what should the Coliseum become? Seattle Center has responded by stating that they would investigate other entertainment attractions to stave off loss of revenue.

For a second, I propose we ignore the driver of revenue and ask what does the city need? Does it need more classroom space? Does it need more affordable housing? Does it need temporary housing for the homeless?… Does it need another entertainment venue?

It turns out the greater Seattle community is currently discussing all of these questions, except that last question. Only private investors, who have everything to gain and nothing to lose, are asking for a new arena.

After asking myself these questions, I have come up with a proposal: landmark the Coliseum, consider an arena in SODO if you must, and discuss with the Queen Anne community (not just Uptown) what the future of the Coliseum should be.

More Infomation: 3rd Annual HeartBomb–at the Coliseum

WHO IS LIANE? Our Embedded Street Names

Typo at W. Blaine & 7th W. The B has disappeared.

Try as I may, I haven’t found a good source explaining when or even why Seattle began marking intersections with metal letter street names embedded in concrete sidewalks.  It has been suggested that the practice developed before there were street names posted on telephone poles.  It has also been suggested that developers who platted our streets were required to insert the names in the sidewalks.  So much for urban myths!  On Queen Anne almost all the platting took place before the advent of concrete sidewalks.  Also, the consistent size and font across all of Queen Anne and elsewhere in the city suggests that even after we started having concrete sidewalks, it may not have been the developers who installed the names.  My guess is that once the wooden sidewalks began to rot, the city laid up sidewalks and had a store of those matching letters that it used at every intersection.

My guess is practically confirmed by what we know of the history of street paving.

According to A Narrative History of the Engineering Department, the first concrete pavement in Seattle was laid in 1919 (p. 105).  The word pavement apparently related to the roadway.  The earliest, and truth be told, only reference to concrete sidewalks that I’ve been able to locate in the Seattle Municipal Archives relates to a petition submitted on November 14, 1902 by August C. Anderson protesting a payment of $844.95 that he paid for the construction of a concrete sidewalk on both sides of Eastlake Avenue between Howell Street and Mercer Street, under Ordinance 7928 creating Local Improvement District 578 (SMA 990027 transcript).

UPDATE to all the guessing which it turns out was much closer to the truth than I imagined.  David Williams, the prolific author of articles and books about the geology, geography and history of Seattle including the 2017 Seattle Walks: Discovering History and Nature in the City, knew all along.  In a  July 2015 post, David identify City Resolution 387, passed on October 20, 1902 as the reason for the embedded names.  It reads: 

A Resolution declaring that all concrete sidewalks laid in the City of Seattle shall have the names of the streets countersunk in plain letters at the street intersections, and instructing the Board of Public Works to provide for this being done in all contracts and permits for such sidewalks; also directing the Board of Public Works to procure samples of durable and suitable street signs, together with prices, and to transmit them to the City Council with a cost estimate.

Mr. Anderson would be shocked to see what happened to the east side of the street around 1962 when I-5 ploughed through the neighborhood, but his petition gives a vague sense of when the city gave up wooden sidewalks for the more durable concrete ones and when it may have begun insisting on the metal names at intersections.

H. Ambrose Kiehl took this 1895 photo (UW Special Collections) of his family’s house on Republican St. when he worked as the Army’s photographer at Fort Lawton and before the family moved up the hill to Fifth W. and W. Galer.  Note the wooden sidewalks and unpaved surface of the roadway.

Recently, Julia Herschensohn photographed some of the interesting metal names she’s located on her morning walks around the hill.  The misspellings such as Liane St. above make me chortle, so do Julia’s shoes.

Epler Place now W. Olympic Place and 7th Ave W.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is one set of embedded letters at the intersection of Galer and Second W. that makes it a real stumper.

Missing teeth at Galer and Second N.

Adding an H and an I to the beginning of the first word and a D at the end along with a C to make ‘place,’ transforms this mysterious set of letters into HIGHLAND PLACE. It is a street name that has changed!

The metal street names embedded at all the intersections on the 2018 Mercer Street rebuild show the city and its traffic engineers tipping their hats to a Seattle tradition.  It may be that the huge size of these newer street names reflects an aging population, a decline in visual acuity in the general population or the traffic engineers’ desire to tease us with a font size that reflects the massiveness of the roadway they’ve built in our 21st century automobile age.   In any case, there is no need to tell you where I took this photograph.

 

It would be lovely to learn for sure how, when and why the city started identifying streets in this delightful way.  In the meantime, here are the letters which got me interested in this problem.  They are on my street corner and remain my favorites.

Photo: M. Herschensohn
Letters at First Ave N and Howe

 

170 Prospect St: Brace-Moriarty Residence

Lumberman John Stuart Brace (1861-1918) started his lumber business in Spokane in 1878 and moved to Seattle 10 years later with his family to work with his father in the mill industry. In 1890 he married Katherine Frankland Brace (1861-1924) and they had three girls and two boys.

In 1892 Brace served on the city council and three years later he became Superintendent for Western Mills. By 1899 the Brace & Hergert Mill Company was successfully operating at the intersection of Valley St and Terry Ave in South Lake Union, now a part of Lake Union Park.

In 1904 Brace commissioned a home to be designed by the Kerr and Rogers partnership. The home was built from old growth trees by his lumber company. As President of the Lake Washington Canal Association, Brace met with government officials and committees of business men, and directed the educational campaign in favor of the canal. In 1918 John Stuart Brace died in his home after a 3-month illness.

“A very patriotic, high type of citizen was Mr. Brace. I know of no man with whom I have come in contact within recent years that impressed me as being so broad, unselfish and fair-minded, nor one in whom more confidence could be placed. He was a splendid friend. Not alone for his work… but in many other ways was he a friend of the community. It is doubtful if the full measure of the community’s debt to him will ever be fully known.” Lawrence J. Colman

…Continue reading “170 Prospect St: Brace-Moriarty Residence”

Are Historic Districts or DADUs the Best Way to Preserve Queen Anne?

Torn by the perceived conflict between preserving Queen Anne’s historic character and of increasing urban density, I waver between historic districts and backyard cottages as the best way to preserve historic fabric. Across the country, we find contiguous districts such as the Ballard Avenue Historic District and thematic districts where scattered buildings of the same general type, style or age are protected as if the buildings were contiguous. Both types of districts protect all the buildings within their boundaries.

The relatively absence of individual landmarks and historic districts in Seattle underlies my angst. Ours is no longer a young west coast city, yet we have but eight historic districts and only the Harvard-Belmont District includes residential properties. The rest are commercial neighborhoods (Ballard Avenue, Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market, International District and Columbia City) or former military bases (Fort Lawton and Sand Point). Seattle has no neighborhood historic districts like Queen Anne, upper or lower and no thematic districts. …Continue reading “Are Historic Districts or DADUs the Best Way to Preserve Queen Anne?”