Post navigation

Prev: (09/19/09) | Next: (09/20/09)

What Broadway mixed-use was like 100 years ago

With Seattle Central’s fall classes starting at the end of this month, here’s the tale of one of SCCC’s buildings that is off the main campus and right in the heart of the Hill. The history of the building also includes plagues, a famous art school and an equally famous ghost. Capitol Hill historian Dotty DeCoster originally wrote this article for the Capitol Hill Times where it appeared in 2007 but it is not available on the Web. She is able to share her work with CHS and we’re happy to feature her take on the Hill’s history. We last featured DeCoster’s work in this piece: A Piggly Wiggly history of chain stores on 15th Ave

Have you ever noticed the building on the southeast corner of Broadway and Pine Street? That’s the Booth Building, now Seattle Central Community College’s South Annex. The college recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the building with repairs and repainting. The Booth Building, permitted in 1906 and likely constructed in 1907, was an early mixed-use brick and concrete building constructed on Broadway. Designed by the architecture firm of Thompson & Thompson (CL and CB Thompson); constructed by Layton & White, Contractors, the building was the creation of the doctors John R. and William G. Booth.

View Larger Map | Picture: the building in its Cornish School of music days

1907 was a banner year for building construction in Seattle, part of the building boom that really gave us the shape our built environment here on Capitol Hill. The Booth Building was typical of the neighborhood in offering homes, studio, and performance spaces upstairs to musicians and artists for a large part of it’s history while providing groceries, banks, and automobile parts at the street level. Now one of the oldest mixed-use buildings on Broadway, it still provides shelter for students through Seattle Central Community College, its current owner.

The “Doctors Booth,” as they are called in the historical records, arrived in Seattle about 1900, practiced medicine for some years in the Alaska Building, and speculated in real estate along with numerous other people at the time. They were both trained in four-year medical colleges (unusual at the time) and took an interest in public health. Dr. J.R. Booth, for instance, visited San Francisco to study bubonic plague in 1903 and made a report to the City Council and Health Department.  Dr. W. G. Booth was involved in the continuing effort during the early part of the 1900s to ensure a healthy (tuberculosis free) milk supply.  Both doctors were active in the King County Medical Association, and Dr. J.R. Booth was it’s president in 1909.  Dr. William Booth and his wife raised two children here in Seattle and lived the rest of their lives here.  Dr. J.R. Booth returned to the Bay Area where he had gone to medical school and his family settled there.

    More about the Booth building

  • Nellie Cornish founded her school in the building in 1914.
  • Burnley School for Professional Art — now the Seattle Art Institute — opened in the building in 1946.
  • The building is reportedly haunted: “The story has it that the playful spirit, who has been known to dump garbagee cans, open random desk drawers, and walk loudly down the halls, is the ghost of a young Broadway High School student who was killed in a fight after a basketball game.”

While Seattle was growing and abuilding in 1907, bubonic plague did strike here.  On October 19, Seattle resident Leong Sheng died of Bubonic plague and there were two other plague-related deaths that year.  A massive round up of rats was conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service and in November, 1907, Seattle passed two ordinances to address sanitary conditions and combat the plague.  Rats, and the plague itself, were one of the prices paid for becoming an active Port – neither were known in the Seattle area until after the 1850s.

Sources: Essay 418; Seattle Municipal Archives; Seattle Daily Bulletin.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

Comments are closed.