About Robert Ketcherside

Rob Ketcherside is co-founder of Capitol Hill Historical Society, http://capitolhillpast.com . He has a book, Lost Seattle, available at the library and the Elliott Bay Book Co. His rephotography and history column Re:Take appears here monthly.

CHS Re:Take | The Julia’s building, past to present

Julia’s has become one of the most venerable nightlife spaces in Seattle. The drag-bar-restaurant has been open for 15 years now, and I think you qualify as a Capitol Hill old-timer if you remember further back than that.

The building’s time as Ileen’s and Ernie Steele’s is worth going over again for the newcomers. And hey, it seems the first few decades of the building need to be covered for the first time.

300 Broadway East in 1937 with Julia's sign

300 Broadway East, seen in 1937, carries the modern Julia’s neon sign. Billboards for Parent Teachers Associations, Mobilgas (Mobil Oil), and the film San Francisco starring Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald.

In the beginning

The Seattle Public Library’s online 1907 real estate map shows that things were quite different for Julia’s lot. There were just a couple of tiny buildings here along Broadway that didn’t even deserve addresses. There was a house on Thomas Street. Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | In a message home to E Union, Seattle and Japan’s war with Russia

Geisha going out, 1906

To H. S. Gullixson, Esq in Seattle from “R. F.” in Yokohama, Japan. 1906.

It’s just a simple postcard.

708 E Union today is part of the parking lot next to the Knights of Columbus on Union at Boylston. The card was postmarked 1906 in Seattle and Yokohama, Japan.

There are just enough traces to glimpse the world that created it. Let’s follow them back.

Home and Harry
The house is gone. It was a large, seven-room house built in about 1901. It shared its parcel with two other rentals, probably all copies of each other. The house was only newsworthy in later years when its residents were arrested for drunk driving or were killed by cars when crossing the street. Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | Born on Capitol Hill, the architect who became a pilot and a painter

1102 Harvard Ave N, 1937 and 1957

The home Fransioli grew up in, 1102 Harvard Ave N. Pictured in 1937 (top) and 1957 (Washington State Archives)

Fransioli yearbook photo

Thomas Fransioli, 1923 (Broadway High School yearbook)

Let’s have a little talk about Thomas Fransioli, Jr. When a pilot is on patrol and his plane takes pictures but he parks to ply as a painter of the places he previously planned, he is called a pylon penning, pillbox pecking, painting pushing poster boy.

From here to there
Thomas Fransioli, Jr. was grandson of early streetcar executive M. H. Young (check out this vintage CHS Re:Take!). He grew up in Harvard-Belmont, went to Lowell and graduated Broadway High in 1923. He was the senior class treasurer, and active in the glee club and drama.

A 1949 Seattle Times article said he attended the UW for two years, but the timing isn’t clear. Maybe he took classes while in high school? After graduating Broadway in ’23 he went to the University of Pennsylvania, got a degree in architecture, and became an architect on the east coast. A couple of his design works are mentioned online: a house in Virginia, and work for John Russell Pope on the National Gallery. Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | The 10 on Pine and other forgotten buses of Capitol Hill

Blend of 1970 and 2016 at 15th and Pine

10 or 11 on 15th and Pine, 1970 and 2016

It’s been five months since Link’s Capitol Hill Station opened. Can you feel the difference? Everyone is walking towards the station. Bus stops around it seem emptier in the morning. Train cars keep getting more full.

We’re so caught up learning to dodge bicycle tires and stay upright on swaying trains, perhaps some of us already forgot that the 10 used to run to Pine Street on 15th. The 10’s reroute is linked to the return of rail service to Broadway for the rest of time.

This view below from 1970 strains to look back to the end of Capitol Hill’s original rail service. The coach pictured here was Seattle Transit #615. That bus was purchased in 1940, the year after Seattle Municipal Railway was rechristened Seattle Transit and embarked on the destruction of the streetcar system. Seattle Transit purchased 100 coaches from local company Pacific Car and Foundry (now PACCAR) and 135 from Twin Coach.

#615 Route 10 Capitol Hill outbound 15th & Pine Jul 19 1970

Coach #615 on Route 10 Capitol Hill headed to Volunteer Park, 15th & Pine. Jul 19, 1970

Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | When cars ruled Broadway

McKale's, 1937 and 2016

McKale’s Super Service station at Broadway and Roy. The Seven Hundred Broadway Building today houses apartments over Roy Street Coffee and other businesses (1937: Washington State Archives; 2016: Rob Ketcherside)

Winning the War on Cars
There just aren’t as many gas stations as there used to be. The economics have changed. People drive less, cars use less fuel. I looked through the 1931 city directory. There were at least 33 gas stations on Capitol Hill back then. There were so many more no matter which way you drove: on Eastlake, on First Hill, in Madison Park, at Portage Bay, on Westlake. Today Capitol Hill, Broadway, Pike/Pine, heck you can go way out Madison and there are still only seven stations.

In 1990, the Seattle Times ran an article about a new law requiring gas stations to carry insurance against environmental damage. Before that law took effect, they reported there were already only half as many stations as in 1974. Even more closed afterwards.

And they keep disappearing. Recently I was going through my old photographs and found this look down at Pine and Broadway in 2000. I’ll be honest, I have no memory of this Chevron. I remember it as a lot surrounded by chain link and then at last the Walgreens and Capitol Hill Housing building we have now. (If you have better memory of the station, leave a comment!) I’m pretty sure the station at Pike and Broadway is living on borrowed time. The land is too valuable as a people-oriented use.

Broadway and Pine, 2000

Chevron gas station at Broadway and Pine, 2000. Full view here. (Photo: Rob Ketcherside)

Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | Onward for the Ward House

Ward House 1892ish-2016 (Christine Johnson via Marianne Roulet via Paul Dorpat)

Ward House 1890s-2016 (The bottom photo was taken by Christine Johnson whose descendant Marianne Roulet gave a copy to Paul Dorpat who used it in a 1999 article much like this one and gave the okay for it to appear here.)

This is the Ward House, seen in two of the three locations it’s been over the last 120 or 130 years. The bottom half is at Pike and Boren on the southwest corner, seen in the early 1890s. The top half is earlier this week, at Denny and Belmont on the northwest corner. Between the two it was nearby its origin, turned and moved a bit up Boren to make way for the Gallatin Hotel in 1905, and stayed there until it shuffled uphill in 1986.

Ward House - George Corley - WS Parks - 3-16-72

Its second home, on Boren but pushed uphill 100 feet or so to make way for the brick apartment building on the right, known as the Crest Hotel when this photo was taken in 1972. More on that in a bit. (Photo by George Corley for the Washington State Parks Commission – March 16, 1972)

There are many ways to tell the stories of the secret lives of buildings. The way I like to do it, I start with a crisp date of construction and tell a bit about Seattle and the neighborhood at that time. Then I share how the humans responsible for it lived their lives and whether they were notable, or just notably normal. The Ward House’s early story is more difficult to piece together than I expected. Especially since it’s one of Seattle’s earliest official city landmarks, and because has been known as Seattle’s oldest surviving home. Luckily I had some help, but there is plenty of fertile ground for the next historian to hop to it.

In search of the primary source
The Ward House was built in 1882… or perhaps it wasn’t built until 1889? Check back in a week (I’ll update here and post to Twitter) and I may have a final answer, but for now I have sources that point to two answers. Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | The lost community of Boren

Boarding house and brick apartments replaced by blah

The Pickwick on Boren at Union, c1980 and 2016. Looks occupied still, with a resident on the chair on the lower porch (Stephen Cysewski and Rob Ketcherside)

Some of my blended old and new photographs are more subtle than others. For this month, I started with Stephen Cysewski’s great photo of the west side of Boren between Union and Pike (undated, but around 1980), and then tried to figure out which interesting half to blank out with the terrible looking Avanti building or the Homewood Suites hotel at the end of the block. In the end I chose to include very little of today.

When they were demolished, these buildings were known from left to right as the Knickerbocker, Pickwick, and Thayer apartments. The Knickerbocker was built in 1905. The Thayer was built as the Donaldson, named after its 1906 builders Robert and Charles Donaldson. Just off frame were more apartments, the Berquest to the north built by Edwin Berquest in 1909, and the Lawton around the corner on Union built in 1905. Apartment buildings hugged the slope that led up to First Hill’s spread out mansions.

The Pickwick Hotel, center, was built in 1904 under the rather ridiculous name The Puritan. It would be fun to think of a worse name for rental housing. Maybe the Spartan? The Ascetic? The Detached House? A few years later H. L. Mencken described Puritanism as “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Who would want to live in a building with such an aura?

So it’s no surprise that when sold in 1905, the building’s name was changed. But the inspiration for the new name, The Firmere, is also a mystery. It’s apparently Latin, meaning something like “firms [up]”. Not great ad copy. Weird even. Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | Ice cream, beer, and the Montlake Drive-In Public Market

Montlake Drive-in market 1937 and 2016

Montlake Drive-in Market 1937 and 2016. Old one is a 1937 state assessor’s photo, from the Washington State Archives. Filed under 2200 24th Ave East. The new one I took on a recent cold morning after hiking down through Interlaken Park.

I did it! My 4-month streetcar history vigil forced SDOT to start operating the streetcar. Now that that’s over, let’s talk about some car-oriented architecture at 2200 24th Ave East at Boston Street, where the Boston 2200 building is underway. We’re going to need to talk about pickles and ice cream to get there, and about beer afterwards.

Horluck’s a-changing

Dear HistoryLink: Please pay someone to write a biography of George Horluck.

There’s not a lot of information about George Horluck out there, but this whole article revolves around him so we’re going to have to take what we can get. Google suggests that we read the History of Horluck Brewing Co and Sick’s [sic] Century Brewery. I did it for you, no need to click. 6/10. Unhealthy obsession with beer. Sprinkling of pre-beer facts with no context. Good effort.

As the page says, George was born in Nebraska to parents newly immigrated to the United States, but they came from Denmark. The family moved to Seattle by 1910.

With a bit more digging in newspaper and genealogy records, George Horluck’s life comes into focus. By 1910 his father Hans was in a partnership with Anton Hagen, selling pickles at the Pike Place Market and Westlake Public Market. Hans transitioned through two other partnerships in the next two years, selling pickles, bacon and pickled herring. (Any future biographer is probably going to stop at this point to scream the same words that sprang from my social network accounts: “Arg, no! Why am I researching the lineage of this pickle stall??”)

From about 1915 to 1916 George sold papers at 1st and Pike, and then delivered a Seattle Times route on Denny Hill. After high school he joined his father’s odd pairing of businesses in Port Orchard: growing and selling feed for farm animals, and operating mosquito fleet steamers. After a decade of hard work, in 1926 George traveled to his parents’ home of Copenhagen and spent a year exploring Europe. (June 30, 1929 Seattle Times page 68.) Continue reading

CHS Re:Take: Blood, snow, and Madison streetcars

Rephotograph of Madison at Pike looking West

Snow on Madison at Pike, c1916 with 2016 in the back. A cable car or streetcar heads towards us on Madison.  (Washington State Archives King County Metro collection LS0130 and Rob Ketcherside)

Recently, we were surprised again with snowflakes, one or two at a time trying their hardest to stick on the wet pavement. Every so often, though, Seattle gets a good snow. Look at those mounds in this old photo, which came undated from the State Archives. It must have been 1916. I’ve been dating these photos “circa 1913” that I copied a few years ago. But there was only one snow event from that period that resembled this, two feet over a 24-hour period at the start of February.

The snow was so bad that the manager of the street railways for Puget Sound Traction said “We have thrown our hands up in the air. The snow is too much for us… All Seattle can do is sit tight and wait for the snowfall to cease. We have done everything possible to keep service and have been beaten.” (Seattle Times, Feb 3, 1916)

But the cable on Madison pulled its way through. The Times explained,

“This morning found car service practically helpless in all but eight of the thirty-two systems in the city. The three cable lines, James and Madison Streets and Yesler Way, continued operation on an hourly schedule throughout the night and bid fair to continue well into tonight.”

The city dug its way out eventually, but the snow took its toll on buildings like St. James’ Cathedral, which lost its dome. Continue reading

CHS Re:Take | The Great Capitol Hill Auto Row Fire of 1925

The scene then and now (Seattle Times November 1 page 1 and Rob Ketcherside)

The scene then and now (Seattle Times November 1, 1925, page 1 and Rob Ketcherside)

We’ve all heard of the 1889 Great Seattle Fire (ahem), but most of us haven’t heard of the Great Automobile Row fire that struck Capitol Hill in 1925. It started at 6:30 PM on Saturday, October 31, Halloween night on the southeast corner of Pine and 11th.

A witness across the street where Richmark Label is today described the scene to a Seattle Times reporter, and her words made print the next morning:

“We were sitting close to our front window when the explosion rocked our walls,” said Mrs. [C. T.] Dawson. “We looked out and saw a dense cloud of smoke pouring from the Miller-Norton building.

“The whole building was sheeted in flame, and we saw clouds of sparks falling on nearby buildings.”

Your mental image needs calibration. There was no daylight savings time in 1925. So unlike the last eight years with PDT out into November, the sun set before 5 PM that Halloween. The fire raged in the dark, in a city with much weaker streetlights than we have today, with comparatively little light pollution. The city was much, much lower. The Seattle Times declared, “The fire made a red glow in the sky which could be seen from downtown and drew hundreds to the scene.”

You know how any fire draws a crowd. Well, this turned into a huge fire, destroying several buildings and damaging others. The crowd on that dry night was huge, as the Seattle Times related the next morning: Continue reading