On November 15, 1899 — one hundred and eighteen years ago this month — Nagle Place was dedicated by the Seattle City Council in ordinance 5630.
Where it’s at
Nagle Place is among the shortest streets in Seattle. It’s bounded by Pine Street on the south and Denny Way on the north, just three blocks long. It’s intersected only once, by Howell Street. The former Olive Street right of way brings a staircase down from Broadway which continues as a path through Cal Anderson Park to the east.
What’s a Nagle?
John H. Nagle came to Seattle in 1853 as the pioneers were first staking their land claims and filing “plats”, the first official maps of roads and property to be sold. The land that Nagle claimed was more than a mile northeast of the main town, centered on current Cal Anderson Park. He built a homestead and he worked a farm on the land.
We don’t know exactly what afflicted him, but in 1874 Nagle was committed to the Washington Territory Insane Asylum, deemed a “dangerous man”. His stay at the asylum was funded by renting and then slowly selling his property.
After Nagle died in 1897, his remaining property was sold. The city purchased land for a new high school, Seattle’s first building dedicated for the purpose. It was later known as Broadway High, currently part of Seattle Central College’s campus.
Land was also purchased for a water reservoir for the planned Cedar River pipeline system. To make space for the reservoir, 10th Avenue was removed between Denny and Pine. The city replaced it with a narrow lane midblock between Broadway and where 10th should have been. It was named Nagle, after the plat and after the man.
Contractor Spencer F. Mougin of Tacoma won the bid to build Nagle Place in August 1901. In 1909 Nagle was revisited for paving, drains, sidewalks and other improvements.
What’s on Nagle?
The narrow lane was formerly home to two apartment buildings north of Howell, Agincourt (1909) and Marianne Manor (1936). Both were demolished to dig the massive pit now occupied by the subway’s Capitol Hill Station.
The block between Howell and Olive had a few storefronts prior to the construction of Bonney-Watson Funeral Home in 1962. (The south half of the block apparently had no Nagle facades even prior to Seattle Central College construction of the Mitchell Activity Center, which opened in January 1995.)
Back at the start of the last century, the Broadway side of the block was home to the inception of Auto Row. James B. Wing opened his store there in 1903 or 1904, then moved to Broadway and Madison and named it Broadway Automobile Company. The Nagle side of the block near Howell likewise had automobile related businesses for many decades. The first to appear in the Seattle Times was the Pioneer Garage at 1719 Nagle in 1915, which was replaced soon after by the Lincoln Garage. During the depths of the Great Depression the 1938 Polk Guide only listed the auto repair shop of Marion L. Kees (1725). By the 1955 Polk he was joined by Earl A. Tessmer’s auto shop (1719) and Garco Manufacturing Company (1719) which made electrical generators for the U.S. Navy and Army Corps of Engineers.
The south end between Pine and Olive is the last to maintain a few front doors. 2010’s Broadway Building created two: the storefront at 1641 Nagle which is home to Cure, and the entrance to Broadway Building Apartments which shares the same street address and features a statue of Chuck Berry in the courtyard. At the far south end the karaoke room Rock Box provides a spectacle at 1603 Nagle Place. It’s in the historic 1925 Chrysler Building, but Rock Box seems to be the first occupant to face Nagle.
This article was written on behalf of the Capitol Hill Historical Society. The society’s next meeting is Saturday December 2, 2017. Check the Facebook event for details.