Sherlock Holmes says, “The wheel turns; nothing is ever new.” Evidence number one: the First Hill streetcar. Its shiny, new set of wheels will soon turn again on the buried bones of the oldest streetcar on Capitol Hill.
If you’re well schooled on Capitol Hill history, you know these origin stories: David Denny began selling and leasing John Nagle‘s property along Broadway in 1880, and James Moore developed the Capitol Hill area near Volunteer Park after 1900. We’re going to talk about the period in between, a piece of early streetcar history that has not been chronicled.
A Ridge Too Far You may remember our recent article about the Pine Street regrade. Pine Street was part of a “series of radiating regrades [which] carved down and filled in Seattle’s topography.” We all know that the Jackson and Dearborn regrades cut First Hill away from Beacon Hill, and that the Pike, Pine and Olive regrades made some space between First Hill and Capitol Hill. On the back side, the 12th Avenue regrade smoothed out the connection between First Hill and Second Hill (read the 12th Ave Re:Take). Call it 1901 to 1911.
Before all of that civil engineering madness Seattle was Pioneer Square, surrounded by mudflats to the south, a rise culminating in Denny Hill to the north, and a ridge running from Brooklyn (University Bridge) all the way south to Orilla (I-5/405 interchange). Some smart landowners who had visited San Francisco decided to put a cable car up and over First Hill and Second Hill, and down the back side to Lake Washington — the Lake Washington cable car on Yesler Way. 1887. Continue reading →
To H. S. Gullixson, Esq in Seattle from “R. F.” in Yokohama, Japan. 1906.
Earlier this month, CHS reported that the Knights of Columbus, Seattle Council 676 is preparing to sell its 106-year-old masonry clubhouse at the corner of Harvard and Union. Part of that property was remembered in this classic CHS Re:Take from the archives inspired by a postcard historian Robert Ketcherside found documenting the edges a personal tale that predates the old Knights hall and shines light on Seattle’s connection to a global conflict many of us know little about.
The postcard may seem a benign note of thanks on a charming Japanese street scene. On closer inspection it captures global trade, journalistic pursuit of truth, and the sharing of ideas; and also has ties with racism, death, war, and exploitation of immigrants. Here’s a Memorial Day revisit to the history.
It was just a simple postcard.
708 E Union today is part of the parking lot next to the Knights of Columbus Hall. The card was postmarked 1906 in Seattle and Yokohama, Japan. Continue reading →
1894 Seattle Topographic map with illustration of ridge (USGS via ArcGIS)
City landmark apartments by Fred Anhalt at 1014 E Roy and 1005 E Roy (Rob Ketcherside)
The Rainier Chapter (Seattle) of the Daughters of the American Revolution are headquartered in this replica of Mount Vernon on Roy Street.
I dug a bit in Archive.org’s Wayback Machine and was surprised to find that CHS started in January 2006 as a Blogspot. That first recording captured a microcosm of Justin’s neighborhood writing: a hair salon review, a couple of restaurant reviews, a warning of an upcoming moth spray, and a lamentation on the loss of an old, dependable haunt. As you know, this was a formula that he looped through a few hundred thousand times over the next 11 years.
While Justin was developing CHS from a hobby blog into a life-sucking addiction, geologist David B. Williams was basking in the afterglow of the publication of his first book about Seattle: 2005’s The Street-Smart Naturalist.
One reader of the book let it all hang out in a brief Seattle Public Library review of Street-Smart Naturalist: “Everyone in Seattle should read this engaging and insightful book about how nature and the wild still exist within city limits, and that we are part of it.”
I second the recommendation, but I’ll strip away the book jacket and show you the salient bits. Capitol Hill made two appearances in Street-Smart Naturalist. First was a short piece about the several hundred year-old Garry oak tree at Oak Manor on Belmont Ave and Belmont Place. Then in the chapter The Hills Williams rightly questioned whether it’s appropriate to call the long form of Capitol Hill a hill at all. Continue reading →
When you are at the intersection of Harvard and Thomas and look around, it’s impossible to not be awed and a bit baffled by the utter lack of planning and engineering.
You probably have an intersection that confuses you or an intersection you hate. Leave a comment and we’ll see if we can console you with some sort of reasoning. Meanwhile, here’s one odd truth.
Harvard and Thomas… it’s one of a kind. As it heads south Harvard changes from a normal, comfortably cozy Capitol Hill residential street into a confusing mass of concrete with no clear use or direction. Continue reading →
Pike Street west from the edge of Minor in 1902 post-regrade blended with yesterday, January 14, 2017. The 1902 image is fantastic and worth seeing on its own. (Washington State Archives; blend by Rob Ketcherside)
John Pike as an old man, from his 1903 obituary (Seattle Times)
John Henry Pike never lived in our midst. But the street named after him cuts the southern border of our neighborhood, and the improvement of Pike Street led directly to the creation of Capitol Hill. So let’s celebrate him and the street he begat.
He was born in Massachusetts, probably Springfield, more than two centuries ago: 1814. Like Seattle’s founding fathers he was part of the “Go West” era of American history. European immigrants and young descendants of early Americans alike all moved successively farther west.
After living in western New York for many years, Pike found himself in the early 1850s living with wife and son in the fateful farming town of Princeton, Illinois.
If you find it on a map today you’ll see a cluster of commercial buildings with a road leading out of town to a freeway and a Walmart. Zoom out beyond the residences and the map is swallowed by farmland. Eventually Chicago appears to the east and Peoria to the south. Continue reading →
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, 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 →
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 →
The home Fransioli grew up in, 1102 Harvard Ave N. Pictured in 1937 (top) and 1957 (Washington State Archives)
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 →
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.
Coach #615 on Route 10 Capitol Hill headed to Volunteer Park, 15th & Pine. Jul 19, 1970
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.
Chevron gas station at Broadway and Pine, 2000. Full view here. (Photo: Rob Ketcherside)