“Queen Anne is the most clearly defined of all Seattle’s hills, a miniature mountain rising abruptly from Elliott Bay, the ship canal, Lake Union and the Seattle Center. –“Queen Anne Hill Seattle’s Miniature Mountain,” Seattle Times (Duncan 1979)
It has been over two years since the Landmarks Preservation Board protected the Bleitz Funeral Home at 316 Florentia St. with landmark designation. We wrote about the history of that business and building about the same time. You can find that article here. ‘Today’ in the caption below referred to the building at the time of nomination.
Since 2017, the building has stood empty and lonely in the embrace of a menacing chain link fence. We’ve worried that nothing was ever going to happen and that we might lose the Bleitz entirely.
Well we are delighted to report that following the sale of the site to a second developer, work began this week (August 12-16, 2019) with the demolition of the 1989 addition on the west side of the original 1921 building and the removal of the surface parking lot to its west.
The old parking lot will see the construction of a small office building while the original building will be converted into addtional office spaces. The recently exposed western wall of the building will remain visible following construction of the new office structure. All of this work has been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Board.
As part of Cathy Tuttle’s 2019 primary election campaign for Seattle City Council in District 4, I wrote a number of short pieces on the history of the district for the campaign website.
It seems a waste not to share them with our readers who love anything about Seattle’s rich history, and, as I once testified before the Landmarks Preservation Board when endorsing the nomination of the Old Spaghetti Factory, “You can see it from Queen Anne!” So here are all eleven of them. They were published once a week between mid April and the end of the campaign.
Home of the Good Shepherd
From 1906 to 1973, the Home of the Good Shepherd building on Sunnyside Avenue and the Sisters of the Good Shepherd who ran it provided shelter, education and training for young pregnant women from around the country.
The sisters funded the Home of the Good Shepherd by taking in laundry from the Great Northern Railroad. They did the wash in the space under the truncated smokestack on the southern edge of the property.
In 1973, the City of Seattle and citizen activists prevented the 11-acre site from becoming a shopping center, created a park and gave the building to Historic Seattle to manage.
The Aurora Bridge
State Route 99 skirts the western edge of District 4 and joins it to Queen Anne, Seattle and downtown Seattle over the George Washington Bridge.
Like the bridge connecting New Jersey to Manhattan, Seattle, Washington’s bridge opened on February 22, 1932 to celebrate the bicentennial of Washington’s birth. The Seattle bridge quickly adopted the nickname The Aurora Bridge. No surprise there since it was part of The Aurora Speedway, as the street was first called.
The bridge is a cantilever and truss bridge. According to Wikipedia, it is 2,945 ft (898 m) long, 70 ft (21 m) wide, and 167 ft (51 m) above the water. Its widest span is 475 ft. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition
Designed by John Charles Olmsted as part of the landscape plan adapting the University of Washington campus for the 1909 Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition, Rainier Vista remains the single most important legacy of Seattle’s first world’s fair.
Despite massive reworking of its southeastern tip when the Montlake Bridge opened in 1925 (remember the eponymous cut opened in 1917), its redesign in the late 20th c. to accommodate a huge underground garage for the U.W. Hospital and its recent reconstruction as part of the opening of the light rail station at Husky Stadium, the grand view from Frosh Pond to Mount Rainier National Park in the far distance has always been protected and cherished.
Photographer: Frank Nowell. University of Washington Special Collections
Houseboats have been a prominent part of Eastlake for generations. Wards Cove on Lake Union is a privately-held property located on the eastern shores of beautiful Lake Union in Eastlake, Seattle.
The site is located at the intersection of Fairview Avenue East and East Hamlin.
Borrowing the name of its cannery location in Alaska, Wards Cove repaired boats on Lake Union and even had salmon processing and canning operations here. The facility was redeveloped in 2009 and turned into a mixed-use project featuring a 10-slip marina for yachts 75 feet long or greater, two office buildings renovated to include 16,000 sq. ft of office and marina support facilities and 12 new houseboat moorings.
University Village was built at the southeast corner of Ravenna as an open-air lifestyle shopping center.
The 24 acre (97,000 m²) shopping center was built in 1956 across NE 45th Street on an earlier part of the Montlake, Seattle Landfill (operating in 1911 and 1922–1966). The development took out what remained of the marsh that was created by lowering Lake Washington when the Lake Washington Ship Canal was dug (1913–1916).
Some wetland was later partially restored as the Union Bay Natural Area with the UW Center For Urban Horticulture. Until the early 1990s, the character of University Village was filled with small businesses and the chain stores were all local: Ernst Hardware, Malmo Nursery, Lamonts department store, Pay ‘n Save Drugs and QFC supermarket. There was even a bowling alley, Village Lanes.
Many of the local businesses began to falter toward the end of the 1980s, however, and in 1993 the owners of the mall decided to sell and more national chain stores moved in.
Gas Works Park
Gas Works Park occupies a 20.5-acre promontory on Lake Union. Between 1906 and 1956, the Seattle Light Company’s gas plant manufactured gas to light the region’s homes.
Of 1400 gas plants that once operated nationally, it is the only one to survive even marginally intact. In 1970, the city hired Landscape Architecture firm Richard Haag and Associates to convert the plant into a new Seattle Parks and Recreation site.
Kite Hill, first called The Mound, is part of Haag’s work. It is filled with reused rubble. The preservation of towers and the gas production machine including the former Pump House now known as the Play Barn are now among the most admired bits of Adaptive Reuse in the world.
Gas Works Park opened to the public in 1973.
Google Earth photo
From Streetcars to Light Rail on Brooklyn
As Sound Transit Light Rail rushes to open University of Washington Light Rail Station, we recall that it sits just under the terminus of a streetcar line that brought visitors to the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition on the University of Washington campus over the summer of 1909.
The Seattle Electric Company rushed to get Trolley tracks to the fair for its June 1 opening. It appears that the rush lasted all summer, for on September 24, 1909, the brakes failed on a streetcar hurrying to the exposition from Wallingford, Seattle. With 80 passengers aboard, the trolley jumped the track when its brakes failed at the corner of 40th St. and 14th Ave NE. (14th Ave NE became University Way, that now hosts the University Street Fair andUniversity District Farmers Market).
The car crashed into three concession buildings across the street from the main entrance of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, killing Frank Hull of Tacoma, Washington and injuring 55 men, women, and children.
Photo: Paul Dorpat, Then and Now.
ASUW Shell House
The ASUW Shell House on Union Bay Natural Area sits on the eastern edge of the Montlake Cut. This is where George Pocock constructed racing shells that the The Boys in the Boat powered to a Gold Medal at Hitler’s 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Built to be a seaplane hangar, the strangely shaped structure with flared sides is accessed through giant glazed barn doors that open as wide as the span of airplane wings. Built entirely of wood in 1917 by the U.S. Navy Region Northwest, the recently restored Shell House can now be rented for special events. The Seattle City Council recently designated the Shell House a city landmark.
Historic 1932 image from Washington Rowing Archives Pocock Rowing Center George Pocock Memorial Rowing Center
The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway
The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway founded in 1885 by Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman (among others) is famous as one of the longest linear parks in the world. Today we call it the Burke Gilman Trail.
Beginning downtown on what was to become Railroad Avenue and wrapping around the base of Queen Anne Hill on trestles over mud flats, the train line crossed Ross Creek at 3rd Avenue West heading to Issaquah and Snohomish. One stop survives today where the trail crossed Stone Way. The plain board and batten structure houses Solsticio and Nola Seattle Beauty salon.
Do you ever run into the odd block of blacktop at Magnuson Park? Here’s why.
The Naval Air Station at Sand Point NAS, popularly known as Sand Point, opened in 1923 and was an active military base. It ceased operations in 1970 when the city acquired the site and renamed it Warren G. Magnuson Park after the senator who arranged its transfer.
On January 28, 1954, Dick’s Drive In Restaurant opened to serve hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes on NE 45th Street. Dick’s Drive In represents the quintessential 1950s, and was started by Dick Spady (1923-2016) and two partners, Warren Ghormley & Dr. “Tom” Thomas, whom Spady bought out.
Dick Spady was born in Portland, Oregon on October 15, 1923. He served in the #Navy in World War II and attended Oregon State University on the G.I. Bill. He served in the Korean War as a commissary officer, where he learned a great deal about running a restaurant. Dick offered his employees the highest pay in the industry, provided 100% paid health-insurance coverage to all and gave employees more than a million dollars in scholarship funds. Spady also gave generous and unremitting support to homeless and community causes and had a passion for Aeolian Organs.
Historians of urban planning like to divide cities into two primary groups. The first has streets laid out in an orthogonal grid with the streets at right angles to one another just as the Romans did. The second group describes urban plans as onions with cities growing out organically like onions from a founding center. Its Roman roots notwithstanding, Paris is an example that comes immediately to mind.
No one would say that Seattle and our Queen Anne streets resemble the rings of an onion, but they sure seem to have been randomly organized. We’ve got simple grids that don’t line up. We’ve got military roads like Dexter Avenue that skedaddle all over the place and diagonal trails such as Gilman Drive that appears to meander to avoid the hills. We have curvy streetcar lines that blend street names. There is a randomness to our streets that defies orthogonal reason.
The explanations for this randomness are many. Wild west platting is one while, trolley routes, military roads, waterways, stairs and pioneer rivalries are others.
Seattle’s 1853 street layout fight is well-known. Arthur Denny and Carson Boren wanted the grid to follow the curve of Elliott Bay’s shoreline. Dr. David ‘Doc’ Maynard wanted it to follow compass lines. When they couldn’t agree, the three pioneers went ahead and laid their land out however they damn pleased.
As Denny, an adamant opponent of the use of alcohol, noted in his memoir:
It was found that the doctor, who occasionally stimulated a little, that day had taken enough to cause him to feel that he was not only monarch of all that he surveyed, but what Boren and I had surveyed as well.
The irony of Arthur’s sobering comment is that in the 1930’s the city determined that Denny had platted his streets in violation of the law under which the original land claims were filed. Arthur’s brother David obeyed the law. His claim which includes much of Queen Anne, upper and lower, north side of Denny Way (named for David, who also opposed using alcohol) lines up with true north, as do all the plats in King County except those downtown bits that follow the shoreline.
My house is in Blewett’s Second Addition on 1st Ave. N. It documents Seattle’s underlying do-whatever-you damn-please planning gestalt that lasted until at least 1876. (See: Myra Phelps, A Narrative History of the Seattle Engineering Department, 1978) . In fact, until that time the only rule seems to have been the federal one Arthur Denny violated.
I assume that Edward and Carrie Blewett, real estate investors, are the Blewett mentioned in my deed are who divided up most of the east side of Queen Anne hill. When you roam the neighborhood east of 1st Ave. N., you notice that the Blewett couple chose to omit alleys from their plat. We can only speculate why but either they needed extra room to accommodate a couple of named streets (Warren and Nob Hill) or simply figured they could sell more land if they didn’t set aside space for alleys. Whatever their reasons, they didn’t work for the folks who developed the west side of First Avenue North and all the plats stretching west to 10th Avenue W. They all have alleys (I know. I know. Queen Anne Park has none.) and don’t line up with the Blewett grid.
You can read the difference in plat design at the intersection nearest our house where Newton St. hits 1st North. Although Newton looks like it tees there, it really extends to the property line of the houses after Newton’s right of way crosses 1st North. We know that the right of way crosses to the west side of the sidewalk because of the sidewalk stubs that run from the curb. Until the city added No Parking signs in early August, the short stretch of the street was a mini gold mine where folks who inadvertently parked along the sidewalk stubs were cited for blocking the intersection and won, therefore, $40.00 parking tickets.
In Queen Anne, geography and the need to grade the route for those the streetcars climbing the hill added to our confusion. Taylor abandons the grid at Lee and then swerves across the hill to Fifth Avenue North at Trolley Hill Park. You’d think the strange curve where Queen Anne Avenue almost tees at Galer was drawn to accommodate the streetcar, but I think it simply marks the strange intersection of four randomly designed plats. The northern end of Dexter where that street sweeps under the George Washington Memorial (Aurora) Bridge may be another streetcar adjustment, but it may also reflect another important aspect of street planning in our neighborhood.
Dexter was laid out by the U.S. Army as part of the Military Road that began in Steilacoom and that was supposed to terminate in Bellingham. It’s curve under the Aurora Bridge may have been created to bring the road down to the narrow neck of Ross Creek where it crossed Lake Union’s outlet to the sea and may have had nothing to do with the streetcar line. I think it could be a combination of the two explanations.
The surrounding waterways also contribute to the zaniness of Queen Anne’s unruly streets. Westlake Avenue originally followed the shoreline on trestles and almost no streets run straight through down the slopes above Lake Union. The shoreline that ran through the mud flats north of Smith’s Cove didn’t get a real road until 1923. Along the bluff above Elliott/InterBay, streets try hard to follow the grid, but the topography makes that part of the neighborhood feel all higgledy-piggledy.
The Army Corps of Engineers almost got the Ship Canal to line up with the grid, but it runs on a bit of a diagonal following the old stream bed from Lake Union to Salmon Bay. The concrete walls marking the edges of the canal make it seem like it is parallel to our east-west streets, but it isn’t.
There are those folks who will contend that the many stairs climbing our slopes also contribute to the confusion. but nearly all of them line up with the grid. The map the Queen Anne Historical Society sells [Map of the(oft) Pedestrian Public Stairs of Queen Anne Hill] at www.qahistory.org proves that to be true for folks on foot. For those of us on bikes, on scooters or in cars and trucks, the stairs contribute to that old world charm of the (faux) European onion rings that make Seattle and Queen Anne special.