Capitol Retrospective | Dodge’s Triangle: Seattle’s smallest known piece of private property

1949-08-23 Sea Muni Archivces - Madison at Union and 12th (triangle)

Looking Northeast where 12th Ave E and E Union St intersect with E Madison St. Approximate dimensions of Dodge’s triangle highlighted in yellow. Image courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives

I want to say this Capitol Hill triangle spun me around in circles all week, but it’s a triangle, not a circle, so that won’t do. However, I can say that much like ships and planes are rumored to have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, historians and cartographers are rumored to have done the same trying to figure out what the hell the deal is with this triangle. What is it, how and why does it even exist? Well, you’re in luck, because after spending a harrowing week confined within its absurdly narrow boundaries, I’ve emerged to tell the tale.

It all started as a joke.

On April 16, 1916 Seattle Times broke the humorous story. They described it as a small triangular strip with about 6 feet on E Madison and about 5 and a half feet on E Union with a depth at the widest of approximately 4 feet. It baffled expert appraisers and architects alike who would dare attempt to price it or design a structure suitable to its size. Real estate mogul Henry Broderick claimed it was probably worth less than it would cost for him to properly appraise it and it would be hard to sell because a for sale sign would entirely obscure it from view. Someone suggested you could maybe install a gas pump, but the attendant would be obliged to rent the sidewalk from the city just so he could operate it. Jokes aside, things start to break down when you take a closer look at the matter. Continue reading

Capitol Retrospective | 1827 Broadway Part Two: A story of iron and blood

1937 WA State Archives - 1827-1829 Broadway

1827-29 Broadway. Circa 1937 Just a couple years after the Cordes Family moved out. Image: WA State Archives.

Otto Von Bismarck. Circa 1862. Image:

In September 1862, Prussia’s newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Otto Von Bismarck, made his most famous speech to the Prussian assembly.  Seeking approval for military reform, he said “not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided… but by iron and blood.” Continue reading

Capitol Retrospective | 1827 Broadway Part One: A house divided

The saying “a house divided against itself cannot stand” rings true for many as the Brexit controversy continues to unfold.  Now that’s not to say that I expect Britain to fall, but it’s just that whenever the iconic phrase is invoked, it often, if not always, comes packaged with the assumption that the house in question is necessarily better off united rather than divided.  Not always so.  And such, I hope, will be the case here as I experiment with looking at the history of 1827 Broadway (now a light rail entrance) in parts rather than as a whole as I’ve done with other buildings before.  And such was the case similarly for its first occupants, two grocers, the brothers Peter and Nicholas Kootros of Sparta, Greece whose dramatic falling out with other family members and eventually with each other, lead them each to greater success.

The D.C. Days

1915 Shorpy - George Chaconas in Washington DC

George Chaconas, circa 1915. Image: Shorpy

As it appears, Peter immigrated to the U.S. in early 1900 while Nicholas followed later that year passing through Ellis Island.  Their destination was Washington D.C. where many Greek immigrants had been gathering.  Prominent among those was the Chaconas family who had been in D.C. since the early 1890s and had carved out a small, rough and tumble, commercial empire in the push-cart fruit business there.  In a word, they were hucksters.  As such, they frequently sent for younger relatives from the old country to join the business with vague promises of wealth, opportunity, and independence that often resulted in stolen wages, fines, cuts and bruises, and even jail-time. But to them it was all just the cost of doing business. Continue reading