Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Echoes from another time...

So, there was this time when I used to make music. I recently dug up some unfinished tracks first begun in 1991 and decided to shape them into something resembling finished songs. Huge thanks to my old pal and collaborator, Jon Bayless, plus the indispensable sonic ministrations of Mr. Shawn Simmons.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Charged Up

Electric cars are an increasingly common sight on the streets of tech-heavy Seattle in 2019. But electric cars were, at least proportionately, more popular over a century ago. In 1912, gasoline powered only 22% of the cars sold in the US.  Electric vehicles accounted for 38%. 40% of car owners opted for steam-driven conveyances. Americans of the time would have been familiar with dozens of automakers, big and small, most of which were history by the 1920s.

One brand that lasted longer than most was Studebaker. This Asahel Curtis photograph shows a shiny new 1908 Studebaker Victoria Phaeton electric. The photo was taken from the curbside by the Studebaker Brothers dealership at 308 1st Avenue. The Seattle Times from April 15th describes a Victoria Phaeton road test around the streets of Seattle. This picture was probably taken to commemorate the event and I think it’s likely the man behind the tiller is Marcus W. Kincaid, the dealership’s manager.

The goal was to see how many times the little electric could make the round trip from downtown Seattle to the top of Queen Anne Hill. It was a challenge many Seattleites could relate to. Not all roads were fully paved in 1908. The final regrade projects were still in the future so downtown had several taller, steeper inclines than what we see today.

The article describes a circuitous route, starting at Pike and 2nd, winding past Vine, 1st, Harrison and Queen Anne Avenue, ending at 6th Avenue West and Lee Street, declaring that the highest elevation. The car returned to the starting point using roughly the same route and repeated the trip. The Studebaker managed the seven mile round trip four times with enough charge left over “to run around town for some time afterward,” proving that the cars were “quite suitable” for residents of Queen Anne Hill, going on to state that “no one would have occasion to make more than four round trips down town in a day.”

Anyone needing that unlikely fifth trip would have to take a trolley like the one seen in the background of this photo -- or maybe one of the 80,000 horses residing in Seattle at the time.


Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Bricks of Contention

The first brick is laid at the corner of 2nd and Washington October 19th, 1912, but there was trouble ahead.

Seattle wasn’t above taking a patronizing tone with younger towns and communities over the last century, sometimes actively exerting influence over its smaller neighbors -- all in the interest of mutual prosperity, of course.

A small headline in the Seattle Times in 1912 reads “Bremerton To Have Its Streets Paved.” The short paragraph that follows describes Bremerton’s mayor Paul Mehner and a large crowd gathered for the laying of the first brick at the corner of 2nd and Washington. The project was to cover ten blocks of the young city with a mix of bricks and asphalt for the price of $60,000.00. This photo probably depicts that October 19th ceremony.

But the was story wasn’t so simple. The ongoing competition between Seattle and Tacoma soon surfaced in the bricks lining Bremerton’s streets. The bids received for the paving project were neatly typed up in the city council minutes but the winner, J.S. Kenyon, was hastily added by hand after the fact.

After some correspondence and a factory tour the Bremerton city council clearly favored bricks from the Denny Renton & Coal Company in Seattle. Kenyon opted for a more affordable product from Standard Clay of Tacoma. Property owners, including the estimable Sophia Bremer, argued in favor of the Denny Renton bricks. But Kenyon was adamant – and he had the backing of friends and business partners at City Hall.

The debate only grew. An independent testing firm (from Seattle, of course) confirmed that the Tacoma bricks were uneven in shape and below the standard required by the contract. A lawsuit temporarily halted the paving work, ironically on the street shown in this photo. The issue ping ponged back and forth between the city council, lawyers and the contractor for over a year. The Seattle Times remarked that Bremerton’s plunge into “modern municipal activities” had brought “little happiness to residents and taxpayers.”

It appears the project was quietly completed more than a year later. I'm guessing they went with the Tacoma bricks.


ps: Special thanks to Sean Hoynes for snapping the “now” image!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Beauty For All

The Tourist & Trade pictorial section of the Seattle Sunday Times on July 12, 1936 featured a few of the city's noteworthy vistas in an article titled "Beauty For All To Share."

This shot looking north on Lake Washington Boulevard was an alternate to the one used, taken from the same spot a moment later. The caption read: "A glimpse of the nationally famed drive that follows the shore of the lake for several miles, with new vistas and beauties opening up at every turn."

It's nice to say that's still the case 82 years later though the I-90 Floating Bridge would be added to the shoreline seen through the trees just four years later.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A New/Old AYPE Poster

This is a "Then & Again" of a different stripe, though it still combines things from the past and the present.

I've always been fascinated by the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition, the elaborate fair hosted on the grounds of the present-day UW campus in 1909. More info about the AYPE.

I've run across some nice printed ephemera over the years but I've always wanted a poster I could hang on the wall. A few promotional items come close but nothing was exactly what I wanted. So, I gathered some source images and assembled my own.

This was mostly done compositing source material in Photoshop with a lot of tweaking and rebalancing to get the texture and colors right. I did the typography but based it very closely on a ticket from 1909. The airship draws upon photo reference from the AYPE with a little hand retouching and color by me. That lead to making the sky much taller on the main aerial view. I also scaled up Mt. Rainier a bit and fixed numerous holes and stains on the original image.

Some of the items I used to create the poster.

There are plenty of design ideas that would make this poster more dramatic and eye-popping, but those often draw from the last century of design and layout thinking. I was trying to stay faithful to how they might have designed it in that era. I think it mostly accomplishes that.

So, there you go -- A new/old AYP Exposition poster!

Thursday, April 12, 2018


It only took half a decade, but I finally started posting my cross-time pics on their very own Twitter feed. Feel free pay a visit and follow us there! It's actually not a bad way to look through our library of images. Expect the entire run of Then & Again to appear there over the next few days.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spanning The Years

A recent eBay album purchase contained some great photos of Seattle in the early 1930s. The photographer was a woman from West Seattle who was not only a talented photographer, she was nice enough to date and annotate each picture carefully. Here we see the George Washington Memorial Bridge, better known as the Aurora Bridge around the time it opened in 1932 – Construction debris is still visible and the roadway beneath the bridge is still unpaved. Her note alongside the photo is still true today. “Standing under the bridge gave us a feeling of being in a great cathedral.” This shot was taken facing south just down the hill from the Fremont Troll.
I've been able to identify the photographer in question but so far, I haven’t had much luck contacting her surviving relatives. I hope to credit her work more fully with their permission in future posts.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Fire & Water

Many Seattleites are familiar with the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, but other conflagrations have hit the city over the last century or so. One of the biggest of these was the Belltown Fire on June 10, 1910. It started near the waterfront and swept into downtown Seattle reaching 2nd Avenue, ultimately destroying six city blocks. Fortunately, the 40 mph winds calmed and Seattle’s signature rainfall subdued the blaze. This was a stroke of good luck, since the city’s newly mechanized fire department was powerless to stop the fire.
Here, we see a shot across Railroad Avenue (present day Alaskan Way) near the foot of Wall Street at the ruins of the Puget Sheetmetal Building (left) and the Glenorchy Hotel (right). The shot also offers a good view of the railroad trestles that crisscrossed Seattle's waterfront before the seawall was constructed.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


A trolley car from The Puget Sound Electric Railway, better known as the Interurban, parked at its Seattle terminus on Occidental Avenue in the early 20thcentury (photo Lawton Gowey). The network of privately owned electric trolleys carried passengers between communities from Everett to Tacoma between 1902 and 1928. The system eventually gave way to highways and buses, but the Interurban name lives on in buildings, streets and business names (and a sculpture in Fremont). Speaking of which, the distinctive archway of the Interurban Building provided a handy way to align these two pictures.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Mystery Album, Part One

As I continue to make those cross-time images I've been relying less on Google Street View images and taking more of the "now" images myself. For the "then" pics I've been looking beyond the usual online archives and MOHAI for source material. I've been finding great images in old news photos and photo albums on eBay. One album in particular turned out to be a real gem. The photos are all from the early to mid 1930s and show a very active family growing up in West Seattle. Every picture is meticulously annotated by the mom, who must have been the person behind the camera.
I'm looking forward to seeing what these pictures might turn into. The family spent a lot of time visiting many popular destinations in Seattle and Western Washington, which makes them perfect for "now and then" treatment.
This all made me curious about the people in the photos. As much as I'm enjoying the pictures it's a little sad to think that such a lovely piece of family history ended up selling on eBay for under 15 bucks. That's pretty common. Sometimes there are no living descendants or an album ends up in a branch of a family with nobody to pass it on to -- or no interest in old photos.
I was able to use the names, dates and some landmarks near their house to find most of the people in the album. One of the photographer's sons is apparently still alive in Oregon, as are several grandchildren. I'm planning to contact the family to see if they have any interest in the album. It could be I bought this from them to begin with (oops) but I figure it's worth checking. I'll follow up if any news develops.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Far, Far Away

Here's another picture from my home town, but a lot people who grew up in the 70s and 80s will relate to this. A friend sent me a photo of the original marquee being removed at Bremerton's historic Roxy Theater yesterday. Coincidentally, I photographed the Art Deco movie house a few weeks ago, planning to make a composite of a crowd lined up to see Star Wars in 1977. If you grew up in Kitsap County back then, chances are you saw the original trilogy at the Roxy. In Panavision. AND color. A lot of us will always be sentimental about walking under those neon lights for our first visit to a galaxy far, far away.

It seemed like the Roxy's days as a movie palace were over years ago, but thanks to recent restoration efforts it reopened with a new marquee last month. And it's screening films once again!


Monday, August 07, 2017

Just Wild About Harry - POTUS 33 In Bremerton

After a year-long break, I'm back with some new/old photo composites -- This time venturing back to my home county.

A recent eBay find netted some terrific snapshots of Harry S. Truman's visit to Bremerton, Washington on June 6th of 1948. This was the visit where many believe Truman's famous catchphrase "Give 'em hell, Harry!" was first shouted by a man in the crowd gathered on Pacific Avenue below the Elks Club (the present-day Max Hale Center) . A couple other towns tell a similar story but Bremerton's claim is pretty strong, or at least no worse than competing versions.

The photos from before and during Truman's speech are easy to match with present-day Bremerton -- Many of the buildings, including the terraced rooftop outside the Elk's Club still exist. The photos of Truman and his traveling companions stopping shortly before arriving in Bremerton took a little more digging. At first glance, it's just a nondescript country road.

Newspaper stories during the presidential visit mention Truman leaving Olympia early that morning with his friend, Washington Governor Mon Walgren (no relation to the famous senator). One story in particular mentioned the group -- a car of staffers and a Cadillac convertible for the dignitaries -- taking Highway 3 through Shelton. A note on the back of the photo lists Bremerton's mayor L. "Hum" Kean among the group. Given the direction they were coming from and the need to add Bremerton's mayor to the group it seemed like they must have stopped somewhere just outside the city.

Truman appears to be having an animated conversation with Bremerton mayor, Hum Kean.

This ended up being correct. The house seen in the background is in the town of Gorst, just south of Bremerton where Highway 3 meets Highway 16. Not the first place that comes to mind for a presidential visit but the brickwork on the house's back porch is still clearly visible today, though it's just peeking through dense trees and bushes. Several shots in the series show Truman, Walgren and Hum Kean chatting and milling about while a few onlookers enjoy their brush with fame. The image of a US president just hanging out with a small handful of people on a country road is remarkable compared to the huge contingent who travel with presidents today.

After his visit to Bremerton, Truman and Walgren boarded the governor's yacht, Olympos and left for Seattle while reporters followed on a specially chartered ferry. After giving a short address in Seattle Truman and his entourage visited  Fort Lewis before returning to Olympia, completing their loop.