Is everything slowly returning to chaos, or is it a great circle?
At Summit and Spring on First Hill, these electric cars lined up are evidence for the circle. In the early days of autos, gas was a limited resource — much like today. This created a small market for alternate power sources. Pictured here are battery-powered cars built by Detroit Electric Motors and sold by Capitol Hill’s first car dealership, Broadway Auto. Just out of frame in the current scene was a Toyota Prius Yellow Cab, and a Nissan Leaf was parked down the block. We’ve returned to battery power in a big loop.
Other threads of the story support the idea of transition from order to chaos.
Life is perpetual decay
James B. Wing Automobile opened in 1904, across from Broadway High School. Wing’s father Frederick A. Wing — who ran the Assay Office* — and a group of his banker friends invested in the venture. Rechristened Broadway Automobile Company, it moved south to Madison into the new Broadway Building**.
James died of pneumonia after a four-day hospitalization in 1909. The magazine he published about Seattle’s auto scene, The Spark, has no issues remaining in existence.
Broadway Auto collapsed after World War One. Detroit Electric Motors was auctioned off in 1939, bankrupt in the Great Depression.
Broadway High was demolished in
1966 1974. The Broadway Building was razed a year later .
Electric cars …, 1913 (PEMCO, Webster & Stevens Collection, MOHAI 1983.10.8752.1)
In the background of the 1913 photograph are three mansions. The house on the left was owned by Julius Redelsheimer who died in 1914 of internal bleeding a few days after suffering a stroke which left him half paralyzed and unable to speak. The center home was owned by Clarence Hanford, who died in 1920 of complications after having his appendix removed. Thomas Green, owner of the residence on the right, died in 1945 after a short illness.
The mansions were destroyed for the Piedmont Hotel, built in 1926 and known today as the Tuscany Apartments.
(You can peak inside of the Tuscany, as well as Thomas’ nephew Joshua Green’s Stimson-Green Mansion on the Historic Seattle walking tour.)
So our city and our lives are slipping through our fingers. Change is inevitable.
Life is a circle
When our melancholic winter-in-summer finally ends, jump in your Leaf, Prius, Volt or Tesla and head to Mt. Rainier. That’s where Seattle sales reps took the Detroit Electric in 1919, proving that battery power could get out of the city.
[The Detroit Electric going from Seattle to Mt. Rainier] (Library of Congress – LC-USZ62-62269)
At Paradise, look up to the shrinking, warming glacier. The shifting snow pack has covered the mountain non-stop for tens of thousands of years. Gaze on the mountain itself, which has stood for hundreds of thousands of years. The rock you see is millions of years old, bent up by the cone and slowly chiseled by ice and wind. It’s impermanent but durable on a timescale totally out of balance with your existence. It has been photographed by your father and grandfather and great grandfather — maybe further — and will be photographed long after your descendants forget who you were or what you believed.
Life is a hoop spinning a chain of seasons around the mountain.
Get back in your century-old reenactment and head back to the city. Later, each time the change seems too much to bear, just climb to a high place and look south towards Rainier.
What change? It’s now the same mountain it was then. When you squint at it, you can bring back memories of how things were. They are in you like chunks of granite. The memories won’t last forever, but they’ll outlast you.
(More photos of the trip are available from the Library of Congress.)
Goodbye to Third Man Video. Our last rental was strangely appropriate: The Artist. Peppy’s trite line, “Out with the old and in with the new” will echo every time I walk past.
RIP Zoysha, this man’s best friend.
Rob will be leading a discussion about Capitol Hill’s streetcar history at the August 16 History Cafe, 7pm at Roy Street Tea & Coffee.
Also, Rob will speak about early Capitol Hill history on October 25th at the Capitol Hill Library, 6:30-7:30pm.
In case you missed them, here are the last few Re:Takes on CHS:
- The very first Broadway streetcar
- Why Capitol Hill’s Bauhaus block matters
- The Carroll, the girls, and the dirt — Naming an unnamed Capitol Hill alley
Local history expert Rob Ketcherside shares his vision of the past and present with his Re:Take series of works on CHS and other Seattle sites.