CHS Re:Take | Hope Springs from the Summit of First Hill

South on Summit from Spring to Spring from Seneca, 1913 and last week

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**.

(*Assay Office appeared in CHS Re:Take #4; **Broadway Building appeared in CHS Re:Take #10)

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 [1967].

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:

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.

13 thoughts on “CHS Re:Take | Hope Springs from the Summit of First Hill

  1. The Broadway High School building was demolished in about 1973 to make way for the brick buildings just north of the Broadway Performance Hall. I attended my first two years at Seattle Central Community College with most of my classes in the old BHS building. They saved the old auditorium which then was renovated into Broadway Performance Hall.

  2. Jeanine, I’m sorry that I missed your post originally and when I was doing research for this.

    I need to look at maps and compare addresses to verify the owners. Also you identified the model of car as a Woods so I want to consider that.

    I’ll get back by the end of the weekend.

    Thanks for the original work and for the link.

  3. Rob, I’m confused about the caption. Here I am on the corner of Spring looking NORTH on Summit, and the Tuscany is on the left (west). On the other hand, I think if I were standing on Seneca and looking south on Summit, the Tuscany would be where this picture seems to be oriented: the Tuscany (Piedmont) bulks on the southwest corner of Seneca and Summit going southward along Summit until it reaches a parking lot at the northwest corner of Spring and Summit. (It also goes westward along Seneca for a half block on the south side of Seneca.) Were you able to discern any of the house numbers? That would tell us, of course, but probably not possible.


  4. Robert, no worries – you aren’t accountable to me. :)
    You are right about the middle house being the Hanford home – the MOHAI photo caption states that. (It is also on the corner, heh. I got mixed up for a minute–it was a couple of years ago when I researched this image.)
    For the car model, I had guessed the cars to be Woods based on the size, the snub nosed front, and the shape of the door but that is only a guess.
    Looking around some more, the ones in the photo look to be a closer match to this 1909 Baker owned by Jay Leno. What do you think? (

  5. The 10/23/1976 City Collegian lists the demolition period as Fall 1974, pursuant to Phase II-xy and the results of the Save the Best campaign.

  6. Apparently I took no notes as I was writing. So I’ve had to reconstruct my thought process.

    A 1914 article mentions that the Detroit Electric was the only electric at the Seattle Auto Show. I suspected that only a car at an auto show would have promo photos like this taken of it.

    The UW has several advertisements for the Detroit Electric with the Broadway Automobile stamp. Like all photos of the 1913 model I can find, the 1913 and later ads don’t match the design of this photo (lights and fenders make it clear). However, looking back, cars as late as 1911 by Detroit Electric look the same as our photo. Perhaps these are the 1912 model, photographed early in 1913 before the 1913 model arrived in Seattle? Or perhaps the date on the photo is off by a year or two? Or maybe the year is right, and these cars are a couple of years old.

    Here’s a 1908 ad by Broadway Auto.